Akron – May 2021 – Attention to Architectural Detail

With the invention of the production line for the automobile a few cities grew at a tremendous rate between 1910 and 1920. Akron, home of the rubber companies, was one of those. In 1910 there were less than 70,000 people in the city, by 1920 it had tripled to over 200,000, with an additional increase of 50,000 by the 1930 census.

As a result there is a plethora of architecture from the era.

Our first stop is a great apartment building in the Highland Square neighborhood, dating from 1927. The neighborhood is very eclectic, with a great collection of shops and cafes.

The Polsky Building was one of two major downtown department stores, serving shoppers from 1930 until it closed in 1978. This art deco masterpiece was famous for the Christmas displays in their windows.

Today the University of Akron owns the building, using it for classrooms, with the art students using those same windows for displays.

The Mayflower Hotel was for many years the place to be in downtown Akron. For it’s opening in 1931 roses were dropped from airships (blimps) onto the roof of the Zeppelin Observation on the roof of the hotel.

While the hotel itself was named after the famed ship that brought pilgrims to the new world, the restaurant was Hawaiian themed.

Not long after it opened it was the location of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.

The Rubber Room paid homage to the primary industry of the city by having nearly all the fixtures made out of rubber. Note the ‘tire lights’ in this period photo (found on pintrest). Sadly the great murals were lost during a remodeling in the 1980s.

The hotel has for the last few decades been a senior citizen home. Today it is going through another remodel, but will remain affordable senior housing.

The ATT Building (Ohio Bell) continues the Art Deco trend as Akron boomed in the 1920s and 1930s. Much like the Cincinnati Bell building seen on our visit to the Queen City, this building was designed to support the massive switching equipment needed for the telephone service of a large city.

Examples of this design include enhanced ventilation to keep the equipment cool, and a four foot thick concrete pad as a floating foundation.

The vertical lines of the exterior make this 7 floor building seem much taller, while providing the traditional art deco attention to detail.

The Akron YMCA was founded in 1870, but didn’t have their own building until 1904. When that building was outgrown, they built this 200′ tall, 17 floor building.

It is unique in that is set a few blocks away from the rest of the downtown buildings, and it is in an orange-ish brick instead of the stone art deco look of it’s time, but does retain the art deco styling.

Akron is likely one of the few cities that the tallest building in town dating from the 1930s, the Huntington Tower. Opened in 1931 as the Central Depositors Bank and Trust Company Building, it has been renamed numerous times, always after a bank.

This classic limestone exterior rises 28 floors above the street now named for basketball star LeBron James (King James Way). This height allows it to serve as a falcon nesting space.

The Cleveland based architects of Walker & Weeks also designed Severance Hall and Cleveland Public Hall.

The sculpture that is above the main entrance is known as ‘Security’, emphasizing the banking background.

A look around the South Main Street historic district at a few of the other buildings in the neighborhood. While there are a few taller buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s, the newest being from 1976, most are from the 1920s and 1930s, including 11 of the 18 buildings at least 100′ tall.

As previously noted Akron has been since the early days of automobiles the home of tire production. One of the four largest tire producers in the world, Goodyear, remains in the city.

One of their primary buildings is Goodyear Hall. Located about 2 miles east of downtown, this massive 7 floor structure takes up an entire block. Constructed over 3 years, it opened in 1920.

At one time this building housed an auditorium with over 1600 seats, gymnasium with 5000 seats, bowling alley, rifle range, and a cafeteria that served over 8000 people a day. Much of the building has been redeveloped into apartments, with the theater still in tact and in use, as well as the gymnasium (albeit with less seats).

Mill Street Bridge connects the main University of Akron campus to downtown. It is lined with some reliefs honoring Akron history, and from this vantage point offers a view of the aforementioned Huntington Tower.

Akron has a nice collection of government buildings including the historic post office, library and county building.

While Goodyear is the center of life on the east end of town, Firestone was the mainstay of the south end. While there is still some Bridgestone/Firetsone facilities in the area, it is a shell of what it once was as the headquarters relocated to Nashville years ago.

The Selle Generator Works building at the south end of downtown is also on the historic registry. One of the few structures dating prior to 1900, it is the remaining building of a much larger complex.

Today it is known as the Haunted Labratory, this great looking art deco building next to Fulton Airport, and the Airdock was the Guggenheim Airship Institute.

Founded in 1929 by Daniel Guggenheim was founded to aid in the study of improving all aspects of airship, including aerodynamics, meteorology, and others. The building also housed a vertical wind tunnel, capable of wind speeds of up to 125 mph.

The last photo is of a relief on the back of the building of an angel holding an airship (photo from Akron Beacon Journal – I failed to go the back of the building, but it is too cool to leave out – next time I will walk around the building!)

This art deco terminal was built for aviation, but not airplanes. This being Akron, it was built in anticipation of the expansion of airship passengers. Today it serves as an office building for a medical equipment company.

It was designed by the same person, Michel Konarski, that designed the Guggenheim Airship Institute just up the street.

Our final stop on the way home was in the small city of Wooster for a quick look at the very fine Wayne County Courthouse.

Cincinnati – May 2021 – Architecture

The Cincinnati architecture tour starts with a view of the historic City Hall. This impressive Romanesque building dates from 1893, after taking 5 years to build. The design was intended on reflecting the taste of the German descended majority of the population of the city at the time.

The Cincinnati Fire Museum (back side). Dating from 1907, the building is on the National Register.

The Plum Street Temple (now known as the Isaac Wise Temple), was built in 1865, with construction occurring during the Civil War. As with City Hall, which is caddy-corner from the temple, it is built in a style (Byzantine Moorish) that was popular in Germany at the time.

With World War II, all the temples in Germany in this style were destroyed, leaving only this and one in New York City in this style.

The Cincinnati and Suburban Telephone Company Building – This art deco building was completed in 1930.

Note the frieze – it is a series of rotary phones.

One interesting note, in the 1930s it contained the worlds longest straight switchboard (photo from Cincinnati Enquirer article). The floors were built at an unusually tall for the time 12′ high to support the equipment.

The western end of Garfield Place has a number of interesting structures.

The red brick building is the 1891 Waldo Apartments. The designer, Samuel Hannaford, also designed the Music Hall, nearby City Hall, and the Hooper Building.

The Covenant First Presbyterian Church is another late 1800s religious building. Both the church and the Waldo are on the National Registry.

William Henry Harrison is overlooking the entire scene. The statue’s statement of ‘Ohio’s first President’ is a bit of a controversy, as Harrison was born in Virginia, but elected from Ohio.

The Doctors Building is just down the block, on the south side of Piatt Park. The building has an impressive terracotta façade, while the construction itself is brick and concrete.

The east end of Piatt Park has a wider view of the Doctor’s Building on the left, as well as a statue of James Garfield.

The Garfield statue was commissioned just 2 years after he died, finally being unveiled in 1887.

Tucked in what is essentially an alley, the Cincinnati Gymnasium and Athletic Club dates from 1902. The club claims to be the oldest continuously running athletic club in the country, including Rutherford Hayes once being a member and president of the club.

In a controversial move the club would hold basketball games against other clubs, charging an admission and sharing the proceeds, thus making them ‘professional athletes’ in a time where that was frowned upon.

The Second Renaissance Revival Building was named to the National Registry in 1983.

The former Shillito’s Department Store building is unique in that the front and one side is very Art Deco in style, but the back is a far more traditional look.

TV fans of the 1970s will recognize this building as the home of ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’. In reality it was the home of the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper.

This limestone building was opened in 1926. Today it is home to a couple of hotels.

Cincinnati was clearly a boom town in the 1920s, as yet another of the classic buildings, the Taft Theater, opened in 1928. This art deco hall seats 2,500, and is used for touring Broadway shows and concerts.

The John Roebling Bridge is one of the highlights of the city. When completed in 1866 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, at 1057′. This was supplanted by his more famous Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.

A mix of old and new – the St Louis Church. Another 1930s building, it’s location at Walnut and East 8th Street is located along the new Cincinnati Streetcar route. Ironically the streetcars that would’ve been there when the church was built was torn out in the 1950s, only to be replaced by this new system costing $148m.

Just down the street, and a few decades before, streetcars ran everywhere. (photo from Wikipedia – ‘Metro Bus’). If only they had left the tracks.

Easily the best (in my opinion) is Cincinnati Union Terminal. Once a grand train station (still a small Amtrak station), it is now a museum center.

The building is known as the second largest half dome building in the world, after the Sydney Opera House.

Two landmarks for one – Fountain Square and the Carew Tower.

Fountain Square has been the center of the city since it was installed in 1871. The fountain’s name is ‘The Genius of Water’.

The Carew Tower was the tallest building in the city from it’s opening in 1930 until it was surpassed by the Great American Tower in 2010. While the interior is very ornate, the exterior is a very basic approach towards art deco.

Our tour complete it is time to get out of town at the 1937 Lunken Airport Terminal.

Portsmouth, Ohio – October 2020 – Floodwall Murals

Portsmouth easily has one of the best collection of murals in the country. They have taken a massive, ugly concrete flood wall and created almost 1/2 mile of murals celebrating the towns history.

The drone view give an idea of how large they are – this is just a small portion.

The theme of the walls was 2000 years of history in 2000 feet of flood walls. They were created by a team lead by Robert Dafford, a famed mural painter.

Most sections of the wall are 40′ wide x 20′ high. Some, such as the view of Portsmouth in 1903, take up multiple sections.

Some aren’t even on the flood wall, including this mural on the side of the local Kroger Grocery store.

The floodwall not only runs along the river but in places goes inland. One of the inland sections celebrates sports, including the ‘Tour of the Scioto River Valley’, an annual bicycling event that goes the 100 miles from Columbus to Portsmouth, then back.

Another section of the inland wall includes a tribute to the local labor unions.

Another includes Portsmouth’s rich baseball history.

The original U.S Grant bridge is featured on this panel.

For a short time there was an amusement park located in Portsmouth, but it was badly damaged in the 1913 flood.

The shoe industry was one of the major employers in Portsmouth.

Streetcars provided transportation from the late 1800s until 1939.

Government Square was the center of the city in the early 1900s.

The murals are done with fantastic depth.

One of the original NFL teams, the Portsmouth Spartans.

Portsmouth has had a few devastating floods, including 1937.

Chillicothe Street has always been the main commercial street in town.

Industry in Portsmouth.

A close up of the detail of the right panel for industry.

A 3 panel education mural shows various periods.

Situated in southernmost Ohio, the railroads have always been an important part of Portsmouth’s industry.

The Portsmouth Motorcycle Club is the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1893. Obviously it had to be founded as a bicycle club first since the first motorcycle was not invented until 1898.

It was known as the Portsmouth Cycling Club from 1893 until 1913.

This western view would be the actual view if the flood wall was not in the way.

Much like the European settlers later, the Native Americans utilized trails that went through the area. One originated on Lake Erie near Sandusky and went south along the Scioto River to Portsmouth.

The original village was known as Alexandria, but was abandoned due to frequent flooding.

The first European settlers arrived in larger numbers in the early 1800s.

The completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal was a boom to the area.

Built in 1901 this rail station served both Norfolk and Western as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroads. It was used until 1931 when an art deco station was completed.

A close up of the Chillicothe Street mural.

The Riverfront in 1903.

The Portsmouth Murals are one of the most impressive art installations in Ohio – well worth a trip.

Chicago – History Through Maps and Photographs – Part 1 The World Fairs

As we continue to be restricted to any travel the ‘virtual travel’ series is continuing with some history. This posting will detail the history of Chicago through maps and photographs, and take a look at what it looks like now.

 

In 1840 when New York City already had over 300,000 people, Chicago was just starting as a town with just a few thousand. By 1860 is was in the top 10 with over 100,000, and just 30 years later there was 1.1 million people and Chicago was ‘The Second City’, doubling in population from 1880 to 1890.

 

Celebrating Chicago through World’s Fairs

It was around this time that Chicago decided to make it’s presence known on the world stage by hosting a World’s Fair. Local leaders lobbied hard to land the right to host this fair with the federal government, winning out over New York, Washington and St Louis.

The site chosen, Jackson Park, provided the 600 acres required. The lead architect was the famed Daniel Burnham, who was a proponent of the ‘City Beautiful’ movement.

While most of the buildings were designed and built to be temporary, there are a few that remain to this day.

With all of the buildings built in a neo-classical design and painted the same color, it became known as The White City.

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Getting to the Fair

With the incredible growth of the city from the end of the Civil War to 1890, Chicago’s transit struggled to keep up. Initially private companies had built horse drawn trolleys downtown. In 1892 the first of the famed El’s was completed from 39th Street (Pershing Road) to the Loop. The next year the Chicago and South Side Elevated Railway extended this to the fair site at Jackson Park.

The map below dates from the 1930s but clearly shows the line going south before turning left towards the lake, ending at Jackson Park. (Red Lines denote the El). This company failed not long after the fair ended because there was not enough ridership to maintain financial stability, being sold under foreclosure.

Of note this line was originally not electrified, the coaches were pulled by an engine.

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The Chicago History Center has one of the original cars on display.

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Green Line Train today

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Also note the Midway Plaisance connecting Washington Park and Jackson Park (Green strip on map between the parks). This area was the Entertainment section of the park (more on this below).

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Today the Green Line takes a very similar route, although the spur towards the lake only goes to Cottage Grove Avenue, and the southernmost branch is gone.

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As noted in the photo description this is the entrance at the Midway Plaisance.

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The map detail shows some of the highlights of this area, including the famed Ferris Wheel. While there had been a wooden wheel built in Atlantic City in 1891, but it burned down the next year.

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Ferris’s wheel was to be Chicago’s answer to Paris’s Eiffel Tower. It was massive – 264 feet high, with a capacity of 2,160 passengers. So renown was this feature that for many years Ferris Wheel’s were known as ‘Chicago Wheels’

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Today Chicago’s Navy Pier has one that, while impressive, is shorter than the original.

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The Midway Plaisance today serves as a park area next to the University of Chicago. There are a few reminders of the fair.

 

 

The grounds and buildings were magnificent.

 

 

The Palace of Fine Arts was one of the few buildings built to remain after the fair.

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It serves today as the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

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The Statue of the Republic Was the Centerpiece of the Basin.

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While no longer surrounded by water it is one of the few remaining structures from the fair.

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But Chicago had a second chance at a World’s Fair just 40 years later, when they hosted the Century of Progress, which ran from May 1933 until October 1934, taking the winter off.

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But the city, and world, has had significant change since 1893.

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The Auto Club sponsored ‘Routes’ with fair themed names for automobile travelers to come to the city. In addition they sponsored ‘Motor Villages’, campgrounds and motels on the outskirts of town,.

 

 

Despite the introduction of the automobile, train travel was still the primary way to get to Chicago.

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This Conoco map shows an Illinois Central Railway Station at the entrance to the fair.

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In addition to the station at the fairgrounds entrance, there were another 6 train stations downtown, including the commuter rail stations.

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Today there are 3, two for the commuter rail and Union Station, and even that station is just a portion of what it was.

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Union Station is still very nice, but this grand space above was torn down in 1969.

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2019 02 14 17 Chicago Union Station

 

 

Once you were in town the El or streetcar network would take you to where you needed to go.

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El to Fair

 

Including directly to the Fair.

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Welcome to the Century of Progress World’s Fair entrance.

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The skyride took passengers from the main entrance on Columbus Drive to the lake shore. In this photo the Field Museum and the skyline of downtown is clearly visible.

One of the features of the 1933 fair compared to 1893’s is that it was essentially downtown, whereas the Columbian Exposition was a couple of miles south of downtown.

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The 1930s was the height of the Art Deco movement (a favorite of mine), and the advertising for the fair highlighted this.

 

 

The industrialists of the day had major exhibits. GM even built an assembly line.

 

You could see the homes of tomorrow.

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After the fair an investor purchased the homes and moved them by barge to nearby Indiana, and placed them along the lake shore as an attraction to the community he was building.

Time was tough on the homes, but over the last 20 years or so the state of Indiana has sponsored a program where you can lease them for $1 with the stipulation you fix them up (which costs $1m +). The results are fantastic.

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2016 10 15 94 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes

 

 

Many Chicago landmarks were part of the fair including Adler Planetarium

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as well as the Field Museum and Soldier Field.

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Chicago has always used their lake shore for the public’s enjoyment, never more so than during the two World’s Fairs. Part 2 of this series in a few days will focus more on the development of the transportation in the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Travel – Texas

Texas!

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Texas is a big state with a great variety of places for photography, therefore this is a LONG posting.

 

 

 

 

Texas Culture

1952     1958     1991     2007     2009     2011     2012     2016

 

 

Austin – State Capital

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The Texas State Capitol dates from 1885. The land it is on was acquired in a barter deal, 3 million acres of Texas Panhandle for this land!

Texas shows it’s Tex-Mex history in the state foods…

State Pastries – two – Strudel & Sopiapilla

Apple strudel     

 

State Small Mammal – Armadillo

 

 

 

The city of Austin is proud of it’s motto – Keep Austin Weird.

With the music scene, including a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Congress Street bats it is a great place to be.

 

 

 

Prairies

1949     1969     1972     2013     2014

 

Roads & Bridges

1954     1964     1974     1975     1977     1978    1983     1987

 

I have more Texas Official Highway Maps than any other state. So many this section has combined the Prairies with the Highways which is appropriate because it features Amarillo and Route 66

 

Amarillo

You are half way there – IF you are going from Chicago to Los Angeles, or vice versa.

 

 

The legendary Cadillac Ranch. For more than 40 years people have been spray painting these cars. The good folks of Amarillo liked the planted Cadillacs they have expanded (in different parts of town) to VW Beetles and Combines.

 

 

Mountains

1953     1959     1970     1993     2017

 

 

Terlingua  – The ‘ghost town’ of Terlingua is a former mining town, but is not vacant, as it is a destination for tourist from Big Bend National Park.

Once a year they hold the world’s largest chili cook-off.

 

 

Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. These two parks cover much of the Rio Grande Valley of West Texas. Their natural scenery is stunning.

A plus is being able to take a row boat across the river to Mexico for lunch in Bouillas.

 

 

Marathon – Gage Hotel   We had the good fortune of spending the night in this crossroads town on the way to Big Bend. The Gage Hotel is a historic property that attracts people just for the atmosphere and food.

 

 

Langtry – Made famous by Judge Roy Bean and his Law West of the Pecos, and even more famous when Paul Newman starred in a movie of the same name. The town is pretty much vacant, but the area is scenic.

Nearby is Seminole Canyon State Historic Park. This park holds significant cave art.

 

 

 

Cities & Beaches

1961     1968     2015     2019

 

 

San Antonio. While the city is large, it has a feel very different than Houston or Dallas. The downtown is much more compact, with a significant amount of Art Deco architecture.

 

 

Missions – There are five missions in San Antonio, and four of those are maintained by the National Park Service (the 5th is the Alamo). Mission San Jose is the most impressive architecturally.  Our day in San Antonio included a visit to Mission Concepcion.

 

Alamo – The most famous mission in the state, and likely the country, it is not known for it’s service as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, but more so it’s use as a fort in the Mexican independence effort when a group of Texas soldiers died defending it.

 

 

Houston – The city is the 4th largest city in the country, with 2.3 million people in the city. It is the 5th largest metro area (by some calculations) with 7 million people.

The city has more buildings over 150m (492′) than any city in the United States other than New York, Chicago and Miami.

There are still a few historic buildings downtown, but many have been destroyed over the years as they went taller and newer.

 

 

Houston Art – One of the great finds in our travels was the very cool, quirky art of Houston. From top to bottom. Giant Presidential Heads – Sanctioned Graffiti – Beer Can House – Luck Land – Smithers Park.

 

 

Parks and Rec  Houston also provided some unique ‘park’ experiences – from going under the Buffalo Bayou Park to see the Cistern, to the Botanical Gardens, and finally inside for some baseball.

 

 

Galveston     Another pleasant surprise was Galveston. It seemed like 3 cities in one – the typical seaside resort with amusement rides and motels, a great state park natural area, and finally the historic area on the bay side.

 

 

Dallas – Fort Worth    While Houston gained lots of photos on this posting I have actually been to Dallas far more, just some time ago and without a camera.

Dallas is corporate, Fort Worth is cowboy (I know – stereotypes, but it seems to fit).