Sunday, July 30, 2000

Markers celebrate history

People, places honored

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A year ago, bronze historical markers rarely were mentioned.

        Now, that's changing. In small towns and big cities, people are re-examining their heroes, icons, oddities and historic sites for possible commemoration during Ohio's bicentennial in 2003.

        One of the latest to receive recognition is the Black Covered Bridge, on Corso Road near Oxford in Butler County.

        “It's important because it's one of the few remaining covered bridges in Southwestern Ohio,” said Brian Newbacher, a spokesman for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission.

        The group recently approved requests to erect bronze markers at the bridge and 19 other Ohio sites, bringing the total to 100 new markers in just over a year.

        “That's significant because from 1953 to 1998 only 330 markers were placed around the state,” Mr. Newbacher said.

        Nonetheless, Ohio still lags behind some other states, which have as many as 700 markers. Decades ago, Virginia erected historical markers for most of its Civil War sites.

        “We're rolling now,” Mr. Newbacher said. “There will be 200-300 more put into the ground before 2003.”

        This pleases Dr. Phillip R. Shriver, president emeritus of Miami University and a member of the Oxford Museum Association's Save Our Span Committee.

        He submitted an application hoping “our efforts to preserve and enhance awareness of this unique covered bridge, truly an Ohio treasure, will now be crowned by an Ohio historical marker.”

        Over several years, he said, the bridge committee raised about $100,000 in donations from hundreds of residents to help the county commissioners restore the bridge, built in 1868.

        At 209 feet, the restored covered bridge — originally named Pugh's Mill Bridge — is one of Ohio's longest and most impressive. It is the only one left in the county on its original site.

        Dr. Shriver said the bridge is now envisioned as the centerpiece of a proposed bike-pedestrian path between Oxford and Hueston Woods.

        Mr. Newbacher said the Oxford bridge project is a good example of what the marker program is all about — people realizing what treasures they have right in their communities.

        “We're thrilled with the response,” he said. “Each time we announce a new round of funding we consistently get a new batch of about 40 requests. The bad news is that we're unable to help pay for every marker that's suggested.”

        If rejected, local supporters have an alternative. They may submit their request to the Ohio Historical Society's regular marker program. But local supporters must pay for their own bronze marker.

        The cost is $1,500 to $2,000, depending on how much is written on it. Through the bicentennial commission's marker program, as much as two-thirds of the cost can be absorbed by the commission and the Longaberger Legacy Initiative.

        Longaberger, a Newark basket company, has donated $100,000 to place historical markers across Ohio through 2003. Markers bear the bicentennial logo and commemorate some aspect of Ohio's history.


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