28 April 2012

Springtime around the Farm

I just thought I would share a few pictures from when we were experiencing a slightly warmer spring a few weeks ago.  Enjoy!

Welcome to the Farm

The old lilac hedge

The kids crossing our creek

Could this look any more Hoosier?

21 April 2012

Monuments Jensen left behind

Ostermann Monument, Dyer, IN (rear) by Jens Jensen

I've written here before about famous landscape architect Jens Jensen who created a movement at the beginning of the 20th century that was, well, a century ahead of its time.  Jensen promoted a form of natural landscape design intent on using native plantings and stonework that reflected a regional, and specific eco-system, in which the design was created.

This, to me, was a greater triumph than his colleague on the architecture side of design, Frank Lloyd Wright, realized.  While Wright was a leading force, and a master, for new architecture-he also rode the wave of a society that was desperate for a break from tradition.  Jensen, on the other hand, was positioned at the pinnacle of time during which a classical "city beautiful" movement had crept into nearly every community-large and small.  Jensen rebuffed the classical arrangement of the landscape, certainly, but his larger message was running counter-culture to American ideas about the use, or abuse, of land.

Jensen sought the preservation of the landscape and the reestablishment of natural areas.  Remarkably, this became a key feature of the Lincoln Highway Association's 1921 "Ideal Section" of road near Dyer, Indiana.  They turned to Jensen to design the Ideal Section-which would be touted across the country as an example of the most appropriate and modern way to design highways.  Jensen designed footpaths removed from the concrete road, stone bridges, and even concrete light poles that blended with their surroundings.  Does this not sound like common themes of our Transportation Enhancement projects today?

When Henry Ostermann, a native Hoosier and major promoter of the Lincoln Highway, was tragically killed in Iowa, the Lincoln Highway Association turned to Jensen again to design a fitting tribute to Ostermann-and it would be located in the Ideal Section.  The monument, and a monument created during the 1960s by the Daughters of the American Revolution for the Ideal Section, stand together on the south side of U.S. 30 (Lincoln Highway) and are all that remain of this tribute to road-building innovation.

Jensen designed the monument in his tell-tale method of natural limestone laid to appear like stratified layers of bedrock, which form a bench-not unlike his trademark "council rings" only linear versus circular.  Jensen also incorporated an arch made of stones in which a plaque honoring Ostermann was placed.  It is currently awaiting restoration.

So my question in researching this site was "how prolific was Jensen in monument design?"  This is hard to know.  Jensen did a significant amount of work in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.  Most of this work was residential and civic building landscape design in nature or city parks.  In a book published on Jensen an exhaustive list of his work was included and it lists only two projects that were purely monumental or commemorative in nature.  And both are in Indiana.  One is the Ostermann monument.  The other is a monument to his beloved Prairie Club, the organization that led early 20th century efforts to save the Indiana dunes at Lake Michigan.

Prairie Club Founation-Indiana Dunes State Park
The Prairie Club monument is located at Indiana Dunes State Park.  It was located nearer the historic gate house, but was relocated to the front lawn of the nature center.  I was curious about this other Jensen monument, so when making a trip for work, I swung by the Dunes for a look-and a hike.  The Prairie Club monument is also quintessential Jensen.  It has a more natural form, and a linear bench as well.  A unique feature is the brass snake fountain in one corner of it.

While the monuments certainly serve as tributes, as their creator intended, they also serve as monuments to one of the most important environmental leaders Indiana has ever had.  Thank God Indiana, and the Dunes, had Jens Jensen.

04 April 2012

Indiana's Carnegie Libraries: "Temples of Knowledge"

Recently I have been doing some research on Indiana's Carnegie libraries, specifically for Monticello's Carnegie Library. I had heard once or twice before that Indiana has more Carnegie libraries than any other state.....oddly enough, it was mentioned as a sort of justification to tear down River City's own Carnegie "in the middle of the night" as some recall.

Andrew Carnegie amassed a fortune in the steel business in Pittsburgh during the latter part of the 19th century. When he sold his company to U. S. Steel and J. P. Morgan in 1901 he increased his philanthropic giving, particularly to support the broad national movement of establishing public libraries. Carnegie funded the construction of 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world. This amounted to $55 million in donations to cities and towns. A total of 1,679 libraries were funded by Carnegie in the United States. More Carnegie libraries were funded in Indiana than in any other state: 164 libraries were funded in 155 Indiana communities at a cost of $2,614,000. Of the 164 library buildings funded by Carnegie in Indiana, only 18 have been razed (according to Alan McPherson in Temples of Knowledge).

Carnegie believed that the public library was “the people’s university” and that it generally supported the betterment of a democratic society. He also believed that libraries enabled immigrants to have a better cultural understanding of America. At the time of his death Carnegie had distributed 90% of his wealth for the betterment of mankind.

Publicly funded county and township libraries in 19th century Indiana were typically poorly housed and had a limited selection of reading materials. An early Indiana philanthropist, William Maclure of New Harmony, had assisted in establishing Mechanics and Workingmen’s Libraries in most of Indiana’s counties. By the end of the 19th century the state seemed culturally ready for the establishment of libraries. Legislation at the state level in 1899 permitted the levy of a local tax for the support of public libraries, supported by business leaders and the power elite. Literary and women’s clubs at the end of the 19th century promoted the idea of better public libraries as well.

A national consciousness of social responsibility to improve one’s community and home had become part of American life during the first decades of the 20th century (ah the good ol days). This further aided the establishment of what many considered a symbol of community pride and intellect: the public library. The decades during which Carnegie funded libraries in Indiana were considered the second half of Indiana’s golden age of literature. While it may seem hard to imagine, the literature produced by Hoosiers created a cultural shift in Indiana as a national demand for works by Indiana authors occurred. This helped to improve and increase the general public perception and receptiveness of literature and culture in Indiana.

Monticello's public library can trace its roots to 1903 when White County’s superintendent of public schools, J. W. Hamilton, began to urge officials to establish a library. A public library board was created on March 4, 1903. A tax was levied by Monticello on property owners for the operation of the library. Over 800 books were received from a book drive that was held in town to build the library’s inventory. Additional books were purchased to bring the total to 1,025 and on the afternoon of September 1, 1903, the Monticello Public Library was opened to the public.

The library had been housed in two rooms of the courthouse until demand for a permanent home for the library resulted in a letter to Andrew Carnegie in 1905. The letter requested information on what steps would need to be taken to request funds for the construction of a library building. Carnegie responded with a commitment of $10,000 for a building in Monticello.

Some interesting tidbits from the Monticello library during the World Wars: in 1918 the library received a letter from the Public Library Commissioner that requested all libraries remove books on explosives. During World War II a “memorial shelf” was created in the library to feature local men who were enlisted in the military. Nora Gardner, the librarian who served from 1903-1947, organized a Victory Book Drive in 1942 to provide reading material for the military. Local Boy Scouts assisted with the effort by placing large containers in locations for people to drop off books. 1,150 books were collected by the Monticello library and sent to Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois.

The Monticello Carnegie was designed by Indiana architect Charles E. Kendrick of Ft. Wayne and Rochester. Kendrick also designed Carnegie libraries in Kewanna, Crown Point, Delphi, and Ligonier. A unique feature of Monticello's Carnegie is its corner entrance. Only one other Indiana Carnegie had a corner entry; it was located in Columbus but was demolished in 1970. The library also has a window bay that overlooks the Tippecanoe River, another feature not often found on Carnegies. The building now houses the White County Historical Society Museum. If you're wondering what that tower-looking thing on the ground next to the building is, it came off the Monticello City Hall in 1974, the year a tornado devastated the downtown and destroyed their historic courthouse.