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 – 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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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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Hyderabad, India – November 2017 – Golkonda Fort

Golkonda Fort in Hyderabad, India is built into a nearly 500′ high granite hill, about 7 miles west of the old town city center. The original fort was built in 1143, but was rebuilt numerous times with this iteration dating from the 1500s.

 

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The lower levels had the living quarters.

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From below it is clear to see the integration of construction into the existing rocks.

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The view from the top is fantastic.

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Nearby Qutb Shahi Tombs are clearly visible.

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More of the geology on top of the hill.

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An overview of the lower fort.

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Including a courtyard.

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View from the courtyard back up the hill.

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Joliet & Pontiac, Illinois – October 2017 – Route 66 begins

While officially Route 66 started in downtown Chicago it isn’t until you get out of town a bit to Joliet before it really is emphasized by the local communities.

Downtown Joliet has the unique position where Route 66 crossed the first major trans-continental road, the Lincoln Highway.

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Joliet is also the home of old Joliet Prison, home of the (fictional) Joliet Jake Blues – of Blues Brothers fame. Now closed the day we were there an Illinois Department of Corrections van and officer was in the parking lot – to keep people from breaking into prison!

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The Blues Brothers are celebrated throughout town – on the ice cream stand…

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An auto parts store…

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And a replica Bluesmobile high above a truck stop.

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Further south along Route 66 is the town of Pontiac, where they have a nice museum celebrating the history and impact of the road on Illinois.

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Also throughout town are mural/billboards. The town was once home to a ‘Walldog’ festival. Walldogs are the names of the group of artists who paint these impressive murals. During the 3 days they had the festival in Pontiac, 19 of the murals were painted.

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Inlcuding one that celebrates Route 66 across Illinois.

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Also throughout town are small  artistic cars and trucks.

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Finally in an alley we found another fabulous mural.

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Chicago – October 2017 – Open House Chicago – Part 1

Open House Chicago is an annual event where over 200 buildings open up for free tours. Most of the buildings aren’t normally even open to visitors, so it is even more special to get to see inside.

We spent two very long days touring as many as possible.

 

Our first stop was the Federal Reserve Bank, where they have a money museum.

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Next door is the Chicago Board of Trade, featuring a large vault in the basement housing safe deposit boxes, including one was used by Al Capone.

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The lobby of the Board of Trade Building is magnificent.

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Further up South LaSalle Street we were able to go up to a 22nd floor outdoor seating area of a financial firm.

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The lobby of 231 South LaSalle Street is very ornate, although cluttered with the Cubs ‘W’ flag because of the playoffs.

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One of the few lines we encountered was at the famed Rookery Building. On this day we could go up to the spiral staircase.

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The view from below leading up the staircase is equally impressive.

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The lobby at 1 North LaSalle Street continues with the Art Deco style of most of the buildings on the street,

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Another basement, another safe deposit section. This one was massive.

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One of the newest buildings is 150 North Riverside, with it’s tapered bottom.

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The position of 150 North Riverside at the corner of the branches of the Chicago River offered great views in all directions.

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Back on the ground for a panorama of the area.

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The Builders Building also has a great lobby.

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The Michigan Avenue lift bridge was open with views of the gears and the opportunity to go up to the tower.

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Chicago – October 2017 – Open House Chicago – Part 2

Part two of the tour starts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The tour indicated you could go on stage, which I was expecting a large concrete pad. Instead it was a beautiful wood stage with the risers for the orchestra behind it.

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Outside was the famed curved metal of the pavilion.

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Not officially part of the tour we went past the tourists at the Bean.

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The Maclean Center Grand Ballroom is the home of an art school.

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The famed Railway Exchange Building had an architectural firm open on the fifth floor, giving a rare view above the skylights.

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Along with a nice view of Millennium Park.

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111 West Monroe Street was the home of another architectural firm who had some great models that they have designed and built.

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Yet another firm down the street in the National Building had a visually interesting work on the entrance wall.

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While not open we passed by the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower)

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Also not officially part of the tour, but always open and interesting is Union Station.

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Our final stop in the Ravenswood neighborhood is the Ravenswood Events Center. Once a sign factory someone has purchased it and restored it to show off their exotic cars.

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