All it needs now are Scotch and Rye

Like the peacocks and other fancy varieties of poultry that call this Mansfield, Ohio attraction home, I’ve been roaming around At Kingwood Center, 1973Kingwood Center for decades. In fact, Kingwood Hall, its French Provincial manor house, is one of my dream homes.

Despite a lifetime of visiting this 47-acre estate, I couldn’t tell you anything about Charles Kelley King, its creator. Little change there made for a comfortable, familiar setting, but left me a little lackluster about making the trip. Until now.

Kingwood Center is emerging from our recent past like I hoped I would: Still hardworking, but much more ambitious; more attractive and engaging; and definitely worth getting to know again.

It’s amazing what some creative rethinking, new sources of financial support, and improved interpretative and educational endeavors can do. No longer greeted at a small shed and left to wander around at will, I pulled into a parking lot that was nothing like I remembered. In this new Parking Garden, shade trees complement bioretention islands planted with shrubs, grasses and perennials like Cardinal Flower, Winterberry and Golden Leaved Sweet Flag that can tolerate being occasionally inundated with rainwater as it rushes to nearby Touby’s Run. Stormwater runoff in this area is also managed through three new rain gardens and an enlarged pond, restocked with fish, whose banks are planted with a mix of pollinator-friendly plants and no-mow grasses.

Garden Gateway, Kingwood CenterAnd then there’s the new visitor center, which has transformed the experience of arriving at Kingwood. After an April 2019 groundbreaking, the Garden Gateway Center opened in October 2020. It houses a cafe, a shop selling garden-themed gifts and plants from the Kingwood greenhouse, a multipurpose ballroom and conference rooms, and staff offices. At the welcome desk, fitted with unique Seneca tiles handcrafted from local clay in Attica, Ohio, you can purchase a guest pass to give as a thank-you, thinking-of-you or birthday gift. What a brilliant idea!

Best of all, a new exhibit gallery filled with historical artifacts introduced me to Mr. King. At last!

Born in Maine in 1867, “C.K.” or “Kelley” King studied electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, then took his first job working on electric trolley construction in St. Paul, Minnesota. Following a stint with a Chicago manufacturer of trolley fittings, in 1893 he came to Mansfield — one of the first cities to have an inter-urban electric railway system — to work for Ohio Brass.

This local foundry, established by Irish emigrants in 1888, first made harness rigs for horse-drawn carriages, wagons and plows. Keeping up with the times, Ohio Brass then developed brass valves for the heating and plumbing industries; overhead trolley hangers and other parts for electric streetcars; and brass whistles for factories and steam locomotives. In 1905, it became the largest manufacturer of electric railway supplies in the world. It expanded into the electrical industry by purchasing a company that produced porcelain insulators, where a pin inside grounds the electricity and the glazed surface grades the voltage from line to ground. (The most common color is the “sky-tone” glaze, which was designed to compliment Lady Bird Johnson’s 1965 Beautification program and Act.) Besides becoming a leading manufacturer of equipment for coal mines and electric power utilities, Ohio Brass also established a high-voltage test laboratory.

A perfectionist with high standards, King worked constantly, leading Ohio Brass into new markets. As the company expanded, he worked his way right up to the top, becoming its secretary in 1896, vice president in 1906, president in 1928 and chairman of the board in 1946. He traveled the world as he made his fortune, drumming up business for Ohio Brass. (The company was Mansfield’s largest employer until a succession of mergers led its plant to close in 1990.)

King purchased a large frame house on a scenic spot along Park Avenue in 1912 and lived there until 1926, when he hired Cleveland architect Clarence Mack to create a new French Provincial mansion on another part of the property. When Kingwood Hall was completed, the original house was cut into three parts and moved across Park Avenue to Glenbeck Lane. Existing beech trees were transplanted to the front lawn to create a more fitting setting for the home with 21 rooms, 12 fireplaces, an elevator and a built-in vacuum system.

Kingwood HallKingwood Hall maintains most of its original furnishings, including pieces King collected during his travels. Visitors begin in the foyer, an inviting space with yellow and green terrazzo flooring, a faux-marble stairway balustrade, and a fountain featuring a bronze statue of an infant.

Designed for entertaining, the home features a ballroom, a drawing room with seven French doors that open out onto a terrace and the south lawn, and a dining room with hand-painted wallpaper imported from France, hand-crafted mahogany furniture, and a Waterford crystal chandelier and wall sconces.

Kitchen, Kingwood HallFor the first time, visitors can now see the butler’s pantry, which houses King’s collection of Flamingo Pink Heisey glassware; the kitchen, with a warming oven and electric refrigerator; and a small nook with an annunciator, which summoned staff to a specific room when their assistance was needed. Art Deco crystal elephants, Bohemian art glass vases in the shape of frogs, and other elegant pieces King used for entertaining are displayed in the first floor hallway.

An avid reader of mysteries and historical novels, King spent much time in his reading room and his library. These two wonderful spaces contain over 8,000 volumes on horticulture and related fields, which comprised the reference and lending library Kingwood operated from 1953 to 2010.

Flower room, Kingwood HallIn the flower room, arrangements of fresh flowers from Kingwood’s gardens and greenhouse would be created for display throughout Kingwood Hall. The color of the tablecloth used for King’s meals was checked daily so it would match that day’s floral arrangement. King would also have the flowers cut to his specifications and shipped to him during annual stays at Martha’s Vineyard and Palm Springs.

Although the third-floor bedrooms and staff quarters were converted to offices in 1953, these spaces are being restored to their 1930s appearance, with the help of a small collection of original photographs. These rare items survived King’s instructions that upon his death, all photos, letters and documents were to be removed or destroyed. Guided tours of Kingwood Hall, including the third floor, are now available.

When Kingwood Hall was completed, the 60-year-old King took vigorous walks for exercise. Every day, he would walk most of his two-and-a-half mile commute to work. When at home, he would take his collie dogs, Scotch and Rye, on walks around the grounds, which were designed by the Cleveland landscape architecture firm of Pitkin and Mott.

Kingwood CenterThe estate included a swimming pool; added in 1920, it was one of the first in Mansfield. Mint was planted in the cracks of the flagstones surrounding the pool, creating a sweetly scented atmosphere as guests stepped on the mint while walking around the pool. Two bath houses were offset by a rare white pine trellis created by Donald V. Senour Hahn, who also designed the flower room. A sunken garden was complemented by a shelter with a thatched roof made from rye that was cut, cured and bound by European craftsmen. The formal garden featured two Vozech sculptures: The Lady of the Gaillardias and Pan the Piper, which has served as a backdrop for more than a few of our family photos.

Maria Maravigna mushroom, Kingwood CenterMarried and divorced twice, King had no children. In 1937, he began planning how his estate could enhance the quality of life of the citizens of Mansfield and Ohio. A trust agreement completed in 1945 made Kingwood Center official. He left most of his estate to the private foundation that continues to operate Kingwood today. One year after his death, in 1953, the estate opened as a public garden and educational institution for the advancement of horticulture and other cultural activities. His tennis court was converted to a parking lot. The original barn, chicken coop, garage, and carriage house became activity centers and exhibit halls. Here, I found one of my most-remembered features of my visits to Kingwood: the William A. Springer Mushroom Collection, a 200-piece assortment of ceramic mushroom sculptures made by Maria Maravigna (1899-2006; active 1940s-1970s). This award-winning Boston artist created exact, detailed replicas of mushrooms from white clay, with shiny, brightly colored glazes, signing them with her last name and identifying them as either “edible” or “poisonous.”

Kingwood features a woodland garden of shade-tolerant plants; herb gardens with culinary, medicinal, and dye plants; collections of daylilies, roses, Siberian irises and bearded irises. Best known for its tulip display, Kingwood creates beautiful seasonal plantings, including beds of summer annuals. Other longtime Kingwood favorites include the duck pond; the rose garden; a display greenhouse featuring cacti, bromeliads and succulents; an orangery with citrus plants, carniverous plants and tropical plants; and the production greenhouse, where nearly 95 percent of the plants used and sold at Kingwood are grown.

DSC00073Thousands of new trees, shrubs and plants have been planted throughout Kingwood’s gardens to ensure that they are memorable in all seasons. A new meadow garden area designed by Austin Eischieid, a Chicago-based garden designer, introduces a new style of naturalistic gardening made popular by Dutch designer Piet Ouldof. Tightly packed, sweeping beds of perennials and grasses chosen for their structure and color not only attract pollinators and birds, but also suppress weeds. To see more of Austin’s work, see “Back to His Roots,” an article in the September 2020 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

For more, track down a copy of Kingwood Center: The Legacy of Charles Kelley King, by Allene Holt Gramley.

Posted in Gardens, History, Ohio | 1 Comment

“Hi, girls! It’s great to see you!”

I’ve taken my medicine enough to learn that self-reliance is a wonderful thing.

Waking up before dawn on a Saturday morning in April, an idea suddenly popped into my head. By the time I sat down to breakfast, I’d executed my plan. Finally, I was going to the 46th annual Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. For seven straight days, if I wanted!

DSCN6019How did I achieve this longtime goal? By volunteering for the tournament! Greeting the thousands of patrons who come to Muirfield to see this popular PGA Tour event gave me the opportunity to have a meaningful experience helping others. What’s more, I studied the techniques of most of the top golfers in the world, explored the legendary course, saw the beautiful homes and gardens surrounding it, and made some new friends. What an awesome staycation!

During both practice and official tournament rounds, I joined in the fun of applauding good shots and sighing sympathetically at bad ones. I was there when when hecklers in the crowd yelled “Brooksie” at Bryson DeChambeau. I was there when DeChambeau’s third round, 13th-hole tee shot hit a patron in the leg. And I was there when tournament leader Jon Rahm tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw. It was tremendous.

DSCN6048Before I continue, let’s back up for some background on the tournament.

Founder Jack Nicklaus hosts the PGA Tour event each year around Memorial Day to honor the memory of those, both living and deceased, who have distinguished themselves in golf; to showcase a challenging competition between the world’s best golfers for the enjoyment of spectators; and to benefit many greater Columbus charities through the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

During the 1966 Masters Tournament, Nicklaus was inspired to create a similar event in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. That summer, he found a 180-acre site north of the city, with rolling farmland, meadows and woods with many varieties of trees, where he used to hunt rabbits and pheasants as a boy. He purchased the site in 1967 and announced on February 11, 1968 that he planned to build a golf course there and create a companion golf tournament. He acquired additional land in the years that followed, transforming 1,576 acres into a golf course and a residential community. He named it Muirfield, a Scottish term for a low moor or field.

Nicklaus spent hours at the site during construction, testing drives from future tee placements and strategically placing fairways and greens among natural hazards like winding creeks and lakes. He built his course specifically for tournament spectators, making use of hills to create natural ampitheaters and downhill approaches into valleys. A unique 11-acre circular practice range allows players to practice into the wind, with the wind, or crosswind.

The course was completed in 1973, with the first unofficial round played on October 1 of that year. The course became official in 1974, and the first tournament was held in May 1976. Nicklaus won the tournament in 1977 and 1984. Tiger Woods is a five-time champion, including three in a row from 1999 to 2001. Tom Watson and Greg Norman have won twice each, as has Patrick Cantlay, this year’s victor.

Muirfield is a demanding and challenging, yet fair, course designed for both professionals and club members to play. Ranked the best golf course in Ohio and 16th in the country by Golf Digest, and considered among the best courses in the world, it’s a legendary stop on the PGA Tour. It has hosted the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup in 2013.

DSCN6026Nicklaus has tweaked the course many times; last year, it was completely renovated. All 18 greens were stripped and rebuilt with new contours, and several tees and bunkers were moved. The course is also much longer, now spanning more than 7,600 yards. And a change was made to the sand under the putting surfaces, reducing drainage and firming the greens.

A couple of weeks before this year’s tournament, the anticipation was building. I picked up my volunteer credentials and the official yellow Memorial Tournament polo shirt that all volunteers wear, a reference to the lucky yellow shirt Nicklaus traditionally has worn at golf tournaments in honor of a young Nicklaus family friend who battled a rare type of cancer.

Before my first shift as a Patron Information Ambassador, I executed my own practice round the first day of tournament week, taking a deserving patron along with me. Arriving at the main entrance, we spotted the first of a fleet of courtesy cars used to provide transportation for the professional golfers, their families, and tournament VIPs. Passing players warming up on that renowned practice range, we checked out the Champions Pavilion, a covered, open-air venue with plenty of seating, food and beverages, and screens to watch the tournament proceedings. We noted the neighboring Memorial Tournament Pavilion, which houses the media center, an interview theater and a pro shop filled with tournament merchandise. In the pavilion’s lower-level “sandwich factory,” volunteers form a Henry Ford-style assembly line to make thousands of sandwiches that are sold during tournament week.

DSCN6021Then came the course. Wow! Traversing the hilly terrain on the cart path along the 14th fairway, we were hailed by a friendly gentleman with a British (or was it South African?) accent, who said, “Hi, girls! It’s great to see you!” Wait — we had just been greeted by one of the players!

No more practice was needed. I was more than ready for my first assignment.

Eight hours flew by the next day. Stationed at the entrance gate by the 13th hole, I thanked patrons for attending, gave directions to various locations throughout the course, and answered questions about concessions, fan destinations, restroom locations, and current player standings. With cicadas consistently humming and dropping from trees, the players arrived at the tee throughout the day, driving amazingly sweet-sounding shots downhill through a wooded chute to a narrow, level fairway, using precise approach shots to avoid bunkers stretching almost the full length of the green on either side.

When I wasn’t on duty, I learned much about the Memorial from 13th hole marshal captain Charles. Wearing a white polo shirt instead of the normal volunteer yellow, marshals keep play moving by helping caddies locate wayward balls. Stationed from beginning to end of each hole, they also help maintain golf etiquette, holding their hands in the air to silence the crowd when a player is about to tee off. DSCN6088

I watched other volunteers spot balls, plot players’ shots and record coordinates using the PGA Tour’s ShotLink technology. This system of cameras, lasers and Palm Pilots tracks a ball’s landing spot and then feeds that data on exact yardages and locations to the scoring control center, leader and status boards, and the television broadcast.

My fellow 13th hole ambassador, Christine, and I discovered that sitting in Adirondack chairs on “The Hill on No. 12” is one fabulous place to watch the competition play across the course’s largest lake. One of Muirfield’s signature chicken salad sandwiches on a kaiser roll, a bag of Krema’s Country Club Snack Mix and a Loralies Baking Co. “Fan Favorite Brownie” makes for a great lunch.

DSCN6096For my next shift, I was stationed at the entrance nearest the course’s challenging 6th hole, with a cluster of bunkers cut into the left hillside, a strategically placed fairway bunker to the right, and a fairway that requires clearing both water and sand to reach a medium-size green. It was Salute to Service Day, so I greeted military guests, gave them their tickets, and assisted them with accessing the day’s pairings and other tournament information through the PGA Tour app. Standing just behind the 6th tee gave me another ringside seat to the action.

Reporting for duty at 6:30 a.m. isn’t for everyone. But for me it was heavenly! Imagine walking such a beautiful course at dawn, with just the turf team around.

The Memorial also has raised millions for local charitable organizations. The Bears for Nationwide Children’s program helps raise funds for the Memorial Tournament Neonatal Intensive Care Unit through an alliance between the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Each year, a limited-edition plush bear is sold, either to take home or to donate back to a child in the hospital. This year’s bear was named in memory of Susan Lynch Hosket (1969-2019), former Memorial Tournament sales director, to honor her heart, humor and courageous cancer battle. Later in the week, I helped fellow volunteer John, a born seller, rack up $800 worth of bear proceeds across from the 6th tee and fairway (“Buy a bear, then buy a beer.”)

Here’s a few tips to make the most of the Muirfield experience. The Military Outpost is a new pavilion offering plenty of snacks and seats for veterans and their families. Here, my resident veteran and I watched defending Memorial Tournament winner Rahm play in the third round on the slightly elevated 17th green and the 18th tee, where a downhill drive leads to an uphill approach and a spectacular finishing hole that can accommodate more than 20,000 spectators. And if you’re suffering from mobility issues like “kneesles” and “toelio,” particularly on hilly terrain, don’t hesitate to hop on a Disability Services golf cart shuttle and have the driver take you to various stops around the course. George and Tony made all the difference in our first Muirfield experience.

DSCN6041Located in a former ravine between the clubhouse and the first tee, Memorial Park features bronze plaques mounted on stone walls, each relating the career highlights of Memorial Tournament honorees. The inductee ceremony takes place on the Wednesday afternoon of tournament week. This year, the tournament honored Nick Price, with the Memorial Golf Journalism Award presented to Jim Nantz of CBS Sports and Tim Rosaforte. Former honorees include Babe Zaharias (1991), Arnold Palmer (1993), Gary Player (1997), Nancy Lopez (2011) and Tom Watson (2012). Nicklaus himself was honored in 2000.

The tournament also features the Nationwide Invitational Pro Am. This year, 81 amateurs joined 27 PGA Tour members for 18 holes of golf. Players included basketball star Stephen Curry, retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and retired Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Bob Hope and Gerald Ford were former Memorial Tournament Pro-Am players. En route to my third chicken salad sandwich of tournament week, another bear-seller almost swooned while telling me about her Peyton Manning sighting.

The next Memorial Tournament will honor Ben Crenshaw, one of golf’s legendary putters. It will take place May 30-June 5, 2022. Along with a new presenting sponsor for 2022, there will be a new logo. And, best of all, word of mouth is that Muirfield Village Golf Club’s famous Buckeye milkshake (a tournament player favorite that’s a secret-recipe concoction of premium ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate) is going to be available at concession stands.

Other volunteer opportunities include working at concessions stands, driving and assisting with shuttles, providing first aid if necessary, greeting corporate sponsors and their guests at various on-course hospitality venues, posting scores of the leading players on boards located along the course, as well as of approaching players at each hole; helping to evacuate players in adverse weather affecting tournament play; and distributing supplies.

For more on the Memorial Tournament’s early history, check out The Story of Muirfield Village Golf Club and the Memorial Tournament, by Paul Hornung.

Posted in Columbus, Golf | Leave a comment

It’s not easy being green

My latest idea for my Third Age involves spending my golden years at a golf course. I’d pass the days perfecting my swings and putts, admiring the course while relaxing on the patio…and mowing grass to a tenth of an inch so the ball rolls toward the cup with smoothness, uniformity and speed. Yes, a part-time, post-retirement job working on a golf course’s turf team would suit my grass-loving genes very well.

DSCN6005Lately, I’ve done some enlightening research on golf course turf management. Now, when I look at the lush, undulating landscape of a golf course, I see that it’s not easy to maintain greens that appeal to both aesthetics and playing conditions.

Golf is a unique sport in that the playing surface is as important as how the game is played. The ideal course offers a fair challenge for golfers of all handicaps and takes advantage of the natural topography to create an experience that is varied and fun. Each hole is designed to test golfers’ strategic abilities, precision and risk-taking, to challenge them to make a truly heroic effort to reach the green, or to penalize them if they don’t follow the exact line of play demanded of them.

Golf course architects rely on trees, water hazards, sand-filled bunkers and grassy mounds and hollows to create those challenges, to define the intended line of play, to provide distance targets and reference points, and to protect golfers, roadways and neighboring homes from wayward balls. Just as integral to a course’s playing strategy is its superintendent.

Entrusted with the course’s development and management, the golf course superintendent supervises the construction and maintenance of the course’s putting greens, tees, fairways, roughs, bunkers, ponds, and associated facilities. The superintendent must be knowledgeable about the care and maintenance of trees, and selects ornamental plantings to add seasonal interest. The superintendent oversees the cultivation of turfgrasses, diagnoses and corrects problems in their growth, and keeps detailed records on fertilization, pest control, irrigation, drainage and water quality, soil tests, and turf cultivation and mowing.

DSCN5988Golf course superintendents also strive to be good environmental stewards. Installing floating island wetlands in a pond improves water quality by removing nutrients that cause algae growth. Planting wildflowers and native milkweed plants near ponds makes the course an attractive habitat for butterflies and birds. To achieve certification through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, superintendents undertake projects in environmental planning; wildlife and habitat management; chemical use reduction and safety; water conservation; water quality management; and outreach and education.

All this is probably the last thing on golfers’ minds as they arrive for their tee times. What gets their attention most is the impression the greens’ appearance makes concerning the course’s quality, playability, consistency and speed. Golfers judge quality by how fast the ball rolls on the greens.

Speed can be determined by the weather. In the spring and fall, when the nights are cool, and on windy, low-humidity days, green speeds increase. When the weather is warm and the humidity is high, the ball doesn’t roll as well, so more intervention from the superintendent is needed. Once the superintendent produces fast conditions, however, expectations increase to keep that reputation for speed.

Earlier this spring, I explored my legendarily speedy home course with its award-winning, 20-year-veteran superintendent. Hop in the cart and let’s drive the paths together.

DSCN6002Starting at the tee, the turf is firm and dense, relatively flat and smooth, resilient and closely cut so that the ball can be positioned above the leaf tips, at the golfer’s preferred height to tee the ball. The grass is cut low enough so that the leaves don’t obstruct contact between the club face and the ball, and so the golfer can achieve a firm, stable stance. That’s usually between one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch tall, achieved by mowing anywhere from two to five times a week. Tee markers, which designate the area from which play begins on each hole, are moved in a planned way, not only to provide variation in how individual holes are played from day to day, but also to help the turf avoid the divots of loose turf that happen when players make their shots and give damaged turf time to recover.

DSCN5949Out on the fairway — the area between the tee and the putting green — the turfgrass is mowed relatively closely (between one-third of an inch to three quarters of an inch) to provide a dense, smooth, uniform and resilient surface. Playing the next shot from the fairway rewards golfers who are approaching the hole with accuracy.

Those who aren’t so fortunate DSCN6007can find themselves playing their next shot in a variety of places. One is the rough, or the turfed area surrounding the putting green, tee and fairway. Here, the turf can be tall and unmowed; tufted and interspersed with bare soil; or dense, mowed (sometimes infrequently) anywhere from one and a half to three inches tall. The idea is that being in the rough should impose some penalty on golfers, but it should be maintained enough for them to find the ball they’re playing.

Another undesirable location is a bunker. These sand-filled nightmares trace their origins to Scotland’s seaside links, where grazing sheep burrowed into the sandy terrain to protect themselves from the strong winds blowing off the North Sea. Continual burrowing, coupled with wind erosion, caused depressions that became known as bunkers. Today’s course superintendents are tasked with selecting the correct size, shape, color and composition of sand particle that will affect both bunker playing quality and maintenance.

Ponds pose another golfing hazard, but to the superintendent, they offer more benefit than detriment. They serve as a reservoir for irrigation, a water retention facility, an aesthetic feature of the course, and a natural habitat for aquatic life.

DSCN5952Closing in on the putting green affords the golfer a variety of playing experiences: the approach, or an extension of the fairway; the collar, an area of intermediate-height turf surrounding the putting green that’s about three to five feet wide; and the chipping area, where golfers take a short, low approach shot to loft the ball onto the green.

Turfgrasses on putting greens must possess special characteristics, such as a low, creeping growth tendency; a fine, uniform texture; tolerance for very close mowing, down to a tenth of an inch; resilience to recover from the stress of such extreme mowing; and firmness, to minimize footprints and ball marks. These, coupled with the slope of the green, combine to provide a consistent, smooth surface that allows the ball to roll at a good distance. The speed or velocity of a putting green is determined by how high and frequently the grass is cut. During the growing season, grass is mowed daily, preferably in the early morning, to retain ball roll quality and achieve the best playing conditions. The direction of mowing is changed every time it is mowed. Usually greens are mowed in four different directions (from 6 to 12 o’clock, from 3 to 9 o’clock, from 5 to 11 o’clock, and from 2 to 8 o’clock).

DSCN6013Smoother, firmer playing surfaces are achieved through special practices like sand topdressing, aerification, and turf rolling, a finishing technique that increases the speed of ball roll. During the heat of summer, wilting grass on putting greens can be refreshed as needed through midday hand-syringing of water to moisten and help cool the grass.

Whether planted at the tee or on the putting green, the type of grass used at a course is key. While bentgrass affords better playing conditions, geographical location dictates choice, which ranges from perennial ryegrass, Bermudagrass, Kentucky bluegrass and fine-leaf fescue. What’s common here is poa annua, a type of grass also found on legendary courses like Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach Golf Links and, until this year, Muirfield Village Golf Club.

That’s what I’m teeing up next.

For more, read Turf Management for Golf Courses, by James Beard, and Golf Course Turf Management: Tools and Techniques, by Danny H. Quast and Wayne Otto.

Posted in Golf, Nature/Outdoors | Leave a comment

In Mad River Country, see the mother of all mounds and more

One of my favorite Ohio drives is a five-mile segment of Mad River Road, between David Road in Kettering and State Route 725 in Centerville. It’s the last remaining portion of the first land route established in 1795 between Cincinnati and the new town of Dayton in “Mad River Country.”

In my younger days, Mad River Road was my version of a scenic byway, due to the homes I admired as I made my way to shop at Orvis in the Dayton Mall. I happily navigated it again on my recent jaunt to see the Miamisburg Mound.

Miamisburg MoundBesides being the largest conical earthwork in Ohio, the Miamisburg Mound is one of the two largest conical mounds in eastern North America, as well as one of the largest prehistoric Indian mounds east of the Mississippi River. Standing 65 feet high and measuring 300 feet in diameter, the mound covers about one and a half acres of land in Miamisburg, a community on the outskirts of Dayton.

When settlers arrived in southwest Ohio, the mound was densely covered with tall trees and was the subject of much interest and speculation. An 1869 excavation reduced the mound’s height three feet, but revealed important things. Eight feet from the top, investigators found a bark-covered skeleton buried in a seated position, facing east. Twenty-eight feet lower was an empty burial vault surrounded by logs. Various layers of ashes and stones implied that the mound was built in several stages. The burial mound’s conical shape, plus the absence of associated earthworks nearby, indicated that it was the work of the Adena peoples, who lived in the Ohio Valley between 1000 BC and 400 AD. The Adena made distinctive pottery, adorned themselves with jewelry, and are credited with being the first people to grow domestic crops like squash and sunflowers.

The mound and its surrounding land became a park in 1920, when it was purchased by Charles F. Kettering, the founder of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco) who invented the first electric ignition system for automobiles. He donated the site to the Ohio Historical Society in 1929. During the New Deal period of the following decade, Civilian Conservation Corps workers built picnic shelters there and at other OHS sites to make them more attractive and inviting to visitors.

Since 2009, the city of Miamisburg has maintained the mound through an annual controlled burn to eradicate invasive vegetation on the mound. Areas of bare ground are reseeded with native Little Bluestem grass.

Explorers once made their way to the top of the mound by a winding path. Today, visitors can climb 116 stone steps for views of the neighboring nine-hole Mound Golf Course and the former site of Mound Laboratory, which was located across the road from 1946 to 2003.

DSC00038

The Manhattan Engineer District of the War Department built the 116-building facility for top-secret research, development and production of the nuclear-reaction initiators developed for the United States’ first atomic bombs during World War II. From 1943-1946, the work to separate, purify, and process the element polonium to produce the trigger for the atomic bomb occurred at obscure locales throughout Dayton, including a seminary, warehouses and an Oakwood neighborhood playhouse.

At its peak, Mound Laboratory employed approximately 2,500 scientists, engineers and skilled workers who supported the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Energy’s development of nuclear weapons, as well as devices that powered instruments on spacecraft. The complex was closed in 2003; cleanup of the facility was completed in 2010. Today, a visit to the Mound Cold War Discovery Center on the site provides insight on how this facility revolutionized Cold War, Nuclear Age and Space Race history.

It’s grand to be out and about again, stopping by familiar places and making other new discoveries in the Dayton area. At the Dayton Art Institute, check out The Roaring (and the Quiet) 1920s. On view through August 15, the exhibition includes Rookwood pottery polar bear bookends, a stylized Art Deco wood engraving called Madonna and Child of the Animals, and a lithograph portrait of Charles Lindbergh which the 25-year-old aviator signed and gave to Orville Wright one month after his historic solo flight across the Atlantic, when he flew the Spirit of St. Louis to Dayton to visit Wright. It also offers a salvo for my New York City homesickness in Childe Hassam’s impression of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and John Sloan’s Easter Eve, Washington Square.

And at the corner of Wilberforce-Switch Road and US 42 in Wilberforce, stop by Central State University’s Seed to Bloom Botanical and Community Garden, which opened in November 2020. Open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, seven days a week, the garden offers an inviting place for relaxation and horticultural education. An agricultural learning area provides instruction in soil health and plant growth; a forest ampitheatre features stone-walled seats for 30 people; and a curving trail winds through a naturally forested area, native plants for pollinators, a water garden, and demonstration sites and community gardens. Click here to learn more about educational programs taking place at the garden.

Posted in Dayton, Gardens, History, Museums, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) | 1 Comment

In Dublin, notice Long Gray Hair, a hand the Same Size as Blue and a feather for a pure son of liberty

Different eyeglasses? New outfit? Wear them around me and I’ll notice. Like any journalist, I take pride in my skills of observation.

My eye for details failed me, though, when I was on the hunt for the first of a few more mounds. First on this list was the one at 5200 Emerald Parkway in Dublin, Ohio. Once there, I realized I’ve been passing a unique community landmark for over 20 years without ever noticing it.

Approach the Coffman Park Recreation Center entrance from Post Road and a building topped with a 12-foot black sphere rises from behind an even larger, 220-foot-diameter mound encircling a patch of native plants and grasses. This is Watch House, a contemplative space created by artist Todd Slaughter in 1998.

DSCN5913The copper-clad house with terracotta-colored interior walls bridges a gap in a grassy mound, overlooking the wooded Indian Run stream and the Dublin Community Recreation Center beyond. Its spherical dome is perforated with cutout shapes and adorned with mounted bronze forms representing domestic and familial symbols, like a curled-up dog and a baby. A circular pattern of holes on the floor recall the communal houses created by the native Hopewell and Adena people. A Hopewell hand cutout image is located beside the door.

The clean, clear water flowing through Indian Run and its neighboring creeks was one of the natural features that attracted Native American tribes to the area now known as Dublin. Its fertile land and proximity to the Scioto River also appealed, first to those native peoples, and then to the 19th-century farmers who settled the area. All of those natural resources are celebrated in another park being developed in Dublin.

Located at the northeast corner of Emerald Parkway and Riverside Drive, Ferris-Wright Park (formerly known as Holder-Wright Park) features three ancient earthworks and five burial mounds. Once standing three to five feet tall, these earthworks are the northernmost in the Scioto valley. Several excavations of the mounds have unearthed prehistoric stone tools, pottery and a Clovis point, a tool made by native Americans. While farming and erosion have made the mounds difficult to see, plans are to include an observation deck, as well as an interactive demonstration earthwork so visitors can better understand the archaeological process to interpret these treasures.

With waterfalls, a stone arch and cliffs falling 30 feet to the stream below, Wright Run Creek is a beautiful natural feature of the site. The creek is spanned by a pedestrian bridge adorned with symbols connected to the Hopewell people. The bridge begins in an area paved with textured, colored concrete in the shape of a bird’s claw.

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Crossing the bridge leads to a small metal silo and a farmhouse built in 1820 by John Ferris, a settler who came to Ohio in 1818 and cleared the land for farming. Considered the first frame house in Dublin, the structure has been restored to its early-20th-century appearance and converted into an interpretive center for visitors. Even after subsequent additions, the home still has its stone foundation, original wood flooring, horsehair plaster walls and hand-sawn attic beams and joists.

On the east side of the property along Riverside Drive, south of Bright Road, catch a tantalizing glimpse of Ferris Cemetery. The cemetery includes mostly unmarked graves; 112 burial plots were identified in a Works Progress Administration survey.

Cross Riverside Drive westward and arrive at Scioto Park, where a 12-foot-high portrait of Leatherlips, the legendary Wyandot chief, has reigned since 1990.

Using various sizes of native limestone, artist Ralph Helmick stacked and mortared the blocks to create a Sphinx-like “head” with extended sides and an open top. Stand atop Leatherlips and enjoy the view of the Scioto River and the property’s ampitheatre.DSCN5934

Known to the Wyandot Indians as Sha-Te-Yah-Ron-Ya, which means “same size as blue,” the intelligent chief was called Sou-cha-et-ess, which means “Long Gray Hair,” in his later years. White settlers called him Leatherlips because he never broke a promise; his words were as strong as leather. After signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 – and refusing to join the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and a group of Indians who were planning to overtake the area’s white settlers and reclaim their land – Leatherlips was executed on June 1, 1810 by fellow tomahawk-wielding Wyandots at a location a few miles farther north on Riverside Drive, at the corner of Stratford Avenue, where a granite monument to Leatherlips now stands.

Some say the ghost of Leatherlips is to blame for the rain that plagues the Memorial Tournament played annually at Muirfield Village Golf Club, said to have been built on an Indian burial ground. 

The Wyandots are also commemorated in Thaddeus Kosciuszko Park, located at 4444 Hard Road in Dublin.

Feather Point, a 20-foot tall stainless steel sculpture created from locally reclaimed tree trunks and branches collected from the park’s grounds, was created by Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska in 2017. The feather recalls the headdress worn by Kihue (Bill Moose), the last full-blooded Wyandot American Indian to live in central Ohio.DSCN5915

The park is located on a portion of the 500 acres of land given to Thaddeus Kosciuszko (1746-1817), a Polish military engineer, for his contributions to the American Revolutionary War. George Washington entrusted him with improving the fortifications to keep British ships from entering the Hudson River at Fort Clinton, located at what is now the United States Military Academy at West Point. Kosciuszko was so taken by the Declaration of Independence that he set out on a mission to meet Thomas Jefferson. The two became such close friends that Jefferson pronounced him “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known;” Kosciuszko named Jefferson executor of his Will.

Kosciuszko went back home to Poland after the war, but made a return visit to Philadelphia in 1797, where he stayed in a boardinghouse located on 3rd and Pine Streets, near Independence Hall. Jefferson visited him there, as did Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Nation, who presented him with with an ornate peace pipe-tomahawk. Today, the building at 301 Pine Street is now the site of the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, which I passed on my way to City Tavern.

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