Curl Up With A Good Law Book In A Viking Oak Chair At The Franklin County Law Library

Whenever I caught my first glimpse of the downtown Columbus skyline on a weekend or holiday drive home from Oxford, I’d hum “Lights (When The Lights Go Down In The City).” It isn’t by the bay, but I certainly did want to be there in — and get back to — my city.Franklin County Law Library

Last week, I hummed Journey’s 1978 hit single once more, when I beheld the sun shining on my city by the freeway. The great bird’s-eye view is one of the hidden gems of the Franklin County Law Library’s newly renovated space on the 10th floor of the former Hall of Justice at 369 South High Street.

When Common Pleas Court moved to a new location across Mound Street, the building that opened in 1973 was gutted and renovated for over two years, and the library took up temporary quarters in the nearby Municipal Court building. Last October, the library returned to much of its original space and reopened. Now, the previously windowless collection of rooms is a bright, tidy place where staff members help Franklin County employees, members of the legal community and the general public conduct legal research using a collection that includes 19,000 print volumes, five legal research databases and 34 e-books of popular legal titles.

Franklin County Law Library

In the Reading Room, you’ll find the historical archives of the library, which document its activities since Pits incorporation in 1887. Early volumes of Laws of Ohio, Revised Statutes of Ohio, Ohio State Bar Proceedings and pre-1880 works on Ohio and Northwest Territory laws are also shelved in this room. General reference works like encyclopedias, city directories, dictionaries, almanacs and telephone books for Ohio metro areas are close at hand.Franklin County Law Library

Historical photographs of judges line many of the library’s walls. Volumes of a special collection on influential trials and legal works are housed in an elegant cabinet near the entrance. Anatomical models displayed behind the circulation desk can be checked out by library cardholders for use in trials involving bodily injury.

Franklin County Law Library

In 1972, the library was outfitted with a suite of furniture from the Viking Oak line manufactured by the Romweber Company in Batesville, Indiana from the 1930s to the 1980s. Today, the pieces inspired by Scandinavian folk art are highly collectible. It’s worth a visit to the library just to admire its Viking Oak collection of over 50 barrel-back chairs, a sofa, love seat, a bench, swivel chairs, club chairs, wingback chairs, eight 9-foot tables, three 5-foot tables and 11 end tables.

Franklin County Law Library

 This Viking Oak wingback chair…

Franklin County Law Library looks especially spiffy beside a card catalog that was repurposed as a table.

Franklin County Law Library

Thanks to the Art in Public Spaces program, the Columbus Museum of Art has loaned two pieces of artwork from its collection for display in the library. Ferdinand Feldhutter’s “The Konig Sea,” an 1882 landscape painting that was originally owned by Francis Sessions, hangs above the reference desk…

Franklin County Law Library

while a circa-1700 bust of Christopher Columbus stands outside the library’s entrance.

Franklin County Law Library

The Franklin County Law Library is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This year, it is offering a series of lunchtime programs on a variety of topics, including a discussion of William Landay’s 2012 novel, Defending Jacob, on September 16 and Franklin County Courthouse stories told by former county prosecutor S. Michael Miller on October 7. For more information, click here.

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I’d Drive Cattle To Stay At Mount Oval, One of Ohio’s Finest Early Homes

After years of admiring a brick house perched on a knoll a few miles south of Circleville that overlooks U.S. Route 23, I was thrilled to learn that the public can finally tour this historic home known as Mount Oval.Mount Oval

One of the earliest federal land grants in Pickaway County, the 161-acre property sat along the old Scioto Trail. In 1832, William Renick, a cattle breeder and dealer, purchased the farmland and had a unique home built there, which he named Mount Oval because of the oval-shaped knoll on which it sat. In the 1830s, Renick paid $20 for an oil painting of his home by William Kimbaugh.  The painting still hangs in the central room of the home.

Mount Oval is said to follow floor plans for a garden house that Thomas Jefferson designed to be built at Monticello. A similar floor plan can also be found in A Book of Architecture, which British architect James Gibbs published in 1728.

Inside the house, a large central ballroom measuring 25 feet square and 12 feet high is flanked by three corner bedrooms, each measuring ten feet square and of equal height. One of those corner rooms was designed as a room for the resident head drover of cattle that were moved along the Scioto Trail.  It can only be accessed from porches with arched and curved paneled ceilings that were added to the home.

Entrance to drover's room, Mount Oval

The dining room, parlor and service quarters stretch along the left side of the house, occupying the space that otherwise would have been occupied by another corner bedroom.Mount Oval

An ingenious folding door separates the parlor from the dining room.

Mount Oval

Mount Oval is recognized for its unique design, excellent craftsmanship and beautiful details like walnut woodwork, a finely carved mantel and decorative glass transoms above some of its paneled doors. In fact, it is so fine that Ihna Frary rightly included it in his book, Early Homes of Ohio.

Mantel detail, Mount Oval

The smokehouse behind the home looks like it came straight from Virginia, with the same open diamond pattern in the brickwork that you can see at Bremo on the James River and Barboursville in Orange County, Frary observed.

Smokehouse, Mount Oval

In 1851, ill health forced Renick to sell Mount Oval, together with his cattle, hogs, corn, and 25 stands of bees. The handbill announcing the sale hangs in the drover’s room. Jacob Ludwig purchased the property and gave it to his son, Daniel, and his bride, Julia Steeley, as a wedding present. In 1915, one of their children, Elizabeth, moved into the home and later married Bernard Young.  Their five-year-old niece, Mary Ruth Tolbert, was an orphan, and she came to live at Mount Oval when she was eight.  She made it her home for the rest of her life, until she died in 2012.

Tolbert received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University in 1935 and a master’s degree in music from Columbia University. She continued her graduate work at JulMary Ruth Tolbert's This Is Music books, Mount Ovalliard School of Music and Ohio State. In addition to teaching vocal and instrumental music at Ohio State’s School of Music for over 40 years, she authored several music publications, including Music for the Pre-School Child, Music of Young Children and This Is Music, which is still used in many schools today. She incorporated her studies in Europe, Russia, China, Africa and Mediterranean countries into her teaching and writing. Tolbert was the former president of the Ohio Music Education Association and a former president of the Pickaway County Historical Society. You can discover more about Tolbert in Robert Butche’s new biography of her, I Hear Music: The Mary Ruth Tolbert Story.

While Tolbert made improvements such as installing indoor plumbing and electricity in 1967 and replanting heirloom apple trees on the property, she kept quite a bit just the same as it had been. For example, the home still contains a suite of bedroom furniture, including a bed similar to one that Mary Todd Lincoln purchased for the White House, which the Ludwigs bought from Mitchell & Company in Cincinnati during their honeymoon.

Upon her death, Tolbert donated her home and farm to the Pickaway County Historical Society to be used as a learning center for music and agriculture. The society is raising money to improve Mount Oval’s grounds by offering tours and special events like an exhibit of approximately 300 Wedgwood pieces from private collections that took place in the home last weekend.

During that event, visitors could tour the home and explore Mount Oval’s barns…

Mount Oval

where they could browse through items for sale by local businesswomen, such as fairy garden miniatures made by Julie Brunner of Garden Gal Original Designs.

Fairy garden miniatures made by Julie Brunner

The Buttons & Bowls 4-H Club provided complimentary refreshments, including lemonade and thumbprint cookies from Lindsey’s Bakery in Circleville. Lindsey’s is known for its pumpkin doughnuts Thumbprint cookies from Lindsey's Bakeryand a giant pumpkin pie during the annual Circleville Pumpkin Show, which it has made since 1952. Weighing 400 pounds and measuring eight feet in diameter, the pie is made with 96 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 15 dozen eggs and 36 pounds of dough; it bakes for 12 hours.

From May through September, Mount Oval is open for tours on the first and third Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Tours will also be available on the first and third Wednesday of the month at 1:00 p.m. from June through August. Reservations are suggested, but not required. Call the Pickaway County Historical Society at 740-474-1495.

While in Circleville, visit Wittich’s Chocolates, a fourth-generation family business that was started by German immigrant Gottlieb Wittich in 1840. Wittich first worked as a bookbinder, but lack of work led him to apprentice as a confectioner’s helper in Cincinnati. He learned how to make stick candy and rock candy, gum-paste and compounded cordials; baked ornamental cakes and pies; and made ice cream. After the turn of the 20th century, Wittich’s started making chocolate.

Today, Wittich’s is lined with cases of candy made from original family recipes, including triple mints, white chocolate Buckeyes, pistachio creams, coconut brittle, and cinnamon rosebud mints. Its boxes feature Gottlieb Wittich’s drawing of Circleville as it appeared in 1836.Wittich's Chocolates

Wittich’s also has one of the last remaining operating soda fountains in the country, acquired in 1997 when the Beechwold Pharmacy, once located at 4622 North High Street in Columbus, closed. You can sit at the counter and order milkshakes, ice cream and hot fudge sundaes. During the annual Circleville Pumpkin Show, Wittich’s makes pumpkin fudge, pumpkin brittle, pumpkin Buckeyes, pumpkin creams and pumpkin syrup for ice cream.Wittich's Chocolates

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Columbus Commemorated The 150th Anniversary Of Abraham Lincoln’s Death With Tolling Bells, Firing Cannons, Blooming Lilacs and Mourning Voices

Until June 1, the west portico of the Ohio Statehouse will have a distinctly somber appearance. The towering limestone pillars are wrapped in black bunting, just as they were on April 29, 1865, when 50,000 people passed between them to pay their last respects to President Abraham LOhio Statehouseincoln as he lay in state in the Statehouse Rotunda.

Above them, flags fly at half-mast. A large sign reads “With malice to no one, with charity for all,” just like it did then. The wording, taken from Lincoln’s second inaugural address that he delivered on March 4, 1865, isn’t exactly what Lincoln said, but it’s an accurate reproduction of the way it looked 150 years ago.

These are just some examples of how hard-working, history-loving event planners commemorated the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Lincoln and the funeral train that took his body from Washington, D.C. to its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois between April 18 and May 3, 1865.

For 18 months, Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board officials planned how the Statehouse could mark the anniversary in unique ways. On April 29, approximately 4,500 people stopped by the Statehouse during a five-hour period to see a Civil WaOhio Statehouser encampment by historical re-enactors, experience the Statehouse’s cannon being fired, hear buglers played “Taps,” and place fresh flowers on an historically accurate replica of Lincoln’s casket in the Rotunda. That evening, a National Park Service ranger joined Lincoln actor Fritz Klein to give a presentation about Lincoln in the chamber of the Ohio House of Representatives. Click here to watch a recording of the program.

Statehouse visitors could take home a copy of Abraham Lincoln’s Journey Home, a publication that complemented the programs the National Park Service held in each of the major cities along the route that held a funeral for Lincoln.

Reproduction images from the Library of Congress told the story of the assassination and those named as conspirators. “The Lincoln Funeral Train in Pictures and Photos,” on display in the Ohio Statehouse North Hallway through June 2, illustrates how the 16th president was honored at stops along the funeral train route.The Ohio Statehouse as it appeared on April 29, 1865, from an image from the Ohio History Connection

Later in the week, Scott Trostel, author of The Lincoln Funeral Train: The Final Journey and National Funeral for Abraham Lincoln, gave a special presentation recounting what occurred along the 1,600-mile route. Silkscreened commemorative funeral time tables were distributed ahead of time so that people knew when the train would pass through depots along the route. During the 13-day trip, it’s averaged that one-third of the population of the United States witnessed the train pass their community.

During “Lincoln on Screen: Black and White Lincoln in the 1950s,” Mark Reinhart, author of Abraham Lincoln on Screen: Fictional and Documentary Portrayals on Film and Television, told about actors who have portrayed Lincoln in films from Birth of a Nation in 1915 to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in 2012. After he played “The End and the Beginning, an episode of Mr. Lincoln, a television series that aired in late 1952 and early 1953, he explained the symbolic association that lilacs have with the event, immortalized by Walt Whitman in his poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

From “General John C. Caldwell and the Lincoln Funeral Train,” an exhibit in the Ohio Statehouse North Hallway on display through June 2. Caldwell was appointed to the Guard of Honor that accompanied Lincoln’s remains from Washington, D.C. to Springfield.

From “General John C. Caldwell and the Lincoln Funeral Train,” an exhibit in the Ohio Statehouse North Hallway on display through June 2. Caldwell was appointed to the Guard of Honor that accompanied Lincoln’s remains from Washington, D.C. to Springfield.

One special commemorative event took place at St. Joseph Cathedral. On April 26, the Cathedral Schola joined musicologist Thomas Kernan for a lecture and recital exploring the music of Lincoln’s funeral observances in Columbus. Kernan, assistant professor of music history at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, earned his doctorate in musicology from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. For his dissertation, Kernan investigated hundreds of ways that Lincoln was treated in almost 150 years’ worth of music, from the time of his assassination up to 2009. Sounding “The Mystic Chords of Memory”: Musical Memorials for Abraham Lincoln, 1865-2009 can be downloaded for reading here.

The concert began with the ringing of the cathedral’s toller. Tolling church bells, rolling snare drums and firing cannons were all heard in the cities where the Lincoln funeral train stopped.

As Lincoln’s funeral procession made its way west, music accompanied all of the ceremonies. Kernan described how those who planned the Columbus funeral for Lincoln wanted not only to demonstrate the city’s culture and sophistication, but also to show Ohio’s new Statehouse to its best advantage. As in other cities along the route, the Columbus commemoration included the Dead March from George Friedrich Handel’s Saul. A thoughtful selection of church hymns, mostly from the 1848 and 1849 editions of Methodist hymnals, included John Cennick’s “Children of the Heavenly King,” Horatio Palmer’s “Go to Thy Rest in Peace,” and “Great Ruler of the Earth and Skies” and “See, Gracious God, Before Thy Throne,” both with lyrics by Anne Steele. Choirs performed “Comfort Ye” from Handel’s Messiah. German-American singing societies participated, offering music from their homeland, such as Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

"Ohio Mourns" lecture/recital, St. Joseph CathedralPopular opera excerpts were reissued under new titles; Donizetti’s “Marche funèbre” from Dom Sébastien became Funeral March to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln. Composers speedily penned memorial compositions, and music publishers rushed to print and distribute sheet music for them so that people could play and sing them at home. For example, George F. Root, the composer of the popular Civil War song, “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” set a poem by L. M. Dawn to music and titled it “Farewell Father, Friend and Guardian.” It was first performed at the Lincoln funeral in Chicago and again for Lincoln’s internment at Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Sheet music for it was available within a week.

Ohio’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death continues. The Kelton House in Columbus, a sponsor of the concert and lecture at the cathedral, will be decorated for mourning until May 24. On Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., docents dressed in Victorian mourning garb will share information about Victorian mourning customs, such as why Victorians covered mirrors with black fabric when a death occurred.

A replica of the train car that carried Lincoln from Washington to Springfield was built to the exact specifications of the original. An operating train with the recreated car is anticipated to make three stops in Ohio: Ashland on May 18 and 19; Wellington from May 23 to 25 and Painesville on June 6 and 7. For more information, click here and here.

For the next six months, a 30-foot, 40,000-pound bronze sculpture of Lincoln will be on the Miami County Courthouse Plaza in Troy. “Return Visit” by Seward Johnson was commissioned for the Gettysburg Plaza in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The statue depicts Lincoln gesturing toward the window of the room where he wrote the Gettysburg Address. The address is reproduced on the bronze paper held in the hands of a modern man standing next to Lincoln. The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center is hosting a “Remembering Lincoln” exhibit this month, and the Mayflower Arts Center will hold a Lincoln film festival in June.

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Which Famous Adena Guest Bred And Raced Horses?

Adena, the Chillicothe home of Ohio’s sixth governor, Thomas Worthington, has never looked better. Maybe I’m biased because of my family’s connection to the historic site, but the lovely established garden, the outstanding docent who guided us through the house, and an interesting new discovery made our most recent visit especially enjoyable.

Adena, 1964I’ve already written about Adena and its garden, as well as my great-great-great grandmother who grew up there. But did you know that Henry Clay, the prominent American politician who visited Adena on a few occasions, played an important role in making the bluegrass region of Kentucky the premier place for Thoroughbred horse breeding and racing?

In celebration of the Kentucky Derby, Eric Brooks, curator and site manager of Ashland, Henry Clay’s Lexington, Kentucky estate, traveled to Adena to tell visitors about not only the social and political connections between Worthington and Clay, but also the keen eye that Clay had for fine horses.

During his career, Clay represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He also served as Speaker of the House and as Secretary of State, so it wasn’t unusual for his path to cross Governor Worthington’s. But Worthington’s wife and daughters were also friends of Henry Clay’s wife, Lucretia, so they visited Adena often. When the Clays visited the Worthingtons, they stayed in this room.

Henry Clay's bedroom, Adena

Five years after Clay moved to Lexington from Virginia in 1797, he began buying land that was once an ash forest for his plantation.  He started calling his Kentucky estate “Ashland” by 1809, and he lived there with his family until his death in 1852. Clay’s Federal-style brick mansion on the Ashland estate, with two additions designed by Benjamin Latrobe between 1811 and 1814, has been open to the public as a historic house museum since 1950.  

Besides raising livestock and hemp on his plantation, Clay raced and bred Thoroughbreds. In 1806, he and some Kentucky gentlemen bought an 18-year-old race-winning stallion named Buzzard  for $5,500.  Two years later, Clay began racing Thoroughbreds. His racing colors were buff and blue, the colors of the American Whig party. Clay began to breed Thoroughbreds in 1830.

Other horses Clay owned were named Susan, Margaret Wood, Magnolia, Yorkshire, Allegrante, Zenobia, and Yorkshire.  Twelve descendants of Clay’s horses have won the Kentucky Derby; more have won other major stakes races. The Ashland Stakes, an annual Thoroughbred horse race, is named for Clay’s estate.

Clay’s son, John Morrison Clay, and John’s wife, Josephine Russell Erwin Clay, also trained, raced and bred horses at their farm near Ashland. After John’s death, Josephine became the first woman to own and operate a Thoroughbred horse farm in America. Additionally, she wrote several novels and short stories, many of which had horse-racing themes. They include Some Little of the Angel Still Left, Uncle Phil, The Sport of Kings, What Would You Do, Love?, Frank Logan, and What Will the World Say?: A Novel of Everyday Life.

To learn more about Henry Clay, his home and his interest in horses, read Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate, an Arcadia Publishing paperback by Eric Brooks from the Images of America series; “Henry Clay’s Legacy to Horse Breeding and Racing,” an article by Jeff Meyer on pages 473-496 in the Autumn 2002 issue of The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society; and Josephine Clay: Pioneer Horsewoman of the Bluegrass, by Henry Clay Simpson, Jr. Kentucky Bloodlines: The Legacy of Henry Clay was published in connection with “Henry Clay and Horses,” an exhibit at the International Museum of the Horse that took place in the summer of 2005.

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I Played “Carmen Ohio” on the Bells of Orton Hall

While the highlight of Commencement Week at The Ohio State University is receiving a diploma at Ohio Stadium, participating in a “Things You Never Got to See Tour” is a close second.

This week, both the graduating and the curious can pay special visits to almost two dozen locations on campus, including limited-opportunity tours of Ohio Stadium, the Schottenstein Center, and the eight miles of the dark, hot underground steam and electric tunnels snaking below more than 100 campus buildings. I joined the tour of Orton Hall’s bell tower.Orton Hall

In groups of 15 at a time, we climbed three narrow flights of stairs, entered through a locked door, crossed a plywood path beneath the rafters, ducked through a small rounded door…

Orton Hall

and entered a cozy brick-lined room housing the mechanics for the bells. We didn’t get to climb the narrow wooden ladders and squeeze through a tiny opening leading to the upper two tiers of the tower that house the bells.

Orton Hall

A member of Ohio Staters, Inc., a campus service organization that promotes university traditions, told us about the bells that have chimed across campus for more than a century.

The 14 bells consist of 12 E-flats, an A sharp and a G sharp. The E bells were gifts from the classes of 1906-1914, while the A and G bells were installed in 2003. The original 12 chimes weigh 25,000 pounds. The bells chime every 15 minutes to the tune of the Westminster Chimes.

C.W. Reeder, a member of Ohio State’s Class of 1906, transposed several melodies to the Orton Hall chimes. Fred Cornell, a classmate of Reeder’s and the composer of “Carmen Ohio” (Ohio State’s school song), wrote special songs for the bells to play as students moved between classes. Since the reverberation of the bells prevents playing harmonies, songs have to have simple melodies with a limited range of notes.

Originally, the bells were played with a chimestand, a series of large, heavy wooden levers that were pulled for each note.

Orton Hall

Today, the bells are sounded by playing an electronic keyboard that is wired to the bells. As some students played a few notes of “Carmen Ohio,”

Orton Hall

others wrote their names on the tower’s bricks, in keeping with a tradition that dates to the early 1900s.Orton Hall

We also learned about this unique building on the Oval and its namesake, Edward Orton, Sr.

Orton Hall was dedicated in 1893, making it the second oldest building on campus. The Columbus architectural firm of Packard and Yost designed the building. Its round arches, bay windows and steeply pitched red clay tile roof are characteristic of the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style that was popular at the time.Orton Hall

All of the stone used to construct the building is from Ohio. The stones are arranged in stratigraphic order, with the oldest limestone rocks at the bottom, progressing to dolomite, and the youngest sandstone at the top.

Each column framing the main entry door has hand-carved red sandstone capitals, and each one is different.Orton Hall

This one is reputed to be the inspiration for the Block O, the visual identifier of Ohio State.

Orton Hall

The entry foyer is also constructed entirely from Ohio stone or clay products. It features 24 decorative columns, each from a different variety of Ohio stone which is identified on a sign beside the main entry door. Lintels and capitals are from Berea sandstone, and the hand-carved capitals include medallions of fossils such as trilobites and scallops. The vaulted ceiling has sandstone ribs, and the floor tiles were made from Ohio clay.

Orton Hall

Twenty-four hand-carved Hocking Valley red sandstone gargoyles of extinct creatures circle the top of the bell tower. They represent a different type of prehistoric animal life once found in Ohio, including dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs and a saber-tooth cat.

Orton Hall

Edward Orton, Sr. (1829-1899) was Ohio State’s first president, serving from 1873 to 1881. Before he came to Ohio State, he was president of Antioch College. Orton was also a professor of geology at Ohio State from 1873 to 1899, and was the State Geologist of Ohio from 1882 to 1899. This influential geologist is known for his work on the petroleum geology of Ohio, stratigraphy and paleontology.

Edward Orton, Sr.

Before the bells were installed, Orton liked to read by lamplight in the tower. Scorch marks left by his oil lamp are still visible on the tower room walls. Legend has it that Orton’s ghost still haunts the tower, evidenced by a flickering light that occasionally comes through the vertical slots of the turret at night.

Orton Hall

Orton Hall also houses the Orton Geological Museum and the Orton Memorial Library of Geology.

Orton founded the museum in 1893 to house about 10,000 rocks, minerals and fossils from his teaching collection. Today, the collection numbers more than 54,000 specimens from Ohio and around the world. It is open to the public free of charge on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Enter the museum and you’re greeted by “Jeff,” a skeleton of a seven-foot-tall giant ground sloth known as Megalonyx jeffersoni. Megalonyx means “great claw” and jeffersoni refers to President Thomas Jefferson, the first person to bring attention to the species. Giant sloths roamed Ohio two million to 13,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene Epoch. Behind Jeff, you’ll see the skeleton of a 20-foot-long carnivorous fish that lived in Ohio during the Devonian period, when the land was covered by a tropical ocean.

Orton Geological Museum

The large room on the east side of Orton Hall was the university’s library from 1893 to 1912. When the William Oxley Thompson Library was completed and the library moved out of Orton Hall, the room was used as a large open space for aerial observation. Students stood in the balcony and looked at models of terrain spread on the floor below.

In 1923, the room was renovated to become the geology library, which was established in honor of Orton in 1923.Orton Memorial Library of Geology

In 1906, Edward Orton, Jr. presented his father’s personal library to the university and the department of geology. Today, the collection includes over 120,000 volumes of books and series relevant to various aspects of geology and related subjects, including meteorology, mineralogy, paleontology, polar studies, pollution and soils. Countless maps are stored in dozens of drawers.Orton Memorial Library of Geology

The artwork in the library was part of the personal collection of Orton, Jr., who was professor of ceramics at Ohio State from 1894 to 1916; Dean of the College of Engineering from 1902 to 1908 and from 1910 to 1916; and Ohio State Geologist from 1899 to 1906.

Petrified Forest was painted in 1904 by Thomas Moran, a noted Hudson River School painter. Orton, Jr. acquired the painting in 1925 because he liked how it illustrated the geological process by which fossils are preserved.

Petrified Forest, Thomas Moran

Paintings by Albert Bierstadt, a painter best known for his landscapes of the American West, include Yellowstone Geyser, Yellowstone National Park (1886) and Quartzite Peak in the Canadian Rockies (1890).

Yellowstone Geyser, Albert Bierstadt

Other paintings represent Bryce Canyon National Park, a Swiss mountain valley, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and Mt. Orton in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, which was named for Orton, Jr., who climbed the mountain with other faculty members from Ohio State’s Department of Geology.

Wild Basin, Mt. Orton, by Dean Babcock

Click here to see the Orton Hall bells, hear them play and see how small the tower room is in “The Chimes of Orton Hall,” which aired on the February 4, 2015 episode of WOSU’s Broad and High. 

Posted in Architecture, Art, History, Music, Ohio State University | 1 Comment

Nurses Might Not Carry Lanterns Anymore, But They Still Shine

Look around London and you’ll see hundreds of circular blue ceramic plaques on buildings. For almost 150 years, they have marked the residences or workplaces of famous people like Charles Dickens, Alfred Hitchcock, Winston Churchill and Sylvia Pankhurst.

During my most recent visit to London, I spotted one of those plaques at 10 South Street in Mayfair. It was inscribed, “In a house on this site FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE 1820-1910 lived and died.”

I thought about that plaque when I visited the Columbus Museum of Art to see Shine On: Nurses in Art, an exhibit celebrating the contribution that nurses have made to society. There, I learned several things about Nightingale, how she transformed nursing from an expression of religious faith into a vital profession, and how nurses nurture infants, care for the aged and minister to the sick.

The title of the exhibition pays homage to Nightingale. During the Crimean War, the nightly rounds that she made to care for wounded soldiers earned her the nickname as “The Lady with the Lamp.” The exhibition includes an example of the collapsible concertina lantern that she carried on her rounds. When the object made of brass, linen and a candle was extended, it served as a lantern; when it collapsed, it became a candle holder.

Notes on NursingAs a result of her wartime experiences, Nightingale worked to introduce new standards in patient care. In 1860, she established the first secular nursing school in the world at St. Thomas Hospital in London. That same year, she wrote Notes on Nursing: What It Is, And What It Is Not. The exhibition includes a copy of the first American edition of her book, published by D. Appleton. In it, she advises women on how best to care for the health of their charges. Chapters cover the importance of ventilation and sunshine, cleanliness and avoiding unnecessary noise. “A nurse who rustles is the horror of the patient,” she wrote. “The fidget of silk and of crinoline, the rattling of keys, the creaking of stays and of shoes, will do a patient more harm than all the medicines in the world will do him good.” 

The exhibit also includes works by Rembrandt, Mary Cassatt, George Bellows and Alfred Eisenstaedt, the creator of the famous photograph of a soldier kissing a nurse on VJ Day in New York City’s Times Square.

“Crying Baby with Nursemaid,” Norman Rockwell’s image for the cover of the October 24, 1936 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, is displayed next to books about nurses, such as the Cherry Ames series of 27 mystery novels by Helen Wells, where the heroine inspired girls to pursue a nursing career. An 1850 photo captures Clara Barton, the woman known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” during the Civil War who established the American branch of the Red Cross and became its first president in 1881.

Several recruiting posters convey the need for young women to become nurses and work in field hospitals, camps and convalescent hospitals during the first and second World Wars. Glenna Goodacre’s 1993 sculptural studies she created for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial are a reminder of the importance of modern-day wartime nursing. Across the gallery, a continuously playing loop of film clips demonstrate the portrayal of nurses in popular culture.

Historical objects complement the stories that sculptures, paintings, prints, photographs and posters in the exhibit tell. A pouch that 19th-century nurses attached to their belts held scissors, safety pins, a thermometer and other necessary tools. Pins from over 150 licensed nursing schools in Ohio convey the tradition of presenting medals to graduating nurses that Nightingale began at her London nursing school. The pins were originally modeled after the badges given to members of the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, a religious order that cared for those who were ill and wounded during the 12th-century Crusades.

Best of all is a uniform that an Ohio State University nursing student wore during the 1940s. A grey wool cape with red lining covers a white pinafore, similar to those worn by military and Red Cross nurses of the period. The exhibit explains that some believe that the traditional white nursing uniform suppresses nurses’ individuality as professionals. Others think that modern-day scrubs are a sign of the profession’s diminishing visibility. Visitors are challenged to think about whether whites or scrubs are best.

Shine On: Nurses in Art continues through June 21. Recognize a caring nurse in your life by uploading a photo to Instagram and tagging it #ShineOnCMA.

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At Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library, “You May Be Whatever You Resolve To Be”

Years ago, I read The Clerk’s Tale: Young Men and Moral Life in Nineteenth-Century America, Thomas Augst’s account of how industrious young businessmen of the 19th century earnestly worked to improve themselves in their free time. Practicing penmanship, keeping diaries, writing letters, joining literary societies where they debated, delivered orations, and recited poetry; reading books, and attending lectures were all ways in which they developed their character and cultivated their mind. These ambitious fellows were William A. Alcott’s target audience for his book, The Young Man’s Guide, first published in 1832 and revised in multiple subsequent editions.  “Let me repeat the assurance that, as a general rule, you may be whatever you resolve to be,” Alcott reminded his readers. 

Many of these self-made men became members of mercantile libraries that were established in some American cities before public libraries became widespread. After a long day at work, a visit to the mercantile library allowed them to pursue their intellectual interests, gain useful knoMercantile Library Association of Cincinnatiwledge, and converse with fellow clerks.

One of those mercantile libraries still exists in downtown Cincinnati.  I was thrilled to see it for myself recently.

On April 18, 1835, 45 merchants and clerks in Cincinnati created the Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association. Pooling their funds, they subscribed to newspapers and periodicals and established a book collection. Today, it is known as the Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati.

Mercantile Library Association of CincinnatiThe Mercantile Library moved to its present Walnut Street site in 1840, but the building in which it was housed burned down in 1845. A new building was constructed on the same site, but it, too, burned down in 1869. It was replaced by another building, but it was torn down in 1902 when it became outdated. In 1903, the current building was built, it was completed in 1908, and the library has been based on the 11th floor ever since. Alphonso Taft, an attorney who was the father of President William Howard Taft, wrote a lease that called for a 10,000-year occupancy with rent of $1.00 per year.

In 1839, the library created Cincinnati’s Chamber of Commerce. In 1843, it organized the Merchants’ Exchange, which collected steamboat schedules and other business-related information. For three years, the exchange maintained canal, river and railroad import/export records and information about steamboat arrivals and departures for local businessmen.

After using the Mercantile Library as guests, women first became nonvoting honorary members of the library in 1859. The first African-American member joined in 1872. Today, annual membership dues start at $55, and include borrowing privileges, use of the reading room and other benefits.

Over the years, the Mercantile Library has expanded its historic collection of more than 200,000 volumes with paintings, sculptures and other special objects, such as rare specimens of minerals. Examples include Hamlet and Ophelia, a painting by Ohio artist Lily Martin Spencer; a marble bust of George Washington by sculptor Hiram Powers, who worked in Cincinnati for a time; and a plaster copy of the marble bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that stands in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Bust of George Washington by Hiram Powers, Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

When visitors emerge from the express elevator to the 11th-floor hallway outside the entrance to the library, they are greeted by Silence, a marble statue of a woman standing with her index finger in front of her lips. It is a copy of a statue a Mercantile Library member saw in Paris, and it was acquired in 1856.

Silence, Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

The library’s reading room is furnished with hardwood floors, iron and mahogany book and magazine stands…Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

and Stickley-style chairs and slant-topped desks.Stickley-style chairs

Many of the library’s bookshelves, desks and chairs date to its previous homes that were destroyed by fire. Tall, arched windows add elegance to the space.  Since the building was built before the invention of the light bulb, glass floors in the steel-frame stacks allow light to filter through.Glass floors in the stacks, Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

A 19th-century floor safe painted with a seascape and the library’s name houses two centuries of library board minutes.Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

In 2010, new stacks…Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

…and a performance stage were added at the south end of the reading room.

Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

The Mercantile Library offers events of interest to anyone who enjoys books and reading. Since the 1840s, the library has hosted informative educational lectures given by distinguished speakers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Makepeace Thackeray, Herman Melville, Bret Harte, John Galsworthy, John Updike, Tom Wolfe and Julia Child. President William Howard Taft was the speaker at the 75th anniversary celebration in 1910. Early lecture topics included the credit system; the history of banking; patriotism; the life and character of George Washington and William Shakespeare; German literature; and cultivation of the fine arts.

A spiral staircase lined with portraits of past presidents of the Mercantile Library leads to its 12th-floor lecture room.Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

Rookwood pottery vases, a Stickley writing desk and bookcases filled with enticing volumes furnish the room, which affords a magnificent view of the Ohio River.

Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

Bordering the ceiling of the room are 23 names of people who have lectured at the library. 

Lecture room, Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati

Some of those same names adorn a bow tie especially designed for the library by BowTie Cause, a project of former Cincinnati Bengals player Dhani Jones. The library receives $10 of the $57 purchase price that recalls Jones’ football jersey number. 

Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati's bow tie

Many library events are scheduled at noon for the convenience of members and visitors who work downtown. Currently, these include a discussion group for “hard-boiled” mystery novels of the early decades of the 20th century, such as The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett; Cotton Comes to Harlem, by Chester Himes (April 24); After Delores, by Sarah Schulman (May 8) and Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Letham (May 22). The library also offers an interest group for Scandinavian books, such as Italian Shoes, by Henning Mankell (April 23) and My StruggleRookwood pottery, Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati: Book 2: A Man in Love, by Karl Ove Knausgaard (May 28).

A First Wednesday book discussion group will focus on Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (May 6) and Middlemarch, by George Eliot (June 3). Gilbert King, author of Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, will deliver the library’s 1835 Lecture on April 20.

One of the library’s longest-running discussion groups, the Canon Club, concluded in December 2014 after having read Shakespeare’s complete dramatic works. The group also attended performances of the plays by The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. On May 13, the group will see and discuss Henry V. The Walnut Street Poetry Society meets monthly at noon and is focusing on African-American poets this year.

To discover more about the history of the MerMercantile Library Association of Cincinnaticantile Library Association of Cincinnati, read At the Center: 175 Years at Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library, by Robert C. Vitz; Brilliance and Balderdash: Early Lectures at Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library, by Dale Patrick Brown; and “The Cincinnati Mercantile Library as a Business-Communications Center, 1835-1846,” by S.H. Barringer and B.W. Scharlott, from the Spring 1991 issue of Libraries & Culture, pages 388-401.

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