Maysville, Kentucky was one of the original settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains, as it is situated along the Ohio River about 80 miles upriver from Cincinnati.
We entered the town via the 1931 Simon Kenton Bridge. Spanning the Ohio River for almost 2,000 feet it is a classic old steel bridge.
As with many river towns the flood wall is adorned with murals. Maysville’s are well done – including this one as a tribute to favorite daughter Rosemary Clooney, who from the 1940s until the turn of the century was an actress and fantastic singer (and also well known as George Clooney’s aunt).
The town is in remarkably good condition compared to most of the little river towns of this part of the world.
Much of the center of town has been restored, including this fountain and square.
More of the excellent flood wall murals – horses are a big deal in Kentucky.
This mural depicted the street we were standing on 100 years ago.
For most of the Ohio River valley in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky there are steep hills just a few blocks back – Maysville is no exception.
The Washington Opera House dates from 1898 in a Beaux Arts style. It is used today for theater and concerts.
Another great example of the nice restoration done in town.
The main street has some galleries to go with the small stores.
Some architecture is reflective that we are in the beginnings of the south.
The Kentucky Gateway Museum is a new building, but well done and blending nicely with it’s surroundings.
Maysville was once a center of wrought iron manufacturing, and many of the homes show this heritage.
Even a vacant lot has been re purposed as a small park – along with another great ghost sign.
Even the vacant house it very cool – the building in front and most of the house appears to be covered in kudzu, which I haven’t seen this far north before.
Just down the rest are more restored homes.
This row of houses to me is reminiscent of the famed ‘Painted Ladies’ of San Francisco – only at 1/10th the cost.
If you ever get the chance stop by Maysville, Kentucky – it is worth the visit.
Part 2 of the Southeastern Ohio tour shows some of the results of the struggles that an area that has been economically depressed for decades looks like.
A Ghost Sign in New Lexington.
Apparently not much fun in the sun anymore. It seems like it would’ve always been a bad business model because pools are expensive, and this area has never had much personal income, not to mention it is sparsely populated.
Some seem to have a unique beauty in their deterioration.
While others seem to be just barely standing.
Welcome to Historic Shawnee, Ohio!
This town once had over 3000 residents, now it is down to 600.
While at first glance it appears to be a ghost town, Shawnee is hanging on. While many of the buildings are vacant, some continue to be used.
Closer inspection of this ‘building’ shows the front is still there, but the rest of the building is gone, resulting in a courtyard of sorts.
This building, completed in 1907, was originally a hotel that hosted among others William McKinley. In addition there has always been a theater within.
This theater has recently been restored, and hosts concerns, plays and amazingly basketball games.
When buying a ‘fixer upper’, make sure it isn’t relying on the neighbor to stand up. (amazingly the small building behind the sign had a sign on the front indicating it was the real estate agents office, but it seems unlikely.
While sadly worn down, the buildings do have interesting architectural elements to them. If this were anywhere near somewhere with real estate in demand these cool little old buildings would be snapped up and restored.
With Shawnee being far from any population or jobs centers, they just look like a movie set.
Moving on, we passed this once a school, once a church, now (apparently) vacant building.
In nearby Glouster is a worn sign for The Wonder Bar (which apparently is long gone). No Wonder Dogs for lunch today.
Nearby is what looks like a scene from a Hitchcock movie – and old dilapidated building covered with birds.
Just out of town is an abandoned school, which nature is taking over.
As noted in Part 1 of this day, Nelsonville was a brick town. A park on the outskirts of town have the remains of a brick factory.
With the tower and a couple of large kilns, it is very cool place to check out.
This factory was started in 1880, and closed in 1940.
Amazingly the bricks are still sitting in the kiln.
Look closely you will see ‘Nelsonville Block’ embossed in many of the bricks. This company won awards for their bricks at the World’s Fair in St Louis in 1904.
Stacks of bricks are stored in the park (thankfully it appears nobody is stealing them).
Nearby is the Hocking Canal Lock 19 remains. Canals were essential to the initial development of the area in the mid 1800s.
This photo is representative of transportation in the area over the times. First there was the canal, then the railroad killed the canals.
The railroad itself was mostly displaced by the highway. Why can I stand in the middle of the highway and take this picture? Because it too has been displaced by a newer freeway that bypass all of the towns and this section of road, further killing any chance of survival these towns have.
Our final stop is in the interesting little town of Haydenville.
For his company town Hayden used the products he produced for sale to build the buildings.
The town was built in stages, and the materials reflect the era that they were producing them in the factory.
Some have interesting architectural features (and satellite dishes and trash).
Even the church was built out of the Haydenville Mining and Manufacturing company’s products.
In fact closer inspection shows a plethora of different tiles used for accent pieces and features.
Even some of the individual homes have these features. Note the pipes in the upper part of the left side of this house used for decoration.
Next door is a similar one, with slightly different features.
The final really unique house in the old company town of Haydenville.
Southesatern Ohio parallels much of Appalachia – there is natural beauty, but much has been destroyed by rampant disregard of nature for the benefit of industry for 100 years or so, now it is left on it’s own.
Yet some survive, either through tourism or other means. Regardless there is much to see in the area, and worth a trip (with an open mind to ‘beauty’)
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.
It features a couple of gardens in an urban space.
For Doors Open Pittsburgh the highlight was being able to go on the roof.
The building is interesting but the views from the roof are great.
A telescope with style.
The north side of Pittsburgh is very hilly, hence the hodgepodge of buildings in no uniform order.
A railroad bridge across the Allegheny River.
Detail on the 16th Street Bridge.
In Pittsburgh you can have a bridge any color you like as long as it is yellow.
A different angle view of Gateway Center and Mt Washington.
The Gulf Building – Sadly it was not open for DOP.
The Pennsylvanian – one more look.
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.
That all changed in the 1980s, with a $43 million dollar restoration that returned it to its original look, complete with opulent lobbies.
The theater seats 2,800 people in elegance.
Today it is used primarily for the opera.
The highlights however are the spectacular lighting, especially the main chandelier.
The additional lighting would be the centerpieces elsewhere, but here they are secondary to the main chandelier.
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.
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.
Downtown Pittsburgh has many impressive churches, and First Presbyterian is second to none.
Another great pipe organ.
The most impressive feature (to me) are the massive doors at one end.
Although many would say the most impressive feature are the massive Tiffany stained glass windows.
The city of Lancaster is one of the older towns in Ohio. The initial settlers came here in the late 1700’s, with the town itself being officially founded on November 10,1800.
Each year the Frontier Spirit Festival takes place. This festival has numerous actors who represent people who were instrumental in the settlement of the area in 1799.
Pre dating Ohio becoming a state, the area was wilderness for the first settlers. The festival does an excellent job describing, and demonstrating what it took for these settlers.
The festival takes place in a large park at the south end of Lancaster. After an introduction, you are lead on a mile long hike with stops along the way for more detailed interpretations from the actors.
The first large group of settlers came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, thus the name. So many of those who came were of German descent that one of the first newspapers was a German language newspaper, Der Ohio Adler.
All of the actors are volunteers. Their period clothing and other items, such as their guns add to the presentation.
They spoke of the challenges in settling in the wilderness. There are more than 150 players in the group.
Lancaster was founded by Ebenezer Zane, who was a famous merchant, trail blazer, pioneer and soldier. Zane was instrumental in treaties with the Native American’s (much debate about how equitable those treaties were, but that is another story).
Zane was given a contract by the United States government to open a road from Wheeling, West Virginia (then Virginia) to Maysville, Kentucky. In payment for this road he was given 3 square mile tracts of land at the crossing of the 3 major rivers – the Muskingum, the Hockhocking and the Scioto Rivers.
To make money he needed settlers to come buy some of this land, so he offer bounties to people to lead groups of settlers through the wilderness to each of the towns that developed. These leaders often were wanted by the law back east, so they were more than happy to move to the wilderness and earn some money.
Anyone settling in the wilderness then had to fend for themselves, being hunters, building their cabins, becoming farmers, and generally having no dependency on anyone else.
The promise of a better life in Ohio in 1799 was often not what they were lead to believe. This actress portrayed a frontier wife who wanted nothing more than to go back to Philadelphia and civilization.
The husband and daughter wanted to make a life here. As with today, many marriages were strained by the stress of the move.
This actress portrayed a young woman who was moving to the frontier to be married. She carried with her a dowry, a bag of salt.
The theme of this years presentation was about salt, and how important it was to the pioneers. They needed salt to cure their meat so it would last for long periods of time, as well as many other uses.
Salt was so rare, and in so much demand that in the Ohio frontier of 1799 it was worth more per ounce than gold.
Along the way we met Johnny Appleseed, whose real name was John Chapman. All American school children know the story of Johnny Appleseed, who went from place to place scattering apple seeds for trees to grow,
Only that wasn’t quite how it was. John Chapman did indeed travel around to encourage the planting of fruit trees, but they were much more structured in orchards. He would plant the orchards then work with a local farmer to tend to the orchard, and share in the profits.
There were numerous Native tribes in the area when it was being settled. Obviously not happy about losing their land with nothing in return, the local tribes tended to push back against the settlers.
Some tribes, such as the Wyandotte, had made deals with the US Government prior to 1799, thus allowing the development to continue faster.
Our leaders into the wilderness.
Once our tour down the trail was over, we visited the camp that was set up where they had a number of demonstrations.
A band was playing.
One tent had candle making – a very important item in pioneer life.
Another musician with a zither.
The Frontier Festival in Lancaster was far better than expected, with the actors and musicians all passionate about their presentation. It made for an entertaining and educational afternoon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Front the balcony of the Palace we were treated to a performance from one of the resident organists.
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.
The entryway to the Ohio Theater features an amazing ceiling. (all of the ceilings are stunning, this is the best).
From the stage the lighting, seating and ceiling make an impressive photo.
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.
Another amazing ceiling and light, the entrance to the Allen Theater.
The columns of the Allen Theater entrance have intricate carvings.
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).
The Ohio Theater is a grand old theater downtown that was built in 1928 in an exceptionally ornate style to ‘separate the patrons from their everyday life’; it was originally built as a movie theater. It currently has seating for over 2700 people in the main level and the balcony, and features a massive ‘Robert-Morton’ organ.
While the theater hosts the symphony, opera and ballet we were there for a screening of the movie classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. The screen is massive, and the sound quality was superb.
The impressive ceiling has a more impressive chandelier.
The lobbies are equally ornate.
We chose a seat in the balcony.
The loges are no longer used for seating, rather they serve as lighting structures.
The maestro served as the organist, performing for 30 minutes prior to the movie, during intermission, and during the exit period after the movie. A visit to the Ohio Theater is worth it just to see the building; to see a classic old movie is even better.