O, du Schöne Frankenmuth!

What does a carving bench have to do with a gun, a wagon wheel, a wedding ring, an ox’s bladder, a fat sow, a tall man, a fir tree and a pile of manure?

They’re all key words in the Schnitzelbank Song.

In this popular way to learn German, the leader of the song points to a poster illustrated with symbols representing the words the singers encounter as the song progresses. Plenty of repeating helps the singers memorize them in no time.

These vocabulary words may not be vital for everyday life in Germany, but they certainly caused me to bond with fellow travelers while singing the Schnitzelbank Song in Frankenmuth, Michigan recently.

Originally home to Chippewa Indians, a 680-acre forest on the banks of the Cass River was settled by German Lutheran missionaries in 1845. They named their new home Frankenmuth, derived from “Franken,” representing the German region of Franconia the settlers called home, and “Muth,” the German word for courage. Farmers emigrating from Germany cleared the land and planted potatoes, corn, wheat and grains. Mills were built along the river, and the town grew, but the people still remained true to their German heritage. In time, Frankenmuth became known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria.”

In 1888, Fischer’s Hotel began catering to tourists in a unique German style. When the establishment was renovated and reopened as the Bavarian Inn in 1959, a grand opening celebration took place. That has become an annual June event filled with polkas, locally brewed beer and “lion tamers,” the local term for bratwursts served with German sauerkraut. The inn’s traditional Bavarian exterior includes a typical onion-shaped tower and an artificial stork nest on the highest chimney of the roof, recalling how storks nest on European buildings. Stones are placed on the roof at various intervals — another German tradition — to keep snow from sliding off. A German Glockenspiel plays in a 50-foot bell tower. Several times a day, a 35-bell carillon plays, and carved wooden figures standing over four feet tall revolve around the face of the clock, illustrating the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.Inside, several themed dining rooms are decorated with hand-painted murals featuring scenes from Grimm fairy tales and woodcarvings created by a local craftsman. Traditional German fare and all-you-can-eat family-style chicken dinners are the Bavarian Inn’s specialties.

Across the street, legendary chicken dinners are served at Zehnder’s. Here, you can also admire its topiary chicken.Pass the miniature stone castle in the Bavarian Inn’s “Tinyville,” …cross the Holz Brücke, Michigan’s largest covered wooden bridge…
and you’ll come to the Bavarian Inn Lodge. Owned by the second generation of the Zehnder family, the lodge offers hundreds of themed guest rooms, each named after a Frankenmuth family, with the history of the ancestor who emigrated to Frankenmuth from Germany. I stayed in a room named for the Deurings, fourth-generation farmers who continue to raise soybeans, navy beans and hay on some of the original acres their ancestor, Johann, farmed in the mid-1800s.

Near the lodge’s tennis courts, notice traditional Bavarian latticework Jaeger fences, constructed from split pine saplings.

And then there’s Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store.

In 1945, Wally Bronner, a talented sign-painter and window-display designer, began a business built on the idea of celebrating the birth of Jesus every day. While it remains focused on its Christian beliefs by distributing religious tracts, it has become a legendary landmark. Its present location, opened in 1977, is the size of one and a half football fields.

Open 361 days a year, Bronner’s offers 50,000 gifts, including over 500 styles of Nativity scenes, decor from dozens of countries, and ornaments classified by type, such as Religious, Sports, Snowmen, Music and Pets (no librarian-themed ones in the Occupations section, though). More than 300 decorated trees are displayed; each one includes a Nativity ornament. Staff are said to personalize over 400,000 ornaments each year.Customers have included John Wayne, who ordered a Santa suit by telephone on December 15, 1976, and Jeanne Cooper, who portrayed Katherine Chancellor on the CBS soap opera, The Young and the Restless.Watch short films about Bronner’s and admire a collection of over 1,000 Hummel figurines in one corner of the store. In another, learn more about Wally Bronner through various artifacts from his life, such as an example of the Christmas decorations he designed and created for Frankenmuth’s lampposts in 1951.Before you leave, pose with your version of Santa…then walk around the store’s 27 landscaped acres, illuminated with over 100,000 Christmas lights year-round. Listen to Christmas carols playing on loudspeakers as you pass giant Santas, gnome colonies and a parade float celebrating “Silent Night.”

Reach a musical-score arch above a walkway that leads to the Silent Night Chapel, built in 1992. This replica of the original church in Oberndorf, Austria where the hymn was first sung and accompanied by guitar on Christmas Eve in 1818. Plaques provide the words to the hymn in over 300 languages, while various recordings of the song are played on loudspeakers.

For more on Frankenmuth, see Frankenmuth: A Guide to Michigan’s Little Bavaria, by Lynn Marie-Ittner Klammer, as well as the June/July 2018 issue of German Life. Dorothy Zehnder wrote three cookbooks including Bavarian Inn recipes: Cookies and Bars: Family Favorites from Frankenmuth; Come Cook with Me: A Collection of Recipes and Wisdom; and From My Kitchen to Yours: Timeless Recipes and Memories from Me and My Family. The Bavarian Inn also maintains a “Recipe of the Month” archive, where I found how to make the apple strudel I enjoyed while singing the Schnitzelbank song, as well as the banana nut bread I wolfed down for breakfast.

Posted in Food/Restaurants, Germany, History, Holidays, Michigan, Shopping, Travel | Leave a comment

What Do They Do In Those Buildings? Mystery Solved!

For 28 years, hundreds of thousands of central Ohioans descended on an expansive lawn on the banks of the Olentangy River for Picnic with the Pops, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s series of outdoor concerts on summer Saturday evenings.

At Picnic with the Pops, August 3, 1996. The Singing Buckeyes, the all-male chorus that’s a Columbus institution for its barbershop-style singing, joined the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for a concert featuring patriotic songs, including the 1812 Overture.

Some bought seats at reserved tables, entertaining clients with catered meals served before the concert. Others searched for just the right spot, hauling lawn chairs, blankets and wagons filled with everything from elaborate gourmet picnics to bottled drinks and snacks. As the sun went down and the music began, sparklers, citronella candles, lightning bugs and even umbrellas appeared. Only a handful of concerts were canceled because of the weather.

Albert-George Schram enthusiastically led the orchestra in crowd-pleasing repertoires of American favorites, from Dixieland and Broadway tunes to popular songs and rhythm and blues classics. Then, a leading guest artist like Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte and Neil Sedaka took the stage, accompanied by the orchestra. Annual appearances by the Ohio State University Marching Band ended with a fireworks finale.

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) was the location of Picnic with the Pops from 1983 to 2011, providing rent-free space, a stage pavilion, hundreds of volunteers, security services and more. Since then, the concerts take place on the Columbus Commons. Summer has just not been the same.

For many, the original home of Picnic With the Pops was a mystery. “What is Chemical Abstracts anyway? What do they do in those buildings?,” we wondered.

The mystery was solved a few weeks ago, when I attended a tour of CAS offered by the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

A division of the American Chemical Society, CAS is the authoritative repository for data and information about molecular-substance research.

CAS was founded as a journal in 1907 by William A. Noyes, who worked at the National Bureau of Standards in Baltimore. When Noyes joined the faculty at the University of Illinois, it was published there; in 1909, it relocated to The Ohio State University, when then-editor Austin Patterson joined the faculty. It moved to its present location at 2540 Olentangy River Road in 1965. The main building on its campus is named for Robert J. Massie, who led the organization from 1992 until 2014, then passed away in 2015. CAS’s work is so valuable to scientific development that its 54-acre campus was designated a national chemical landmark in 2007.

Rather than conducting their own experiments, staff — many of them highly trained chemists with doctoral degrees — find, collect, organize and publish information about chemical substances and discoveries. They ferret out patent applications; review research journals, patent applications, and sift through hundreds of thousands of other documents in dozens of languages; provide brief abstracts; list and describe millions of new concepts and substances in databases through controlled vocabulary terms for indexing; and assign unique identifiers for publicly disclosed chemical substances and molecular structures. The electronic breadcrumbs they leave in the thousands of new entries they create daily help researchers in pharmaceutical and chemical companies, universities and patent offices around the world. Everything CAS does is focused on improving people’s lives through the transforming power of all types of chemistry.

Even the pavement looks like a chemistry molecule!

Once printed in bound volumes on bookcases, the information CAS shares is now available online, via the Internet and through desktop access to databases such as the Internet-based SciFinder, a research discovery tool providing a comprehensive abstract and index of scientific journals and papers. Some are fee-based; others offer complimentary access. 

CAS is expanding its domain beyond chemistry to offer new information services, from workflow solutions to data architecture and analytics. Whatever the research task, CAS’s goal is to provide a solution designed for relevance, recall and precision that will yield the right answers as quickly as possible.

As our guide put it, “We obsess over all this stuff so you don’t have to.”

Watch this video to see how CAS processes and stores this information in its Data Center, a round-the-clock operations control center.

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Tickled Pink By A Movie Modiste With Blue-Lensed Glasses

Hollywood star Norma Shearer was tickled pink when a modiste from Akron, Ohio introduced her to color psychology.

But it was more than just a fascination with how certain hues determine human behavior. With the perfect blend of feminine sophistication and cheerful disposition, pink became the Hollywood star’s favorite color in her wardrobe.

My mother and I at the Sophie Wachner lecture; photo taken by The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio

My mother, aunt and I were tickled pink when Gayle Strege, curator of The Ohio State University Historic Costume & Textiles Collection, shared that and other fascinating facts about Shearer’s modiste — Sophie Wachner — at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio last Sunday.

Wachner (1879-1960) began her career as an Akron schoolteacher in 1900, then moved to New York City as her aunt’s companion, where the pair designed costumes for Broadway productions. By 1919, Wachner became the director of costumes for Goldwyn Studios (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) in Los Angeles, then moved to Fox Studios from 1924 to 1930. She designed costumes for more than 100 movies, including He Who Gets Slapped, the 1924 film starring Shearer and Lon Cheney, and Little Lord Fauntleroy, the 1936 box-office classic. Later, Wachner and her husband, Harold Powers, established a ready-to-wear line of fashionable ladies’ clothes.

Wachner said she created her best work after dinner, relaxing while listening to music. Like Edith Head, Wachner relied on blue-lensed glasses to visualize how colors would look when filmed in black and white. Similar techniques are employed today, as lighting affects the way costumes look up close. For example, the dress with spider motifs that Angelica Huston wore in Addams Family Values appears black on the big screen, but is actually maroon.

Huston’s dress is one of 40 colorful costumes on display in Creating the Illusion: Costumes & Characters From the Paramount Pictures Archive, an exhibition at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster. Designed for 21 movies from 1987 to the present, the costumes hail from Coming to America, Zoolander, Transformers: The Last Knight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek: Into Darkness and more.

Three costumes from the Turandot opera scene in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation set the stage for the exhibit. Walk through four jewel-toned galleries, with walls adorned with movie posters, and you’ll see the sequined aqua-and-blue gown Beyonce wore in Dreamgirls, cowboy outfits donned by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in True Grit, and the wedding suit Tom Hanks chose in Forrest Gump.

Selected play-on-demand film clips show actors wearing some of the costumes on display. I was partial to the ensembles Marion Cotillard wore in Allied

and the costume Meryl Streep descended in when portraying Brunhilde, the Wagnerian Valkyrie — complete with gold vest and helmet — in Florence Foster Jenkins.

Creating the Illusion: Costumes & Characters From the Paramount Pictures Archive was inspired by a book of the same title (subtitled “A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers”), written by Jay Jorgensen and Donald Scoggins, with a foreword by Ali MacGraw. The exhibition continues through August 12.

Posted in Fashion, History, Movies & Television, Museums | Leave a comment

Toby’s Touches Inspire “Letters Home”

“The details are not the details, they make the design.”

Charles Eames was correct. The right setting is everything.

Take the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Enter I.M. Pei’s modernist creation from the street, and you begin your visit in a dramatic triangular skylit atrium. Or take the underground concourse to the wing from the museum’s West Building, guided by an artistic installation of thousands of LED lights running along the dark, 200-foot-long walls, ending with a sensational waterwall at the entrance to the Cascade Café. 

I recalled how effective details can be when I discovered striking features in an impressive space much closer to home, at the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.

Founded in 1981, the society collects and preserves stories, documents, photographs and artifacts from Jewish central Ohio. To complement its extensive research archive — located in a building that also houses the Jewish Federation of Columbus and the Columbus Jewish Foundation — the society opened a permanent exhibit space on the ground floor of the building in December 2015.

Our friend Toby Brief, curator of the society’s historical collection, gave us a tour of this appealing, detail-oriented space recently. There are Toby touches everywhere, from her self-designed tidy corner cubbies to the peddler’s cart logo she developed for a previous exhibit, recalling the profession of choice for early Jewish immigrants.

A photographic timeline at the gallery entrance going back to 1830 is the space’s only permanent installation. And it’s a striking one, thanks to three-dimensional features, shades of grey, and the teal accent color the society chose for its branding.

The timeline presents the story of the earliest Jewish settlers in central Ohio, beginning with the first wave of Jewish immigration to the United States from Germany between 1830 and 1880, followed by Jews from Russia and eastern Europe from 1880 to the 1920s, and continuing through the recent past.

Meet Max and Sam Gundersheimer, twin boys born in 1864, who were among the earliest Jewish children in Columbus. As adults, they owned a clothing store at the corner of Rich and High Streets.

Recall Glick’s Furniture, one of central Ohio’s Jewish-owned businesses. And discover Jewish landmarks, such as the Schonthal Center, a mansion at 555 E. Rich St. that was converted to a community center. The 571 Shop, located at 571 E. Rich St., helped immigrant women adjust to life in the United States and provided business training and experience. A project of the National Council of Jewish Women during the 1930s and 1940s, the shop sold pastries, bread, clothing and other items, all made by the women.

Follow the vertically oriented tile flooring (another Toby touch) into the gallery space, which presents temporary rotating exhibits. For example, a recent exhibit employed the society’s large collection of hats, hat boxes and photographs of women wearing hats to illustrate the philanthropic work of Jewish women in central Ohio.

“1918 – Central Ohio Jews and the World War” is currently on view, through December 15, 2018. You can imagine my excitement when I learned about this unique look at one of my favorite fascinations!

Toby shared several special things with us, but the three pristine uniforms on display are rightly the stars of the show. This winter Army uniform and wool campaign hat were worn by Private Harry Kurchik of Lancaster, Ohio, who served in Cl. L. 311th Infantry Regiment of the 78th Infantry Division in France. Nicknamed the “Lightning Division” by the French, who said they came in like a bolt of lightning, leaving the field blood red, the division adopted a lightning bolt as their shoulder insignia.

Kurchik’s summer Army uniform jacket is paired with wool pants, a backpack, a gas mask pouch, and an ammunition belt, all on loan from another society supporter. A handwritten description of the troop’s movements was found in Kurchik’s uniform pocket.  A representation of it is displayed next to an artifact I hadn’t seen before — a gas attack alarm rattle.

The exhibit also includes a Navy uniform worn by Julius Cohen, who trained in Norfolk, Virginia, then served on training ships in Boston. Cohen served in the Navy from January 1917 to January 1920.

Every exhibit benefits from a mascot, and this one is perfect! This little doughboy is Toby’s father, Dr. B.J. Brief.

There were at least 261 local Jewish men serving in the United States military during World War I. More than 100 Jewish soldiers from central Ohio were sent to fight in Europe. Some saw action in France, Belgium, Italy and Russia. Others served closer to home, at Chillicothe’s Camp Sherman. Their names are strikingly presented on a wall at the end of the gallery.

While at war, Jewish soldiers practiced their religion with the aid of the Jewish Welfare Board, as books of Psalms on display attest. Other unique artifacts on display include items from Lt. Louis Herskowitz, who was the coroner of Franklin County, Ohio when he was called to serve as a physician at Camp Oglethorpe, Georgia. On Sunday, July 1 at 2:00 pm, Dr. Ian Valerio of The Ohio State University will present “Wounded Warriors – 1918 and 2018” at the society.

Here at home, Jewish women participated in relief work, supporting soldiers in training camps by writing letters and providing entertainment for them; helping new Jewish immigrants; and raising money for poor Palestinians through organizations like Hadassah and the Columbus Council of Jewish Women. They also raised funds for the war effort through Liberty Bond drives, prepared bandages for soldiers, and knit them socks. “Support Your Boys: How Knitters Helped the Army,” a program led by Andrea Panzica of 614 Knit Studio, is planned.

One of the most memorable parts of the exhibit are the letters David Pastor wrote to his cousin and sweetheart, Anna Pastor, during his time at Camp Sherman. Besides describing life at camp, the letters document a family casualty from the 1918 influenza epidemic. Over 350 of the Pastors’ letters were discovered in a yard sale; they were donated to the society to be preserved because of their valuable Jewish content. The couple later married and lived in Bexley. David owned Standard Dry Cleaning Company until his death in 1955; Anna passed away in 1985.

Next Wednesday, May 30, the society is presenting “Letters Home,” a theatrical production telling the story of Jewish central Ohio World War I veterans in their own words, from letters they wrote to their families and friends. The 8:00 p.m. performance will take place in the Roth-Resler Theater of the Jewish Center, located at 1125 College Avenue in Columbus. Click here for tickets.

Watch Toby talk more about these letters on this recent episode of WOSU’s “Columbus Neighborhoods.”

For more on the history of Jews in central Ohio, read Jews and Judaism in a Midwestern Community: Columbus, Ohio, 1840-1975, by Marc Lee Raphael.

Located at 1175 College Avenue, the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Historical Collection is open Monday through Friday from 10 to 3:30, the first Sunday of each month (except holidays), and by appointment. Archives offices are open Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. The society welcomes new acquisitions documenting central Ohio Jews.

Posted in Columbus, History, Museums | 1 Comment

Sailing On The QE2 With Speed, [Seasickness] And Style

Pigging out on midnight buffets, line-dancing during sailaway parties, and watching fruits and vegetables being carved into edible art at lightning speed: They’re all familiar moments to enjoy aboard a cruise ship.

However, only a small minority have experienced the grande descente, when fashionable women in beautiful dresses paraded down a sweeping staircase on an ocean liner. That’s one of the reasons why London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is presenting Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, a glamorous exhibition of over 200 objects exploring the architecture, engineering, interiors and cultural impact of ocean liners.

Transatlantic travel on an ocean liner was a grand affair. Seen from the outside, the vessel was utilitarian and functional. Inside, however, it was a floating palace that reflected its modern times. Life on board was like a spectacular Busby Berkeley musical production.

My parents and I had a front-row seat for some of those spectacular productions at sea during our five-day voyage in June 1976 on the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth 2.

In 1964, Cunard, a leader of the transatlantic travel industry, started designing a smaller ship that would bring the ocean liner experience to the swinging Baby Boomers. It retained an industrial design consultant and several prominent interior designers to deliver a sturdy, striking vessel with a charcoal grey and white exterior, with “Cunard” emblazoned on it in red. Representing the very best of modern British design, the Queen Elizabeth 2 was completed in 1969.

After vacationing in London, England, we met the QE2 in Southampton, where it would set sail for New York City via Cherbourg, France. Before we walked up the gangplank to board the ship, a stewardess thoroughly checked all of my pockets, even my hair and my plush raccoon, Robin.

After we cleared security, I printed tags for all of my bags, boxes and suitcases so that they would find their way to our cabin.

Thoroughly modern graphics guided us as we boarded the ship and made our way to the circular embarkation lobby. This space-age place had molded white fiberglass trumpet columns and a series of radiating concentric rings on the ceiling.

After the lifeboat drill,..

…we made our first visit to the tourist-class Britannia restaurant, where the dining steward put a pin on a map of the dining room to mark each table as he made seating arrangements for the voyage. We were seated at table 434, with another American family with a little girl who was also six years old. Britannia was decorated in the colors of the Union Jack; its chairs were an upholstered plywood shell laminated with Formica on an aluminum base.

As the ship set sail, we learned that the clocks on the ship would be stopped for one hour at 4:00 each morning. We could spend time relaxing in two swimming pools; playing table tennis, Scrabble and Bingo; or testing our luck in the Sportsman Club casino. Each morning, our room steward would slip the day’s news under our cabin door, along with a daily activity program that included offerings like watching a cartooning demonstration and participating in instructional sessions in bridge, ballroom dancing, backgammon, arts and crafts, and even golf. Illustrated lectures on using the options market for increasing your income, spending leisure time in New York City, and exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Minoan art of Crete, and the art of Naples and Mexico were presented for our edification. Cabaret entertainers like pianists Alan Singleton, Nina Tichman and Margot Courtright, as well as the band “Gina and Romany Rye,” performed throughout the voyage. Films like “Winterhawk,” “The Railway Children,” “Mayerling,” with Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve; and “Shout at the Devil,” starring Roger Moore, were shown in the ship’s movie theater.

It’s said that a transatlantic voyage goes through five distinct phases, and we experienced all of them. As we set sail, we stayed close to the shore, enjoying the pleasant weather and gentle waters. 

Then, as we set out to sea off the coast of Ireland, the ship noticeably rose and fell, pitched and rolled, and the adventure began. The captain told us the sea had “swells” and was rough. Britannia’s waiters placed guards at the edges of the tables to keep the placesettings from sliding away. Cabin stewards encouraged us to hold on to hallway ropes for balance.  Elevators were outfitted with nausea bags.  We got shots for seasickness and rested out on the deck, where the fresh air and the hot tea the deck steward brought made us feel better. We went to the theater to see Richard Chamberlain in “The Slipper and the Rose,” but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the swaying curtains.

The sea got rougher and rougher. To counteract rolling from side to side in rough seas and ensure a smoother, more comfortable passage, fin stabilizers held the ship steady. During our voyage, the stabilizers broke. (Now I read  that QE2 was beset with mechanical problems.) Only two passengers showed up at Britannia for dinner that evening. My dad was one of them.

The next morning, the sea was much calmer. After breakfast, I went to the Steiner of London beauty salon to have my hair washed and styled. A lady gave me a pink-and-white striped smock to wear and a small bag with a comb, brush and pink cotton balls for my ears.

I rested on deck in the afternoon, all wrapped up in a blue deck blanket.

Seasickness having lifted, we settled into a daily routine of sitting on deck, staring at the passing ocean, then going inside for tea time to watch a style show. I spent the last of my traveler’s cheques in QE2′s shops, selecting a pen with a QE2 that moved and two Beatrix Potter figures, Tom Kitten and Johnny Townmouse, all of which I still have.

Our last evening on board, we watched a “Roaring Twenties” show, with dancers in coral-colored costumes and feather headdresses, from the balcony of the Double Room. A dramatic spiral staircase with red chevron carpeting, red banisters and smoke-tinted glazed balustrades linked the levels of this two-deck-high tourist-class public area. Brushed aluminum ceiling finishes contrasted with red lounge chairs and brown leatherette booths.

Just as the slightest feeling of boredom set in, QE2 approached land. As we sailed into the New York harbor, under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, it was too foggy and misty to see the Statue of Liberty. When the ship came to Ellis Island, a small boat brought two immigration officials on board. As we disembarked and took a taxi to the airport for our flight home, we could see that painters were already painting QE2’s side with long-handled rollers.

QE2 ended her career in 2008 in Dubai, where she remains today after having been sold to the Dubai government for $100 million. Her original furniture and fittings are still on board.

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style continues at the V&A until June 19. For those of us who can’t make it to London before then, check out Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style, edited by Daniel Finamore and Ghislaine Wood. Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isambard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships, by Stephen Fox, traces the evolution of the Atlantic steamer from 1838 to 1907.

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

Don’t Throw It Away! It Tells A Story!

Hair, short, feathered and layered, with a high-collared pie-crust blouse, both just like Princess Diana wore. Monogrammed pendant and pleated wool skirt, straight from the pages of The Official Preppy Handbook. Meet the Betsy of 1984.

Lots of us looked like this back then. But there’s one very distinctive difference: My Illustrated London News sweater.

Hand-knit just for me, the sweater featured the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and other landmarks of the London skyline, as depicted in the masthead of The Illustrated London News, the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine, published from 1842 until 2003. Our trip to England the previous year included a visit to the editorial office of that marvelous magazine, where we learned how it was produced and bought back issues of its Royal commemorative publications. 

The magazine ran ads offering a free pattern to knit the sweater.  My mother got the pattern, found a knitter, and arranged to give me the best Christmas present ever.

I wore that sweater for years, constantly, until it literally fell apart and I did something dumb. I parted company with it.

“What was I thinking? Why didn’t I keep it anyway? I just have to find a copy of that pattern somewhere and make myself a new one!” 

Those were my thoughts as I chastised myself on March 6, sitting in the Canzani Center Screening Room at the Columbus College of Art & Design, listening to visiting artist Emily Spivack.  She was talking about the memorable stories we can derive from our clothes, and how important it is to capture those stories so the don’t disappear.

Curiousity about the histories of our garments — like who had worn the garment before and what they were like — made her want to create a place to record and preserve those stories. She began a project known as Worn Stories, which was published first as a website and then as a book in 2014.

Interviewing people she admired, from the famous to the obscure, Spivack recorded their experiences, adventures and memories made while wearing a piece of clothing that they haven’t worn in years, but just can’t part with. Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley shared how her Girl Scout sash, loaded with badges, still makes her feel proud of herself. English professor Catherine Pierce described how she wore an Ann Taylor pencil skirt during her first teaching days to convince her students – and herself – that she was an authority figure. And Debbie Millman recalled how a marked-down luxurious yellow cashmere Hermés coat made her feel glamorous and beautiful, even during two memorable meetings with the person who said, “Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.”

Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City, Spivack’s latest book, captures a cultural history of New York City — stories of significant moments or experiences in the city told through well-loved clothes by the people who wore them there. Here’s the ultimate conversation piece: Elizabeth Taylor’s yellow and hot pink Givenchy jumpsuit. Canadian model Coco Rocha bought it at Christie’s 2011 auction of the actress’s clothing and wore to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala the next year. “Even if it had extra space in the bust, even if it was cropped in the legs, even if it was cinched in at the waist, it was her body shape, and I wore it just the way it was,” Rocha recalled.

Spivack described other related projects, like her contributions to Threaded, the Smithsonian’s blog about the history of clothing, and howtodresslike.com, an online archive of nearly 1,000 step-by-step dressing instructions culled from WikiHow. She also collected stories about clothing from eBay posts through her Sentimental Value website and related exhibitions in Philadelphia, Portland and Brooklyn.

As Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of Modern Art, Spivack invited visitors to contribute to “An archive of everything worn to MoMA from November 1, 2017 to January 28, 2018,” a project that will become a permanent part of the museum’s archives. “Little black dress with my eyeglass print blouse underneath. I like to dress like a Japanese school girl. I’m 48,” one reads.

Sounds like my twin was at MoMA on November 14, 2017.

To hear more from Spivack, click here to listen to her March 5 All Sides with Ann Fisher interview.

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An Aerial Lighthouse That Serves Tarte Au Poulet? That’s A Keeper!

I’m not skilled in speaking actuarial psychobabble or creating Woo Factors, but I certainly shine in my role as the Analytics and Research Office’s concierge.

Asked to recommend a destination for a recent birthday lunch, I looked out our windows, pointed out the LeVeque Tower, and suggested The Keep, the restaurant that recently opened on the tower’s mezzanine level.

This Art Deco jewel has been a landmark of the downtown Columbus skyline since 1927. At that time, the 46-story skyscraper at the corner of Broad and Front Streets was the tallest building in Ohio and the fifth tallest in the world. A six-year, $27 million renovation project ended last year, transforming the tower into a luxury hotel, office space, apartments and condominiums. I’ve been curious to see the results.

Named by Architectural Digest as one of the ten most beautiful Art Deco buildings in the world, the tower was first known as the AIU Citadel. It was built as the new headquarters of the American Insurance Union, then the world‘s largest insurance company that also promoted progressive social reforms. A version of the AIU company seal can still be found in a bronze disc embedded in the lobby floor. “Safety First” was its motto.

The Citadel was designed by Charles Howard Crane, a specialist in theater design who was also innovative in his use of electric heat, central air conditioning, elevators, and especially the special effect achieved by using terra cotta on a building’s exterior. Because the Citadel was situated on the sandy banks of the Scioto River, a special gridwork bedrock foundation was required to keep it from toppling over.

The building’s steel skeleton was covered with terra cotta that was rolled and stamped to achieve the effect of white oak bark. The fired clay was also fashioned into decorative garlands, laurel wreaths, shields and statues of guardian angels. Four 18-foot eagles were designed for corner niches at its 35th story. Four 26-foot-tall giants flanked by children, symbolizing the protection of insurance, were installed, but were removed for safety reasons in 1947. Weather-damaged terra cotta was carefully patched and replaced during this recent renovation.

Marble from Belgium and Italy, custom-cut glass from Czechoslovakia, oak and walnut paneling from England and wall tiles from Spain gave the Citadel its elegant look. Street-level entrance lanterns were modeled after lamps in an Italian palace. Hand-painted murals adorned the walls.  An auditorium was equipped with a pipe organ, a ceiling fresco of painted clouds, and a scale reproduction of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.  

Zodiac signs were placed on the bronze doors of the lobby’s three elevators, topped with the words HEALTH, HAPPINESS and PROSPERITY.

The tower was also home to the Deshler-Wallick Hotel, as well as WAIU, Columbus’s first radio station. Other tenants have included law and accounting firms, a Borden test kitchen, restaurants, and state and federal offices.

An observation deck was on the 44th floor. Four turret-mounted beacons were fitted with filters to change the color of the lights on special occasions, a tradition which is still honored today. It’s bathed in pink lights each May for the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, to raise awareness of breast cancer. It takes on a patriotic red, white and blue glow for the Red, White and Boom fireworks display to celebrate Independence Day. And it has taken on a blue cast in March, in recognition of Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

After AIU folded during the Great Depression, the building was foreclosed upon. Columbus developer Leslie LeVeque, and John Lincoln, founder of a Cleveland electric company, bought the tower in 1945 and renamed it the LeVeque-Lincoln Tower. After LeVeque and his wife died in a plane crash, their son, Fred, assumed ownership. When Fred also perished in a 1975 plane crash, his wife, Katherine, bought the tower, renamed it the LeVeque Tower, and lived in a 41st-floor apartment there until 2011. She sold the building to an investment group in 2004; a local investment group purchased it in 2011. Mrs. LeVeque passed away in 2014.

Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the landmark property also included the Palace Theatre. Mrs. LeVeque invested $3 million in restoring the Palace. It reopened as a performing-arts hall in 1980; she sold it to the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts in 1989.

Walking over, I described what happened on July 9, 1986, when old brick sewers gave way and caused a 40-by-30-foot section of W. Broad St. in front of the LeVeque-Lincoln and the Palace to collapse, sending a Columbus lawyer and his Mercedes down into a 26-feet-deep hole. ” The world’s largest potholebecame a sensational attraction during the 13 days it took to fix.

When we arrived, we headed straight for The Keep. Named after a speakeasy expression, it offers a full-service bar patterned after a classic 1920s unlicensed saloon.  The dining room features an exhibition kitchen with a brushed-steel countertop for dining. Traditional seating is also available under flickering gas lanterns on bronze-flecked walls.

Menu items are prepared with French cooking techniques. Braised beef hash with potatoes, caramelized onions and peppers, topped with an egg, was one choice we tried.

The other was a puff pastry-topped pot of local chicken and mirepoix veloute accompanied by “Verte,” a salad of mixed greens, dried fruits, crisp apples and candied walnuts tossed in a honey balsamic vinaigrette.

The Keep is operated separately from the Hotel LeVeque, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection of hotels noted for their unique decor. The hotel’s interior design has a celestial theme, recalling how the tower was once known as an “aerial lighthouse” visible from 50 miles away that guided aviators in the early days of passenger air travel.

That fascination with the sky can be seen in the dramatic chandelier in the two-story lobby, as well as in the small telescopes placed in each of the 149 guest rooms.

For more on the LeVeque tower, read LeVeque: The First Complete Story of Columbus’ Greatest Skyscraper, by Michael A. Perkins.

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