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Cincinnati: See Ya’ Later !

3 Feb

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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!

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 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. 

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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… 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Roadtrip: Cincinnati…ish

20 Jan

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Road Trip: Dayton

6 Jan

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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. 

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Historic Cleveland

19 Nov

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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! 

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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!

CLEVELANDish…..

12 Nov

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Today we are just east of Cleveland in the city of Mentor, Ohio to visit the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. James A. Garfield was our 20th President, one of four assassinated US Presidents, he served only 200 days before his death. Garfield came from humble beginnings in rural Ohio; a good student he graduated from Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, then two years later from Williams College in MA. He married Lucretia in 1858, was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859, entered the Civil War in 1861 as a lieutenant colonel, and was elected to Congress in 1862. It was in 1876 that the Garfield’s purchased this home and farm, at that time it was a modest nine-room home, by 1880 it had grown into a 20-room, 2 1/2 story structure nicknamed Lawnfield.

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The former carriage house is now the visitors center complete with exhibits chronicling Garfield’s life. We purchase tickets for the next tour then spend time browsing through displays. We follow the timeline from his days of poverty as a young boy to his adulthood as a teacher, principal, legislator, lawyer, Civil War general, congressman and senator-elect. Glass cases contain personal items such as shoes and clothing, documents and photos. We read about his unexpected presidential nomination, his election, view items from the inauguration in March of 1881. On July 2, 1881 James A. Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau while boarding a train in Washington D.C. The first shot grazed his arm, the other pierced his back and was embedded in his abdomen; the bullet could not be located, infection set in. The President died on September 19, 1881 at the age of 49.

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Our tour guide leads us up to the house, Victorian in style it’s quite large, the front porch extends the length of the house. It’s this front porch where Garfield would meet with the public. People came from near and far to hear him speak about his political intentions and important issues of the day; he basically ran his campaign right from his home. Inside we are welcomed by the foyer, a fireplace rests at the back of the room, the furniture is original to the Garfield family and sits in the same place as it did when they lived here. The family kept the home until 1936, then donated it, complete with furnishings, to the Western Reserve Historical Society. In 1980 Congress authorized it as a Historical Site, it is now owned and maintained by the National Park Service. It has undergone a complete restoration. 

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We move through the main floor, portraits hang on the walls, the parlor is cozy. Stained glass decorates the dining room bay window and door, it’s glowing in today’s sunlight. The fireplace is surrounded by tiles hand-painted by the Garfield family, the china used in the White House rests on shelves– in those days you brought your own and took it home when you left. There are pretty decorative pieces throughout the room. James was his mother’s favorite child, she was quite devoted to him and he to her; she had her own suite of rooms on the main floor, photographs of her son adorn her room, a gorgeous stained glass window of the President sits in front of a window catching the natural light.

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Upstairs we enter the presidential library, Lucretia added this wing to the main house after the assassination to honor her husbands memory and store all of his presidential items and papers. The room is magnificent; white oak covers the walls and ceiling, a large fireplace anchors one wall, elegant brass fixtures and a chandelier provide soft lighting, book shelves are packed with volumes; Garfield was an avid reader, we are told there are 1,000 books in this area alone. The room is filled with photographs and memorabilia, the desk Garfield used while in Congress is in the room along with other attractive pieces of furniture. In the back section is the vault built special to hold the presidential papers, a wreath from the funeral has been dipped wax, framed and hangs on the wall; I find being among his personal things both amazing and eerie.

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Continuing through the second floor we peek into the room Garfield used as a home office before being elected President; the room sits exactly as it did the day the family left for Washington, that was the last time he was in this room. The rest of the floor is family bedrooms and servants quarters. The Garfield’s were not wealthy people, in fact when the President died friends and family were worried Lucretia would lose the house and farm. A fund was set up for donations so the house could be paid off; Garfield left a wife and five young children along with his mother whom he also supported. Over $300,000 was raised–we’re talking 1881 here–this allowed the family to keep the house, add the Memorial Library and make other improvements to the property. The family was able to live comfortably thanks to the contributions.

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Outside we walk the grounds and check out the other buildings on the property. It’s pretty amazing to be able to come here and really experience history. Lucky for all of us the family was generous enough to leave the house, the contents and so many of Garfield’s belongings for future generations to see.

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Back in Cleveland we stop in at the Barking Spider Tavern for a beverage and some live music. The tavern is an old carriage house located behind the Case Western Reserve University Alumni House over in University Circle. It’s a little tricky to find, be sure and look at the map before you head over. The building is quaint, the main listening room has wood-lined walls, a fireplace, several tables and a long bar; today strings of orange lights are draped behind the stage. The Spider is known for its live music; 7 days a week you can stop in and listen to musicians playing Jazz, Blues, Folk, Bluegrass and Rock, free of charge. George Foley and Friends are playing Jazz when we arrive; we sit back and chill to the sound of old school tunes.

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Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast is our home away from home whenever we’re in Cleveland, we stop in to freshen up before heading out for a late dinner at Heck’s Cafe. Located in Ohio City the restaurant opened in 1974, the building is an 18th Century red-brick townhouse, it’s just a few blocks from Stone Gables. The front section is a dark paneled pub, the back opens up into a spacious, airy atrium, this is where we sit. The menu has something for everyone; we’re having the Hipster Burger: a house made veggie patty, arugula, tomato aioli and mozzarella on a wheat bun with a side of Heck’s fries, yum! We’re also sharing a house salad: greens, tomatoes, red onions, walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled blue cheese; a nice combination of flavors and textures. As we finish our meal we finally relax, it has been a day full of fun and adventure.

 

 

Scenic Backroads: Autumn Splendor

21 Oct

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Fall has arrived in southeast Michigan; the leaves are changing, the air has turned crisp, darkness comes early. Mother Nature beckons us to spend time outdoors, soak in the warmth of the sun, the aroma of burning logs; we long to walk and hear the swish and crunch of fallen leaves, marvel at the colors that have painted the landscape. Today Kris and I are heading out to Oakland County to do just that! Rochester Rd  travels through cities large and small, once you get north of Rochester, the road changes from hectic to relaxing, a scenic rural postcard. 

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Foglers Orchard and Farm Market sits roadside, in Summer you can purchase a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, this time of year pumpkins and apples take center stage. It’s chilly this morning, roll-up doors encourage the sun to warm the building. White paper Peck bags bulge with freshly picked apples: Empire, Golden Delicious, Gala and Mac’s are just a few of the varieties available, the scent of apples permeates the air. Huge heads of cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts still on the stalk line the counter. A bin overflows with colorful gourds and teeny tiny pumpkins. In the greenhouse area families take on the all-important task of picking just the right pumpkin; out back a tractor takes folks on a hayride around the property. 

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Back on Rochester Rd. Maples add a splash of color, the street begins to wind as we meander into the countryside. A ways up (near 32 Mile) we make a turn onto Predmore Rd to check out Cranberry Lake Farm Historic District. Oakland Township was one of the original 25 townships when the Territory of Michigan was organized in 1827, this particular property was the farmstead of John Axford, he built the Greek Revival house here in the 1840’s. The farm was purchased by Jacob Kline in 1848, the family continued to operate the farm until 1925. In 1939 Detroiter Howard Coffin, an oil company executive and US congressman (who lived in Detroit’s Sherwood Forest) converted the farm to a country retreat; the house was enlarged, a field stone fireplace added, buildings updated. In 1996 the township purchased the farm, it is now on the National register of Historic Places. There are 10 buildings, a garden and orchard on the 16 acre historic district which sits adjacent to the 233 acre Cranberry Lake Park. Let’s have a look.

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We park the Jeep near the beautifully restored Flumerfelt barn, this post and beam structure dates back to 1879. Rusty antique farm equipment is on display, the lush, green grass is sprinkled with leaves. The house is not open, but I can see the fireplace through the windows–very cozy, the buildings are well maintained. In the distance we see a freshly mowed pathway leading away from the farm, how about a walk? Here the trees are already bare, weeds and wildflowers have died off leaving interesting looking seed pods. The sun peeks in and out from the clouds, a strong breeze gives flight to yellow and brown leaves. We are led into the woods, sunlight dapples the dirt trail, low boardwalks keep the feet of hikers dry in rainy periods. The trail takes us in and out of the woods back to the wide grassy trail ending back at the barn. It is here that we spot the Cranberry Lake barn quilt designed by Mary Asmus, it’s quite lovely.

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Continuing on Rochester Rd we veer onto Drahner road, Lakeville Cemetery is just a little west, it’s one of those small, quaint, very old cemeteries you find in the country, this one was established in 1843. Following a very narrow dirt road we park near the gazebo, here the Maples are steeped in color, vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, even a little lime green. We walk the hilly terrain reading tombstones dating back to the 1800’s, many are so worn by the elements I can no longer read the inscriptions. At one time it was common to write out the exact age of the deceased–years, months, right down to the number of days. Evergreen and Pines occupy one section, the ground below thick with long brown needles, it is here we discover the headstone belonging to Minoru Yamasaki and his wife Teruko. The man who changed the face of architecture, bringing us buildings such as One Woodward, Mc Gregor Memorial Conference Center on the campus of WSU and of course, most notably, the World Trade Center, is represented here by a simple headstone, a large rock rests adjacent. Tombstones are each unique in design, personal tributes to those who have passed, the grounds here are gorgeous, it’s so peaceful.

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Our journey continues taking us into Lakeville, vintage cars out for a drive pass us  as they head the opposite direction. We hang a right on Main Street, a few old structures remain, the Mill has been recently restored, painted white with red accents. Back on Rochester Rd the street hooks one direction, then another, it’s hilly here, we twist and turn past attractive homesteads, picturesque barns and splendid Fall scenery. In the northern portion of Addison Township we stop at Watershed Preserve, a 229 acre nature preserve with 4 kettle lakes and inter-connected wetlands within rolling glacial moraine deposits. The purpose of the preserve is to protect and preserve this extremely sensitive watershed and wildlife habitat. The wetlands here form the headwaters for the Belle, Clinton and Flint river systems.

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We start out on a grassy trail, referring to the large map of the preserve we choose the orange trail; leaves are just beginning to color, many are still green. The path narrows, we snake our way through the woods to one of the lakes, a dock allows us a closer look at the clear water. The next lake is larger, beavers have built themselves a mansion near the shore, the water is perfectly still, a mirror image of the sky covers the surface of the lake. Kris makes his way to the dock, getting a better look at Loon Lake. The trail changes in elevation as it curls through maturing second-growth forests and meadows, we loop around finding ourselves where we started.

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Our roadtrip continues, we turn left on Dryden Rd, a Porche club is out on a fall color tour, I lost count after 40 cars.  We are immersed in splendid scenery; silos peek out from dried-up cornstalks, long-standing churches charm us as we pass, Oaks and Maples are showy with color. We stop at High Street Eatery in Metamora for lunch, the taupe and white building resembles a home more than a business. Menu selections are made from scratch, in house, bread and baked goods come from Crust in Fenton. We sit in the front room with a pretty view looking out onto the street.

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The special of the day is an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, we order ours on the Saskatoon Prairie Seed bread, the turkey is moist, there’s just enough gravy. A generous portion of mashed potatoes, stuffing and corn also share the plate. Our Michigan salad arrives at the same time, a heap of greens is topped with apples, walnuts dried cherries and a tasty vinaigrette, everything is delicious. It has been a day well-spent in nature enjoying scenic roads that rise and fall, coiling through beautiful countryside. It’s a delightful time of year to get out and enjoy the beauty.

 

Along The St. Clair…..

22 Sep

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We are driving up M-29 to the city of Algonac, the water speed capital of the nation. You may not know this but Algonac is the birthplace of America’s supremacy in powerboat racing. The city played a leading role in shipbuilding;  from sailing cargo ships to large pleasure-craft, racing boats and landing craft, including the craft used in the Normandy landing. This is where Chris-Craft was born; in 1927 Chris-Craft was recognized as the world’s largest builder of mahogany-constructed power boats. Between 1921-1932 Christopher Smith (Chris-Craft) and Garfield Wood built 10 Miss America’s in Algonac. Gar Wood established the world water speed record of 124.91 miles per hour in 1932 in the Miss America X.

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Just last summer the Algonac-Clay Historical Society opened a Maritime Museum right on St Clair River Drive in a building donated by Fifth-Third Bank, let’s have a look. The 8,300 sq ft space is loaded with nautically themed displays; several boats are set atop water-like flooring, easels display photos, brochures and newspaper clippings, walls are covered in framed boat designs, photographs and flags. Placards tell the stories of the boats; Winning Ticket was won in a local raffle in 1949–check out the vintage Vernor’s cooler. The Aqua Lady is a cool 19 ft Sports Express Cruiser made by Chris-Craft in 1958 as a kit boat. The inside looks surprisingly roomy; a 2-burner stove, storage and banquettes surrounding a table, pretty cozy! Last Gar is a gorgeous wooden boat with an interesting tale to go with it. Outboard motors, racing boats and a showcase filled with trophies are at our disposal, I learned that Gar Wood won the coveted Harmsworth Trophy 8 times.

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On display is a boat dashboard; covered in gauges, shifters, controls and a steering wheel, visitors take a turns being captain. Further on we find another Chris-Craft Kit Boat, this one built by the Algonac High School shop class, next to it is a boat from 1909, both look brand new! There are model ships, a workbench with tools, more literature and facts on Chris-Craft manufacturing. Engines and replacement parts give us insight on what we cannot see ordinarily, it’s fascinating to be able to see the boats up close, there’s so much detail.

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Outside, we make our way to the riverfront, the 1800 ft long boardwalk offers benches that overlook the lovely blue water. We sit and watch as the City of Algonac ferry transports cars across the St. Clair River to Canada and Walpole Island; pleasure boats zip across the water under the afternoon sun. Time to head north. Back on M-29 we pass the house that Gar Wood once lived in; I like being able to connect the past to the present.

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We are having lunch waterside at Anita’s Riverfront Grille in Marine City. The patio is host to picnic tables with umbrellas that hug a view of the river, colorful flowers and vines topple over the sides of planters, live music is provided by a singer playing guitar. We sip on cold drinks as freighters float downriver, swimsuit-clad boaters skip over the water’s surface in speedboats, smaller boats take a more casual approach, checking out the shoreline as they pass. Our Combo Platter arrives, we waste no time digging in. The wet burrito has a chunky sauce with beans, very tasty, The chicken enchilada and soft taco disappear quickly as does the rice and beans. 

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Today we are visiting the Mariner, a former movie palace built in 1927. The current owner completely restored the building which is now home to the RMS Titanic exhibit and multi-use venue that houses fine models, historical items, antiques and art. A new period marquee welcomes visitors, a 1917 popcorn machine and peanut roaster reside in the lobby area, 46 original 1930’s style mohair theater seats have been installed along with antique light fixtures. The place is pretty amazing. We begin our visit in the galleries; each one displays the finest quality models of automobiles, ships, aircraft and locomotives, the detail is unbelievable. America-themed posters hang on the walls, shelves are lined with books, there’s a jukebox, a transparent clock tower with a bell and a cuckoo clock. Case to case we study miniature war ships, farm equipment, engines and machinery, all are available for purchase. 

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The main attraction, of course, is the exhibit: Titanic – The Building Of An Icon. First a quick review: The Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, it was the largest passenger steamship in the world at the time. On April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg, broke into 2 pieces and sank in 2 hours and 40 minutes. In 1995 the builders of the Titanic approached Fine Art Models (of Marine City) to build the “builders model” of the Titanic. “One very important fact surrounding this model is that by agreement with Harland and Wolff, this model would never be displayed with the artifacts brought up from the Titanic gravesite. Furthermore, the exhibit of this model would never be seen as an effort to profit from this tragic event.” The model has traveled to museums and charitable events across the United States, raising over $5 million to date for non-profits and charitable organizations.

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The 18 ft, 1500 lb Titanic model is housed in a glass case, it is the centerpiece of the gallery. We walk around looking at actual photos of the interior and exterior of the ship, reading placards, getting our fill of information before really examining the ship. Completed in 2002, it took 7 years to build the model; artisans worked directly with the original builders, using original drawings. The decking is real wood, so is the deck furniture, the entire superstructure is constructed of brass, 3,376,000 rivets (yes, that’s 3 MILLION) are all placed in their correct location, it boggles the mind. Looking at the model it’s easy to imagine the excitement the passengers must have felt boarding this remarkable vessel, I can almost picture well-dressed couples, strolling arm-in-arm on deck. The story of the Titanic has captured the attention of people all over the world for decades, what an incredible opportunity this is to see the legendary ship (in miniature, of course) up close, to take it in, knowing its ultimate fate.

CLEVELAND: Art, History And A Grilled Cheese Sandwich…….

10 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland where new and exciting things are going on all over the city. Today we’re on the East side, University Circle, re-visiting a couple of museums that have undergone recent renovations. The Crawford Auto Aviation Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society was founded by industrialist Frederick C Crawford of TRW and opened in 1965. Exhibits trace the automobile through its development in Ohio and across the nation. John D Rockefeller, who attended Cleveland Central High School and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, founded Standard Oil in Cleveland, the city comes by its automotive history naturally. We begin our visit on the lower level, with the newest exhibit, REVolution. With about 50 automobiles on display we see the evolution of design and technology from the 1890’s to the 21st century. 

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Paint jobs gleam under halogen lights, vehicles are gathered into groups, a replica Standard Oil Company gas station complete with vintage gas pump is off to one side, historic photos of Cleveland have been enlarged big enough to cover walls. We meander through the maze of cars, chrome bumpers are huge, hood ornaments elaborate, all the cars in one section are made of stainless steel. Vehicles wear name badges of Studebaker, Pierce Arrow, Auburn, Hupmobile and more familiar ones such as GTO, Impala, Cadillac and Belvedere. The wood on the Chrysler Town & Country is beautiful, the concept AMX is really cool.

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The ‘Road Trip’ display includes the Jordan House car, an early version of a camper, there’s an old trailer too; the Need for Speed section highlights race cars. The World Touring Hupmobile has survived its travels, we see a Stanley Steamer, a turbine car engine, vehicles that ran on alternative fuels; we learn about tires and check out accessories that at one time had to be purchased separately but are now standard equipment, I’m talking bumpers, headlights, even windshields!

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Upstairs, Setting the World in Motion is all about northeast Ohio’s impact on the automobile and aviation industries in the first half of the 20th century. By the 1930’s over 100 automobile manufacturers called this area home. There are about 50 vehicles on display, each manufactured in Cleveland. Roscoe Turner’s only surviving Wendell Williams model 44 looks as though it’s flying through the room, Turner broke the world speed record in 1933. The gondola from the “Spirit of Goodyear” blimp was active for 31 years and flew over such events as the Kentucky Derby, the US Open tennis matches, NFL and MLB games, you wouldn’t get me up in that thing!

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In the old days, entertainment was often based on transportation; air shows, car races and the like. Cleveland was home to National Air Races and the Great Lakes Exposition in the late 20’s and 30’s with Lake Erie serving as a stunning backdrop. Free tickets for the air shows were dropped from planes with little parachutes attachedI love the collection of souvenirs on display; programs, posters advertising Billy Rose’s Aquacade, drinking glasses, spoons and numerous trinkets. We have reached the newest addition to the museum, a glass pavilion built to house the newly restored Euclid Beach Grand Carousel.

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To me nothing defines the mood or character of the early 1900’s better than an old-fashioned carousel; this one is gorgeous! We received tokens to ride when we paid our admission, now we choose from 58 hand-carved, hand-painted wooden horses. The ride begins, we rise and fall to carnival-type music while passing scenes depicting Euclid Beach Park and other Cleveland icons, a smile crosses the face of every rider…..Come to think of it even the spectators are smiling. This is one of only a few carousels to return to the city where it was originally located, how cool is that?

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Next we make our way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, this will be our first visit since the renovation and expansion project has been completed. The original Neo Classic building opened in 1916, there have been several expansions through the years but nothing like this. Gallery space has been increased by 33%, a 39,000 sq ft glass enclosed atrium has been added to connect the new to the old, there’s a cafe and a 76-seat fine dining restaurant called Provenance; welcome to today’s art museum.We head directly to the atrium and are in awe of what we see, it resembles a plaza or a town square. The glass ceiling allows the light in and affords us a view of the outdoors. Rectangular beds are filled with ground cover in varying shades of green, wood benches give a park-like feel to the space. In the distance dwarf trees bask in sunlight of the day, cafe tables are filled with hungry visitors, a mezzanine level overlooks the activity, the existing 1916 building makes up the south side. 

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Our main focus of the day are the new galleries, we visit the East Wing first. Home to Contemporary and Modern art along with Impressionism, Abstract and Photography, all of our favorites are in the same section. Hardwood floors lead us down long hallways, in and out of spacious galleries, past Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Anselm Kiefer. We check out Rebecca Norris Web’s photography exhibit, My Dakota, before moving on.

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Though we have visited the museum a number of times, no visit would be complete without walking through the Armor Court, we have great affection for the original building and the rotunda, it’s wonderful. While we’re here who can resist Tiffany or Faberge? The West Wing is also new, the ‘glass box’ is a gallery in which all four walls are entirely glass; it’s like being in the middle of an amazing garden that just happens to have spectacular Indian and Southeast Asian sculptures set about on pedestals, wow! Kris and I are extremely impressed with the transformation, if you’re in Cleveland you have to check it out. 

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Time for lunch, we are headed to another Cleveland original: Melt Bar and Grilled on Detroit Ave in Lakewood. The restaurant space is decked out in quirky, eclectic items like vintage outdoor lighted decorations such as snowmen, pumpkins, penguins and the Easter Bunny; it works great with the antique tin ceiling. Owner Matt Fish takes ordinary grilled cheese sandwiches and elevates  them to gourmet with combinations like the Parmageddon with potato and onion perogi, kraut, sauteed onion and sharp cheddar or the Lake Erie Monster with crispy battered jumbo cod, sweet slaw, jalapeno tartar sauce and american cheese. There are dozens of combinations to choose from or create your own.

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We are seated at a table near the bar, we’re hungry so we concentrate on the menu and make a quick decision. First out is the Attack of the Green Tomato: battered, fried green tomatoes covered with an outstanding southern herb remoulade, topped off with fire-roasted corn salsa, delicious. Our Hot Italian Grilled Cheese arrives, it’s huge! Honey ham, pepperoni, salami, basil marinara, roasted garlic, banana peppers, provolone and romano on fresh-baked grilled bread sprinkled with herbs and grated cheese, excellent. If you’re a beer drinker, you may be interested to know they also offer 150 beer selections—-seriously. It’s been another great weekend in Cleveland, the city has a lot to offer without all the hassle and expense of those bigger cities people flock to. Only about 3 hours from Detroit it makes for a fun, easy get-away.