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 is, 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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Zanesville, Ohio: Y Bridge

The biggest tourist attraction in Zanesville might be a bridge that's relatively small.

Then again, it is in the shape of a Y.

That's right - when driving over from the east side of the river, you have to decide whether to go left or right before you reach the riverbank. There aren't many Y bridges in the world, and this is supposedly the only one of its type.

A little park overlooks the bridge and the town on the southwest side of the short. There are signs to guide visitors. And on the way, take a look at the pots on an open lot that are made to look a little like Stonehenge.

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Zanesville, Ohio: Bicentennial Legacy Monument

Sometimes you just stumble on a piece of history. This statue along the waterfront in Zanesville, Ohio, is an example of that.

The statue that is shown here no doubt was planned for 1976, our nation's 200th birthday. The idea was to take four county residents who were about 50 years apart. And here are the winners.

John McIntire essentially founded the town. He worked opn the National Road, and was given three 640-acre tracts of land in Ohio. McIntire worked hard to build up the city and attract visitors. Zanesville was named the county seat because of his efforts. McIntire then headed a company that built a canal and dam, and the company exists to this day. It has assets of $13 million and gives scholarship grants each year.

Noah Norris was the last Civil War veteran to die in Zanesville. He was 98 at the time. Norris was African American who saw action in Virginia in North Carolina. Supposedly his selection honored the "common person" who saw his duty when it was needed and did it. The other two people are more famous - author Zane Gray and astronaut/Senator John Glenn.

We took a wrong turn in looking for the Y-Bridge, but discovered the park in the process.

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Norwich, Ohio: National Road and Zane Gray Museum

What do you do for museums when you are in a small town with a couple of claims to fame? Make one museum that honors both.

At least that's what the good citizens did in Norwich, Ohio. That's why we have the National Road and Zane Gray Museum.

The National Road was America's first highway. The idea was to build a highway from Cumberland, Maryland, to St. Louis - cutting down trees and building a road along the way. Construction started in 1811, and didn't quite make it to St. Louis. The growth of railroads slowed the use of the National Road until cars came along early in the 20th century. Now it's U.S. 40, upstaged a bit by the nearby Interstate that takes a similar path.

There's a diorama that checks in at 136 feet long, and tells the story of the development of the National Road and the cities along the way. There are also examples of the types of vehicles that traveled on it over the years.

Then there's Zane Gray, who wrote more than 80 books and specialized in novels of the Old West. Some of Gray's work is on display, and a replica of his study is available to see.

The staff takes you around the place and explains all of the exhibits, which is helpful. There is a bridge and mile marker outside of the place that was used with the National Road as well. I'm not sure this is a stop for everyone, but it ought to satisfy the curiosity of those with an interest in either subject.

Here's a closer look:


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New Concord, Ohio: John and Annie Glenn Historic Site

We never know where the next American hero will come from. However, those who would try to bet on such things would never have picked New Concord, Ohio - mostly because of its size. New Concord is a college town located east of Columbus.

Yet New Concord did something very right, because John Glenn grew up there. Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth from space, and later went on to a distinguished career in the United States Senate. He even went back to space on the Shuttle to help scientists learn about the effects of space flight on older people.

It is hard to imagine just how exciting it must have been to have lived in New Concord during Glenn's flight in 1962. When he was honored in a parade afterwards, people had to park well out of town and walk for miles to join the huge crowd.

Glenn's boyhood house literally has been picked up twice and moved to different locations in New Concord. It's now right on Main Street, and visitors are welcome. The main floor is filled with family artifacts from the 1940s. Guests are greeted by an actor playing a member of the Glenn family, who gives a tour and shows the significance of many of the items. The living room is shown here. (By the way, by 2017 the museum plans to switch this part of the exhibit to 1962 in terms of memorabilia.) Other rooms in the house have plenty of exhibits too.

John and Annie Glenn also are a great love story. They literally were in the same playpen as children, as the families were close. They were married around World War II, and are together as of 2016 - he is 95, she is 96, and living in Columbus. You might remember that Annie overcame a stuttering problem, and has done more than her share of talking since then. That took a little courage too.

This is a bit off the beaten path, although at least it's just off an Interstate. And it's definitely worth your time to stop.

Here's a documentary on Glenn and New Concord done around 1963, with Jack Webb providing the narration. It's charming in its own way:


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