Wednesday, May 13, 2015 found me making a relatively short trip from the Add-More Campground in Clarksville IN to the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis IN. The trip to Indianapolis metro was totally uneventful. Some might call the trip boring, but I prefer calling it a great relocation day! The fairgrounds property itself, however, was a beehive of activity. Mecum Auction Company was conducting an automobile auction the likes of which this country bumpkin has never before seen! Over the course of my one-week stay, I saw virtually every category of automobile ever made. Had my plate not been so full on the days the weather was cooperative, I might have paid the admission fee just to have observed.
My first stop on Thursday, May 14, 2015 was the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
in Indianapolis. Benjamin Harrison has one of the more interesting presidential family histories I have encountered. His paternal immigrant ancestor was Benjamin Harrison who arrived in Jamestown VA in 1630. His great-grandfather was Benjamin Harrison V, a Virginia governor and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His grandfather was the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison. His father, John Scott Harrison, served in the U.S. House
of Representatives from 1853 to 1857. After being defeated for a third term in 1856, Harrison retired to his estate, "Point Farm," in North Bend OH. Although John Scott Harrison did not live to see his son become President, he is the only person to be both the child of and the parent of a U.S. President. Benjamin Harrison
, the 23rd President of the United States, was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend – the second of eight children. Although the Harrison family was distinguished, his parents were not wealthy. John Scott Harrison spent much of his farm income on his children's education. Despite the family's meager resources, Harrison's boyhood was enjoyable, and he spent much of it outdoors fishing and hunting. During the American Civil War, he served the Union for most of the war as a colonel and on February 14, 1865 was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a brevet brigadier general of volunteers.
Benjamin Harrison also holds claim to a unique niche in American history. He became President by defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland in 1888 and was then defeated by Cleveland in 1892, thereby becoming the only President to have his term of
office “bookended” by the same man. Harrison also brought a bit of “scandal” to the Presidency. Mary Dimmick, the niece of Harrison’s wife, Caroline, had become a widow at age 23, so Caroline brought her to the White House to serve as the First Lady’s assistant. Sometime after Caroline’s death from tuberculosis in the White House in 1892, Harrison and Mrs. Dimmick fell in love and late in 1895 announced their engagement. On April 6, 1896, she (age 37) and the former president (aged 62) were married. Harrison's horrified grown children from his marriage to Caroline did not attend the wedding. Together, the Harrisons v. 2.0 had one daughter – Elizabeth.
During his four years in office, Harrison implemented unprecedented economic legislation, including the McKinley Tariff, and the Sherman Antitrust Act; facilitated the creation/development of the National Forests and National Parks, including Sequoia, Yosemite, General Grant and Pikes Peak; substantially strengthened and modernized the Navy, taking it from 20th
in the world to 5th
; instituted the practice of displaying the American Flag over schools and other public buildings; and added six states to the Union, after a twelve year hiatus. He proposed, in vain, federal education funding as well
One Of The First Home Workout Centers
Benjamin Harrison Home - Indianapolis IN
as voting rights enforcement for African Americans during his administration.
Due in large part to surplus revenues from the newly imposed tariffs, federal spending reached one billion dollars for the first time. The spending issue, in part, led to a Republican whoopin’ in the 1890 mid-term election. Harrison was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1892 by Cleveland due, in part, to the growing unpopularity of the high tariff and the resulting high levels of federal spending and, in part, because of his sense of obligation to his ailing wife (she died on October 25 – only two weeks before the election) and his resulting failure to mount a vigorous reelection campaign. He returned to private life in Indianapolis and died of complications from influenza on March 13, 1901.
The future President had the sixteen-room home built in the 1870s and had it renovated and electricity installed in 1896. Upon his death in the second floor master bedroom, his widow, Mary Lord Harrison, inherited the property. In 1939, Ms. Harrison sold the house to the Arthur Jordan School of Music (now the Jordan College of Fine Arts at Butler University) with the stipulation that the house would
always serve as a memorial to Benjamin Harrison. The Benjamin Harrison Home became a National Historic Landmark in 1966. All tours of the house are guided. The house is very nice but is not extraordinary EXCEPT that it was the home of a President of the United States of America. That’s all that needs to be said for us history buffs!
My next stop was in downtown Indianapolis at the Indiana (State) Vietnam War Memorial
. I must admit, I was dumbfounded and somewhat angry when I first spotted the monument. The memorial is a concrete half tube with some representative letters written to loved ones by Hoosiers shortly before they died. It took me some time to discover that the names of those Indiana citizens who gave their lives in Vietnam are listed on the inside surface of the half tube. The memorial, after all is said and done, is unique and is a nice tribute to the fallen. Nice, but not outstanding.
In the process of driving to the memorial, I observed numerous sets of portable bleachers erected curbside on two perpendicular downtown streets. Hmmm. Self to self, “It looks like they’re gonna have a parade.” Processing the possibilities, I realized
Memorial Day weekend was looming which means the Indianapolis 500 and either event might be cause for a parade. Indeed, that was the case; however, my departure would precede the parade and the race.
Schoolless Saturday, May 16, 2015 found me heading for the Indiana State House
in, of course, Indianapolis which, of course, houses the seats of government for the State of Indiana. The story of the Indiana statehouse begins in Vincennes when Indiana was still a territory. As westward-bound settlers and supplies started to arrive in the territory via the Ohio River, the territorial government was moved a short distance to Corydon. After Indiana became a state on December 11, 1816, Corydon remained the seat of government. The original Statehouse, a 40-foot-square building, was made of Indiana limestone and still stands. My regular readers might remember I attempted to visit the old Capitol building during my Louisville metro visit.
As more roads were built and settlement moved northward, a centrally located seat of government was needed. So, in January 1821, a site was selected, and the City of Indianapolis was born. The planned city, founded along the White River, got its name from Indiana Supreme Court judge Jeremiah
Sullivan who joined Indiana with polis, the Greek word for city. While the statehouse location has remained the same since 1835, the original building no longer stands. The original statehouse was replaced by this existing building in 1888.
For its centennial in 1988, the Statehouse underwent a major renovation and restoration. The building continues to house all executive offices, the Indiana State Senate, the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana State Supreme Court. Made of Indiana limestone and designed in classical Renaissance Revival style, the architecture of the Indiana Statehouse was influenced by the U.S. Capitol. As architecturally interesting as it is functional, it has a stained glass dome, marble floors and steps, granite columns, an ornate balcony and period wall and ceiling decor.
The guided tour was very interesting and allowed our group of three to see both offices and chambers. It is comprehensive and discusses all three branches of government as well as the history and architecture of the building. The Indiana State House is one of the most lavish and interesting statehouses I have seen in my travels. I think most would find the 30-45 minute tour worthwhile.
My next stop was the
The Library Has Original Medical BooksIndiana Medical History Museum
Indiana Medical History Museum - Indianapolis IN
, also in Indianapolis. Visits to the Indiana Medical History Museum are by guided tour only and are offered on Thursday through Saturday only with the last tour of the day beginning at 3 PM. The facility is located in the near west side of Indianapolis in the Old Pathology Building on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital – a very large complex in the day. Almost all the buildings are now gone so don’t become discouraged with the poor condition of the road. The only other facility in the neighborhood, best I could tell, is the sheriff’s posse stables.
The 1895 building is the oldest surviving pathology facility in the nation and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The nineteen-room museum and its furnishings are, arguably, worth the trip all by themselves. The museum heralds the beginning of scientific psychiatry – quite a step up from the torture plied upon the deranged in days gone by. The museum houses a collection of scientific artifacts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – microscopes, centrifuges, iron lung, wooden examination table and more. The three clinical laboratories, photography lab, teaching amphitheater, autopsy room and library all remain
furnished much as they were in the day. Having a medical background, I found this attraction extremely interesting and think most who have any interest in history would feel their visit was time well spent.
My next stop was the Indiana War Memorial (IWM) Plaza Historic District in downtown Indianapolis. Indianapolis happens to host a diverse variety of military tribute structures; monuments, statues, sculptures and fountains; as well as two military museums – the Indiana War Memorial Museum
and the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum
. The Indiana War Memorial Museum can be found inside, ta-dah, the Indiana War Memorial while the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum is located inside the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
I went first to the Indiana War Memorial. Work on the memorial to the veterans of World War I began in early 1926. Two complete wars and the beginnings of a third elapsed before the memorial was completed in 1965. The cubical structure is clad in Indiana limestone and has four identical faces. Each face has six columns, behind which are symbolic standing figures of Courage, Memory, Peace, Victory, Liberty and Patriotism. The sculptures are repeated on each face. On the south side, in the middle of the gigantic staircase,
is a bronze sculpture of Pro Patria. It is 24 feet high, weighs seven tons and was the largest cast bronze sculpture in the United States at the time. The north and south entrances are guarded by shield-bearing limestone lions.
The main entrance to the museum is on the north side. Most of it is housed on the lower level of the monument and honors the efforts of Hoosier soldiers in a timeline that progresses from the Revolutionary War to the modern era. Flags and firearms are the major types of artifacts found in the museum, but it also houses the USS Indiana's commission plate, a replica of the radio room of the USS Indianapolis, a Cobra helicopter and a replica of Indiana's Liberty Bell. (Each state received a Liberty Bell from the federal government in the 1950s to encourage the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds.)
The most interesting artifact in the entire museum, in my opinion, is the French bugle used to sound the call to “Cease Fire” which in effect ended WW I. In 1947, the United States sent a "Friendship Train" to France to assist its citizens in the recovery of that war-torn country. In
response, French citizens sent a "Merci Train" (Thank You Train) to the United States to express their appreciation and to demonstrate "tangible proof of an indestructible friendship." The French sergeant who had sounded the bugle in 1918 donated his "most valuable possession" to the "Merci Train." Man, did Indiana make out on this one or what? What a phenomenal, heartfelt personal expression of gratitude!
Above the main level is the Shrine Room. It houses materials collected from all the allied nations of World War I and is accessed by two stairways from the Grand Foyer. The marble walls of the stairways bear the names of all Hoosiers who fought in World War I. Several paintings and sculptures depict events of World War I. In the center, beneath a 17x30 foot American flag, is the Altar of Consecration. Above the flag is the Star of Destiny, made of Swedish crystal, which represents the future of our nation. I will give the attraction a lukewarm endorsement since there are some truly unique artifacts.
I had heard several claps of thunder as I moved through the museum. As I exited the doorway, I was greeted by an old-fashioned gully-washer. After chatting
with a fella in a like circumstance for about five minutes with no reprieve in the torrent (we both had parked on the opposite side of the memorial), I decided to forego the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and its Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. Rather than circumnavigate the edifice, I went over the top and down the stairs by the Pro Patria sculpture to the comfort of the Ram. Nope, I didn’t melt that time either!
The weather had been totally uncooperative thus far in my visit to Indianapolis – not that it had rained every day but the skies in my neck of the woods had threatened to rain every day. Indeed, qualifying for the Indy 500
had been postponed multiple times; however, Sunday, May 17, 2015 looked promising. Although it was overcast, there was zero percent chance of rain until late afternoon. I checked the Indy 500 web site, learned qualifying was scheduled for 10 AM, decided to roll the dice and headed for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
(IMS) in Speedway IN. I arrived about 9:30 AM, paid the $20.00 parking fee, the $20.00 admission fee, bought a $5.00 bottle of water and selected my vantage point 50 yards
or so from the famed Yard of Bricks
. A line of muscle cars was mired in a bumper to bumper traffic jam as they created a parade around the famed circuit – self to self, “I wonder how much it would cost to take the Ram for a lap around the track.”
Ten o’clock came and went. Shortly, a middle aged fellow from Michigan, a younger man (his brother???) and a girl about 10-12 years old took the seats next to me. Guess what, a conversation ensued! The track was cleared of muscle cars. Eleven o’clock came and went. Are they waiting for the rain? The girl was one of three daughters and is the only daddy’s girl of the lot. A couple of safety trucks drove past. Twelve o’clock came and went. They must be waiting for the rain! I learned some interesting Michigan tourism tidbits to enter into my database. Finally, at 12:30, the public address announcer informed us qualifying would begin at 3:30. They ARE waiting for the rain! My newfound acquaintance had a six-hour drive awaiting him, and after a short consultation with the other man, decided to leave. I decided I had better things to do
than to wait for a rainout and left as well. At least I had seen the track from the grandstands, but it was an expensive “been there but didn’t do that.” I never did learn what had caused the protracted delay.
I headed for the Indiana State Museum
in downtown Indianapolis. There is not an obvious “path” from one exhibit to the next so the exhibits are somewhat random. The major topics, as determined by my photographic sequence, start with earthquakes and dinosaurs, followed by Native American artifacts and then a large, moving Foulcault Pendulum which is accompanied by an interesting explanation of the effects of latitude on the movement of the pendulum. The next display case holds electronic equipment from the 1920s through the 1960s and is followed by a 1944 Farmall tractor that was owned by an Indiana farmer.
Women’s suffrage (Indiana didn’t amend its constitution until a year after the federal government) and a 1927 Stutz AA Sedan (manufactured in Indianapolis) are followed by prohibition, bootlegging and Hoosier beer makers. The fight for racial equality and Indiana’s pharmaceutical industry come next and are followed by the harvesting of Indiana’s natural resources – timber, coal and limestone. The
effects of the Civil War on Indiana and Indiana’s Underground Railroad precede the exhibition of an archaeologically recovered piece of the Gronauer Lock that had been installed on the Wabash and Erie Canal. The company town of Gary comes next. It was created by U.S. Steel at the midpoint between the iron fields of Minnesota and the coal mines of West Virginia and where unparalleled transportation was readily available.
The list of topics goes on and on. Just prepare yourself. This is not a chronological history lesson, as are many state museums, but is a comprehensive cursory overview of the sundry things that have molded Indiana into the state it is today. Some of the artifacts require quite a stretch – their sole connection to Indiana is that the inventor was educated at an Indiana university. The museum concludes with a contemporary Hall of Fame for Indiana’s own – some born there; some worked there; some, another stretch, merely interred there. David Letterman, Orville Redenbacher and Larry Bird, are there, of course; but the list actually is diverse and interesting – Red Skelton, Florence Henderson, John Wooden, Gus Grissom, Emmett Kelly, Tony Stewart and, the one that really surprised
Chief Pale-Legs Is Ready For The Ride
IMS Hall of Fame Museum - Indianapolis IN
me, Colonel Harlan Sanders, among many others.
After visiting the museum, I cashed in the two tickets to the IMAX theater which I had purchased as a package with my museum admission. I was treated to “Pandas: The Journey Home” and “Secret Ocean.” Both 3-D productions are very well done and were worth the cost as well as the time.
I had planned to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum from the initial planning stages of this stop; however, in my quest to find the modified (postponed) schedule for the Indy 500 track activities, I stumbled on a unique pre-race activity that was to be held only on my final full day in Indianapolis and on the day of my departure. I called to get the details and to make a reservation. Tuesday, May 19, 2015 found me setting out for Speedway to take a ride around the track in a Corvette Pace Car that had seen duty in a previous Indy 500. My driver and I made two laps at 70 m.p.h. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but, admittedly, it was not nearly as breathtaking as the bobsled experience at Lake Placid NY in
After my ride around the storied track, I set out to begin my visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Make no mistake, this facility is a Cars of Fame Museum. Indeed, drivers, owners and builders are noted in the narratives about THE CARS. A timeline along the rear wall recognizes all winning drivers along with the winning average speed. Asides above and below the timeline herald some of the accompanying milestones. At one point, IMS was owned by Eddie Rickenbacker, famed World War I American ace pilot and Medal of Honor recipient. Tell me more. Tell me more about Tony Hulman and the Hulman family. Two of the asides note, “1935: … helmet use becomes mandatory at the Speedway,” and “1959: Use of fire retardant uniforms becomes mandatory.” Show me.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a great RACING CAR museum, but it could be so much more. NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 has been contested at IMS since 1994 yet there is not one NASCAR specimen on permanent display. Three men, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser, have won the 500 four times. Tell me about the Hall of Fame PERSON. According to
Approaching The Yard Of Bricks
IMS Hall of Fame Museum - Indianapolis IN
one of the asides adjacent to the timeline, the museum opened in 1976 “… featuring approximately 75 classic automobiles, motorcycles and racing cars.” Today, it features approximately 75 racing cars. Over the last forty years, the classic automobiles and motorcycles have been displaced, and there is no room for lots of other artifacts that would take this attraction to the next level. Perhaps, it’s time for an addition.
I had a nice time in Indianapolis in spite of the weather. The parking lot where the cars sold at auction were loaded onto the transporters was across the street from the RV park (I had a site in the first row) and provided a changing landscape every 30-60 minutes. With the exception of the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, I visited all the primary attractions on my list but saw none of the secondary attractions. It is possible that I could return to participate in the Indy 500 Festival events at some point in the future. It’s not high on my list, but it’s not out of the question either. Perhaps I could start a new fashion trend for the Indy 500 Festival ala the Kentucky Derby Festival –
High End Cars Require A High End Transporter
Mecum Auction – Indiana State Fairgrounds – Indianapolis IN
hmmm, how about gaudy … driving gloves!
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