27 April 2011

Monterey Bandstand

There are so few of these historic little Victorian-era bandstands remaining in Indiana. It was refreshing to see this little guy as I rounded the corner and found it standing in the middle of Kleckner Park on the banks of the Tippecanoe in the little town of Monterey in northeastern Pulaski County. In 1982 David Dixon created a survey of bandstands in central and northern Indiana; only 14 were accounted for and Monterey's was the only one of the Victorian period, constructed in about 1910.

Communities used the structures for town bands, orators and politicians to entertain or connect with the public. Town bands became particularly popular during the late 1800s and into the early part of the 1900s and drove the need for many of these structures as performance stages in public spaces. The architectural type also followed the garden city, or city beautiful, concept of creating public places of respite or recreation. Such places as parks and public squares required an elevated place for viewing or from which to view the surrounding area. The bandstands were places to see and be seen. No doubt, the burgeoning little town of Monterey needed one of these public spaces and in the early 20th century Adam Kleckner donated a four acre tract of ground to the Town of Monterey for use as a park on the opposite side of the Tippecanoe River. The bandstand quickly followed.

Very little is known about the man who was the builder of the Monterey Bandstand. Abraham R. Hay was born in Indiana in 1852. His father was a native of Pennsylvania and his mother was a native of Germany. Hay was living in Pulaski County when his wife, Isabelle, filed for divorce in 1875; at that time Hay would have been approximately 23 years old. Abraham Hay is listed in the 1910 census for Monterey as a boarder. He was living with Mary Eikelburner, age 65, and her son and his family. Their residence was 52 Main Street. Hay’s marital status is listed as divorced; his occupation is listed as “carpenter of houses” and he was actively working at the time of the census. Abraham Hay died on September 3, 1939.

18 April 2011

Bethel II

By my Senior year at Bethel a group spun off of our new Circle K Club to operate the Acorn, though that board and the club’s board shared some members….me being one. Fred became a good friend of mine; he was a fellow business major and Senior, and he became the president of the K club while I was treasurer. Faith also became a good friend and served as either vice-president or secretary, I don't recall but frankly she picked up everything Fred and I didn't do. I was the main manager of the Acorn, with a number of others heading up other areas. It was my time with the group managing the Acorn that brings back the best memories from my Senior year. We brought in a juke box, revamped the kitchen to offer actual food, instituted “Saturday Night Live at the Acorn”, obviously a spin off a program on NBC that will go unnamed in case of copyright infringement. We invited bands and had talent nights and packed the student union. And we actually were making money-well, the student union was. My good friends and cohorts were Scott and Ingrid (who became Mrs. Scott), Amy, and Mark. And by the way, this Acorn has no ties to local terrorist organizations, not that I was aware of anyway.

By my Senior year Bethel was brought back from the brink. Student enrollment was up to about a thousand, a few thousand short of today's enrollment, and discussions began about how to plan the campus for the future. I ran for Senior class treasurer and won, and by virtue of my role with the Acorn was able to sit in student leadership meetings. I was nominated for Homecoming King, but fell short with the votes, probably 15 like in my council race! I think I lost it with my “blood for oil” comment concerning the Persian Gulf War during the assembly interview. Still, it was an honor being the only off-campus student nominated for the court. Speaking of court, it was the Bethel basketball games that really got the heart pumpin’ and probably had the best influence on student morale.

Mark, from the Acorn, was a class A prankster and looking back, though I don’t regret anything, I realize we could have gotten into serious trouble. Besides dumpster diving abroad, we commandeered sacred Bethel ephemera and framed fellow students by placing the materials in their dorm rooms (see top picture!). We held chair races on the sidewalks that followed some of the hilly terrain outside the library using the Board of Directors comfy chairs that had coasters….until we broke one. We hid that chair for a few months until the week before graduation and attempted to glue it back together then very carefully placed it back in the Board Room. I would have hated to be the person that sat in it. Graduation came and went but didn’t seem that “final” since I had already been accepted into architecture school at Andrews University.

Bethel never lived up to those “hallmark” college days that Andrews did. I think it was because I didn’t live on campus. Don’t get me wrong, I had some good times there and made some great friends, but I never really felt at home there. I got an apartment with a couple of guys from Bethel and commuted to Andrews my first two years so I managed to keep some connection with the college, but once the roommate situation ended, so did my link with Bethel. And I never really felt the pull to go back.

15 April 2011

the Bethel Years

When we took over the Bethel Acorn, we inherited the mid-80s logo and never changed it. The upside down pink triangle? I know, makes me wonder what they were thinking too. That's my buddy Mark & I revamping the place. Yes, that's a near-mullet I have.
“Architects come a dime a dozen” said my dad as I was trying to plan out my post-high school future. Well, I loved business and already had a connection with Bethel College, so it seemed like a logical place to go. It was a small Christian college in Mishawaka-a half hour commute, and coming from a small Christian high school it seemed like the perfect fit. The enrollment my Freshman year was only about 500 and there was serious discussion about closing the college. The newest building on campus was a library dedicated just a few years prior and named in honor of my step-grandfather. I knew a small handful of kids who went there either from LaVille or my church. But compared to my school of 30-this seemed enormous.

I bonded with a small group of friends I had met during Freshman orientation and they became my base set of friends over the next two years, but my girlfriend and a great number of my old friends from high school were still in the area and since I didn’t live on campus, my time was spent with the old gain. That started to change by my Junior year as I became more active in a few programs. One fellow business major wanted to start a business club and tagged me as someone who could help get that off the ground. We did-it was called the “Bethel Action Network Club”, or BANC, the idea is that it would serve the entire student body as a method of making connections in the business community for future grads. Tom was the driving force behind this, and being a baseball player, attracted a few others with his energy. And then he came to a meeting and said “I have an idea.” He wanted BANC to take over operations of the meager little student union/cafĂ© called “the Acorn” (Bethel’s campus is full of oak trees). We went along with Tom’s idea and it seemed to work well my Junior year.

By the end of that year Tom had yet another idea, spurred on by the head of our business school who happened to be a Kiwanian, Professor Mow. BANC should become a college Kiwanis program or “Circle K Club”. So, we began down that path. Our membership was never very high, but it sufficed to have a charter granted to us and we were adopted by Mishawaka’s Kiwanis Club. This affiliation with Kiwanis became the reason why I turned to Kiwanis once I returned to my home town six years later. My senior year lived up to college expectations....that's part 2.

13 April 2011

Putting the Sycamore in Sycamore Hill

Staking out the location for our allee of trees

This past weekend was amazing, wasn't it? The gloom on Saturday morning turned to sunshine and warmth and by Sunday night it felt like summer. We'll ignore the forecast of possible snow mixed in with rain for this Saturday.

That tom-foolery by Mother Nature convinced me that this past weekend was the time to plant trees. Again asserting the honorable role the sycamore tree should have in the Hoosier state, and wanting our place to live up to its name, I began the hunt for sycamore trees last fall by contacting the state tree nursery. I would have to buy 100 trees. They were out of sycamores. My dad had a catalog of native trees in which I could order 25. The cost was double for 1/4 of the trees-but given how I would insist on planting all 100, the 25 seemed like a better deal. I also ordered 10 (they sent 11) Douglas Fir. These would be the official family Christmas Trees for 2021-2032. And finally I ordered 5 apple trees last fall that I spaded into a temporary location until spring when I could establish the "orchard".

Two weekends ago my son and I, in anticipation of the tree order arriving any day, measured out the locations for the sycamore trees and the orchard. To provide an air of "romanticism and mystic" to the farm, and in keeping with the tradition of farm estates of the 1800s, we lined our roadway property line from the creek to the drive, and then lined each side of the drive all the way up the hill. We finally established a 25' spacing after evaluating 20' and 30'. The orchard was easier to plan at 15' with alternating rows.

The orchard arrived in a box last fall

Then this past weekend I planted. I had some assistance from my daughter for about 3 trees; after that she was finished. I reminded her she wanted the apple trees but that didn't matter. Then I carried buckets of water to nearly the corners of the property. Then I sprayed "deer away" which smells like rancid meat, on the trees hoping to thwart the herd of 30+ deer who are regular visitors to Sycamore Hill. I figure 10-15 years out we'll begin to get a feel for how these little whips will mature. I'll be almost 60. Good grief.

07 April 2011

Architectural Unrest

As I have been reading up on John Lloyd Wright recently I was struck by a comment in his book of an experience we had shared in our young architectural careers. Architecture for me has been nearly a life-long pursuit since I understood at an early age there was a sort of "architectural unrest". It was trips to Indianapolis to visit my grandparents, or through Indy on our way to Bloomington that I realized my interest in architecture. As we would drive down Meridian Street, north of I-465, and I studied the boxy new buildings that sprung up overnight I thought to myself “geesh, I can do at least that good”. And so I began designing homes and buildings when I was about 14 years old; I still have that first sketch book filled with floor plans and elevations. It was only a few years later that I also realized that early periods of American architecture also interested me. Possibly due to my love of history, soon I began to study old buildings and developed a real love for preservation. I subscribed to Colonial Homes magazine and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s magazine when just a junior in high school. You would think that I would gravitate toward a profession in architecture, but I loved business and I can vividly recall my dad responding to me when I said that I wanted to be an architect: “architects come a dime a dozen”. And so, I put my architecture education on hold for four years while I received my business degree.

Near the end of my business schooling I realized I still had the itch to pursue architecture, so I enrolled in Andrews University's School of Architecture. The first design problem we had was for a small home. The professor made his rounds and looked at the work on my drafting table, then looked at me, then back at my work and made the comment "someone has done this before". The next five years I honed my skills and developed a pretty strong philosophy on architecture born out of almost cumbersome convictions. After I graduated, for good or bad, I ended up back in my hometown-something I considered a dream come true.

My second day on the job-exactly 2 days after graduation-the boss dropped a file folder on my desk and said it was for a client who had a lake house that burned down and they wanted to replace it. I was stoked-most archi grads don't get their own design projects for a few years after graduation and this was day 2. So I let loose all of the "creative genius" stored up from 5 years of architecture school and came up with a design that blended the history of the former house built by the client's grandfather, with the loss, but also an eye to the future. It was embedded with this "story" and a great deal of quiet purposeful decisions born from an adherence to Christopher Alexander's theories on architecture....two of his books are sitting on the shelf above me right now.

So the house was built, and I couldn't stay away from watching it come together. I remember one afternoon after work making my way to the site and walking around the shell, putting my hands into the window openings and studying the views from different vantage points. I went back to my loft apartment and wrote extensively about the experience that night. And that was the experience I shared with John Lloyd Wright. Wright wrote about doing this very same thing and called it "the closest thing to a spiritual experience" he had known. I still think fondly of that house on the lake and smile when I pass by it because I know the "story" behind the house. I know its intricacies and the reason it looks and functions like it does that the homeowner may not understand consciously, but probably in their subconscious are quite satisfied.

It is hard to explain the great personal satisfaction in seeing something imagined, then placed on paper, rise from the ground. It's like walking through someone's creative soul. Maybe it's like a farmer who walks through a corn field prior to harvest, or a mechanic who revs an engine brought back from the dead. It is a grand experience and I'm thankful God wired me in such a way to create.

04 April 2011

Country Music for the Soul

I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Country music all my life and the CMAs last night brought that back to mind. As a kid I think that along with the Duke boys, and my whole country “swagger” was the need to listen to country music. I remember watching performers on Hee Haw and listening to the Grand Ol' Opry on the car radio. While I had a small AM radio that my aunt gave me for Christmas one year and I could pick up Rock on WLS, later I would start to listen to country music and only gave that up when I entered junior high.

And then it was off-again while Christian Rock and real Rock took center stage well into college. But then something shifted again and about mid-way through architecture school I got the hankering for a little twang in my life. That time it stuck, even if it was just one of five channels preset on the car radio. And then I got my truck...and, well, it only seemed appropriate.

And then I met my wife and she loved country music-mostly that girly stuff that hard-core, old-school country musicians wouldn't recognize as real "country", but that was ok. An interesting note is that when our son was a baby and began to fuss in the car on road trips-he only responded to country music-so we'd turn it up load and sing along with Garth or Shania. And so it has continued at our house, and now fittingly, on our farm.

For the most part country music is just good for the soul. There seems to be such a crossover in lyrics in what could be loosely, and at times concretely, understood as spiritual messages in the songs. And a great deal of time-they're just good plain fun. Country music is the sound of America's heartland, and while I don't always agree with the message, it is a window to our soul set to a sound born in the homes of pioneers on our early frontier.

Gafill Oil Company in Argos

My great-grandfather (above) may have started our family in the fuel business with his employment as the agent for an oil company in ...