Sunday the 22nd turned out to be another sunny day, so we set off out the National Road west of Columbus, destination Springfield.
Rather than go out I-70 again, I chose to take US Route 40, the Old National Road, getting on where it intersects with I-270 on the west side of Columbus. The first 10 miles of this road go through tacky looking 1980s suburbs before you finally reach countryside.
Our first stop was in the village of Lafayette, where there is an inn called the Red Brick Tavern. Built in the early 1800s, it has been an inn on the National Road every since. They claim 6 presidents have visited. As usual I picked somewhere that was closed, so we couldn’t go inside, and despite trying a couple of times since then, still haven’t managed to be there when it was open.
The inn did have one of the original National Road Mile Markers in the front yard though, and just being able to explore the outside of the building made the stop worthwhile.
We continued west on the National Road until we reached Springfield, our primary destination for the day. On the near west side of Springfield, in a run down neighborhood is the Pennsylvania House, which was…closed.
The Pennsylvania House is a historic inn and tavern built in 1822. This three-story brick Federal style building is situated on the original National Road. Over the years many famous guests were hosted, including Henry Clay, Charles Dickens, Andrews Jackson and James K Polk.
George Rogers Clark was a revolutionary war leader from Kentucky who lead a number of battles against the British. During these battles he fought British and Native Americans.
One of these battles occurred at a Shawnee village called Peckuwe, located just west of what is now Springfield. The battlefield, and a restored Native village is located in the George Rogers Clark Park.
The village has a number of teepees and other buildings that look nearly authentic, except the cable ties holding the bracing together.
After a fast food lunch we went to Southwest Springfield to the Hartman’s Rock Garden. In 1932, and an unemployed Springfield man, Ben Hartman, decided to create a do-it-yourself WPA project. The results of his labor still stand, open to the public to visit and photograph.
He scavenged stone from a nearby construction site, broke it with his hammer, added bits of mirror and pottery — and began building little stone houses, cathedrals, and parapets with religious statuary in the side and back yards of his wood-frame home. He kept building for seven years. He had the corner lot, so his work was easy to see.
Ben built a replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, a White House, a Mount Vernon, a large castle with a drawbridge and moat is composed of 14,000 stones; a “Tree of Life” that has over 20,000. Although Ben died in 1944, the Hartman family has maintained the property ever since.
This was one of the best Roadside America attractions we have seen. We highly recommend a stop to see Ben’s backyard!