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.

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.



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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Cumberland, OH – October 2016 – The Wilds

Having been disappointed when we visited the Columbus Zoo because of the commercialization, we had held off making the hour trip out to see the Wilds, a non-profit safari park and conservation center owned by the Zoo. The Wilds is home to numerous rare and endangered species living in a natural, open range habitat.

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The property encompasses 9,154 acres of reclaimed coal mine land and includes 2,000 acres of pastures and a 27-acre Carnivore Conservation Center, claiming to be the largest wildlife conservation center in North America.

We purchased tickets for an open bus tour, which left the visitor center on top of a large hill. The ride on the bus was bumpy, a bit cool on a sunny late October day, but well worth it. The driver was very knowledgeable, humorous, and thorough without being boring.

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We made our way through the tall fences between various pastures that keep animals that wouldn’t get along separate from each other. Camels and Bison in one pasture, Zebras and Hippos in another.

Expecting the worst, I was very wrong. This was a great place to see the animals, and well worth the trip out.

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Columbus – October 2016 – Landmarks Foundation Historic Tour

The Columbus Landmarks Foundation offer guided walking tours once a month during the warmer months. The tour we took offered a look at the architecture and history of downtown buildings range in style from Beaux Arts to Gothic, Art Moderne to Greek Revival, Italianate to Arts and Crafts.

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Starting at the center of Columbus, the corner of Broad Street and High Street, with the first building discussed being the Huntington Bank building, just south of Broad Street on the west side of the street directly across from the State Capital.

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Built in the 1920s the 13 story Huntington Bank Building has a very ornate entrance that thousands of people walk by every day without noticing.

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Just around the corner on West Broad Street is the Wyandotte Building, a Chicago school of architecture style eleven story building, considered Columbus’s first skyscraper.

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Renown architect Daniel Burnham designed the building with vertical alignments of bay windows called oriels to provide additional lighting and ventilation. The lower floors have battered walls, providing a sense of stability  and strength.

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Across Broad Street is the LeVeque Tower, along with the Palace Theater. Completed in 1927 at a height of 555 feet 6 inches, intentionally built to be 6 inches taller than the Washington Monument, it was the tallest building between New York and Chicago when completed, although it was eclipsed by the Terminal Tower in Cleveland a couple of years later.

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The building is currently undergoing a restoration include repairing the crumbling, cracking terra cotta skin of the building and restoring its art elements of cherubs and guardian angels, shields and garlands. The renovation will create high-rise apartments and revitalize office space in the base.

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Across Front Street from the LeVeque Tower is Columbus City Hall. Also built in the 1920s directly facing the Scioto River, it was built in three sections surrounding a central courtyard, a fourth section was added on the west side of City Hall in 1936 to enclose the courtyard and provide additional office space utilizing the Art Deco style of the period.

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Interestingly the original main entrance faced the river; this has been long abandoned with the main entrance facing Front Street. The exterior grounds have a number of interesting sculptures, the most noteworthy is a 20 foot tall bronze statue of Christopher Columbus, a gift to the city from Genoa Italy in 1955.

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Continuing south of Front Street we stopped outside the Ohio Supreme Court building, a building we toured extensively in December 2015, noted in an earlier blog posting.

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Our last stop was on the Statehouse grounds where we viewed a number of sculptures and monuments, starting with the The Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial, completed in 2014.

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After passing another Christopher Columbus statue, we had a quick tour through the statehouse, viewing the rotunda and a couple of the upper floor rooms.

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Our final stop was at the Jewels of Ohio statue, honoring 19th century Ohio sons including Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, Edwin Stanton, James A. Garfield,  Rutherford B. Hayes, Salmon P. Chase, and William Sherman.

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The tour guide was informative and enthusiastic, making the event on this cold October day worthwhile. We ended our morning with lunch at Jack and Benny’s Downtown Diner, warming up to some good diner food.

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Michigan Upper Peninsula – National Parks Road Trip – Day 2 – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore & Tahquameon Falls State Park

After an early start we left St Ignace at the break of dawn, continuing north across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Our first destination was Tahquamenon Falls State Park. There are very few towns on the UP though the last one before the park was called Paradise. The centerpiece of Paradise, Michigan is a mini mart/gas station with a 12′ high wooden carving of a bear with a rifle.

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The park is just west of Paradise. This park follows the Tahquamenon River over the Tahquamenon Falls, and eventually into Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior. The upper falls has a single 50′ drop, while the lower falls has more of a cascade. Both are very scenic and impressive, as in the springtime the river drains as much as 50,000 gallons of water per second, second only to Niagara Falls in the eastern United States.


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Tahquamenon Falls is also called “Rootbeer Falls” because of its golden-brown color, caused by tannins from cedar swamps that drain into the river. In winter, the ice that accumulates around and in the falls is often colored in shades of green and blue. The waterfalls were impressive and had a nice boardwalk trail. Climbing down 94 steps to the falls and also 116 steps down to the gorge offered a bit of exercise for us. We asked a park ranger how to pronounce the name of the falls and he said the way to remember is that it rhymes with phenomenon. So now Tah qua me non, is easy to say.

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Next stop on the trip was the small town of Grand Marais, at the eastern end of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Once we arrived we stopped for lunch at Breakwall Bakery & Cafe in Grand Marais, where the local specialty is an olive burger made with a special green olives and mayonnaise sauce. It was tasty and strictly an upper peninsula thing!

Next door was the Pickle Barrel Museum – a cool building but it was closed.

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At the end of the breakwater was the small Grand Marais Lighthouse.

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The first highlight of the National Park is Sable Falls. The waterfalls were very pretty but the dunes were closed due to erosion from that point. We drove to the log slide overlook at Sable Falls Park, towering 300′ above the lake. People walked down the steep sand dune and trekked back up. The view was beautiful along the coastline of Lake Superior but we are too familiar with how hard it is to climb dunes and passed on the climb.

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Arriving closer to Munising, and the park headquarters, we hiked the trail to Miners Castle. The cliffs here are gorgeous with 200′ + drops to Lake Superior. Divers dove off the cliff as kayaks floated below. Caves at the bottom of the cliffs attracted swimmers into the clean and clear water.

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The small town of Munising (population 2500) is the center of activity for Pictured Rocks. In addition to being the park headquarters it is the harbor that all of the tour boats leave from. Before our cruise however we attempted to find dinner, eventually settling on sandwiches at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore. It was literally a counter in a bookstore with tables scattered throughout.

We took the 6 pm Sunset cruise, which is so popular they sent out two boats at the same time.

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As we left the harbor we first passed Grand Island, and the historic lighthouse on the southern end.

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Continuing further out we passed Miner’s Castle, this time on water which provided a very different view than that from the cliffs. It is strongly recommended that if you are going to Pictured Rocks you take the cruise as it is difficult to get a true view of the cliffs from land.

The cliffs and coves of the park are amazing as they seem to change based on the sunlight. They were created from groundwater and springs rich in minerals such as iron, copper and lime that leak out of the cracks and down the face of the cliffs.

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There are a few rock arches that extend from the shoreline to an outcropping in the lake. One of the more famous arches is Lover Leap, as with all places named that for the lore that two lovers jumped when they couldn’t be together. In addition to the arches there are numerous caves, including Rainbow Cave, which has significant mineral stained walls with the forest just above the top of the cave.

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Another of the arches, Grand Portal, gives you a sense on how massive they are as our boat looks tiny when going past. Just beyond we reached Chapel Cove – a tight cove that the boat went into far enough you felt you could reach out on 3 sides and touch the cliff walls. Finally we went past Chapel Rock, the most photographed location in the park. It’s towering cliffs punctuated by a single tree from the rocky top. The sun setting and casting light on the rocks and sandstone cliffs throughout the trip provided many different effects. Shades of white, purple, blue and black were seen. The narrated boat tour lasted about 2-1/2 long and traveled nearly 40 miles round trip, returning to harbor in the dark.

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As we returned to our hotel we concluded this was one of the best days we have had in many years, not knowing how much more was to come on this trip.

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Columbus – Spring/Summer 2015 – Walking Tours

I had recently downloaded some walking tours for Columbus neighborhoods, and during my research found one for the Ohio State Campus as well.

Our tour started out at the Woody Hayes Athletic facility on West Campus. Outside the football facility is a nice statue of Woody, the model of which we had seen at Alan Cottrill’s studio in Zanesville.

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The same area contains the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, where track and soccer are played, the tennis courts, field hockey field, Buckeye Field softball stadium, Bill Davis baseball stadium, and the Schottenstein Center

After driving over to the main campus and parking in one of the garages along North High Street, we went in to check out the new Ohio Union. The student union was my normal hangout since I didn’t live on campus, and it provided somewhere to eat, sleep and study (what little I did). The old building was torn down, and the new one completed in 2010, a far cry better than the previous one. The upper level has some meeting rooms, art work, and Archie Griffin’s 1975 Heisman Trophy. The lower level has the restaurants and stores, and a bench with a statue of Brutus that you can (and I did) pose with.

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Just across 12th Avenue from the Ohio Union is the Moritz School of Law building. Outside this building are some interesting modernist sculptures, public art being a recurring theme across campus

Proceeding across the South Oval we walked past the Mirror Lake Creamery. Since it was spring break, the campus was exceptionally quiet, and many buildings, including this one, was closed. Continuing on we crossed over to the south side of the Main Oval, past Orton Hall. Again this building was closed, but provided ample opportunities for photos of the unique architecture of the exterior.

One building that was open was the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Inside was a small museum dedicated to John Glenn with memorabilia from both his days as an astronaut as well as a senator.

After crossing the Main Oval again, this time on the north side, we went into the Thompson Library, and proceeded to the top floor. The library has been greatly expanded since I was last there 30 years ago, and the top level is a beautiful open study area with smallish windows on all 4 sides offering views of Ohio Stadium, campus and south towards downtown. The new section of the library has a stunning 5 floor atrium, with a large rounded exterior window looking out towards the river.

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After spending a few minutes in the aquatic center, we crossed over to the main physical fitness building, however most of the areas were off limits to visitors. The backside of the building did provide a really cool reflection of Ohio Stadium in the building’s windows.

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The premier facility on the campus is undoubtedly Ohio Stadium. Ohio Stadium, also known as The Horseshoe, was opened in 1922 as a replacement for Ohio Field with a capacity of 66,210 . Seating capacity gradually increased over the years and reached a total of 91,470 possible spectators in 1991. In 2014, additional seating was added in the end zone, raising the official capacity to 104,944. It is the largest stadium by capacity in the state of Ohio, the fourth largest football stadium in the United States, and the fifth largest non-racing venue in the world. In addition to football and other athletics, Ohio Stadium is also a concert venue, with U2, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and others among the many acts to have played there, and also serves as the site for the university’s Spring Commencement ceremonies each May.

Ohio Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is popularly known as “The Horseshoe” because of its shape.

Across Woody Hayes Drive from Ohio Stadium is St John’s Arena. The arena was the home of the Ohio State men’s basketball team from its completion in 1956 until 1998. The arena now houses a number of the university’s indoor athletic teams, as well as hosting concerts by popular musical artists were held at the arena from 1971 to 1980.

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Since 1932 the most popular event still held at the arena is the Skull Session, the pep rally before football games. Two hours prior to kickoff the band performs Buckeye favorites, and the players and coaches speak to the crowd.

Next door to St John’s Arena is the Ohio State Ice Rink and French Fieldhouse. The ice rink is still regularly used for practice, and some games, while the fieldhouse, which was once the football practice facility, is booked solid nearly every day.

Just beyond these facilities is the Lane Avenue Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge over the Olentangy River. The bridge was rebuilt and opened in 2003, after only sixteen months, five months ahead of schedule. The cable stayed design was chosen for aesthetic reasons, as well as having a smaller potential for environmental degradation on the river environment. The anchorages for the cables, at 47 tons are noted as being the heaviest single pieces of steel ever to be galvanized.

The views from the west side of the bridge back towards the stadium are spectacular. In addition on the northwest corner is a small park dedicated to cancer survivors.

On our return trip to the car we passed a new science building with neon lighting in the lobby that makes the shapes of molecules. The building at Ohio State never stops, as they are in the middle of a $400 million north campus dorm expansion, as well as numerous expansion on the West Campus athletic facilities.

Our final stop was back in the Ohio Union where we found another Brutus, this one dressed as Woody Hayes. This to me seemed to be an appropriate end of our extensive tour of campus.

Downtown Columbus Walking Tour

Our next walking tour was Downtown Columbus. Since I had plans to catch a baseball game in the end, we parked on the street near Huntington Park, parking along Cozzins Street.

We first walked up to the stadium and check out the pre-game preparations that were occurring on the field with the grounds crew.

From here we started back down Cozzins towards the river. The first interesting sight is a ‘ghost sign’ for Belmont Caskets, whose claim to fame is Marilyn Monroe is buried in a Belmont Casket. Apparently the factory closed down in 1980, and around 2000 the block was redeveloped with condo’s and office buildings, but retained some of the original buildings.

At the corner of Long and Neil is the Flowing Kiss, a pair of 15-foot sculptures that feature puckered lips made from billowing sheets of stainless steel on a base of black granite and white marble. To me it looks more like a pig nose and lips.

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The riverfront redevelopment was ongoing, making it impossible to take the walkways alongside. So we were relegated to a walkway along Spring Street separated from the traffic by Jersey barriers.

As we headed along the Spring Street towards downtown we passed in front of a Federal Building, which immediately brought out a security guard who informed us we weren’t supposed to be there. Which seems dumb as hell to me since we were on a sidewalk on federal government property without a fence or any notice of any kinds, but he we live in the land of the free.

This building was constructed as a U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in 1934, the Joseph P. Kinneary U.S. Courthouse is located along the river in downtown Columbus and named after a late District Court Judge.

The building’s architecture is Neoclassical style, featuring cornices, three elevations, and a massive colonnade. The façade of the building is mainly composed of granite wainscot and Berea sandstone cladding. The building’s windows boast Vermont marble panels and are encased in iron grilles, lending an old world elegance.

Across the street is the Columbus Police Headquarters. This building was erected in 1929 and vacated in 1991, where it sat vacant until 2013 when it was refurbished. It is good to see a classic old building saved in Columbus, not many survive. Adorned with statues of lions it has the feel of a classic public building.

Across the street is the Columbus Fire Department Eternal Flame. At the bottom of the structure is a small plaque that reads “In Memorium — Members of the Columbus Fire Department who have answered their last alarm.” Another nearby plaque reads “This memorial donated and erected by the members of the Columbus Fire Department Nineteen Hundred Fifty Eight” with the names of the Mayor, Safety Director, and Fire Chief on it as well. From this spot you get an excellent view of the carvings at the top of the Federal Courthouse, without having to worry about security guards chasing you off.

Moving on we next came to Columbus City Hall, with the statue of Christopher Columbus. Interstingly there is another Christopher Columbus statue on the Statehouse ground. This statue was a gift from Genoa, Italy to Columbus in 1955.

City Hall sites between the Scioto River and the LeVeque Lincoln Tower, a classic building that for many years was the only true skyscraper in town. The LeVeque Tower is a 47-story Art Deco-style building located at 50 West Broad Street, It was the tallest building in Columbus from 1927 until 1974 when the Rhodes Office Tower was completed. The LeVeque Tower is 555 feet 6 inches tall, which at the time of its completion made it the tallest building between New York City and Chicago and the fifth tallest building in the world. It was meant to be built exactly one half-foot taller than the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.

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The Ohio State Government office buildings along Front Street and the Scioto were built in 1933. Recently remodeled for the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio Department of Education, Department of Labor and other departments, the plazas have fountains with a large gavel, public art and benches.

Caddy corner across Front Street from the State office buildings is the lower entrance to the downtown Lazarus store. The flagship store for a department store that opened in 1851. The Lazarus store closed in 2004 and it has since been redeveloped but I have yet to see inside.

Across the street from Lazarus was once another collection of small shops along South High Street. In 1989 a mall called Columbus City Center Mall opened to much fanfare. For about 10 years it did well, but a combination of newer malls and the ghettofication of this mall caused it’s demise. After Lazarus closed the downturn was accelerated. In 2009 the mall was demolished, and in it’s place came Columbus Commons, a park with a stage. This space has prompted development of condo’s around it, and so far has done well.

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Passing through the buildings to the east of the Ohio Theater takes you directly to the Ohio Statehouse grounds.

Construction of the Statehouse started in 1839 and didn’t complete until 1861. The Statehouse sits in the middle of Capital Square, a 10 acre park.

Unlike many U.S. state capitol buildings, the Ohio Statehouse owes little to the architecture of the United States Capitol. It was designed and built before the U.S. Capitol was enlarged to its present form, with the large white dome that would become ubiquitous on government buildings in America.

The Ohio Statehouse has been termed a supreme example of Greek Revival style. It is not patterned on one single building, but is a combination of stylistic elements from Greek sources, melded with contemporary needs and functions. The cupola shows direct influence by the Tholos of Delphi, a circular temple built about 360 BC. The Parthenon of Athens is also an influence. No ancient Greek building would have contained windows, but they were a major part of Greek Revival for a more practical reason: before electric light, sunlight was the major source of illumination.

There are a number of statues, monuments, fountains, cannons, and other pieces of public art throughout Capital Square. The views from the capital grounds have improved over the years as the collection of old buildings across High Street have been replaced by skyscrapers.

We continued our tour of downtown heading east from the capital down State Street as far as South 5th Street, returning to Broad Street. The Ohio Teachers Retirement fund building at 5th and Broad has a nice statue as a tribute to teachers. It was nicer when the original Wendy’s was there. Continuing back down Broad Street we passed by the Borden’s Building, the Chase Building, and finally back onto Capital Square’s north end.

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After a breather at a Starbucks at the political center of Ohio, Broad and High streets, we proceeded north up High Street to Nationwide Plaza, then cut over to North Market for lunch. Apparently North Market had been in the same area forever, but I don’t recall seeing it in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the early 1990s an old warehouse was renovated and the market moved in.

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It is a cross between a food court and West Side Market, leaning more to prepared food than groceries. Still it is a great atmosphere and you can usually find something to eat, even if it is a bit hipster and overpriced.

At this point we were tired and had seen enough sights for one day, so we headed over to Huntington Park to watch some baseball in the warm spring sun.

It was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon, the atmosphere was nice, and Jake the Wonder Dog was entertaining.

German Village Walking Tour

Our next Columbus neighborhood walking tour was German Village. This neighborhood was developed in the mid 1800s, and as the name suggest populated by German immigrants who worked in the nearby factories and breweries.

By the 1950s better times had passed it by. In the early 1960s a preservation movement had started. Over the next 20 years it gained momentum so much that the neighborhood had become one of the premier locations in the area, which it remains to this day.

Our tour of German Village started in Schiller Park, a 23 acre greenspace bounded by Reinhard Avenue to the north, Jaeger Street to the east, East Deshler Avenue to the south, and City Park Avenue to the west.

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It had been the area’s center for festivals and neighborhood activities since the 1800s, including the Independence Day celebration of 1830 and the Ohio State Fairs of 1864 and 1865. The park was originally named “City Park” and is ranked as the second oldest park in the city following Goodale Park. In 1891 a statue of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was dedicated to the park by the German-born residents. von Schiller was a famous German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. In 1905 the park was renamed to honor him as well. Of note in the park is the caretakers cottage, built in the 1930s as a WPA Project.

The houses facing the park on Deshler Avenue are the finest in the area, with beautiful landscaping and architecture.

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The home at 117 East Deshler is the Von Gerichten Art Glass home. The Von Gerichten’s were immigrants from German that owned a stained glass window company in both Munich and Columbus. This Queen Anne style home has a large inset stained glass panel from door from the Von Gerichten’s, in addition to decorated windows.

Another on this block, 147 East Deshler was built in 1884 by master stonemason Friedrich Wittenmeir. It was one of the first homes in Columbus to have indoor water. This home has the best landscaping in the area, with unique curving bushes that line the front of the property.

Our walk continued up Jager Street, where at the corner of Kossuth is now a Giant Eagle grocery store. On this site was the original Ohio Field, where Ohio State played it’s first football game in 1890. Around the corner from here is the famous Schmidt’s Sausage House.

In 1886 Fred Schmidt opened a meat packing business in the neighborhood. In the 1960s a grandson opened the Schmidt’s restaurant that remains today as one of the top attractions in the city, with politicians and celebrities coming.

Further up Mohawk Street is another landmark restaurant, the Old Mohawk. Known as a speakeasy during prohibition it opened as a bar immediately after. It has remained a restaurant and a bar since. In my opinion this is a better place to eat as it is not as jammed all the time, and is more of a true neighborhood restaurant.

On Sycamore Street is another art glass company, the Franklin Art Glass. It was started in part by men who had left the Von Gerichten Art Glass company. Still producing glass today at the same location it is a fixture in the neighborhood.

On Beck Street is a house known as ‘The Brothers House’, one house with two distinctive styles. The Brothers house at 316-318 E. Beck Street in German Village was originally bought by two brothers, Andrew and Thurman Debois, to build a home for both their families.

During the construction of the home both brothers got into some sort of dispute and became very angry at each other. As a result, you have a building that has two distinct styles. During the Civil War they both went off to war and they left their wives behind. The wives decided enough is enough so they broke through the common wall and built a door so that they could visit each other and be one family. After the war, the brothers came back, they still did not like each other, the bricked up the wall and that was the end of that.

Finally, hungry at this point, we stopped at Juergens German Restaurant and Bakery. Another true neighborhood classic it is ran by a little old lady with a thick German accent. After being replenished by some good German food we continued on.

As we continued we reach South 3rd Street, the main thoroughfare in the neighborhood. At the far northern end of German Village is Schwartz Castle. Legend has it that this 4 level home is haunted. Today the lower levels are office and the top level is an apartment with a commanding view of downtown Columbus.

Heading back down 3rd Street we passed the German Village Meeting House building before reaching the Book Loft, who advertises they have 32 rooms of books. While it is true that they do, each room is about 6 x 6. But still, they have a huge collection and fair prices.

After passing the original Max & Erma’s Restaurant we made our way back to our car to complete our German Village visit.

Clermont, KY – October 2013 – Jim Beam Factory Tour and Mammoth Caves National Park

Our cold Saturday October morning in Kentucky started out near the town of Clermont, at the Jim Beam Factory Tour. After gathering in the visitor center we took a bus to the factory, starting in the area where the ingredients are mixed together for mash.

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From there it was off to the fermentation area

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Next up was the bottling line – where I bottled my own – even though I rarely drink whiskey. The bottle is still nearly full 4 years later.

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For most though, they go into barrels where they are aged for years in large barns.

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Resulting in a finished product.

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From there it was back to the visitor center for a tasting event.

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Our afternoon was spent at Mammoth Caves National Park, where we went on two tours.

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The first was the standard tour, with electric lighting throughout (I had yet figured out how to photograph low light without a tripod)

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Our second tour was a smaller group, using the old fashioned lanterns.

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This tour was much more interesting, and really gave a different feel with the even lower levels of light. We were able to see where people ‘smoked’ their names of the ceiling in the 1800s.

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