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Circus Trip 2018: Indiana’s Covered Bridges

Day 23, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Vermillion County, Indiana

Marilyn and I got up for a day of Indiana countryside sightseeing.  We decided we were going to check out several covered bridges, as this tri-county area around Dana, Indiana is known for having many of them.  Unfortunately, the very first bridge we went to, at the Ernie Pyle Memorial Rest Park, we came upon a tragic scene.  I won’t revisit it here, because I blogged about it last year.

That day we visited a number of bridges, historic cemeteries, murals and the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum.  I’m going to divide the posts up by subject, and group the photos together.

Once we steeled our nerves again from our morning, we saw several more covered bridges.  They are gorgeous, each painted red with white accents, each with the same neat, black lettering indicating the year it was built, along with name of the bridge and sometimes the builder.  The earliest bridge we saw was built in 1873, and the most recent was built in 2006.  I suppose now they are probably maintained by the county, or a historical society, but it still seemed odd that they are all painted the same.

They are scattered all around, with some of the bridges off to the side of the road, and others still part of the road so you could drive through them.  One is close to an old historic mill that has been redeveloped – it is quite picturesque!  I got to see quite a bit of the countryside, the Amish homes, and even a few Amish buggies.

The history here is incredible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiet Friday Nights

It has been raining off and on for a week, including a pretty incredible thunder and lightning storm last Saturday night.  The rain is supposed to continue off and on for several more days.  It will make for a good weekend to do some house organizing, have some quiet time, and go antiquing with my mom.

It has been nice to have a few quieter weekends at home, after a summer spent jet-setting around the country (I exaggerate, but I was in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and California this summer, in addition to some weekend trips around Washington).

My Facebook memories are also making me so nostalgic for my time on the road.  Last year at this time I was in Washington, D.C., although I was a bit behind at the time in posting photos and still working on posting New York state pics.

I have not been able to blog very quickly about my trip, given that I did so much, and want to give each place the attention it deserves.  The trip posts will likely be going on for a couple of years, and I’m making peace with that.  My plan now is to intersperse my more recent short trips with the posts on my longer trip.  That way I can stay caught up on what’s currently happening in my life.  Sound like a plan?

That’s what’s on my agenda – how about yours?

Circus Trip 2018: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library

Day 22, Monday, August 6, 2018

Springfield is home to the Lincoln Museum and Library, a fascinating place!  The museum has many interactive exhibits, which are fun for the whole family.

When you first go into the museum, there is a performance in the museum’s theater.  It is probably best described as a play, but features a live actor interacting with holograms as the other characters!  It takes place in the museum’s library and shows the viewer several items of historical significance to Lincoln’s life.  The technology also allows the live actor to fade out of the scene, and they literally disappear in front of the viewer’s eyes!  If you go, make sure you check this out!

The Lincoln Museum also has a number of exhibits.  I really enjoyed the live actor who discussed Lincoln’s draft of the Emancipation Proclamation and the events leading up to it.  The actor portrayed Francis Carpenter, the actor who painted the portrait of Lincoln and his cabinet members.  He was very well informed, and coherently expressed the arguments for and against issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.  I watched for quite a while and was impressed by his level of knowledge.

Another favorite of mine was the map that moves through the Civil War time period, showing the movement of battles throughout the country, the territory held by the Union and the Confederacy, and tallying up the toll of casualties.  The map moves at a consistent pace, so you can see how some periods of the war were much more active and deadly than others.  It is punctuated with significant events of the war – it was very well done!

There are also exhibits of Lincoln artifacts, as well as an interesting exhibit on the cartoons that ran in the media outlets during his presidential campaigns and presidency.  If you think the media is ruthless and not neutral now, well, it wasn’t any different back then.

And last, but certainly not least, the Lincoln artifacts.  The museum displays a number of items that once belonged to Lincoln and his family members, including letters Lincoln wrote, jewelry he gave to Mary, and various memorabilia associated with the family.  There are also Lincoln items of historical significance, like sculptures and photographs of Lincoln throughout his life.  It is powerful to be so close to these articles that Lincoln once held in his own hands and see items that are 160 years old.

Across the street from the Lincoln Museum is an additional exhibit in the historic train station.  The exhibit when I visited was the movie Lincoln.  They had costumes and props that were used in the movie.  They also showed photos of the original clothing that the costumes were based upon.  Sally Field bears a resemblance to Mary Lincoln, especially when she was made up and costumed for her role in the movie, and it shows in the photos of the two that were displayed side by side.  They did a great job in the movie making things historically accurate, and it was interesting to see some of the props up close.

After I left the Lincoln Museum, I continued my journey east and arrived in Indiana.  I was going to be staying two nights in Dana, Indiana, with Marilyn, my brother’s mother-in-law.  It would be nice to be sleeping in a real bed, in a real house!

I got to Dana around dinner time, and Marilyn and I went out for dinner at a brewery in Terra Haute.  It was nice to be a passenger in a car and not have to drive!

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s Home

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lincoln lived and worked in Springfield, Illinois for 17 years.  It is where he established his law practice with William Herndon, and where he purchased his only home.  The home he owned, and several of the neighboring homes, have been preserved as the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Sign posing…

When Lincoln first purchased the home, it was a one and a half story cottage, with three rooms on the first floor and three sleeping lofts above.  Even though the home was only five years old when he bought it, Lincoln did extensive renovations, raising the roof to make a full second story, adding an addition on the back, and probably removing a large columned front porch.

After Lincoln’s death, the home was rented to a series of tenants, who began charging visitors to take a tour of the home.  This, and the fact that they did not leave the home in good condition, prompted Robert Lincoln to donate the home to the state of Illinois in 1887, with the stipulation that the home be available to the public at no charge. The home was restored to the period when Lincoln last lived in the home – 1861, so the home looks today like it did in the photographs taken at the time.

Ownership transferred to the National Park Service and it became a National Historic Site on August 18, 1971.  The site preserves the home and other period structures within a four block area around the home.

 

You have to sign up for a tour in order to see the home, but as agreed, it is free of charge.  The rangers take you through both levels of the home, from the public living areas to Lincoln’s and the children’s bedrooms.  The rugs and wallpapers are so loud and busy!  Most of the furniture is not original to the Lincoln’s time but is period.  However, Lincoln’s writing desk is the one he used, and it is humbling to see.  This is the desk where he wrote letters, studied and did his legal work at home.

 

I visited Lincoln’s Home once before, over 10 years ago, and really enjoyed the tour.  It was no less incredible this time around.  The rangers are great about telling the story of the home and answering questions.  The tour moves fairly quickly, because Lincoln’s Home is always a popular tourist attraction, so depending on the size of the group and the time of day you may feel a bit rushed.

A neighborhood home

 

Homes in the neighborhood

Be sure to take some time to wander the neighborhood as well; there are several other historic homes that have been preserved as a part of this historic site, and some interesting exhibits.

If you love Lincoln, you have to visit!

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s Tomb

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

On this trip, I was really looking forward to seeing the place where Lincoln is buried.  On my visit to Springfield several years ago, I didn’t have enough time to make it there, so it has been on my list for a while!

Lincoln, as you know, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. in April 1865.  His last wishes, however, were to be buried in Springfield, which had been his home for 17 years, and was the only place where he and Mary ever owned a home.  Lincoln and his son Willie, who had died in the White House, were both carried home from Washington, D.C. by train, and Lincoln’s body laid in state in various locations along the way.

The train carrying Lincoln departed Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 21, 1865 and largely traveled the route that Lincoln had traveled to Washington as President-elect in 1861.  The train never traveled faster than 20 mph on the journey, and hundreds of thousands of people watched the train pass by, and waited in the lines to see him lying in state.  He passed through 444 communities in seven states on his way to Springfield.

When he got back to Springfield, Lincoln, and his two sons Willie and Eddie, who died before him, were interred in the vault.  Mary and his son Tad were buried there later.  Robert, Lincoln’s oldest son, is the only member of the immediate family who is not buried in Springfield; he long outlived the rest of the family and chose to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lincoln’s monument took several years to build, in the meantime Lincoln’s crypt was an above ground crypt that was not particularly secure; an attempt to steal his body in exchange for the release from prison of a counterfeiter was very nearly successful.  After the body snatching attempt, security at the crypt was beefed up (not for a while though) and Lincoln’s coffin was eventually encased in concrete ten feet under the ground.

Outside the monument is a bronze bust of Lincoln – be sure to rub his nose for good luck.  And please don’t ask why you are supposed to rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, as he was one of our unluckiest Presidents – maybe we shouldn’t explore that too deeply.

Then step inside the tomb – there is a ranger inside who can answer questions and explain the details of Lincoln’s tomb.  They have a passport stamp too – although it is not officially a National Parks site.

Once inside, you go into a hallway at the base of the monument; it goes around to the back of the monument where Lincoln’s crypt is.  Lincoln has a beautiful marble crypt, but remember that he is not inside.  Rather, he is about ten feet below.  Mary and their sons are in wall niches on the opposite wall.  The vault room is simple and somber, and it was truly a humbling experience to be where this great man is buried.

Circus Trip 2018: Dana-Thomas House

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

In addition to being the land of Lincoln, Illinois has another famous man who made a name for himself in these parts 50 years after Lincoln died – Frank Lloyd Wright.  He lived in a suburb of Chicago, but his designs were far reaching, with homes in Pennsylvania, Arizona and probably every state in the nation.  Springfield has a Frank Lloyd Wright home that has been incredibly preserved; the Dana-Thomas House.

Mrs. Susan Lawrence Dana lived in an Italianate mansion that had been her parents’ home; she hired Frank Lloyd Wright to remodel the home between 1902 and 1904.  It is truly stunning, and a home that stays very true to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style.  Mrs. Dana married, but her husband was a bit of a dud and she ended up divorcing him; she never had children, but she was quite a philanthropist and set up a school of sorts to teach black neighborhood children at a time when education for the poor residents nearby was not a priority.  These children had fond memories of Mrs. Dana and spending time in her home library, where they could read, check out books, or play with toys.

In her later years, Mrs. Dana’s finances suffered, and she became ill with dementia.  As a result, her home and belongings had to be sold to pay for her debts and her care.  At that point, the Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thomas bought the home as a complete lot and lived there until Mrs. Thomas’ death in 1975.  Their estate sold the home to the state of Illinois in 1981 for $1 million, which was considerably less than they could have gotten had they parceled out all the furnishings and sold the home separately.

The state of Illinois offers home tours for a $10 suggested donation for adults, only allowing small groups on the tours to prevent damage to the home and furnishings.  It is incredible.  No detail was missed, and the home has been remarkably preserved over the years.  When Mrs. Dana had the home remodeled, one room was left in the Italianate style as a tribute to her parents; it is a contrast to the prairie style of the rest of the home, and interesting to see this dark, heavily decorated room in the center of the home.

Interestingly, Mrs. Dana was allowed to choose her own knickknacks and artwork to decorate the home; often a requirement of working with Frank Lloyd Wright was that he was in charge of all of your home décor, and you didn’t get much.  That vase on the sideboard had to be selected by him, if you were permitted a vase at all.  It goes without saying that I would have not been allowed to commission his work, being the collector that I am.

I really enjoyed this tour, although the tour guide wasn’t the warmest or friendliest person in the world.  I often wonder why people like that take jobs guiding tourists around, if they are sure to be unhappy in the role.  I snuck in right before the tour started, so I watched the movie about the history of Mrs. Dana and the home afterwards; be sure to check that out.

No photos are permitted inside (this seems to be true for all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are open to the public), so I did buy a guidebook that has photographs of the interior.

After my tour, I headed down to try out a Springfield microbrewery, called Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  Obed &Isaac’s is located in a historic home that is located on the property of Obed Lewis, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln – Lewis’ three children played with Lincoln’s children.  Unfortunately, the Lewis home had lost its historic charm over the years with numerous remodels, and the owners made the difficult decision to raze the home.

They then purchased the Isaac Lindsey home, another Lincoln era home in Springfield, and moved it to the site.  While they were drawing up plans, they realized that it was too small, so the Isaac Lindsey home was converted to a coffee house, and the Booth-Grunendike home was finally the one that was converted into the Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  They really, really wanted to save a historic home!

At Obed & Isaac’s, I had the Strawberry Blonde seasonal ale, and their chicken and waffles.  They were excellent and it gave me the energy for more touristing!

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s New Salem

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

As I drove toward Springfield, Illinois I was lured away by the sign announcing Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site.  My eyes lit up…  New Salem!  (Note: Does this not happen to everyone?!!?)

New Salem was the town where Abraham Lincoln lived as a young adult, between 1831 and 1837, while he was in his twenties.  During that time he worked as a boatman, a soldier in the Black Hawk War, a general store owner, postmaster, surveyor, and of course, what he is most known for in his young life – a rail-splitter.  It was here that he was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  New Salem is also where he met and fell in love with Ann Rutledge, the young woman who many believe was the true love of his life.

New Salem as an actual town no longer exists.  It had a very short life; it was founded in 1829 and it was abandoned by 1840, in part because the nearby Sangamon River was not well suited for steamboat travel, and after the county seat was located in Petersburg people just naturally drifted away.  During its existence though, between 20 and 25 families lived in New Salem, and it was an active commercial center.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reconstructed New Salem, using the original foundations and historical information about the town and what it once looked like.  There are 22 recreated structures, from homes to the types of businesses that once existed there.  One log cabin is original – it was built in New Salem, moved at some point to Petersburg, and later moved back to New Salem when the village was reborn.

New Salem flowers

I arrived in time to have a late lunch and see the village.  I purchased my admission and checked out the museum first.  The museum has artifacts on life in New Salem, information about Lincoln’s time and experience here, and of course, they dive into the Lincoln/Ann Rutledge saga.

There are conflicting opinions on Lincoln’s relationship with Rutledge.  Some believe that Lincoln held Rutledge very close to his heart and was interested in marrying her.  Others believe that their relationship was simply a friendship, and that Lincoln’s affectionate way of writing about her was simply because he wrote the same way about everyone he cared for.  There are also those who believe that William Herndon, Lincoln’s former law partner, spun up the Rutledge story after Lincoln’s assassination in order to take a jab at Mary Todd Lincoln, whom he despised.  We will probably never know, and perhaps all that is known is that Rutledge died in New Salem in 1835 at the age of 22, and that Lincoln sunk into one of his many severe depressions after her death.

The village site itself is amazing.  The reconstructions are very well done and look like the original (I think – given that I wasn’t around to see the original).  It probably helps that these reconstructions aren’t too far from their 100th birthdays…  They are decorated with period artifacts and there are period costumed docents stationed at various places to answer questions and tell you about what their lives would have been like when Lincoln lived here.  One young woman told me that she was refusing to go inside her home because she had been surprised by a snake inside the previous day!  Things we don’t have to consider in Western Washington, but I would have liked to have seen the snake!

I enjoyed wandering around and checked out all the buildings.  The village contains homes, a post office, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and various other businesses reminiscent of the time period.  Even though Lincoln did not work in these buildings, the post office and general store he worked owned would have been similar to these reconstructions.

I took my time, checking out the interiors of each building, enjoying the leisurely afternoon!  There were lots of butterflies and bees on the flowers, and New Salem even has a horse!  It was a great place to learn about Lincoln’s young adult life!