French Art Colony Garden Gallipolis

Gallipolis & Gallia County, OH An Unexpected Journey

Was truly a delight to visit Downtown Gallipolis, OH, and the surrounding area of Gallia County. My Town had visited this small town situated on the Ohio River before, so I thought I had a good idea of what to expect. But once exploring began, I discovered the history here is unique in its own right; and has created a special community dedicated to the history, preservation, and the arts for several locations in Downtown Gallipolis and Gallia County.

The French Art Colony

My journey began at The French Art Colony. An important part of America’s founding that I believe many forget, is the long-time French influence. The French occupied today’s Gallipolis in what the French called “The City of Gauls” peacefully for almost 100 years. Thinking I was going in for just a tour of a historic home- I was in for a complete surprise.  I ended up reacting to this location in a way that I did not expect; and it also was my first glimpse into discovering an arts scene as far South in Ohio as you can go, that I did not know existed.

The French Art Colony is celebrating serving Small Town Gallipolis and the surrounding region for over 50 years! It’s located in the beautiful historic home of Charles Holzer. The Colony Is now a multi-arts center offering art exhibitions, classes, community, and educational outreach, and more in this historic facility. The manicured grounds are so pretty that people come on their lunch break just sit, admire, and be at peace.

Community Exhibits and Beautiful Art

When I visited The new community exhibit of The 40 Over 40 Project by Jessica Malone- I had just turned forty several months before, and it had been a rough few months. Lots of changes-physical, emotional, the works.

This exhibit was BEYOND INSPIRING for me! So well done! Something about the look on these women’s faces, their confidence, gave me more hope than I could describe. I am the kind of person who cries during commercials- so you can imagine at this point that I am doing my best to not have a complete breakdown in front of my hosts!

This was just a crazy reaction I was not expecting- but I will never forget it for several reasons: The location, The time in my life, and the way I was treated that day by the people around me. It was an amazing small town experience. I’m sure when you visit there will be an equally great exhibit in this beautiful location!

Inns and Institutions

It seems like every small town has unique old buildings that capture your attention and your imagination. It is wonderful when you’re able to visit a town that has invested resources in these institutions and brings them back to life, or they have been lovingly maintained.

The Ariel Opera House and Downtown Gallipolis Side by Side Now and Then Photo Credit: Kate Jacobs-Coldren 

In Gallipolis and Gallia County, you will find these investments at The Ariel Opera House, Our House Tavern, and the John Gee Black Historical Center.

For My Town, this picture says it all! A shining star of a downtown location that is beloved, and has a history. This is the historic Ariel Opera House. Situated right downtown in Gallipolis, OH, the Opera House is home to the Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Center, music and theatre classes, and is the permanent home of The Ohio Valley Symphony in the Heart of Gallipolis. Click here to see inside!

This opera house restored to its 1895 glory, puts on incredible performances and hosts talented musicians from all over the country! Taking in a show at the Ariel during your visit is not just a musical experience it’s also a historical one. Click here to reserve tickets.

Our House Tavern

As time marches on, many of us may forget who founded our prospective towns and cities and who influenced them into what they are today. That’s why I applaud the wonderful organizations doing preservation across the country! In Gallipolis, the settlement and influence were laid by the French 500, and today at “Our House Tavern” you can learn about every important timeline and artifact from this Old French City formerly called “the City of Gauls.”

One of Our House Tavern’s Talented Docents explaining one of several very rare sets of China, that made it to Gallipolis in the 1700s in tact!

Established in 1819, Our House Tavern has hosted significant historical movers and shakers- such as the Marquis de Lafayette, ‘Mad’ Anne Bailey, and The Swedish Nightingale- Jenny Lind- Yes, “that” Jenny Lind trending on TikTok because she’s in the Greatest Showman (If you happen to be one of our younger readers and wanted an additional reference)!

While there I marveled at the craftsmanship of the preserved 1819 tavern, and the incredible knowledge of the docents. My Town recommends you make this one of your first stops because the conversations here will spur so many other fun places to explore, by learning about early settlements and notable citizens and settlers that will become familiar as you walk the town. There is also a treasure trove of hidden gems here- and not just historical artifacts from the Revolutionary War. Did you know there is a Gallipolis island?

The John Gee Black Historical Center

What a joy to have visited the John Gee Black Historical Center and see the wonderful work being accomplished to further their mission. The John Gee Black Historical Center is in a former A.M.E. Church at the corner of Second Avenue and Pine Street in Gallipolis. It has been turned into a museum of African-American culture. It was inspiring to see the progress of the story, artifacts, and continued work to uncover more evidence for educational purposes of slavery and the abolitionist movement along the Ohio River.

Here is a little history: John Gee was a skilled carpenter who built houses in Gallipolis. He donated the land at 48 Pine Street for the first church edifice. During his time, Black Americans were usually buried in church cemeteries. But John Gee donated 4 acres of land at the end of Pine Street as a burial ground for the local black citizens that you can now go see today. Along with the historical church now being used for the Historical and Educational Center there are places for preservation of this history, all because of the forward thinking of John Gee.

It’s fascinating history of the area you don’t want to miss while visiting, and they are adding new information and artifacts all the time!

Unique Interesting Yours of Gallia County

What is it about a town that makes it special? A local attraction, a family-owned business that has been there forever? A piece of history you cannot find anywhere else, or a bookstore with just the right vibe? Here are a few of the Unique, Interesting, Yours of Gallia County.

The Ohio Tattoo Museum

Photo of “Cap Coleman” displayed at Ohio Tattoo Museum

The Ohio Tattoo Museum is located next to the Mom and Pop shop of Bicknee Tattoo Supply. Owners Rich T and his wife, pride themselves on being of the “old school” tattoo variety. Which may be where Rich’s love for the museum comes from.

The Museum displays artifacts stretching back to the beginning of electric tattooing, and encompasses personal collections including a large collection of a legend to the industry “Cap Coleman.”

Rich has many other notable additions including pictures, stories, and artifacts from Leonard L.“ Stoney” St. Clair, and Lyle Tuttle. Have you ever seen a Life-Size Tattooing Needle? Well, you can at the Ohio Tattoo Museum! I think I jumped ten feet when it was turned on, But it’s super cool!

The Ohio Tattoo Museum is something out of the ordinary, interesting, and fun. And I would bet for many- that you may learn something new, so come check it out!

Madog Center for Welsh Studies

During the 1800s People of Welsh descent settled in Southern Ohio by the thousands. Their influence is all over Gallia County. The Madog Center for Welsh Studies located at the University of Rio Grande- can help your family genealogy/history and offers an exchange program with the University of Wales, Trinity St. David Carmarthen. 

But what My town loves the most about this interesting find is their support of the Welsh Scenic Byway. A self-guided map to take you on a road trip with over 20 stops to discover Welsh heritage through historical churches, cemeteries, museums, cultural centers, and more.

Bob Evans Homestead

Museum display inside Bob Evans Historical Homestead

Maybe now that Bob Evans is a household name you don’t think of it as originating in a small town? Well, I am here to tell you that the iconic barn you see in the commercials is part of Bob’s original homestead located in rural Gallia County, OH.

The Homestead, which is now a museum and on the National Registry for Historic Places, is really an interesting place to visit because you’re in a beautiful valley set by itself overlooking raccoon creek and you are not far from the Ohio River. The Homestead used to be a Stagecoach Stop and Inn, and later Bob Evans started selling sausage on the front lawn! There is a Bob Evans Restaurant on site for travelers passing through on State Route 588, and the historical village of Adamsville to explore.

Plus, this is the location for the massive Bob Evans Farm Festival community event held in September; with Free Camping, live demonstrations, great music, and more! The Festival is now celebrating its 50th year! Check out this video to see all the fun highlights!

Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum

What little kid does not like trains? Or in my case, what big kid does not like trains? A great revival happening in small towns across the country is the acquisition and restoration of train stations. In Gallipolis, it has been a community effort and a labor of love for the nonprofit & volunteers who own & run the Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum. So much so that the slate roof was replaced by donations from numerous door-to-door donations!

The hope is to have an operational track soon and to outfit their new additional boxcars to be used for events. Look at this great local article covering their acquisition of new boxcars and the nonprofit’s vision with Jerry Davis, vice-president of the Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum Board of Directors.
But when visiting Gallipolis, it is fun to come and visit these timepieces of the past, even if you can’t take a ride, they are just amazing to see!


Silverbridge Memorial & Mound Hill Cemetery

The Delicious and Delectable of Gallia County

There are wonderful choices in Gallia County when it comes to great food. From wineries to casual downtown staples, here are a few My Town Picks:

Twisted Vine Family Vineyard

Wine and cheese for breakfast? Yes, please! Hey, don’t knock it until you try it, and trust me, if you were me at Twisted Vine Family Vineyard- You would be asking for more! This beautiful vineyard tucked away in the hills outside Gallipolis, is magical. They are producing their grapes on-site and a wide variety of wines for every palette.

Twisted Vine also has a wonderful relationship with nearby Laurel Valley Creamery. So, in addition, they offer great local cheeses and artisan bread. But, the best part of my visit was my floor show! I could have talked with two of the owners (Bill and son Jessie) for hours! Their dynamic was great.

There are numerous great air b&bs in the area to stay right by the beautiful Ohio River. This is a small-town gem you don’t want to miss!

Photo Credit: Shake Shoppe
If you have never had the Shake Shoppe Experience before My Town Recommends “The Stuftshirt.” The Stuftshirt is the Shake Shoppe’s iconic sandwich. A quarter-pound burger loaded with all the toppings and a house-made cheese sauce

Shake Shoppe

Can you say Quintessential Small Town- absolutely have to stop when you come? That is the Shake Shoppe in Gallipolis. The Shake Shoppe was started by Frank and Marge Snedaker and has been an institution in Gallia County Ohio since 1951. Now, the 3rd generation of the Snedaker family runs the Gallipolis location. Delicious diner-style burgers, fries, shakes, and an atmosphere that hasn’t changed in generations. That’s what you want when you come to a small town!

Twinkleberries Coffee and Bake Shop

Twinkleberries Coffee and Bake Shop

If you are out exploring near Rio Grande University, you need to stop in at this local favorite. They are serving up great baked goods, sandwiches, and wraps, but what My Town recommends to try here are the cold brew and fresh salads!

Five Rivers Indian Cuisine

An adorable family restaurant located right in downtown Gallipolis, serving Authentic Indian Cuisine. I would recommend the street food favorite- Samosa Chaat. Such a special find down by the river!

Merry Family Winery

On stairway to the second floor at Merry Family Winery

A girl walks into a Southern Ohio Winery and finds homemade root beer from across the river in West Virginia and a Pizza Oven constructed from the ashes from Pompeii! Just another day in a small town I think!

In all seriousness, Merry Family Winery has been making great wine since 2006. So much so that they had to move out of their former location to make room for progress in 2009.

Super Fun Mothman Root Beer! Made On Site at Merry Family Winery

Their new location in Bidwell, is right off state route 850 and I-35. So it’s a great stop even if you don’t have a lot of time! The owners Tim and Lisa Merry are great people. They have put love into all their wine, beer, and now pizza!

The beer is made from a hop rhizomes variety used in brews brought to America by Tim Merry’s great grandfather when he immigrated from Slovakia in the 1800s. And the root beer is a recipe belonging to Tim Merry’s Great Grandmother. The root beer is also made at Merry Vineyards, but it’s specialty labeled and sold across the river by Merry’s cousin in Point Pleasant- Famous for the “The Mothman” at The Mothman Museum.

Italian Tuscany Cuccini

A local favorite- and for good reason…. Local fresh ingredients for their signature authentic Italian dishes- like my peppers and sausage. Their prices are also very reasonable for the value. Trust me, you will not leave hungry!

Delicious Chicken Carbonara at Italian Tuscany Cuccini

Remo’s Hotdog Shop

My Town CEO Kristy Burns, At Remo’s Eating a Footlong with Cheese and Special Sauce!

They say the “The Secret’s In The Sauce.” And that is definitely the case at Remo’s in Downtown Gallipolis, OH! People come from all over, to literally take home this secret sauce by the gallon. It’s sort of a sweet and savory chili sauce -but not completely like you would serve up in a dish- although you could! You just must try it on a footlong yourself.

The family-run Remo’s was started in the 1920s and has been at its current location since 1957.

MTT Antique and Market Finds

BoardRoom 46 Downtown Gallipolis

Great Antique Shops and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This includes Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! In Gallia County, there are great Antique and Market finds everywhere you look. Below are some of My Town‘s Favorite Finds.

BoardRoom 46– Wonderful place to shop while in Downtown Gallipolis. Check out this great video of My Town’s new favorite signature items that were shipped after my Gallia County adventure!

Silver Bridge Coffee– Wonderful family run and woman-owned coffee company right in Gallipolis that My Town is now obsessed with (this is seriously good coffee)! You can order their products online- or if you’re in the Central Ohio area- you can now find their product right in your local Kroger!

River City Leather- BEAUTIFUL- HANDMADE – LEATHER GOODS- MADE IN SMALL BATCHES! Need I say more! This small town shop is the real deal, for your perfect take home from Gallipolis. Don’t miss it!

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A Note From My Town

We hope you enjoyed this article on Gallipolis and Gallia County, OH! My Town visits are based on exploring and discovery as a first-time visitor and promoting the unique assets small towns have to offer.

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