Avery Island, Louisiana – May 2019 – Hot Times at the Tabasco Factory

Tabasco is known the world over for giving kick to many different foods. All of this spice comes from a small factory in southern Louisiana.



The grounds are beautiful, and the Tabasco Company offers a complete look at the history and production of their product.

The visit starts in the company museum.



The self guided tour takes you from building to building. Along the way you pass some Tabasco themed artwork.






While most of the peppers used in the production are grown offshore, there is a greenhouse that they grow the plants to assure quality control, and provide seeds for their sources.







The barrel house is where the mash ages.



The blending of the salt, pepper and vinegar takes 28 days.



The bottling line was the most interesting. A small group of workers oversee the entire process.

Below a quality control worker monitors the process.



The bottles fly along their path.



Yet she can spot an issue, and pull the bottle from production.



An overview of the bottling operation.



More quality control.




The workers seemed at ease with the stream of people watching them through the windows.



These innocent little bottles give so many so much pleasure, and to some serious heartburn.



Their product is shipped worldwide – today it is going to Portugal.



Just outside the line are some giant bottles.

The factory tour was interesting, and well designed.

New Orleans – May 2019 – St Louis Cemetery #1

New Orleans is famous for their approach towards funerals and burials. Because of their location the city has always taken a unique approach towards cemeteries. Instead of burying people in the grown New Orleans has always gone vertical.



Because of the popularity, and vandalism, you must attend a tour to check out the cemetery. Our tour guide was fantastic – combining humor with knowledge.



The cemetery is the oldest in town, dating from the late 1700s.



There have been a number of construction approaches over the years for the vertical vaults. As a result there are tens of thousands of remains throughout the cemetery.



Most are owned by individual families. Many have small fences surrounding them to delineate their space.



Over the years some have been maintained more than others. The original brick ones have had their mortar dry up and fall out, with the fix being to cover them in stucco.



From certain angles they appear to be additional downtown buildings.



A few have tributes – not sure what an angel and a voodoo head symbolize.



The visuals throughout are stunning.















Some of the other tour participants fit the mood.



One of the interesting aspects is the ‘common’ space. If you don’t have a family crypt, or you have ‘lost your lease’, you are placed into the large community vault. There are literally thousands of remains there.

The history of New Orleans and cemeteries is a very interesting one. With the guide we had we learned much, and were able to experience the macabre beauty of the St Louis Cemetery #1.






Weston, West Virginia – May 2019 – Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum

The small town of Weston, West Virginia is the home to the Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum. Completed in 1864, it is often considered the second largest hand cut stone building in the world, behind only the Kremlin in Moscow.





Designed by Richard Andrews, it is nearly 1/4 mile long with wings coming off the main building. It was designed to house 250 people, but by the 1950s nearly 2,400 patients were jammed in.





Weston has seen better days. From a peak population of 9,000 it now is home to about 1/ 3 of that.





Once the hospital closed in the 1990s a group purchased the historic building from the state and has done some partial restoration.





Some of the center sections, including the auditorium, have been restored.





There is also a small museum with a number of items – including original patient art.





Some of the displays show the sad approach to mental health in past days – including a display for a lobotomy.





But we are not here for the museum – we are here for the darker side of the history of the place.





We took the ‘Paranormal Tour’. The building has a reputation of being one of the most haunted places in America.





Perhaps it has something to do with this room – the lobotomy ‘recovery’ room. Not really sure exactly what a recovery from a lobotomy was like, but I doubt it was very pleasant.





Our tour Val entertained us with ghost stories – including one for this room where they did a video shoot and a ‘ghost’ appear in some of the promotional photos.





The stone structure and general decay of most of it definitely adds to the aura.





Some of the wings had inspirational paintings remaining on the walls from the 1990s when the building closed.





Abstract art? Nope – seriously peeling paint on a ceiling with the bars on the stairway.





Numerous TV ‘ghost hunter’ type shows have stayed here overnight and filmed.





When I asked why a few of the rooms had this orange tile – Val demonstrated that they were the ‘restraint rooms’ – note the small round patches on the tile on the right side of the photos – it is where the restraints were secured to the wall.





Why is this door only to be use by ghosts? We are 3 floors up with nothing on the other side but air – and a 30′ drop to the ground.





The wings last were painted to different the mens wings, from womens, from childrens (yes, children), and the criminally insane.




At a few places in the facility you find offerings to the ghosts, such as candy and cigarettes.





The children’s section has to be the saddest. Some children had the misfortune of being born there and end up being raised there since their mother was a patient and they had no other family.





The staff believes if you leave other ‘offerings’ such as the baby carriage that it will attract the children ghosts.





Having been in a few buildings like this (Mansfield, Moundsville, etc) this one was in much better shape un-restored than those.





In this room Val was summoning a ghost named Larry to turn the flashlight on and off. Some on the tour were hardcore believers and were really into it (which added to the overall amusement of the afternoon) while others hmm – looked up the story of ghosts and magnetic flashlights on the internet (not going to give a spoiler here).

Val did a great job sharing the stories of the Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum. Unfortunately I did not see or feel any ghosts.







Detroit – April 2019 – The Fisher Building

A weekend in Detroit touched on a significant amount of the auto industry history without really seeing an actual car (except the obvious high percent of American made cars on the streets and freeways of the city).

An organization called ‘Pure Detroit’ offers tours of historic structures, including the Fisher Building. Completed in 1928 as an Art Deco masterpiece, the Fisher was designed by noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn.





Despite being one of the tallest buildings in the city when completed, it is not downtown, rather about 3 miles north in an area that was named ‘New Center’. Developed in the 1920s New Center was envisioned as one of the original ‘edge cities’.

In reality the Fisher Brothers had tried to purchase a complete city block downtown, but at that time Detroit was a boom town and no land was available, making the New Center option even more attractive.




The Fisher Brothers founded Fisher Body, who provided the automobile bodies to General Motors. Most of the office space in New Center was occupied by GM, and their suppliers.

They chose this area to be closer to their factories.





As you enter the three story barrel vaulted concourse. The building is noted mostly because it contains forty (yes 40) different types of marble.

The Fisher Brothers were noted for their philanthropy and they felt that by providing a grand space for their business, as well as the public in general, they were giving back to the city.





As an architect Kahn had to be elated when the Fisher Brothers essentially said, spend what you need, make it memorable.





Including in the building is the Fisher Theater. With over 2000 seats it remains one of the oldest theaters in the city. The day we were there a matinee of ‘Hamilton’ was performing, resulting a large crowd gathering as we completed our tour.





Even areas like a small food court is opulent.





The mosaics, as well as other pieces of sculpture and frescoes were completed by Geza Maroti. As with much of the art in the period, the works have symbolism, including numerous eagles symbolizing America stretching to greater heights.





Lighting is always difficult to capture properly but when made the focus they make an interesting look.





A close up of the ceiling reveals one of the numerous tributes to knowledge.





The mezzanine level offers a nice glimpse of the ceiling, along with the main concourse.





The railing are very stylish….





… but obviously not OSHA complaint height.





The mezzanine level has great symmetry.






Just across the street is Cadillac Place. From the 1930s until the 1970s, this was the headquarters of GM.





From the 26th floor there was a nice view back toward downtown Detroit on this hazy day.

Our effervescent tour guide Jordan was great. She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable – Pure Detroit should be proud to have her.






Cincinnati – January 2019 – Union Terminal

As noted in previous postings the Cincinnati Union Terminal is a masterpiece of art deco that was completed in 1933. It has the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet wide by 106 feet high.









Once it closed as a rail station in the early 1970s it lived on briefly as a shopping mall before becoming the Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.

It is immensely popular, with the original information booth serving as the ticket booth for the museums.





Fortunately each weekend day they offer tours of the building. While (as noted in other posts) portions of the building are undergoing restorations, it is still an amazing place to see any of it.

Our docent lead us on an hour tour, giving highlights and details.





The art deco touch is evident throughout, including this ticket booth for one of the smaller theaters.





Among the highlights are the massive mosaic murals on the main rotunda, as well as others hidden in corridors. The detail in the murals are amazing.

All depict either transportation or industry of Cincinnati over the years (up to 1932).


















An ice cream shop off the main rotunda was once the women’s tea room. The entire room is Rookwood (a famed Cincinnati ceramics pottery company).









While it was abandoned as a train station in the 1970s, Amtrak has returned and uses a small portion of the building. It too has a great art deco look, with inlaid wood depicting railroad scenes.





A bank of phone booths grace one wall – without phones, but you can always close the door and use your cell phone.





Pierre Bourdelle was a framed French artist who designed linoleum panels with floral design for the walls of the women’s lounge.

Fortunately it is no longer a women’s lounge so anyone (including me) can see it.





A private dining room, and former men’s lounge, has a large mural of a map of Cincinnati and nearby northern Kentucky on the wall and mirrored walls giving a great effect.





A second view of the room.





Finally a stop in the main dining room that features some recently discovered food themed artwork.

The Cincinnati Union Terminal was, and continues to be, one of Ohio’s great buildings.









Lancaster, OH – August 2018 -Hanging Out in the Vineyard

A few weeks ago we took a tour of the Wyandotte Winery, with their great host/owner Valerie. We had such a good time we made a trip down to Lancaster to tour their vineyard, which they have named Rockside.

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Valerie started us out in their tasting room giving us an overview of what we were to see and do, as well as a couple of tastings. Once outside she gave us great insight into the working of the winery, including an interesting tidbit about how to tell by the seeds if the grapes are ripe.

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While not quite ready for picking, they looked great on the vine and were delicious to eat right off the vine.

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Normally I am too busy taking photos to note the details that a tour guide gives us, but on this day not only was I taking photos, I was carrying my small plate with my wine glass, and tasting the wine – no wonder I have no clue what type of grapes these are – but Valerie knows.

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You can see in her approach to her vineyard just how passionate she is about having a quality product.

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Some of the grapes had meshing over them. Apparently they had a recent ‘attack’ of birds eating all the grapes, and this is how they keep them safe.

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Even with the meshing, the grapes stand out against the green leaves.

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Another row – another tasting 🙂

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These rows had some sort of issue, so rather than let them disease the rest of the vineyard, they were removed and new ones are now growing in their place.

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Lancaster is in a hilly area, and the neighbors barn along with the hillsides make a pleasant surrounding for the vineyard.

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Valerie’s assistant Taylor was on her first day on the job – she did great!

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In one area they are now growing lavender.

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Another view of the farm next door, along with some of the vineyards.

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Bad grapes, bad bad grapes – out with the bad so the good stay good.

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It was interesting the various shapes of the leaves for each type of grape – they were all slightly different.

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From the side the vineyards appear very thick, forming perfect north south rows, which is essential to good grape growing.

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They even have their own mini weather station.

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In one of the row were these massive mushroom – nothing whatsoever to do with grapes, but still very cool.

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We had a great time wander the vineyard, drinking wine and being entertained (again) by Valerie. I highly recommend paying them a visit for either a fun tour, or just a relaxing afternoon on their patio with a glass of wine.

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Cheers!

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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 northeast 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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