Through the fog rolling across the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, a gorgeous building stands above the rest in front of Harmar Hill, sitting proudly in the center of Historic Harmar Village. Most natives know this building as the Anchorage, with its sandstone walls and the widow’s walk that sits perched on top of the 150-year old dwelling. Locals often know a little of the history, at the very least they’ve heard the stories of the paranormal coming from its historically haunted halls. Visitors to the area can look up the top things to do and see in Marietta, and the Anchorage will always find its way on the list.
Constructed in 1859 by Douglas Putnam for his wife Eliza, the Anchorage was officially known as “Putnam Villa,” but because of the cost and Eliza’s rich taste, locals coined it “Putnam’s Folly.” Eliza designed the majority of the home, down to the tiny details, Douglas bankrolled it all, and the vision came together thanks to architect John Slocomb who also designed other historic Marietta favorites like the Castle we all know and love on 4th Street, and the First Unitarian Church.
The 22- room house has changed hands a few times since it was built, and after being used as a nursing home, it was sold for $1 and is now managed by The Washington County Historical Society, a local nonprofit organization that works towards the collection, study, and preservation of things and places pertaining to the history of Washington County, Ohio. The WCHS has goals to restore the home to best reflect the Victorian era it was built in.
Working in the Anchorage mansion has given us a real sense of purpose.
There are a few ideas about its use overall, but the primary goal is to use it as a center open to the community and make it useful to the organization. Best of all, they are currently working with Hidden Marietta Tour Company to conduct tours. The Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of our beautiful community. Jessica Wieliczka, one of the driving forces between the Historical Society and Hidden Marietta talked about the impact that the partnership has had on the building. “Working in the Anchorage mansion has given us a real sense of purpose,” she said, “and knowing that we have made a difference to the Historical Society which has allowed them to do a lot of work on the building this year is so rewarding.”
Despite being one of Marietta’s treasured gems, a project as big as the Anchorage can always use more hands on deck. The Anchorage and the Washington County Historical Society found the best organization to partner with, and in late 2017, Hidden Marietta joined the Harmar Village family. For all of 2018, Hidden Marietta has built up a fascinating and educational collection of tours, including both paranormal and historic tours of the Anchorage, Historic Harmar Village, a Fires and Floods Tour in downtown Marietta, and their recently unveiled partnership to conduct paranormal investigations with Blennerhassett Island in Parkersburg. Melissa Farris lovingly coins their tours as “the best ways to experience the history, the haunts, and everything in-between” of their buildings and locations.
Hidden Marietta Tour Co. is currently owned and operated by two other history enthusiasts besides Wielitzka. Megan Keller and Melissa Farris complete the trifecta. These ladies, along with a wonderful collection of tour guides, have brought in over 2,100 visitors including locals and out of towners for tours and the paranormal investigations. By the end of the season, Jessica estimates to have a few hundred more attendees, rounding out this season with over 2,300 people enjoying the rich history of the Mid-Ohio Valley. This is more than double what the group saw in 2018 and shows so much promise for the growth they’ll see in years to come.
Wielitzka is proud of the great team they have assembled at the Anchorage, and is excited about the continued improvements. “Our mission and our passion is research, historic preservation, local legends, and storytelling,” she said. “All of our tours and events have an authentic, historical basis. We take you behind-the-scenes and offer you multiple ways to experiences the town’s history.”
A portion of our tours contributes to the preservation of the historic buildings in which we work .
Not only does Hidden Marietta develop programing and tours, they run their business in the study of the Anchorage, which includes an amazing gift shop promoting history as well as local small business owners. Nearly a dozen consignors sell their products through Hidden Marietta’s tour office and Curiosity Shop, including Sweet Gypsy Brand body care. Hidden Marietta also works with River Rat Tarot to run tarot reading events, and even has a few copies of the newly released David McCullough book “The Pioneers.” Not only is this business good for the future of the Anchorage, but for Marietta as a whole. “A portion of our tours contributes to the preservation of the historic buildings in which we work, and we proudly support many area non-profits,” said Wielitzka.
Hidden Marietta has eyes to the future with more plans and goals to improve and expand their success with the Anchorage. Jessica enthusiastically spoke about their next season. “By the time we open next year, many of the downstairs rooms will be brought back to life, and it is exciting to see the change,” she said. “It takes a village, and while we are definitely not the only people who have dedicated their time, money, and effort to preserving the Anchorage, we are happy to be a part of the changes taking place in the house.”
Plans to continue building improvement and program expansion are always moving forward. The tour season ends on Halloween, but events are on the schedule through the holidays, so be sure to check out the Anchorage and say hi to the amazing folks with Hidden Marietta!