Old City Council Chambers

On my impromptu tour of the Heritage Hall in former Hamilton (Ohio) Municipal Building at High and Monument Streets, my guide took me through the former city council chambers for the city of Hamilton (above). It's a beautiful room, still very nicely kept, at the center of which (behind the dais) is a large mural.

The mural by artist J. A. Willard, who also painted the murals at Hueston Woods Lodge just a few miles away, depicts the establishment of Fort Hamilton, which would have enclosed the very spot where the mural stands. The figure at far left is General Richard Butler, for whom Butler County (of which Hamilton is the county seat) is named. It made me sad that so few people see this painting these days. But I did. So I'm happy about that.

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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Sleeping Bear Naval Station

Another in my occasional series of favorite travel photos:

I took this from inside the naval station at Sleeping Bear Point in Michigan.

Champps, Union Center

The lovely Robin and I met a couple dear friends at Champps in West Chester tonight.

Before going, we checked the Champps menu and nutritional information online. So I ordered the Shrimp and clam wine sauce over summer squash:


It was excellent. And only 575 calories. I couldn't have been happier. And the company couldn't have been better.

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The True West at True West

I had a meeting today at one of my favorite spots, True West Cafe on Main Street in Hamilton. So I took the opportunity to arrive early enough to have lunch beforehand.


I had the True West salad, one of four or five offered on the menu. And boy, was it good!

For more info, visit http://truewestcoffee.com/

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Butler County Fair

The lovely Robin and I took two of our grandchildren--Miles and Mia, the two oldest--to the Butler County Fair today. The fair started Sunday (July 22) and runs through Saturday, July 28.

One of our first stops was the crafts barn, where we saw many wonderful and amazing things, including a cake decorating display that included a cake decorated to look like a hamburger:

Miles was quick to point out, in the same building, a Lego Spongebob Squarepants:

We stopped into the hog barn where several young men were practicing their show skills:

Our next stop was the small animals barn, where we saw chickens and rabbits, turkeys, ducks, and geese...and we even got to PET a chicken!

We observed a few minutes of the cake judging, which offered high drama and extreme temptation:

And then made it into the "fun barn" (though they were ALL "fun barns," surely) where Miles and Mia sat still long enough to get tattooed. Mia chose a butterfly tattoo, and Miles selected a lizard:

We also got to pick apples and dig for potatoes and pull carrots and even milk a cow!

After a break for lunch, we went back to the fun barn for a delightful 45-minute "Magic Mike" show, before buying a few ride tickets and heading into outer space:

After a couple rides, it was (of course) time for tricolored snow cones (or, as they say in northern Kentucky, "snow combs"):

We had so much fun. And, though we carried in our own lunches and did as much free stuff as possible, we still managed to drop more than fifty dollars in a few hours ($14 admission for two adults, $15 for ride tickets, $4 for snow cones, and $21 for the inflatable-toys-on-a-stick Mimi had to buy the kids). But hey, it's the county fair, right? It only comes 'round once a year.

Pinch Me Places: The Night Prison of Jesus

The latest installment in this series of "Pinch Me Places" on this blog is one the lovely Robin and I have visited several times, on our multiple trips to the Holy Land (and to which we plan to return in 2014). It is a spot on the site of the St. Peter in Gallicantu Church, so called because the church is built on the site of the house of the high priest Caiaphas, in the courtyard of which Peter denied Jesus...and heard the cock crow (that's the "Gallicantu" part).

As the site of Caiaphas's house, it is also the place where Jesus, having been arrested, was taken the night before his crucifixion. Under the church--and under the house of that time--is a cistern that shows every sign of having been used as a holding cell, and into which Jesus was lowered by ropes while his fate was being discussed. Though we descended to this rock prison via a set of narrow steps, the only way in or out in Jesus' day would have been the hole at the top, a mode of conveyance that is depicted in a mosaic on the side of the church's exterior (second photo, below):

Here in this night prison, I have several times read aloud Psalm 88, the messianic psalm associated with this night in Jesus' life, words driven home to my heart, creating every time a "pinch me" sensation, in the place they may well have been a prayer on Jesus' mind and lips:

1 Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

Favorite Travel Photos: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

With this post, I introduce a new occasional series on this blog of my favorite travel photos. There is no better way to begin the series than with the photo above, taken on my 20001 Holy Land trip, on which the lovely Robin and I hosted a group that included our children, Aubrey and Aaron, our niece Elissa, and Robin's dad, Dick Wright. What a trip.

For anyone who is interested, we plan another trip to Israel in March 2014. And between now and then, we will be hosting a "John and Paul Cruise-and-Land" tour of Turkey and Greece in May 2013. If you're interested in either of those trips, contact me (here) for more information.

The Cincinnati Observatory

The lovely Robin and I fulfilled a longtime goal of mine last night on our date night (#1 on my list of 9 Things I Would Like to Do in This Area) with a visit to the Cincinnati Observatory on Mt. Lookout.

There are actually two observatories there, one (above) designed by Samuel Hannaford (who designed Cincinnati's city hall and music hall), and the Mitchel building (below).The Mitchel building, which houses the oldest telescope on the site, is named for Ormsby McKnight Mitchel. He was a Professor at Cincinnati College (now University of Cincinnati) and the father of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, which eventually gave birth to the observatory. In 1842, he went to Munich and there inspected a twelve-inch objective lens and ordered it for the observatory. Upon his return to the US, Mitchel undertook the supervision of the construction of the observatory. The first observatory building was located on Mt. Ida, in Cincinnati; after former president John Quincy Adams traveled to Cincinnati to lay the observatory's cornerstone in 1843, Mt. Ida was renamed Mt. Adams in the president's honor. In 1871 the University of Cincinnati took over control of the Observatory, and in 1873 it was moved to its current location on Mount Lookout, in order to be free of the pollution and lights of the growing city.

In 1979 the Observatory formally became part of the Physics Department of the University of Cincinnati. The Observatory continued to be used for public education and research, but fell into a state of general disrepair. In the late 1990s, the Cincinnati Observatory Center was formed as a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing and preserving the Cincinnati Observatory and its historic setting. The site was granted National Historic Landmark designation, and millions of dollars were raised to restore it as a museum and educational center. The renovations restored it in keeping with its character and status as a late nineteenth-century astronomical observatory, and as the birthplace of American astronomy.

Mitchel's original telescope (below), which had been installed in the Mt. Adams observatory in 1845, was installed in the main observatory building in 1873 and then moved once more in 1904 into the newer building.

The 1904 telescope, sixteen-inch refractor built by Alvan Clark & Sons, is pictured below. Both telescopes still work and are still in use. However, as last night was quite cloudy, we weren't able to do any stargazing. But I loved the demonstration of the massive domes that not only open a slit for the telescope to peer through but also rotate to allow stargazers to see anywhere they wish in the night sky, and to follow an object, whether because it moves or because the earth does.

It was a lovely and educational evening at an historic spot. I even got to close "the gap" on the dome at the conclusion of our tour guide's remarks in the old observatory building. So I can add "astronomy technician" to my resume.


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Morgan Twp. Driving Tour (Shandon)

I've posted three times already on this blog about last Friday's date night with the lovely Robin, in which we took a self-guided driving tour of historic Morgan Township. In this final post I will write about our final stops on the tour, in historic Shandon, Ohio.

Arriving in Shandon on Cincinnati-Brookville Road (Rt. 126), we stopped first at the stately Congregational Church, which dates to 1854. Soon after construction began, however, the steeple collapsed, fatally injuring six men and delaying the completion of the church. The new sanctuary was finally dedicated on November 2, 1855. Additions to the structure were made in 1915 and 1988.

Next, we found the Old Welsh Meeting House. Construction on this building began in 1823 as a house of worship "complete with a Welsh door leading to the cemetery" (according to the driving tour booklet). Services were conducted in both Welsh and English for many years. Today it is the community house for the village.

Next door to the Old Welsh Meeting House is Paddy's Run Graveyard, which was in use from 1821 to nearly the end of the nineteenth century (actually, the residents of the cemetery still use it daily). Veterans from the Napoleonic, Mexican, and Civil Wars are buried here. Most surnames in the cemetery are Welsh, with the rest of French, English, and German origin.

On the main street through Shandon are numerous historic and admirable buildings, like the general store, above. I'm not sure this is the same as the A. R. Robinson General Store described in the driving tour booklet, but if it is it dates to 1905.

Nearby is the Pl√Ęs Cadnant Bed and Breakfast in the former John Lloyd Evans Home and Store. The booklet describes it as "the former home, post office, grocery and dry goods store of John Lloyd Evans. He purchased the property from Hugh Williams on February 20, 1862. In 1892 the home and store was sold to Jacob Schradin, Jr. The building served as a school annex for many years with home economics, industrial arts, business and science classes housed here. Other uses included library, restaurant, post office (Shandon), multi-family home and antique shop.

My favorite location in the village is above, "Books in Shandon." It's a wonderland of ten rooms of books: upstairs, downstairs, in the kitchen, in the garage and in the little house next door. I don't just want their books. I want to own this store, but the owners, Jim and Carol Wilson say they won't sell. I've even offered to work for them, dirt cheap. They just look at me as if they're about to call 911.

Our final stop in the village was at the Old St. Aloysius Cathollic Church, on land purchased by Archbishop John B. Purcell in 1868. The structure dates to 1900. The congregation moved out, however, in 1985, when a large modern church was built on Cincinnati-Brookville Road west of the village.

On our way home from Shandon (which, by the way, hosts lovely events every year like Christmas in the County, an annual Welsh Christmas celebration, and the annual Strawberry Festival in June), we drove past the John Evans Spring, still marked by a large stone monument bearing the inscription "And now abideth Faith, Hope and Charity, these three, but the creates of these is Charity." Built in 1877, the spring was a welcome watering spot for travelers and farmers who drove their livestock to the Cincinnati markets.

Many thanks to the Morgan Township Historical Society for the booklet that took us on the tour. We didn't stop at every spot the booklet features, but enjoyed what we did.

Morgan Twp. Driving Tour (Okeana)

As mentioned already in two previous posts on this blog, last Friday for date night the lovely Robin and I set out on a self-guided driving tour of historic Morgan Township with the help of a dandy booklet created by the Morgan Township Historical Society. We had already seen many interesting stops on the tour when we made our way into historic Okeana, the geographic center of Morgan Township. From the booklet: "Okeana was named in honor of a local Native American princess, the daughter of Chief Kiatta....There has been an operating post office in the village since 1828 under the names Tariff and Okeana. In 1868 the Walking and McClain Liniment was manufactured here, which was good for man and beast."

The Okeana Methodist Church (above) is built on land purchased in 1904. The structure was completed in 1908 at a cost of about $7,000. "Of special beauty," says the tour guide, "are the large tinted glass memorial windows."

The Old Township Hall (above) was constructed at a cost of $650 in the mid-nineteenth-century. The historic marker in front reads:
COPPERHEADISM IN BUTLER COUNTY. By the early summer of 1863, many Ohioans had become dissatisfied with what seemed a protracted Civil War. They opposed the administration of President Abraham Lincoln and the policy of a national military draft and were alarmed by what they saw as an invasion of their civil liberties. This was in part fueled by the arrest of Clement Vallandingham, future Democratic candidate for Governor, for publicly criticizing the war. He was convicted of sedition by a military commission and exiled by the President. On July 17, 1863, those unfriendly to the Civil War (Copperheads) from Morgan, Ross, Reily, and Hanover townships met at the Morgan Township House to organize the Butler County Mutual Protection Company. Copperheads from Franklin County, Indiana, joined the company to protest the draft and the president's handling of the war. The company was short-lived, however, as similar antiwar organizations flourished in the region.

We also stopped at the Okeana Bank (above). The bank was organized in 1909 as the First National Bank of Okeana. From the guide: "Francis Earnshaw, who sold 250 one-hundred-dollar shares of stock to the local farmers and businessmen of the area, established it. He was just 20 years old and had to wait until he was 21 before he could open the bank." It has previously been a Citizens Bank & Trust and Society Bank (later named Key Bank). Today it is a branch of the Lebanon Citizens National Bank.

The photo above is of a large black-and-white mural on the side of the bank, depicting the structure as it appeared when it was new (apparently before any signage or furnishings were installed).

Morgan Twp. Driving Tour (Governor Bebb Preserve)

As mentioned in yesterday's post, last Friday for date night the lovely Robin and I set out on a self-guided driving tour of historic Morgan Township with the help of a dandy booklet created by the Morgan Township Historical Society. After the metropoli of Auburn, Isis, St. Charles, and Scipio, we made our way to the Governor Bebb Preserve and Pioneer Village, located southeast of Scipio on Cincinnati-Brookville Road (Rt. 126). It is amazing to me that, having lived in Butler County now for twenty years, we have never previously visited this lovely place.

The park was dedicated on June 17, 1961. It is named for William Bebb, nineteenth governor of Ohio (1846-1849). The 1850 covered bridge pictured above, one of two remaining covered bridges in the county, was moved from the Oxford area and rebuilt at the park entrance in 1970.

The beautiful pioneer village on the grounds includes six authentic log cabins moved to the park and reconstructed to form a representative early Midwestern settlement. The log house below was the birthplace and boyhood home of Governor Bebb.

The park's 264 acres of woods, meadows, fields, streams, trails, campgrounds, and shelters are free to Butler County residents. All others (suckas!) are supposed to have a permit.

The parameters of our date night didn't allow us enough time here, so we will definitely be returning. In slightly cooler weather, we'd love to explore the trails.

The park is open daily 8:00 am until dark.