Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 1

Our Chicago Open House weekend started on Friday, before the official event started on Saturday. We made our own tour of places that were open.

 

James Thompson Center – Designed by Helmut Jahn, the Thompson Center is a 17 story curved glass building housing many government offices. From the interior all 17 floors are visible in the impressive atrium.

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On the plaza in front of the building is a sculpture from Jean Dubffet called Monument with Standing Beast. Standing at 29’ high, the sculpture weighs in at 20,000 pounds.

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Cook County Office Building – A classical 12 story office building located in the government section of downtown Chicago, to me it is most famous for where the Blues Brotthers went to pay the property tax for the childrens home (and yes the Cook County Assessors office is located in this building).

The building has the classic Art Deco look on the interior.

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Chicago Temple – The First United Methodist Church of Chicago was the first church to be founded in the city, even before it was a city, in 1831. In 1838 it moved to it’s current location at the corner of Washington and Clark.

In the early 1920s with downtown Chicago rapidly developing the church debated selling their valuable land and moving out to one of the neighborhoods. Eventually they decided on a novel approach, build a skyscraper with a church included, and in addition, put a chapel on the top. The result was a 568’ tall building with what is to this day the highest church from street level in the world.

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The first level has a traditional church.

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Known as the Sky Chapel, it was part of the original building but not fully completed until 1952 as a gift from the family of the Walgreen’s Drug Store founder.

To this day the church is self funded by the rents paid by other tenants in the building, allowing it to fully focus on serving the diverse community it serves.

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Outside is some unique art.

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Marshall Field’s (Macy’s) Tiffany Dome – With over 1.6 million pieces it is the largest Tiffany  mosaic in existence. Designed by Louis Tiffany in 1907, over 50 artisans worked on scaffolding for 18 months to complete this amazing masterpiece.

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The Pedway hosts a collection of stained glass.

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Some general scenes around the city.

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A tourist boat on the Chicago River.

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One of the lift bridge control buildings frame by a 60 floor building.

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Classic Chicago – The Merchandise Mart with a Brown Line El train coming in.

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Old street light and new skyscrapers.

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Up Wells Street from the 10th floor of a parking garage.

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A building along Madison Street.

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Millennium Park

Cloud Gate is a public sculpture located in Millennium Park. While the artists inspiration was liquir mercury, it is commonly referred to as The Bean. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

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The buildings along East Randolph Street.

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Pritzker Pavilion – A Frank Gehry design, the pavilion is a band shell that hosts numerous events each year. For this mid October night it was quiet, but still stunning with it’s red lighting.

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Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States. From this part of the park, you get a great view of one of the modern additions along with the Michigan Avenue skyline.

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tomorrow the official events starts.

 

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 2

Doors Open Pittsburgh continues…

 

Koppers Building – When it was completed in 1929 this 35 floor building was topped out at 475 feet high, making it Pittsburgh’s tallest for a time (passed a short time later by the Gulf Tower).

Constructed of polished granite and Indiana limestone, it is an excellent example of Art Deco.

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Lets head inside.

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As we entered we were greeted by a couple of the more than 200 volunteers. Events like this rely on volunteers, and all weekend we met welcoming, enthusiastic people who made the visits more worthwhile. A big thank you to all of the volunteers, but on to the visit….

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The three story lobby has a variety of marble finishes.

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There is significant use of bronze throughout the lobby including another great mailbox.

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Do you ever wonder where the elevator is? Not in this building!

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The cool clock collection continues…

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Even the handrail is stylish.

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First Lutheran Church – One stop that was not originally on our itinerary was the First Lutheran Church, but a hard rain shower had come along so we ducked inside.

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They are proud of the fact that this church was the first English speaking Lutheran church west of the Alleghenies, having been founded in 1837.

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The ceiling is amazing.

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As is the pipe organ.

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As with most churches, this one has some very ornate stained glass windows.

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Union Trust Building – Another building built by Henry Clay Frick, the Union Trust Building was completed in 1916 in a Flemish Gothic structure.

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It is believed that the roof is modeled after the Woolworth Building in New York, with the terra cotta dormers and mechanical towers that look like chapels.

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Even with this stunning roof, the most amazing feature of this building is the lobby, and its massive atrium leading up to the skylight.

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A closeup of the skylight.

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What a great building.

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The clock tour continues in the Union Trust Building.

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As does the mailbox tour.

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City/County Building – As we continued our day it became obvious that Pittsburgh experienced a massive building boom in the 1910s. Another example of this boom is the City/County Building, which was completed in 1916.

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The entire build emphasized local resources, from the architects to the materials and construction workers, it was directed that all the resources should come from Allegheny County.

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The lobby features a bust of William Pitt.

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As well as sculpted columns.

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Our visit included a stop at the Mayor’s office.

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Pittsburgh is noteworthy for their unique dialect, differing from the rest of the country with the accents and use of words. The most common of these is ‘Yinz’, which is Pennsylvanian for Y’all. Another is the way that downtown is pronounced (Dahntahn), and is celebrated with this sign in the Mayor’s office.

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Also open were the Council Chambers, located directly next to the Mayor’s Office.

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Oliver Building – The Henry Oliver Building is located directly across Smithfield Street from Mellon Square. Completed in 1910, the 25 story building now contains offices and an Embassy Suites hotel.

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The building was designed by Daniel Burnham. Interestingly other than Chicago, Pittsburgh has the most Burnham buildings still standing (7), and when first built they were actually taller than those in Chicago. It is thought by some that this is as a result of the steel barons, whose steel was required for the skyscrapers, for this ego boosting building boom.

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The building features another great safe.

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Art Deco is used throughout.

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The mailbox collection continues….

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The highlight however was being permitted to go check out the 25th floor lobby of the Embassy Suites, and the views from the windows throughout the floor.

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continued…..

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 3

Doors Open continues…

 

Smithfield Church – The church was completed in 1927, at the corner of Smithfield Street and Strawberry Way.

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The church was built by the German Evangelical Protestant Church, and has German sayings throughout.

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As with the other downtown churches, the Smithfield Church has an impressive organ.

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As well as the stained glass.

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The HYP Club – The Harvard, Yale, Princeton Club of Pittsburgh has a small 2 floor building surrounded by skyscrapers.

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The Alcoa Building towers over it’s neighbor.

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The interior itself was nice, but not noteworthy. We did have an enjoyable conversation with one of the hostesses, learning much about the club – which interesting is no longer restricted to just alumni of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

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Pittsburgh Engineers Building – Daniel Burnham’s first Pittsburgh building was the 1899 Union Trust Company. Built in 1899 for Andrew Mellon and Henry Clay Frick, it was noteworthy for it’s safe.

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The bank left long ago, but the safe is still there.

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The Engineering Society of Pittsburgh has taken over the building, and has a club/restaurant that celebrates the engineering of Pittsburgh, with an emphasis on the bridges.

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William Penn Hotel – The William Penn Hotel, a classic old school hotel, was opened in 1916. Over the years it has hosted many famous people, including numerous presidents.

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Situated along Grant Street, it has long been the center of society in Pittsburgh.

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The main lobby.

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The lower level has the famous Speakeasy Bar, so named because of it’s reputation during prohibition.

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The hotel has a collection of artifacts including Lawernce Welk’s first bubble machine (for those too young google or youtube Lawrence Welk)

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The Pennsylvanian –  While it was officially called Union Station, the major train station at the corner of Liberty and Grant was always more commonly known as Penn Station, as the only railroad it served was the Pennsylvania Railroad

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Designed by Daniel Burnham it went into service in 1901.

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As you approach the station you are greeted by a great rotunda that was once used by carriages arriving and departing.

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The ceiling of the rotunda is one of the master pieces of the city, and of Daniel Burnham’s career.

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The rotunda is worth a number of looks…

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Immediately inside is a smaller room that greeted passengers.

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The Main Hall, with it’s high ceilings and skylights, continue to impress people today. After the buildings restoration in the 1980s to apartments, this hall has been used for functions like weddings and meetings.

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Original benches from the station era are still used in this hall.

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Detailed carvings are throughout.

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The skylights open up the lower level to natural lighting, despite the fact that the entire building rises another 10 floors around and above them.

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Another classic public clock.

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On this day they were also offering tours of one of the apartments.

From the 4th floor hallway you had a better look above the skylights at the higher floors of the building

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As with most of the other historic buildings in town, the Pennsylvanian has a great mailbox.

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Doors Open Pittsburgh is continued in part 4…

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 4

Doors Open Pittsburgh continues…

 

David Lawrence Convention Center – David Lawrence was one of Pittsburgh’s greatest mayors, leading the ‘Renaissance’ era in the 1950s. He has been honored by having the convention center named after him.

The convention center is built along the Allegheny River at the edge of downtown.

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It features a couple of gardens in an urban space.

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For Doors Open Pittsburgh the highlight was being able to go on the roof.

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The building is interesting but the views from the roof are great.

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Troy Hill

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A telescope with style.

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The north side of Pittsburgh is very hilly, hence the hodgepodge of buildings in no uniform order.

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A railroad bridge across the Allegheny River.

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Detail on the 16th Street Bridge.

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In Pittsburgh you can have a bridge any color you like as long as it is yellow.

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A different angle view of Gateway Center and Mt Washington.

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The Gulf Building – Sadly it was not open for DOP.

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The Pennsylvanian – one more look.

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Benedum Center – The Benedum Center opened in 1927 as the Stanley Theater, which name remained on it until the 1980s. Many rock concerts were held in this classic theater (Bob Marley played his last show here), although by the 1970s numerous modifications had taken away much of it’s classic look.

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That all changed in the 1980s, with a $43 million dollar restoration that returned it to its original look, complete with opulent lobbies.

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The theater seats 2,800 people in elegance.

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Today it is used primarily for the opera.

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The highlights however are the spectacular lighting, especially the main chandelier.

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The additional lighting would be the centerpieces elsewhere, but here they are secondary to the main chandelier.

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Byham Theater – The Byham is a great old theater, opened in 1903 as a vaudeville house. Had we not just been to the Benedum Center, it would’ve seemed more impressive.

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Our final stop – what an amazing weekend in Pittsburgh thanks to Bonnie and her fantastic volunteers, and the buildings who were willing to welcome visitors.

First Presbyterian Church – This church was completed in 1853, replacing another building that had been built on this spot in 1805.

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Downtown Pittsburgh has many impressive churches, and First Presbyterian is second to none.

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Another great pipe organ.

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The most impressive feature (to me) are the massive doors at one end.

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Although many would say the most impressive feature are the massive Tiffany stained glass windows.

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Columbus – June 2018 – Old Oaks Neighborhood House and Garden Tour

Like many cities in America Columbus had significant growth in the early 1900s. One of the main drivers of this growth was the development of streetcars, which allowed people to live further than walking distance from their place of work.

One of those neighborhoods in Columbus is the Old Oaks neighborhood just southeast of downtown. When the streetcar line was electrified in 1891 the neighborhood followed shortly after.

On this sunny warm June day they had their annual Home and Garden Tour. But before we could tour the homes we made a stop at Holy Rosary St John Church to purchase our tickets.

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The church has impressive stained glass throughout.

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But we were here to tour the neighborhood …

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As with many inner city neighborhoods there had been a long period of lack of investment leading to deterioration. Many neighborhoods, including Old Oaks, has had an infusion of gentrification over the last 20-30 years.

While many Columbus neighborhoods have had a near complete gentrification, Old Oaks still has a mix of the original residents and those who have come in and rehabbed a home.

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The neighborhood is nearly all stately brick homes.

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There is an interesting mix of those that are in dire need of repair, those that have been fully restored, and then those like this one that are in between. It is understandable with the amount of work and money it takes.

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Amongst the large brick homes is this beautiful Craftsman style home – note the house on the left is boarded up – waiting for the right person to come in and bring her back.

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Not all of the homes shown here were on the official tour, but grace the streets of the neighborhood.

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With the flags it is clear you are in Ohio – USA.

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At the edge of the neighborhood, along Livingston Avenue is Greek Revival style home that was built much earlier than the rest of the neighborhood – dating from 1852. Known as the Caroline Brown home, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom for slaves prior to, and during the Civil War of the 1860s.

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A few of the interiors of the homes were open for inspection.

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They were all beautifully restored and decorated.

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A great use of an old pull down school map – a window shade!

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Some had stained glass windows (you can also see the use of stained glass from the street as well).

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Fireplaces were present in many of the bedrooms.

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All of the homes have excellent wood work throughout.

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Another example of a bedroom with a fireplace.

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An older look was present in one of the homes.

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The highlights though were the garden tours – this one featured a massive pergola leading to the original (apparently un-restored) garage.

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An arch frames the garden of another home.

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If nature wipes out your tree, make it art.

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One of the homes had extensive outdoor living space including a pool and a palm (Ohio palm tree?)

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Another had a number of artistic touches include beer bottles made into candles.

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The garages are in the rear, as originally they were carriage houses, to house horses. Alleys line all the houses in the back.

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Technically not a garden, but the front porches were great – giving the neighborhood a sense of community.

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Old Oaks is a community in transition but as is remains a vibrant part of the city. Thanks to all who shared their homes and gardens!

As our tour ended back on Livingston Avenue, we visited the boyhood home of Eddie Rickenbacker, truly one of America’s great men. Raised in this humble house in the early 1900s, Eddie went on to become a record land speed racer, a World War I fighter pilot, a pioneer in the development of Aviation, and many other things.

For some interesting reading about one of Columbus’s great native sons check out the wiki page on Eddie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Rickenbacker

Somebody should make a movie (although they did back in the 1940s it could be done so much better now – and Eddie has the stories that would be worth telling).

 

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New York City – May 2018 – Sights Around the City

A couple of days in the city with some highlights.

 

The Staten Island Ferry

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The Statue of Liberty

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Statue in front of Bowling Green (Customs House)

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Madison Square Park in bloom and Met Life Building

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St Patricks

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Relief on 50 Rockefeller Plaza

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By the end of the day I was back in Jersey City and Hoboken, both of which offer great views of Manhattan. This view shows some of the posts from an old pier in Jersey City back across to lower Manhattan. The buildings are lit up from the clouds just beginning to break when the sun was setting.

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This view of Midtown from Hoboken across a pier.

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A view of the Newport neighborhood with the Hoboken Terminal in the foreground.

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