30 May 2013

The Bundys of New Castle

Henry County Courthouse & Soldiers' Memorial
The Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame isn't the only thing in New Castle.  Spying the Henry County Courthouse from Highway 3, after we left the Hall, I asked my son if he wanted to drive up the hill to the downtown.  He said "sure".  As if he hasn't figured out that's an invitation for architecture viewing by his dad.

What a fantastic downtown New Castle has, and the courthouse is amazing too.  Unfortunately, being Good Friday, it appeared closed the day we visited.

My great x5 grandfather, Christopher Bundy, moved from North Carolina to Wayne County, Indiana in 1819.  In 1821 he purchased a tract of land next to the original plat of New Castle.  Bundy served in the American Revolution at the age of 19.  He was part of the large Quaker migration from the South to Indiana, ensuring the state's "free" status to the slavery question.

The Bundy name became inseparable from the town's history when one descendant, General Omar Bundy, had this read about him in the Congressional Record in 1940:

'Mr. Speaker,' said Mr. Springer, Congressman from the 10th Indiana District, 'I rise to report the death of one of our outstanding military geniuses, Major General Omar Bundy...A graduate of West Point in 1883, he afterward participated in many military expeditions of this country. In his early life he took part in the engagement with the Sioux Indians. In the first World War he commanded the 2nd Division and later the 6th and 7th Army Corps...'".

General Bundy became immortalized during World War 1 when he refused to obey the retreat orders given by his French superiors.  This is his now famous response:

'We regret being unable on this occasion to follow the counsel of our masters, the French. The American flag has been forced to retire; this is unendurable and none of our soldiers would understand their not being able to do whatever is necessary to re-establish a situation which is humiliating to us and unacceptable to our country's honor. We are going to attack...'"

Bundy was credited as the hero of the battle of Belleau Woods and thereby liberated Paris.  Two poems were written to commemorate this event:  Bundy's Men and Where Bundy Held the Paris Road.  The Major General Omar Bundy Auditorium in New Castle is named for him.  And for the record, I'm NOT related to Al Bundy, and hopefully not Ted Bundy either.

28 May 2013

Indiana's Basketball Hall of Fame

My son loves sports.  Any sport.  And he astonishes even the most savvy of sports fanatics with the stats and depth of information he has going back decades for most organized events.  One time while we were having dinner out (mom was gone) my daughter and I started quizzing him on who won what Superbowl in any random year, to which he would add the score and mvp to his response.

The table next to us got very quiet, then started to stare in wide-eyed wonder.  I'm thinking we may try to get him on Letterman.

At any rate, his Christmas gifts included a couple of tickets to the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame.  Did you know that we're the only state with such a thing?  I know, hard to believe right?  As other states think "you have what?"

Honestly, I wasn't sure what we'd find when we visited over spring break.  I knew it was a new building so the idea of it being crammed into a less-than-functional or inappropriate facility didn't exist.  How I hoped it would have been in a historic gym!  Regardless, the facility-spectacular.  The displays-very well done.  I always set my expectations pretty low when it comes to these kinds of venues.  But let me be clear.....I was impressed and highly recommend it for anyone.

Walking the memorial terrace in front of the Hall
Basketball was introduced to Hoosiers by a minister from Massachusetts who was relocated to a congregation in Crawfordsville in the early 1900s.  Consequently, when the sport became popular and early state tournaments were held-that region seemed to excel in wins.  Pieces of the gymnasium where the game was first played are behind glass at the hall of fame.

Pieces of the building where the first game of basketball was played in Indiana
There were plenty of references to Milan and other David and Goliath stories from pre-class basketball Indiana, including River City's own state title.  I was amazed to see the ranking my dad's high school had during the late 1940s through the 1950s....including a large "best of county" trophy for the LaPaz Vikings, representing a town of a few hundred folks.

23 May 2013

"Early" warning system....from the 1950s

One day I was lamenting with a fellow progressive that I was tired of consistently hitting brick walls.  To which she said "let me tell you a story".   One day an old man died and went to heaven and God said "well done".  "Well done?!" the man asked emphatically.  The old tired soul said, "God you asked me to push on that big boulder, and I did my whole life, but it never moved an inch."  To which God said "I never told you to move the boulder, only to push on it".

And that maybe sums up a great deal of my life's efforts.  Particularly my time on city council.  While watching much of the effort from four years of devotion undone, there were a few things that couldn't be, thankfully, because the wheels had been set in motion.  Granted, the guys who came after me got the credit....but to heck with the credit.  The results are the reward.

I am reminded of one of those rewards every time I see another devastating tornado, like the one that occurred in Moore, Oklahoma this week.  After the Evansville tornado in 2005 which claimed 25 lives-many in a mobile home park, I began to investigate our own early warning system.  It was an outdated siren, a technological relic of the Cold War, which had served River City as a warning for fires, air raids, and a noon whistle (gotta love that) along with its use for tornado warnings.  The unfortunate situation was that the siren's audible reach was limited to a fairly small ring around the downtown-which may have been fine for 1950s municipal boundaries, but not for a city that had more than doubled its geographical boundaries, and was now ringed with subdivisions.  To make matters worse was the exceptionally high number of mobile home parks that were part of the city, most lying outside of the siren's reach.

So I presented an idea to the city council that an "Emergency Strategy for the Unprotected" or ESU be developed over the course of 2006.  The ESU addressed issues ranging from hazardous chemical spills either by rail or highway cargo, identification of homes prone to flooding (River City gets its name honestly), and most importantly-our ability to warn residents of dangerous weather.  I met with individuals responsible for city and county emergency response and formulated a basic game plan for addressing several areas where the city was lacking.  Interestingly enough, it seemed that training our own haz-mat team wasn't cost efficient based on our infrequent need; however, within a year after the report there had been two hazardous chemical spills in or near River City.  Regarding flooding, the recommendation was to complete the buyout of homes in flood-prone areas which had begun during the 1980s.  A master plan for a downtown park helped push post-ESU buyouts; however, there are still a handful of homes and even a small mobile home park that is likely off the city's radar.  Two or three of the homes have water inside the homes on a consistent basis with flooding.

Exhibit C-mobile home parks and high density apartment complexes in the city

But the crux of the report centered on our woefully inadequate tornado warning system.  Based on review of several available systems, and learning that most cities and towns within a 50 mile radius of River City had already updated their warning system, the recommendation for a system of new sirens posted around the city was logical.  Two maps were included in the report-one to show where our highest densities of unprotected residents were located, and one to show recommended placement of new sirens to achieve the most coverage with spill-over for our non-resident, non-taxpaying community members.  But the report didn't stop there-it also addressed the need to have some form of designated safe places for residents without adequate shelter.  The South Bend Tribune found the story of some interest and interviewed a resident of one of the city's largest mobile home parks that contains upward of 10% of the city's population.  Featured on the front page, she pointed toward a shallow swale along an old railroad bed that she would take cover with her family.  My intention was to begin a dialogue about where residents in harm's way might find shelter.......of course, mobile home park and apartment building owners believed the intention was to force them to build adequate shelters.  God forbid!  And being that they were politically connected, it didn't fare well for my re-election campaign in 2007.  Thankfully, what did occur out of this was the requirement for any new mobile home park to have an emergency shelter for its residents.

Exhibit D-recommended new siren coverage
The new early warning system was budgeted in 2007 for implementation in 2008.  After both my and the administration's ouster in the 2007 election I wasn't feeling so confident that the new administration was as committed to the new system.  As 2008 began to come to a close I mentioned to a good friend who sat on the Council that it really was important, politics aside, to get the new sirens in place for public safety especially since it had been budgeted for 2008 and wasn't budgeted for 2009-which would mean waiting until 2010 at the earliest before it could be implemented again.  Whether or not there was any thought that not doing the project could be politically challenging, I don't know, but thankfully and ultimately, the project was completed. 

I remember the first time I heard the sirens being tested.....it brought a smile to my face as if it were music to my ears.  While I hope that River City never experiences a tornado, there is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that if it did, the new system may just save lives.  I'm not typically complimentary to the subsequent administration-but kudos on this one.

21 May 2013

Bowen: less politics, more service

One of my favorite pictures, though maybe a little politically-charged today, with my buddy Dan and Doc at FBI headquarters in 1986.
A few days before Doc Bowen's memorial service his confidential secretary during his time at Health and Human Services and I reconnected on Facebook.  I had met Kim when a buddy and I spent a week in DC with Doc and my grandmother.  I mentioned to Kim that I recalled her once commenting that she and other staff would be a little frustrated with Doc because he would slip out of his office and make his own copies.  Cabinet members just didn't do that kind of thing.

Other similar stories about Doc's servant-approach began to surface at his memorial service, but I don't know that any really surprised anyone.  The most telling of his character was during his time as governor when he personally shovelled out the driveway of a Meridian Street resident who had called and complained that a snow plow had closed off her drive.  This servant heart was always evident at our family functions when we found that he was always the first to step up to the kitchen sink and wash dishes.  Always.  And seemed a bit insulted if you suggested that he relax in the living room.

I also recall from my trip to DC the number of specially-organized tours he arranged for my buddy and me.  We got a tour of the FBI and FDA (you can imagine which we thought was more entertaining), as well as special tours of the Capitol building and the White House.  Doc personally escorted us on the White House tour, a behind the scenes look at the west wing.  After we were dropped off by the driver we were able to see the Oval Office and Cabinet Room, unfortunately President Reagan was gone at the time, but then while waiting to be picked up Doc shifted us into the standard public tour which I doubted many cabinet members would walk through with the masses.  But that was Doc, he thought nothing of it, nor did he see the need to have his security detail with him.

But maybe the memory that I recall had the most profound affect on me was from an IU game where I saw him interact with Ryan White.  I retold that story when I introduced him as the speaker at a prayer breakfast in River City a few years ago.  I shared this story before on this post.  There are many other stories, but they would all point to the qualities that stood out to the people he met:  humility and servant.  Doc was a reminder to all of the scripture "the first shall be last".  While we should hope that this is a common trait among our elected officials or "public servants", it seems deficient in mainstream politics today.  Doc may have been an exceptional example, but we should expect some level of humility and a life that reflects service to the public beyond the mere "representational" role.

As Doc's memorial service concluded and the procession to the cemetery began, my family stood among the many elected officials who had come to pay their last respects, including our current and several former governors and legislators.  As we stood there I questioned to myself, in this political age is it even possible to elect someone like Doc?  I'm tired of the self-absorbed, self-serving politicians who are more beholding to their parties than they are people.  It is a rare, and probably short-lived career, to see an elected official put people before politics.  But I think that's because so many people elected to office today never truly "served" by nature of their own character, not by job, position, or title.

Doc continued to truly serve despite his title.  This is probably what has left the most profound mark on me and may cause me to have unfair expectations of myself and others.  It is a high mark to reach for, but shouldn't we all strive for this more in our lives?  The country would be a much better place if we had a lot of Doc's running around.

13 May 2013

Doc's love for Indiana

Doc and Grandma Bowen sharing Bremen's Lehman mints with President George Bush.
My wife likes to tell people, when reflecting on how we met, that "he told me that he was never leaving Indiana".  'Tis true.  She was heading to Colorado and I had my heels dug deep into this Hoosier soil.  For some reason I love this boring, beautiful, backward, people-caring, mostly flat, piece of heaven on earth.  I don't know if the feeling is reciprocated-but that's ok, eventually she'll come around.  I love Indiana.  For my 13th birthday I asked my mom to make my cake in the shape of Indiana.  I fly her flag as much and as proudly as I do the stars and stripes.  And I write about her all the time here on HH.  I've been in all but four states in this country and wouldn't trade the motherland for any of them.  So what's wrong with me, right?

Too much Doc Bowen in my life I think.

As I sat through his memorial service last week and began to process through comments that he made to me over the 11 years I called him grandpa, it was stated over and over again how much he loved this state.  And that's when it clicked with me.....I think I got this crazy love for being a Hoosier from Doc's influence in my life.  There's no other explanation.

Doc spoke so proudly of the communities, the parks, the landscape, the people of this state that one couldn't help but feel a bit star-struck in being a Hoosier.  His love for the state was palpable.  He pointed us to an Indiana to be proud of, to care for, and to want to call home.  I think about how we churn out our youth and rather than talk-up the qualities of home, we keep their roots loose from the soil and encourage them to move on as if this place isn't good enough.  Maybe it's time to rethink what is good.

I remember he felt a special fondness for New Harmony.  I understood why the first time I visited, and now I've been back a half-dozen times.  But he loved the whole state, as is evident from the 92 trees he personally selected and planted to represent Indiana's 92 counties on his property in Bremen.  And when he went to Washington he took a piece of his hometown with him to offer visitors a taste of Indiana.  He always had Lehman mints on hand.  The home he constructed in Bremen while he was still governor was created from a salvaged timber frame barn and had a massive field stone fireplace.  They called it "the lodge".  It felt as if it grew from ground it sat on and when you entered it, you were surrounded by heritage home-grown in Indiana.

The Bowen "Lodge"
If you were to ask me what set Doc apart from today's generation of politicians, this would have to be one of two things:  he loved the place he served.  I've never understood candidates who jump boundaries, or are newcomers at serving the place they hope to represent.  Their intentions seem suspect.  I think to truly represent a place, a people, you have to love it.  It has to be deep in your craw.  It has to be something you can't shake, rooted so deeply in your soul that serving just spills out.

That was Doc Bowen.  He couldn't help himself.  He loved Indiana too much.....and she loved him.

I like to think that this aspect of Doc's life left an indelible mark on me.  I certainly followed his passion for planting trees and touring our state.  I've been fortunate to have worked in nearly a hundred communities throughout Indiana getting to know many on an intitmate level.  It has been a huge privilege to work with folks from Fort Wayne to Dyer along the Lincoln Highway Byway and from Madison to Michigan City along the Michigan Road Byway.  Through all this I have met some of the finest Hoosiers in our state......and I can't help but join with them in making Indiana the best she can be.  To celebrate who we are.  To leave something for the next generation to be proud of.  That's what Doc did.  It should be what we all strive to do.

11 May 2013

My "grandpa" Bowen

Two people equally rocked by grief found a great deal of companionship and comfort in each other in September of 1981.  Their spouses of many years had been taken away too suddenly; they knew each other from a few decades of living in the same small northern Indiana town of Bremen.

One was my grandmother Rose, a beautiful country woman who insisted on neatness and order.  The other, well, just happened to be the recent former governor of Indiana-"Doc" Bowen, our family doctor-turned legislator and governor.  Together they made each other whole again and the grief visible in my grandmother's face turned to a smile as a sense of humor I don't know that I had ever known before became a part of her demeanor.  And everything about her life changed quickly when she moved from the large ancestral farm house to a condo in Indianapolis, and then to Washington DC.  While we missed having her near us, we became forever grateful to Doc for treating her so well.

I remember when I told my 6th grade teacher that my grandmother was going to marry the former governor.  I already had an interest in politics before that time.....imagine how excited I was.  When I transferred to a private school the following year I knew a few friends who also transferred and so the story was already out, though it seems that as I grew older during high school I talked about it only with my closer friends.  And that was hard, given my growing interest in politics and Doc being thrown onto the national stage on Reagan's cabinet.  By the time I graduated I had spent time with "grandpa" and grandma Bowen in Indianapolis, at IU games, a week with a buddy in DC at their home, until grandpa was the commencement speaker at my high school graduation.

Just a year before I began classes at Bethel College their new Bowen Library had been dedicated, complete with a small museum, bust of Doc in the lobby, and even a few items from my grandmother.  This time, being a little wiser, I kept my connection to Doc to myself.....even as I would glance up at his name on the library while I passed it on the sidewalk talking with friends.  And so it remained until my Senior year at Bethel-during which time Doc spoke during a special session on leadership at the college......and I had lunch with him and my grandmother afterward.  And then people started to put 2 and 2 together.

I invited my grandparents to my college graduation in 1991.  After the ceremony I looked and looked for them but didn't see them.  The next day I learned that they had just discovered my grandmother had terminal cancer.  The best prospects gave her three years.  They had just relocated back to Bremen from DC several months before after Doc helped with the transition from the Reagan to Bush administration.  Grandmother's cancer treatments proved unsuccessful and wore heavily on her.  Feeling a strong desire to stay close to home, the application to Ball State's architecture program was pushed to the back in favor of Andrews'-only an hour from home.

During my first year at Andrews I followed the same closed-mouth policy concerning my "famous" grandfather.  Grandma's health deteriorated quickly by the end of 1991 until I was praying she would just make it through Christmas.  I came home every weekend and sometimes mid-week to visit with her if even just a short time to let Doc run errands into town.  She made it through Christmas and died January 21st-the same day her father died years before.  Grandpa Bowen was again rocked with grief, all too familiar with its sting from when his first wife passed away-also with cancer.

Doc found companionship again as our family's ties quickly faded.  At Andrews, I found it less important to conceal what had been a significant part of my life.  I think by my third year in the architecture program I was comfortable sharing this with friends.  Besides, I was out-of-state and the Bowen name didn't ring as loudly across the border.

After I graduated from Andrews and returned to the area where the Bowen name rang the loudest, I went back to my closed-mouth policy except when asked.  I continued to keep it to myself even as I began my own political career.  It wasn't until I introduced Doc as the speaker for the mayor's prayer breakfast in 2005, two years after I had been elected to city council, that the connection was really "out there".  After Andrews I reconnected with Doc on a few occasions, including breakfast with our family in March, 2011, just a month before he really began to struggle with his memory.

Yesterday I attended Doc's funeral.  I was remembering him as the grandpa I knew during those formative years through junior high, high school and college.  I remembered him like any other grandson would remember their grandfather, though it seemed like I had lost that part of my life more than 20 years ago.  As I sat processing so much of what I knew about the man, both highs and lows, it became pretty evident to me that he left a mark on my life I can't shake.  And so, if you will indulge me, I hope to unpack some of that in the coming posts.

I don't know that Indiana has ever had, nor will she have again, a public servant more dedicated to her people.  Enter into your rest, good and faithful servant.

09 May 2013

Historic Lakeview

Like so many other county poor farms, the White County Commissioners voted to discontinue service at their facility at the end of 2010.  And, like so many other county farms, the building and land were in jeopardy of being razed and redeveloped.

However, most county homes aren't lakefront properties like the Lakeview Home in Monticello.  It is situated on a bluff overlooking Indiana Beach on Lake Shaffer.  Concerned that "Lakeview" land offered "lake views" some concerned White County residents banded together to see what could be done to save the 100+ year old home.  The thought was to make the building eligible for tax credits by listing it on the National Register so when it went to auction it may entice the right buyer.

The building was designed by a noted local architect, but it should also be noted that by this time a booklet had been developed by the State of Indiana called "Public Charities in Indiana" which was essentially a guideline to design of state hospitals, prisons, orphanages, county jails and county homes.  With any familiarity at all of county homes after about 1890, one can identify the common design features and layout quickly:  middle part/administration and superintendents' quarters, left and right wings/resident dormitories, the rear wing/kitchen and dining, and typically a small addition on the back or a separate building that had actual jail cells with steel bars.  Only the exterior architectural design features and details varied from county to county.  Most county homes employed the Romanesque style, or variants of the Queen Anne or Classical styles.  Here is a link to the1904 book: The Development of Public Charities in Indiana

The "poor farms" were self-sufficient.  They had enough acreage to maintain livestock and grow food for the residents.  Able residents worked the fields and with livestock, if they were men, and worked in the garden or laundry and kitchen duties if they were women.  Barns (most of which have been the first to disappear from the county farm complex), orchards, and even cemeteries.  Frequently the county farms were far enough removed from town cemeteries that paupers' graves were dug in one corner of the poor farm.  Marshall County's poor farm cemetery was razed by over-zealous county commissioners and tenet farmers; the exact location has been lost.

White County's county home still has one barn and another shed remaining on the property-but the main house is intact with only minor remodeling.  It has the prescribed layout associated with Indiana's county home model including an attached jail wing on the back of the building.  It also has an impressive entryway down a long alee of trees.  The county separated the farmland and auctioned the house and its lakeview site.  The developer seems sensitive to the history of the home and can access tax credits since it was listed on the National Register in 2011.

07 May 2013

Louis Solomon on the Lakeshore

The Solomon Enclave-Beverly Shores
 The development of the lakeside resort community of Beverly Shores grew quickly in the post-war years.  Many of the seasonal residents were Chicagoans who brought their Windy City architects with them.  One of those architects found respite in the dunes himself and purchased a large lot in 1948 on which he constructed three side-by-side vacation homes for his family.

Louis Solomon was a prolific Chicago architect known primarily for designing large apartment buildings.  Solomon attended the University of Illinois during the 1930s and later established his firm with a brother-in-law who was a contractor.  The firm expanded and continues to this day.  Solomon practiced in the International Style.  The introduction of this style of house in Beverly Shores would have been unusual except for a prior introduction of the style that arrived....by barge!

Interior of one of the Solomon houses
The developer of Beverly Shores, which began in 1927, was a Chicago real estate developer by the name of Frederick Bartlett.  Bartlett's son, Robert, purchased six of the futuristic homes that were located at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair "Century of Progress" exhibition.  He dismantled two-those he could-and trucked them to Beverly Shores in 1934-1935.  The remaining four houses he placed on barges and floated to the new resort.  He hope the futuristic homes would bring attention to the development and attract more home building.  The Century of Progress houses are still located along the bluff overlooking the beach and have been restored through a cooperative agreement between Indiana Landmarks and the National Park Service.

The National Park Service purchased several properties throughout the lakeshore in order to create the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore during the 1960s.  They reached an agreement with the Solomon family as well and currently own the three-home enclave.  The homes were listed on the National Register in 2011.

02 May 2013

From Falls of the Iroquois to Rensselaer

Downtown Rensselaer
Rensselaer.  I have to admit it took me several weeks typing that over and over again before I stopped mis-spelling it.  The little Hoosier city is the county seat of Jasper County.  Its founders decided to confuse future generations of outsiders by deviating the plat, established in 1839, at an angle from true north.  James Van Rensselaer and his son, John, purchased land surrounding a series of short falls and rapids along the Iroquois River in 1835.  Here they platted a town which the state recognized as the county seat of Newton County (prior to the separation of Jasper on the east).  The Van Rensselaers named the town the "Falls of the Iroquois" but the state chose "Newton".  In 1841 the state was petitioned to change the name to Rensselaer....for which it has remained named.

Jasper County Courthouse, 1896
While many of Rensselaer's downtown buildings date to the mid 1800s, the most notable development in the commercial hub of the county happened in 1896 when a new, quite magnificent courthouse was constructed on the public square.  It was designed by Grindle & Weatherhogg of Fort Wayne and was their only Indiana courthouse commission.

An unusual English cottage style diner, c. 1925.

As is often the case when new courthouses are established in a downtown area, the commercial buildings around the courthouse go through substantial renovations often to mirror the new architecture of the courthouse if not in style, certainly in impressive detail.  Such was the case opposite the courthouse in Rensselaer when three notable buildings sprung up.
A great moment in Jasper County history was when President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke at the courthouse in 1962 to honor Rensselaer resident Charles Halleck.  Halleck was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1935-1969.  The downtown was placed on the National Register in 2011.

Buildings opposite the then-new courthouse include the bank (left) and the Odd Fellows' Lodge (right)