Tag Archives: History

Canton Ohio: Cool Old Stuff

23 Jan

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Today we are meeting the city of Canton. We’ve traveled extensively through Ohio but somehow never managed to visit this city. When you hear Canton the first thing you think of is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we’ll get to that. First we’re going to dig into the city, explore what makes Canton unique. Kris came across the name of a shop claiming to be Ohio’s largest dealer selling Mid-Century Modern furniture and decorative arts; Main St Modern, here we come!

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We come into the city from the west and the south, we’re in an old industrial area; train tracks, abandoned buildings, empty lots. An ancient brown brick structure looms ahead, we’ve arrived. The building is huge, 40,000 sq. ft, windows have been boarded up, Rebecca greets us as we enter the building. I look from one side to the other, a blur of color, cool shapes and designs fill my view as far as I can see; there are three floors to explore. I’m guessing this is an old factory, paint peels off exposed rafters, the wood floor creeks under our feet. Individual pieces and vignettes of living and dining rooms are set up on carpet remnants; well-known brands share floor space with knock-offs. There are so many outstanding pieces, fabrics with funky designs, stripes and colors. Tables and chairs are trimmed out in chrome, glass tabletops are available for a dining room or coffee table, the legs are always interesting too.

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Plastic was popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, I like the brown circular chairs with the orange cushions. Items are stacked one upon the other, vases and other decorative items rest on dressers, buffets and china cabinets; we look through stacks of vintage paint-by-numbers. Chairs hang from beams, bicycles are mounted on a wall, lamps are abundant, couches are everywhere. Chairs are made of smoky lucite, bar carts hold cocktail shakers, furniture is odd-shaped, we’ve always liked large pieces of metal wall art. We’ve covered all three floors, sadly we’re not bringing anything home but it’s been fun going back in time to the days of shag rugs, tulip chairs and chrome. Were heading downtown where we’ve got lots more to see.

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The Canton Classic Car Museum is much more than a simple car museum, it’s more like a tribute to all things Canton. Marshall Belden was the great-nephew of President William McKinley, this building holds Belden’s classic and special interest autos and thousands of pieces of historical memorabilia he and his wife collected throughout their lives. From Tonka trucks and Hot Wheels to fabulous fashions, vintage advertising and political memorabilia, this place is fascinating!

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Just inside the door we are greeted by a 1901 Oldsmobile with the famous curved dash, historic photos and memorabilia cover every inch of wall space, antique light fixtures illuminate the room, there’s so much to look at. The building was built in 1900 by George Monnot as a bicycle shop that also sold Indian Motorcycles. With the Lincoln Highway just 6 blocks away he turned the building into a 24-hour auto repair shop. In 1914 Monnot decided to sell Ford Model T’s; unable to afford complete cars he and Henry Ford agreed to send parts by train which Monnot’s employees would assemble by hand then place on the showroom floor. This was the largest Ford dealership from 1914-1931–who knew? Walking slowly we make our way to the Canton Room, a 1937 Studebaker bullet-proof police car takes center stage, back in the 1920’s and 30’s gang violence, racketeering and bootlegging was commonplace; they say sightings of John Dillenger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Ma Barker’s Gang were not unusual. The vehicle has 1-inch-thick bullet-resistant glass with a closeable Tommy gun porthole. We read that at one time Canton was a manufacturing powerhouse; home to the Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Company, Tiemken Steel, Belden Brick and Diebold– maker of bank vaults, electronic voting devices and ATM’s, which is still located here. 

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Vehicles intermingle with Oriental rugs, historic photographs, nostalgic pieces from Meyer’s Lake Park, elegant ladies’ hats and gloves. The 1937 Packard Hearse has hand-carved mahogany body panels. An orange 1970 Plymouth Superbird is parked on the original tile floor. They have a Bonneville, a Coupe de Ville, a 1937 Cord, an original 1937 Ahrens-Fox Quad fire truck and Walter P Chrysler’s swanky burgundy 1932 custom Chrysler Imperial. In another area a Pee Wee Herman doll drives a Midget race car, a grouping of coin-operated machines can do everything from telling your horoscope to showing a movie, a traffic light is a must in a car museum.

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Wagons, sleds and birdcages live side by with movie and circus posters, a motor analyzer, one beautiful car after another including a Holmes automobile manufactured right here in Canton; at one time the were 7 auto manufactures here in town. One are is dedicated to President William McKinley, this was his adopted home and where he lived while he was governor and campaigning for the presidency. I poke my head into the Director’s office and meet Char, Canton’s most enthusiastic keeper of history. I ask questions and listen intently to her stories of local families, mysteries, inventions and wealth; I could listen to her talk all day but Kris and I are starving. She’s given us the name of the perfect place to have lunch in Canton, I’ll tell you all about it next time…

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.

 

DEARBORN: Goin’ Back In Time

7 Jul

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Everybody knows there are four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall; here in Detroit we have a fifth…….Vintage Car Season! Like Spring, it starts slowly, you see an old car here and there, by the time June rolls around convertible tops are down, enthusiastic owners are out for leisurely drives on sunny days, cruise nights and car shows are in full swing. One of the best shows around, Motor Muster is held annually at Greenfield Village. This is no ordinary car show, no sir, it’s a celebration of the grandest eras of automotive history, 1933-1976, spread out across 80 acres of Henry Ford’s testament to American life. It’s Father’s Day weekend and we know The Henry Ford is going to be a madhouse, we just didn’t know how much of a madhouse…..We pulled into the grounds and drove toward the parking lot, cars were already parking on the grass, this was going to be a challenge. After driving through every parking lot, to no avail, we joined the host of other vehicles parked on the lawn and made the long (I mean really long!) trek to the entrance; yes, it’s worth it!

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Motor Muster is totally unique; here we wander through streets laden with historic structures such as the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory and the home where Noah Webster wrote the first dictionary. On top of that, nearly 1000 vehicles, grouped by model year, are parked along streets, in front of buildings and in grassy areas, it’s amazing! We are walking in no particular order; Kris leads the way, he has a vast knowledge of automobiles so I am always asking him questions. The amount of chrome is staggering, nameplates are large and make a statement, hood ornaments are super cool from birds and flying ladies to rocket ships. We get a good look at finned cars, the tail lights are fantastic, very space-age, headlights are pretty awesome too!  I love the details; badges that call out cubic inches or special features ie “Air Conditioned by Ford Select Aire”, it’s easy to forget what a work of art automobiles were. You don’t have to be an enthusiast to have a pretty good idea of what era a car is from; vehicles from the 30’s sport Art Deco styling, the 40’s cars are voluptuous, turquoise, pink, baby blue and mint were popular colors in the 50’s, big chrome bumpers, grill and trim decorated models from the 60’s and of course, wild colors, bold stripes and big engines populated the muscle cars of the 70’s.

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There’s a lot to take in, folks make a real show of their displays; vintage coolers, picnic baskets, suitcases, are laid out on red and white checked tablecloths. A live band plays music under the gazebo, men and women dressed in vintage attire roam the streets. A large section is dedicated to military vehicles—-I had no idea how many were privately owned. Men dressed as soldiers hold plates while waiting in line for their afternoon meal in a make-shift camp, a lock box holds a serviceman’s treasures: cigarettes, candy bars, photos and medals; a hundreds-of-years old windmill turns in the background. As we wander by Tea at Cotswold Cottage (bummer, they’re full up) we notice a historic 1867 baseball game taking place under today’s flawless blue sky, we take a seat in folding chairs and watch as the Lah-De-Dahs take on the BBC of Mt Clemens; life was much simpler then. After a brief rest we are back among vintage bicycles, fabulous dashboards, Woodies, fire engines and a spiffy 1947 Vernor’s delivery truck.  Cars have a way of telling stories of both the owners and the times; it’s s fun-filled day for all who attend. 

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We zig and zag through the streets of Greenfield Village passing a 1954 Kaiser Darrin, a Lincoln with suicide doors, Packards, an Oldsmobile 98 turned ambulance, oh, and the Mercury station-wagon with the woodgrain on the sides is pretty groovy. We see Thunderbirds, Chargers, Pacers and Pintos, even an old Good Humor ice cream truck! When we reach Main Street the Pass and Review is in process; this is where a parade of cars drive down the street, each one stopping as an expert explains the significance of the car, kind of like a fashion show. Surviving the decades, each one has its own story. We catch a neat old red Jeep, a few other cars pass, then it’s the running of  the Mustangs; led by the Mustang II prototype, a group of the mid-60’s beauties parade in all their 50th anniversary glory while photographers snap photos, it’s all very glamorous. Sure it’s a dream show for gear heads, car lovers and automotive connoisseurs, but more than that, it’s something we can all relate to; in Detroit, cars have always been a part of our lives, automobiles are more than merely transportation—- they mark the time, ignite our memories and make us smile.

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Miller’s Bar has occupied the same building on Michigan Ave in Dearborn since 1941, the reason? Their ‘World Famous Ground Round’. I think it’s more than that…… Miller’s is a cool old bar; stained glass lights hang over booths with deep red leather seats, a 1940’s Brunswick wood bar gleams in high gloss, there’s not a window in the place, or a menu for that matter. When we arrive there are only a couple of open tables; Tiger’s fans sit at the bar and take in the game while having an icy cold beer, family’s and a youth baseball team crowd the tables in back. As soon as we sit, our waitress takes our drink order and asks if we have any questions. She explains the burgers are served on a steamed bun, you can have it with or without cheese ( choose from Swiss or Velveeta). Mustard, ketchup and pickles are on the table, side orders include fries and onion rings, doesn’t get much better than that! Our burgers arrive lightning fast, they come on a white sheet of wax paper, a slice of onion on the side. We dress them up to our liking and share the sides; it’s hard to beat a good burger, and this is really one of the best! The second generation of Miller’s now run the place, it hasn’t missed a beat in all these years. The bar is run on the honor system, when we are finished I walk over to the bartender, tell him what we had and pay the tab,  just like the good ol’ days!

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