Saturday, March 29, 2014

Indiana, Land of Architecture and Ice Cream

It's getting to the point where I've been everywhere that a 5 hour drive from St. Louis on the interstate can get you. One of the few remaining major cities on that shrinking list was Indianapolis, so that, friends, is where we went.

The hotel situation in Indianapolis proper was on the expensive side, so we made Columbus, Indiana our headquarters. This made sense especially because many of our 1000 places to see before you die in the USA and Canada destinations were in the southern part of the state.

The morning after our arrival we set out to explore Columbus. Columbus is a city of around 45,000 people, and I would say that it has more cool architecture per inhabitant than any place I've ever been. Local rich guy J. Irwin Miller decided that he wanted to live in a city that looked awesome all over, so he set up a program where he would pay for the architectural fees if the city agreed to choose from a list of architects that he selected when it came time to build things. As a result, many of the churches, banks, schools, and so forth are way more excellent than they have any right to be. The city has a couple structures done by Eero Saarinen, who also designed the St. Louis Arch.

After some car touring we stopped at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor. I would say that this place alone was worth the drive to Indiana. It opened in 1900, and they have done such a fine job keeping the place authentic that it felt like a time machine must have been involved.

According to an IN.Gov page here Zaharakos features:

"two Mexican onyx soda fountains from the 1904 World’s Fair, a Tiffany-style stained-glass and marble lamp from 1905 and a 1908 self-playing Welte Orchestrion (think of a self-playing piano on a much grander scale)."

Even the ubiquitous plastic straw had been eschewed in favor of a thick paper old-timey one. This has to be the first time I've used a paper straw. I liked them so much that I considered buying some in the gift shop. Then I remembered I'm a cheapskate. I had a Gom Sandwich, which was a cross between a grilled cheese and a sloppy joe. Ridiculously good.

Somehow I didn't get a picture of the orchestrion but it was very impressive.

File:Welte Concert Orchestrion (style 6, no198, 1895) (1).jpg
Wikipedia had a picture of a similar one. It was like a mechanical orchestra. It had a paper roll with music on it that the machine could read like a self playing piano. The invention of radio and the electric record player in the 1920s removed the need for these giant machines.

There were several similar (but smaller) machines in a side room that appeared to be coin operated. So cool!

I was also impressed with the fancy soda fountain equipment on display.

On the way to Madison, IN we stopped for a sign indicating an antique store. It was located in a ghost strip mall that was quite spooky.

We arrived at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site about a half an hour too late, and it was closed. Ho hum.

Lastly we drove all the way out to Story, IN, which was really in the middle of nowhere. We decided that there must not be a heck of a lot going on in the state of Indiana if this little place got it's own entry in the Book. Well, we marked it off our list anyway!

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