Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cleveland, Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Everything is still up to date at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which remains a stunning attraction a couple of decades after its opening - and almost that long since my last visit.

The building itself is stunning, thanks to the work of I.M. Pei. The facility has done wonders for the lakefront of the city, with the Browns' stadium and a science center nearby.

Visitors go down a floor and start to work their way up to the top. Level One, for example, has tributes to rock's roots, Elvis Presley and other legends, costumes and memorabilia, etc. It takes quite a while to get up to Level Two. There are plenty of films along the way, and naturally music at every stop. Level Three has a film about the inductees, followed by a long hallway with the signatures of everyone who has been picked. It's a little less dramatic than the old approach of ending the tour at the top with tributes, but it's a fun idea. The two two floors, which are small, are reserved for special exhibitions. In our case, it was "Louder than Words - Rock * Power * Politics."

Let's just say that just about anyone who likes the music will want to spend a few hours in there easily. Others might never come out.

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Marion, Ohio: Warren Harding Memorial

I have been to a number of Presidential graves, and the chief executives who died in office usually have the biggest memorials. Garfield and McKinley have big ones, while Kennedy's is on the understated side.

Here's the memorial for Warren Harding in Marion, Ohio. Sure enough, it's a big one - as he died in 1923 less than three years after his election. It is on a big plot of land on the corner of a Marion cemetery, only about three miles or so from his house.

The problems of Harding's Administration didn't fully come out until well after his death; his Interior Secretary was the first Cabinet officer to go to jail. So Harding was well remembered in death, especially in Marion as you'd expect. The name of the high school sports teams in Marion is "the Presidents." Of course.

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Marion, Ohio: Warren G. Harding Home and Memorial

Here's one for the history nerds of our audience.

Warren Harding made a little bit of history during the 1920 Presidential election. His personal campaign consisted of several speeches from his front porch. Thousands would come in to this little town in Ohio to hear the speeches, which were delivered about three times per week. Harding went on to win the election.

His home has an odd bit of history. Harding and his wife moved to the White House after he won the election, and Warren died in 1923. All of the possessions in the home were already in storage, as someone was "house-sitting" in the meantime. Therefore, a visit to the place now really is like going to the house in 1920. Yes, there's air conditioning and all that, but it's filled with original items from Harding's time.

There is a small cottage in the back. It was built for the press covering the 1920 election, and now serves as the place where tours begin and souvenirs are sold.

The organization that runs the place is collecting money for a Harding library, which they hope will be built by 2020. Good luck to them. 

One little warning - the tour we received was a long one, going past the suggested 90-minute time. In fact, we had to leave early to get somewhere. Allow yourself a little extra time if you are stopping by. That nasty little Teapot Dome stuff did not come up in the tour, so you'll have to go elsewhere to learn what went wrong in the Harding Administration.

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Delaware, Ohio: Birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes

We all have to be born somewhere, including Presidents. Wherever that spot it, it should receive some sort of marker. Rutherford B. Hayes is in a special class in this area.

Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio, which is located roughly in the middle of the state a bit north of Columbus. The catch is that the building that served as his birthplace was torn down a while ago. The space probably has had a number of uses since then. But right now, it's a BP gas station.

At least someone had the good sense to put a marker by the street in front of the gas station. Here it is on 17 E. William St. We not only got to see the marker, but we filled up with gas for the trip to see the Harding House. It's something of a two-fer.

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Columbus, Ohio: Capitol Square Complex

Ohio's state capitol is rather typical in terms of design and use when compared to other states. It has chambers for the branches of legislature, lots of offices and meeting rooms, painting of former governors, etc.

This one does have a couple of extra touches. There's something of a museum on the ground floor, which includes a glass version of the state seal shown in the picture. Is the sun rising or setting, as Benjamin Franklin once asked about a similar seal.  The capitol has a cafe and gift shop.

In addition, there are the usual historical statues around the grounds. William McKinley has a big one; he is portrayed waving to his wife - which he apparently did every day while going to work, since he stayed at a hotel across the street.

Tours are available hourly during the middle of the day (10 to 3); check the website for times. We had a brand-new guide on our visit; he did fine.

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Columbus, Ohio: World's Largest Gavel

This is billed as the world's largest gavel. Who am I to argue?

It is located in a reflecting pool just a few blocks from the Ohio state capitol. The area is in the midst of a ground of judicial buildings, and you can see the river from the plaza there. It's an easy stop if you are in downtown Columbus and have a few spare minutes - particularly if you are waiting for a guided tour of the capitol.

The lesson: If you really want to hammer out justice, and hammer out a warning, get a big gavel.

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Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Stadium

There aren't many cathedrals for college football left, but this is certainly one of them. Ohio Stadium has seen a lot of glory since it opened in 1922.

The place went through a major renovation almost 20 years ago, and it now holds more than 100,000 people. That makes it one of the largest stadiums of its kind in the country.

The interesting part, at least for those who haven't been inside, is the location. The stadium is right in the middle of the academic part of campus. There are all sorts of educational buildings around it. In other words, they bring 100,000 people seven times a year to a place not exactly designed for such traffic. I'm sure they have a good shuttle bus system worked out at this point.

This is the main gate at one end of the stadium - a very impressive welcome. When we were there in late August, a drum group was practicing just inside the gate.

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Columbus, Ohio: Praying Mantis

Some attractions don't come with explanations. Like this one.

It's a giant praying mantis, ready to attack visitors to The Ohio State University. It is next to the Agricultural Engineering Building parking lot. Who knows what academic  prankster thought of putting it up, but it certainly is a change of pace from the rest of the campus.

The insect is on the other side of the street from the Ohio football stadium, and it's on the other side of the bridge. Go down Woody Hayes Drive, take a right and a right and head for the circle at the end of the street. It's in with the bushes.

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Columbus, Ohio: Jack Nicklaus Museum

When you are someone like Jack Nicklaus, you've accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. It comes with the territory of golf's greatest golfer. You've got trophies from 18 major championships, other title trophies, awards, etc. It's tough to find space for it all.

Nicklaus decided to start a museum. He picked Columbus as its location, since he grew up in that area and attended Ohio State University. Therefore, you can relive Nicklaus' golfing life in the museum there.

Pictured is one side of the display of Masters' championship trophies. The Masters material is in one room, and other awards from majors have their own rooms too. There are videos everywhere. In addition, there are plenty of clubs, bags, etc. around. Jack's den has been recreated, and there are sections devoted to his golf course design and college days. The souvenir stand has some items for sale, although you should be warned that the golf shirts are really pricey.

Wayne Gretzky had the same problem as Nicklaus, and put some of his stuff in a Toronto restaurant. It's nice to have such items shared with the public.

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Newark, Ohio: World's Largest Basket

There's a story behind this picture that may have a sad ending. We'll have to wait and see.

Back in the 1990's, the Longaberger Company needed a new corporate headquarters. So it built one, seven stories high, in the shape of one of its baskets.

It's an impressive site. The main east-west road goes right by it, as it is a few miles east of downtown Newark. It's fair to say the building jumps out of the horizon - 160 times the normal size of the regular basket.

Sadly, the company has fallen on some hard times. It closed this office early in 2016, and moved the administration in with the production plant. There reportedly is a little matter of back taxes of $650,000 or so that needs to be squared away. The town isn't too interested in taking over the building, and it might be tough to find a buyer.

When we visited, the lawn needed some mowing and the trees and shrubs had turned overgrown. It's a bit of a mess. Still, it's definitely a reason for tourists to drive through Newark.

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