Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cambridge, Ohio: Hopalong Cassidy's Boyhood Home

If you like old Westerns, you probably know plenty about Hopalong Cassidy. Hopalong was a fictional character who was on the dangerous side. But an actor named William Boyd came along, and he became a Hopalong Cassidy who was a friend to all. That combination worked for more than 60 movies.

Everyone has to be from somewhere, and Boyd grew up in Cambridge, Ohio, which is east of Columbus near the intersection of Interstates 70 and 77. This is the side of the building that served as Boyd's home until he was 14 and moved West. You can see a little white sign on the right marking the house, with the mural of Hopalong next to it.

There is a museum for Cassidy in town. It's in the back of an antique mall, but it's rather difficult to tell on the website just how open the museum is. The annual festival has come to an end, and the antique store is only open once in a while. So after looking at the evidence, we didn't bother stopping. We just jumped out of the car and took a quick picture.

Fans of Hopalong will be happy to get this close, at least. And a video remains of what the museum looks like:

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St. Clairsville, Ohio: Belmont County Courthouse

Sometimes there are unexpected treats just off the Interstate. This was one of them.

Welcome to St. Clairsville, Ohio. We felt that we needed to see the pizza chef statue in town, and made a quick detour. You can read about it in Roadside America.

But while looking for the pizza chef, we parked near this building and marveled at the design. It was the Belmont County Courthouse, sitting on the highest point in town (you can see it from the Interstate, I'm told).

The space has held a court house for more than 200 years. It first went up around 1808, when St. Clairsville was enjoying a boom because of the National Road. Then a new building went up in 1888, and it's still there today. Didn't have time to go inside, but I bet it's nice too.

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Wheeling, West Virginia: West Virginia Independence Hall

The road to statehood for West Virginia more or less began here, at a former customs house in downtown Wheeling.

When the Civil War was about to get started, those in the eastern part of Virginia were ready to leave the Union in order to keep slavery going in their part of the world. But some people in the western part of the state didn't particularly like that idea. Therefore, they called a meeting in his particular building. It authorized the counties to start the process to form a new state.

Based on the information passed along here, it sounds like the idea was more or less railroaded through by all concerned. Votes weren't taken in public, and that probably depressed the vote of the losing side. Once the idea was passed along to Washington, President Lincoln was rather anxious to figure out a way to get West Virginia into the union and weaken the South. There were all sorts of Constitutional issues involved, but they were overlooked under the circumstances. Thus, West Virginia became a new state.

The front of the meeting hall is shown here. The second floor has a Governor's office as well as a large collection of flags from the Civil War. The floor has more displays to go with some post office boxes (one of many former uses of the building) and some souvenirs. A statue of Francis Pierpont, who is called "the father of West Virginia" because he led the initial "rebellion," is right outside. Next door has a mural of the June 20, 1861 meeting. 

Admission is free, and the staff member there seemed quite happy to see us. Based on the guestbook, I'm not sure how much company she's had lately. I don't think a lot of people know the story about West Virginia's birth, so this is worth a stop for history buffs.

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Wheeling, West Virginia: Oglebay Resort and Conference Center

This is listed as a standout attraction in the Triple-A Guidebook. I'm not sure if that's a good description of the place, but it's certainly nice.

Oglebay is something of a hotel, spread out a few miles into the country on the outskirts of Wheeling. You could call it the foothills of the Appalachians.

The resort has plenty of hotel space, a couple of golf courses, restaurants, and conference rooms. There also is a zoo, a couple of lakes (one of which is pictured here), hiking trails, miniature golf, some shops, an amphitheater, and boats for rent. During our brief visit, we even had a deer come within 30 feet of us to check out the surroundings.

I would guess the place gets really crowded in December, when the Christmas light show comes on. You can see some of the permanent displays, or at least the dark version of them, year-round. So it must be spectacular. Let's look at it:

This really would be a good spot for a conference, weekend stay, etc. for those within a reasonable distance of it. I just might not call it a tourist stop for those driving through.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

It doesn't seem fair to have only one picture from the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The place is massive, room after room of plants and natural wonders, and I only get to use one picture here.

So I guess it had better be a good one, and this works pretty well. You are on your own for the type of plant it is.  To me, it looked like fireworks.

It takes a couple of hours for a casual viewer to go through all of this. There are several inside rooms, and a few outside gardens.  I can't imagine what someone who loves this type of place would do here - probably check in to a hotel and make a weekend out of it. Phipps Conservatory must have gotten a ton of private support since it opened in 1893.

One other note - glass artist Dale Chihuly worked on several special pieces to be placed around the place, including four major ones and 26 other ones. It really adds to the beauty of the place.

And for those who want to convince a baseball fan to stop in the area, the Conservatory is located in Schenley Park, where the Pirates' home for many years - Forbes Field - was located. (Home plate is still on display.) But sports buffs will even enjoy the stop here, as it has to be one of the best of its kind in the country.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: PNC Park

For those who love their baseball parks, PNC Park in Pittsburgh is on anyone's list of the favorites. It's been open since 2001, and everyone instantly agreed that it's one of the best facilities of its kind of the nation.

PNC Park isn't too big, and has some nice little oddities that give it some character. For example, you can actually sit next to the right field scoreboard. There's not much foul territory.

Outside, there's a nice statue to Pirates great Honus Wagner right behind home plate - Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente get similar honors in the outfield. The first-base foul line parallels Mazeroski Way, after the Pirates' second baseman. And the bridge in yellow above is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which many fans cross to come to the game.

Then there's the view. Like the one above, taken on a perfect night for baseball. I've never been to San Francisco, which is known as a fabulous ballpark. And it's hard to top all this.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Fred Rogers Statue


I recently visited the North Shore of Pittsburgh, and came across this statue of Fred Rogers, the beloved children's television personality. I snapped a picture from this angle, and then took a look at the shot later.

Sadly, Fred didn't have a head in my photo. Rats.

Until I get back to this location, I have to rely on the good wishes of I am using their photo, and hope they don't mind. (If they do, I'll take it down immediately.)

Rogers' show ran from 1968 to 2001. He won a Presidential Medal of Honor and a Peabody Award. Rogers died in 2003, and this statue was dedicated as part of a tribute to children in 2009. Fred would have liked that. Up close, the statue makes him look something like a superhero, but the material works just fine at a distance.

The North Shore has gone through a wonderful transformation as of late, and - yes - Fred makes sure that it's always a beautiful day in his neighborhood.

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