Dayton Remembers

Great 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkAt right is a very old light bulb with some very old water inside. The bulb was in a Dayton, Ohio, high school during the 1913 flood and a microscopic hole allowed water to get inside. The worst natural disaster in Ohio’s history struck on March 25, 1913. On March 23, 2013, a permanent display, devoted to the flood, opened at Carillon Historical Park. I saw the exhibit for the first time yesterday.

Great 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkGreat 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkAn existing building was greatly enlarged to house the display though it’s almost impossible to tell the new from the old. The original building was nearly filled by the Rubicon fireless steam engine. The NCR (National Cash Register) owned engine had been a big help in the flood recovery so adding the display to its home seems appropriate.

Great 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkGreat 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkThe 1913 flood wasn’t the first for Dayton. The city stands at the convergence of three rivers and a creek so flowing water is ever present. Some actual photographs of the 1866 flood are on display with a larger image of from the 1898 flood as background. There were also major floods in 1828 and 1847. The TV screen with modern style reporting of 1913 weather may look a little corny but it is an effective way of describing the wind, rain, and temperatures that gave rise to the flood.

Great 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkGreat 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkMany personal stories and artifacts help make up the exhibit. Katherine Kennedy Brown’s diary, with a large “The Flood” headlining the record of her experiences, is one. Another is the dress Grace Hall had made for her wedding. Trapped by the flood, Grace was rescued by her fiance but the dress was left behind. Read the placard here. The three-dimensional map beyond the dress was made by NCR in 1914 to show the extent of the flood. About fourteen square miles of the city were under water at the flood’s peak.

Great 1913 Flood Exhibit at Carillon Historical ParkAttics often figure prominently in floods and they certainly did in this one. “Remember the promises you made in the attic” became something of a rallying cry after the flood. A recreated attic is part of the exhibit but I didn’t expect much when I stepped into it. The moving light patterns on the solid floor looked about as corny as the derby-wearing weatherman. Maybe so but it is also just as effective. As I stood in the small space listening to the sounds of water coming from the dark hole that led the lower parts of the house and the creaking of the structure as water pressed against it, that concrete floor became a lot less solid and I had just a tiny sense of what it was like fearing that one of those creaks would change to a crack.

dayflood9The exhibit loops back to the Rubicon where the story of the birth of the Miami Conservancy District is presented. Many also consider this the birth of modern flood control. Under reminders of those “promises made in the attic”, Daytonians organized and financed a project that has succeeded in keeping Dayton dry to this day. It’s impossible to say just what this hotbed of invention would have become without the flood but it’s fairly easy to guess what it would have become without the MCD.

Carillon Historical ParkCarillon Historical ParkCarillon Historical ParkAlthough the carousel and 4-D theater were here when I visited last year, I didn’t actually see them. The carousel is filled with Dayton icons such as the Wright brothers’ dog and a Huffy bicycle. The animatrons in the theater tell of Dayton history with the help of some seat shaking, wind blowing, and a few dashes of water. The Wright brothers are there along with John Patterson, Charles Kettering, and Colonel Deeds. One of the reasons I’ll be coming back next year is shown in the third picture. Work has just begun on the Carillon Brewing Company which should open by the end of 2013. The brewery will produce and sell beer using historic tools and methods.

The flood was also the subject of an earlier blog entry,  a guest post from HistoricNaturalDisasters.com.

Sappy Ohio

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalI really goofed last week. I was in Greenville on Saturday but didn’t realize it was syrup making time at the Shawnee Prairie Preserve with demonstrations and a waffle! breakfast. It would have been perfect but, in my ignorance, I dawdled, ate breakfast in Dayton, and only reached town and learned of the event long after breakfast was finished and the whole shebang was pretty much over. I cast about for a way to make up for this missed opportunity and even briefly considered returning to Hinckley with the buzzards for one of the area’s big maple sugaring weekends as I did in 2011. But, in the end, I decided to stay closer to home and yesterday checked out the 47th Maple Syrup Festival at Hueston Woods.

sapo2Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalI started out by standing in line for the very popular pancake breakfast at the park lodge. I realize that the breakfast isn’t all that photogenic but it sure tasted good. Pure maple syrup does that.

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalThen I headed over to the Pioneer Village area to stand in line for a “hay ride”. Trucks pulling trailers with seats made of straw bales carried people to the start of a short trail leading to the “sugar shack”. A guide would then lead the way down the trail while providing information about the area and the syrup making process. In chatting with some of the volunteers, I learned that a shortage of guides had resulted in a minor bottleneck. Even though our departure was delayed as long as practical and the ride to the trail was as slow as possible, we still reached the trail several minutes ahead of our guide.

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalHueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalHueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalThe wait was worth it. I feel extra bad about not learning our guide’s name because he sure was an extra good guide. He spoke, in a most entertaining way, about both the natural and human history of the area and he talked of the social as well as technical aspects of sugaring. He explained that, since the sap contains only a percent or two of sugar when it comes from the tree, it doesn’t taste very much like syrup. At the guide’s invitation, several young tour members personally verified this by licking fingers that had caught a few drops.

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalHueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalThere was another line at the sugar shack but it wasn’t a long one. The original Hueston family shack burned in the 1980s but the current one looks much the same and is on the same foundation. Maple syrup must be about two-thirds sugar which means an awful lot of water has to be removed. This is accomplished by the wood fired evaporator  The fog makes it hard to see but the warmth is certainly welcome. After hearing an explanation of the evaporation process, there was one more short line for the shuttle back to the car at Pioneer Village. The well run free festival is a great fun and educational, too.


McGuffey MuseumMcGuffey MuseumNot far from Hueston Woods, the home of William Holmes McGuffey, the man behind the incredibly successful McGuffey Readers, is now a museum. It’s owned and operated by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. McGuffey was part of the university faculty when he had the house built in 1833 then took on creating the first reader, published in 1836, as a way to augment his professor’s salary. The house is filled with wonderful period furnishings including several of McGuffey’s own pieces. Among these are the eight-sided rotating table and the tall desk behind it. I was accompanied as much as guided by a fellow named Steve who thoroughly answered every question I had. Like the festival, the McGuffey Museum is free and fun and educational.

The Future is Rosie

Groundhog Day Boonshoft Museum of DiscoveryA far as I know, not a single marmota monax in the city of Cincinnati has shown any propensity for prognostication. That means I have to go to Dayton if I want my Groundhog Day predictions live. But not only is Dayton, OH, a much shorter drive than Punxsutawney, PA, watching the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery‘s Rosie do her thing is a lot less effort and a lot more comfortable than watching Punxsutawney Phil, which I did once, do his. It was even a little more comfortable this year than most. Normally the resident groundhog works in an open wooden shelter beside the museum but, when single digit temperatures were predicted, museum staff decided to move it inside. There is no doubt that both Rosie and the kids (who are very much the target audience) appreciated this. The predicting took place next to a solid wall of windows so that any shadow making stuff that showed up outside could make shadows inside, too. It took a few banana slices from the museum’s Melissa Proffitt to entice a reluctant Rosie to poke through the door but she eventually came out and took a look. There wasn’t a hint of a shadow and Rosie confidently predicted an early spring. Museum President and CEO Mark J. Meister read the proclamation with TV weatherman Chris Mulcahy, who served as MC, looking on.

Boonshoft Museum of DiscoveryBoonshoft Museum of DiscoveryAfter the big event, many of us kids headed off to check out the museum though quite a few did hang around to get a closer look at Rosie. It’s no accident that the museum feels like a combination children’s museum and natural history museum. In 1993, one century after the Dayton Museum of Natural History began, some community leaders got together to explore starting a children’s museum. The philosophies of the new group and the existing one were so similar that the Children’s Museum Board and the Board of the Dayton Society of Natural History merged in 1996 and this is the result. The phrase “…to be the premier regional provider of interactive science learning experiences which enrich the lives of children and adults…” is from the Boonshoft’s mission statement and I think they may have already done that. This is one really cool place. Every single employee I had contact with was extremely friendly and helpful. On top of that, they all seemed to be having a really good time and spoke about the museum with genuine enthusiasm. Seems like this is a good place to work as well as visit.

Boonshoft Museum of DiscoveryBoonshoft Museum of DiscoveryRosie isn’t the only resident of the museum. The Discovery Zoo contains quite a few animals, birds, and other smallish critters. Otters and meerkats are representative of the size of animals on display although the largest resident is a Burmese python that’s nearly 16 feet long and 180 pounds in weight. I understand that he almost never sees his shadow.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

Boonshoft Museum of DiscoveryI think my personal favorites were The Dome and Science on a Sphere. Both are pretty much what they sound like. The Dome is a full-dome screen on which planetarium programs and movies, including some in 3D, are projected. Science on a Sphere is a large ball which can display images on its entire surface. The picture here shows a color coded image of the height of waves during the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

This was Rosie’s second year of handling Groundhog Day duties. She was found injured in Minnesota and is believed to be about three years old. Although she has essentially recovered from her injuries, she is partially blind in one eye so returning her to the wild would not be wise. Ivy, Rosie’s predecessor retired last year then died just a month after Groundhog Day. The average lifespan of a groundhog in the wild is two to four years; In captivity it’s eight to ten. Ivy was right at eleven. Of course, regular meals and good shelter had a lot to do with Ivy’s long life but I’ve a feeling that having a purpose helped a little, too.


Triangle Park - First NFL GameThe Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is in Triangle Park a little north of downtown Dayton. It seems somehow fitting that my visit to Rosie and the park occurred on the eve of this year’s version of the National Football League’s Game of the Century. Until I started putting this post together, I simply assumed that Triangle Park took its name directly from its location in the triangle formed by the joining of the Stillwater and Great Miami Rivers. Turns out that had nothing to do with it. The name comes from a trio of Dayton companies who sponsored a professional football team and gave them the name Dayton Triangles. This was their home. The Triangles were charter members of the American Professional Football Association (APFA) which changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) in 1922. Not only was professional football played here for several years, there is at least a 50/50 chance this is where the very first APFA/NFL game took place. Read the story here then imagine an all Ohio Super Bowl between the Dayton Triangles and the Columbus Panhandles.

Dead Sea Scrolls in Cincinnati

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterSeveral Dead Sea Scrolls form the centerpiece of and lend their name to a major ongoing exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The full name of the exhibit, which I attended on Monday and which runs through mid-April, is Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient TimesThe “scrolls” are in that circular table whose edge is near the center of the photograph at right. They’re not really scrolls though. Not many of the things comprising what we call the Dead Sea Scrolls are. The first manuscripts pulled from caves near the Dead Sea in 1947 were actual scrolls — seven of them — but not so most of the items found since then. Those first scrolls have been described as “relatively intact”. Subsequent finds have largely been fragments of varying sizes. Pieces of parchment and papyrus containing writing were found in a total of eleven caves in the area and by 1956, when somebody decided they had found all there was to find, some 15,000 to 30,000 fragments of what are estimated to be more than 900 manuscripts had been retrieved. About 40% of the manuscripts are copies of books in the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament), 30% are religious documents not part of the canonized Bible, and another 30% are secular.

Ten of those manuscripts are represented in that big circular table. To help preserve them, they will be swapped out for a different ten half way through the exhibit. The actual bits of ancient writing are inside sealed climate controlled compartments. Enlargements, notes, and English translations are on the table’s surface. Attributed to the period between roughly 250 BCE and 100 CE, most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew with a respectable number in Aramaic and a few in Greek or Nabataean. All those in the exhibit are either Hebrew or Aramaic. I can’t read one word. Studying the scrolls doesn’t do much for me in practical terms but gazing on documents produced two millennia ago is downright awesome.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterDead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterThe scrolls are the big draw but by the time most people buy their tickets, they are aware that there is more — a lot more — on display. I regret getting no pictures in the first room of the exhibit where a museum guide uses three ancient jars and walls filled with changing pictures of the region to illustrate an overview of the scroll’s discovery and a little history. From there, visitors enter a long hall with dates on the floor and some seriously old artifacts displayed along one wall. Some sense of the world that preceded the writing and hiding of the scrolls can be obtained here.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterDead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterNext up are some newer and larger artifacts. An accurate count of artifacts displayed is elusive but something above 600 is probably close. This is reportedly the largest exhibit ever mounted in Cincinnati. The 2011 Cleopatra exhibit had about 150 items and the Pompeii exhibit from earlier this year was just over 250. The rightmost picture is of pottery shards with writing on them. Waste not, want not.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterDead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterAs visitors get nearer the scroll display, artifacts seem to become a bit more involved with religion. Holders of incense and offerings are well represented and there are hints of a bit more idolatry than I might have suspected. The tall painted cylinder in the second photo is called a cult stand. It’s thought that a bowl with incense or other offerings would have been placed atop it.

Not surprisingly, no photos are permitted in the area where the scrolls are displayed. What was at least a little surprising to me was that the scrolls are not displayed in isolation. They are surrounded by more artifacts, descriptive texts, a short movie, and a stone wall. The movie and texts present some of the facts and theories about who wrote the scrolls, the circumstances of their hiding, and their relationship to the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The wall is basically a replica of a section of the Western/Wailing Wall in Jerusalem but it frames what is believed to be a stone from the actual wall. The three ton cube was not ripped from the wall for the exhibit. Roman soldiers of about 70 CE get the blame for that. Touching the stone is permitted and this can be a very emotional experience for some. Visitors may also insert written prayers into crevices in the replica just as is done at the real Wailing Wall. These prayers are collected periodically and sent to Israel. A nearby video screen displays a live feed from the real wall.

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Cincinnati Museum CenterThe last part of the exhibit is, I believe, a Cincinnati exclusive. The Hebrew Union College here has been involved with the scrolls from shortly after their discovery. An HUC professor played a key role in the purchase of four of the first seven scrolls in response to a 1954 classified ad in the Wall Street Journal. In the 1970s, HUC secretly stored many photographic negatives of the scrolls for safe keeping. When publication of translations dragged on and on, another HUC professor published his own interpretation of many scrolls in 1991. That exposed him to being sued over copyright violations and he lost. Any 250 BCE copyright on the actual scrolls had most likely expired but the suit involved some intermediate translation work. Despite a courtroom defeat, a lot of the scrolls were now out of the bag and things have been a lot more open since then.

Pnina Shor - The Conservation and Preservation of the Dead Sea ScrollsAnd they’re about to become even more open. The picture at left was taken at a free lecture I attended at the Museum Center in November. The speaker is Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The screen behind her is demonstrating a digitization project that the IAA has undertaken in partnership with Google. This is not the first time that some Dead Sea Scrolls have been digitized. The scrolls are not all owned by one entity though reporting who and where is way beyond anything I want to deal with. Lots of people have some and some are already available on line. But the IAA has a bunch and their digitization project is a big one. Estimated completion is 2016 with the first phase, consisting of a few manuscripts, going live in mid-December. The images are being recorded at 1.2 gigapixels. You’re going to need a bigger screen.

Phirst FotoFocus Phinished

Paul Briol exhibit at FotoFocus 2012It’s officially over and I pretty much missed it. The inaugural FotoFocus festival ended along with October and, despite some good intentions, I barely caught a whiff. Of the over fifty exhibits that were part of the event, the only one I actually saw during regulation time was the “The Photographic Legacy of Paul Briol, 1909-1955” at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Briol’s photographs of Cincinnati in the first half of the last century are both documentation and art. He was a master in the dark room and learned to combine images to enhance the finished product. For example, a blank sky might be turned into a pleasant background by adding a few clouds. That was neither common or easy in those pre-PhotoShop days.

FotoFocus is the name of a a Cincinnati nonprofit that “champions the ubiquity of photography and its important role in contemporary culture.” It is also the name of the just concluded month long series of exhibits, presentations, and lectures. There were a couple of receptions and at least one lecture that I wanted to attend but each of those encountered a conflict. I had a whole month to take a look at the many exhibits but just kept putting it off. When I finally panicked and got serious, it was too late. I managed to get to the Briol show at Cincinnati Museum Center on Monday and two others on Friday. Of course, Friday was November 2 and the majority of exhibits were history. The two I visited on Friday were fairly major productions whose runs extend beyond FotoFocus.

Herb Ritts exhibit at FotoFocus 2012Herb Ritts exhibit at FotoFocus 2012On Friday, I headed first to the Cincinnati Arts Museum in Mount Adams to see “Herb Ritts: L.A. Style”. Since I do stop by here once in a while and wouldn’t feel the need to see all of the permanent displays, I thought my visit would be fairly brief. Though I did essentially limit my viewing to the Ritts exhibit and a traveling Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at its entrance, it wasn’t exactly a dash in and out. For one thing, Friday was the first of three days of an expanded “Holiday Expressions” gift shop that filled the lobby. Secondly, several bus loads of students were touring the museum in groups of twenty or so. I love seeing kids in museums. They can be a little noisy and can sometimes block an intended path but they deserve to be there a lot more than I do. Kudos to the schools and teachers who get their kids out to see “stuff”. There also happened to be two musical performances going on. In the lobby, a string trio played on a balcony for the benefit of “Holiday Expression” shoppers and two fellows played and discussed some “old timey” music for the benefit of the students in the main hall.

“Herb Ritts: L.A. Style” was curated by Paul Martineau for the J. Paul Getty Museum. Although I was not familiar with Ritts by name, I definitely recognized some of his photos including the cover of Madonna’s True Blue album. Not all of Ritts’ assignments were successful from the client’s point of view. Several examples of his most impressive work came from assignments that were rejected because they matched Ritts’ vision a lot more than the client’s. Ritts’ vision was darned good.

Even now. it seems, Ritts doesn’t please everyone. There are some stunningly beautiful nudes in the exhibit. A sign at the entrance states this and suggests parents check out things and decide for themselves whether their children should see them or not. After I had viewed the exhibit, I stopped for a while just outside the entrance and listened to the musicians below. As I stood there, a fellow I guessed to be about sixteen or seventeen exited the exhibit and approached me. “My male instincts told me to go in there”, he said. “They were wrong.” There are nudes of both genders on display and I’m guessing that this was the teenager’s problem. I doubt he had ever before considered that the word “nude” was not synonymous with “naked woman”. Ah, the insecurity of youth.

“Herb Ritts: L.A. Style” runs through December.

Edward Steichen exhibit at FotoFocus 2012Taft Museum of ArtThe other exhibit I saw on Friday was “Star Power: Edward Steichen’s Glamour Photography” at the Taft Museum of Art. To my shame, this was my first visit to the Taft since its major expansion and renovation in 2004. That meant I needed to look over the whole place and not limit my visit to the Steichen display. Christmas season is starting here also with Friday being the first day of “Antique Christmas”. This consists of a number of decorations, toys, and other Christmas related items from holidays far in the past spread throughout the museum.

Edward Steichen was a name I half recognized but couldn’t connect with anything in particular. It turns out that, had I made any sort of guess, there’s a good chance I’d have been right. He did a lot. He painted, directed movies, and played a key role in the publication of books and magazines and in the running museums. And he was a photographer. In World War I, he commanded the photographic division of the American Expeditionary Forces. In World War II, he was Director of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. His many activities between the wars included a fifteen year stint as photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. That stint ran from 1923 to 1938 and I believe that most, if not all, of the photographs in this exhibit are from that period.

The title refers to “Glamour Photography” and his work for the world of fashion is well represented. It also mentions “Star Power” and the stars are all there: Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and many others including my fav, Claudette Colbert. The way Steichen handles light in these black and white images is remarkable as is his frequent use of stark high-contrast backgrounds. His lighting often adds a 3-D quality and both it and the composition automatically and consistently focus the viewer right where Steichen wants.

“Star Power: Edward Steichen’s Glamour Photography” runs through January 27.

Even though I missed the majority of FotoFocus exhibits, I did see three of the bigger ones. With the Annie Liebovitz exhibit I visited a couple of weeks back, that means I’ve been exposed to some of the best lens based art of the last century in a fairly short span of time. I’ve never called myself a photographer. In fact, after seeing what can be done, I’m almost embarrassed to even be seen with a camera. I’ll get over it and I won’t stop snapping pictures but it was a clear reminder of just why I never call myself a photographer.


On Friday morning, I wanted to check out something about FotoFocus via my phone but I misspelled FotoFocus. I did it by correctly spelling Photofocus. Photofocus is a long running website that I was aware of though not one I can claim to be familiar with. By coincidence Friday was Photofocus’ fourteenth anniversary. It was also the day that founder Scott Bourne announced his retirement. He is not retiring just yet. That will occur in exactly one year and the website will continue. Scott has already made arrangements to assure that. Accident, coincidence, and the reading of a couple of interesting articles made me think that maybe I should become familiar with Photofocus so I’ve subscribed to its RSS feed.

Controversy, Photos, and Inclines

I long ago reserved a seat on a bus tour of Cincinnati incline sites and had in mind that the Saturday outing would be the subject of this Sunday’s blog entry. But not only did Thursday’s visit to the Pumpkin Show result in an unscheduled post, it led to me visiting a couple of exhibits that I think worth mentioning. So, before getting to today’s feature, I’m presenting a couple of short subjects.


Ohio History Center Controversy 2Short subject one is Controversy 2. Rather than driving home from Circleville in the dark on Thursday, I drove just a few miles toward Columbus and grabbed a motel room then headed on to Ohio’s capital in the morning. My first stop was at the Ohio History Center where the second exhibit of controversial items in the Ohio Historical Society’s collections is in progress. The photo at the right is of an area at the end of the exhibit. Large pads of paper hang next to photos of the five items on display. Presumably the pads were there for comments but they were entirely blank when I saw them. Around the corner, several comments made on smaller cards were displayed. Most were positive regarding the exhibit and thoughtful regarding the items in it but a few were unhappy that the objects have been allowed into the light.

Ohio History Center Controversy 2Ohio History Center Controversy 2The first Controversy exhibit, which I missed, included a hooded KKK costume and a nineteenth century condom. Controversy 2 contains an original Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo jacket from 1946, children’s toys depicting ethnic stereotypes, degrading racial caricatures, a poem written in dialect, and a Nazi flag. The cloth bowling pins were made sometime before 1914. An adjacent description is here. The prints were published by none other than Currier and Ives between 1882 and 1893. A dozen or so are displayed. Their description is here. The line at the bottom of the print shown here is “De gals all mire me so much dey makes me blush.”


Wexner Center, Columbus, OhioNot surprisingly, no photos were allowed at my next stop, an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz photographs at the Wexner Center. I’m not at all bothered by that since I am not all that fond of taking pictures of pictures and, in this case in particular, doing anything near justice to the subject was clearly out of the question. The exhibit includes all of Master Set and much of Pilgrimage. Master Set consists of 156 images hand picked by Leibovitz to represent four decades of work. Most are from professional assignments but there are some family shots in there, too. Pilgrimage is made up of photos that Annie took for herself. There are no people in these photos but every object and location is firmly associated with an historical figure.

The walls are filled with remarkable images but I’m going to comment on just two. My favorite in Master Set is a 2001 picture of Pete Seeger standing at the edge of the Hudson River wearing hip-high waders and a banjo. It can be found online with a search for Leibovitz and Seeger. I want to grow up to be as happy as Pete Seeger looks in that photo. In Pilgrimage, I was drawn to a picture of Annie Oakley’s boots taken at the museum in my home county. I’ll certainly look at those boots, that I can now connect with two sharpshooting Annies, a bit differently on my next visit.


Inclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiThe Cincinnati Museum Center conducts a number of Heritage Tours each year including several that are repeated every year. One of those is Inclines and Overlooks. I’ve signed up for this in the past but didn’t get to attend because of a schedule overload. This year I made it as the feature event of a busy weekend. Unfortunately, a lot of clouds were also able to attend this year and there was even a little rain but that did little to dampen spirits on the sold out tour.

Inclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiInclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiOur first stop was in Kentucky’s DeVou Park which provides a great view of Cincinnati. From here our guides could point out where the city’s five inclines were and explain why they were needed. There were four guides on the tour; All excellent and all of who’s names I’ve forgotten.

Inclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiInclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiThen it was back to Ohio where we would eventually visit all five incline sites. The first was the Price Hill Incline on the west side of the city. This was the second incline built in Cincinnati and the next to last to die. Constructed in 1874, it operated until 1943. A turn to the right yields a nice view of the Ohio River and the Southern Railroad Bridge.

Inclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiInclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiI make multiple goofs in preparing every blog post and journal entry. Most I can simply ignore but some, like forgetting all the guides’ names and not getting a skyline shot from the Mount Adams overlook are hard to conceal. Instead, I’ve got a shot of some of the piers from Cincinnati’s last incline and an overhead view of one of my favorite taverns. I briefly thought of trying to cover my oversight by claiming that I intentionally omitted a view of the city because I wanted you to visit the City View Tavern so you could experience the view for yourself. I quickly realized that it wouldn’t fly as an excuse but it’s still a great suggestion. The Mount Adams Incline opened in 1876 with two enclosed passenger cars. Three years later the incline was converted to open platforms which would carry horse cars, and eventually electric street cars, to and from down town. The Mount Adams Incline is shown in the picture at the top of this section. It closed in 1948.

Inclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiInclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiInclines and Overlooks Tour, CincinnatiThere was a little rain at the Mount Adams stop and that may have contributed to my failing to get a proper overlook view. It definitely contributed to my failure to get one from the top of the Mount Auburn Incline route. It was also a deterrent to walking the stairs that essentially trace the route but that was outweighed by the fact that the bus would meet all walkers at the bottom. A chance to de-climb 355 steps without also climbing them doesn’t come along every day. The overlook views are from the top of the Bellvue Incline and near the midpoint of the Fairview Incline. Operating between 1871 and 1898, The Mount Auburn Incline was the first and shortest lived of the Cincinnati inclines. It was also the only one with fatalities. In 1889 a car plunged down the track killing six of eight passengers. The Bellvue Incline operated between 1876 and 1926; The Fairview Incline between 1892 and 1923.

I learned quite a few things on this tour including the fact that, while San Francisco was first and last with cable cars, Cincinnati had them, too. Between 1873 and the end of the century, as many as three cable car lines operated here. The power house for one of them still stands and is used for office space. Another surprise was getting a copy of Cincinnati Streetcars No. 2 The Inclines at the end of the tour. This was a gift from the Ohio Book Store and a reminder that it has been entirely too long since I’ve been inside that wonderful place.

This was an extremely well done tour. As I write this, I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t praise it more on the evaluation form. I’m also thinking that I just might try to sign up again next year and hope for better weather.

RoadDog Day Afternoon

Don Hatch at American Sign MuseumI get to be part of somebody’s road trip again. Don Hatch is a roadie whose nickname and online handle is RoadDog” and that is the source of my not particularly clever title. He stopped in Cincinnati today on his way back from relatives in North Carolina to his home in Illinois. Unlike Fred Zander, whose road trip I got to be part of last month, Don has been to Cincinnati before and even visited the American Sign Museum in its original location. In spite of that, or more likely because of it, seeing the new and improved set up was high on his list of goals for the visit.

American Sign MuseumTo save time and make sure we didn’t miss the four hour (noon-4:00) Sunday window, we met at the museum. We arrived a little after 1:00 and roamed the museum on our own for awhile then hooked up with about a dozen others for the 2:00 tour. This was my first “official” tour of the museum in the new location. Museum founder Tod Swormstedt did his normal excellent job job while RoadDog took notes.

Neonworks at American Sign MuseumNeonworks at American Sign MuseumNeonworks at American Sign MuseumI experienced another first by going inside Neonworks, the independent sign shop that occupies some of the museum’s space. The shop can be seen from the museum proper through large windows but is usually idle on weekends. Today craftsman Tom Wartman showed up near the end of the tour and we were allowed into the shop for an up close look and a little demonstration. As we watched, Tom sealed and filled then brought to life a length of neon text.

Zip's CafeRoadDog and ZipburgerAnother of Don’s Cincinnati goals was grabbing some chili but, as I’ve noted before, all the independent chili parlors are closed on Sundays. The two big chains, Skyline and Gold Star, have plenty of stores open and both turn out some very fine Cincinnati chili but I talked Don into waiting until Monday for his chili fix and trying out a ‘burger joint today. Probably the currently best known Cincinnati ‘burger joint is Terry’s Turf Club and that’s where Fred and I went. However, Don has experienced — and loved — Terry’s in the past so I led Don to someplace “new”. That “new” is in quotes because, while Zip’s Cafe may be new to Don, but it has been turning out award winning “Zip Burgers since 1926.

Aglamesis ice creamAglamesis ice creamFor dessert, we did exactly what Fred and I had done and ate delicious ice cream at one of the 98 year old marble tables at the Aglamesis Brothers shop on Madison Road. Most people who think of Cincinnati ice cream think of Graeter’s and I don’t want to demean it in anyway. Like Skyline and Gold Star chili, it is an excellent product and I’m proud to live near its source. All three brands are Cincinnati to the bone, if any of them had bones, but they can now be found in other cities in the region. Camp Washington and Blue Ash Chili (which is in tomorrow’s plans) are among a number of independent one-location Cincinnati-only chili dispensaries. Aglamesis does have two stores but all of their ice cream is made on Madison Road. Fred actually had Graeter’s on his list when he arrived but I steered him to Aglamesis. I was happy to learn that he did get to sample their product in Columbus, Ohio, and sent this picture to prove it.

Jake Speed and the FreddiesOver the RhineWe wrapped up the day at Washington Park. The park, which originally opened in1855, had become a somewhat scary place in recent years but an extensive makeover has just been completed. The ribbon cutting was July 6 and tonight a sort of grand reopening celebration took place with a free concert featuring Jake Speed & the Freddies and Over the Rhine. You can’t get much more Cincinnati than that.

The reverse road trip continues tomorrow with stops planned for Blue Ash Chili, Pompilio’s, and Mansion Hill Tavern.

Reverse Road Trip

American Sign MuseumI was part of a road trip today but it wasn’t mine. Roadie Fred Zander from Topeka, Kansas, is in Ohio visiting family north of Dayton and came down to Cincinnati for the day. Like many others, Fred has wanted to visit the American Sign Museum but its limited hours made him put it off. The ribbon cutting was yesterday. Today was the first “normal” day and Fred was among the first “normal” customers.

Although it was the Sign Museum that prompted the trip and Fred even commented that the museum alone would have made the trip worthwhile, this was also Fred’s first visit to the Queen City and an opportunity for me to do a little boostering. I think I did OK in that regard but really fell down in the picture taking department. I had good intentions and almost always had a camera nearby but, presumably since everything was familiar to me, whatever it is that makes me want to click rarely appeared. So, while I showed Fred what I believe is some Cincinnati “good stuff”, I’m going to have to tell about it with few visual aids.

Fred Zander at Roebling BridgeI met Fred at an I-75 exit a little north of the city where he could leave his car. We headed directly downtown from there and drove by Music Hall, Fountain Square, P & G headquarters, and Cincinnati’s oldest bar, Arnold’s. On the way to the 1867 Roebling Suspension Bridge, we got a glimpse of the football and baseball stadiums and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. On the Kentucky end of the bridge, we pulled into a small lot beneath it that offers a good view of the bridge, the river, and the Cincinnati skyline. I even thought to get a picture of the skyline in addition to the picture of Fred backed by the Roebling Bridge. Before moving on, we took a look at the scenes from area history captured by large murals painted on the flood wall.

Fred and Tod at Amrtican Sign MuseumInformation panel at American Sign MuseumThen it was time for the sign museum to open so we headed back to Ohio. I actually remembered to take some pictures there. One reason may have been that the explanatory panels that stand near most signs were new to me. The text had been ready for the sneak previews but not the stands. I wish I had taken a picture of the face of one of the panels as an example. Tod wrote most or all of these and it’s no surprise that they are quite informative. Sharp eyes may have noticed the American Sign Museum sign at the museum entrance in the photo at the top of this article. That’s also been added since the previews as have some plaques and section signs inside. We were not on an official tour but Tod was always nearby answering questions and pointing out things so it was an “almost tour”.

First Sign Museum tourReal tours, which are free, are given at fixed times. Space permitting, walk-ups are welcome but tours may be scheduled and tickets purchased through the museum’s website. The picture is of the first official tour at the new location. Most of the group is on the other side of the wall.

Fred and his favorite signFred's favorite signI also got a picture of Fred’s favorite sign and a picture of Fred taking a picture of Fred’s favorite sign.

After a couple of hours at the sign museum we drove a couple of miles south to the Cincinnati Museum Center. The museum center is in the 1931 Union Terminal and the art deco building with its murals and other decorative features is something of a museum itself. We did not visit any of the three real museums there.

It was beginning to get a little hungry out so we headed over to Terry’s Turf Club. I had originally wanted to stop at Camp Washington Chili which is just a few blocks from the Sign Museum but it’s closed on Sunday. Terry’s is known for its fantastic hamburgers and huge collection of working neon signs. It’s definitely a fitting place to eat after an American Sign Museum visit. Dessert was ice cream at the 1913 Aglamesis Brothers shop just a few miles north.

Although I didn’t do a very good job of recording the reverse road trip, I did enjoy the chance to show someone a little bit of my town. Fred clearly enjoyed his first visit here and declared his intentions to return. I’m looking forward to it.

American Sign Museum Reopening

American Sign MuseumMark your calendars. On June 23, the American Sign Museum begins full five-days-a-week operation at its new bigger and taller location just a few blocks from Camp Washington Chili. There were previews on Friday & Saturday and I assure you that seeing an entire Mail Pouch barn side in a museum is not the same as seeing pictures. I’ve created an Oddment page for those previews and this blog entry simply points to that page and provides a place for comments.

This way to the Oddment.

Carillon Park Heritage Fest

Carillon Park History FestivalOn the south side of Dayton, Ohio, there is what amounts to a small Greenfield Village. It’s now called Carillon Historical Park and is part of the Dayton History organization. Just as Henry Ford was behind the collection of historic buildings that is Greenfield Village, Dayton industrialist Edward Deeds was behind the collection here. I believe the place was actually called Deeds Park once upon a time. In fact, I didn’t realize that Deeds was not part of the official name until I started doing research to write this. At least the carillon that gives the park its name is still called the Deeds Carillon. It was built in 1942 and, at 151 feet tall, is the largest in Ohio.

Carillon Park Heritage FestivalCarillon Park Heritage FestivalToday was the day of the Heritage Festival which meant admission was free (just pay for parking), all the buildings were open and staffed, and there were plenty of food vendors. There was also entertainment scheduled throughout the day with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra preceding event ending fireworks.

Carillon Park Heritage FestivalCarillon Park Heritage FestivalQuite a few bicycle manufacturers called Dayton home and that included the Wright Brothers. Two of the five surviving Van Cleves (the Wright’s  , brand name) are in the park but are not part of this display. Both are in a building devoted to the brothers. Huffy originated in Dayton and introduced the Radio Bike in 1955. The three tube radio was built into the “tank” with batteries and antenna on the rear fender. Only a few more years separate the 1890s high-wheels in the first picture from the Radio Bike than separate the Radio Bike from today.

Carillon Park Heritage FestivalCarillon Park Heritage FestivalThere’s some big stuff, like rail cars and buses, in the transportation building. The 1835 B & O engine is the oldest existing locomotive built in the United States. Because of the way the vertical pistons and connecting rods looked when in motion, locomotives of this type got the nickname “grasshoppers”. The horse-drawn steam-powered pumper was built in Cincinnati in 1883 and used in Sidney, Ohio, until 1916.

Carillon Park Heritage FestivalI remember this clock standing beside I-75 just south of Dayton. It marked the Reynolds and Reynolds Company headquarters and I guess I thought it always had. Nope. It started out in downtown Dayton on the Callahan Building. That building was demolished in 1978 and the clock moved to Reynolds and Reynolds. It has been patiently waiting here since 2006.

Carillon Park Heritage FestivalI’m not sure what this fellow’s real name is but he calls himself Wilbur
“…because I can’t grow a mustache”. He is standing in a replica of the Wright’s work shop since Henry Ford took the original to Greenfield Village at the Ford Museum. After doing a wonderful job of telling about the wind tunnel and other experiments that both preceded and followed that first flight in 1903, he tells us that there is a real airplane just down the hall that “…I’ll be flying this afternoon about 3:00.”

Carillon Park Heritage FestivalCarillon Park Heritage FestivalThis is the plane. It is the Wright Flyer III from 1905. With the 1903 flyer, they got off of the ground more or less when they wanted but they returned the the ground when the plane “wanted” and the flight path was essentially straight. With this plane, they learned to fly where they wanted and land on their own, rather than the plane’s, schedule. When Orville gave the pieces of this plane (it’s about 80% original) to Deeds in 1948, he insisted that it be displayed in a pit so that visitors could look down on the plane and see what was involved it operating it. The pilot’s right hand works a horizontal lever that controls the rudder. The left hand works a vertical lever that controls the elevators at the front of the plane. By moving his hips from side to side, the pilot controls the twisting of the wings which the Wrights called “wing warping”. Orville died before the park opened.

I didn’t make it to the fireworks or even to the Philharmonic but, as always, I very much enjoyed a visit to my favorite neighborhood historical village.