Birmingham, Alabama – May 2019 – Civic Culture

For more than 100 years Birmingham was the center of manufacturing for the southern United States. It was often referred to as Pittsburgh of the South in reference to all of the steel mills. As with Pittsburgh, the industry has for the most part left town.

As with the northern industrial cities there was significant investment in civic culture, and in Birmingham there is none better than the main library.


While the primary entrance is a modern building, across the street is the Linn-Henley Research Library. Built in 1927 it reflects the art deco style of the period.



The building is most known for the Ezra Winter murals. Most depict historic events such as below left – Dante and Virgil. On the right is Don Quixote.



In addition to the murals, the main reading room has a fantastic ceiling.



The west side of the room shows the interesting mix of the murals with the art deco balcony railings.



Ezra Winter was raised in Michigan, but spent his early adult years in Europe where he was classically trained in painting. Interestingly they were completed in New York City and applied to the Birmingham Library walls with white lead.



The Children’s Library has a mural depicting fairy tales.



A seemingly out of place modern art piece is also present.



The library, county courthouse and city hall all frame a public park. As they were all built about the same time all reflect the art deco style.

The courthouse was designed by the famed Chicago firm of Holabird & Root.



Reliefs high up on the building reflect local history.



Outside is the Statue of Liberty – well a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.



Murals depicting the history of the region are in the lobby of the courthouse. This mural, entitled Old South, has caused great controversy as it depicts slaves picking cotton. A multi racial committee of 16 reached a consensus that they would create a retractable cover that would obscure them except during educational tours.

They apparently haven’t yet decided to cover up their history as it was available for us to see.



The accompanying mural entitled ‘New South’ depicts the industrial work. As previously noted, the industry is gone, so I suppose they will have to come up with a ‘New New South’, depicting Birmingham’s current major employers including Education, Finance and Engineering firms.



As part of the agreement on the Old South mural, a new mural entitled Justice Is Blind was added with a modern collection of symbols that show, among others, a black lady justice along with a white lady justice.



Less controversial is the scales of justice relief as well as the art deco clock.



The final building in the area is Birmingham City Hall.



City Hall has a gallery of noteworthy city residents over the years.



While not a Birmingham resident, Martin Luther King was instrumental in bringing social justice to the city, and is honored with a portrait in the gallery.

Birmingham turned out to be far nicer than I was expecting. It is a city that is recognizing it’s past (good and bad), and moving forward into the future.





Bienvenue a Paris (Kentucky) – May 2019

So many small towns in America are named after other places – and Paris is no different. According to Google there are 23 towns and cities in America called Paris, but the one in Kentucky is one of the nicer ones.



This town was originally called Bourbontown because it is the county seat of Bourbon County (more on that later), but was renamed to Paris as a thank you to France’s contribution during the Revolutionary War.

They have a small Eiffel Tower next to the Visitor Center/Farmers Market.




The town itself is very well preserved, as there is a lot of money in the area from the thoroughbred farms (more on this later as well).




Horse Racing is a recurring theme throughout all of Central Kentucky.




The pots along the street for flowers and bushes are re purposed horse troughs.




Hollywood has a walk of fame – but so does Paris – with horseshoes for the great ones – including the greatest – Secretariat.




Most of the downtown area buildings are 100 years old and in good condition.






The Duncan Tavern is the oldest building in town – dating from 1788.




The highlight though is the Bourbon County Courthouse. Completed in 1902 it is spectacular.


From the mosaics in the floors….




To another horse racing tribute.



The fantastic view of the dome from below.



Much of the ironwork came from nearby Maysville.



Great care has been given in the upkeep of the courthouse. We were lucky enough that on this Saturday morning it was open for absentee voting – and the Boubon County Clerk of Courts Richard Eads gave us a detailed history of the building, taking time out of his busy day for us.



The ceiling of the courtroom has a mural of Lady Justice.



But with that it was time to head out of town….






Fort Wayne, Indiana – August 2018 – Random Sights Around Town

The city of Fort Wayne, Indiana is the 2nd largest in Indiana, behind Indianapolis. While not huge, it was large enough to have a few interesting things to see and do.

Easily the most architecturally interesting building is the Allen County Courthouse.

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The building had numerous carvings and reliefs.

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The carved tablet emphasizes the idea of justice for all.

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While Lady Justice looks over the setting.

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The Lincoln Tower was for 50 years the tallest building in town. There are a couple of ones taller now, but none more stylish.

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Directly across the street from the classic architecture of the courthouse and the Lincoln Tower is this modern mid rise.

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The main branch of the library.

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Fort Wayne was surprisingly (to me) nice. There is some recent development downtown, the neighborhoods were pleasant and overall it didn’t feel like an old industrial city.

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One of the more unusual local tourist attractions is the Hanson Quarry on the southeast side of town. Where else in the flat lands of Indiana can you find a giant 1000′ deep hole in the ground.

They have an observation deck built that is open during daylight hours where you can come check out the giant hole in the ground.

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The next morning we made our way to Lakeside Park and Rose Gardens.

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The gardens feature some sculptures.

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But their 2000 rose plants are the highlight.

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Late August heat has put stress on the roses.

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Lakeside Park in Fort Wayne is worth a visit.

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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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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!