Walking down the brick paved street of Putnam, one can imagine aristocratic women in their white satin gloves and ribbon trimmed skirts peering into storefront windows. One can also get lost in the gentle breeze of the Ohio River and be swept back to the era when sailors and scalawags spent their nights roaming stony docks. Instead of dreaming of the past, visitors and residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley can travel in time with the Hidden Marietta Tour Company.
With 10 different tours and events throughout the year, Hidden Marietta offers something for everyone. You may just discover the German heritage of the old business district, learn about the fires and floods that raptured Marietta’s buildings, be immersed in the ancient culture of the Adena and Hopewell people or uncover the murders and crimes that still haunt the oldest town in Ohio.
“The feel of the town is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. History is soaked into the land itself, going back 2000 years to the time of the Adena and Hopewell cultures. Take that ancient heritage and add pioneer history, Victorian charm and the fun of a river-town, and you have a winner!,” current Hidden Marietta owner Jessica Wielitzka said.
Actually, Marietta’s eerie beginnings led local historian Lynne Sturtevant to establish Hidden Marietta in 2008. As many people became engrossed in watching ghost-hunting shows like, “Ghost Adventures” or “TAPS,” they wanted to experience the thrill of catching EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) and orbs for themselves. Lynne took this as an opportunity to display Marietta’s haunted past and offer a destination for those seeking to travel to haunted locations.
After building the company up and creating an active website along with gathering 11,000 followers on Facebook, Lynne sold Hidden Marietta to Jessica Wielitzka in 2015. In hopes to bring a greater sense of community to the town, Hidden Marietta is branching out and collaborating with area businesses and nonprofits to hold annual events like the Hidden Spaces Secret Spaces tour, Lights Out Lockdown public ghost hunt, the Marie Antoinette Festival, MOV Red Tent Retreats & Festivals and more.
“We want to get people interested in their history; we want them to explore the old buildings, whether it be to find beautiful architecture or an experience with the spirit world. The more our history is appreciated and our buildings admired, the more important historic preservation will be for everyone who lives here. I would love to see Marietta, and the entire Mid-Ohio Valley, as a popular tourist destination,” Jessica said.
While preserving Marietta and wanting members of the community to become active is a specific goal for this company, it is an integral part of its owner’s life. Jessica has traveled across Europe and the United States due to her father being in the Air Force. With that being said, she never had a “hometown,” which makes the city very special.
“My husband grew up here, his mother’s family helped settle the town way back in 1788.To have connections like that, a real heritage and sense of place is such a blessing. The stories that you learn are your stories, the people who did great things aren’t strangers, they are your family. They are part of who you are. I chose Marietta as my hometown, which makes it very special to me. Each time I walk around the town, I find something new,” Jessica said.
The next time you find yourself brushing past the water stained buildings on Front Street or hear the echoes of leather boots on the cobblestone alleyways, remember that the Hidden Marietta Tour Company is ready to guide you towards the truth about the city we have all come to love.
The Hidden Marietta Tour Company office and Old-Time Photography will be open every Thursday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m starting in May. The office is located in the basement of the Lafayette Hotel and can be accessed from the stairs located directly across the fountain on the levee.
For more information on tours, go to hiddenmarietta.com, and be sure to check the company out on Facebook and Instagram.