On The Road To Cleveland……

11 Dec

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 There’s something really fun about traveling on Thanksgiving weekend as folks slip into holiday mode; towns are lit up with thousands of miniature lights, children line up to ask Santa Claus for that special gift, eggnog flows freely and Christmas carols become the music of choice. Through the years we have been as far north as Milwaukee and as far south as the Gulf, nobody celebrates the holidays with more enthusiasm than mid-westerners. We were due for a roadtrip, so we loaded up the Jeep and headed for Cleveland. When it comes to decorating for Christmas, this city goes all out. 

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By freeway you can make it from Detroit to Cleveland in just under three hours, but what fun is that? There is much to see and do along the way, for example, the Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont Ohio. Can’t say that we knew much of anything about our 19th President, funny how much more interesting history is to us now than back when we were in school, so we thought we’d stop in. The Hayes estate, named Spiegel Grove is an impressive 31 room mansion and sits adjacent to the Presidential Library and Museum. We arrived just in time for a tour. The home is quite  lovely, I was surprised by its size; the exterior is red brick, most notable is the wrap around veranda and rooftop lantern. Inside, the home remains just as it was when Rutherford and Lucy lived there; books, furniture, paintings, light fixtures, even dishes give you a peek into the private life of the man who was an attorney, served in the military, was a US Congressman, served 3 terms as the Governor of Ohio and one term as President of the United States.

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Rutherford was born about two months after his father passed away, he was raised by his mother and her bachelor brother Sardis Birchard.  Uncle Sardis was himself an attorney, he had the means to provide Rutherford a top-notch education, which included Harvard Law School. Uncle Sardis built his home in Fremont in 1859, he made it large enough for Rutherford and his young family to spend their summers in northern Ohio. Through the years as the family grew so did the home. It was here at Spiegel Grove that Rutherford lived when he was elected as President and the place he returned to after his years in the White House. After his presidency there was a huge addition including a library, reception room, and even indoor plumbing (Lucy must have been so happy!). A gorgeous 4-story walnut and butternut staircase was added, it leads all the way up to the rooftop lantern where you are treated to a 360 degree view of the property. It’s fascinating to see all of their things, and amazing that they all remained in the home. Much of the home has been restored; woodwork is handsome, wallpapers are covered with busy patterns so popular at the time, and lots of color. Everything in the home is accessible to visitors; there are no ropes or plastic runners, unfortunately photos are not allowed to be taken in the home,ugh. Gifts given to Rutherford during his political years are all on view, he brought back a painting of himself that was so large they had to raise the ceiling in the library. Rutherford and Lucy raised 8 children in the home, both passed away at home and are buried on the grounds. Fortunately the home stayed in the family, eventually the Hayes children deeded Spiegel Grove and all of its holdings to the state of Ohio. In 1912 ground was broken for the first presidential library and museum in the country, it opened in 1916 and is just a short walk from the estate.

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The museum is two floors of exhibit galleries and a research library. Here just under 2,000 artifacts are on permanent display, most enclosed in glass cases. They say they have 19,000 artifacts that tell about Rutherford, his family and Ohio history. He was highly respected as a leader and as a man; throughout his life he was concerned with minorities and the poor. He believed all people deserved an education and with it they could achieve better lives. He was active in both local and veterans affairs, they say his policies made business and industry stronger. We also learned Mrs. Hayes was the first president’s wife to be called the “First Lady”, she was also the first wife of a president to graduate from college. President Hayes began the “Easter Egg Roll” in 1878, which still continues today. This was such a great find, I’m so glad we came.

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As usual we were running way behind, we needed to stop for lunch. Luckily we were not far from the Quarry Hill Winery in Berlin Heights. Kris is very familiar with this part of the state and he knows a great route. The temperature had continued to drop and it was now snowing, fitting for the day after Thanksgiving. The wine bar at Quarry Hill sits smack dab in the middle of the vineyard and orchards,  surrounded in glass a fireplace anchors the back wall, there’s not a bad view to be found. It was mid-afternoon so the only food available was a meat and a cheese plate, which was ok with us, add a glass of apple wine and we’re happy. As we sat and ate in the large open room people began to drift in. We made quick work of finishing off the chunks of cheese, baguette, olives and meat, but lingered over the wine. The snow was coming down harder, it was time to continue our journey eastward. The miles pass quickly through the countryside; roads wind around curves and rise and fall over hillsides, every once in a while we pass a home decked out in Christmas attire.

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At last we arrived in Cleveland, first stop: Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast to check in, unload and freshen up. On our last visit we were impressed with the revitalization going on in the Gordon Square Arts District, Kris had checked the movie listings and found Life of Pi was playing at the Capitol Theatre, we had a plan….The schedule worked perfectly, we could have dinner first, then catch the movie (we might have snuck in an ice cream at Sweet Moses….). Detroit St has lots of places to choose from, we had heard good things about LUXE, with any luck we could get in. To our delight there was a high-top table open right in front of the window, we took our seats and scanned the menu as our waiter brought us water and told us the specials of the night. The selection includes something for everyone; we settled on pizza and salad. As we waited for our dinner to arrive, facing the window I noticed all the quotes posted on the glass; from the Dalai Lama and Lord Byron to Alfred Tennyson and Louis Armstrong their words give us food for thought. My reading is interrupted by laughter from a nearby table, I turn and take in the room for the first time; crystal chandeliers hang above, walls are exposed brick, a large antique Art Deco bar leans against the right side wall. Tables are filled with large groups tonight, people are laughing and making toasts, yes, the holidays are here. Our food arrives, we dig right in. The salad is a mix of butter lettuce, chick peas, olives and pickled onion topped with roasted cauliflower and drizzled with a raisin-sherry vinaigrette, it’s wonderful. The De-LUXE pizza is topped with a roasted red pepper sauce, chorizo, black olives, spinach and Manchego cheese, a perfect combination of salty and spicy, yum!

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The Capitol Theatre is a few blocks down from the restaurant, snow continues to fall but fails to accumulate, it’s cold, colder than it’s been in a long time. Detroit St. sparkles with the glow of Christmas lights, storefronts are decked out in holiday splendor. We arrive at the theatre and purchase tickets for The Life of Pi, the cashier hands us our 3-D glasses. We enter the main theatre and have a look around; built in 1923 and vacant for over 20 years, it has recently been restored and upgraded to all digital projection and 3-D capabilities. Once one big space, it is now divided into 3, the original main floor being the largest and most decorative. The ceiling is very ornate, the eclectic chandelier hangs from a large medallion in the center, decorative patterns please the eyes, along each side curtains hang in arches separated by flat plaster columns. What was once home to vaudeville stage shows now welcomes 21st century movie-goers. The lights dim, after the coming attractions have finished we all don our funky glasses and get ready for the main attraction. Time to relax.

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