Columbus – July 2018 – No Whining at the Winery

The Wyandotte Winery is located in what looks like a large house at the end of a residential street in northwest Columbus. In existence since the mid 1970s, it is currently owned by Robin and Valerie Coolidge.

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On Saturday’s they offer tours of their winery. It is not a massive winery like you see in the movies or on TV, rather a small ’boutique’ winery that exists in the lower level of the building in about 4000 square feet (a guess).

Valerie was our tour guide, and it ended up being 1/3 technical discussion of wine making, 1/3 history lesson and 1/3 stand up comedy routine. Valerie was a hoot, and informational at the same time.

It helped (I think) that the predominately female group had been tasting for some time upstairs!

The first display was a vintage machine for taking the impurities out of the wine before bottling. It is not currently used in production.

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On the bottom of the risers for the stairs is a history of the labels that the winery has used since the 1970s.

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The winery names some wines after local landmarks.

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Another vintage machine was a grape press.

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There are no vineyards on site (just suburbs) – they try to purchase their juice from within Ohio, but will source some from California and as far away as Peru in the winters.

Some of the grapes are grown on their other winery in Fairfield County, Ohio, just southeast of Columbus.

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Valerie explained much of the science that goes into wine making.

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All of her information was delivered with a lot of humor and informative anecdotes.

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More vintage wine making devices

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High School science was never like this.

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Some test bottles – some fail, some succeed.

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The bottle filling station. They can fill 6 at a time.

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The original corker – it takes a lot of manual labor and is slow.

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The modern corker – works great, but she said the instructions were in Italian.

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Once the wine is ready to be aged they go into large vats.

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Most of the wine making equipment comes from Italy or France. The American made equipment kept breaking down, so they bought the quality equipment from Europe.

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Wine has to bleed off CO2 in the process.

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The newer vats have taps at the bottom. Valerie said she enjoys checking out to make sure everything is going ok.

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Finally when the wine is bottled and ready – it needs a label. Back in the 1970s the original owners would use Elmers Glue to stick the labels on, often crooked.

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The label applicator puts them on perfect every time. The Wyandotte Winery will make you a custom label for your wine for only $5 – how cool.

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Valerie was a great tour guide and host – providing an amusing 90 minutes of wine making. Cheers!

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Swissvale, PA – July 2018 – Rust Belt History and Art

The Monongahela Valley of Pennsylvania was once the center of steel production for not only the U.S., but the entire world. At one point 25% of all steel production in the world came from the Pittsburgh area. For a number of reasons though that industry has all but left the area.

Today many of them have been completely torn down and converted into a variety of uses including office parks and shopping areas.

A portion of one remains: The Carrie Furnaces. The first blast furnaces were built in this area in 1884, closing down in 1982.

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Today it serves as a National Historic Site, open for tours of the remaining furnaces (#6 and #7). Interestingly it is also used for weddings, as evidenced by the left over high heel shoe (left side of the sign).

It should be noted the facility is not restored at all, so whomever is wearing these heels to a wedding held here clearly planned poorly.

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The tallest of the furnaces rise to a height of 92′.

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The shop building is used to check people in to the tour, as well as the aforementioned weddings.

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The site is also used for various metal based artists. The pile of automobile rotors have nothing to do with the mill, although it is likely the steel for the rotors was produced in the Mon Valley.

The rotors are used to teach high school students how to weld and make metal based art.

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As we progressed through we found a number of pieces of ‘Rust Belt Art’.

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One of the first buildings we went in is the railroad car offloading facility. The large arms in the photo would pick up railroad cars full of coal or coke and tip them over the side into the holding bin.

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Deer were a recurring themes in the artwork. This painting is on the bottom of the railroad car offloading building.

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A large steam shovel bucket was brought in to add to the atmosphere.

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The area sat vacant for many years so the park has adopted a ‘controlled’ urban art approach, since much of it had been covered in graffiti anyway.

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A large retaining wall was covered in various paintings, including this one as a tribute to the steel workers.

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Another way back in the corner of the property was very impressive with the integration of the deer with images of the mill.

I was warned of significant poison ivy in the grass and weeds that went to this far corner, but came home no worse for wear, and with a great shot.

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This far corner also provided a nice overview of the remaining furnaces. The buildings that are left are just a fraction of what would’ve been there when the mill was running.

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The tour continued underneath where the coal and coke would moved into the mill from the holding building seen previously. On this day it was quiet and comfortable. For the mill workers this was a loud, dusty, dangerous place.

Our tour guide Doug pointed out that the average steel worker in the early 1900s lived only to their mid 40s, dying of accidents, black lung, or just over worked.

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The tours final stops were in the furnace itself (or rather the buildings that house the main blast furnaces).  Outside is another large sculpture.

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While inside is an amazing collection of massive old steel components that kept the blast furnaces running.

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For the workers this again was a hot, dirty, dangerous place to work. In the early 1900s most were recent immigrants from Italy, Slovakia, Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe.

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To me the remains provide an awesome setting for photography.

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While virtually the entire place is as it was left, for some reason this crank is recently painted yellow.

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The tour ended in front of Carrie herself. An impressive structure, she was a critical component in the building of America and the World. The steel that came out of her built such impressive structures as the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our tour guide Doug did a great job mixing history, steel making process and personal anecdotes making the 2 hour tour quickly pass by.

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Columbus – June 2018 – Old Oaks Neighborhood House and Garden Tour

Like many cities in America Columbus had significant growth in the early 1900s. One of the main drivers of this growth was the development of streetcars, which allowed people to live further than walking distance from their place of work.

One of those neighborhoods in Columbus is the Old Oaks neighborhood just southeast of downtown. When the streetcar line was electrified in 1891 the neighborhood followed shortly after.

On this sunny warm June day they had their annual Home and Garden Tour. But before we could tour the homes we made a stop at Holy Rosary St John Church to purchase our tickets.

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The church has impressive stained glass throughout.

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But we were here to tour the neighborhood …

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As with many inner city neighborhoods there had been a long period of lack of investment leading to deterioration. Many neighborhoods, including Old Oaks, has had an infusion of gentrification over the last 20-30 years.

While many Columbus neighborhoods have had a near complete gentrification, Old Oaks still has a mix of the original residents and those who have come in and rehabbed a home.

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The neighborhood is nearly all stately brick homes.

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There is an interesting mix of those that are in dire need of repair, those that have been fully restored, and then those like this one that are in between. It is understandable with the amount of work and money it takes.

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Amongst the large brick homes is this beautiful Craftsman style home – note the house on the left is boarded up – waiting for the right person to come in and bring her back.

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Not all of the homes shown here were on the official tour, but grace the streets of the neighborhood.

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With the flags it is clear you are in Ohio – USA.

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At the edge of the neighborhood, along Livingston Avenue is Greek Revival style home that was built much earlier than the rest of the neighborhood – dating from 1852. Known as the Caroline Brown home, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom for slaves prior to, and during the Civil War of the 1860s.

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A few of the interiors of the homes were open for inspection.

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They were all beautifully restored and decorated.

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A great use of an old pull down school map – a window shade!

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Some had stained glass windows (you can also see the use of stained glass from the street as well).

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Fireplaces were present in many of the bedrooms.

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All of the homes have excellent wood work throughout.

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Another example of a bedroom with a fireplace.

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An older look was present in one of the homes.

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The highlights though were the garden tours – this one featured a massive pergola leading to the original (apparently un-restored) garage.

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An arch frames the garden of another home.

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If nature wipes out your tree, make it art.

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One of the homes had extensive outdoor living space including a pool and a palm (Ohio palm tree?)

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Another had a number of artistic touches include beer bottles made into candles.

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The garages are in the rear, as originally they were carriage houses, to house horses. Alleys line all the houses in the back.

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Technically not a garden, but the front porches were great – giving the neighborhood a sense of community.

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Old Oaks is a community in transition but as is remains a vibrant part of the city. Thanks to all who shared their homes and gardens!

As our tour ended back on Livingston Avenue, we visited the boyhood home of Eddie Rickenbacker, truly one of America’s great men. Raised in this humble house in the early 1900s, Eddie went on to become a record land speed racer, a World War I fighter pilot, a pioneer in the development of Aviation, and many other things.

For some interesting reading about one of Columbus’s great native sons check out the wiki page on Eddie. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Rickenbacker

Somebody should make a movie (although they did back in the 1940s it could be done so much better now – and Eddie has the stories that would be worth telling).

 

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Sugarcreek, OH – June 2018 – Age of Steam Roundhouse

The Age of Steam Roundhouse located in the countryside outside of Sugarcreek, Ohio is the result of a single man’s passion for trains. Jerry Joe Jacobson had a lifelong interest in trains, and over the years collected numerous steam and diesel engines,, along with a number of cars.

In 2011 they completed the roundhouse to house the collection. I had read about this online and sent an email querying about visiting. The email I received back detailed how they only opened to large group tours, but that sometime in the summer they would offer up public tours – so I signed up and a few months later had my tour.

I received back a lengthy waiver detailing numerous don’ts for the visit. While giving me pause we headed out. Upon arriving we had yet another lengthy warning speech about safety (don’t step on a rail you might twist an ankle!) and numerous other things. Now I was concerned it was going to feel like a school field trip we headed out.

Thankfully I was very wrong once we went out on our tour. Our primary tour guide was the son of Jerry (who passed away a year or so ago). He was informative, engaging and lead us throughout the facility – although they did group us into 3 large piles of 30+ people.

 

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The roundhouse is 48,000 square feet with space for 18 locomotives. Built out of masonry and heavy timbers it is an impressive sight.

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Our first stop was the shop where they restore the locomotives.

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It was here we got our first close view of the impressive doors, each weighing over 2000 pounds (1000 kilograms). They are proud that they are so well balanced you can close them with 1 finger.

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Also outside is the large water tank and delivery system that steam locomotives require.

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Returning back inside we toured the numerous engines housed there.

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A couple of the middle bays were free of trains to give a nice overview of the building.

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The assistants to the tour were all dressed for the part – and helpful.

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Each bay has a chimney to capture the significant smoke that a steam locomotive puts out. Note the impressive ceiling.

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They had a variety of engines, although to be fair with the large crowd you could either a) be up front where you could hear the description but have 35 people in the way of the photos  or  b) hang back and get nice photos but no description. One of the numerous opening instructions were no talking to each other or the other guides so you don’t disrupt the tour – they have a schedule to keep.

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Outside are the doors to the turntable – a very impressive sight remembering each of the doors (36 in all) are over 2000 pounds.

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The tracks to the turntable with an engine on the table.

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One of the ‘pushers’ (to keep everyone in line) was Jerry – he and the others were really great and helpful (I whispered my questions!). After the tour I was able to speak to Jerry further finding him a very interesting man.

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Returning back inside – another great view.

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A close up of one of the engines and the ceiling.

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They did have a couple of small display of ancillary railroad items.

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A final look inside.

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A view from outside the fence surrounding the property. The Age of Steam Roundhouse is an amazing place well worth the visit, even with the extensive (silly) warnings and processes and slightly expensive cost to attend.

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Bellevue, Ohio – May 2018 – Seneca Caverns

A full Saturday had us heading across the north central Ohio flatlands …

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To – A Cavern! We have been in a number of caves and caverns before but the pancake flat Ohio countryside seems like an unlikely location for one. Aided by Google maps and about 50 road signs we arrived just as they opened for the morning.

The small tourist attraction is a family owned business, and it was quickly apparent they appreciate the people who showed up to tour their cavern. All who worked there were friendly and helpful.

Finally our time arrived and our tour guide Sam(antha) lead us down the stairs in the small gift shop to the start of the cave. I had previously read on Tripadvisor that unlike many of the larger ‘show caves’ this one meant actually getting a little dirty as you navigate the natural stairs – and they were right.

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But we successfully made it down to level 2 where Sam explained the geology – it is a ‘Crack in the Earth’ cave – cause basically by a sinkhole, not water erosion.

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The cave was discovered by two boys playing (aren’t they all) in the late 1800s, and up until the 1930s it was a fairly ambitious effort to go into the cave. Many who did left marks that they were there, including Mr Moyer who used his skill as a tombstone carver to leave a nice etching of his name in the late 1800s.

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We continued further down, past a few fossil and very small stalactites to level 3.

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The bottom of the cave has an aquifer known as the Old Mis’try River. The water levels will vary greatly depending on rain and we have had enough rain recently the water levels were fairly high. Look closely at the railing continuing down and you will see where the water level has filled the stairway to the next level (the water is the greenish tint).

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Having gone as far as we could we started back up. Squeezing up some of the ‘stairways’ to the top. Sam was a great tour guide, informative without being boring, energetic and fun – making the hour long tour go by very fast. While not spelunking – it was adventurous enough for me.

If you would like a bit of caving Seneca Caverns in the Ohio flatlands is recommended.

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Cleveland – August 2017 – Detroit-Superior Bridge Tour

The Detroit-Superior Bridge in Cleveland (so named because it connects Detroit Avenue on the West Side with Superior Avenue downtown) was opened in 1918. While renamed a few years ago to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, to most it is still the Detroit-Superior Bridge.

When it was opened in 1918 it had streetcars running on the lower level with the cars, buses and trucks on the upper level. (photo below is from about 100 different internet sites). When the streetcars stopped running in the 1950s, the lower level was closed off.

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Every once in a while the Cuyahoga County Engineers Office will open the lower level for tours. With the last tour 4 years ago the open house this year was very popular, with an estimated 10,000 people checking it out.

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The outer walkways were only partially open.

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The steel frame allows views down to the river, almost 200 feet below.

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On the west side, the abandoned West 25th Street subway station was open.

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There have been numerous proposals for use, including bike/pedestrian trails, etc.

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Cincinnati – July 2017 – Underground Tour

While in Cincinnati for the day we took the ‘Ultimate Underground Cincinnati’ tour. While the tour guide was funny, informative and insightful, the tour itself seemed to lack in content. While we did go under a church to see a crypt and in an old brewery to see some long forgotten underground rooms, for a 2 hour tour they seemed to not have enough places to see  – filling much of the two hours with amusing stories.

Still once we were in the two underground portions, they were fascinating. We did come away knowing much more about the ‘Over The Rhine’ neighborhood of Cincinnati.

The neighborhood had a mix of gentrification and scruffy.

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The crypt under the St Francis Church was filled with graves of Irish immigrants from the 1800s, which is unusual given the neighborhood was noted for the German immigrants. The Irish had been there first.

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An old brewery that is being rehabbed into condos included some ‘art’ that are the burnt columns from a church that had caught fire in 2008.

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The massive rooms underneath the old brewery (as well as the modern day Moerlein Brewery) were great to see.

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A mural on the front of the old brewery.

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The tour ended at the Moerlein Brewery.

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