Frankfort, Kentucky – May 2019 – Bourbon Valley

A narrow valley south of Frankfort, Kentucky was the home of a couple of bourbon distilleries for more than 100 years. In the 1970s they closed.

Their remnants remained unused in this valley for 40 year.

Nature was taking over.

But recently two startup distilleries have moved back into some of the buildings and began bourbon making again. One took over the Old Taylor facility, whose office building looked like a castle.

They have named their bourbon Castle & Key. More on the ‘key’ in a moment, but you can see where the Castle portion came from.

They have invested significant amounts of money into the facility.

The steam towers remain but unused.

There is a great mix of old and new.

The ‘key’ portion comes from their water source – which inside is shaped like a keyhole.

The control for the small dam still functions.

Overall it is a great location for bourbon making.

The massive 4 floor aging warehouse is once again in use.

Just up the road is Glenn’s Creek – another bourbon maker who took over an old abandoned facility.

Tours of bourbon distilleries is a very big tourist business in Kentucky, and there are no settings better than here.

Southeastern Ohio – April 2019 – Interesting and Unusual Sights Part 2

Part 2 of the Southeastern Ohio tour shows some of the results of the struggles that an area that has been economically depressed for decades looks like.

A Ghost Sign in New Lexington.

Apparently not much fun in the sun anymore. It seems like it would’ve always been a bad business model because pools are expensive, and this area has never had much personal income, not to mention it is sparsely populated.

Some seem to have a unique beauty in their deterioration.

While others seem to be just barely standing.

Welcome to Historic Shawnee, Ohio!

This town once had over 3000 residents, now it is down to 600.

While at first glance it appears to be a ghost town, Shawnee is hanging on. While many of the buildings are vacant, some continue to be used.

Closer inspection of this ‘building’ shows the front is still there, but the rest of the building is gone, resulting in a courtyard of sorts.

This building, completed in 1907, was originally a hotel that hosted among others William McKinley. In addition there has always been a theater within.

This theater has recently been restored, and hosts concerns, plays and amazingly basketball games.

When buying a ‘fixer upper’, make sure it isn’t relying on the neighbor to stand up. (amazingly the small building behind the sign had a sign on the front indicating it was the real estate agents office, but it seems unlikely.

While sadly worn down, the buildings do have interesting architectural elements to them. If this were anywhere near somewhere with real estate in demand these cool little old buildings would be snapped up and restored.

With Shawnee being far from any population or jobs centers, they just look like a movie set.

Moving on, we passed this once a school, once a church, now (apparently) vacant building.

In nearby Glouster is a worn sign for The Wonder Bar (which apparently is long gone). No Wonder Dogs for lunch today.

Nearby is what looks like a scene from a Hitchcock movie – and old dilapidated building covered with birds.

Just out of town is an abandoned school, which nature is taking over.

As noted in Part 1 of this day, Nelsonville was a brick town. A park on the outskirts of town have the remains of a brick factory.

With the tower and a couple of large kilns, it is very cool place to check out.

This factory was started in 1880, and closed in 1940.

Amazingly the bricks are still sitting in the kiln.

Look closely you will see ‘Nelsonville Block’ embossed in many of the bricks. This company won awards for their bricks at the World’s Fair in St Louis in 1904.

Stacks of bricks are stored in the park (thankfully it appears nobody is stealing them).

Nearby is the Hocking Canal Lock 19 remains. Canals were essential to the initial development of the area in the mid 1800s.

This photo is representative of transportation in the area over the times. First there was the canal, then the railroad killed the canals.

The railroad itself was mostly displaced by the highway. Why can I stand in the middle of the highway and take this picture? Because it too has been displaced by a newer freeway that bypass all of the towns and this section of road, further killing any chance of survival these towns have.

Our final stop is in the interesting little town of Haydenville.

Haydenville is a company town founded by Columbus industrialist Peter Hayden. If you check out my posts of the Historic Architecture of Broad Street in Columbus you will find the Hayden Building and the New Hayden Building.

For his company town Hayden used the products he produced for sale to build the buildings.

The town was built in stages, and the materials reflect the era that they were producing them in the factory.

Some have interesting architectural features (and satellite dishes and trash).

Even the church was built out of the Haydenville Mining and Manufacturing company’s products.

In fact closer inspection shows a plethora of different tiles used for accent pieces and features.

Even some of the individual homes have these features. Note the pipes in the upper part of the left side of this house used for decoration.

Next door is a similar one, with slightly different features.

The final really unique house in the old company town of Haydenville.

Southesatern Ohio parallels much of Appalachia – there is natural beauty, but much has been destroyed by rampant disregard of nature for the benefit of industry for 100 years or so, now it is left on it’s own.

Yet some survive, either through tourism or other means. Regardless there is much to see in the area, and worth a trip (with an open mind to ‘beauty’)

Michigan UP, Wisconsin and Minnesota – National Parks Road Trip – Day 3 – Abandonded Air Force Base, Marquette, MI and Duluth, MN

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We started our day in Marquette, Michigan at the abandoned Sawyer Air Force base. There are literally hundreds of vacant buildings scattered about, with a few in use. We went past entire apartment complexes boarded up after the military left in the 1990s. It looks like it could double for Chernobyl.

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Interestingly though, as a tourist attraction, are a number of jet airplanes parked around town. They seem to be in good shape, just parked in fields and parking lots. At the edge of town is a new, small terminal that is used for the Marquette International Airport. We walked in to check it out and the board has one destination written permanently, ‘Detroit’.

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It was about a 15 minute drive into the middle of Marquette, the largest town in the U.P It is also home to Northern Michigan University. Given the tough weather, over 200″ of snow per year, they have a domed stadium, the Superior Dome, however theirs is unique in that it is made of Douglas Fir beams and fir decking. This geodesic dome arena is the world’s largest wooden dome and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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We made our way inside the Wildcat football arena, walking onto the cushioned Astroturf, with a beautiful smell of wood used to build the arena. The ceiling was stained wood inside and had white panels for the exterior designed in a sloping fashion to funnel snow off the domed stadium into large wells positioned on the ground at points around the structure.

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We saw another amazing item in the arena. It is the World’s Tallest Trophy at 22 ft 6.5 inches tall given for the largest skateboard parade and this trophy is also in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Along the Marquette Harbor we stopped at the Marquette Maritime Museum but it was closed, however there was a torpedo stationed outside that was perfect for sitting on and waving my arms as if I were Slim Pickens in the movie Dr. Strangelove while I had my photo taken. Just across the parking lot is the Marquette Bay Park, with a massive abandon ore dock.

We met a person in the parking lot of the park who told us how it was used; there was a massive train bridge that spanned across downtown Marquette, crossing overtop the buildings, and onto the ore dock. Trains would pull in with loads of ore, and dump them directly into the boats headed down the lakes. Given the fact we were along the Lake Superior shore at an ore dock brought to mind the Edmund Fitzgerald disaster, along with the accompanying song.

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Leaving Marquette we stopped in Ishpeming to see the U. S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, but it was closed. The building was designed with a steep roof modeled as a ski slope. An old ski lift chair provided seating in front of the building and international flags and an Olympic torch stood in front outside to complete the scene. We checked out the items outside the building and the well painted murals on a nearby bridge.

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Also in Ishpeming is Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, a store I found on the Roadside America website. Large strange and unusual contraptions were placed on the store property along the road, including an 18 foot long chain saw called Big Gus.

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Another ‘feature’ was an old pick-up truck with a rifle mounted to the bed that stuck up over the cab of the truck and extended about 8 feet beyond the front of the truck. Amazingly both the chain saw and the gun actually work.

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Lower Michigan becomes the butt of humor due to the dislike from Da Yoopers of Upper Michigan which is seen in many of the items for sale. Some items emphasized a local affection for beer and pasties- pronounced with a short “a” sound not long “a”. Pasties are dough sandwiches stuffed with beef, rutabagas, or other vegetables, not what I was expecting when I first saw the signs.

Our route this day took us across the western half of the U.P. across the M28. As was our goal we tried to find something interesting to stop for every hour or two, including Agate Falls Park, located in southeastern Ontonagon County, Michigan. What appears to be a basic roadside rest is actually the park for this 39′ high waterfalls, coupled with a classic old highway bridge crossing just above.

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Wakefield, Michigan was our next stop to see the Peter Toth carved Native American. We were disappointed to see that the carved head of a Native American was only half the size and not as intricately carved as a similar wooden statue in front of the Judith Resnik Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio.

We continued on through Bessemer, Michigan to find the giant ski bum noted on Roadside America. The Ski bum was at the entrance to a ski resort called Big Powderhorn that claimed to be the Ski Capital of the Midwest.

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Finally we arrived in Ironwood in the early afternoon, and found the railroad station built in 1893 listed on the National Historical Places. In front of the depot is a memorial carved of three miners from an old tree. This town also has a mural painted the length of a downtown building of every miner with his name and the name of the mine he worked.

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In addition, this town boasts the “World’s Tallest Indian” as is noted at the foot of a 52 foot tall Hiawatha. The statue is made of fiberglass and erected at the top of Suffolk Street next to a neighborhood. This statue towers over the houses. You really cannot miss it even though we asked someone where to find it.

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Just across the border into Wisonsin we found another Roadside America classic, a giant large corkscrew in Hurley, Wisconsin. Appropriately it stands in front of a liquor store. Thank goodness Roadside America kept us entertained with oddball items like this to see along the way. You may interpret this mishmash of oddity as rambling fun, weird education, or just plain stupidity to fight boredom.

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Ashland, Wisconsin was our next stop, to see the murals on buildings throughout the town. There are murals painted on the sides of downtown buildings on most of the blocks. The murals paint life of downtown businesses and life through the decades. Nearly all the murals depict people who were residents of the town.

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Just outside of town we visited the Northern Great Lakes Center. The center displayed dioramas and murals of native tribes, wildlife, geology and life history of the area. It also exhibited professional photographs of Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks. It was interesting to see these photos of Pictured Rocks which hung here in the Center because these photos were taken at different times of day and season to show so many beautiful captured scenes of the same landscape that we photographed while on our cruise. The winter scenes of Pictured Rocks and Apostle Island were especially outstanding.

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Dark clouds appeared with expected storms so we made our way to Superior, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the accordion museum there was closed and so we moved on to Duluth, Minnesota.

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Welcome to Minnesota.

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We drove around Duluth and were surprised to find steep hills within the city, which of course we headed up. I had read there was an overlook but I was having trouble finding it.Eventually in one of my efforts to find it I ended up in a parking lot of a Catholic Church where there was some guy just hanging out in his dingy old mini van. When I asked him where it was he said ‘follow me, I will take you there’. Knowing this violates every rule of every slasher movie, we did follow him, far enough I knew where it was and I turned and took off the other way, leaving Freddy Kreuger to himself. The overlook was at Engel Park, with a 80′ tower at the top.


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The view from the top was spectacular, with a 360 degree view of the city, bay and lake. We spent quite  bit of time watching an ore boat leave the harbor under the lift bridge, as well as many ore docks, some still in use. On the Superior, WI side there were massive grain elevators.

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Our hotel was near the harbor in a restored area with restaurants and parks. Returning we walked to one of the more popular ones, Grandma’s Saloon & Grill (that is really the name of the restaurant) then walked through town and later walked the boardwalk along Lake Superior for amazing photos of the incoming storm, before retreating to the cover of the large porch of our hotel to watch the storm blow through. Afterwards we walked again for more great photos trying to capture lightning and ships through the fog. We got some great photos to end our day here.

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Lightning on the Lake

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