Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Midwest Experience: Columbus, Indiana

On Saturday we took a small road trip down to Columbus, IN. It's only about 45 minutes south of here, which is never an issue of distance for me - that's the equivalent of Cedar to St. George, which my friends and I frequently drove for a Cafe Rio salad or a line dancing fix.

Initially we planned on going for the one day showing of The Saratov Approach, a movie that I've heard a lot of good things about from friends and family back in Utah. But we had also heard multiple times that we needed to see the architecture in Columbus, so we added in a tour to our excursion. I'm so glad we did - it ended up being the best part of the day. For the full experience you should make your way there some day! But for the partial experience, read on...

To give you an idea of how impressive the design in this city of 44,000 is, you should know that they are ranked 6th in the nation for architectural design and innovation. The five cities ahead of them are New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington D.C. And then, Columbus, IN. Crazy hidden gem, right? Our tour had 5 people on it that day: the two of us, our two friends Chris and Kristin, and a furniture designer from Denmark who came here just to research and tour. Our guide said she frequently has designers and architects coming from Europe and all over, because Columbus is on their bucket list.

Pictured above is the First Christian Church, which was built in 1942 and was the first contemporary building in Columbus - and one of the first churches in American to be built in contemporary style. There is so much asymmetry there, which was almost unheard of among church buildings at that time. The cross, the altar, even the clock on the tower outside are all off center and balanced with other elements. There is so much natural light in the chapel, and the hanging lamps you see on the right are in the style of Christian oil lamps.

This is a close up of a door in the First Christian Church. If you could see it closer, you'd notice that every single screw is turned with the line exactly vertical. Details like that were all over inside. The architect, Saarinen, was hesitant to build the church at first but was then intrigued by this request from the reverend's daughter:
"Our town is small and there are all sorts and conditions of men. While we should like the church to be beautiful, we do not want the first reaction to be, how much did the church cost. We want the poorest women in town to feel at home there and able to worship her God in those surroundings."
He was told that the church should show that the people in Columbus were focused on a rich inner life and a simple outer life. So, the minimalist modern design came to be, and put Columbus on a forward-thinking path. Cummins, Inc. is headquartered in Columbus, and a program began in which the Cummins company would pay architects' fees if the client would select an architect from a list provided by J. Irwin Miller (the CEO of Cummins behind the initiative). So, schools, businesses, the hospital, the post office - they are all art. Guys, even the jail is beautiful. There are also public art pieces throughout the city that bring a lot of character.

Our tour guide was adorable. She was living in Columbus, OH when she and her husband visited Columbus, IN for a weekend. They went on the architecture tour and loved the city so much that they moved there just three months later. And now she's volunteering as a tour guide on the tour she loved back in 2000. The tour is a two-hour bus ride with stops in the First Christian Church and the hospital. There were countless sites to learn about - just glance at the list of National Historic Landmarks in the city and you'll get an idea.

Lincoln Park in Columbus is a beautifully landscaped public space with an amphitheater, pond, observation tower, playgrounds, skate park, etc. It used to be nicknamed "Death Valley" because it was basically a swampy mess, but volunteers from the community cleaned it up and then it was landscaped into a beautiful hilly area. We are so ready to take our bikes down there! The snow was beautiful, but we're definitely looking forward to going back down on a day with more sun, and more green.

Our tour ended full circle at the visitor's center, where the "Yellow Neon Chandelier" hangs, designed by Dale Chihuly. It was a gift to the town, and hangs beautifully over the staircase at the center. So many gems throughout Columbus!

This arch was sandcast in 50 sections in Germany, then arrived in Columbus in one piece. It stands in the library plaza, and if you catch the right angle it perfectly frames the First Christian Church and clock tower.

After two hours of architectural wonder, we went to lunch at Zaharakos, an ice cream parlor and museum. One of the best parts was a restored Orchestrion from the 1870s that played us loud, incredible tunes while we ate and tried to hear each other. You can read about the restoration of it here, which is intensive and fascinating. Another music machine is pictured above - this one had banjos. We were just having a lot of fun in there.

They also have a collection of marble soda fountains. Aren't they so pretty? Now I am questioning the legitimacy of the year of my life I spent working at an ice cream parlor/soda fountain in Cedar City. It just didn't compare, guys. But we did have killer Providence Crunch ice cream which you don't even know about because it was a signature recipe that now no longer exists. So at least there's that.

We had so much fun exploring Columbus that day. After the tour and fountain, we went to an early showing of The Saratov Approach with a few other friends who drove down from Indy. I thought the movie was great, and it made me realize how out of the loop kids are. How do I not remember missionaries being kidnapped in Russia? I feel like I was old enough then to at least be aware of it. But I was just playing with my friends, eating Providence Crunch ice cream. That's probably exactly what I should have been doing, actually.

So that was our Columbus day! Definitely a highlight of our midwest adventuring. Come visit :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...