The Robert McCloskey Exhibit, Hamilton, OH

Last Friday while running some errands in and around downtown Hamilton, I decided on the spur of the moment to duck into the Heritage Hall Museum in the former Hamilton Municipal Building at High and Monument Streets, immediately east of the High-Main Bridge.

I asked the gentleman at the desk inside the entrance to direct me to the Robert McCloskey display. McCloskey, who was born in Hamilton and lived there as a boy and young man, was an author and illustrator of eight children's books, two of which won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, the American Library Association's annual award of distinction for children's book illustration. The most famous and beloved of his books are Lentil, Make Way for Ducklings, and Blueberries for Sal.

The man at the desk did far more than direct me to the display. He gave me an informed, guided tour, starting with the McCloskey-carved totem in the entryway, the models for the building's bas reliefs, and the cast aluminum window design over the entrance:

Then I was led into the single room housing the McCloskey treasures, which include copies of his books, including this signed Lentil:

Also included in the exhibit are the author's Caldecott Medals, as well as his artist box with easel (below):

Other items include his famous harmonica, photos of him and his meetings in the White House and elsewhere, and numerous other proclamations, degrees, and certificates.

The display also features a number of original McCloskey paintings and drawings, including sketches he made when he was a counselor at Camp Campbell-Gard (where he carved the totem pole as well), and this painting of his boyhood home (which still stands, though it no longer looks like this) on G Street in Hamilton:

The guide then led me to the elevator and up to the second floor, where he showed me the doughnut machine, featured in several stories in McCloskey’s Homer Price book. The device was donated to the museum by Mort Schindel, of Weston Woods (a company producing McCloskey videos) and totally refurbished back to working order by a team that included my friend Carl Schwab (a placard near the machine credits those involved in the restoration). My guide told me the machine runs, but has not been used to make doughnuts since its restoration.

Finally, I exited the building and turned west where, on the corner of Front and High Streets is the tiny corner "Lentil Park," where a statue of Lentil, the subject of McCloskey's first book, stands:

It was a short visit, though I could have stayed longer, but one I'm glad I had the opportunity to make. I recommend it to anyone interested in Hamilton history, children's books, or art.

The Heritage Hall Museum is open to the public (and free) Fridays 9-4 and Saturdays 9-2.

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