Delaware, OH – April 2018 – Architectural Tour

The small city of Delaware, Ohio is the county seat of a county of the same name. Located just north of Columbus it was for more than 150 years the center of a farming county, as well as the home of the small college, Ohio Wesleyan.

With Columbus suburbs fast approaching, most of the county to the south has been developed  in tract housing and shopping centers, and it now has a population of over 200,000, and is recognized as having the highest per capita income in the state.

The town of Delaware however still feels like a small town, with many historic buildings.

First up is Beiber’s Mill which was was built in 1877 as a grist mill. Long abandoned, it sits directly on the Olentangy River – there were enough No Trespassing signs, and neighbors that looked like they would have shotguns that we took the photos from the road.

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The next stop was Perkins Observatory.  While in town there is an observatory that was built in 1896 that is still standing (barely), this building is about 3 miles south of town, next to a golf course.

Built in 1925 it has been in use ever since, but has over time reduced in scope as central Ohio is not very conducive to astrological observations – due to the low altitude, cloud cover and light pollution from the cities.

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As we arrived on the small campus of the 1900 student Ohio Wesleyan University, we found Edwards Gymnasium. Built in 1905 it is a spectacular building with an amazing wood ceiling with skylights.

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Just up the hill is Slocum Hall, which contains a library.

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As well as a great skylight.

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Next door is the University Hall and Chapel, although it appears to me very similar to most of the county court houses and jails around the state.

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On the west side of the campus are a series of newer buildings.

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Leaving campus we moved on to an area where all of the Delaware County Government buildings are located including what was a Carnegie Library – now the County Commissioners home.

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Next door is the old courthouse.

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Our last stop is what should be the main attraction of the town – the birthplace of a U.S. President – in this case Rutherford B. Hayes. However someone messed that one up long ago when the home was torn down, so now it is the Rutherford B Hayes Memorial BP Gas Station. But it is the only Presidential Gas Station in America, so Delaware, Ohio has that going for them.

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Columbus – March 2018 – Women’s Final Four Bounces into Town

College sports is a big deal, both socially and financially, and every city longs to host the finals of the basketball season. This year the NCAA Women’s Final Four was held in Columbus, and as with all major sporting events now they have a festival to accompany the games.

One of the highlights for this weekend was an event called ‘Bounce’, which gives thousands of kids a free basketball and T Shirt and allows them to dribble along the street next to Nationwide Arena up to the Convention Center where there was a number of activities for them (as well as adults).

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To coordinate such an event takes lots of volunteers, who all seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.

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But eventually they were set loose – the sound of basketballs dribbling reverberating off the buildings.

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The little ones even maintained their focus.

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Soon the street was filled with the kids and their parents.

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Once they reached the convention center there were unique skills tests waiting for them.

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A highly energetic host lead a game of ‘basketball musical chairs’, requiring them to dribble around the circle in the middle of the court – when the music stopped they had to run down, make a basket and head back. Easily the host was the most amusing part of the day.

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I am not certain the city makes the money back they invest in the games, but it does draw some attention to the city, for a few days at least.

 

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Columbus – March 2018 – The Bronze Age Comes To An End

The American Bronzing Company was located in a Southeast Columbus industrial area, enjoying an 80 year run of providing America a needed service – bronzing baby shoes (and I found out today many other things). Amazingly this company had bronzed 14 million baby shoes in their history.

This traditional now however has essentially disappeared so the business recently shut down. Today they were auctioning off the entire factory; office equipment, machinery and any remaining inventory.

We paid a visit not to participate in the auction, but to check out the factory – it was well worth it for a unique piece of American cultural history.

Up first – a bronze hat, and not to be outdone – a silver one.

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An ice skate!

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Some of the aforementioned 14 million baby shoes.

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A taco shell???

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Bras??????

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Meanwhile back in the idled factory you got a sense of how dirty the job must have been.

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A discarded sprayer.

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The shelves are now empty.

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With a number of baby shoes that went without the honor of being encased in bronze.

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But mine had been bronzed (many years ago).

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Newark – March 2018 – Historic Licking County Jail

The Historic Licking County Jail in Newark, Ohio was opened in 1889 and closed 100 years later. It remains however one of Newark’s top tourist spots, with a reputation of being haunted.

Built out of massive sandstone blocks, the entire building has a fortress or castle feel to it from the outside. In addition they added many architectural details such as the downspouts coming out the frogs mouth on the bulkhead above the doorway below.

 

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The jail also served as the sheriff’s residence, as well as a couple of other apartments for workers. One worker was the female matron and cook.

It was here we met Nelson, who’s mother was the matron and cook in the 1960s, and where Nelson grew up. Without a doubt his story telling of a ‘youth growing up in jail’ added to the tour.

The favorite amongst the staff is a story where as a young teenager he and his mother lived on a 3rd floor apartment, directly above the office where the night shift guards hung out. One night his mother was out late and the guards had fallen asleep on the job, so Nelson thought it would be humorous to drop a lit firecracker out their apartment window and have it explode just outside the guards window – which he did.

The result was excited guards calling out all the police in the town with a report of a prisoner having a weapon. After hours of lock down and a complete search of the prisoners no gun was found (obviously) – Nelson indicated he was an adult before he fessed up about his prank!

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Imagine coming home as a teenager and winding your way up the stairs in cages to get home…

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With neighbors being the prisoners who were normally locked up for up to 6 months. Most were doing a bit of time for drunk driving or other relatively minor offenses. The more serious criminals were sent to prisons after their trials.

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Security was critical though, as noted by the gun port for the guards.

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Apparently bridge builders had the skill with steel and iron to build the cells.

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The photo below is the mechanics of the door that makes that infamous prison door slamming sound.

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A sad irony of our times is this country’s obsession with carrying around guns – so much so there has to be a ‘no weapons on site’ sign for a jail. Still with Nelson’s excellent story telling, and the rest of the staff’s passion with the history and legends of the building, it was an enjoyable couple of hours being ‘in the clink’, although no ghosts were sighted 🙂

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Newark, Ohio – March 2018 – Trying to Come Back

Newark, Ohio is a city of 50,000 located 30 miles east of Columbus. While the entire Licking County area is growing in population thanks to the proximity of Columbus, downtown Newark has seen better days.

The town however, appears to be working hard to spruce up downtown, and as a result has some nice areas popping up.

The center of town is dominated by the 1876 Licking County Courthouse.

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Just to the south of the courthouse is a farmers market area facing the backs of the buildings on the courthouse square. They have made good use of this area by painting a number of well done murals, although this one is marred by the unfortunate location of the garbage cans.

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Apparently in the early 1900s farmers shipped their produce via Fedex.

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The streetcar in the mural was built in Newark.

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A well designed parking deck added symmetry to the scene.

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While some buildings are awaiting restoration…

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The train station has been restored and is used as offices by a local business.

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But the highlight of the day is in the next post – the Historic Licking County Jail!

Columbus – March 2018 – Dior in Ohio

Ohio State University has a large collection in their ‘Costumes and Textiles’ Museum. For a few months this year they have had a feature called ‘Dior in Ohio’

The collection features dresses and accessories from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Displayed in two rooms, the primary room featured many from the 1950s including a Gray Wool and Silk Two Piece Dress from 1950. This dress, as with many others, was on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland

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Also on display were shoes and hats.

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A collection of the 1950s dresses.

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A collection of ‘Post Dior Evening Wear’.  Some in the collection had been worn by Hollywood stars including Lauren Bacall.

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An example from the 1970s

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The 1950s suits. While small, this display shows the classic elegance that fashion had in the 1950s, while showing the bold changes than came in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Cleveland – March 2018 – Playhouse Square Theaters

The Playhouse Square Theater District on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland is known as the 2nd largest by number of seats in the United States, behind Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The 4 major theaters once could seat nearly 10,000 people, although that number has diminished a bit with remodeling.

On the first Saturday of each month a small army of volunteers offer free behind the scenes tours. Lead by our amazing tour guide Lil, we were fortunate in that we chose a day that they were between shows in the theaters, so we were able to go on the stages and in the dressing rooms for all the theaters.

First up is the largest, the State Theater.  Opened, along with all the other theaters, in a 19 month period between 1921-1922, the State originally seated 3,400.

Built in an Italian Renaissance style for vaudeville shows and movies, it has what was the worlds longest lobby at 320′ as it was built at the back of the lot so the theater next door, the Ohio Theater, could also have frontage on Euclid Avenue.

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As the tour took us backstage you got a feel for how massive the stage and the rigging are to support the theater. This theater’s rigging have been modernized, we would later get a sense for how much compared to the non-updated ones.

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Next door is the Palace Theater (recently renamed Connor Palace to honor a major donor). This theater was built in the French Renaissance style, and features beautiful entry doors.

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The main lobby is known as the Great Hall. Amazingly in the early 1970s all the theaters we close to being torn down to make parking lots, but fortunately the local arts community was persistent and saved all of them. It  has taken the community many years and millions of dollars but all have been restored, and in some cases reconfigured for smaller theaters.

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Front the balcony of the Palace we were treated to a performance from one of the resident organists.

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Later we were able to visit up close for a demonstration of the amazing capabilities of the organ, as well as some behind the scenes history of the recovery and restoration of the organ.

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The entryway to the Ohio Theater features an amazing ceiling. (all of the ceilings are stunning, this is the best).

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From the stage the lighting, seating and ceiling make an impressive photo.

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Backstage gets a view of the un-restored rigging (the massive collection of ropes on the right), as well as all of the lighting riggings.

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Another amazing ceiling and light, the entrance to the Allen Theater.

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The columns of the Allen Theater entrance have intricate carvings.

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The Allen has been downsized and modernized, although the original balconies and boxes are hidden behind the fabrics on the sides in case they want to return it to it’s original state. The second half of this theater has been transformed into a ‘Theater in the Round’ format.

Playhouse Square is one of the best features of Cleveland, and the Saturday morning tours are amazing (and free).

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