What to know about this historic site:
Few structures illustrate the conveniences—or lack thereof—provided at public houses before the Civil War. The settlement of Gallipolis had its origins in a land speculation scheme. The Scioto Company received a grant from Congress of 3.5 million acres of land east of the Scioto River in southern Ohio.
The company sent a salesman to Europe. In Paris in August 1789 he teamed up with William Playfair, an Englishman, to form the Compagnie du Scioto, which was to buy 3 million acres of land from the Scioto Company and re-sell them to Frenchmen. The French Revolution had begun in Paris, and many Royalists were anxious to get away. Attracted by false advertising of the Scioto lands, they bought estates and prepared to move to America.
On their arrival in Alexandria, Virginia, they learned that the Scioto Company had failed to meet its contract with the government, and did not own the lands it had sold, and the French company had failed to pay for any of the lands it had sold. The Ohio Company agreed to settle to French on some of its own lands, and a crew began to build what later became Gallipolis.
The fear of Indians and insecurities of land ownership led many of the French settlers to return to France or move to other areas such as Detroit or St. Louis. By 1807, only about twenty French families still resided in Gallipolis. These, with people from Massachusetts and Virginia, soon formed a stable and prosperous community.
Village life after 1819 was centered on the three-story tavern constructed by Henry Cushing. Built of brick in the Federal style, the tavern boasted a taproom, public and private dining rooms, a ladies’ parlor, three bedrooms and a divided ballroom. At the rear, a separate kitchen was built. According to period custom, the structure could house ten guests comfortably or several dozen in relative discomfort. The name, “Our House,” was applied by the community because of Cushing’s practice of inviting patronage with the words, “Come over to our house.”
The Cushings were a prominent family in early Gallipolis. General Nathaniel S. Cushing, Henry’s brother, was one of the official committee which greeted Lafayette at the river’s edge. Their sister Elizabeth Foster owned a half interest in the Our House property, while Henry owned the other half and operated the tavern. The building remained in the hands of the Cushing family until 1865.
In 1933 Dr. and Mrs. Charles E. Holzer of Gallipolis bought the property. During the next three years they restored and furnished it in the period and developed an exhibit on the history of Gallipolis on the third floor. Many of the furnishings and other materials on display came from citizens of the town, especially members of the French families. In 1936 the house was opened as a public museum, and in 1944 the Holzers gave Our House to the state of Ohio, to be operated by the Ohio Historical Society.