Tag: History (Page 1 of 2)

Visiting Louis Sullivan’s First Jewel Box Bank: Owatonna, MN

This Minne-RoadTrip series of posts is sponsored by Visit Owatonna, Visit Faribaultand Visiting Northfield

I used to think architecture was boring. This all changed during a North Iowa bloggers tour in Chicago. One of our scheduled actives was going on an architecture boat tour. I thought it was going to be really boring but it wasn’t.

Just like how food’s never really just about the food, architecture isn’t just about the buildings. Architecture is art. The stories of buildings are the stories of people and their eras.

Located minutes from I-35 traveling north and south between Minnesota and Iowa is architect Louis Sullivan’s first and well-preserved Jewel Box Banks built in 1908.

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Interesting Things I Learned In Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail Part I: The Trail & Mules

For having grown up playing The Oregon Trail a lot, I don’t know much about the Oregon Trail.

Am I finally reaching the age where I can’t remember things well, or did we gloss over this in grade school? Anyway, this is what I thought I knew about the Oregon Trail: Pioneer people traveled by covered wagons pulled by oxen to Oregon and California in search of land and the gold rush. Many died of dysentery.

Please don’t make fun of me.

I randomly picked up the book The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck at the library and now I’m obsessed with the Oregon Trail. That’s usually how it goes, eh?

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To Reach The Top Of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, You Have To Ride In A Tiny Pod

I had the most St. Louis Day that began at the Arch and ended at Busch Stadium. My folks came to visit the city for the first time and so we toured our new hometown together.


The Gateway Arch is visible from all over the city and it’s really a majestic sight to behold. Usually, I don’t initiate trips to tall observation decks, but the Arch is an iconic St. Louis symbol and climbing to the top felt like the St. Louis thing to do. Plus, admission to the top is only $10, unlike Seattle’s Space Needle or Chicago’s Hancock and Willis Towers which will run you at least $20 per adult.

The Gateway Arch is located on National Park Service grounds. It’s actually the “tallest man-made national monument in the United States.” Park grounds also include the Old Courthouse where Dred Scott and his family sued for freedom from slavery from 1847-1850 during their first two trials.

One can visit the Old Court House and wander around the exterior of the arch for free


My folks are grabbing a photo opportunity

Although the observation deck windows aren’t visible in my photos, you can see them from the outside. This side of the arch is flat while the other contains the elevators.



It’s like finding the end of a rainbow.

Don’t forget to bring a hat or shades on a warm sunny day. You may have to walk a few blocks from your parking deck or meter and the light reflects off all of the metal and white concrete.


Before you arrive, realize that you have to reserve your tickets online, over the phone (877-982-1410), or in person at least two hours ahead of time. They are available at the Gateway Arch Ticketing & Visitor Center located Old Courthouse located about two blocks away.

An employee explained that the Ticketing and Visitors Center will eventually move back into the arch facility when construction is complete. With tickets in hand, we passed through the security station and monitored the screen above the North Tram that indicated what time slots could board.


Next, we waited for our elevator assignments. Each elevator, or, as I like to call them, Arch pods, holds five seats. A park ranger will assign visitors to pods, making sure to keep members of a party together. This might mean that you have to wait for the next seating unless you feel comfortable sitting with strangers.

The pods are tiny and the seats are so close together that even if you were strangers before the ride, you probably won’t be afterwards. . .


We were assigned to pod eight.

Before the pod doors open, visitors view a short film providing some background about the Arch. It all has a very retro and sci-fi feel.

Arch pod

After you climb into the pod and hunch into your seat, the doors will close and the four-minute ascent to the top of the Arch begins. It’s four minutes exactly; we timed it. The little pod will creak and rock as it climbs to the top of the Arch, and you can watch all of the stairs and cables and pulleys it passes out of the clear front doors.


I was surprised to find that the observation deck is a long and narrow carpeted space reminiscent of the inside of an airplane. The windows are long and narrow. Short people like me will need to kneel on the carpeted ledge that runs beneath the windows.

By the time we reached the other end of the space, a team of electricians entered. One of them was more than happy to talk to us about the inner workings of the elevator system and explained how the cables are replaced every other year whether they need to be or not.


The space inside the observation deck can feel claustrophobic, especially if it’s filled with other visitors. However, it’s fun to see landmarks like the stadium and river from 630 feet.

When you’re ready to return to the bottom of the Arch, line up for the next elevator rides down. This time gravity is on your side and the descent only takes three-minutes. People who fear heights and small, enclosed spaces may struggle with the Gateway’s “Journey to the Top.”


The inside of the Arch facility contains restrooms, drinking fountains, two gift shops and a small theater that plays the documentary Monument to the Dream every 45-minutes. A cafe and dock for riverboat cruises are also located on the park grounds. With temperatures hitting the 90’s, we skipped the dock and walked to the Old Courthouse.


You’ll find statues of Dred Scott and his wife outside the courthouse. Between 1847-1850, Dred Scott’s first two court trials in which he and his family sued for freedom from slavery took place here. At that time, a Missouri statute stated that “any person, black or white, held in wrongful enslavement could sue for freedom.”

Eventually, Scott’s case reached the United States Supreme Court which denied him citizenship solely because of the color of his skin and declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional in 1857. This PBS essay states that after the Supreme Court verdict, Scott’s former master’s sons “purchased Scott and his wife and set them free.” He died nine months later.


The courthouse rotunda’s three floors are open for visitors to explore (currently, the courthouse’s elevator lift is out of service). There is also an exhibit on the first floor where we learned more about Dred and Harriet Scott through photographs, documents, and a film.

We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of learning about our new hometown. There are so many opportunities to learn about history, see art, listen to music, and dive into local food traditions. Like many have mentioned, we also appreciate that so many attractions are either free to visit or very affordable.

Our friends and family in the upper Midwest are always on our minds, but we’re truly having a lot of fun here. We hope you get to visit St. Louis sometime in your lifetime.

We Tried On Jane Young’s Hats & Gazed at Oculi: Webster City Part II

Disclaimer: Deb Brown, Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited me to spend a day in Webster City as part of the “Six Bloggers on a Saturday” tour. All opinions are my own.

Last weekend, I joined six North Iowan bloggers on a one-hour road trip south to Webster City, Iowa for a bloggers tour. Deb coordinated visits to ten local shops, two historical sites, one restaurant, and a drive through a holiday lights display all within the span of seven hours. I broke kringla with the Mayor and found solace in pottery in Part I. This sequel is all about history. Join me on a photo journey through the Jane Young House & Kendall Young Library. If you’re fond of retro hats and grand, old libraries, this post’s for you.

Jane Young House
It’s hard to believe this huge house has moved twice, but it has. The Jane Young house currently rests next to the Kendall Young Library which seems perfectly fitting.

House Deb intro wm

Deb Brown introduces us to the house.

The Women’s Club occupies the house and offers tours by appointment. JoAnn and Loween. . . errr. . . I mean Jane Young and her maid began the tour by introducing themselves.

Jane Young's Maid Wm
Kendall Young was a man who pursued all sorts of adventures in the 1800’s. Originally born in Maine in 1820, he went on to fish off of the coast of Labrador, farm in Wisconsin, and chase the California Gold Rush in covered wagons. Jane described how Young brought his fortune home by tying nuggets into his jacket and pouring gold dust into his boots. His heavy boots made it difficult to walk, so he told others they were specially designed to accommodate his “foot condition.”

Apparently, it worked. No one took his gold and he started a paper business with a friend in Iowa. His path frequently crossed paths with Jane Underdown who he would later marry in Webster City.

Jane Young Collage Wm

Jane Young is pictured throughout the home.

Kendall formed Webster City’s First National Bank where he served as President and built the Jane Young house in 1874. unfortunately, he and Jane only lived here together for fourteen years. Jane struggled with her health and moved to Battle Creek Sanitarium where she lived until her death. As Jane’s maid told us about her final chapter of life, she apologized to Jane for speaking about her death in her presence.

I found a display about the Battle Creek Sanitarium particularly interesting. It listed the facility’s other notable patients such as Mary Todd Lincoln and our 29th President Warren Harding. The display also described some of sanitarium’s treatment procedures including electric shock therapy and a chair that violently shook patients.

We had the most fun in the hat room.

Up the stairs wm

Jane Young herself leads us up the winding staircase.

The photo below doesn’t even begin to do Jane’s hat room justice. This little room contained rows and rows of fantastic, retro hats.

hats models wm

Of course, we had to try them on.

Group with hats wm

Other rooms contained period pieces. I especially liked these big, heavy trunks equipped to hang clothes.


Kendall passed away in 1896 and willed his estate to Webster City for the purpose of establishing a public library. This came as a surprise to many, as he had once declined a library fundraising request from a woman named Theresa Treat replying, “the ladies would never be able to raise enough money for a proper library.” I suppose we never really do know what kinds of seeds we are planting in other people’s minds.

At the end of the tour, we bid our lovely tour guides adieu and headed next door to visit the library.

The Kendall Young Library
I love libraries. I practically spent my childhood at the library where I would take home bags of books which I poured over by flashlight long after my parents called lights’ out. The Kendall Young Library is majestic. Thanks to the Young’s generous donation (and those from many others), the public library continues to be funded without government support.

Library exterior wm

When we first entered the library, we gazed upwards in wonder. “It’s an oculus!” Amy gleefully exclaimed.

Oculus wm


“Is that like an eye?” I asked?



Children’s Librarian Angie was thrilled to give us a quick tour even though we arrived near closing. I felt like I was at Hogwarts wandering between these grand rows of library shelves.

Library shelves wm

The children’s department is located on the bottom floor. We found it magically decorated with a tree trunk embedded into the wall and a Christmas tree adorned with a sparkly gum drop garlands. The librarians add special touches throughout the department to make young people’s visits extra special. Patrons can find bookmarks crafted by local seniors at the front desk, plus a basket of plastic book bags the librarians carefully fold into tiny triangles.

A large room dedicated to children’s programming is also located downstairs. It’s equipped with sinks for craft projects and blank walls for projecting movies. On the way out, we admired the the Lego Club’s creations. I was especially fond of May’s Cafe.

Library Collage mn

The library also houses a collection of 170 dolls and Native American artifacts. For more information about library programming, visit their Facebook page which staff frequently update.

Coming up next:
A post about meat cutlets & a recipe for my weeknight chicken parmesan & Webster City Part III: Shopping & lunch at Grid Iron Grill. The Every Bar in Mason City Quest will resume soon!

Webster City Part III Teaser Collage

Sneak peek at our lunch at Grid Iron Grill

Special thanks to JoAnn Robb and Loween Getter, our lovely tour guides of the Webster City Women’s Club and Angie Martin-Schwarze of the Kendall Young Library. 

Five More Reasons To Visit Springfield, Illinois

The third Springfield post’s a charm.

A couple of weeks ago, Sara of Travel with Sara invited me to join her on a road trip to Springfield, Illinois, the land of Lincoln. The Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau had graciously invited her to visit and arranged all of our lodging, dining and activities. When she said she had room for one more, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.

Learn about why the Lincoln Ghost Walk was my most memorable experience and what Springfield foods we ate.

This third and final Springfield post will focus on the stuff between. We experienced as much of Springfield as possible within our 36 hours. Here are five more reasons to visit Springfield:

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
I confess I haven’t visited many museums, post-college, except for the occasional art museum. When I grew up, my folks took my brother and I to museums during every vacation and I know we’re all the better for it.

I hope you’ll believe me when I say that the Lincoln Museum is worth a visit.

Musum Exterior.jpg

A museum employee will greet you upon entering and offer a minute-long guide to exploring the museum. Our guide highly recommended that, if nothing else, we attend the museum’s two videos presentations Ghosts of the Library and Lincoln’s Eyes. I was not sure what to expect, but found them both engaging.

This replica of the Lincoln family is located in the lobby entrance.


A figure of John Wilks Booth lurks around the corner and I can only imagine what would happen if like Night at a Museum occurred here after dark. Fortunately, I think the Lincoln family mannequins far outnumber those of Booth.

Ghosts of the Library utilized holograms that explained the museum and library’s mission to preserve Lincoln-era memorabilia and educate the public about this period of history. The museum continually receives historical items people randomly find or donate. Lincoln’s Eyes explains how the presidency affected Lincoln and his family on a personal level. People who are easily startled should know the seats shake during parts of the presentation.

The museum features many life-sized displays depicting different parts of Lincoln’s life, but my favorite corner was the Treasures Gallery displaying items like the Lincoln family’s letters and clothing. You can find more original pieces in the Lincoln home.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site
In 1887, Lincoln’s son Robert donated the family home to the National Park service as long as they maintained it and allowed the public to visit free of charge. The home is located on a four block stretch that the park service has renovated as closely to Lincoln’s time as possible. It’s the only national parkland in the state.


Park rangers lead small groups on tours through the home. Reserve a free ticket at the main park building. If the site is busy, you may have to wait for a tour which leaves an opportunity to explore the rest of the historic site. Several of the restored homes are open for viewing.

One employee facilitated an interactive demonstration on how women in Lincoln’s time washed clothes. She invited the children to participate and we, adults, were more than happy to oblige as they eagerly volunteered.

CLothes Demo.jpg

When it was time for our tour, the park ranger advised us to hold our bags closely so they didn’t scrape the home. We viewed some of the Lincolns’ original belongings including a horsehair furniture set, Mary’s cake stand, and stove. We also got to use their original stair railing, which the ranger called “shaking hands with Lincoln.”

Mary's Room

Mary and Abraham slept in separate, connected bedrooms. This was Mary’s.

The house is also decorated with items from the Lincoln era or replicas based on photos, such as Mary’s wallpaper. I especially loved wandering the neighborhood at night when it felt like I was stepping back in time, but don’t miss the opportunity to visit the site during the day when it’s staffed by knowledgable rangers.

Washington Park Botanical Gardens
We caught a moment of serenity as we wandered through Washington Park and its botanical gardens.

Park Walking.jpg

Sara walks up the hill towards the Thomas Reese Memorial Carillon.

The rose garden reminded me of the Lyndale Park Rose Garden by Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, MN. We arrived at the botanical gardens just in time to take a peek before closing.

Botanical Orange.jpg

We were mesmerized by all of the flowers and the singing birds.

Botanical Sky Lights.jpg

There are 150 species of plants growing just within this conservatory. Admission is free.

Lincoln Tomb
The Lincoln Tomb is located in the Oak Ridge Cemetary and is open to visitors free of charge.

Vertical Monument

Abraham, Mary and their three sons Edward, Willie, and Tad rest in this tomb. One of my readers shared that it’s tradition to rub Lincoln’s nose for “luck” while visiting the tomb. Of course, we had to participate. The statue is elevated and I saw adults hoisting up their family members just for this opportunity.

LIncoln Nose

Korean War, Vietnam War, and Word War II memorials are also located at the cemetery.

Phil Kadner explains why people should visit Lincoln’s tomb in his Post Tribune article, though, I would broaden his plea to the entire city when he says:

“It is difficult, even now, despite the books about his life and the movie, to comprehend just how beloved and reviled Lincoln was at the time of his death. Many schoolchildren will likely be forced to see “Lincoln,” through school outings or by well-intentioned parents. Do them a favor and take a trip down to Springfield. Take them to the tomb. 

At Oak Ridge Cemetery, you can feel the meaning behind the words.”

Route 66 Drive In
We ended our road trip on a lighthearted note, by going to the Route 66 Drive In. The Drive In is located next to Knight’s Action Park, so we mini-golfed while we waited for dusk.

Goft Collage

This drive in features two movie screens on opposite sides of the sprawling parking lot that show a pair of movies, back-to-back. The employee listed our film choices of cars, robots and apes so we chose apes, of course! We brought plenty of treats including Del’s popcorn the Chamber had left in our hotel room and Beth’s addictive Fish Snack Mix.

People trickled in as it got darker and darker.

Sara fully expected to dislike Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but ended up getting a kick out of the film as the plot thickened. I never expected that apes would make me feel so emotional. “Oh no,” I kept thinking, these battling monkeys are going to make me cry and that’s how I’m going to leave Springfield.” Plus, Sara might laugh.

Drive In Movie

In the end, all was well. The apes did not make me cry and so Sara did not have to laugh (at me, at least).

Springfield surprised me. I expected to have fun exploring a new place, but I didn’t expect the city to move me so profoundly. If you pursue the loves of food and history, you’ll want to experience this city for yourself.

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