Happiness Is…

Happiness is seeing a grand old building hold its own among the new. You see it a lot in cities like Columbus, Ohio where progress has mostly paved over history but a few old structures refuse to budge.

For example, downtown Columbus has a number of old churches. Here you see the Broad Street United Methodist Church living in the shadow of Encova, a boring monstrosity like so many others in our modern cities.

The church dates to 1875 and is positively gorgeous. Want to see inside? They offer a virtual tour online. Click here for that.

Maybe it’s silly but I always root for the underdog, value the historic and enjoy their successes almost as much as I would my own.

Lewisville Town Hall

At first glance. I thought it was a church or perhaps an old school. On closer inspection, it’s actually the town hall.

Whatever it is, it’s a nice focal point in Lewisville, Ohio, a town of just over 200 residents. I caught a glimpse one fine summer day in 2020 when in I took a scenic drive through the Wayne National Forest.

Remember, fellow adventurers, sometimes you just need to hop in the car and go for a drive down a road you do not know. Find some lunch or a great milkshake and just go see what’s out there. Trust me. You’ll love it.

Ohio Statehouse Tour

They call it the People’s House but most Ohioans seem not to know they can tour the Ohio Statehouse for free. Some kids get to visit on school field trips but I was never so lucky.

Since I have visited other statehouses, it seemed appropriate to tour my own.

Ohio became a state on March 1, 1803 but Columbus didn’t became the State Capital until 1817. Before that, the Capital was located in Chillicothe and then Zanesville and then Chillicothe again before being permanently established in Columbus where it would be central to all Ohioans.

It was surprising to learn that we came very close to losing this building in the late eighties thanks to overcrowding, decades of neglect and absolutely no ADA access. It’s a shame to think that razing this nice old building was an actual option. Luckily, someone saw value in the history and they finished a museum quality restoration of the statehouse in 1996.

The cornerstone for this building was laid in 1839 but it wasn’t opened to the public until 1857. The building was constructed using a workforce of prison laborers from the Ohio Penitentiary.

These skilled laborers had experience building the nearby Ohio Lunatic Asylum. In the museum, you’ll find a display containing tools used in the construction, a photo of some of the inmates and a ball and chain that was worn by one of those prisoners while he worked.

Can you imagine doing manual labor like that with a ball and chain in tow? One guy on my tour was shocked to see this particular artifact, exclaiming “I didn’t think that was a real thing!”

There’s so many noteworthy to tell you about this place. Look closely and you’ll notice fossils in the stone from a local quarry. In fact, college classes come to study the fossils throughout the building.

It was wired for electricity in 1892 but prior to that, natural light was vital. That’s why the building was designed with four light courts. These areas had slate floors and no roofs, allowing plenty of natural light and fresh air into interior offices through windows that opened into the light courts.

After the advent of electricity, these light courts were all enclosed to pack in a bunch of small offices that our tour guide suggested were cramped and a poorly planned fire hazard. During the renovation, these offices were removed and one of the light courts was transformed to accommodate an elevator.

The Rotunda is the centerpiece of this building and a glass dome allows sunlight to shine down on the place where President Lincoln’s body lay in state during the trip from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois.

Look closely at the skylight and you’ll notice something in the center. You would need binoculars to tell what it is but it’s an 1847 version of Ohio’s seal. This area features some gorgeous, ginormous paintings including William H. Powell’s Perry’s Victory.

Our tour guide told us the Statehouse is a popular wedding venue and that they are currently booked 30 months out for weddings. Event planners, florists and caterers were all abuzz preparing for a wedding that was taking place in the rotunda that evening. In fact, they had booked the entire building with the ceremony, bar and dining all happening in different areas.

The event planner in my little nerd heart was impressed with their decor choices and overwhelmed with the cost of it all. It was magnificent.

Anyway, the building is filled with symbolism and themes like flowers and circles. There are lots of stairs too and they are said to symbolize power, control and authority. Climbing them takes you to higher levels and reminds you there is no elevator to success.

This tour takes you behind the locked doors of the Senate Chambers where you’ll find elaborate decor, stained glass, chandeliers and lamps. The floral carpet is a reproduction of the 1856 original. If the Senate is in session, you’re welcome to sit in on their discussions and votes.

If you go, it takes just an hour for the guided tour and then you’re welcome to explore independently.

There is a nice museum that you’ll want to explore. It covers Ohio history and voting rights in Ohio through the centuries. You do have to go through security to get in the building. There’s an underground parking garage with reasonable rates but the tour is free.

Fillmore Auditorium

There’s a fantastic auditorium sign just blocks from the State Capitol building in Denver. It’s for the Fillmore Auditorium but this old building hasn’t always been an auditorium.

It actually began life as a roller rink in 1907. Since then it has been everything from an indoor ice rink to a flea market and even a car factory.

It was repurposed over twenty years ago, redesigned inside to replicate the famous Fillmore in San Francisco. It’s now a popular live music venue. While I haven’t been inside, I was infatuated with the exterior as we sat in traffic inching down the street. Consequently, they aren’t the best pictures but you get the gist.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll catch a show there sometime and report back on the adventure.

Time Marches On

Last year, I shared a picture of this sweet little old school just outside Frankfort. It was for sale at the time and I had stopped for a quick look.

If I had limitless funds I would transform it into a home.

Well, I’m too late. The last time I drove by late last year it was nothing but an empty yard. The for sale sign was gone and someone had demolished my little old school.

Time marches on, I suppose, but I sure was sad to see that another old building didn’t keep up with the pace.

Union Station

Denver’s Union Station isn’t just a place you go to get somewhere else. It’s a destination unto itself.

The train station, in the city’s downtown, is over a century old and home to a hotel, shops and restaurants. Soaked in light streaming through enormous windows and decked out with fancy chandeliers, crown molding and antique art, this place is a fantastic reminder of the golden days of train travel.

Declining train travel had left this amazing building at risk and facing a wrecking ball less than a decade ago. Fortunately, a multi-million dollar restoration and revitalization project put the place back on track.

Get it? Train track? Hahaha…ahem.

Forgive me. I do like a good pun occasionally.

Anyway, I paid a quick visit to admire the space and imagine all the people who have made their way through this amazing terminal throughout the decades.

Another local icon, The Tattered Cover Bookstore has a small shop here so I popped in to buy something – my idea of payment for using the station’s public restroom.

The old ticket office is now a bar. While I don’t drink, I had to stop and admire their work. The adaptation was ingenious and well done.

During these Covid days when many of the businesses were closed or limiting occupancy, there were few people lingering to enjoy the historic vibe of the place. In fact, I seemed to be the only person even remotely interested in the soaring 65 foot ceilings or the spectacular Christmas decorations. Although, most commuters might not do that sort of thing anyway. Pity too because it really is an impressive place.

All the same. I really loved it there and fantasized about how fun it would be to hop on a train to somewhere near or far.

Most of all, I was completely taken with this sign.

There is a lot of outdoor seating but the city has a sizable homeless population and it seemed that several were hanging out in this space. I chose a near the door and experienced no problems but it is something to consider.

If you’re in Denver, stop by and check out Union Terminal. My new favorite bookstore is also in the neighborhood along with many other shops and restaurants.