Sidle Up To A Pink Marble Bar For Sweet Treats From Past Times

If City Tavern’s hearty Colonial fare isn’t what you’re after during a day of Philadelphia sightseeing, but you’d still like to indulge in a delicious taste from the past, find just the right refreshments at the Franklin Fountain and ShaneFranklin Fountain Confectionery.

Brothers Ryan and Eric Berley were besotted with a turn-of-the-20th century brick building at 116 Market Street their family had purchased in 2003. Vintage advertisements were painted on the exterior of the place that had once been home to a handful of retail establishments, including a saloon, a printer, a coffee roastery and a pharmacy. Original penny tile floors lay beneath circa-1906 tin ceilings adorned with masks, gryphons and fruited urns with fleur-de-lis swags and beading.

The Berley brothers decided to give the object of their affection new life as an ice cream parlor. They researched archival soda fountain dispensary manuals and visited old-time soda shops to learn the lost art of soda-jerking. They designed an old-fashioned soda fountain with vintage Tennessee pink marble counters. Franklin FountainThey furnished the place with antique fixtures like a circa-1910 cherry wood bar with Arts & Crafts-style stained glass doors that hailed from a Lancaster County pharmacy and a circa-1905 onyx lamp with a slag glass lampshade. An antique oak wall intercom near the front window relays messages to an upstairs office, while a 1920s wall telephone takes calls from customers. Two bronze and nickel-plated brass National Cash Registers from the 1910s ring up cash-only sales; favorite Benjamin Franklin quotes were painted on the $ keys of the nickel-plated model. Reproduction 1890s ceiling fans are powered by a sewing machine belt drive. A circa-1910 oak cigar cabinet from a Chester, Pennsylvania pharmacy displays candy, gum and bottled soda. A vintage brass and cast iron water fountain stands outside on the sidewalk to clear customer palates.

Since opening in 2004, the Franklin Fountain’s soda jerks have dished up historically inspired house-made ice creams crafted with locally sourced milk, cream and in-season fruits from scratch recipes. Regardless of flavor, the Philadelphia-style ice cream is made with the finest-quality cream, sugar and flavorings, but without eggs or thickening agents, like the ice cream Elizabeth Goodfellow taught upper-class young ladies to make in her 19th-century Philadelphia cooking school. As Becky Libourel Diamond, author of Mrs. Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School, noted, Philadelphians were among the first Americans to serve frozen desserts, and “Philadelphia ice cream” became the standard of excellence.

Franklin FountainI debated between Cherry Butter Almond, a concoction of roasted and salted almonds and organic Bordeaux cherries; Maple Walnut, featuring English walnuts in Pennsylvania maple syrup; and Teaberry Gum, a minty pink wintergreen flavor that’s a central-Pennsylvania favorite. I finally settled on a dip of Caramelized Banana, a flavor concocted in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September 2015, served in a waxed paper container like the original ice cream carton patented in the early 1900s. It was worth every penny of the $5.40 I paid.

Ogle the menu and you’ll be tempted by pages of cleverly presented mouthwatering choices, including the Peach Melba Parfait, named in honor of the dessert that French chef Auguste Escoffier created following soprano Nellie Melba’s performance of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin in 1893. The Maple Leaf Rag, a sundae named in homage to Scott Joplin’s 1899 piano ballad, is described as featuring “two dipperfuls of chocolate or banana ice cream shellacked in pure maple walnuts, the syncopated sweetness cut by The Sting of prickly pineapple, crushed fresh, all keyed up with whipped cream.”

Try a Franklin Fountain iteration of the classic banana split, which pharmacist David Strickler created in 1904 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and his apprentice, Howard Dovey, introduced to Philadelphians. Indulge in a Philadelphia milk shake, perfectly spun on a triple-spindle Hamilton Beach mixer and awarded in 2013 as the “Best Milk Shake in America.” Or order the Cherry Bomb, a seasonal concoction featuring a dip of bittersweet chocolate ice cream dropped into a house-made cherry soda. After all, the introduction of ice cream to the soda occurred in 1874 in Philadelphia.

If a cool drink appeals, consider a phosphate, that tart, old-timey beverage of soda tinged with citric or phosphoric acid. Who wouldn’t, with choices like the “Havana Sunrise,” a Prohibition-era phosphate with raspberry, ginger and lime, or “Hemingway’s Dream,” sweetened with lemon juice, fresh mint and anise syrups, and topped with an absinthe-soaked sugar cube. Or select a hand-drawn soda made with house-made soda syrups like anise mint, ginger, lavender and raspberry.

Choose from “college ices,” made with one scoop of ice cream and one topping. Or try a New York Egg Cream, a mix of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer. More adventurous eaters might go for the Philadelphia Egg Cream, a concoction of cream, simple syrup, vanilla extract, and raw egg yolks made from a recipe from The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages (1897).

Honey and spices used in Franklin Fountain ice cream hail from the rooftop apiary and herb garden atop the Berleys’ neighboring sister store, Shane Confectionery.Shane Confectionery

Like Franklin Fountain’s home, the old-fashioned confectionery is housed in another neighboring turn-of-the-20th century Market Street building with wide-plank pine floors, pressed-tin ceilings and hand-carved wooden display cases.

Established in 1863 by Samuel Herring, a wholesaler of candy-making supplies, the confectionery is the oldest continuously run candy shop in the United States. It’s located just two blocks from the Delaware River, a natural resource which facilitated the import of sugarcane and led many candy producers to set up shop in Philadelphia. The Shane family ran the confectionery for nearly a century, so when the Berley brothers acquired it, they also inherited its antique candy-making equipment, including copper fudge cauldrons, candy stoves, a cast-iron buttercream machine, and more than a thousand candy moulds. Like the Franklin Fountain, a cash register dating from 1910 rings up sales.

Neat rows of classic candies, such as chocolates, nonpareils, lollipops, caramels and hand-dipped bonbons like the “Liberty Bell” house specialty are presented on silver trays. Clear-toy candies molded into the shapes of animals, circus figures and more are cast-sugar recreations of 18th-century favorites brought by the Pennsylvania Dutch from their native Germany to the Delaware River valley. Click here to watch these artistic Shane Confectionerycandies being made. 

Beyond the confectionery’s sales area, find a cozy spot known as the Chocolate Café. Here, you can order milkshakes house-made with chocolate imported from Nicaragua, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela, resulting in tasting notes that range from peach, apricot and raspberry to banana, walnut and rum.

Savor your selection while sitting at glass-topped tables filled with trade cards and other confection-related vintage ephemera. Many turn-of-the-20th century “jewel-box” retail shops, like Shane Confectionery, began as wholesale and dry goods stores, then matured into small businesses that mShane Confectioneryarketed their products with elaborate window displays and elegant store interiors. No wonder the cards for the Berley businesses are as charming as the products they promote.

For more on Shane Confectionery, see “A Sweet Taste of Nostalgia,” from the March/April 2015 issue of Victoria magazine. The confectionery’s website, as well as the website for the Franklin Fountain, are worth virtual visits in themselves. Click here and here to see what I mean.

Posted in Food, History, Philadelphia, Travel | Leave a comment

Develop A Taste For “The Most Genteel Tavern in America”

I walked determinedly along Walnut Street, passing the row house where Dolley Madison lived with her first husband, John Todd, the inviting 18th-century garden, and the Polish American Cultural Center. “Sorry, not now,” I thought. “I’m on my way to have lunch at City Tavern!”City Tavern

My daily three square meals are a big deal, and that day’s second square had pride of place on my itinerary for my first day in Philadelphia. The brick building on the corner of Walnut and Second Streets is an exact reproduction of the tavern where big Revolutionary-era names like John Adams and George Washington convened to discuss current events.

The Colonial-era tavern was a town’s central meeting place, where people could catch up with friends, conduct business, talk politics, play cards, share a meal, and purchase tickets to concerts and plays. In 1770, over 50 Philadelphia gentlemen pooled their money to create a tavern based on the very best examples in England. Three years later, City Tavern was open for business. The elegant three-story building was designed in the latest architectural style. Its location, just blocks from the port and the Delaware River, helped it become the finest tavern in Philadelphia, serving food from around the world.

In May 1774, Paul Revere arrived at City Tavern to announce the closing of the port of Boston. Describing his arrival in Philadelphia for the first time on August 29, 1774, John Adams wrote that he had “a supper…as elegant as ever was laid on a table” at City Tavern, “the most genteel tavern in America.”

In September and October of that year, delegates met there before and after sessions of the First Continental Congress. City TavernFrom 1776 to 1777, Continental and British troops held military courts-martial and housed prisoners of war there. The tavern was not only temporary headquarters for George Washington in August 1777, but also the location of a banquet for Washington as he made his way to New York City in April 1789 to become the nation’s first president.

City Tavern was damaged by fire in 1834 and was demolished in 1854. As part of Philadelphia’s bicentennial celebration, the National Park Service rebuilt the tavern on the original site in 1975 and reopened it for business in 1976.

City TavernEntering City Tavern, you’ll find the Subscription Room on your right, where tavern-goers read magazines and newspapers from around the world. Across the hall, merchants, ship captains and businessmen convened in the Coffee Room to trade goods and share import/export news.

The walls are painted in the tavern’s original colors, the rooms are decorated in reproduction furniture and fabrics, and wait staff are dressed in handmade 18th-century attire. Tables are set with pewter goblets and candlesticks, and china plates based on a 1793 pattern. Colonial-style glassware is imported from Italy or hand-blown in West Virginia.

I took my seat in the Long Room on the second floor, where balls, banquets, meetings, card games and concerts were held. In 1777, Congress held the first Fourth of July celebration in the Long Room.City Tavern

City Tavern provides its visitors with a culinary experience inspired by the customs and foods of 18th-century Colonial America. The fare is the result of Chef Walter Staib’s thorough research on the cuisine and culinary customs of the day, including menus from the original tavern. Fresh produce and meats are delivered daily, breads and pastries are baked each morning, and libations like ales, porters, shrubs and spruces are made following Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George and Martha Washington’s original recipes.

I perused the midday fare lineup, remembering my predilection for Colonial turkey pot pie, made with turkey, mushrooms, early peas, red potatoes, sherry cream sauce and flaky pastry crust baked in a pewter casserole and accompanied by egg noodles. But then again, there was the handmade veal and herb sausage, “Münchner style,” with fried onions, mashed potatoes and Pennsylvania Dutch-style sauerkraut. Perhaps I should order something different like salmagundi, an 18th-century classic salad ofCity Tavern greens, ham, turkey, chicken, salami, cheddar cheese, hard-boiled egg and olives. Or would I be really adventurous and try the fried tofu breaded with Sally Lunn, spinach, seasonal vegetables, sautéed tomatoes and herbs with linguine? After all, Benjamin Franklin had sent some soybeans and a recipe for making “Tau-fu” in a January 1770 letter he wrote to his friend John Bartram, the noted Philadelphia botanist. Finally, at my waiter’s suggestion, I settled on the beef pie turnover, a hearty, exceptional choice of twice-cooked beef, simmered with mushrooms and herbs in a rich red wine sauce, baked in puff pastry and served with sweet and sour cabbage. It was served with slices of Sally Lunn bread, a round, yeasty, golden loaf that’s more like a cake; Anadama bread, made with molasses and cornmeal; and Thomas Jefferson’s favorite — sweet potato and pecan biscuits.

Around the corner from City Tavern, see Old Original Bookbinder’s, a seafood house established by Samuel Bookbinder in 1893. Later, the restauBookbinder'srant was known for the bell which Bookbinder’s wife, Sarah, rang to let the neighborhood know that lunch was ready, its raw bar that rested on worn Walnut Street cobblestones, and its ship’s-wheel light fixtures. While seafood was its specialty, the restaurant also served traditional Old Philadelphia cuisine, like snapper [turtle] soup, Philadelphia pepperpot soup and fried oysters paired with chicken salad, which you can recreate at home with recipes from The Old Original Bookbinder’s Restaurant Cookbook, by Charlotte Adams. After bankruptcy closed the original restaurant in 2009, the historical destination reopened in 2015 as The Olde Bar. The Old Original Bookbinder’s food division is a standalone company that offers a line of seafood soups, sauces and seasonings.

City Tavern serves lunch and dinner 365 days a year. For more, see City Tavern Cookbook: 200 Years of Classic Recipes From America’s First Gourmet Restaurant; The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes From the Birthplace of American Cuisine; and A Feast of Freedom: Tasty Tidbits From the City Tavern, all by Walter Staib. City Tavern’s chef also produces A Taste of History,” a PBS television series that explores America’s culinary beginnings.

Posted in Food, History, Philadelphia, Travel | Leave a comment

See Where An Upholsterer, A Printer And A Lawyer Made History In The “Greene Countrie Town”

PhiladelphiaThere’s nothing like studying a map and a TourBook from AAA, charging your camera battery, hitting the pavement to see the sights, and returning home with a new favorite travel destination. Recent case in point: Philadelphia.

Come along with me in the next several posts to explore the home of hoagies and cheesesteaks, the Saturday Evening Post and Godey’s Lady’s Book, the Phillies and Rocky Balboa.

Let’s begin at Penn’s Landing, the waterfront destination that commemorates the beginning of Philadelphia’s story. William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, landed at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers in 1682 and established its capital city there. Penn's Landing, PhiladelphiaNaming it Philadelphia, Greek for “brotherly love,” the Quaker leader wanted the city to be a place where people of all faiths could worship freely. He envisioned it to be a “greene countrie town,” a wholesome place with plenty of gardens that would never experience a tragedy like the great fire that ravaged London in 1666. In the revolutionary decades that followed, Philadelphia became a thriving center for trade and government, best known as the place where the Founding Fathers declared their independence from Great Britain.

18th-century garden, PhiladelphiaThat momentous event is celebrated at Independence National Historical Park, a historic square mile of Colonial-era landmarks maintained by the National Park Service. Classically influenced brick row houses shelter elegant recreated 18th-century gardens. A sculpture called “The Signer” marks the place where portrait painter Gilbert Stuart’s home once stood. Christ Church, where George Washington worshipped, still stands, as does Carpenters’ Hall, where delegates from 12 of the original colonies met in the fall of 1774 to discuss their options in responding to their grievances against Great Britain.

Visit the reconstructed house at 700 Market Street where Thomas Jefferson lived in two second-floor rooms while he drafted the Declaration of Independence between June 11 and June 28, 1776.Declaration House, Philadelphia

At Independence Hall, first known as the Pennsylvania State House, see the original “Rising Sun” chair that George Washington used while he presided over the 1787 Constitutional Convention and stand in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed.Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Walk across the yard where the famous document was read to an assembled crowd on July 4, 1776 as the bell that was originally rung to signal Pennsylvania Assembly meetings in the State House pealed overhead. Then cross the street to take an up-close look at this legendary symbol of freedom, now known as the Liberty Bell.Liberty Bell, Philadelphia

Pass through the original arched carriageway that Franklin used to go to and from his house to the Franklin Court Market Street Houses. Franklin built three of these five reconstructed townhouses as rental properties in the 1780s. The other two house worthwhile museums dedicated to two of his professions.Benjamin Franklin post office and print shop

At the B. Free Franklin Post Office, still a working United States post office, learn how Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia and later was responsible for all post offices from Massachusetts to Georgia as Postmaster General. Mail home a special souvenir: a flyer about the post office that’s sent in an envelope bearing a special hand-canceled postmark.Benjamin Franklin post office and print shop, Philadelphia

Next door at the recreated 18th-century Franklin Print Shop, discover how Franklin printed broadsides, pamphlets like Thomas Payne’s The American Crisis, The Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper and his own Poor Richard’s Almanac. Park rangers demonstrate the labor-intensive process involved in printing a newspaper, from applying the ink made from tree sap, linseed oil and chimney soot with leather daubers stuffed with cotton…Benjamin Franklin post office and print shop, Philadelphia

to operating the hand-operated press, creating a broadside illustrating the last letters exchanged between Franklin and Washington.Benjamin Franklin post office and print shop, Philadelphia

Just beyond Independence National Historical Park, find Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States. The narrow cobblestoned lane dates to 1702, when it was a path used by carts hauling goods from the Delaware River docks. Between 1724 and 1728, 33 homes were built on either side of the alley, some of whom were built and rented out by blacksmith Jeremiah Elfreth.Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia

Of course, I had to make a pilgrimage to the Betsy Ross House, on Arch Street, between Bread and 3rd Streets. The front portion of this bandbox- style house, with one room on each floor and a winding staircase leading from the cellar to the upper levels, was built around 1740, with the rear section added 10 to 20 years later.  The front room was used as a workshop and showroom, with a large window to display merchandise, while the rest of the house was the family home. During the 18th century, the house was occupied by a shoemaker, a shopkeeper and an apothecary; an upholsterer named Betsy Ross lived here from 1776 to 1779.Betsy Ross House, PhiladelphiaUpholsterers of the day did much more than stuff and cover furniture. They also made slipcovers, curtains, tablecloths, rugs, Venetian blinds, tassels, mattresses and blankets. In addition, they often sold and hung wallpaper. Betsy incorporated flag-making into her trade.

Lined with shelves piled high with ginghams, flannels, silks and trimmings, this room is how Betsy’s shop might have appeared when George Washington and two other representatives of the Continental Congress stopped by to ask Betsy to create a new standard for Britain’s rebellious colonies. Her flag of 13 stripes with 13 six-pointed stars encircled on a blue field became the first official flag of the new nation.Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia

Today, the seven period rooms of the Betsy Ross House are furnished with period antiques, 18th-century reproductions, and objects that belonged to Betsy and her family, such as her walnut chest-on-chest, her Chippendale and Sheraton side chairs, her eyeglasses, her quilted petticoat and her Bible.  The kitchen in the lower level showcases “Women at Work in Revolutionary America,” which highlights the household tasks performed by 18th-century women.Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia

For general sightseeing and historical information on Philadelphia, see Literary Landmarks of Philadelphia, by Joseph Jackson; Historic Landmarks of Philadelphia, by Roger W. Moss; Philadelphia Discovered, photographed by Joseph Nettis, with an introduction by Nathaniel Burt; An Architectural Guidebook to Philadelphia, by Francis Morrone; The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Walking Tours of Historic Philadelphia, by Edward Colimore; First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory, by Gary B. Nash; Philadelphia: An American Paris, by Joseph L. Borkson; PhilaIndependence Hall, Philadelphiadelphia Liberty Trail: Trace the Path of American History, by Larissa Milne; The Liberty Bell, by Gary B. Nash; Philadelphia: Portrait of A City, by Michael P. Gadomski; Visit Independence Hall, by Alexander Wood; Philadelphia & the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a DK Eyewitness Travel guide; The House in which Thomas Jefferson Wrote the Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Donaldson; and Betsy Ross and the Making of America, by Marla R. Miller. For books for young readers, see A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia, by Alice Turner Curtis, and Ben and Me: A New and Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin as Written by His Good Mouse, Amos, Lately Discovered, Edited & Illustrated by Robert Lawson. Watch Ben and Me, the 1953 Disney cartoon inspired by the book, here.

Posted in History, Museums, Philadelphia, Travel | Leave a comment

Experience Columbus By Being A Tourist In Your Own City

“There’s an energy and excitement in Columbus that’s going to hit you as soon as you arrive. Big things are happening here. The city is booming, and not just in population. It’s time to get to know the Columbus that grew up when you weren’t looking.”

That’s what the Greater Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau proclaims as part of its Experience Columbus campaign to make the city an appealing, affordable destination to visitors, meeting planners and convention-goers. And it sounds like it’s working. Central Ohio tourism numbers were strong in 2015; the number of overnight visitors to hotels increased to a record high.

Attending the International Torch Club’s convention in Columbus afforded me the opportunity to be a tourist in my own city. Although I slept in my own bed at night, I indulged in all the special activities that the out-of-town convention-goers did during the day. I sat down to tasty catered meals at the Crowne Plaza Columbus-Downtown, engaging in “reasoned discourse” with my tablemates after listening to presentations and applauding a special Silver Torch Award recipient who serves the local club in an exemplary manner.  I tucked into a German buffet dinner in a banquet room at Schmidt’s in German Village after an accordionist led us in a singalong of songs from The Sound of Music. I held an armadillo from the Columbus Zoo. I listened to a string trio performance. And I rode in a plush scarlet-and-gray Ohio State University motorcoach to tour a few local attractions.

Although I’d been to Ohio State University’s campus treasures, the Thurber House and Franklin Park Conservatory before, I saw new features on all three tours. If you haven’t been dropped off on campus in Mershon Auditorium’s loading zone, had my friend Kevlin welcome you to 77 Jefferson Avenue, or learned local trivia from Columbus Dispatch columnist Joe Blundo while being driven along East Broad Street, you haven’t experienced Columbus.

At the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on Ohio State’s campus, my fellow convention-goers and I pored over treasured artwork and artifacts from its collections, then hit the highlights of two special exhibitions: Good Grief! Children and Comics, which examines the history, role and tensions of child characters in comic strips and comic books; and Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, a collection of new versions by 100 comic artists and illustrators of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, a full-page comic that ran every Sunday from 1905 to 1926.

We pulled open the black curtain and saw the fluorescent minerals at the Orton Geological Museum in Orton Hall, just like my friend Rosie did.

OvalAnd at Thompson Library, we admired the picturesque views overlooking the Oval from the second-floor Grand Reading Room and the open study space on the 11th floor. We were amazed by artist Ann Hamilton’s VERSE in the Buckeye Reading Room: a two-color cork floor laid as a field of words set in relief and organized in a concordance, in which the words are alphabetized within the context of the sentence in which they appear.

Did you know that right here in Columbus, you can see the Underwood #5 typewriter that James Thurber used during his days writing for The New Yorker? It’s in the room of the Thurber family home where the award-winning author and cartoonist slept when he attended Ohio State, reporting for The Lantern, writing plays for the Scarlet Mask Club and editing the humor magazine known as the Sun-Dial. Thurber HouseThe room’s Wall of Fame closet includes signatures of the authors who have given readings for Thurber House.Thurber House

Discover other fun facts about Thurber through other artifacts, ephemera, manuscripts and photographs on display at Thurber House, such as how he worked as a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch from 1921 to 1924, covering current books, films, and plays in “Credos and Curios,” his weekly column. (For more on the James Thurber Family Collection in the Thurber House archives, see the finding aid I prepared during the winter of 2003-2004.)

A warm afternoon and a soft-spoken trustee emeritus made for a soporific combination next door in the Thurber Center, the literary center’s conference and classroom facility, but we persevered, perking up when we spotted this unpublished Thurber drawing, titled “You Two Ardent Chrysanthemum Lovers Should Know One Another,” on display.

Thurber House

But it was Franklin Park Conservatory – specifically, its barn and its origami exhibit — that made my pseudo-staycation.

The eight-acre Franklin County Agricultural Society Grounds opened in 1852, hosting the Franklin County Fair (1852-1885), the Ohio State Fair (1874-1884Franklin Park Conservatory), and General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1880, when he delivered his famous “War Is Hell” speech. When a new fairgrounds was established at another site in 1884, the land became a public city park known as Franklin Park.  Inspired by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and London’s Crystal Palace, which housed the first World Exposition in 1851, the city of Columbus commissioned a local architect to design and build its own glass conservatory at Franklin Park in 1895. Zoo animals called it home until 1925. 

From April through October 1992, over five million people flocked to Franklin Park for a $95 million extravaganza called AmeriFlora. The international horticultural exhibition celebrated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World. It featured gardening demonstrations; an authentic Bavarian Festhaus, Irish-style pub and Hawaiian restaurant; three different seasonal plantings; Walt Disney World-inspired topiary displays; an 11,000-square-foot vegetable and ornamental garden created by the PBS television show, “The Victory Garden;” a “Seeds of Change” exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution that focused on the exchange of plants, animals and people resulting from Columbus’ voyages; and mass floral plantings and plantings inspired by foreign countries, including a floral clock and a traditional Russian summer dacha surrounded by pine trees. Lush turf grasses were surrounded by an ocean-like planting of blue flowers and white-flowering groundcover in a world map. Colorful maypoles with cascading streamers guided visitors toward NavStar ’92, a 30-foot tall, 20-ton stainless steel sculpture representing the three billowing sails of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, the three ships of Columbus’ first voyage.

My AmeriFlora season pass led to cFranklin Park Conservatoryountless trips to Franklin Park Conservatory that year, but I petered out after that, returning only once to see an exhibition of over $7 million of Dale Chihuly glass art works displayed throughout the conservatory. I was long overdue to experience the botanical gardens containing more than 400 plant species in four global climate zones, including the Himalayan mountains, a tropical rainforest, the desert and a Pacific Island water garden filled with thousands of tropical butterflies.

During our docent-led tour, I breathed in the heady scents of star jasmine, with its beautiful, fragrant, star-shaped white flowers, and the mature five-pointed, golden-hued, star-shaped flowers of the Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata) tree that recall the fragrance of Chanel No. 5. But three highlights will secure my return.

In 2009, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company sponsored a four-acre community garden in the southeast corner of Franklin Park. Culinary, herb and fragrance gardens, an apiary, a rose pavilion, a berry house and 40 community garden plots inspire food and gardening classes for all ages.Franklin Park Conservatory

Last year, a circa-1815 Richland County, Ohio barn was taken apart and put back together again on the southeast side of the conservatory grounds. Used for education and outreach programs, as well as a rental facility for special events, the Wells Barn features hand-hewn beams from 300-year-old species of oak, chestnut, beech, walnut, cherry, red elm and poplar trees.Franklin Park Conservatory

Through November 13, the conservatory is hosting Origami in the Garden, an exhibition of origami-inspired sculptures created by artist Kevin Box and collaborations with other artists who specialize in the Japanese art of paper folding. For example, “Flying Peace” is a collaborative project between origami artist Robert J. Lang, who folded one of the most complicated origami cranes from a single, uncut piece of paper, and Box, who captured the folded result in stainless steel. The work was cleverly previewed in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Columbus-Downtown; several versions of it are displayed in the Himalayan Mountain Biome.Franklin Park Conservatory

You can also see the unfolded guide and the finished product of an origami cardinal…Franklin Park Conservatory

And spot several origami versions of Victorian charm strings…Franklin Park Conservatory

that would make Frieda Warther and Tender Buttons proud.

Posted in Columbus, Gardens, History, Museums, Ohio State University | 1 Comment

At Dayton’s Carillon Brewing Company, Wash Down Historic Immigrant Fare With House-Made Beer

My steady diet of comfort food is peppered with historically inspired dishes for which I developed a taste long ago. Thanks to The Williamsburg Cookbook: Traditional and Contemporary Recipes, by Leetha Booth, I whip up King’s Arms Tavern peanut soup and Raleigh Tavern Bakery gingerbread cookies like those I enjoyed on my first trip to Colonial Williamsburg in 1974.  Two very dog-eared pages in We Make YWilliamsburg 1974ou Kindly Welcome: Recipes from the Trustees’ House Daily Fare, by Elizabeth Kremer, are my finding aids for recipes for the tomato celery soup and squash muffins that I took a shine to during my first visit to The Trustees’ House at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

The simple, traditional fare served in living-history museum restaurants heightens the visitor experience at these popular cultural destinations. Sometimes these dining establishments develop a niche as a “special occasion” destination, like the Mount Vernon Inn at George Washington’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon, where I’m nuts about its tomato cobbler and cracker bread.  Or, they can struggle to break even. To wit: The Ohio Village’s Colonel Crawford Inn, a recreated 19th-century Ohio tavern that served an authentic bill of fare and offered special holiday-themed events accompanied by period entertainment from its opening in 1975 until financial troubles resulting from declining state subsidies to the Ohio Historical Society sadly led to its demise in January 2002.

Carillon Brewing CompanySo when I heard that a restaurant serving foods inspired by immigrant brewery owners had opened in Carillon Historical Park, a 65-acre open-air history museum in Dayton, I started lobbying to go there. My butcher-turned-brewer ancestor, Conrad Born, Sr., and his son, whose father-in-law was the celebrated Cincinnati brewer Christian Moerlein, would have victoriously raised their beer steins had they known that we celebrated Father’s Day this year at the Carillon Brewing Company.

In the early 1800s, beer was a nutritious, refreshing drink that virtually everyone enjoyed. It was also cleaner than water. At first, housewives brewed beer for their families, employing their stores of grain until they ran low, then substituting sugar-yielding fruits and vegetables like butternut squash to produce sweet, slightly earthy brews. Then, as the city and its immigrant population grew, beer became big business.

First, English immigrants produced ales, in which the yeast fermented relatively fast and provided a drink with a short turnaround time. Then, when the Germans started arriving in the 1840s and 1850s, they began producing lager, a drink that required cooler temperatures and longer fermentation time. By the 1880s, there were as many as 14 breweries in Dayton.

Carillon Brewing Company not only replicates the architecture of Dayton’s original breweries, but also emplCarillon Brewing Companyoys 19th-century brewing techniques, heirloom Ohio-grown varieties of malt and hops, and historic equipment like open copper kettles, oak barrels, and charcoal-fueled fires to make each batch of its historic brew.

Period-costumed brewers explain the brewing process to visitors, beginning with the ideal barley varieties to use, how grains are soaked in water to break down starches into sugars, how malt is dried to stop the germination process before becoming mash, how sugary liquid wort is drained from the spent grains, boiled, mixed with hops and spices to yield a distinctive aroma and flavor, cooled, prepared for fermenting, and finally conditioned to rest in the barrel to age and clarify.

Meanwhile, wait staff bring a tantalizing lineup of dishes that would have been served on English, German and Irish immigrants’ tables. Cream of potato and leek soup, German potato salad, sweet and sour cabbage, braised sauerkraut, wursts, Wiener schnitzel, herb-roasted chicken, ham and cheese sandwiched between a pretzel, fruit cobbler and apple dumplings are among the menu offerings.

Carillon Brewing Company

Choose from six different types of historic beers, such as coriander ale made from an 1831 recipe; an 1862 sour porter ale named for those who worked to deliver goods; an Irish red ale; a pale rye ale; Berliner Weisse, a crisp, light beer featuring wheat malt; and Beet of My Heart, a mix of beets and rye, barley and wheat malts. Traditional spiced root beer made with molasses, licorice, cinnamon, sarsaparilla and vanilla, is also brewed in a copper kettle. Heidelberg-distributed beers and local craft brews lend a contemporary touch. House-made cider, as well as wine made from Catawba and Concord grapes from the Miami Valley, will be available later this year.

Carillon Brewing Company

Food can be enjoyed inside, or outside in a beer garden shaded by a row of sycamore trees with a recreated 19th-century bowling lane.

Carillon Brewing Company

Besides taking home a refillable growler of beer or root beer, you can also purchase a loaf of spent grain bread. Hand-mixed from stone-ground wheat, sourdough yeast and spent grains from the brewing process, it is baked in a brick oven onsite.

For more on Dayton’s brewing history, read Breweries of Dayton: A Toast to Brewers from the Gem City: 1810-1961, by Curt Dalton.

Posted in Dayton, Food, History, Ohio | 1 Comment

Once More, The Main Library Is “Open to All”

April is a glorious month. Warmer temperatures and longer days bring blossoming trees and blooming flowers. No wonder Pat Boone’s April Love, Doris Day’s April in Paris and Enchanted April, the 1992 film adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel, are popular culture standards.

But in April 2015, one event felt less like the charm of spring and more like a dark rain cloud that dampened the spirits of those with an affinity for a certain Downtown landmark. The Columbus Metropolitan Library temporarily closed its main branch for a 16-month, $35 million renovation.

Regular visitors had to find new hangouts. Power patrons had to redirect their reserves to be sent and returned to other branches. Workers on their lunch breaks couldn’t snack on scones from the library’s café or shop for book-themed cards and gifts in its store. Materials housed at Main Library were stored at or dispersed throughout branches. And the building’s 137 employees were relocated throughout the 21-branch system. 

Sure, the renovation was an inconvenience, but its lofty goals kept everyone’s eyes firmly fixed on the prize. An updated library that meets the needs of its customers would be created, providing a spacious site with sweeping views of and unique connections to its neighbors.

Main LibraryPerched on a treadmill nine floors above and across from 96 S. Grant Ave., this was my bird’s-eye view of the proceedings as construction workers racked up some pretty impressive statistics on the project — including removing 2,540 tons of building material; planting 96 trees and 522 shrubs; using over 1,000 gallons of paint; and installing 197,000 square feet of new flooring, 5,000 square feet of glass, 1,103 new light fixtures and nearly seven miles of new plumbing, HVAC and sprinkler piping.

Main Library’s transformation is part of a trend in which public libraries are reinventing themselves as community centers that offer something for everyone. No longer just hushed repositories of books, modern libraries are vibrant gathering places. As a result, they reaffirm their role as essential and indispensable to new generations of customers.

The project was completed ahead of schedule, just weeks before more than 4,000 people from 120 countries will descend on Main Library as part of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ 2016 World Library and Information Congress, to be held in Columbus August 13-19.

The excitement began building dDSCN4373ays before a series of free events were held to celebrate the reopening of Main Library the weekend of June 25-26, including a ribbon-cutting event featuring over 90 library and community leaders and a presentation by bestselling novelist David Baldacci. WOSU’s All Sides With Ann Fisher show aired “CML Grand Re-Opening and Designing For the Future of Public Libraries.” Library employees and Friends of the Library members were invited to a preview party. Journalists took pre-opening tours. And for those of us who work nearby, it’s become the lunchtime attraction in the days following the grand opening.

Main LibraryThe original Main Library was constructed in 1907 with funds from Andrew Carnegie. A 1991 renovation included restoration of the original building, as well as an addition to house the library’s large collection of books. The original Carnegie portion of the building was preserved, but the 1991 addition has been transformed into a real showstopper.

Gone is the cluttered hallway just inside the entrance, which used to be filled with scores of printed material promoting community events. Also gone are the benches where the less-fortunate liked to while away the time. Pass the security guards, looking very happy behind their new desk, and enter the three-story Grand Atrium. In this soaring, open, light-filled space, you can sign up for your Main Library commemorative edition library card.Main Library

The library’s signature staircase adorned by Aminah Robinson’s colorful murals, Life in the Blackberry Patch, 1900-1930 and Life in Sellsville, was repositioned.

Main Library

Pint-sized patrons enter their realm of the library through a Lilliputian doorway and make their way to cozy nooks where they can practice their reading skills or listen to stories. A view of OhioHealth’s Grant Medical Center allows them to see MedFlight critical care helicopters landing and leaving.  A “Ready for Kindergarten Area” helps preschoolers become accustomed to the classroom.Main Library

Large interactive touch screens invite visitors to discover where to go, where to find meetings, what’s happening at the library that day, what’s a good book to check out, and what historic Columbus neighborhood to explore.  An enlarged Library Store continues to sell unique book-themed merchandise to support library programs like Summer Reading Clubs and Homework Help Centers.

Main Library

Gone is the marble veneer east wall of the 1991 addition. In its place is a stunning, shimmering wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, together with a door that opens onto the new Park Plaza patio, a place leading to the Topiary Garden at the Old Deaf School Park where outdoor concerts and book readings are planned. Thirteen pallets of marble and 12 tons of glass removed from the building have been recycled to create a public art piece for the plaza.Main LibraryVisitors can pick up coffee, smoothies and snacks at the new Carnegie Café, where proceeds also support library programs. Interactive features in this area include a touch screen to discover more about Carnegie Hall in New York City and a way to see how tall you are compared to the 5’1” Carnegie.

Main Library

They can enjoy their selections inside, sitting at tables, in front of touch screens providing access to the library website, or in comfortable chairs while browsing more curated selections from the collection.

Main Library

Or they can go outside to one of the patio’s café tables shaded by bright yellow umbrellas.

Main Library

Upstairs, my first stop was to see my friend Angela, the library’s Local History & Genealogy manager, back from her stint at the Whitehall branch where her department was moved during the renovation.  She pointed out how the upper two floors of the library offer plenty of study rooms, meeting rooms…

Main Library

and places for quiet contemplation,

Main Libraryoffering new views of the Columbus skyline, such as the Topiary Park…

Main Libraryand the Gothic spires of neighboring Cristo Rey Columbus High School, housed in the former Columbus Deaf School.Main LibraryThe Reading Room, on the top two floors of the building’s south-east corner, provides a quiet space for study, research and reading.

Main LibraryThe tall stack tunnels are gone, replaced by shorter, less populated book shelves that allow for unobstructed, expansive views. Before, more than one million items were accessible at Main Library, but now its shelves hold about 300,000 items; the rest are available via the 14-member library consortium that has significantly expanded my borrowing horizons.

Main Library

Displays entice customers to check out curated book selections, not only at the landings by the elevators and the stairs,

Main Library

but also from the popular “Quick Pick” collection of books that cannot be reserved or renewed. These high-interest titles, often that would have long wait periods if they are reserved, are available only to customers who visit the library and do not appear in the library’s catalog.Main Library

Some librarians still stand at service kiosks, offering to help customers as they pass by. Others practice “roving reference,” designed to increase staff interaction with customers by giving librarians tools like iPads in cases with hand grips or worn slung across their body like a messenger bag, allowing them to move out from behind the desk, stroll the stacks and proactively offer assistance to customers.

Main Library
Exhibit galleries on the second floor of the original building showcase works of art that Columbus artists created from recycled library books, such as Dream Catcher, by Gaye Reissland and her 15-year-old nephew, Will Wilder. Proceeds of art sales also support the library’s mission.Main Library

In her artist’s statement for A Life Unbound, Janet George writes, “Reading did more than supplement my education and teach me to think critically and holistically. Whatever I wanted to learn – to crochet, to knit, to take photographs, to run a business, to teach children about longitude and latitude, to write a resume, to understand the grieving process, or to learn the pMain Libraryrinciples of leadership – it was all right there at the library. And there was always a librarian ready to assist my discovery. Yes, through books I’ve learned new skills, but their impact has been so much wider and deeper than that….Reading helped me build a life. Reading helped me become the person I am, and the person I am continuing to become.”

However different Main Library appears, that’s a reminder that its purpose and vision remain the same — to inspire reading, share resources and connect people, creating a thriving community where wisdom prevails.

Posted in Columbus, Libraries | Leave a comment

I Spy…A Golden Spike, A Calico Ditch, A Heart-Shaped Padlock, An Assassinated President and More Charm Strings

Do your workmates rib you for packing the same thing for lunch, day after day?

That’s what happened to a Dover Steel Mill worker who relished tucking into some Swiss cheese and a piece of rhubarb pie for his daily noontime repast. His colleague, Ernest “Mooney” Warther, immortalized him eating his faWarther Museumvorite lunch as one of several carved figures that were part of a miniature model of the mill that Warther created in his off-hours. Powered by one sewing machine motor, the model relies on a series of belts and pulleys to control the movement and speed of each figure.

This little guy is one of the many fascinating creations you can spy during a visit to the Warther Museum in Dover, Ohio. 

Warther was born on October 30, 1885 in Dover to Swiss immigrants. In keeping with Swiss tradition, the young boy herded his neighbors’ cows to pasture each day, earning some extra money for his widowed mother. While walking down the road with the cows one day, he stubbed his toe against an old pocketknife, took it home, and became fascinated with whittling wood.

The boy diligently practiced his new skill. One day, he watched a hobo slice and split a small chunk of wood into a pair of miniature pliers, and was inspired to create his own. After much practice using pieces of wood from old buckets, he mastered the trick, fashioning multiplying pairs of interconnected pliers.

Warther Museum

He created his masterpiece in 1913 — a tree with 511 tiny pairs of pliers carved from one block of walnut.  It was even displayed at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

Warther Museum

The slight teenager with a second-grade education worked as a shearman in the Dover Steel Mills, but he found his calling when he crafted his first kitchen knife for his mother in 1902. Her friends and neighbors were so impressed that they asked him to create knives for them.Warther Museum

By 1923, Mooney had quit working in the steel mill in favor of making kitchen knives for his livelihood. Using carbon tool steel, he hand-ground the knife nine times, polished it to a lustrous finish, gave the blade a tooled design that has become a Warther trademark, and riveted a layered birch handle onto the blade for stability and balance. He developed his own ways to temper a steel blade that would stay sharp even while carving hard substances like walnut and bone, and to create a handle that was easy to grip.

Handcrafted kitchen cutlery might have been Mooney’s vocation, but woodcarving was his passion. Using his own invention, a woodcarving knife with interchangeable blades, he carved in the early morning before he went to work.

When he wasn’t making knives or carving, Warther read extensively about many subjects. Items from his desk and books from his personal library are displayed in the museum.

Warther Museum

He was especially fond of reading about Abraham Lincoln. He carved tributes to Lincoln, including a wall plaque with the words of Lincoln’s favorite poem, “Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?,” and a walnut cane with a bust of Lincoln at the top and a cage with a wooden ball carved inside.

Warther MuseumOne of Warther’s most-loved creations is a model of the train that carried the assassinated president from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, complete with a carved figure of Lincoln in his casket. For that very special model car, Warther used hippopotamus tusk.

Warther Museum

Steam locomotives were big in Warther’s day, and carving mechanized miniatures of those marvels of engineering became his pursuit. Using walnut, ebony, ivory and abalone, he carved models that illustrated the evolution of the steam engine in small sections, then pieced them together.Warther Museum

In 1915, he started keeping a diary in which he recorded how much time he spent carving each of his models and the number of parts they had. Each wheel consisted of 54 parts, all cut in ivory and ebony, and bearings allowed the wheels to rotate. Some models were composed of as many as 6,000 tiny, intricate parts, many of which were held together with straight pins before Warther started gluing the pieces together instead.

Warther Museum

Warther also recorded a fateful day when his knife slipped, marking the diary page with his blood.Warther Museum

Several of his creations capture the complete history of steam locomotion, dating as far back as 250 BC with Hero’s Engine in Alexandria, Egypt. All are extraordinarily detailed and magnificently executed.Warther Museum

One model commemorates the driving of the golden spike that joined the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869 at Promontory, Utah. The figures move, just like those in Warther’s model of the Dover Steel Mill. The gold for the spike was provided by a dentist; it began life as material for filling a tooth.

Warther Museum

A number of them are accompanied by descriptive insets executed in Warther’s own handwriting. Warther Museum

In 1923, the New York Central Railroad created a demonstration train to publicize American railroads to the public. Warther was invited to carve on the train, called the Service Progress Special. From June 1923 through the spring of 1926, he spent five months a year traveling with the train through Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York. For the remainder of the time, his carved locomotives were displayed in New York’s Grand Central Station; he appeared with them for a few days every month to promote them. One display case in the museum recreates the interior of a car on the train.

Warther Museum

Warther was involved in a similar promotional activity between 1947 and 1952, when he and his locomotive displays were featured at 26 of the largest department stores in the country.Warther Museum

Other items on display in the museum include archival film footage of Warther at work, printed ephemera documenting Warther’s fame, dominoes and doll furniture that Warther created for his children, and postcards that he carved and mailed to his friends.Warther Museum

Warther’s life work is showcased in a museum on the secluded grounds of the home that he built with his wife, Frieda, whom he married in 1910. The couple bought an acre of land parallel to the railroad tracks on the outskirts of Dover, including the “calico ditch” where a stream that had powered a flour mill had once flowed, so named in 1842 when the man who built it went bankrupt and had to pay for it with bolts of calico from his dry goods store.Warther Museum

Its elevated situation provides a picturesque view of the Tuscarawas valley. Terraced walls descend into a natural playground, once furnished with an incredible swing, and a playhouse known as “The Cave.”

Warther MuseumThe grape arbor that Warther built in 1916 is still there, complete with its original Concord grapevine canopy shading a stone mosaic tabletop that Warther designed.

Warther Museum

The lower section of the Warthers’ property includes a restored Baltimore & Ohio caboose, a restored Dover telegraph office, and a narrow gauge yard engine.

Warther Museum

On Sunday afternoons, the Warthers and their five children took long walks, scouring the ground for arrowheads left behind by Indian tribes who had once inhabited the land. Sometimes, he invited neighborhood children to come along, planting some arrowheads in the fields so that each child could find one. Warther amassed over 5,000 arrowheads during his lifetime, displaying his most valuable, prized arrowheads under glass on a table in his living room.

Warther Museum

He also mounted many of his arrowhead finds in different designs that covered the ceiling and walls of his workshop behind the two-story, red brick home that he and Frieda built in 1912. Here, Warther carved his models and made his knives. It’s a cozy, tidy little place, outfitted with decorative ironwork and a heart-shaped padlock on the exterior door, a fireplace, a workbench outfitted with tools, and plenty of small drawers to keep things organized.

Warther Museum

A balcony on the side of the workshop affords not only a lovely view of the property, but also the opportunity to read a short poem that Mooney carved into the railing: “It was a summer evening and Mooney’s work was done/And on the old shop bench was sitting in the sun.”Warther Museum

Warther wasn’t the only creative hobbyist in the family. Frieda designed gardens with traditional Swiss-raised beds, still maintained by the Warthers today, using her specifications.

Warther Museum

Frieda was also an avid collector of buttons, beginning when she was 10 and amassing over 100,000 during her lifetime. Sitting at her dining room table, surrounded by an abundance of Victorian charm strings, she used a wooden compass that her husband made her and assembled over 73,000 buttons in unique designs on boards. She often used her compass so vigorously in pursuing her hobby that she left holes in the table.Warther Museum

She either recreated well-known quilt patterns or developed her own unique designs, then placed them on the walls and ceilings of a garden shed behind their home.  My clever traveling companion noted that you could play a mean game of “I Spy” here, so we did, as we spotted exquisite examples of hand-painted ceramic buttons, Goodyear rubber buttons, pearl buttons, brass military buttons, celluloid buttons, calico buttons, horse bridle buttons, photograph buttons and even a button from Mary Lincoln’s inaugural dress.

Warther Museum

Warther died on June 8, 1973, but his family continues to honor his legacy with the Warther Museum, which is open seven days a week. Tours of the original Warther home, the button house and the Swiss-style gardens are self-guided; one-hour guided tours of the museum and the original Warther workshop are offered continuously throughout the day. The guided tour also includes a glimpse of Warther Cutlery, the handcrafted knife-making business that is now run by the third and fourth generations of the Warther family. “Old Faithful,” Warther’s popular design for a paring knife, is still a best-seller.

Warther Museum

Still more Dover-based Warther family members own and operate Warther Woodworking, which makes unique wooden items, including its signature lathe-turned wooden music box bell and commissioned items like the Dover Public Library staff’s name badges.

Warther Woodworking name badge

If you visit the Warther Museum, take its social media challenge and share your experience by posting three of five challenges at or @WartherMuseum. See the challenges I posted on June 7, 2016 on my @Bee_A_Librarian Twitter page.

To read more about Ernest “Mooney” Warther, see The Little Boy Who Found a Knife: The Story of Ernest Warther, Master Carver, by Caroline J. Pardee; Mooney: The Life of the World’s Master Carver, by John P. Hayes; and his entry in Ohio Builds a Nation: A Memorial to the Pioneers and the Celebrated Sons of the “Buckeye” State, by Samuel Harden Stille.

Posted in Art, Crafts & Hobbies, Museums, Ohio, Travel | 1 Comment