The Portsmouth Floodwall was constructed after the city of Portsmouth, Ohio faced its most devastating flood in 1937. The Army Corps of Engineers decided better flood prevention measures were needed, and the construction of a new floodwall began in 1940. The wall was completed ten years later in May 1950. It now serves not only as a protective barrier between the city and the Ohio River but also as an artistic display of the city of Portsmouth’s history.
Although the City of Portsmouth is located on high ground, it has experienced
flooding due to its proximity to the Ohio River. While flooding occurred
in the city several times from the 1880s until the 1930s, it was the flood of
1937 that led to the construction of a floodwall by the Army Corps of
Engineers. In 1964 and 1997, the wall was successful in preventing major
flooding in the city.
In 1992, the Portsmouth Wall of Fame was introduced by the city. The
Wall of Fame honors the accomplishments of people from the area by placing
stars on the floodwall. Located on the riverside of the wall, these can be
seen by passengers driving down U.S. Route 23 in South Shore, Kentucky.
That same year, Dr. Louis R. Chaboudy headed a nonprofit group that was
formed to make the floodwall a tourist attraction. A year later in 1993,
Robert Dafford, a mural artist, was hired to begin painting murals of
Portsmouth’s history. Herb Roe, a local art student, was hired by Dafford
to be his assistant. Roe then became Dafford’s apprentice and worked with
him for fifteen years.
The murals cover the history of the Portsmouth area. The art displays Adena
and Hopewell cultures, the City of Portsmouth during its booming era, modern
sporting events as well as important Portsmouth-area natives such as Roy Rogers
and Branch Rickey. The mural stretches 2,000 feet along Front Street and is walking
distance from Shawnee State University.