Cincinnati: See Ya’ Later !

3 Feb

cinci-rama! 813 (1)

It’s our last day in Cincinnati, we’re in the Camp Washington neighborhood to check out the American Sign Museum. Tod Swormstedt, former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine has taken his passion for signs and opened a museum in a former parachute factory with 19,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Historic signs, books, photos and documents reflecting the art, craft and history of sign-making hang from the ceiling, rest on the floor, fill walls, shelves and display cases. From the days of pictures drawn on cave entrances to colorful signs hanging from shops to the gas-lit illuminated signs of the late 1800’s on to the electrical signs of the early 1900’s, neon and finally plastics, signs have always been a part of the landscape. Signs tell us our location and how to get somewhere, the nature of a building, what brand we should buy, where we should eat, shop, play, stay. The museum highlights the sign industry from the days of goldleaf glass signs through the heyday of neon to the plastic era of the 1950’s.

cinci-rama! 730 (1)

cinci-rama! 754 (1)cinci-rama! 771 (1)

cinci-rama! 760 (1)

Driving down Monmouth vintage signs catch our eye; this must be the place. Parking in the lot, signs surround us, the familiar Holiday Inn with its signature green lettering, a giant hammer from a hardware store, a 20′ bowling pin. At first glance it appears a man on a ladder is in the process of painting the exterior brick wall, a closer look reveals it’s a mural depicting the old-fashioned process of painting signs on the side of a building–this one is amazing! The neon El Rancho motel sign is great, with all of this in the parking lot, I can hardly wait to see what’s inside. Crossing the threshold under the gigantic genie, inside we pay our admission then walk as directed toward the giant yellow arrow with its flashing light bulbs. A rainbow of neon welcomes us to the first gallery; a 50’s style sputnik with light bulb letters twirls, large-scale neon signs, illuminated plastic signs and art deco-style pieces compete for our attention. Neon signs in original crates, pop-culture classics such as Gulf, Shell, Greyhound and Col. Sanders fill the room. Ice cream cones, a swinging golfer on a golf ball, and a motel signs are fantastic to look at.

cinci-rama! 818 (1)

cinci-rama! 739 (1)cinci-rama! 737 (1)

cinci-rama! 841 (1)

Main Street is lined with pavers, shops on both sides of the street are home to every variety of sign from hand-painted to an authentic Mc Donalds sign featuring Mr. Speedee; the original blueprint sits nearby. Taverns, motels, banks, bars and restaurants are all represented. Shop windows hold displays of the art of sign-painting; brushes, paint and alphabet samples even books teaching the skill. There are glass doors with hand-painted letters and numbers reminding me of the Fisher Building in Detroit, make your own sign kits with decals, neon art deco clocks, enameled metal signs for Goodyear. Hand-lettered showcards from Las Vegas featuring Frank Sinatra and Charo remind us that signs serve many purposes from commerce to culture. We walk up and down Main Street reveling in the colors, kitsch and memories. Cars outlined in neon circle a globe, Howard Johnson’s offers us ice cream in 28 flavors, the Acapulco sign with dual palm trees is fabulous!

cinci-rama! 782 (1)

cinci-rama! 794 (1)

cinci-rama! 837 (1)

cinci-rama! 756 (1)

Huge signs take up space in the back section; the side of a barn is mounted on the wall, Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco is the message painted in block letters. SEE BEAUTIFUL ROCK CITY atop LOOKOUT MT reads another. Our favorite is the Habig’s sign with the tipping champagne glass, stand close and you can hear the mechanics of the light bulbs flashing off and on, so cool! A working neon shop, Neonworks has their own section where they create and repair neon signs, sometimes you can even watch them work. We finish up our visit, stopping to read placards along the way, the histories and timelines are fascinating. The museum is absolutely delightful, so glad we came.

cinci-rama! 884 (1)cinci-rama! 885 (1)

cinci-rama! 871 (1)

cinci-rama! 865 (1)

We’re having lunch on Hamilton Ave in the Northside neighborhood, Melt Eclectic Cafe offers healthy gourmet sandwiches, fresh salads and soups. We order at the counter then sit in the front window section to wait for our food. Our East Village wrap arrives; rosemary goat cheese, pesto, roasted red peppers, smoked turkey and arugula wrapped up tight and a side of curried potato salad–both are delicious. After lunch we stroll down the street, except for one new development Northside looks much the same as it always has; local entrepreneurs fill street level shops in beautiful historic buildings, a lovely selection of housing stock is available. I love the mural with daisies covering a powder blue background. We stop in at Bee Haven which sells a variety of products including honey, beeswax candles and chocolate, we try a few samples, I grab some lip balm and we’re off. Taking our time we wander in and out of Happy Chicks Bakery, a Cluxton Alley coffee shop called Collective Espresso, Shake It Records selling new and used vinyl, CD’s and DVD’s, a vintage shop called Chicken Lays An Egg with racks and racks of funky clothing, shoes and accessories. The neighborhood is home to a diverse population; college students, the creative class, young professionals and GLBTQ all live in the historic district. 

cinci-rama! 877 (1)

cinci-rama! 891 (1)

cinci-rama! 904 (1)cinci-rama! 908 (1)

We grab a coffee at Sidewinder, hop in the Jeep and start our journey north. It has been a great few days in Cincinnati but it’s time to head home. Kris is taking the scenic route; in West Liberty OH he veers off on State Route 245, it is here you will find the largest of all the cave systems in Ohio at the Ohio Caverns. The caverns were discovered in August 1897 by farm hand Robert Noffsinger, when he informed the landowner of his discovery, William Reams explored the caverns for himself then opened the cave to the public in September 1897. After 25 years of people removing crystals, touching formations and writing their names on walls and ceilings with smoke from oil lamps, the area was destroyed. In 1922 two brothers bought the land and spent 3 1/2 years digging out mud left in the tunnels by the underground river that formed the cavern, they dug out a 1-mile route, strung light bulbs powered by a Fordson tractor on the surface and opened the business as the Ohio Caverns in 1925. Concrete floors were put in in the 1970’s and a lighting professional came in the 1980’s creating concrete sconces and less obstructive lighting. The tour still uses the 1925 route.

cinci-rama! 141 (1)

cinci-rama! 007 (1)

cinci-rama! 021 (1)

We purchase tickets in the gift shop, a tour is just about to start, good timing… We descend the concrete stairway to the cave entrance, though the pathway is narrow it does not feel constricting, water drips from the cave ceiling, it has been raining for days, shallow puddles form on the walkway. Our tour guide is friendly and informative, she shines the beam of her flashlight on significant formations as we go. Artificial light from nearby bulbs has caused moss to grow in a few areas, care is now taken to turn off lights as the group progresses through the cave. The pathway is smooth, the ceiling low, formations are everywhere. Stalactites cling to the ceiling, stalagmites sprout from the floor, soda straws hang from above. Walls vary in patterns, textures and colors. The Crystal Sea is a water retention pool that holds excess water out of the walkway, the ceiling reflects on the surface of the pool, a bevy of crystals clustered together, so pretty. The Natural Bridge holds nearly 20 crystal columns and is the original floor of the tunnel, they left the columns intact when they dug the pathway, digging under the columns, forming the natural bridge.

cinci-rama! 059 (1)

cinci-rama! 030 (1)

cinci-rama! 062 (1)

One section holds more soda straws and helictites than any other area of the cavern, they call it Fantasy Land, yep, I can see that. Our guide shines her light on a formation and asks the group what it looks like, this is Old Town Pump, it really does look like a hand pump. The formations remind me of icicles, carrots, coral. Crystal King is estimated to be over 200,000 years old and was last measured at almost 5′ long. There’s a tranquility in the cave that’s hard to describe, maybe it’s being so far underground. We stop to look at the ‘good luck’ crystal, the top now stained brown from years of being touched by visitors, a no-touch rule has now been established. We enter the Palace of the Gods, rich in color it feels lavish compared to the other areas. The variety of colors on the walls come from iron oxide and manganese dioxide, lavish surfaces of flowstone, calcite formations, columns and dual formations make this section unique. The Jewel Room is the most colorful, the color splits down the middle of the room making one side a rusty iron oxide color, the other a darker color from manganese dioxide deposits. This is the end of the tour. A recording of Beautiful Ohio starts to play, a time-honored tradition since 1928. 

cinci-rama! 095 (1)

cinci-rama! 121 (1)

cinci-rama! 139 (1)

This is the end of our tour too. We hope you have enjoyed tagging along with us on our southern Ohio adventure. See you back in Detroit!

Cincinnati: So Much To See…

27 Jan

cinci-rama! 481 (1)

We are in the Queen City, Cincinnati Ohio, she is like an old friend to us. Each time we visit we make time to get re-acquainted; we walk her streets, take in her charm and southern ways. We go back to favorite districts, restaurants and a cozy bar called the Blind Lemon, inevitably we discover something we haven’t done before. The Taft Museum of Art is a perfect example. Built on this spot in 1820 and a stone’s throw from our hotel, somehow we have never managed to check it out, today is the day we change that. Martin Baum, Cincinnati’s first millionaire built the home, Arts patron Nicholas Longworth lived here from 1829 until his death in 1863, he was responsible for some big changes, more on that later….Iron magnate David Sinton purchased the home in 1871 and lived there with his daughter Anna and her husband Charles Phelps Taft, older half-brother of William Howard Taft. The younger Taft accepted his party’s nomination for the U.S. Presidency from the portico of this house in 1908 and went on to become President. Upon Sintons death Anna became one of the wealthiest women in the country, Charles was wealthy in his own right. Through the years the couple amassed one of the most impressive private collections of fine and decorative arts in America. The Tafts signed papers bequeathing their home and collection to the people of Cincinnati. The Taft Museum opened to the public in 1932. After a major expansion and renovation the museum re-opened in 2004. Let’s take a look.

cinci-rama! 572 (1)

cinci-rama! 503 (1)cinci-rama! 537 (1)

cinci-rama! 546 (1)

I read an article that called the home “The Other Mr. Taft’s White House”, the house is indeed white, one of the finest examples of Federal architecture in the Palladian style, today the exterior is draped in holiday garlands, wreaths and bright red bows–it really is quite lovely. We enter on the side, the new section, hang our coats and have a look around. The current exhibitions are Jacob Lawrence: Heroism In Paint and Antique Christmas; there are a lot of people checking them out today. We make our way to the hallway that leads to the historic house, here walls are covered with text and photographs featuring the history of the house and its residents. I am pleasantly surprised that the house still resembles a home, sure the family furnishings have been removed, but important American furniture remains, the museum is a combination of historic home and art museum, it’s intimate, elegant and comfortable. Rooms have been turned into galleries, soothing fern green paint covers the walls, trim is accented in white, arched doorways lead us from one area to another. There’s something special about going to a museum during the holidays, extra effort has been put forth to ‘deck the halls’ as they say. Miniature Christmas trees are enclosed in glass cases, each with its own unique-themed decorations, glass ornaments, whimsical figures. One display is filled with Christmas-themed advertisements, cards, porcelain figures, teeny trees and assorted collectibles, pretty cool!

cinci-rama! 542 (1)

cinci-rama! 547 (1)cinci-rama! 526 (1)

cinci-rama! 561 (1)

 As we wander from gallery to gallery we notice much of the home’s integrity remains; fireplaces, ceiling medallions, crystal chandeliers; the dining room’s ornate plaster ceiling is outstanding, the table is set for Christmas dinner. The music room is bright yellow, a portrait hangs above the fireplace, the room is illuminated by stunning chandeliers. Landscapes and people are surrounded by ornate frames, masterpiece-quality paintings by Rembrandt, Joshua Reynolds, John Singer Sargent and Frans Hals can be found throughout. Decorative arts include European candlesticks and boxes covered in gilt metal, an extensive enamel collection including snuff boxes, portraits, enamel and gold watches and Chinese porcelain from the Tang and Qing Dynasty. Nicholas Longworth extensively redecorated the home, in 1851 he brought Robert S Duncanson in to paint a series of 8 landscape murals, each 9′ tall and 6.5′ wide, they are absolutely gorgeous. At one time they were actually covered by wallpaper–yeah, I know, crazy! It’s possible the wallpaper actually protected the murals, they are as lovely today as when they were painted before the Civil War. Not sure what to expect when we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

cinci-rama! 455 (1)

cinci-rama! 456 (1)cinci-rama! 483 (1)

cinci-rama! 502 (1)

The Over-The-Rhine (OTR) district is the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the country. Built in the mid-19th Century it was the heart of the German community in Cincinnati. At that time the Miami and Erie Canal divided the district from downtown, Germans affectionately referred to it as the “Rhine”, reminding them of the river back home, thus deeming the area north of downtown OTR. Eventually the canal was capped, plans to use the underground tunnel for a subway system never came to fruition; today Central Parkway takes the place of the canal. There’s a lot of walking to do in this 360 acre neighborhood, we park the Jeep in the underground lot at the recently revamped Washington Park, grab the umbrellas and go… 

cinci-rama! 462 (1)

cinci-rama! 464 (1)cinci-rama! 469 (1)

cinci-rama! 472 (1)

Streets are packed with beautifully ornate buildings built from 1865 through the 1880’s; Italianate, Queen Anne, Greek Revival and even a few Art Deco structures sit side by side. After years if neglect and decay, a pile of money and sweat equity is being poured into the neighborhood. Three to Five-story brick buildings are now home to restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries; places to live, work and play. Main Street is the main thoroughfare, here you will find trendy restaurants, coffee houses and one-of-a-kind shops. Vine is also dense with new businesses, it’s on this street we find a place to have lunch. Krueger’s Tavern is housed in a single-story white terracotta building with large front windows. The interior is sort of modern-industrial, wood floor, metal tables and bar, exposed pipes, the artwork is framed Moss, yes, I did say moss–it looks good!  We are enjoying the Tuscan kale salad with Parmigiano Reggiano, breadcrumbs and a tasty lemon vinaigrette along with the Cuban sandwich. The braised pork shoulder is so tender it falls apart, topped with ham, Gruyère, homemade pickles, Dijon mustard and black bean puree stuffed inside a house made Cuban roll, absolutely delicious!

cinci-rama! 478 (1)

cinci-rama! 458 (1)

cinci-rama! 486 (1)cinci-rama! 491 (1)
Back outside we stroll from storefront to storefront wandering in and out of shops, Homage, an Ohio-centric shop sells clothing and accessories representing Cincinnati’s professional and college sports teams, music and pop culture.Wait, does that sign say Macaron Bar? Indeed it does. An entire shop dedicated to those little French meringue delicacies…. I think we should try a few. The space is cute, white Tulip chairs with Red cushions, dangling globe lights and rows of Macarons in 12 flavors. We pick Pistachio, Blackcurrant and Salted Caramel, my favorite is the Pistachio, Kris votes for the Salted Caramel, all are yummy.

cinci-rama! 674 (1)

cinci-rama! 671 (1)

cinci-rama! 672 (1)

cinci-rama! 669 (1)

We make our way up to Mt Adams, the Krohn Conservatory at Christmas time is a sight to behold! I can tell by the number of cars parked nearby it’s crowded inside. This is the kind of place people come to with their whole family: mom, dad, grandma, the kids and they’ve been doing it for generations. Inside these glass and aluminum walls a Christmas wonderland awaits; a train runs on elevated tracks winding through a city of Poinsettia, ferns and arborvitae, crossing ponds and mingling with tropical foliage. 3-story townhouses and iconic Cincinnati buildings create a miniature version of the city, there’s even a recreation of the Roebling Bridge. The Rainforest Waterfall is quite popular for photos. Built in 1933 the building has great Art Deco details, I love the railings. The conservatory is one of our favorite places in Cincy.

cinci-rama! 700 (1)

cinci-rama! 660 (1)cinci-rama! 659 (1)

cinci-rama! 684 (1)

While in this neck of the woods Kris drives around to see what else is going on in the area. It looks as though new development is going on in E Walnut Hills, a diverse and historic Cincinnati neighborhood. We drive down Woodburn Ave and see a couple of Vintage/Antique shops, so we check them out. Unfortunately Leftcoast Modern is closed today, but Hi-Bred is open. It’s a great shop with a nice selection of vintage clothing, shoes, hats and accessories in addition to funky items like lamps, drinking glasses, housewares and the like. We turn left off of Woodburn Ave onto Madison Rd and there it is, a gorgeous stone building with a sign that reads O Pie O. Can’t resist. Inside, the space looks like an old-fashioned diner; white subway tiles, hanging lamps, counter seating, charming. The menu offers a selection of sweet and savory handcrafted pies, a wine list, local beers and food (the Guatemalan Empanadas look amazing). Varieties change with the season, we’re told the Honey Vinegar is the biggest seller, but it’s the Malted Chocolate Pecan that gets our attention. We sit at the counter and eat our tasty piece of pie, happy to have discovered yet another trendy, up-and-coming Cincy neighborhood.

cinci-rama! 710 (1)

cinci-rama! 717 (1)

cinci-rama! 723 (1)

cinci-rama! 720 (1)

Roadtrip: Cincinnati…ish

20 Jan

cinci-rama! 326 (1)

We arrived in Cincinnati OH late, tired and hungry. We checked into the Residence Inn Downtown, had dinner in at the Phelps Bar in our hotel, then got a good night’s sleep. This morning we’re crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky to visit the Newport Aquarium. This 100,000 sq. ft. building at Newport On The Levee rests on the banks of the Ohio River, directly across from downtown Cincinnati. The aquarium has specially designed underwater tunnels that give you an up-close look at marine life, it’s pretty impressive. We park in the structure, ride the elevator up to the deck where it’s cold and raining. A tent has been set up to shelter those of us zigzagging through the line to purchase tickets; it seems everyone had the same idea today.

cinci-rama! 152 (1)

cinci-rama! 154 (1)

cinci-rama! 176 (1)

We begin at the World Rivers exhibit showing us life in 9 different rivers on 5 continents. We move from tank to tank, the fish seem to be as interested in us as we are in them. At the Shore Gallery grown-ups and children are all eager for a chance to pet a horseshoe crab, a whelk, touch a Sea star; a young woman demonstrates the two-finger method of touching. We follow the pre-determined path past tank after tank of fascinating creatures, large placards explain what’s inside the tanks, illuminated fish and starfish mingle with dangling lights overhead–in here, everybody is a kid. The Coral Reef tank is burgeoning with colorful fish, a Morey eel and Cownose Rays with 2-foot wingspans. The fish in the Dangerous and Deadly tank really do look creepy! 117,000 gallons of freshwater fill the 32-foot-long acrylic tunnel featuring fish from the Amazon.

cinci-rama! 231 (1)

cinci-rama! 213 (1)

cinci-rama! 165 (1)

Room to room, section to section we go seeing the Frog Bog filled with exotic frogs, Gator Alley, where Snowflake and Snowball, 2 White American Alligators live–be sure and check out Mighty Mike at 14 feet, weighing 800 pounds. Snakes, lizards and a fabulous Panther Chameleon all call the aquarium home. The otters are sleeping when we show up at Canyon Falls, bummer, people of all ages are checking out the Turtle Corral, you can even touch a tortoise. Scuba Santa is putting on a show in the theater area, this is one of the largest windows to view the giant shark tank. For us the seamless acrylic tunnels are the main attraction; it’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by sharks, sting rays, and a variety of marine life. Everybody takes the same photograph, the shark swimming directly overhead, it’s fun to watch. Where the other fish and turtles seem mildly amused by our presence the sharks just give us that cold, dead stare as they glide by.

cinci-rama! 317

cinci-rama! 318 (1)

cinci-rama! 248 (1)

The Jellyfish Gallery is pretty cool, more than 100 jellyfish from around the world capture our attention with their unique shape, the way they move inside cleverly lit tanks.Then there’s everybody’s favorite, the penguins! Penguin Palooza is home to 5 species of cold-weather penguins, they’re so much fun to watch. Newport Aquarium now offers a walk along the top edge of the shark tank, the shark tank overlook. Here you can view 2 dozen sharks, 4 exotic shark rays, 2 sting rays, and more than 300 fish. If you are so inclined you can even cross the “shark bridge”, a 75-foot long v-shaped rope bridge strung across the tank.We try and get to the aquarium every couple of years, there’s always something new, and we’re never disappointed.

cinci-rama! 237 (2)cinci-rama! 311 (1)

cinci-rama! 312 (1)

cinci-rama! 323 (1)

Outside the rain has let up, we make our way to the Newport On The Levee Riverwalk and take in the view. Here we overlook the mighty Ohio, after days of rain the water level is high, multiple bridges criss-cross the waterway, to the right Mt Adams rises above downtown Cincy, skyscrapers dot the skyline. Next we leave the city of Newport, cross the Licking River and arrive in Covington KY. Founded in 1815 this is the largest city in Northern KY. There are 16 historic districts; gorgeous neighborhoods include Licking-Riverside, Mainstrasse Village and Wallace Woods– the area is steeped in historic structures. St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption is located on Madison Ave, we’re going to tour the building, c’mon in.

cinci-rama! 337 (1)

cinci-rama! 355 (1)

cinci-rama! 399 (1)cinci-rama! 356 (1)

 First a little history. Construction on the building began in 1894 and ended in 1915. The sanctuary was designed by Detroit architect Leon Coquard, inspired by Notre Dame in Paris. Vaults, columns and walls of the nave, transept and apse were finished in 1897. January 1901 the second stage of construction concluded, funds were depleted. A plain brick wall closed the nave and plain glass windows were installed for the dedication January 27, 1901. Once more funds were raised; the facade was completed in 1908, stained glass windows were installed in 1910, the interior beautification was finished in 1915. Churches obtain the title of Basilica because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as a center of worship; St Mary’s was elevated to the rank of Minor Basilica in 1953. There are 35 minor Basilicas in the U.S. and 4 Major Basilicas in the world–all in Rome.

cinci-rama! 381 (1)

cinci-rama! 438 (1)cinci-rama! 410 (1)

cinci-rama! 426 (1)

No description I can give will do justice to this incredibly beautiful church, in a word, it’s breathtaking. Once inside my eyes are drawn 81 feet upward, the height of the arched Gothic ceiling, it’s incredible. I take in fluted columns, organ pipes and magnificent stained glass windows–81 of them, made in Munich Germany. The grandest one fills the north transept at 67′ tall and 24′ wide.  I want to walk around but my feet seem glued to the floor; I look from side to side, top to bottom, I take in the altar, rose windows, light reflects off polished marble floors. The interior is 180′ in length, transepts extending on either side give the entire edifice the shape of a cross with the apse forming its top. Kris calls my name, bringing me back to the moment. Each of us wanders aimlessly, the lighting is tricky for photos but Kris has captured some nice ones. It’s late December, red and white Poinsettia decorate the church, a nativity is set up near the altar, miniature white lights are strung on evergreen trees.

cinci-rama! 350 (1)

cinci-rama! 432 (1)cinci-rama! 429 (1)

cinci-rama! 341 (1)

I walk the length of the nave to the Baptistry, 4 different types of Italian Marble were used in the construction of the octagonal font in 1934; the marble pattern of the center aisle was put in at the same time.  Mural paintings are the work of Covington artist Frank Duveneck and were placed on the chapel walls in 1910. There are 14 mosaic stations of Christ’s Passion and death made up of 70,000-80,000 tiny porcelain ceramic tiles with gold and mother-of-pearl highlights crafted in Venice, the detail is amazing. Chandeliers hang from long chains though most of the light is provided by the windows. We walk up and back the center and side aisles, we amble in and out of the 4 different chapels, gawk at the Appalachian Oak pulpit, the altar table with its relief sculptures of wheat and grapes, the oak cathedra (Bishop’s chair) painted in the coat of arms of the current bishop.The carved Baldachino (think of it as an architectural canopy) over the altar features 16 prominent saints, 7 patrons of preachers surround the pulpit. You are free to come and experience St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption yourself, it’s open daily.

cinci-rama! 608 (1)cinci-rama! 613 (1)

cinci-rama! 597 (1)

After a little rest and relaxation at the hotel Kris and I take a walk down to an area by the river called The Banks. Newly opened and located between the Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium, you will find a variety of restaurants and bars. Inspired by the beautiful evening, we walk over to the John A Roebling Suspension Bridge, this was the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge–it looks just like it. Pedestrian friendly, we decide to walk across the bridge to Kentucky and back, stopping mid-point to take in the dazzling panoramic view. Having jump-started our appetite we decide to have dinner at Moerlein Lager House  on the riverfront. The Christian Moerlein Brewing Company started in 1853 in Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine (OTR) neighborhood. Christian was a Bavarian immigrant noted for brewing hearty European beers. His beer’s popularity extended all the way to Europe and South America. Prohibition forced the closure of the brewery. In 1981 the Moerlein brand was re-intorduced to Cincinnati, the company was bought in 2004 by beer baron Gregory Hardman. 

cinci-rama! 643 (1)

cinci-rama! 638 (1)

cinci-rama! 634 (1)

cinci-rama! 628 (1)

The restaurant is loaded with Moerlein artifacts from old beer cans and bottles to corkscrews, glasses and signs. The place is huge, modern, with lots of glass taking advantage of its ideal waterside location. The beer menu is endless. I order a Christian Moerlein Shiver Chai Porter, Kris chooses the Kentucky Bourbon Honey Ale, both of us are satisfied with our choices. Mine has a hint of spices–cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe clove. The BBQ Nacho plate is huge; layers of corn chips smothered in white queso, pickled jalapeno, lettuce, pico, sour cream and guacamole. Good food, good beer, good scenery and good company….. I can’t think of a nicer way to end the evening.

 

 

Dayton: Looking Back….

13 Jan

dayton 326 (1)

Somehow we manage to find a little of Detroit wherever we go. We are in Dayton Ohio at America’s Packard Museum, also known as The Citizens Motorcar Company. This is the world’s only restored Packard dealership operating as a museum and the only full-time museum dedicated exclusively to the Packard Motorcar Company, its products and philosophies. The museum is housed in an original dealership built in 1917, there are over 50 automobiles on display throughout the Art Deco showroom, service department and pavilion. Packard was an American luxury automobile, the first was built in 1899, the last in 1958. In 1903 the legendary 3,500,000 sq. ft. Packard Plant built on over 40 acres on E. Grand Boulevard in Detroit opened, designed by Albert Kahn (who else), it was considered the most modern auto manufacturing plant in the world; skilled craftsmen practiced over 80 trades in the building. Today the long abandoned plant is owned by Fernando Palazuelo, developer and CEO of Arte Express, he has big plans for revitalizing the building, check out the website for more information on The Packard Plant Project.

dayton 134 (1)

dayton 129 (1)dayton 127 (1)

dayton 208 (1)

We park on the street in front of the museum building, inside the showroom we purchase tickets from a woman who then tells us a little about what we’re going to see. The cars in our immediate vicinity are magnificent! There’s a 1932 Packard Twin Six convertible with coachwork by Walter M Murphy, so elegant in cream with red accents and black running boards–this one was built for Michigan’s own Gar Wood. A black beauty with a boattail is a 1936 Fernandez Darrin Speedster, notice the single step below the door in place of running boards. It hits us that there are no ropes around the cars, you can walk right up, look in the windows, admire them up-close. There’s a gorgeous tan and chocolate-colored model by the front window and another convertible in deep yellow; each is unique and has its own hood ornament selected by the original owner. In addition to automobiles the showroom has neon signs, vintage photographs hang on walls, glass showcases contain Packard artifacts, there are still salesmen desks and customer seating.

dayton 125 (1)

dayton 138 (1)

dayton 177 (1)

dayton 151 (1)

Back in the Service area the parts counter still stands, shelves hold original Packard replacement parts. Antique diagnostic equipment, vintage pedal cars and engines share the space with additional Packards in two-tone green, burgundy, black, silver and red. There are hard-tops, convertibles, seats are leather, dashboards, grills and fenders are highly stylized.  Between 1924-1930 Packard was the top-selling luxury brand of automobiles, in 1928 the company grossed $21,889,000–wow! Packard introduced the first modern steering wheel, they were first to produce a 12 cylinder engine, they made the first passenger car with air-conditioning; their tagline was “ask the man who owns one”. At a time when a Oldsmobile Runabout cost $650, a Packard started at $2,600. At one point they had markets in 61 countries, in 1931 Japan’s royal family owned 10 Packards.

dayton 160 (1)

dayton 200 (1)

dayton 195 (1)

dayton 165 (1)

The next building holds even more cars, the Packard library, filled with manuals, catalogs and advertisements and the large stone piece that says “Packard 1907” from the plant here in Detroit. Walls are covered with photos and a historical timeline of the company. The Gray Wolf, one of the most famous cars of early racing, attracts a crowd. Engineered and driven by Charles Schmidt in 1904, at a cost of $10,000, the speedster set two land speed records at Ormond Beach FL. There are Caribbean models from the 50’s, I love the combination of white, pink and black, a Woody is packed for a roadtrip, a couple of Studebaker’s join the mix. We check out an old race car, a 1948 Henney Landau hearse, a gorgeous Art Deco model and more. There are aircraft engines, a military vehicle, an antique gas pump and scale models…so much to look at, so little time.

dayton 278 (1)

dayton 299 (1)dayton 293 (1)

dayton 314 (1)

Our next stop is Woodland Cemetery, this is where Dayton’s aviation heroes, inventors and barons of business are laid to rest. Opened in 1843, this is one of the oldest ‘garden’ cemeteries in the country, it’s also recognized as one of the areas finest arboretums—many of its trees are more than a century old. There are 200 acres of rolling hills, a Romanesque gateway, chapel and office were completed in 1889. We are here to visit the graves of the Fathers of Modern Aviation, Wilbur and Orville Wright. The brothers successfully achieved the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight on December 17, 1903. They subsequently became successful businessmen filling contracts for airplanes in Europe and the United States. Wilbur died in 1912 at the age of 45 of typhoid fever, Orville sold the company in 1915.

dayton 331 (1)dayton 279 (1)

dayton 308 (1)

dayton 283 (1)

We drive down narrow lanes past beautiful monuments belonging to families named Bader, Reibold and Willoughby. We pass Greek Revival mausoleums, obelisks, rugged boulders, bronze statues of men, stone angels and Art Nouveau  gravestones. The road climbs to Lookout Point, the highest point in Dayton, we stare out over the city, Lookout Tower provides a spectacular view. At last we reach the Wright gravesite, a simple gravestone is engraved with the Wright family name. There Wilbur, Katharine and Orville rest side by side, brick pavers surround the site, a series of flagpoles is the only thing that makes this particular spot stand out from the rest. We note the same names we have seen elsewhere in the city: John Patterson of NCR, George P Huffman of Huffy Bicycles, George Mead of Mead Paper and writer Erma Bombeck. Living in Detroit and traveling through states like Ohio and Pennsylvania we see the impact the movers and shakers of the Midwest had on this country; we put the world on wheels, put men in flight, created magnificent cities from the wealth of inventors and the labor of the working man. It’s pretty amazing.

dayton 274 (1)

dayton 290 (1)

dayton 324 (1)dayton 305 (1)

We are having lunch at Flyboys Deli in Oakwood, a residential city just south of Dayton. Worth noting: Orville Wright lived here, his stately home still stands at the corner of Harman and Park, John Patterson (NCR) also called Oakwood home. I read the menu while standing at the counter, the server at the register makes a few suggestions, making our decision easier. In addition to food the deli also serves beer, as we sit at the table and wait for our food I peruse the drink menu and settle on a Rhinegeist Panther Porter–good choice by me! Rhinegeist Brewery is located in Cincinnati. In no time our food arrives; The Wright is a roast turkey sandwich with cranberry-orange chutney, herb cheese, lettuce and tomato on multi-grain bread and a side potato salad, both are delicious. We take our time eating and relax a bit before jumping back in the Jeep……next stop Cincinnati.

dayton 273 (1)

dayton 262 (1)

dayton 268 (1)

Road Trip: Dayton

6 Jan

dayton 031 (2)

Weekends are made for adventures. Often we have only 2 or 3 days at a time to get away, making Ohio an obvious destination. In about an hour we can be looking at Masterpieces at the Toledo Museum of Art, in under 3 hours we can be walking around Westside Market in Cleveland, just over 3 hours gets us to Historic German Village in Columbus where we can roam quaint neighborhoods with brick streets and sidewalk cafes. Today we are headed to Dayton, about a 3 1/2 hour ride from the D; it’s just the first stop on our extended getaway spanning the time between Christmas and the New Year. The Jeep is loaded and ready to go, climb in and come along as we explore southern Ohio.

dayton 042 (1)

dayton 029 (1)

dayton 019 (1)

We haven’t spent much time in Dayton, we’ve visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which is pretty awesome; this time we’re hitting the streets of downtown Dayton, first stop 2nd Street Market. Who doesn’t love a market? Local vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, wine, chocolate and handmade items line the interior of this historic block-long building. Built in 1911 for B & O Railroad the former freight house was saved from demolition and renovated in 2001, giving the market a year-round presence. Home to about 50 vendors the rustic space is quaint, holiday decorations make it festive today. We stroll the single aisle, grabbing a peanut butter cookie along the way, checking out Ohio-centric items. Artisans offer goods such as jewelry, leather pieces, Alpaca sweaters, scarves and hats, some good old-fashioned Maple syrup. Light seeps through roll-up glass doors, it must be wonderful to have them open in the summer. Cafe tables are full of diners enjoying a snack or lunch from one of the many food stalls.

dayton 018 (1)

dayton 022 (1)

dayton 014 (1)

A short drive away is the Oregon District, a historic neighborhood and business district in the heart of downtown Dayton. Art displays and colorful graffiti fill the space between the market and the district. The city of Dayton is on the banks of the Great Miami River, the Miami-Erie Canal opened in 1829 bringing wealth and prosperity to the city. The 12-block Oregon Historic District is Dayton’s oldest surviving neighborhood, homes range from simple the architecture of early German settlers to the mansions of prominent citizens on Jackson Street. It has just started to drizzle, we grab our umbrellas and set out for a walk. Red brick Victorian’s and Queen Anne’s grace the streets along with Italianate, Federal and Greek Revival styles.

dayton 055 (1)dayton 063 (1)

dayton 068 (1)

dayton 050 (1)

Large covered porches are common, quite lovely. Stained glass windows are surrounded by ornate window pediments, gorgeous wooden doors welcome visitors. Here it is common practice to paint the brick, giving owners a wide pallet to choose from; blue, gray, taupe and red all make an appearance. One of the most unusual was a red-brick-beauty decked out in fanciful white trim, a center section of the house is inverted, kind of like a reverse turret, haven’t seen that before.We make our way to the business district, we stop in at Press Coffee Bar to have a coffee and dry out. The space has an open airy feel to it; light wood accented with a painted tin ceiling adds character. The shop roasts and serves Wood Burl Coffee. We order at the counter, before we know it were back outside, cups in hand, meandering down 5th Street.

dayton 076 (1)dayton 052 (1)

dayton 072 (1)

dayton 084 (1)dayton 099 (1)

5th Street is the heart of the Oregon business district between Patterson and Wayne. Here historic architecture is brought to life with restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. The vintage glass display in the front window of Jimmy Modern draws us inside, a Tulip table and chairs set, fabulous light fixtures and Mid-Century Modern furnishings bring smiles to our faces. The shop has a wonderful array of lighting, furniture, glassware and accessories. Old-fashioned lamp posts line the street, most buildings are three-stories tall, tables and chairs are holding out for one more nice day in front of a cafe; businesses are locally owned. We traverse both sides of the street, in and out of shops, lingering the longest in vintage stores Feathers, Eclectic Essentials and Clash.

dayton 102 (1)

dayton 092 (1)dayton 112 (1)

dayton 115 (1)

Back in the Jeep, we drive to Carillon Historical Park, a 65-acre park and museum built in 1940 containing historic buildings and exhibits telling Dayton’s history from 1796 to the present. Getting out of the car we direct our attention to the 151 foot-tall Deeds Carillon, an Art Moderne style carillon tower built in 1942. Ohio’s largest carillon it has 57 bells and from May to October you can catch a live concert every Sunday. Currently it is draped in lights for the holidays, it must be quite a sight when it gets dark. Inside the Heritage Center Museum the history of Dayton unfolds in exhibits featuring the people and manufacturers that developed the city in the early years. One of the first exhibits features old-fashioned cash registers, you know, the kind you see on all those antique and picker shows. These are amazing. Turns out John H Patterson founded the National Cash Register Company right here in Dayton Ohio, he was the maker of the first mechanical cash register. These stunning cash registers are found throughout the museum, I have to stop at each one and marvel at the different cabinet styles, the press down keys, the patterns on the brass, bronze and nickel models; fine scroll, wide scroll, fleur-de-lis and Art Nouveau, they are magnificent!

dayton 260 (1)dayton 215 (1)

dayton 210 (1)

dayton 219 (1)

I read placard after placard trying to take it all in; I recognize names like Patterson, Deeds and Kettering from street and building names in town. Dayton has a pretty impressive resume, Huffy, Delco, Frigidaire, NCRC all called the city home. Manufacturing was huge; Kramer Brothers Foundry, Dayton Malleable Iron Co., Dayton Wright Airplane Company, General Motors Engine Plant, just to name a few….. The museum is fascinating, so well done, so enjoyable to visit. Full size displays of automobiles, appliances, toys, novelties, bicycles, even a carousel. The Ohio-made Carousel of Dayton Innovation is truly one-of-a-kind, in addition horses you can sit on a cash register-style bench, a bicycle, streetcar or locomotive, gaze at hand-painted murals depicting the Wright Brothers, all to the sound of 1930’s tunes, very cool. 

dayton 225 (1)

dayton 231 (1)

dayton 245 (1)

dayton 223 (1)dayton 258 (1)

DEARBORN: The Ford Homes

23 Dec

ford homes 111 (1)

In 1915 American Industrialist Henry Ford built the Henry Ford and Son Tractor Plant in the city of Dearborn. In addition to American production, Ford built 6,000 tractors for England and 1,000 for Canada in 1917 to assist the countries with food production during WWI. By 1918 the plant employed nearly 400 men, most of which were forced to live in Detroit because of the lack of housing in Dearborn; it took workers an hour via streetcar to get to work everyday. The idea to build a planned subdivision that would allow workers to live close by was embraced by Ford. The Dearborn Realty and Construction company was formed with Clara (Henry’s wife) and Edsel (his son) owning 2/3 of the shares, Henry was not a shareholder. The company purchased 312 lots with the intention of constructing modern, tastefully designed homes, each a suitable size for an average family. They were to be built of the best materials and differ in appearance, there were six different models, A-F, all are colonials.

ford homes 007 (1)ford homes 005 (1)

ford homes 002 (1)

ford homes 008 (1)ford homes 010 (1)

Today we are doing the Ford Homes Historic District Holiday Home Tour, we don’t know too much about the area so we’re excited to check it out. We purchase tickets at Reach International Church on Nowlin St. The building is a collage of the original structure and additions through the years from 1924-1964. We are invited to look around the church, the Sanctuary was added in 1964 and is a reflection of the Modern architecture popular at the time, colorful stained glass in linear patterns is reflecting onto the walls, placards explain the symbolism of architectural details. We ascend and descend short staircases pausing to look in various rooms, photos and finally the original chapel. 

ford homes 027 (1)

ford homes 014 (1)ford homes 024 (1)

ford homes 019 (1)

Tour booklets in hand, we hit the sidewalk, from the map it looks like the tour houses are reasonably close together. All of the Ford homes were constructed in 1919 and 1920, 250 in all, spread out on Beech, Nona, Park, Edison, Francis, Gregory and Military streets. Henry Ford had definite ideas of how things should look and be, he insisted the homes not be placed an even distance from the street, here we have 3 houses 24′ from the street the next 4 are 32′ so a staggered look is achieved. He insisted various models be placed on each block, making each home appear distinct–it works. Ford homes were purchased directly from Dearborn Realty and Construction Company, no banks were involved. Once you purchased a house, you could not sell it again for at least 7 years; the company retained the right to re-purchase a home within the first 7 years if the buyer was deemed ‘undesirable’.

ford homes 068 (1)

ford homes 087 (1)ford homes 084 (1)

ford homes 081 (1)

We start out on Beech, a Model B home, then down Gregory to a Model A and C, although the homes have many things in common each buyer added their own special touch with options like built-in cabinets, fireplace surrounds, doors with 3 or 6 glass panels, brick or siding. Nearly 100 years later I’m astounded by how original they still are; floors, light fixtures, cove moldings, shutters, amazing. Homes are decked out for the holidays; trees, garlands, wreaths, miniature lights. Dining room tables are set for a holiday feast, settings look like pictures from a magazine. Neighborhood streets are absolutely charming, front porches are welcoming, old-fashioned lamp posts are wrapped with greenery and red bows, vintage cars are making a special appearance for the tour, a burgundy Model A, turquoise Packard, yellow Buick and a Model T (black, of course) are all parked in driveways. Homes are beautifully maintained, many have had additions through the years, care as been taken to unite the old and new.

ford homes 030 (1)

ford homes 078 (1)ford homes 082 (1)

ford homes 063 (1)

We have visited 11 homes in the Historic District, I think we’ve seen all but one of the six different models offered. The Ford Homes are distinct, they were built with a production-line approach to construction. Lots were excavated by Ford tractors then the foundation crew arrived, followed by the framing crew and on it went. Each crew had its own specialty, something unheard of in 1919 when a home was generally built from the ground up by a single construction crew. In September 1920, following a slow-down after the war, the tractor plant was moved to the massive Rouge Plant, the workers soon followed, after that no more Ford Homes were built– the remaining lots were filled with other homes put up after 1921. It’s clear the people who to live in these houses take pride in their neighborhood, appreciate the unique history they represent and share it by opening their doors to all of us, thank you for that.

ford homes 089 (1)

ford homes 032 (1)

ford homes 044 (1)ford homes 041 (1)

We are having lunch at Al Ajami on W Warren Ave. After eating at many other places in the area, Al Ajami is still our favorite. The large modern interior has table seating for large or small groups and cozy booths on the upper level. We are seated in a large booth in the front window, a server immediately arrives with a pickled vegetable platter and a basket overflowing with fresh-from-the-oven pita bread. These little round pitas are slightly crisp outside, tear into it and watch the steam be released, the inside is moist and tender–I think I could make a meal of the pita and vegetables alone….. Well, that and the vegetarian combo: fresh tabbouleh, falafal, grape leaves, creamy hommous, smoky baba ghanouj, so delicious! We eat until we can eat no more. It’s been another fun day of exploring topped off with an outstanding meal.

ford homes 134 (1)

ford homes 127 (1)

DETROIT: Deco Delights

16 Dec

deco5 013 (1)

As more and more businesses set up shop in Detroit, buildings that have sat vacant for years, even decades, become more desirable. Sometimes these forgotten structures become the spark that ignites interest in an area, other times they are the lone hold-out in an otherwise redeveloping district. DTE Energy has been hard at work improving the area surrounding their headquarters; they added a glass atrium at the base of their main building a few years ago and have since continued to improve the campus. Across the street from DTE is the gorgeous, Art Deco, Salvation Army headquarters building; after sitting vacant for years DTE bought it in 2012, renovated it and renamed it Navitas House–Navitas means ‘energy’ in Latin. This evening we are touring the building with the Detroit Area Art Deco Society (DAADS).

deco5 089 (1)

deco5 007 (1)

deco5 002 (1)

We arrive at One Energy Plaza, a 25-floor, dark brown skyscraper constructed in 1971 of steel and glass  in the International style of architecture; DAADS is hosting their Holiday Mixer in the lobby.  This is our first time in this building; glass walls soar skyward, city lights glow in the distance, marble floors gleam, appetizer stations are set up for tonight’s event. First we eat, then we mingle, afterwards we have a seat in the carpeted lounge area, DAADS is presenting their Preservation award to DTE in honor of the restoration of Navitas House– visible from the lobby in which we are seated. The presentation is finished, photos taken, we head out to 601 Bagley for the tour.

deco5 083 (1)

deco5 014 (1)

deco5 061 (1)

It’s dark outside, LED lights trimming the building illuminate it in a changing wash of pink, purple, blue, green and yellow; indirect lighting accents architectural features. We enter through the front doors, a few steps up and we’re in the lobby, we all stop, look around and smile. It’s beautiful; from the terrazzo floors,terracotta block walls, floral patterned grills to the exceptional Art Deco railings, trim and molding–all original. This 3-story, 32,000 sq ft building was constructed in 1938 as the Detroit headquarters for the Salvation Army, which closed the building in 2004. Hamilton Anderson Associates was the architectural firm on the project, they were able to preserve much of the interior elements while making the building energy-efficient for the 140 employees in DTE’s IT department that work here.

deco5 029 (1)

deco5 033 (1)deco5 037 (1)

deco5 048 (1)

The old auditorium has been converted to work space, offices sit on what was once a stage, decorative panels above the door have been preserved as well as recessed corner columns. We spend the next hour traversing stairways, hallways and work spaces viewing a clever mix of old and new. Lounge areas feature modern furnishings and a great view of the city. In the stairway it’s still 1938, then we pop through a door and enter 2015. Black and white photographs pay homage to old Detroit, authentic building plans are framed and hang on the wall. Original radiators, railings, marble walls and grills intermix with energy-efficient lighting, colorful conference rooms and modern technology, very cool. It seems no expense was spared, this is DTE’s first LEED certified building, we’re so glad to see it alive with purpose again.

deco5 053

deco5 069 (1)deco5 064 (1)

deco5 065 (1)

Over on Park Ave. Centaur Bar is tucked into two floors of the Iodent Building. Built in 1923, the Iodent company went from renting a floor to purchasing the structure sometime after WWII–this is where Iodent toothpaste was made, in addition to other toiletries. The Iodent is now home to Centaur, Hot Taco and 11 luxury lofts. The exterior of the building has a few Art Deco elements, it’s the large Centaur (part human, part equine) jutting out near the corner of Park Ave and Montcalm that grabs your eye. The elegant interior has a definite Deco feel, lighting is dramatic; the grand chandelier dips down through a hole from the second floor to just above the bar. Tall narrow windows look out onto the city, in the summer the windows open out onto the sidewalk. High-top tables dot the perimeter of the main floor, liquor bottles rest on shelves of a mirrored wall behind the bar.

deco5 099 (1)deco5 093 (1)

deco5 094 (2)

deco5 105 (1)

The mezzanine level is home to a pair of billiard tables and several cozy seating areas, here again, you have a great view of the city. We sit on ground level sipping cocktails and chatting with the bartender. There’s a flat screen TV off to the side, they show nothing but old movies; tonight’s feature stars Elizabeth Taylor, the volume is kept off , making conversation easy. The bar and kitchen are open 7 days a week from 4 pm to 2 am, convenient both before and after a show or anytime you feel like chilling out in lovely surroundings.

 

DETROIT: Upscale Retail

9 Dec

corridor 043 (1)

If you haven’t been to Midtown recently, you need to check it out. The ever-expanding list of places to eat and shop is mind-blowing. With the holidays just around the corner, there’s no better time than the present! Be forewarned, the good ol’ days of free parking are gone–you’ll need a bag of quarters or credit card and your license plate number to feed the pay station, ok, now we’re ready…..

corridor 087 (1)

corridor 031 (1)

corridor 025 (1)corridor 018 (1)

The newest and probably most anticipated shop to open is Jack White’s Third Man Records on W. Canfield. You may remember Jack and Meg White from their White Stripes days, they played the Detroit bar scene before making it Grammy-award-winning-big. For music lovers, this place is heaven on Earth,  there’s enough kitschy-cool novelties, records, t-shirts and videos to keep everyone entertained. Yellow and black are the label’s signature colors–it’s everywhere–walls, floors, clothing, even the Christmas tree. The front of the shop is filled with merchandise from skateboards and scarves to Hawaiian shirts and Stormy Kromer hats. Vinyl records in 45’s and lp’s fill racks lining the walls; in addition to Third Man there are selections from the Sun and Tamla labels. Photos of Jack, Meg and other band mates reach from floor to ceiling, a video is being projected onto the back wall of the stage area; guitars, amps and monitors are quiet at the moment.

corridor 037 (1)

corridor 016 (1)corridor 005 (1)

corridor 041 (1)

Headphone stations throughout the space allow you to listen to old favorites or the latest release; you can listen to the entire Third Man catalog in the Listening Booth. Have a seat in the lounge area while paging through one of Third Man’s books, take a ride on a motorized elephant scooter, pose with friends in the photo booth, watch the Mold-A-Rama machine create a miniature version of the rolling record store, pick up a CD by the White Stripes or The Dead Weather.  At the back of the showroom a long hall with a fabulously shiny pressed ceiling leads us to the future vinyl record pressing plant opening soon. Jack doesn’t live in Detroit anymore, but his presence is felt all over the city. In addition to donating a small fortune to the city and saving the Masonic Temple from the auction block, he’s now providing jobs and a cool place to hang out. 

corridor 058 (1)

corridor 060 (1)corridor 053 (1)

corridor 051 (1)

Next door is a high-end men’s and women’s store selling clothing, accessories and housewares called Willys Detroit. This entire complex of shops is housed in the old Willy’s Overland Motor Company building–hence the name. The compact space is bright inside as natural light floods the room; items are displayed on rolling racks, tables and cubbies. Only a limited number of each item is stocked, so the selection changes often. Seasonal items such as Levi’s jeans, flannel shirts, sweaters and warm jackets, all brand names, attract shoppers. Handbags, backpacks, hats and shoes complete any outfit. Upstairs mannequins pose in large front windows; thick winter hats, gloves and jeans are being prepared to sell. 

corridor 074 (1)

corridor 073 (1)corridor 065 (1)

corridor 076 (1)

We stop in at the much larger, remodeled Shinola; there’s a tiny  cafe offering Commonwealth Coffee and pastries by Sister Pie, visitors sip on espresso while paging through coffee table books. Up front you’ll find watches, watches and more watches; big ones, small ones, bands in leather, rubber or stainless steel,  mens and womens, in a multitude of colors and designs. New is the Muhammad Ali collection of limited edition products, Shinola has partnered with the Muhammad Ali Center for their Great Americans Series, I’m especially intrigued by the vintage black and white photographs. Reaching from the center of the store all the way to the back you can watch bicycles being hand-built. Pick your frame, your color and jazz it up with leather accessories and an old-fashioned bell– a truly unique way to by your next bike. Across the room you can watch technicians in lab coats and funny hats assemble watches with great precision. The Shinola tag line is : Where American is Made. One thing they continue to make is American jobs.

corridor 071 (1)

corridor 070 (1)

corridor 063 (1)

We’re having lunch just up the street at Hopcat on the corner of Woodward and Canfield. The original Hopcat opened in Grand Rapids MI in 2008, there are now 8 locations in the Midwest, 4 of them right here in the mitten. Years ago Agave was serving up top-notch Mexican dishes in this space, today people enjoy craft beer and tasty food in the newly re-done building. A large bar runs the length of one wall and wraps around the corner, the line of tap handles across the bar are too numerous to count, liquor bottles have been re-purposed into hanging light fixtures, wide, comfy-looking bar stools are filled with patrons this afternoon. We are seated at a high-top table in one of the front windows, Kris looks at the food menu while I study the beer selections. In addition to the Local 30, they serve a dizzying array of Ambers, Browns, Lagers, Light Ales, Wheats, Belgians, Barleywine, Scotch Ales……well, you get the picture.

corridor 142 (1)

corridor 149 (1)corridor 134 (1)

corridor 153 (2)

Kris orders lunch and I choose the Thirsty Trout Porter from Dark Horse in Marshall MI. The Cowboy Burger arrives, an 8 oz. patty topped with fried jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese, apple cider bbq sauce, cherry-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion, delicious. The burger itself is juicy, love the tang of the bbq sauce and the heat of the jalapenos. Of course you must have the Crack Fries when you come here, Food Network Magazine put them in the Top 10 French Fries in America; crispy, crunchy, peppery, yum! Outside we pause to check out a lovely Detroit-themed mural by Fel3000ft, I’m awed by his work.

corridor 125 (1)

corridor 093 (1)

corridor 116 (1)

Over on Second we park the Jeep in the Will Leather Goods parking lot. This is truly one of the most aesthetically pleasing, harmonious, welcoming stores we’ve been to in a very long time. A red arrow painted on the side of the building directs us through the giant door to the Coffee Station; a cozy little area offers visitors a place to relax with coffee, pastries and toast–in case you’re wondering, the carrot cake is outstanding! Behind that is a gallery space, currently a photography show entitled American Heroes and Dreamers is on exhibit. 

corridor 121 (1)

corridor 096 (1)corridor 111 (1)

corridor 100 (1)

The retail space is one large area (this is the former Tomboy Supermarket), the fragrance of leather is intoxicating, a full-size teepee sits in the middle of the floor. Merchandise is thoughtfully arranged on tables and shelves, you’ll find everything you’d expect to see in a leather goods store: wallets, belts, gloves, purses, briefcases, key chains, duffles, and so much more. For Will Adler the garment industry is in his blood; his grandfather, father and brother all worked in the industry in Detroit. Will, a local who moved away at age 20 to pursue an acting career, has turned his leather goods business into a lifestyle brand. In this, his Legacy store, he combines the industrial, mechanical Detroit, with the colors and outdoor feel of his current home in Eugene, Oregon. Read his fascinating life story and career path on the Discover Your Will page. Another Detroiter coming back to support the city. So, there you have it, a whole list of places to shop, snack, eat and drink in your pursuit of the perfect gift.

 

 

 

 

 

Olde Grosse Pointe

2 Dec

gp 172 (1)

Today we are touring the Provencal-Weir house, believed to be Grosse Pointe’s oldest surviving residence, it dates back to 1823. Originally, the house sat near Provencal and Lake Shore roads; home to Pierre and Euphemia Provencal, they raised their daughter Catherine and 20 adopted children in this tiny home. In 1800 Father Gabriel Richard first came to the Pointe as a visiting priest saying mass on the lawn of this home. The structure has gone through many transformations serving as a family home, a summer cottage, it was moved to its present site and became a grocery store, a real estate office and a rental house. The Grosse Pointe Historical Society bought the building, renovated it and turned it into a museum and One-Room school.

gp 029 (1)

gp 001 (1)

gp 022 (1)gp 004 (1)

The original wide-plank floors remain as well as the timber frame, the rest of the house has been reconfigured numerous times and is decorated in the style of the 1850’s-60’s. We begin our guided tour in the museum shop area and proceed to the dining room, around the corner an old-fashioned stove sits across from a modern kitchen. In the family room walls are covered in patterned wallpaper, a fireplace hugs the inside wall; kids are hard at work making crafts today. Upstairs women’s clothing is displayed along with hats, antique furniture and oil lamps. A table is set with a sterling silver serving set, vibrant red glasses,dishes and china tea cups. Bathrooms were updated when it was a rental unit, someone put in Pewabic tile floors. The remainder of the upstairs is used as a one-room school where second through fifth graders get the opportunity to see what going to school was like 100 years ago. 

gp 013 (1)

gp 006 (1)

gp 011 (1)

At about the same time Cadillac arrived in Detroit many French settlers were making a new life for themselves in Grosse Pointe. In the 1700’s the Pointe was heavily wooded and swampy, the French began clearing land for farms and orchards; the women farmed while the men hunted and traded with the Indians. All farms had water frontage, usually 300 ft and ran back about a mile, these long narrow plots were called ribbon farms. Some of the early settlers came directly from Normandy France, others went to Quebec first, then the Detroit area. Early residents include Moran, Vernier, Gouin, Trombley, St Antoine and Rivard–recognize their names? They can all be found on street signs all over the Pointes as well here in the St. Paul Cemetery.

gp 158 (1)gp 180 (1)

gp 166 (1)

gp 175 (1)

Located at Moross Rd and Country Club Lane, this is the only cemetery in Grosse Pointe; the earliest burial dates back to 1831, Catherine Vernier. The grassy lot is dotted with headstones, crosses, monuments and statues. We walk around the seemingly forgotten cemetery reading names and dates of the departed. Many have worn down through the decades making it impossible to make out the inscriptions, headstones have sunk into the ground, I push the dirt with my foot to get a better look. Many of the Vernier’s are here, the Melton headstone has decorative ceramic pieces that remind me of a ‘partridge in a pear tree’. A large statue of a woman holding a child is surrounded by a Gothic style arch.

gp 161 (1)

gp 137 (1)gp 142 (1)

gp 154 (1)

From the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s lumberman cut down trees, taking away the woods, the wealthy from Detroit came in and built mansions on the lakefront giving them names like Bellevue, Tonnacour, Rose Terrace and Otsikita Villa. Senators, attorneys, businessmen and merchants moved in, the Pointe was divided up into smaller communities: Grosse Pointe Farms, The Village, The Park, The Shores and Grosse Pointe Woods. While many of the grand old mansions have been torn down, a great deal still remain. Between the Provencal-Weir House, the Grosse Pointe Historical Society and the cemetery, the history of this quaint community lives on.

gp 041 (1)

gp 037 (1)

gp 035 (1)

We’re having lunch at Hydrangea Kitchen over on Fisher Rd. Housed in a 1-story red-brick building, when I first walk in I feel like I’ve entered a little boutique. Mismatched tables and chairs are scattered throughout the seat-yourself space, a tall framed chalkboard menu stands behind the counter. As soon as Kris sees the JL Hudson Maurice salad, he knows what he wants; I pick the sandwich. I grab a cup of coffee from the serve yourself thermos and check out the decorative items around the room, much of it is for sale, so I guess it is a boutique and a restaurant. Our plates arrive, each with a half salad and sandwich; the panini is a combo of country Brie, melted butter and sliced Granny Smith apples on a warm, crisp ciabatta roll. The Maurice is really good, they even got the garnish of green olives and gherkins right, but Kris will tell you it’s not ‘Hudson’s’ good.

gp 130 (1)

gp 048 (2)gp 049 (1)

gp 059 (1)

Today we Sneak-a-Peek at the future Designers’ Show House sponsored by the Junior League of Detroit. Located at 15500 Windmill Pointe Drive, we have been keeping an eye on the place as work has progressed, I’m so excited to have a chance to get inside! The home is a beautiful 3-story English Tudor built in 1927 for American aircraft designer and VP of engineering at Packard Motor Car Company, Colonel Jesse G Vincent. The house was recently sold, emptied and the new owners have donated the place to be used as the 2016 Show House. The house is opened for two days for a ‘bare bones’ tour before the designers take over. The thing about these old houses is, even empty, void of any decoration, they’re still stunning.

gp 072 (1)

gp 090 (1)gp 054 (1)

gp 125 (1)

The cement contractor is hard at work getting the driveway poured, we pay our $5 and anxiously step inside one of Grosse Pointe’s most distinctive homes. Foot traffic is directed by a series of arrows and human traffic controllers telling us which way to go; we’re happy to see many of the original light fixtures, radiator grills and fine details are in tact. The wood is gorgeous, I’m guessing dark walnut, it’s all over the place; paneled walls, steps, floors and beams. Bathrooms are fully tiled in yellow, lavender and blue, pedestal sinks remain. We’re a bit curious about the temperature settings in the shower: Cold, Hot and Scalding…. We meander through bedrooms, sitting rooms and a turret on the second floor, there’s a balcony that overlooks the living room, wow! All of the leaded and stained glass in the home is unique, window pieces are square-shaped, the front door is circles, I like that a lot.

gp 092 (1)gp 102 (1)

gp 076 (1)

gp 113 (1)gp 109 (3)

The third floor is the ballroom, it’s huge, it even has a stage area where a band probably played. It’s just one big empty space now, it’ll be interesting to see what the designers do with it. We are directed back downstairs where we get an up close look at the living room, dining room and kitchen; lots of wood, ornate plaster and the view, we have to talk about the view….. There’s an unobstructed view of Lake St Clair everywhere we look, today the sky and the water are almost the exact same shade of blue, the backyard fountain is in the process of being restored. This lot has its own canal that runs from the lake to a dry dock under the living room, impressive eh? The Show House runs May 7-22, put it on your calendar so you don’t forget. Maybe we’ll see ya there!

Historic Cleveland

19 Nov

clevelander 204 (1)

It’s a beautiful day in Cleveland Ohio. We take advantage of the mild November temperatures and head downtown to do our own architectural walking tour. With the Jeep tucked away in a nearby parking structure we can take our time checking out the city without having to worry about feeding a meter. Our first stop is Marshall Frederick’s Fountain Of Eternal Life, also called the Cleveland War Memorial Fountain, Peace Arising From The Flames Of War, at Veterans Memorial Plaza. The inscription reads: IN HONORED MEMORY OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY. This is one of my favorite Marshall Frederick’s fountains; four groups in Norwegian emerald pearl granite 4′ x 12′ represent the four corners of the Earth, in the center a 35′ bronze human figure stands on a ball reaching toward the sky. The water is shut off for the season but when it’s on it makes this an even more incredible sight.  It’s placement on the southernmost end of the Mall affords incredible views of prominent buildings such as Public Square, Key Tower and Terminal Tower.

clevelander 350 (1)

clevelander 159 (1)clevelander 157 (1)

clevelander 243 (1)

Over on Superior we admire the exterior of the Cleveland Public Library main library building. After decades of moving around in and out of temporary and rented spaces, this building was built solely for the Main Library in 1925. It’s one of those magnificent buildings you just stop and stare at; detailed carvings, sconces, leaded glass windows all hint to the beauty found within. Before we go inside here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about the library. This was the first large public library to allow individuals to select their own books directly from the bookshelves, at other libraries only a librarian was allowed to do so. This library was a big deal to the community, by the 1930’s more than 12,000 individuals walked through its doors daily. Today the CPL circulates one of the largest and most extensive collections in the country with nearly 10 million items. After years of decline the building was completely renovated in 1999 to the tune of $24 million. Ok, now we can go inside.

clevelander 160 (1)

clevelander 164 (1)clevelander 166 (1)

clevelander 229 (1)

The entrance hall is flat-out gorgeous! There’s so much eye candy, my eyes don’t know where to focus. Straight up, a terrestrial globe made of pearl art glass glows softly, it’s based on one of the first maps depicting the early Americas done by Leonardo da Vinci. In the lobby, a barrel-vaulted ceiling is decorated with fine stencils representing the arts, writing and learning; looking back toward the door a brass clock is flanked by mythological griffins. Fantastic bare-bulb torchieres illuminate the lobby, it seems everything is marble including the main stairway and balustrade. Brett Memorial Hall is your basic reading room–you know, marble walls, coffered ceiling painted in rose, blue and gold; even the wool rugs match the colors and patterns of the ceiling. Travertine marble makes up the perimeter of the floor, this helps absorb sound echoes. Murals fill the upper walls, The City in 1822 by William Sommer was done in 1934 under the Public Works Art Project (PWAP), others were done in the late 1970’s, the bronze bust of Brett is original to the room.

clevelander 173 (1)

clevelander 191 (1)clevelander 182 (1)

clevelander 186 (1)

On the 2nd Floor the main attraction is a PWAP mural which depicts Cleveland’s waterfront in the 1830’s. Donald Bayard’s Early Transportation is as pretty today as it was in 1934, I enjoy the vibrant colors. The 3rd Floor is home to Fine Arts and Special collections, it’s our favorite floor. Here there are more paintings commissioned for the PWAP, exhibit cases in the corridor are made of wrought iron created by the Sterling Bronze Co. in 1925, we find materials related to the visual arts, musical scores and books and collectibles. The reading room is stunning; blue and gold floral designs decorate the ceilings, bare-bulb chandeliers light the space, doorways are surrounded by marble, doors are leather-covered. Large windows look out over the city, from here we have a birds-eye view of the Fountain of Eternal Life, the Mall, First Energy Stadium, and Lake Erie.

clevelander 190 (1)

clevelander 206 (1)

clevelander 202 (1)

clevelander 211 (1)

There’s a lot to look at like the John G White Chess and Checkers Collection; Chess sets are made of delicately carved wood, stone, figures, even Salt and Pepper shakers. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a special exhibit is on display until December 31. The Cleveland Digital Public Library on this floor opened last February; a touch wall, digital lab and Preservation department connect the past to the future; the first commissioned PWAP mural by Ora Coltman, Dominance of the City (1934) hangs here. A giant mosaic tile Globe rests in the 4th Floor lobby, pretty cool. Suddenly music fills the air, as we descend the staircase we find a group of musicians has gathered at the top of the 3rd Floor, it seems they are warming up for a wedding that will take place here shortly. The sound follows us down to the main floor, it’s magical.

clevelander 271 (1)

clevelander 327 (2)

clevelander 332 (1)clevelander 263 (1)

Outside we realize we are just across the street from The Arcade, we pop in whenever we’re in the area. Built in 1890 and financed by the likes of John D Rockefeller, Marcus Hanna and Charles F Brush, this Victorian-era structure is magnificent! Workers are setting up for a wedding so we just do a quick walk-through–this place is an architectural treasure. Built by the Detroit Bridge Co, this is two 9-story buildings joined by a 5-story arcade with a glass skylight that spans over 300 ft, impressive. The detail is mind-blowing, every surface is decorative, it’s elegant, opulent, stunning–this is what an early shopping mall looked like in the US back in those days, and it is one of very few left.

clevelander 328 (1)

clevelander 253 (1)clevelander 331 (1)

clevelander 260 (1)

Our architecture and history tour continues with the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Public Square. Opened on July 4, 1894 this monument commemorates the American Civil War. The grand structure is imposing, awe-inspiring; four bronze groupings on the esplande depict battle scenes of the Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry. American flags rise up from each corner of the structure, today they flutter in the breeze. A 125′ column is topped with a statue of the Goddess of Freedom, defended by the Shield of Liberty, breathtaking.

clevelander 322 (1)

clevelander 318 (1)clevelander 278 (1)

clevelander 310 (1)

Inside the Memorial Room the names of 9,000 soldiers and sailors from Cuyahoga County OH who perished in the war cover tablet walls. Elegant stained glass windows, exquisite brass chandeliers, intricate marble floors have all been recently rehabilitated. Bronze relief sculptures honor significant moments and people, medals and personal items fill glass cases. A large column wears 6 bronze bands listing the names of 30 battles in which soldiers from this county fought, it’s all very humbling. 

clevelander 284 (1)

clevelander 299 (1)clevelander 293 (1)

clevelander 287 (1)

The day has passed quickly, over in Hingetown we stop for a bite to eat before driving home. Juke Box is one of those comfortable neighborhood joints where you can hang out with friends, grab a bite to eat, enjoy a craft beer and enjoy music from a rotating jukebox selection. It’s late afternoon so the place is quiet, the menu selection offers pierogi, sausage and kraut, the varieties of each are endless. We’re starving, so we decide quickly; you get 3 pierogi for $7 with two dipping sauces. We choose the potato, cheddar and farmers cheese pierogi with sour cream and creamy dill sauces, stellar choice. The special of the day is a sausage sandwich, ours is a beer brat topped with sauerkraut, grilled peppers and onions with spicy mustard on a crusty roll, yum! 

clevelander 360 (1)

clevelander 351 (1)

clevelander 353 (1)

It’s been a great weekend in Cleveland, we’re always discovering something new. Only three hours from Detroit, it’s one of our favorite places to go for a quick getaway. Now get out there and have some fun!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 310 other followers