Fairies and Gnomes

The library I told you about yesterday has a beautiful garden and I was pleased to find fairies and gnomes living there now.

The place reminds me of a page from a fairytale so it seems appropriate these small creatures would find a home among the hydrangea and snapdragons.

I especially liked how gnomes have tamed this cat.

He seems happy enough.

This farm is eye catching and smart.

I walked through a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed stopping to literally smell the flowers and enjoy the hard work of the volunteers who keep these grounds looking nice.

Volunteers help make the world beautiful and communities healthy. I’m grateful for the work these folks so to make Wagnalls Memorial Library a destination and center for the community.

Wagnalls Memorial Library

I have library envy. That’s because the village of Lithopolis has an amazing library that’s just a little too far away for me to frequent. One hour and six minutes away, to be exact.

The Wagnalls Memorial Library was gifted to the people of the town by Mabel Wagnalls Jones in the twenties. She was a writer and concert pianist who wanted to honor her parents Adam and Anna Willis Wagnalls.

Recognize the name Wagnalls? If your family was like mine, you had a set of books with that name on a shelf in the living room. Her dad was the cofounder of Funk and Wagnalls Publishing Company, the people who brought encyclopedias into many an American household. They also published a periodical called The Literary Digest and there are paintings on display that are originals of that magazine’s covers. They even have two Norman Rockwell originals.

Adam and Anna were born here in log cabins and loved their hometown. Mabel grew up in New York City but was fond of her parents’ hometown where she still visited her grandfather.

This Tudor Gothic structure and the grounds consume an entire block. It is constructed of native stone which was quarried nearby.

The library has been added onto over the years but that original building is like a work of art, a cathedral of learning. It features stained glass, a formal entrance hall, tower, auditorium and banquet hall.

Look closely and you’ll notice carved wooden owls along the ceiling. They are perched on shields depicting religion, industry, education and patriotism. This is more than decor – these owls are a nod to some baby owls found in a tree that was cut down during the quarrying of the stone.

The center window contains stained glass inserts that tell more of the Wagnalls’ story. The State Seal of Ohio, a printing press, a log cabin, the lamp of learning and the Seal of the United States are depicted in this window.

The tables and chairs of this room are handmade.

It is magnificent.

It is exactly what a library should be. Yes, they have a fantastic selection of books, periodicals and movies. Yes, they have free WiFi and a place to sit and study or computers to hop on for entertainment or research. Yes, they have a substantial children’s library and all the things you would expect from an outstanding library.

They also have a great sense of history, community and of their role in the town’s well being.

Mabel wanted this to be a center for the community. That’s why they have so much event space.

When I was there for the Norman Rockwell exhibit Saturday, there was an event happening in the classrooms and a dance recital in their auditorium along with all the other patrons coming and going to check out materials and stroll the grounds.

The place was alive. It was positively radiating life from all corners.

They have several clubs and a volunteer group maintains the grounds including a flower garden which visitors are welcome to stroll through. They’ve added fairy gardens since my last visit and I was thrilled when the rain subsided so I could explore them Saturday.

The library has grown and adapted a lot over the years but it appears they have been true to the integrity of the building and to Mabel’s intent to give the community an amazing place to go for learning and entertainment.

If I lived closer, I would be there all the time. Instead, I just enjoy rare visits and hope that they are able to maintain this spectacular old building and the uniqueness of what they do for another century or longer

Norman Rockwell Traveling Exhibit

The art of Norman Rockwell has been part of the national conversation for over a hundred years. There’s something about his work that is so easily recognizable you can spot it from across a room or with a simple glance.

Yesterday, I journeyed up to Lithopolis, Ohio to view a traveling exhibit called “Norman Rockwell in the 1940s: A View of the American Homefront.” It’s on display at the Wagnalls Memorial Library and is available for viewing on select days through this month.

It’s on loan from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockwell, Massachusetts which is home to the world’s most significant collection of Rockwell’s work.

This isn’t a large collection but it is powerful and well worth a stop if you’re in the area.

You’ll find his most famous works – the Four Freedoms which depict freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech and freedom of worship. These are some of the most reproduced works in the world.

There are also patriotic works depicting Rosie the Riveter and life on the home front. In 1945, this cover depicted a young soldier, home from war and happily helping his mother peel potatoes.

Look closely.

This is an illustration, not a photo. However, it looks so realistic you almost expect the woman to turn and smile at you.

Look at the veins in her hands, the lines on her face. The expression of joy and relief is mixed with something else. Maybe a little disbelief that her son is home. Maybe a little wonder at how much he has changed. It’s truly a lovely moment and one so skillfully illustrated that it draws the viewer right in.

Another depicts a sailor home on leave while yet another depicts a young soldier returning home to a tenement. You have to wonder how many young men left less than ideal circumstances at home and found a better life trajectory because of the war.

There are some fun pieces too including a tattoo artist crossing out women’s names on a man’s bicep. There are a couple of April Fool’s covers that are much like an Easter egg hunt to find the things that are off. How many things can you find wrong with this cover?

In all, it’s a nice collection.

I have read that artists and critics of his age didn’t take his work seriously. It is often sweet and sometimes sentimental. It is sometimes a bit idealistic but I like to think Rockwell’s work reflects the values of another time while preserving threads of humanity that we all can still relate to some eighty years later.

He created 4,000 pieces of artwork in his lifetime. There’s something very smart about his work and something practical in that sensible New England kind of way. I think that Rockwell could see the world for what it was but sometimes chose to show his audiences the world as he wished it to be.

Despite what the critics said, he must have done something right. After all, we’re still talking about him.

Go if you get a chance. It’s free but only open during certain hours Thursday and Saturday through June 30. Get more info by clicking here. If you go, be sure to explore this magnificent library and view the two original Norman Rockwell pieces in their permanent collection.

This library is amazing so check back to see imagery and to read a little story about it this week.