Tag Archives: Ohio Roadtrip

OHIO: A day in Oberlin

16 Jun

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Road trips have always been a part of my life. When I was growing up vacations were taken in the family car; my dad loved driving out on the open road, my mom would sit in the passenger seat, map in hand guiding him along. On summer days my mom would load my sister and I into the car and take rides in the country; our rides always resulted in an ice cream cone or a root beer at the A&W Drive-In. I did not inherit the driving gene, or the map reading gene, for that matter; but I did marry a man who is happiest behind the wheel. There’s nothing more American than a trunk-load of clothes, bags of goodies, a road atlas, a full tank of gas and a sense of adventure!

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In the last post we were on our way to Cleveland to visit with friends for a couple of days; we had a great time as always. Now we are making our way back to Detroit. Driving southwest out of Cleveland we are heading to Oberlin, Ohio; Frank Lloyd Wright’s (FLW) Weltzheimer/Johnson house is open for public tours today, we’re gonna check it out. In less than an hour we have arrived in the college town of Oberlin; several blocks from campus we park in front of the first Usonian house in Ohio and one of the few in the country open to the public. The L-shaped home is set far back from the street on a sprawling, green lawn. Designed in 1947, completed in 1949 the building is constructed of brick, masonry, and redwood, the house sits low on the horizon; a flat roof and cantilevered car port give it a distinctly modern feel. As we get closer we notice the hundreds of stained croquet balls that form the roof dentil ornamentation; the circular motif is carried on throughout the home. At the side entrance we each pass over $5.00 to gain entry. My first impression of the interior is that it is long and narrow, in typical Wright fashion, tight spaces lead into grand ones; here we are led into the family room, a large, open, but cozy area. Floors are stained concrete slab throughout, furniture is built in, one wall is floor to ceiling glass, doors open out to the front landscape, a red brick fireplace anchors one side of the room. The ceiling is wood, thin strips of molding add a decorative touch.

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The kitchen is closed in except for an open section between brick columns that separate the work space from the living room. The counters are low, they’d be perfect for someone short, like me, colors are earth-tones, work space is set up in conjunction with the location of sink, fridge and stove. Back in the long hallway, my attention is drawn to the shelves that line the length of the wall, above them clerestory windows are covered with wood panel screens, here the circular motif is once again present. FLW had a way of making a residence feel homey and comfortable; maybe it’s the materials he used, or the colors, whatever it is I always feel like I could just sit down and read a book or have a cup of coffee when I’m in one of his houses. Kris is well ahead of me, there is nobody else down at the far end of the house, he can get some good shots of the rooms. There are 4 bedrooms; beds and desks are built-in, the master has a bathroom en-suite, along with a fireplace just like the one in the family room. Interior walls are horizontal wood pieces, the exterior wall is glass with a door that opens out to the common space. Again we find colors of brown, gold, rust and bittersweet; floors have radiant heat to keep the home warm. The original family lived here until 1963, at one time developers “remodeled” the home, they painted the entire interior white–gasp!! In 1968 Art History Professor Ellen Johnson purchased and restored the house, she died in 1992, leaving the house to Oberlin College to serve as a guesthouse for the Art Department and Art Museum; it’s wonderful the house remains open to the public.  Ok, enough of that, we’re hungry, time to head downtown….

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 It is Commencement weekend at Oberlin College, people are everywhere; Kris sees and open parking space and grabs it, Tree Huggers Cafe is right across the street, perfect, let’s have lunch. The little cafe is just below street level, windows look up and out to the sidewalk. Refrigerated cases hold bowls filled with varieties of cold salads, entrée’s and desserts. Standing at the counter we read the list of today’s specials, place our order then have a seat—it feels good to sit down. In no time at all a server brings us a black bean burger with a nice-size helping of orzo salad and a green salad topped with chilled shrimp, goat cheese and berries. The restaurant serves organic, vegan and vegetarian selections; seafood is wild-caught, produce is local, I can tell you, everything was delicious!

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 Oberlin itself was the birthplace of the modern aluminum refining process that made the metal economic for industrial use, the city was Station #99 on the Underground Railroad. The college was the first American Institute of Higher Learning to regularly admit African-American and female students in addition to white males, the first African-American graduated in 1844; this was also the home of the first co-ed dorm in the US (1970). 39 buildings in Oberlin are designated as “Oberlin Historic Landmarks”, 20 of those are also on the National Register Of Historic Places; an interesting place, no doubt! The busy downtown runs several blocks; it looks like Main Street USA, very cute and tree-lined.We begin our walk around the picture-postcard-looking campus; architecture is a mix of old and new, plain and fancy, it’s all gorgeous. One building, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, with its multiple arches, has a familiarity to it—turns out it was designed by Cass Gilbert (Detroit Public Library). Built in the Italian Renaissance style, the museum is said to be one of the five best college and university art museums in the nation, let’s go in. The main gallery is an open space, sunlight streams in through the windows, the ceiling is coffered and dark, archways on both sides lead to narrow halls. The Gilbert Galleries house the Old Master’s and 19th Century paintings, sculpture and decorative arts. On the second level, two Juliet balconies jut out from opposing walls, giving visitors an overall view. In 1977 an addition was built to house Modern and Contemporary Art; they have some great whimsical pieces. Right next door is Hall Auditorium, a cool modern-looking structure designed by Wallace Harrison in 1953.

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Buildings on campus were built from 1887 to well into the 1970’s. We walk along past solid structures, thick and chunky looking they are made of textured buff Ohio Sandstone, they resemble the Romanesque style. In some, the doors are unlocked, giving us the opportunity to check out the insides; beautiful wood, antique chandeliers and fireplaces are not uncommon. To our surprise there are 3 Yamasaki buildings on campus, including the Conservatory of Music (1964); they all feature the signature Yamasaki concrete grates that cover the windows, one reminds me a bit of the Gothic style, these were all done before the World Trade Center. Definitely a walking campus, there is a serenity and calmness  to the overall design; it’s interesting to walk past a 1963 Yamasaki building next door to something constructed in the late 1800’s. There’s another Gilbert building that looks like a miniature version of our library, the Carnegie Library was built in 1908. There are great wooden doors, fabulous torchiers, pretty lamposts, turrets and spires, we walked until we could walk no more!

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We are still a few hours from home, time to continue our journey west. Kris has a great route he knows by heart, lucky for us, it takes us right near the Quarry Hill Winery in Berlin Hts Ohio. Kris grabs a table while I get the wine; I join him at a table on the deck overlooking the orchards; sipping our blueberry wine we relax until dusk, time to go home.

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OHIO: Put-IN-Bay Part II

9 Jun

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We have finished lunch, with a bag of chocolate and a hot cup of coffee we continue our journey on South Bass Island; time to check out downtown. Back on Catawba Street, Kris points our trusty little green cart towards the business district; most of the tourists and summer residents will not arrive until Saturday, there are no crowds and getting around is a breeze. Cafe’s and bars are prevalent, patios are decked out with pots filled with colorful flowers, patrons linger over ice-cold beer at the Put-In-Bay Brewing Company. Buildings are a mix of Victorian and modern structures, souvenir t-shirts and hats hang on racks outside storefronts, a tiki bar complete with sand is doing a good business this afternoon.

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Delaware Ave serves as main street; boutiques, restaurants and bars facing the harbor give visitors an amazing water view. The first thing I notice when we make the turn is the line of golf carts parked along the curb, ours blends in with the other rentals, many independently owned carts are customized to the owners liking. Walking down the street, each establishment we pass has some variety of live music; a row of artificial Palm trees decorate a patio, tourists can indulge in ice cream and pizza. The Round House Bar is intriguing, we have to poke our heads in to check it out; opened in 1873 as the Columbia Restaurant, it remains an island favorite. Built of wood, it is all original except for the interior floor and front porch; inside a red, white and blue canopy is suspended from the ceiling, the round bar sits at the far end of the space, lovely wood moldings still surround the windows and doors, the neon “Whiskey” light above the front door is cool–clearly the ‘chicken patio’ is a new addition. The waterfront is active, a series of construction projects are in the works, the Jet Express has just delivered another group of folks to the island; yes, the summer season has begun!

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With time left before our ferry leaves, Kris is taking the scenic route back; after passing the excitement on the waterfront he turns on to Bay View, the scenery is gorgeous. On the left, a large estate features an elegant yellow house with a three-story tower overlooking the smallest of the Great Lakes. Built in the 1800’s, the Doller House belonged to Valentine Doller, PIB’s wealthiest citizen, it is now home to Put-In-Bay Winery; a glass of wine would be perfect about now. Making our way to the back of the house, we enter the sales and tasting room. Glass in hand we have a seat at one of the tables that sit on the front lawn, we sip our wine and watch the boats, aaahhh, this is the life.

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The rest of the drive takes us through the residential area; tiny cottages are nestled next to modern vacation homes with private beach fronts. Fishing is popular, charter fishing boats do a good business at PIB. The island offers golf, hiking trails, biplane rides, helicopter tours and para-sailing.We find ourselves back where we started, turn in the golf cart and wait to board the ferry; the group headed back to the mainland is small. Back at Catawba the line of cars heading to the island is super long, cars are turned off, people stand near their vehicles taking cold drinks from coolers, talking to others while they wait. We are headed south then east on 163 along the coastline.

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 Sitting in Sandusky Bay, off the coast of Marblehead Peninsula is Johnson’s Island; a causeway takes us to the island for a $2.00 fee. Driving around, we come across a group of homes surrounding a cove; perched high above the water they are expansive, elaborate winding staircases lead from backyard to marina below. Continuing our exploration we spot an old cemetery; a large sign explains that Johnson’s Island was a Confederate Prisoner of War Depot in 1861. This is actually a Confederate cemetery holding the remains of more than 200 men who were imprisoned on the island. The lawn is freshly mowed, slender white headstones form long straight rows, a black iron fence runs the perimeter of the cemetery. We walk over to the statue of a Confederate soldier atop a pedestal, the sun is low in the sky, the statue casts a long shadow across the open gate, a banner reads: Confederate Soldiers 1861-1912. From reading I learn the first prisoners arrived here in April of 1862, captured at battlefields such as Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, they came from the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. In 1864 rations were cut, the prison was overcrowded, in closed in September of 1865; this is considered Ohio’s most significant Civil War site.

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We are back in the car and crossing Sandusky Bay, so far our journey has led us over bridges and causeways crossing bays and lakes; we are not done…. This time we pay the .50 cent toll for the pleasure of driving on yet another causeway: Cedar Point Road; the homes are amazing, as is the lake view. Back on Route 6 we hug the shoreline through tiny beach towns, when we reach Vermilion we stop for a late dinner. I can’t tell you how many times we have passed The Old Prague restaurant, it just so happens it was never at meal time, that is until tonight. Inside the door we are welcomed and seated at a table near the window; I am extremely hungry and thirsty, our server recommends a Primator Premium Dark, a Czech dark lager, how can I go wrong? After quickly scanning the menu and placing our order we watch as heaping plates of food arrive at nearby tables, the place  has the feel of an old-fashioned family restaurant, servers are on first name basis with customers. First to arrive is the sampler plate: breaded  sauerkraut balls, deep-fried slices of meatloaf, cheese sticks, fried potatoes, applesauce and a horseradish-type sauce; every single thing is delicious! The chicken paprikash and dumplings is outstanding, the chicken is moist and just falls apart, the sauce, a creamy goodness, the dumplings, some of the best we’ve ever had. We are still a good hour or more from Cleveland (via the scenic route) where we will be staying with a friend for the next couple of days. The remainder of the ride on the Lake Erie Circle Tour is an old familiar one for us, but one we enjoy each and every time.

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On The Road To Cleveland……

11 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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