26 May 2016

Vincennes: our first territorial capital

One of the most spectacular memorials in Indiana is the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes.  Its location along the Wabash River in Indiana first territorial capital is a fitting site given the importance of the river to the expansion of the country in the old west, now our Midwest.

Just across the lawn north of the memorial is this great bridge crossing the Wabash into Illinois.  Its grand flanking gateway carved with Native Americans is probably my favorite bridge in the state-well, second to the one I proposed to my wife on....I suppose that's my favorite.  While my reason for visiting the city this spring was because of it being the location of Indiana's Historic Preservation Conference, I'm losing a good friend to Vincennes-his hometown, so I'm thinking more visits are in my future.

24 May 2016

Where the Wild Things Are

This is Bandit.  Every night I have to go out and get to the bird feeder and suet before he does.
This little fella swam right past me while I was sitting down by the creek.
I've been roaming our little 8 1/2 acre piece of paradise as the weather warms and the sun has been making its appearance.  I remember the first time we visited Sycamore Hill and being a wildlife lover, I realized pretty quickly that I found "home".  Late spring seems to bring out the very best on the Hill, at least in terms of wildlife.  And with the advantage of phone cameras, I'm usually quick to send my latest sightings off to family and friends.  Now, none of these shots are spectacular, and some you'll just have to take my word for it, but here's a little photo-documentary of where the wild things are....on Sycamore Hill.

The bright red spot is a Scarlet Tanager.  I believe this is what the fortune cookie foretold. 

This is a Mockingbird that's been hanging around the farm.

Thankfully we found enough to make one mess of these tasty morsels.

19 May 2016

Take it to the Ring...er, uh Hoop.

I knew Ted was Cruz'n for a bruisin' in Indiana when he made two fatal mistakes:

1) He told Hoosiers how to vote and
2) He called a basketball hoop a "ring" while trying to channel our favorite pastime to his advantage.

Maybe that's what happens when a transplanted Canadian crosses the border into Indiana.  If you're out campaigning you have to either get it right with the folks you're trying to win over or admit the heck you don't know their culture and move on.  If I ever run for president and go to California to campaign, I'll applaud surfers for their skill but you won't hear me talking about "catching a wave on that floaty thing".

And Hoosiers simply don't like to be told what to do.  Rolling into the primary and saying you struck a deal with John Kasich (my pick) and that his supporters should vote for Cruz I think left an odor most foul.  I think a good deal of uncommitted voters at that point doubled-down and voted for Kasich or thought forget those two and went Trump.

We Hoosiers are a funny bunch.

17 May 2016

Holding Court in Porter & Sullivan Counties

The Porter County Courthouse (above/below) provides the tale of a phoenix, as it were, rising from the ashes.  The courthouse was built in 1883-1885 and designed by John Cochrane of Chicago, responsible for the Illinois State Capitol.  It typified many courthouses of that period with a mansard roof and clock tower.  However, just after Christmas in 1934 the courthouse suffered a major fire bringing the roof and tower down.  The building was substantially rebuilt and a fourth floor added giving the impression of more classically-designed courthouses of that period.

The Sullivan County Courthouse (above and below) with its great rotunda and stained glass dome was built in the Classical style and designed by Vincennes architect John B. Bayard in 1926.  The courthouse is the center of the small southwestern Indiana town taking its name from the county, Sullivan.  This courthouse, along with five others built during the same period, ended the time of classically-inspired design for Indiana's courthouses.

12 May 2016

Pomp and Circumstance(s)

Andrews University graduation outside Pioneer Memorial Chapel

I've been like a kid over celebrating Indiana's bicentennial this year, but 2016 is big in my book for at least two other reasons.  The advantage of graduating from your first four-year stint in college and going to a five-year program at another is that when you celebrate important graduation anniversaries, they are always in the same year.  This year marks the big silver anniversary of 25 years from completing my Business Administration degree from Bethel, and 20 years from completing my Architecture degree from Andrews.  So if you do the math, I spent nine years in college and don't have a "Dr." in front of my name to show for it-or the income for that matter.

Marrying these two degrees with my love for history has allowed me to take what is essentially a hobby and turn it into a career in which I work for myself.  It's just hard to believe it has been this long out of college, even as I look to my 30th high school class reunion next year.  There is no way I am that old.

Bethel College graduation outside of Goodman Auditorium

Unfortunately I don't see any of my old Bethel or Andrews classmates, except for occasional pics on FB.  I miss my archi-friends from Andrews.  I trust you guys are all doing well and changing the physical face of America and beyond for the better with your exceptional talents.  What I wouldn't give for another round table discussion over coffee at the Daybreak.  And I miss many of my Bethel business classmates-it does my heart well to know many of you stayed right here in Indiana to make this a better place.  Happy 20th and 25th everyone-it doesn't quite seem like yesterday, but close enough.

10 May 2016


Man's best friend.

Less than a year after we were married, my wife and I were talking about getting a dog.  We had a house, big backyard, and wanted to practice on a dog before having kids.  So we landed on getting a dachshund and named him Oscar, as in Oscar Meyer Wiener Dog, which we frequently called him.  He was tiny and for several months, was fine with some supervision to stay in the backyard as he did his business.  During the winter the snow was typically higher than him so no worries about escape.  In the spring, we fenced in the backyard and double-checked Oscar's shoulder width to make sure he couldn't wiggle through the wood pickets.

The day we brought Oscar home
On occasion he would escape.  Typically we had to convince a neighbor or guest to call him since he never responded to us.  And he was pretty limber and a jumper-on two occasions we found that he had jumped up onto a dining room chair, then onto the dining room table, to feast on Christmas cookies that had just been frosted or to finish what remained in the bottom of everyone's soup bowls.  He understood the word "DQ" meant a trip in the car to get ice cream.  He also understood squirrel, bath (which he ran from), kids, grandma, bye bye, and snickerdoodle.  And church, he hated church since that meant we'd be gone.

The Easter egg massacre

Hunting eggs
 Our windows in town were tall and nearly reached the floor, which was good for Oscar to run from window to window to bark at pedestrians.  And when the sirens sounded, he ran to the windows in anticipation of seeing flashy red firetrucks speed past the house.  One time when we were in the middle of a remodel project that removed a sinking back concrete porch, he went missing until we heard the whimper of a pup wedged way back under the concrete.  You could barely see him from the hole he squeezed through.  We worked and worked and hours later, after one of our youth group boys was bit trying to get him out, we decided to call in heavy equipment in form a a backhoe.  But, a few more swings of a sledgehammer scared him enough to squeeze back out.  We canceled the backhoe which was en-route.  He loved those youth group boys and showed it best by dribbling just a little on their open-sandled feet when they'd reach down to pet him.

DQ for Oscar's last birthday
Oscar hunted Easter eggs.  No kidding.  We packed plastic eggs with dog treats and jelly beans, and he went on a hunt and rarely needed guidance to find them.  A few years ago he found the stash of empty eggs post-Easter in a bag.  While I was in the shower he had emptied the bag and popped open every one of the eggs.  He had his own Christmas stocking and would sit on his hind legs whining below when we put it up.  We would take him on long walks in town and he pulled us onward.  Once he found a dead frog flattened on the road, which he then proceeded to get flattened in the roof of his mouth.  I had to dig it out.

He and his bear
After we moved to the country I felt a little bad for him.  The windows were too high to see out of and since our yard was so large, we never fenced in a section for him to spend much time outside except while on a leash.  When I quit my job and started working for myself, I put his bed in my office and most of the time that's where he stayed.  He was my only employee.  Since he was older than both of our kids, we told them that Oscar was in charge when my wife and I left them home alone.
Waiting for his Christmas stocking
He stayed in good shape and we kept his weight in check.  When he hurt his back a few years ago and quit walking, he rebounded with a shot but never went up the stairs or jumped onto the couch after that.  We'd take him on walks on the property.  He loved going up the hill to the barn and down the path to the creek.  We pulled off many-a-ticks.  Late last fall he hurt his back again, and had slowed down considerably; we debated, but thought he might rebound well with a shot again.  He did, somewhat, but by February he was struggling to walk and we found him trapped beneath chair rungs or in corners.  It was tough, but we didn't want to see him in pain.  He had a good, long 16 1/2 years.  It is quiet now in my office-no longer the clop clop of his paws walking across the wood floors while I type away.  I do miss him.

05 May 2016

Vacation 2015

You know you're getting behind on your blog when vacation posts are nearly a year old.

By the end of June last year I had realized that I had not taken off a single day yet that year.  The rest of the family had managed to spend time in Florida, twice for one, and they weren't nearly as interested in a family vacation that summer.  I was.  So we set aside three days of rest and relaxation in southwest Indiana.  Where it rained.  Nearly non-stop.  Still, it was a great time at Spring Mill State Park, German food in Jasper, Holiday World and the Lincoln Boyhood National Monument.  A photo-log of our trip:

They recreated a photo from 2004

Rain created a swollen mill race at Spring Mill

Doorway at Spring Mill

Recreated Abraham Lincoln Cabin

Lincoln Boyhood Home National Monument

Gettin' their German on in Jasper

Gloomy skies over the inn at Spring Mill State Park

03 May 2016

Hiram Lyon Cabin, c. 1846

I get pretty regular calls from concerned individuals asking "what are you going to do about ____" fill in about any historic building.  That occurred early in 2016 concerning a log cabin that I have had my eye on ever since it was partially uncovered by the owner in the late 1990s.  I went with another preservation professional to take a look at the cabin that the owner now wants to remove.

From some preliminary research, it looks like the cabin dates to 1846, and was built by Hiram Lyon, who with two other gentlemen petitioned to have West Township cut off from Center Township.  Lyon, himself, became the first trustee.  A saw mill was operating in the area beginning in 1840, which could have provided the floors, doors, and the framing for the gables/roof as was noted in a brief characterization of the mill that it provided such mill work used in "crude cabins of the pioneers".  The cabin is one-and-a-half stories with two rooms over two rooms, though this division may have been made during c. 1880, as trim work and doors in the cabin would suggest.

We found one organization that was interested in taking it, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.  I've always felt that with the extensive amount of state wetlands in our area, we should have a nature center of sorts for wildlife viewing and interpretation.  This cabin would be perfect.  Better yet, the bulk of the acreage of the Lyon property is now owned by the DNR.  But alas, again, IDNR would not permit a structure to be moved onto its property due to origin of funding.

There are other locations that this cabin could be relocated and used to tell the pioneer story of West Township, in the home of its first trustee, for future generations.  Does anyone have $30k for its relocation and restoration?

28 April 2016

Gene Stratton Porter's Limberlosts

Limberlost Cabin, Geneva
Hoosier-born Gene Stratton Porter was an author and early naturalist who shined a bright light on the loss of natural places in late 19th and early 20th century Indiana.  It was at that time that massive acres of wetlands were being drained in favor of farming, and was a few decades before the movement to preserve natural areas in the state with the founding of the state park system in 1916.  Porter lived in Geneva at a rustic home she designed and called "Limberlost Cabin", taking its name from the Limberlost Swamp nearby.  Later in life she built a similar home in Rome City on Sylvan Lake on property she called Wildflower Woods and dubbed the home Limberlost North.

Limberlost North, Rome City

On a birding expedition to the growing re-establishment of the Limberlost wetlands area near Geneva, we stopped by her home in December.  Work took me to Rome City early this year and I stopped by her later home on a snowy day to capture additional photos.  Here's a photo log of Porter's two homes.

26 April 2016

Benefits of self-sufficient children

One of the great joys in realizing you have raised children who can be self-sufficient is that moment when you feel like you can start going on dates again with your wife.  That's where we were at last summer when the world opened up to us once more and we were able to do everything from taking in an art show in St. Joe, hiking Potato Creek, catching a Garrison Keillor show at the state fair and going away for our anniversary.

My wife and I are actually doing things that we once did before we were married, before kids, without having to pack animal crackers and bailing on a program due to stinky pants.  It's like we're human again.  All of this came with a realization for me, though, that these times are fleeting-that our kids have grown up way too fast, particularly as one begins driving this summer.

Still, not worrying about bedtime (well, at least not their bedtime), has its benefits.  And earlier this month we went to see the Band Perry in Wabash.......on a Thursday!  Would have never dreamed of that a few short years ago.

21 April 2016

Kayaking Wythougan

Here's a photo-log of my kayaking/photography trip down the Yellow River (Wythougan in Native American) last Fall with a buddy, who is a far better photographer than I am.  We're fortunate here in River City to have such a great river that features some really wonderful historic bridges.  It was a great float, until we realized we needed about an extra hour of daylight to make it back to my truck.

19 April 2016

Garrett Post Office

I'm starting to be able to spot these things a mile away, post offices built during the Depression that feature Public Works of Art Project murals.  I was in Garrett late last summer to look at a theater project and their post office caught my eye.  Sure enough, it had one of Indiana's 36 extant post office murals.  This one recalls the city's great railroad past.  The following is from a piece I wrote about Rensselaer's mural:

The Public Works of Art Project was formed on December 8, 1933, as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program to pull the country out of the dire economic conditions brought on by the stock market crash in 1929.  On the December 8th date, a meeting was held by the Treasury Department’s Advisory Committee on Fine Arts which also included First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt and the directors of eight major museums of art in the United States.  The goal was to employ artists in the decoration of public buildings and parks. To participate, artists had to prove that they were unemployed and qualified to produce works of art that would benefit public property.  Following the success of other New Deal programs, the Works Progress Administration was formed in 1935 and included under its auspices the Division of Professional and Service Projects with four programs: art, music, literature, and drama. The Federal Art Project was designed for the production of art among other related functions.

The Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., established a Section of Painting and Sculpture to employ artists for producing work for public buildings in 1935 after funding for the Public Works of Art Project was withdrawn.  The founder of the Public Works of Art Project, Edward Bruce, was chosen to direct the program. To achieve the goal of exposing the public to good art, post offices were selected because of high volume of use.  Bruce commented in a letter to President Roosevelt that placing art in post offices would carry out his “dream of letting simple people all over the country see at least one thing of beauty.”

Thirty-seven murals were commissioned for Indiana post offices.  Thirty-six are extant.  The first mural was installed in the Lafayette post office in 1936 and the last was installed in Monticello in 1942, one year before the Treasury Department program would end.

Garrett is located in west central DeKalb County. The town was platted by Beverly Randolph, the son of James Randolph, the chief engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The town was platted in 1875, shortly after the railroad was constructed through DeKalb County, and was named for John Garrett, the president of the railroad.  Lots were sold immediately and a rush to create a new commercial and shipping center with access to the railroad occurred in the town genuinely developed by and for the railroad.  By 1913 Garrett’s population was nearly 5,000.  The town was incorporated as a city in 1893.

Some of the more significant public works developed in Garrett  at the turn of the century were the city’s water and light company plant that was established in 1896.  There were nine miles of water lines included in the city’s water system.  By 1912, the city had developed a boulevard lighting system.  The city had three miles of paved streets and five miles of sewerage under the streets by 1913.  The city constructed a new city hall in 1913 and a Carnegie library by 1914.  One of the largest public buildings in the city is the Sacred Heart Hospital which was constructed in 1902.