I am always on the lookout for unique and interesting places to visit and we did find one on this particular trip. We visited a little community in Indiana called Story.
Story probably only has about 100 people or less in the village. It was founded in 1851 by Dr. George Story who received a land grant from then President Millard Fillmore. By the 1880s the town had become one of the largest settlements in the area. At one time it had two general stores, a church, a schoolhouse, a sawmill, a grain mill and even a post office. However, the Great Depression took its toll on this town as families abandoned this hilly farm area in search of employment.
The village looks much like it did in the 1930s with a few rustic buildings.
In the center of it all is a unique little country inn called the “Story Inn.” This rustic building includes a little general store, a nice cozy eatery, and some historically rustic overnight accommodations all in a natural setting. They even offer a bed and breakfast.
They don’t have an extensive menu but they do have a few things that are interesting and so we ordered some of the food and had lunch there. My daughter Marissa had a salad with their homemade cilantro vinaigrette dressing. Julianne had a black bean burger and I had their “1851 Burger” that included “bacon jam.” I also had them bring a side of the bacon jam because I wanted to just try that by itself and see how it tasted. It’s essentially a jam type of condiment that has been rendered with bacon and some sugar cane and some other things. It was sweet and bacony.
The most unique things about the Story Inn is their motto which is “One Inconvenient location since 1851“.
The dining area is very rustic with wooden floors, old wooden tables and a few rickety old chairs. I actually had to use a chair from their outside deck because I was afraid to sit in one of their rickety chairs due to my size.
The entry area has some nice stained glass. The shelves are decorated with period era bottles and medicines, etc. The entry also includes a desk where lodgers can get registered and stay the evening if they wish…either in the upstairs hotel or in one of the out building cottages. The place also serves as a Bed and Breakfast.
I did not go upstairs to see the rooms but Marissa and Julianne did and they said the rooms are nice but could be spooky. We also heard some talk about spirits hanging around in the rooms. But, the only spirits I saw were down in the dining area where they have numerous fine wines and other spirits.
I did walk around the premises a bit and found a few unique things there as well. They have a sculpture made out of old car parts and gasoline stand parts including the gasoline pumps. There are restrooms on the outside that have some unique characteristics as well, including the signs that are shown below.
Just a week after a nice three-day visit to northern Ohio (see post HERE), Julianne and I made our way to Canonsburg, PA, which is south of Pittsburgh. Julianne’s sister Laura recently moved there from Idaho with her husband and daughter and wanted us to visit.
From Lexington, Canonsburg is about a 5 Hour drive. We loaded Julianne’s bicycle onto the bike rack and were off shortly after she got off of work. We also took our first trip with one of our grandchildren, our oldest named Autumn. She has traveled with her mother and me on a long trip to Wisconsin, but this is her first trip alone with Grampz and Grandma.
Most of the trip was fairly uneventful as we headed east on Interstate 64 into West Virginia and then north on Interstate 79 just outside of Charleston, West Virginia.
Along the way, we decided to stop for a couple of snacks and found a unique Amish market located in Flatwoods, WV. The shop is
located in the Flatwoods Factory Outlet. As is often the case when making an unknown stop, there’s always a surprise in store. We were looking for some interesting food items and/or snack items to enjoy, but while there, we found that they have a giant Amish-made chair to sit in. Always have to include the quirky things!
We also picked up some goodies to leave with her sister and we got some hot mustard that was absolutely amazing! The view from behind the store into the hilly farmlands of Pennsylvania was very nice and I’ve included a photo of that above. After our break and an ice cream cone for Autumn, we were back on the road heading towards Canonsburg.
After arriving in Canonsburg, and having a nice evening together, we spent the next day touring around Pittsburgh (that post will follow this one).
The next morning, Julianne and her sister decided to take a bike ride down the Montour Trail Bike Trail, a 46 mile trail from Moon Township (northwest of Pittsburgh) to Clairton. This is one of a number of Rail Trails that Julianne will take over the next few weeks (I’ll write about each of those in upcoming special “Bike Trail posts – watch for them!). This trail is actually part of a larger set of trails that stretch nearly 330 miles to Washington, D.C. (Known as the Great Allegheny Passage) Julianne and Laura hope to ride that complete trail in 2017 (And maybe I’ll be ready by then too!!)
While they were doing that, I arose early took a ride into the countryside nearby and captured a beautiful sunrise early in the morning. It was a beautiful drive up US Hwy 19 into Upper St. Clair, PA. There was a hint of fog in the air and the sun came up over the rolling hills and verdant farmland.
After breakfast, I took another ride to visit the small town of Prosperity, PA. The small unincorporated village is south of Washington, PA on PA Hwy 18. Obviously, I wanted to add this as another of those uniquely named towns that I like to visit. Prosperity really doesn’t look like it’s that prosperous of a town, but did have some unique old buildings and of course the Prosperity Post Office! (I have also found Success, Romance and Uncertain, among many others in my travels.)
On my way back from Prosperity, I made my way through the city of Washington, PA. The city is the County Seat of Washington County, which was the first county in the U.S. to be named Washington – done so in 1781. As the home of the old Washington and Jefferson College (the oldest college west of the Alleghenies), it is definitely a college style town but has some very old charm and many old historical buildings and some unique history.
Most impressive about Washington was the amazing looking historic courthouse with a large golden statue of George Washington on top. This is apparently the fifth version of the county courthouse, with this one being built in 1900.
Washington also gained notoriety in 1794 as a result of the Whiskey Rebellion, which was led by David Bradford. The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. The so-called “whiskey tax” was the first tax imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government. It became law in 1791, and was intended to generate revenue to help reduce the national debt.
Washington, is also the home of the PONY League, one of the well-known youth baseball and softball organizations that can be found throughout the world. They have a World Series event every August in Washington.
But, I would have to say that the small Borough of Canonsburg actually holds some merit as one of the more interesting places to see in the area. First off, it was the home to two famed singers from the 1960s – Perry Como and Bobby Vinton. And the local McDonald’s restaurant offers a rare glimpse of them and their lives with an in-restaurant little museum (the second such “Fast Food Museum” I had seen in as many weeks – the other being the Wendy’s/Dave Thomas Museum in Dublin, Ohio – see that one HERE). The museum display includes photos, albums, yearbooks, clothing and instruments, as well as the statues.
And then down the road from the McDonald’s is another statue honoring Perry Como. It is located in front of the bourough offices.
The statue of Como was unveiled in May 1999 and the city pipes his music 12 hours a day. (I must have missed it the day we were there).
A couple of historic pieces are also in the Canonsburg downtown area.
Canonsburg is also home to one of the quirky and iconic Turtle Twist Ice Cream Shop, shaped like an ice cream cone. The Ice Cream Shaped building was originally created by Twistee Treat Ice Cream out of Florida. The buildings are 28 feet tall and 20 feet wide and made of fiberglass. The original Twistee Treat company went out of business in 1990, but a new company was formed in 1996. Turtle Twist is a former Twistee Treat building. Their building was previously installed in 1992 at an amusement park in Lakewood, NY in 1992. It was then purchased and reassembled in Canonsburg in 2004. I have only seen one other of these in my travels (see M&M Twistee Treat in E. Peoria, IL)
Speaking of Ice Cream, there is another well known place in Canonsburg known for its ice cream and as well as its chocolate and chocolate art work. The Sarris Candies Factory and Ice Cream Parlour covers an area the size of a full city block, and carries over 100 yards of chocolate, penny candy, ice cream and life-like plush toys. Not sure what it is about Pennsylvania and chocolate. In other visits I have seen the huge Hershey’s facility in Hershey, PA and also Daffin’s Chocolate in Sharon, PA, known for its huge chocolate sculptures (see my post about Hershey HERE and my Daffin’s post HERE) . Both Daffin’s and Sarris claim to have the world’s largest candy stores. Sarris does also lay claim to an amazing 2600 pound Chocolate Castle (Daffin’s has a 400 pound chocolate turtle in their Chocolate Kingdom).
Some of the facts that Sarris notes about their castle:
Weighs 2600 pounds
It is 12 feet tall from floor to ceiling
It is 8 feet long and 3 feet long
It took 8 people three months and 2000 man hours to create
The whole confection room is also surrounded by 65 feet of beautiful hand-painted wall murals depicting a circus train ride through Candyland.
The shop has tons of candy products, massive plush toys including some life size ones and then there is the amazing Ice Cream shop.
Finally, some mention of a couple more places nearby that I visited. Not too many towns are named with a number, but Eighty Four, PA is one of the few numbered towns. There are a number of stories surrounding the name, but the town was actually founded in 1884 and the Post Office sought the name of Smithville, but it was already taken. So, apparently, the Postmaster H.F. Weir asked the post office be named after the year founded.
In 1957 a lumber company was created in town and was named 84 Lumber. It has grown dramatically with more than 250 stores, component manufacturing plants, custom door shops, custom millwork shops, and engineered wood products (EWP) centers in 30 states, representing the top 130 markets in the US.
Not too far from Washington is a place called Laboratory, PA, yet another strange name. But I also noticed an historic plaque with the name of Pancake. But there was already another Pancake in Pennsylvania. Some internet research warranted the following explanation (found on Jim’s Journey Website HERE):
Earle Forrest wrote about this area in his 1926 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania in the chapter on South Strabane Township. He discusses first George Pancake, then Jonathan Martin and adds this paragraph:
“About thirty years ago the late Dr. Byron Clark, who resided near the end of East Maiden Street, Washington, established a chemical laboratory for the manufacture of patent medicine, which he sold throughout the country. He had a post office established and named the place Laboratory, by which it is still known, although the original name of Pancake still sticks.
And finally, there was the Library Volunteer Fire Company in South Park, PA, near Washington. How did it get that name?? The Library Volunteer Fire Company was organized in October 1939 and was comprised of 21 firefighters and one truck housed at the corner of Brownsville and Library Road. Presently, the company is located at 6581 Library Road in South Park Township.
My next post will cover some of our visit to Pittsburgh
I recently made a trip up to Cleveland to visit family in Little Italy (see the post about the Little Italy neighborhood HERE). While there, I got to spend a day with my sister and her husband visiting sites in and around Cleveland as well as a few small treks on my own. With the challenge of only a couple of days, I made it a point to visit some of the quirky and offbeat sites as well as a couple of historic things. We saw a good deal of Cleveland and also visited the Kirtland area, which will be added to a different post.
I started off one of my mornings by going to Lake Erie at Kenneth J. Sims Park in Euclid, which is right on the lake and offers some nice views. It is also home to the Henn Mansion Historical Site. and getting some marvelous photos of the sunrise over the lake and saw some geese and a blue heron. Those that follow my blogs and Facebook posts know that I love nature as much as I like traveling and seeing quirky sites.
I next made my way into Cleveland to go visit the “birthplace” of Superman. In the 1930s, teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, both of whom went to the same Glenville High School and both had the same love of science fiction stories, either as novels or comic strips, and even lived only a couple of blocks apart, created a comic book hero named Superman. Siegel ended up writing the original stories and then Shuster would put them into comic book form. (See a more complete story about these two HERE.)
Nowadays, the neighborhood is actually kind of a scary part of Cleveland. It has suffered a great amount of urban decay as some of these photos below indicate. But the neighborhood and the street that Superman memorial is on, is generally well-kept. It is a predominantly African-American neighborhood now and the people in this neighborhood take good care of their homes despite the age of the buildings.
Both the house that Superman was “born” in and then Joe Shuster’s house as well have a big superman S on the front of the fence along with a big plaque commemorating the history of Superman and the stories of Jerry and Joe. Obviously, when you think about Metropolis for Superman, or Gotham City for Batman, the cities are old and dark much like New York, Chicago or even cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
I got a chuckle out of the street names for both the street that Superman “the story” was created (Kimberley) and then Superman “the comic book character” (Amor) was drawn. In both cases they have street signs with the original names of the artists. And both streets come off of Parkwood, also known as “Lois Lane.”
After my visit to the Superman sites, I joined much of my Laurienzo family for a big breakfast at a place called Alfredo’s at the Inn in Mayfield Village. Though known for their Italian Cuisine in the evenings, they also have a nice breakfast menu and buffet. It is really a good place for big groups like ours.
After a nice breakfast, my sister Tina and her husband Jim took me on a grand tour of Cleveland including Downtown and some of the surrounding areas. It was nice to spend an extended time with them and get to know them better. My sister Tina, the second oldest, always seems to have a bright shiny countenance. Jim is also lots of fun.
Cleveland is an old industrial city and thus there are many old buildings and lots of old housing districts. There is the old steel mill section that is now been refurbished in there trying to use it as a shopping or entertainment district now. And, being both a Lake Town (Lake Erie) and a River Town (the 100 mile long Cuyahoga River — the river is famous for having been so polluted that it “caught fire” in 1969. The event helped to spur the environmental movement in the US.), there are many bridges dotting the city.
The two Art Deco style sandstone sculptures on the bridge (shown above), known as the “Guardians of Traffic,” were created by New York sculptor Henry Hering. There are actually eight of them. They were completed in 1932 and were named by the bridge’s engineer, Wilbur Watson. Each guardian holds a different ground vehicle.The Cleveland Magazine had a very nice writeup about the Guardians in a post in 2009. It is worth a read and can be seen HERE.
I have always been fascinated by bridges, especially large viaduct types of bridges. Cleveland has a couple of these. The Detroit–Superior Bridge (officially known as the Veterans Memorial Bridge) is a 3,112 foot long through arch bridge over the Cuyahoga River. Construction began in 1914 and the bridge was completed in 1918. At its completion, the bridge was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world.
Until 2007, the Main Avenue Bridge was the longest bridge in the state. Though no longer the longest, the bridge is still considered to be the longest historic bridge in Ohio. The total structure length of this historic bridge including ramps is 8000 Feet The bridge’s clearance over the river is 100 Feet.This bridge is a significant example of a deck cantilever structure, and represents a significant engineering achievement of the time. Five people were killed during the construction of this bridge.
The city is also a treasure trove of some unique statues and monuments. Most notable is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. This monument to Civil War soldiers and sailors from Cuyahoga County is located in the southeast quadrant of Public Square in downtown Cleveland. It was opened on July 4, 1894. It was designed by architect Levi Scofield, who also created the monument’s sculptures.
I never knew about this amazing monument. The monument consists of a 125-foot black granite shaft erected on a square base constructed of rough-hewn granite blocks trimmed in sandstone and housing a memorial building. The shaft divided by six carved bands which list the names of battles in which Cuyahoga soldiers fought and is topped with a bronze statue of the “Goddess of Liberty” signifying loyalty to United States. Four bronze groupings at its base depict the four branches of the Union Army— the Navy, Cavalry, Infantry, and Artillery.
Following are a few more photos from the monument —
Inside the memorial building are a series of marble tablets listing 10,000 Civil War veterans that served with Cuyahoga County regiments or were from Cuyahoga County.
Also in the building, above the tablets, on the east and west walls are the bronze busts of officers who were killed in action. Above the north side door is the bust of General James Barnett, and above the south side door is Captain Levi T. Scofield. The foundation of the column centers the room. On each of the four sides are bronze relief statues portraying the Beginning of the War in Ohio, The Emancipation of the Slave, the Northern Ohio Soldiers’ Aid Society, Sanitary Commission, and Hospital Service Corps, and The End of the War.
Just a couple of blocks from there is the Peace Memorial Statue. Better known as the Fountain of Eternal Life, and sometimes also called the War Memorial Fountain and Peace Arising from the Flames of War, this statue and fountain was designed by Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Marshall Fredericks and dedicated on May 30, 1964. The sculpture, which honors Cleveland residents who served, died, or were declared missing in military service, is situated on Veterans’ Memorial Plaza as part of the Cleveland Mall. The centerpiece is a 35-foot tall bronze figure representing a man escaping from the flames of war and reaching skyward for eternal peace. The bronze sphere from which the figure rises represents Earth. There are also four granite carvings, each representing the geographic civilizations of the world and these are placed around the sphere. The entire structure, including the base, is about 46 feet tall which ranks it as one of America’s 50 tallest statues.
We soon left the downtown area to make our way to the neighborhood of another iconic, yet quirky, location. The 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” was filmed in Cleveland and they now have created a gift store (see their website HERE), turned the house into a memorial, and the famous leg lamp is shown prominently throughout. Some of the old cars that were in the movie and other things are all in the store and it was a lot of fun to go visit a site of a movie that I watched with my children in the 1980s and now with my grandchildren. A Christmas Story is certainly one of those classic Christmas movies for the family.
To continue the “quirky” stops, we next visited Cleveland’s Theater District, known also as Playhouse Square, to visit the “World’s Largest Outdoor Chandelier” which adorns the corner of 14th Avenue and Euclid. The chandelier is 20 feet tall and has 4,200 crystals (actually made from acrylic resin) on it. Playhouse Square is considered the largest performing arts center in the United States outside of New York. The entire square looks like a fun place to visit in the evenings when the theaters are all live and active and the chandelier is all lit up.
Of course, if looking for the offbeat and quirky, one cannot miss out on another Cleveland’s iconic “sculptures,” that being the giant FREE Rubber Stamp. Located in Cleveland’s Willard Park, near the Harbor and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this large sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is 28 ft. 10 in. x 26 ft. x 49 ft and made of steel and aluminum. It was commissioned in 1982 and installed in October 1991. Oldenburg and van Bruggen are well-known for their large scale sculptures of everyday items (See a gallery of them HERE). I had the opportunity to visit their Shuttlecocks sculptures in Kansas City in 2010 (see the link HERE).
Throughout our travels this day, I also snapped a variety of other shots around Cleveland. There are a few murals, some unique shopping districts, interesting storefronts and more. Here is a small collection of scenes from Cleveland.
To end the day, Tina, Jim and I stopped for a late lunch and then headed towards Little Italy again to visit the famous Lake View Cemetery – a 265 acre memorial park and also home to the 180 foot tall monument to James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States and also the Rockefeller Monument and the Wade Chapel.The Garfield Monument sits on top of a hill and at one time one could look out over all of Cleveland. Now you need to go to the second floor balcony to catch a five-mile view of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie.
Cleveland is a fascinating city and is certainly well worth a visit. My next visit will include more than a couple of days as there is so much to see in this lovely city….my birthplace.