Start Feeding Your Lawn at O.M. Scott’s Original Marysville Hardware Store

White Linen and Lalique de Lalique are lovely fragrances, but to me, the headiest scent of all is the one that permeated my dad’s hardware store: Scotts lawn fertilizer.

I contentedly took a big sniff of it recently, when I walked into The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company Store in downtown Marysville.The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company Store

This isn’t just any place to pick up lawn fertilizer. This is Orlando McLean Scott’s original hardware store.

After being discharged from the Union Army in the Civil War, Scott opened a hardware store in Marysville in 1868. He specialized in selling 99.9 percent weed-free seed to farmers, helping them achieve clean, weed-free fields.

By 1907, Scott and his sons had expanded the business, selling grass seed by mail to customers who wanted better lawns. Soon, Scotts products were available at retail locations. As the years passed, Scotts introduced Turf Builder, a fertilizer specifically designed to meet the special nutritional needs of grass. It offered a spreader for even, accurate application of fertilizer, essential for better results. It opened the first automated grass seed processing and packaging plant. The work of its turfgrass research division led to the development of Weed & Feed, the first selective weed control and fertilizer combination, and Halts, the first pre-emergent crabgrass control.

Recognizing the importance of know-how, Scotts began educating its customers about the art of creating a lush lawn. In 1928, the company started to publish Lawn Care magazine. That commitment to sharing good advice led to the establishment of the Scotts Training Institute in 1962. Scotts offered special training classes to help retailers and their employees better assist customers in selecting a program of Scotts products that were guaranteed to develop thick, green lawns.

Cohagan Hardware promotional Scotts photographMy dad was one of those Scotts Training Institute students. As a teenager, he started working as a stockboy for the Cohagan Hardware Company, first located at 4000 East Brood Street and later at 3003 East Livingston Avenue in Columbus. He eventually owned the store, prescribing Scotts programs to his customers until he closed the store in 1985.  Here he is in a circa-1961 photograph promoting Cohagan Hardware and its Scotts products.

That’s how I came to love the smell of lawn fertilizer, the feel of running my hands through barrels of grass seed, the sound of the key-cutting machine, the sight of a Quikrete pocket protector packed with pens and pencils, and the taste of Pepsi in chilled glass bottles from the store’s vintage vending machine.

So when we walked into Mr. Scott’s recently restored hardware store, it was like reliving our Cohagan days.

The store’s wooden floors and ornate ceiling provide the perfect backdrop for displays of historical Scotts items like spreaders and lawnmowers. Vintage packaging, employee group photos and Scotts advertisements are displayed throughout the store.

The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company Store

Product categories and eye-catching drawings handwritten on black chalkboard paint wall borders direct customers to product displays for weed control, lawn care, Gro-ables seed pods, bird seed and more. There’s even a selection of Scotts promotional merchandise to buy, from Scotts clothing and lanyards to stationery items and iPad covers.

The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company Store

The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company Store is located at 119 South Main Street in downtown Marysville. It’s open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 8:00 to noon. Call 937-738-7238 for more information.

While in Marysville, drive by a big, dark bMarysville house attributed to Frank Lloyd Wrightrown home on the northwest corner of Maple and Fourth Streets. Owned by O.M. Scott & Sons Company from the 1950s to 1987, the Scott House was used as a guest house for visitors and a place to hold meetings, including some that my dad attended as part of the Scotts Training Institute. The home was built between 1910 and 1912 and is said to have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Here’s what it looked like last winter.

Posted in History, Nature/Outdoors, Ohio | 1 Comment

Would You Shake A Cook’s Flour-Covered Hand?

With her rolled-up calico sleeves and ruddy cheeks, this merry-looking cook personifies friendliness, but would you shake her flour-covered hand?

Shake Hands?, Ohio History Connection

That’s the question Lilly Martin Spencer poses in Shake Hands?, an 1854 painting that has become one of this artist’s most well-known works. At a time when proper behavior was so important in American society, etiquette called for handshakes to be exchanged between social equals. Extending your hand to someone of a different social class was a real faux pas.

The painting’s engraved counterpart, the frontispiece of the December 1857 issue of the Cosmopolitan Art Journal, brought this appealing image into a million middle-class homes, making Lilly a household name.

Lithograph of Shake Hands?, by Lilly Martin Spencer, Ohio History ConnectionShake Hands? is the centerpiece of Power of Painting: Lilly Martin Spencer, an exhibition at the Ohio History Center that is on view through September 6. This much-anticipated exhibition includes other Lilly Martin Spencer works in the Ohio History Connection’s collection, several of which that have never been on display before.

Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) first displayed her artistic talent as a young girl, using fireplace charcoal to capture likeness of friends in portraits and family members in characteristic poses on the walls of her parents’ Marietta, Ohio home.

Julia Devol, by Lilly Martin Spencer, Ohio History Connection

In 1841, the teenager left Marietta with her father to study art in Cincinnati. Shepherdess Mending Socks is regarded as the best example of paintings from Lilly’s years in Cincinnati. The painting was one of two conserved for this exhibition with the generous support of Jane Werum. The other, Old Man with Two Children, which Lilly painted in 1845, was also conserved; it is on display on the first floor of the Ohio History Center.

Shepherdess Mending Socks, by Lilly Martin Spencer, Ohio History Connection

In 1848, Lilly and her husband, Benjamin Rush Spencer, moved to New York City to continue her art education and tap a larger market for her compositions. Later, the Spencers moved to Newark, New Jersey and New York state. In a career spanning more than 60 years, Lilly painted to support herself, her husband and their 13 children, while Benjamin managed the family’s domestic chores and oversaw his wife’s business-related endeavors.

The domestic scenes which Lilly painted earned her a reputation as being a genre painter whose precise brushwork captured scenes with universal appeal. Young Husband: First Marketing and Young Wife: First Stew, companion pieces which Lilly painted in 1854, take a humorous look at a novice grocery shopper and his wife, who is equally inexperienced in the kitchen. In the exhibition, a reproduction of the former painting hangs beside the original of the latter painting, which is cleverly displayed with objects found in kitchens of the 1850s.

Young Wife: First Stew on exhibit, by Lilly Martin Spencer, Ohio History ConnectionUsing her family as her models, Lilly created art inspired by her maternal experiences. Two charming examples of the tremendous popular appeal of Lilly’s works are This Little Pig Went to Market, a circa-1857 oil painting in an ornate gold frame…

This Little Pig Went to Market, by Lilly Martin Spencer, Ohio History Connection

… and The Pic-nic, or the Fourth of July: A Day to be Remembered, an 1864 engraving that was offered as a subscription premium for Demorest’s Monthly Magazine.

The Pic-nic, by Lilly Martin Spencer, Ohio History Connection

Lilly also taught valuable lessons in her paintings.

“I want to try to make all my paintings have a tendency towards moral improvement as far as it is in the power of painting, speaking from those who are good and virtuous, to counteract evil,” she wrote her parents in an 1847 letter that is part of the Lilly Martin Spencer Papers (MSS 972), an Ohio History Connection manuscript collection.

To discover more about this extraordinary artist, see Lilly Martin Spencer, 1822-1902: The Joys of Sentiment was published for a 1973 exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Lilly Martin Spencer, American Painter of the Nineteenth Century is a 1959 master’s thesis by Ann Byrd.

Shake Hands? was included in Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine, a recent exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art that focused on artistic representations of food. In addition to the companion catalogue edited by Judith A. Barter, the exhibition lives on in an online cookbook that features both vintage recipes and new ones created bLilly Martin Spencer exhibition, Ohio History Connectiony Chicago culinarians. Shake Hands? inspired Meg Galus of NoMI Kitchen to create recipes for Chocolate Chunk Gingersnaps  and Sweet Potato Pudding Bonbons

Join curator Emily Lang for a tour of Power of Painting: Lilly Martin Spencer on Saturday, August 29 at 2:00 p.m. at the Ohio History Center.

Posted in Art, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) | 1 Comment

Adelaide’s House Is Fit For A Queen

The Downtown worker taking a break on the Milo’s Capitol Café patio watched me scour the northeast corner of the Ohio Statehouse grounds for Adelaide’s house.  

I looked everywhere — by the patio, toward the Ohio Senate’s home in the former Judiciary Annex, and by the benches lining the sidewalk where another worker sat watching me.  And then I found it.

Behind the hostas, hydrangeas, trees and ground cover that populate this shady corner, I spotted a tall wrought iron fence.

Northeast corner of the Ohio Statehouse groundsThe fence surrounded a faux marble high-rise, topped with a copper roof and embellished with the Great Seal of the State of Ohio. An overturned planter, topped with its companion saucer filled with rocks and water, sat beside it.

Ohio Statehouse beehive

Adelaide’s house might look like a Classical temple, but this curious new addition to the Statehouse grounds is really a home for 25,000 honey bees. Adelaide is their queen bee, named in honor of Adelaide Sterling Ott, the first woman to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Tamra Ansel, grounds manager at the Statehouse, was inspired to create the Statehouse beehive as a way to teach schoolchildren and other Statehouse visitors about not only how friendly bees can be, but also how important bees are as pollinators in nature. This is especially important now, when something known as “colony collapse” is threatening bees.

In honor of Earth Day this year, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board dedicated the working beehive, planting a blooming sourwood tree to shelter it. With help from the Ohio State Beekeepers Association, Central Ohio Beekeepers Association, and Davey Tree Expert Co., Nina Bagley, owner of Nina’s Village Apiary in German Village, began overseeing the hive this spring. Bagley chose a location where the bees would be out of the way and not affect pedestrian traffic on the Statehouse grounds. She determined a flight path for the bees, pointing them in the direction she wanted them to go so that they would fly up and over the trees to get to the hive.

Bagley and Reed Johnson, an entomologist at The Ohio State University, discussed the Statehouse beehive, colony collapse and how important bees are to plants and people alike on All Sides with Ann Fisher on May 8. You can listen to the episode, The Role of Healthy Bees,” here.

Adelaide is not the only new attraction at the Statehouse.

A 6’10” bronze statue of Thomas Edison holding an incandescent light bulb is on display inside the Statehouse, near the Rotunda, until October, when it travels to Washington, D.C. to be installed in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building.Thomas Edison statue, Ohio Statehouse

The Edison statue will replace a statue of William Allen, governor of Ohio from 1874 to 1876, that now stands in Statuary Hall. Allen may have been a great debater and public speaker, but his vocal views on slavery prompted Ohio lawmakers to make a change. Recently, a state panel invited the public to vote on choices for new statue of a famous Ohioan, including Orville and Wilbur Wright and Jesse Owens. After about 50,000 people cast their votes, Edison was the winner.

The statue is the work of Zanesville sculptor Alan Cottrill, who also created an eight-foot bronze likeness of Woody Hayes on the main campus of The Ohio State University.

Posted in Columbus, Nature/Outdoors | 1 Comment

No Wonder Birds Flock to Gene Stratton-Porter’s Limberlost Cabin

The songs of Petey the canary must have been the perfect background music for Mrs. Warren G. Harding as she read The Harvester and Her Father’s Daughter.

The former First Lady owned both of these books by Gene Stratton-Porter, the self-taught photographer and best-selling author who shared her love of birds and nature with millions of readers during the early years of the 20th century. I paged these volumes from the Ohio History Connection’s Archives/Library vault recently, in preparation for my long-awaited pilgrimage to Gene’s northeastern Indiana home.

Her Father's Daughter, Gene Stratton-Porter (Doubleday, Page, 1921), Ohio History Connection

Geneva Grace “Gene” Stratton was born on August 17, 1863 on a farm near Wabash, Indiana, where her lifelong love of nature began by caring for birds and their nests. In 1886, she married Charles Porter, a druggist and banker, and moved to Geneva, Indiana. The following year, the Porters’ only child, Jeannette, was born.

Gene Stratton-Porter

In 1893, the Porters went to the Chicago World’s Fair, where Gene fell for the Forestry Building, a rustic structure with a wraparound porch supported by 25-feet-high tree trunks. The next year, Charles built Gene a similar home with a colonnaded porch on the extra lot next to their modest yellow cottage. Their magnificent new home — which Gene designed — was constructed from Wisconsin red cedar logs, with redwood shingles on the upper story and the roof. The Porters called it the Limberlost Cabin in honor of the swamp that was just steps away.

Limberlost Cabin

The Limberlost Swamp was a treacherous 13,000-acre wooded quagmire that was named after “Limber Jim,” a man who wandered into the swamp and never returned. Gene was fascinated by it. Wearing a panama hat covered with mosquito netting, a brown or green blouse or sweater paired with a khaki skirt or trousers, and lace-up leather hiking boots, Gene waded through the mucky water, climbed trees and tramped through thickets to observe the natural habitat. She carried a revolver for protection in case she came across poisonous rattlesnakes or vagabonds. Some of the specimens that Gene collected during her forays into the swamp are still on display at the Limberlost Cabin, such as a display of over 80 moths that Gene collected between 1906 and 1912.

The Indiana State Museum’s Limberlost State Historic Site was definitely worth my six-year wait to see it.

Gene drove her wagon around the surrounding countryside and picked up pieces of Wabash limestone to fashion a fence of her own design. She left openings in the fence so that small animals could come in and make themselves at home among the garden where hollyhocks, sunflowers, buttercups, pinks and lilies grew. Mulberry bushes, wild honeysuckle and goldenrod continue to attract swarms of birds and insects.

Limberlost Cabin

Outside, there’s a wishing well,Limberlost Cabin

a smokehouse fashioned from a hollowed-out sycamore log…

Limberlost Cabin

and a turreted porch with a door underneath that led to Jeannette’s playhouse.

Limberlost Cabin

Inside, the entrance hall, library and dining room are paneled in quarter-sawn golden oak that was harvested near Kokomo, Indiana. Ceilings are bordered by striking stenciled designs. A stuffed golden eagle that Jeannette used to dress up for tea parties still stands beside the library’s fireplace. Gene wrote half of her books before the library’s front windows.Limberlost Cabin

The home’s showplace is the music room, with original Lincrusta wallcovering and hand-painted frescoes. Gene’s paintbox and her painting of irises, some of her favorite flowers, are displayed in the corner of the room.

Limberlost Cabin

Gene’s fondness for birds is evident on the bedstead in the first-floor guest room, which features hand-carved owls.Limberlost Cabin

Gene took every opportunity to invite birds into her home. She hid beneath her open kitchen windows at night, hoping to lure owls in with treats she put on the windowsill. Wild birds came and went through the open windows of Gene’s lovely conservatory. 

Limberlost Cabin

In fact, one resident bird was responsible for beginning Gene’s work as a nature photographer and writer.  Jeannette’s pet parrot, Major, didn’t care for his cage, so he flew through the house and perched on the dining room chairs. Gene’s stories of Major’s antics prompted Charles to give her a box camera for Christmas in 1895 so she could capture them for him to see. Soon, Gene began using her camera to record her encounters with wildlife. She lugged 40 pounds of glass plates, lenses, a tripod, ropes, a ladder and other equipment through the Limberlost, rigging her camouflaged camera from trees in order to get close shots of birds. By capturing birds’ behavior, like nesting, feeding and caring for their young, Gene became a pioneer in nature photography.

Gene produced such quality photographs that a Kodak representative wanted to know how she did it. She declined to tell him that her darkroom was her home’s bathroom. She washed her negatives and prints in the sink and dried them on turkey platters.

Limberlost Cabin

Photography was a perfect complement to Gene’s growing interest in writing. After submitting an anonymous entry to a writing contest, she began to write natural history articles for Recreation and Outing magazines, illustrating her work with her own photographs. Her first novel, The Song of the Cardinal, was published in 1903. By the time A Girl of the Limberlost was published in 1909, “The Bird Lady” had become an established author.Limberlost Cabin

Thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt, Americans had become more interested in the outdoors, and Gene’s readers clamored for more. In 24 years, she published 12 novels, 12 nonfiction works, three collections of verse and hundreds of articles for magazines, including The Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s and The Saturday Evening Post. Eight of her novels were produced as motion pictures.

During the 18 years that Gene lived beside the Limberlost, changes started taking place at the swamp. It was drained by a steam-powered dredge so that it could be tilled and farmed. Loggers cleared the timber and sold it to furniture factories, shipbuilders and barrel-makers. Wells were drilled for oil and gas that had been discovered in the Limberlost.  As the streams dried up, the swamp and the natural habitat it provided for animals and insects vanished. In the early 1990s, a project began to reclaim a portion of the original Limberlost Swamp, raising money to buy land from farmers who were tired of contending with flooded fields. Today, over 1,500 acres have been purchased by the Limberlost Swamp Remembered Project and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, through the Indiana Heritage Trust. The 467-acre Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve, located a few miles southwest of Geneva, is part of the wetland complex that Gene described in her writings. To mark the occasion of its dedication in the spring of 1997, a sycamore tree was planted in honor of the giant sycamoreLimberlost Cabin featured in Song of the Cardinal. Hiking trails at the preserve are open daily from dawn to dusk; guided tours can be arranged through the Limberlost State Historic Site ahead of time.

Geneva is a pleasant two-hour drive from Columbus. Gene would be pleased to know that the Indiana Audubon Society has designated it a Bird Town, in recognition of the community’s active and ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of bird habitats and populations. You can see why in a special birdwatching area of the Limberlost State Historic Site’s visitor center.

On your way to the Limberlost State Historic Site and the Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve, you might pass the Red Gold manufacturing plant that’s located just outside Geneva. Red Gold, a fourth-generation family-owned business headquartered in Orestes, Indiana, was founded in 1942 to produce fresh-tasting canned tomato products during World War II.  Family farms in Indiana, northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan grow a certain type of Roma tomato for Red Gold that has been bred and selected especially for the region, with different maturity times for harvesting. Thousands of semi-loads of tomatoes are efficiently processed into more than 100 kinds of tomato products with colorful yellow-and-red labels, including whole peeled, diced and stewed tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, ketchup and salsa.

To dHeroine of the Limberlostiscover more about Gene Stratton-Porter, read Gene Stratton-Porter: Novelist and Naturalist, by Judith Reick Long; Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter, by Jeannette Porter-Meehan; Coming Through the Swamp: The Nature Writing of Gene Stratton-Porter, edited by Sydney Landon Plum; and “A Writer’s Crusade to Portray Spirit of the Limberlost,” by Deborah Dahlke-Scott and Michael Prewitt, on pages 64 through 69 of the April 1976 issue of Smithsonian.  Heroine of the Limberlost: A Paper Doll Biography of Gene Stratton-Porter, by Norma Lu Meehan, is a collection of over 20 costumes replicated from photographs of Gene and her family.  It’s out of print, but I was lucky to find a copy, and I treasure it.

Posted in Architecture, Birds, Books, Indiana, Nature/Outdoors | Leave a comment

The Granville Inn Is Back, And It’s Better Than Ever

It was the setting of a few Thanksgiving and Easter buffets with my grandparents, dinner with my childhood hero before my CSG prom in 1987, an October 1999 presentation I gave as chair of the Ohio Bicentennial Literary Committee, and countless Saturday lunches of open-faced cheddar bacon sirloin burgers with steak fries.

And then it closed in August 2014. I mourned its bran muffins and mini-loaves of warm iced raisin bread with whipped honey butter, its holiday craft shows and gingerbread house displays, its fireplaces and carved woodwork, and its antique regulator clock in the lobby that kept standard time.Granville Inn

On May 8, the Granville Inn re-opened after a $9 million makeover. Now, this special place is better than ever.

In 1923, John Sutphin Jones, a successful executive in the coal and railroad industries, commissioned noted Columbus architect Frank Packard to design a Jacobethan Revival building on the site of the former Granville Female College on East Broadway Street in Granville. The half-timber and sandstone structure was built from stone quarried at Jones’ nearby estate, Bryn Du. The Granville Inn opened on June 26, 1924 and became a popular central Ohio destination for wedding receptions and other special events.

Like many other restaurants, the Granville Inn was hit hard by the 2008 recession. It did everything it could to survive. Lunch service was eliminated, the menu was pared back, and staffing was cut. In September 2013, Denison University purchased the inn out of receivership for $1.15 million and restored it.

The building was gutted, but the carved hardwood paneling in the entryway, main hallways and dining rooms were covered and restored. My favorite regulator clocks are still ticking away in the lobby.

Granville Inn

Gone is the big wooden registration counter.  In its place is a lovely, light-filled area with Chippendale-style cabinets.Granville Inn

New heating and cooling systems, ductwork, insulation, copper gutters and downspouts were installed. A new roof was fashioned from 4,000 pieces of slate. Exterior stucco and battens were restored, and the sandstone exterior was cleaned. The awning of the three-season room off the former pub was removed, creating a spacious open-air patio.

Granville Inn

Guest rooms were updated with new bathrooms, flooring, wall coverings, lighting and furnishings. A new bar, kitchens and an elevator were added. Public spaces, dining and meeting rooms were also updated with new furnishings. Denison archival photographs and memorabilia decorate public spaces.  Even the new ladies’ room on the first floor is a swanky affair.

The inn’s former garage, located in a 19th-century carriage house…

Granville Inn

is now a meeting space, with guest rooms above. The old driveway and delivery area leading up to the space is now an attractive courtyard.

Granville Inn

The third-floor attic — previously used to store documents, paintings, furniture and other inn artifacts — was repurposed into nine new guest rooms that exude comfort and class. Slate blue and brown is my new favorite color scheme.

Granville Inn

The old pub is now the Oak Room, an upscale dining room with a working fireplace and a menu that includes fish, chicken, lamb, Steak Dianne, filet mignon, lobster bisque, chilled white asparagus, and other elegant fare.Granville Inn

The former dining room is now known as The Tavern at the Inn. Enter from the lobby through the original doors fitted with new fleur-de-lis glass panels, sit down in the same big red chairs, and order the Granville Inn’s classic French onion soup, salads like the original Lazarus Chintz Room chicken salad, hot entrees such as beer-battered cod and short ribs, and sandwiches served with house-made potato chips, French fries, slow-cooked baked beans or a side salad of the day. Local craft beer, wine and signature cocktails are available from a new U-shaped bar. Whit’s Signature Raisin Bread Frozen Custard, only available at the Granville Inn, looks like a tasty tribute to the inn’s iced raisin bread.

The cornbread crusted catfish Po Boy on a buttered bun from Lucky Cat Farm in Pataskala, together with the hand-formed, chargrilled ground beef patty topped with Mayfield Road smoked gouda and crisp bacon on a house-made bun, were delicious.  I’m ready to go back and try more.

The Granville Inn was the perfect place to celebrate my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary.

At the Granville Inn

They were married on May 30, 1968.

May 30, 1968


Posted in Architecture, Food, History | Leave a comment

Revolutionary Thinking Went On In The Cow And Pig Man’s Study

A 40-story modernist skyscraper seems like an unlikely home for a picturesque Colonial Revival scene, but that’s exactly what I found at the end of a busy corridor at One Nationwide Plaza in downtown Columbus.Murray Lincoln's study, Nationwide Insurance

A dimly-lit wood-paneled room with exposed hand-hewn ceiling beams is furnished with a twin bed covered with a handmade quilt, a braided rag rug, a pierced tin lantern, a pewter-filled sideboard, ladderback chairs, and firearms hanging over a mantel. All it needs is a spinning wheel and a demure lady in colonial dress baking an apple pie on the hearth, and it would look just like one of Wallace Nutting’s hand-tinted “Old America” photographs that were so popular during the early years of the 20th century.

To commemorate Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company’s 25th anniversary in 1951, Nationwide executives presented their leader, Murray Danforth Lincoln, with this reproduction of a room in a traditional 18th-century New England farm house. Installed as a small study next to Lincoln’s office, it was his special retreat. Today, it is a reminder of how humble beginnings shaped the mission of one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world.

The room was the last stop on a recent tour of the Nationwide Library and History and Archives Center that was organized by the local chapters of the Association for Information Science and Technology and the Special Libraries Association. Since the library and archives are available only to Nationwide employees, the tour was a special opportunity to learn about the company’s history, the evolution of its products and services, and how its heritage helps to engage associates.

For the better part of my life, I’ve associated Nationwide with its catchy slogan and seven-note jingle: “Nationwide Is On Your Side.”  However, after seeing that room, I determined to learn more about the man who founded and led Nationwide from 1938 until his retirement in 1962.

To do so, I tracked down the nearest first-edition copy of Vice President in Charge of Revolution, Lincoln’s memoir that McGraw-Hill published in 1960. “It’s been a few years since somebody has checked this out, Betsy – like 40,” Cindy said as she added the book to my circulation record at the State Library of Ohio.

Frontispiece and title page, Murray Lincoln's Vice President in Charge of RevolutionWhen I saw Lincoln’s picture by Yousuf Karsh, the great portrait photographer, opposite the title page, I started to realize why my grandfather and others of his generation held Lincoln in such esteem.

Born on April 18, 1892, Lincoln grew up on a farm outside Raynham, Massachusetts. After he studied farming at Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts), he took a job in 1914 as the first paid county agricultural agent in New London, Connecticut. That was Lincoln’s foray into cooperatives, a practical way to help farmers make more money by buying goods at less-expensive prices and selling their own products to consumers, rather than relying on a distributor.

The next year, Lincoln became an agricultural agent for a Brockton, Massachusetts bank. There, he established a “pig club” in which the bank bought pigs, and then children bought the pigs on money borrowed from the bank, raised and sold them, and repaid the bank from the proceeds. The club helped the local pig population, taught schoolchildren about caring for animals and being thrifty, and provided good public relations for the bank.

These unique projects led Lincoln to attract the attention of Myron T. Herrick, a Cleveland lawyer and bank president who had served as governor of Ohio from 1904 to 1906, and would later be appointed twice as ambassador to France. Herrick wanted to do something similar in Ohio, so he invited Lincoln to become his “cow and pig man” at the Cleveland Society for Savings in 1917. During his time in Cleveland, Lincoln went to night school to study public speaking, banking law and advertising.

After World War I, farmers had trouble getting by, as prices for things they needed rose faster than the prices they received for their products. In 1919, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation was founded to help farmers’ purchasing power, and Lincoln became its executive secretary in March 1920. He, his wife, Anne, and their four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, known as Betty, moved to Columbus.

As Lincoln embarked upon several projects, including rural electric and farm credit cooperatives, he realized that farmers weren’t receiving fair automobile insurance rates. Rates were geared to the accidents and claims of urban drivers, not rural ones, so the Federation set up its own mutual automobile insurance company in 1926. Farmers served as volunteer agents, selling good auto insurance without commission, at much lower rates. This helped the Federation become the second largest mutual auto insurer in the country, even though it was only represented in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Later, it began insuring motorists in metropolitan areas and started writing property insurance policies after purchasing a fire insurance company.

Photo of Murray Lincoln sitting in his study,  next to the recreation of it at Nationwide Insurance

Photo of Murray Lincoln sitting in his study, next to the recreation of it at Nationwide Insurance

In 1948, the Federation separated from its insurance business, and Lincoln chose to stay with insurance. Headquartered at 246 North High Street in downtown Columbus, Farm Bureau Insurance planned to expand its operating territory to other states, so it changed its name to Nationwide Insurance in 1955.

Under Lincoln’s leadership, Nationwide became involved in more than insurance. In 1947, it began radio broadcasting farm news and agribusiness daily to the regional agricultural market under the frequency, WRFD (Rural Free Delivery), with its studios and transmitter located north of Columbus in rural Delaware County.

Nationwide also ventured into real estate under Lincoln’s leadership. The post-World War II housing shortage inspired Nationwide to demonstrate how a cooperative could work in the housing market. In 1948, it established a real estate development subsidiary called Peoples Development Company (later called Nationwide Development Company). Its most notable endeavor was developing affordable, attractive housing near the Westinghouse Electric and General Motors plants on Route 40, the National Road, in Prairie Township on the west side of Columbus.

Lincoln envisioned a new kind of neighborhood, a “model city” with more than 800 single-family homes, apartments, its own shopping center, parks, churches, schools, a library and other amenities. In 1953, construction began on the 1,170-acre Lincoln Village, named in honor of Murray Lincoln.  The neighborhood still exists today.

Lincoln Village’s model homes included the open floor plan of the “Deerhaven,” the Colonial Cape Cod “Woodhaven” and the saltbox-style “Stowbridge.” Its winding streets were named after towns and symbols of Lincoln’s home state of Massachusetts, such as Beacon Hill Road, Revere Court, Musket Way, Sturbridge Road and Deerfield Road.

The development also included the Lincoln Lodge Motel, a five-acre complex that was also named after Lincoln. The 135-room, Colonial-themed motel opened in 1956 and featured a swimming pool, a golf course, and a restaurant popular for its Sunday-night German buffet and Friday-night “seafood jamboree.” In the 1970s, the golf course was sold and the land was turned into a shopping center. In the 1990s, parts of the motel were torn down and the remaining structure was redeveloped into an assisted-living facility known today as National Church Residences’ Lincoln Village.  Click here to see a vintage postcard of the motel.

Lincoln wrote that his aim in life was not to make money, but “to find out what people need, and then help them get it as quickly and inexpensively as possible.” No matter how successful Nationwide became, Lincoln remained the same grounded New Englander who stayed true to what his grandfather taught him. One was a proper respect for things, and the other was good housekeeping.

“When we had finally grown large enough so that I could have a company car, I made up my mind that this was one thing, at least, which would be properly cared for – washed, cleaned, oiled, greased, and gassed for use whenever it was needed,” Lincoln wrote in Vice President for Revolution. “Today, we keep a fleet of executive cars for our vice presidents and other staff people. I am still enough my grandfather’s child to check these cars from time to time and to warn my vice presidents that if they are given company cars they ought to appreciate them well enough to take care of them.”

During a routine stop at a gasoline station in the 1930s, Lincoln made the acquaintance of Eddie Wagner, my grandfather’s grade-school classmate and First Communion partner. Wagner became Lincoln’s personal driver; then, he traded the driver’s seat for a desk chair at Nationwide.

Lincoln joined John W. Galbreath and others in establishing and belonging to the River Ridge Riding Club, once located in the vicinity of 3115 Henderson Road. In 1923, the Lincolns became the first owners of a shingle-sided home at 1234 West First Avenue in Grandview Heights. (The home was featured in the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society’s 2004 Tour of Homes.) Murray Lincoln's home

The large pine tree in the yard was planted in honor of Betty Lincoln’s 10th birthday in 1925. The Lincolns moved from the home and Grandview in 1936, five years after 14-year-old Betty died of a heart attack after a week-long illness.

“I cannot, to this day, find words to discuss that tragedy,” Lincoln wrote on pages 158 and 159 of Vice President of Revolution. “Betty’s life was full and happy – and brief. I did not enjoy much of it with her because during those years in which she was growing up I was busy with a thousand matters, all of which seemed terribly important. Not all of them were. I sometimes wonder whether any of them were, compared to some days with my daughter that I might have had.”

Murray Lincoln's home, in Vice President of RevolutionLater, Lincoln and his wife lived at 5099 Sunbury Road, where he relaxed by helping with farm chores. The New England-style home pictured in Vice President of Revolution is no longer standing. Lincoln also maintained his love of rural life through his friendship with Louis Bromfield, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who experimented with sustainable farming practices at his Malabar Farm near Mansfield.

Lincoln passed away on November 7, 1966. His funeral service was held at First Community Church, and he is buried at Blendon Central Cemetery in Westerville. Mourners were encouraged to make a donation to CARE, a cooperative for Americans to use in sending relief packages to Europe; Lincoln served as CARE’s first president from 1945 to 1957.Murray Lincoln's grave, Blendon Central Cemetery, Westerville

Lincoln concluded Vice President of Revolution with a story about John Dewey, the American philosopher and teacher. During his last illness, Dewey advised his wife to call Lincoln about a problem she was having about a small business she owned, because Lincoln was an honest man and knew something about business. “I’m not making any plans to have an epitaph written for myself, but that’s how I’d like to be remembered,” Lincoln wrote.

Posted in Books, Columbus, History | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

Franklin County Law Library

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

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

Franklin County Law Library

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

Franklin County Law Library

 This Viking Oak wingback chair…

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

Franklin County Law Library

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

Franklin County Law Library

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

Franklin County Law Library

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

Posted in Columbus, Libraries | Leave a comment