Monday, June 30, 2014

Fourth of July, 2014

Yes, I know that it is not the fourth, yet.  However, after looking at the pictures which I want to share with our readers today, they seem to have a bit of that theme going.  There is also the fact that I don't have anything particular to write about regarding our travels in the past week.  We have visited family in the Dayton and Toledo area, which has taken up some of our time.  While in the latter town we attended the Crosby Festival of the Arts at the Toledo Botanical Garden.  We certainly saw a diverse variety of art there, as the yard art pictured below.  That kind of art certainly had an appealing look in the setting of the gardens.
After walking amid all the various booths of the festival, and purchasing some of the art offered, we spent some time walking through the gardens.  Maybe it is because of the Fourth of July coming in the next week that one particular plant caught my eye.  I believe it is called a sparkler plant, and can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the picture.
 Monday we drove to Blissfield, Michigan for a day trip.  The town has some historical older homes and buildings, so we took a walking tour of the town to find them.  There are not as many historical buildings as we had found in Lebanon, Ohio and it was easy to cover Blissfield in a short amount of time.  Informational markers posted outside the buildings also made them easy to spot.
Pictured above is the Hiram Ellis House, built in 1883.  Mr. Ellis operated a grocery, hardware store in Blissfield.  The flag posted on the porch prompted me to reflect on other historical homes which we have seen in the past week and what an important part they are of our nation's history.  Lives lived in those home were impacted by events pertaining to the settlement and development of our country which at times did not go always so smoothly.  By that I am referring to slavery, the need for the establishment of the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.  However, there is still a lot of good which I can find in our United States of America and which makes the event of the founding of our country an important time of celebration for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Warren County History Center

The city of Lebanon has interpretive markers posted near many of the historic sites of the town, which are very informative.  However, reading them under a hot summer sun became a bit much for us after an hour or so, and we were happy to seek the cool comfort of the History Center.  We found the museum to be filled with lots of fascinating history pertinent to the area as well as to our nation in general.
The first floor has a pioneer village with stores and other businesses which could be found in a town of the nineteenth century.  Interspersed with the shops are artifacts and information regarding the leading citizens of  Lebanon who lived back in that era.  I have mentioned Thomas Corwin in my last posting, in the museum is A.Lincoln's funereal invitation which he received.  It is interesting to note that Corwin was the only citizen pall bearer for the president ( other pall bearers being members of the military services).   The Corwin home was also a depot for the Underground Railroad.  The museum has a wonderful display regarding the UGGRR, and the people of Lebanon who were conductors (hosts) for the fugitive slaves in their homes.  Ohio was one of the most traveled states for the UGGRR- 40,000 slaves came through Ohio, and many of that number just through Warren County.  The museum also has a rather extensive gallery pertaining to the Shaker community which lived in Union Village, a town 4 miles west of Lebanon.  In 1850 Shakers numbered 600 people in that town.  A bedroom of the Shakers with furnishings made by them is pictured below.
 As I was finishing up my tour of the History Center the museum cat came trotting up to me for some petting.  She is a silver tabby, which is a rare breed of cat.  The feline, named Mona, was once a show cat.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lebanon, Ohio

This past Monday we moved our home from Southern Illinois to Ohio.  It was hard to part from our grandson Nathan, who is now 4 months old, but we had to move on as there are more places to see and people to visit.  We made the trip to Ohio in one day, a distance of about 400 miles.  We rarely travel that distance in one day, and it was made even longer by the fact that we are now on eastern standard time.  One would think that after five years of traveling across the states we would be more cognizant of time changes!   We are now parked north of Cincinnati.  Tuesday we did not feel up to touring that town so we opt instead to check out the town of Lebanon, which is about ten miles from where we are parked.  It is a town of many historic buildings and structures.  Pictured below is the intersection of Broadway and Main, the four corners of which once comprised the town square.  The tall building off in the distance is the city hall, built in the Colonial Revival style, it is the site of the first county courthouse constructed in 1805
Broadway and Main were named in a city map of 1802.  Broadway was one and a half times wider so stagecoaches could turn around.  Speaking of stagecoaches, in 1803 Jonas Seaman saw an opportunity to operate "a house for public entertainment" near the above intersection.  His log tavern, named the Golden Lamb, became a stop for stagecoaches going to Cincinnati.  In 1815 a brick hotel was built to replace the tavern.  Over the years many dignitaries, including twelve presidents, have stayed and dined at "Ohio's oldest inn".  We met John's cousin Paul and wife Lily there for supper and had delicious meals.
We spent our afternoon in Lebanon wandering its' streets and looking at other historic structures.
Pictured above is the building of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, built in 1884 by the Methodist Protestant Church.  The High Victorian Gothic building had another story constructed and tower added in 1887,  it is the tallest building in Lebanon.  In case you are wondering, I.O.O.F. is a charity organization dedicated to "purposes of benevolence and charity". 
It was a very warm muggy afternoon and we did not last long walking the historic district of Lebanon.  We stopped in the cool comfort of the Warren County Museum to learn more about the town's history,  there will be more on that museum in my next posting.  While at the museum we learned a lot about one of the town's more famous statesman, a man by the name of Thomas Corwin (1794-1865).  He was Governor of Ohio in 1840, served 6 terms in Congress and one in the Senate.  He also served as Secretary of the Treasury in the Fillmore administration, and as President Lincoln's minister to Mexico.  Corwin's home, pictured above, is currently occupied by the Warren County Engineers Office.  An employee working in the office was so kind as to let us into the building and we toured the first floor.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Further comments on our trip in Southern Illinois

Our last posting was written by my husband John.  There are a few more details which I would like to add about Longshadow Gardens.   John did a good job in picking up the details of the construction and retail business of the decorative planters, whereas I was more into the different plants located inside the planters.
Pictured above ares the blossoms of a pomegranate tree, there are also a couple small pomegranates hanging on the tree. Equally fascinating to me were the large patches of milkweed which we saw in the gardens.  Monarch butterflies only eat milkweed and can not survive without the plant.  The butterflies visit the gardens during the fall season.  The plant with its cluster of pink flowers is pictured below.
I have one last picture to show from Longshadow Gardens, which is the guest house.
The boss also uses the trailer to get a nap in during the day.  I like the nice touch of the planters in front of it!
The same day we visited the gardens we also visited the Hedman Winery.  We stopped for lunch there, during which we enjoyed wine samples along with such Swedish fare as meatballs with lingonberry sauce as well as pickled herring, caviar, and gravlax (cured salmon).  The owners came from Sweden about 18 years ago and have enjoyed similar success with their business in Southern Illinois as Daniel and Charlotte have had.  It is good to see that old farmhouses, barns and grain bins still have some good usage!
Our last stop of the day was to see the Bald Knob Cross at Alto Pass.  The cross stands over 1000 feet above sea level in the beautiful Illinois Ozark Mountains of Southern Illinois.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Longshadow Gardens

As you wend your way down the back roads of the Southern Illinois wine country a couple of miles west of Pomona Natural Bridge and several miles north of the Bald Knob Cross you come across a most incongruous sight, a manufacturing complex surrounded by row upon row of stark white garden planters. You have arrived at Longshadow Gardens, home of Classic Garden Ornaments, Ltd, makers of about 150 different designs of large and small, classic and modern, garden planters and other items that have an international reputation and are shipped all over the world. The owners and most congenial hosts are Charlotte, an attorney and Daniel, a landscape architect, who took over an old farm 20 years ago and started the business because it was hard to find good quality planters in America. Along with that they are working on making the old farm into a botanical garden/arboretum. Many of the old fields are now full of trees and flowering plants including bald cypress trees that are flourishing miles from any swamp.
The process for making the planters dates from ancient Rome and is a fairly simple mix of crushed limestone, white sand, cement and water but when done correctly and cured properly the end result looks like carved marble. They are quite beautiful and much in demand. The owners have used many of the planters to enhance the property and buildings and it is hard to believe that you are looking at a factory. The employees we met seemed to really enjoy what they were doing and where they were working.
The current 150 designs have been developed over a period of years and cover most needs but the owners are always on the lookout for new designs that would have market potential. This is important because it costs about $20,000 to create the design and molds needed. One project they are working on now is trying to figure out how to duplicate a planter from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. They found the planter in an antique store and believe the design has a lot of potential.
The rows of planters sitting around are waiting, of course, for a buyer who may buy one or twenty or more depending on need. Many of you have seen their planters and didn't know it as they are everywhere including along Lakeshore Drive and Michigan Avenue in Chicago and other public venues around the country. One of their big markets is California. Maybe some of the star's homes, who knows.
Once an item is sold it needs to be prepared for shipping. It moves from the outdoor storage area to the packing area where it is wrapped in foam and cardboard on a pallet. Enough items are shipped every day to fill a 27 foot freight truck. If you tour the gardens and decide you want to take a planter with you you better have a truck with you. These things weight hundreds of pounds and need a fork lift to move.
At present the gardens are not set up for regular public tours although that is a goal for the future. Tours can be arranged on an individual basis by calling the gardens. This is a very nice side trip if you are into gardens and gardening and are in the area for wineries, Bald Knob Cross or the natural bridge.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Piasa Park

Over the years, when we still lived in St.Louis, we always enjoyed crossing the Mississippi River and driving along the River Road in Alton.  Our usual ultimate destination were the apple and peach orchards, also strawberries fields, located north of Alton.  Just after passing the town of Alton we would look for the Piasa Bird on one of the many bluffs along the road.  The petroglyph has had many different homes along the Great River Road over the years, and last week when we again toured the area, we were pleased that the mural now has a permanent home on a bluff within a small state park of  Illinois.
The bird was first seen by Jacques Marquette in 1673.  He and a fellow French explorer discovered a painting of what was probably two "water monsters" on the bluffs of the Mississippi River near what is present day Alton.  By 1700 the image was no longer visible.  However, folk lore has kept his image alive.  Over the years he has been given the name "Piasa", the bird that devours men.  An interpretive sign in the park tells of the Native American legend which explains the dragon-like creature.  Many years ago he was said to have depopulated many villages of people, to the consternation of  Illini tribes.  Chief Ouatoga and his twenty brave warriors finally killed the monster with poison darts.
After viewing the Piasa, and walking around the small park, which also features some rather large caves from an old limestone quarry, we drove on to the Finn Inn for lunch.  That eating establishment has large aquariums at each dining table.  It always seems rather strange to me to be eating catfish all the while a rather large live catfish is glaring at you.  After a very good lunch we drove to Pere Marquette Park where we unloaded our bikes to travel for a short distance along the Great River Road.  It was rather warm to be doing anything strenuous.
Later, outside of the town of Brussels, we stopped at a produce stand.  Asparagus, strawberries lettuce are being picked in the fields presently.  The clerk at the stand told us it has not been a good years for the crops so far- too much rain.  We noticed that the corn crop in Illinois is behind the one in Missouri.  On a positive note, however, the peaches should be coming in two weeks!
We found the above can at the produce stand.  It has to be a joke, however I did not think to pick it up to see if it was an empty.  We have seen many dead possums on the road lately and they do not seem to be a tasty option, even if they are swimming in gravy with sweet potatoes!  Our usual route for the return trip home always includes a ferry ride across the Mississippi River on the Golden Eagle.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Forest Park- St.Louis, Missouri

Pictured above is the World's Fair Pavilion at Forest Park, one of the older buildings of the park.  Hard to believe that it is a 137-year old park.  When I first visited it, about 40 years ago, it was pretty much run down.  Weeds filled the grassy picnic areas, bridges and roads were crumbling.  Heavy use of the park over the years and deferred maintenance took its toll and by the 1980s this city park was declining rapidly.  Forest Park Forever was created in 1986 to work in partnership with the city to make the urban park the beautiful place it is today.  Public and private funds were raised and $100 million dollars was used to restore the park.  It is one of the largest city parks in the United States, surpassing Central Park by 500 acres.
Last week John and I drove around the park before visiting the History Museum.  We first stopped at Art Hill where the St.Louis Art Museum is located.  From atop of that hill we could look down at the Emerson Grand Basin, which is quite picturesque with it numerous fountains.  Our next stop was at the Muny, where we have attended live theater many times over the years.  Pictured above is Pagoda Circle,  located in a small pond outside of the theater building.  Speaking of live theater, I noticed on the map of the park that there is an area designated Shakespeare Glen.  Every year, early in June, a different production of one of Shakespeare's plays is performed.  We have also attended some of those plays over the years.
The pond outside of the Jewel Box is quite beautiful at this time of the year because of the many colorful lilies blooming on the pond.
The Jewel Box building has been the setting for many marriages over the years.  At Christmas it is decorated with many poinsettias and at during the spring season with numerous Easter lilies.
For tourists visiting St.Louis I would also like to mention other features of the park, as a skating rink and golf course.  It also has a world class zoo, and planetarium, which is part of the Saint Louis Science Center,  located across Highway 40.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bellefontaine Cemetery- Part Two

In my last posting I mentioned the Lemp family mausoleum.  That is located in a section of the park where many of the wealthier individuals of St.Louis are buried.  Many of the graves there have lots of land surrounding their family plots or mausoleum, so it was not possible to get a picture of a whole row of them.  The Anheuser mausoleum looks very stately with four classic Roman columns.  And then there is the most unusual Egyptian- styled mausoleum belonging to the Tate family.
Strolling around this area of the cemetery I saw some very  familiar St.Louis names as George Warren Brown (shoe manufacture and the school of Social Work at Washington University is named after him), Edward Mallinckrodt (founder of a chemical company), and Robert Barnes, founder of Barnes Hospital.  And I noticed that David Francis ( President of the 1904 World Fair) has a most different grave stone.
Herman C.G Luyties, Jr. has maked his grave with the statue of a girl in a box. 
Maud Judge has a statue of a beautiful woman on her grave, that lady is not in a box, fortunately.  And then there is Catherine Brewington Bennett, who according to the park brochure,  "died for beauty".  She has a most unusual gravestone.  Another interesting memorial is a three-sided obelisk with portraits on it.  I hope by now I have stirred up a desire within my readers to check out this cemetery!  And if you get tired of looking at grave, monuments, and mausoleums, just take in the natural grandeur of the park.  It is an arboretum with over 5,000 trees, and woody shrubs.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bellefontaine Cemetery

We learned at the St.Louis History Museum that some of the people who made their mark on the city's past are buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.   We may have visited the place at least once in the past, but now with St.Louis history so new in our minds it seemed to make sense to revisit the place.  The cemetery began in 1849 and continues to evolve as an active, non profit cemetery.  After proceeding through the main gate we stopped at the park's main office to get a map of the cemetery.  The map showed us the burial location of 58 notables,  "just a few of the famous and fascinating people who lie at peace within our grounds".
Pictured above is the grave of William Clark, his expedition in 1804-06 with Meriwether Lewis "marked the progress of exploration and colonization which thrust our national boundaries to the Pacific".  Quotation was taken from the gravestone- which also noted that he was commissioned as Governor of Missouri Territory in 1813, and two more times after that.  Also carved on his memorial is a quotation from a letter Clark wrote to his old friend Thomas Jefferson in 1825: " it is lamentable that the deplorable situation of the Indians do not receive more of human feelings of the nation".
The grave of Sara Teasdale (first Pulitzer Prize-winning poet) was a bit more difficult to find as it is quite a bit smaller.  Many of the graves certainly are not as simple or plain.  We were quite fascinated with the architecture of mausoleums and larger monuments which display influences from Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Egyptian and modern architecture.

Pictured above is the Wainwright Tomb, a National Historic Landmark mausoleum.  Speaking of the latter, we peered into the Lemp Family mausoleum and saw the beautiful stained glass window pictured below.  They were a brewer family with a tortured and mysterious family history.  It is possible to visit the Lemp House here in St.Louis and learn more about their story.  I can not begin to do the cemetery justice in one sitting, so I will write more on it in my next posting.

Friday, June 6, 2014

History Museum of St.Louis

We have seen quite a few of the cakes, as the one pictured above, located around St.Louis ever since we have arrived here about a month ago.   We came upon this one in front of the Art Museum, in the background is Art Hill.   We saw others in front of the Jewel Box, as well as in the Cherokee Neighborhood of  South St.Louis, which we visited last week.  What a wonderful way to acknowledge the 250th birthday of St.Louis!  And I am proud to say that it has been my home for 40 of those years.  Seeing those decorated cakes sparked an interest in me to learn more about the city's history, so John and I spent an afternoon at the St.Louis History Museum.  Before entering the museum we noticed an outline of the Louisiana Purchase.
An important event in St.Louis history is the St.Louis 1904 World's Fair, which came about to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.  I must admit that I never had a good concept of the size of the land involved with this treaty, and so this sidewalk drawing of it helped.  The United States bought the land from France in 1803 for $15 million dollars.  It included land from as far east as Alabama and westward into what is Montana.  Owning that land made it possible for our country to pursue westward expansion to the Pacific Ocean.  This would be a good segue into a discussion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which started near St.Louis in 1804- but I will leave that for my next posting.
In the entry hall of the museum is a statue of Thomas Jefferson, who was president at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.  The museum known, as the Jefferson Memorial Building, was built in 1914 with funds from the St.Louis World Fair.
Currently the museum has a wonderful exhibit featuring St.Louis history.  It has accomplished that by focusing on fifty people, fifty places in St.Louis, 50 moments in its history, as well as fifty objects (artifacts) which belong to the city's history.  I spent a good deal of my time reading about the fifty different people who have  impacted the city in their own unique ways- from a founding father, to a clown and a Cardinal, baseball player and aviator, to a writer, social activist and an environmentalist.  That was just to name a few of the fifty people which the museum chose as being important to St.Louis over the years.
The fifty objects relating to St.Louis were also fascinating to me.  The museum displayed the uniform of  a Brown baseball player, as well as the dress of a Ted Drewes worker some fifty years ago.  Pictured above is the flag of St.Louis.  The black lines demonstrate the confluence of its two major rivers, the medallion represents the fleur-de-lis of the French heritage, and the colors are of the various countries associated with the city- which are Spain, France and the United States.   I have written in this posting about only a small fraction of what I learned about St.Louis at the History Museum,  it was certainly an afternoon well spent!