Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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Meandering Indiana 16 – Spencer County

September 28, 2009

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Spencer County, Indiana, is Abraham Lincoln country, the locale of his boyhood home. In preparation for the Lincoln Bicentennial, I have had the opportunity to take many trips to Spencer County, but two were especially memorable.

My first visit to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial was a tour guided by site superintendent Randy Wester. From the memorial building, with its large sculptured limestone panels depicting phases in Lincoln’s life, we walked across a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., then up a hill to the Nancy Hanks Lincoln gravesite. A sense of peacefulness and remembrance seemed to hold these places apart from time. Randy pointed out that the site was a National Memorial, not a park or a monument.

The second occasion I remember vividly was a tour led by Bill Bartelt, author of There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth. Bill, a teacher who spent many summers as a park ranger, had studied not only the life of Lincoln but also the land he must have walked in southern Indiana.

Path in Spencer CountyCrossing over to Lincoln State Park, which adjoins the National Memorial, Bill led us to a wide path in the woods that was once a primitive road connecting one frontier settlement to another. As we stood among the trees, with hardly anything modern in sight, it was not difficult to imagine a teenaged boy of the 1820s, sauntering along this path on his way back from an errand.

Last night Ken Burns’ latest project, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premiered on PBS. Lincoln Boyhood was the first national park established in Indiana when, in 1962, it was transferred from the jurisdiction of the state to the National Park Service. Not only are our national parks amazing resources that we all can share, but we can also access NPS.gov, a rich online resource for discovering history, exploring nature, and continuing to learn about our country.

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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Eat, Pray, Love

September 16, 2009

I finally picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” — a book I’d been begging my sister to borrow, but she kept lending it out to someone else before I could get my hands on it. Now, I feel like I’m the last person (or at least woman) to read it — especially because Gilbert’s sequel will hit the shelves in January.

Just from the jacket’s description, I knew this was a book for me — and not just because my sister told me so. “Liz” is everything I love in a great fictional character –s trong, funny, passionate, and of course, an avid traveler — but she’s not fictional. Even better. Knowing a little about Gilbert, I was also looking forward to exceptional writing.

So I woke up early one morning over Labor Day weekend just to crack open the book before anyone else stirred. I crashed through the first 75 pages before I even realized it, intermittently laughing out loud and getting a bit teary-eyed. As much as I hated to be pulled out of Liz’s world, when I got interrupted, it was just as well. The book was so delicious that I didn’t want to waste my enjoyment in one setting. Now, I get to live vicariously through Liz’s world a few nights a week. And maybe more. Like my sister, I may read this one twice.

By Kristen Fuhs Wells, communications director at the Indiana Humanities Council

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Meandering Indiana 15 – Posey County

August 4, 2009

LenzGardenHoosiers call it the Pocket or perhaps the Boot (although in that case it should be the Toe), the farthest southwestern corner of the state. The first time I went there, I was amazed by the fact that it was actually 20 minutes past Evansville, which scarcely seemed credible.

But New Harmony in Posey County is very popular with the history crowd, due to both its background and its facilities. The town had two lives in the nineteenth century. First, it was founded as a utopian religious community. At that time it was on the state’s main drag (the Wabash River), just a stone’s throw from the nation’s superhighway to the West (the Ohio River).

New Harmony originated as a German religious community, founded in 1814 and led by George Rapp. When the Harmonists decided to relocate to Pennsylvania, the settlement was bought by Robert Owen and William Maclure who brought in a “boatload of knowledge” (scientists and educators) and established a community of learning. In a sense that legacy remains today. With its nineteenth-century buildings and its conference center, Historic New Harmony (a program of the University of Southern Indiana and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites) is a prime destination for gatherings and for tourism.

Staying in the New Harmony Inn, I’ve enjoyed the period furniture and the peaceful retreat setting. Perhaps my favorite building, though, is the Working Men’s Institute, the oldest continuously operating library in Indiana (established 1838), which also has an archive, museum, and art gallery.

New Harmony, however, is not the county seat of Posey County. That distinction goes to Mount Vernon, one of Indiana’s three official ports. (The other two are Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan, and Jeffersonville, upstream on the Ohio River.) As a port, Mount Vernon is protected by the U.S. Coast Guard 8th District, headquartered in New Orleans, and it was one of 19 stops for the Indiana Humanities Council’s Always a River floating museum.

So while Posey County may seem to be tucked away in a remote corner of Indiana, from a maritime point of view it’s on the (water)way to everywhere.

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Share your inspiring place

July 9, 2009

Many of us have a place–or maybe more than one–that brings us peace, joy, solace and calm. Many of us have a place that excites, inspires, challenges or restores us. Many of us have places we find spectacular, beautiful, energetic, fun.

For me, it’s typically wide, open spaces. A view that includes mountains, wildflowers and evergreens, instead of skyscrapers, traffic lights and city buses. But I don’t myself in that situation very often, living in Indiana. Here, some of my best ideas come while walking on an Indy Parks Trail, or riding my bike. But for you, maybe it’s a special place in your home, or your favorite coffee shop.

As part of the 2009 Spirit & Place Festival, WFYI invites you to share them with everyone! Go here to upload your photo. WFYI will select six submissions and turn those into a “Spirited Chase” on Saturday, Nov. 7, as part of the opening weekend of the Spirit & Place Festival.

And, if you’ve got the words, but not the picture, feel free to share it with us, here.

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Meandering Indiana 14 – Henry County

June 8, 2009

Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

Chaucer wrote in The Canterbury Tales that when spring arrives “than longen folk to go on pilgrimages.” So it was that while on vacation I decided to visit a shrine or two. Of course, this led me to Henry County.

I’d been in New Castle before, attending a meeting at the community foundation. But this time I was able to enter the sacred space of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. On that particular day, the long walk from the parking lot to the front door was lined with clothes and shoes, set out on tables. Under a sunny sky, The Hall was having a yard sale.

Inside I watched the brief film that tried to explain why basketball is special in the state of Indiana. It was preaching to the choir but nicely done. Wandering up and down among the glass cases, I saw photos, trophies, newspaper clippings, jerseys and letter sweaters — all the material embodiment of legends and heroes.

The most special of all, always paired in my mind, are the 1954 and 1955 state championship teams. You know the stories, too. The first is the Miracle of Milan with Bobby Plump’s last shot. The second, as wonderful, is the first school ever to win a state championship for Indianapolis — Crispus Attucks with its star, Oscar Robertson. I was once privileged to attend a 50th anniversary reunion of that team and the team it beat in the finals, Gary Roosevelt. The Indiana Humanities Council was part of the celebration at Hinkle Fieldhouse via a grant for the project, which was directed by Dr. Bill Wiggins.

Afterwards I went through the enshrinement gallery, with its exhibit of black-and-white portraits drawn by the artist Keith Butz. Each player or coach is depicted in two images, one at the time of induction into the Hall of Fame and one as he or she looked back in the day. (Girls and their coaches were included although they did not get a state tournament until 1976.)

I could have spent more time there, but I wanted to move on to my next stop in Henry County, the Hoosier Gym. Taking Route 3 south from New Castle, past I-70, to U.S. 40, then turning west brought me quickly to Knightstown. It took a bit of searching to find the Gym because it’s attached to the Knightstown Academy, which looks more like a courthouse. It was, however, once a school, and when the county built a new consolidated high school, a developer bought the Academy, now on the National Register, and turned it into condominiums.

A weekend festival was about to start, with a commemorative game to be played between “Hickory High” and “Terhune.” Again I found piles of T-shirts and souvenirs for sale outside and a volunteer docent inside to explain about how “Hoosiers” came to be filmed in this gym. I asked him whether the film crew had to do much to prepare the site for movie-making. No, he said, it only needed a coat of paint and a bit of gloss added to the floor. Otherwise, it was already perfect.

Still owned by the town, the Hoosier Gym is administered separately from the condos, so it is watched over by its community group, just as the Hall of Fame is. Therein lies the true soul of Indiana basketball, for legendary games are not only about those who are heroes but also about those are witnesses.

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Meandering Indiana 13 – Wayne County

May 22, 2009

Summer is almost here, and Americans are ready to hit the road. Likewise, a citizen setting out from Maryland in the late 1830s could get on the newly built federal highway and drive a wagon straight through to St. Louis. The National Road, as it was called, entered Indiana on the eastern edge around Richmond, passed through many small towns before arriving in Indianapolis, and wound up in Terre Haute where it exited the state.

I’ve driven stretches of this same road (U.S. 40) on days when I-70 just seemed unnecessary. The pavement’s been upgraded a bit, but it’s still a fine way to travel. The National Road also still divides northern Indiana from southern Indiana, according to some historians. Since it runs down Washington Street in Indy, one might also say it divides the northern from the southern half of the city.

Back in Wayne County, the area’s Quaker heritage with its commitment to peace and justice is revealed in traces of the Underground Railroad, such as the Levi Coffin House (Fountain City), and in Earlham College (801 National Road West, Richmond).

I meandered to Wayne County quite deliberately one sunny day–for no other reason than to go sightseeing in Metamora. This tourist-friendly town is known for its historic canal and gristmill, and I also enjoyed the shops and the Side Track Cafe.

Huddleston Farmhouse Inn Museum (photo: William Eccles)

Huddleston Farmhouse Inn Museum (photo: William Eccles)

Another day I was at the Huddleston Farmhouse Inn Museum to meet with the Historic Landmarks Foundation staff about an exhibit project sponsored by the Indiana Humanities Council. This historic site–with its house, barn, smokehouse, and springhouse–is sometimes listed as in Cambridge City and sometimes as in Mt. Auburn, but it’s not hard to find. For, as our nineteenth-century travelers discovered when looking for a place to stay, you can’t miss it. It’s at 838 National Road.

Read more of Nancy’s travels across the state, here.