If you read here regularly you know I somewhat pride myself on being knowledgeable about the nooks and crannies traveling throughout the tri-state region. Be it chili parlors, baseball pit-stops, or generally intriguing tourist traps. This summer, like last summer and likely the one before it (I haven’t been out of the country since Montreal, 2009) has been the season of staycation. I can honestly say my first summer off as an educator has been chocked full of mini-trips, mainly being the reason WOW has kept quiet in these months. I’m catching up. Be on the lookout. But for now I want to purge what was perhaps my best voyage. Little did I know about the hidden gem hidden in Southern Indiana known as the “Athens of the Prairie.” There’s a guy Eugene who frequently is a patron during my bar shifts – he sits alone, reads, eats, and goes out to smoke a lot. Our conversations usually end up leading towards our equal love of seeking out the world’s best architecture. One night in July he couldn’t believe I’d never heard of Columbus, Indiana. So based on what he told me and what I learned on my own (thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia) it soon became a priority destination. A few weeks back, Patti (mom), Adam (bro), and myself made the four hour pilgrimage, about 40 minutes outside of Indianapolis, to discover a community built and designed like no other in Midwest.
Long story short (find it yourself and read it) – the man who made the town, J. Irwin Miller (founder of the Cummins Engine Company), wanted to invest in Columbus to be that community built and designed like no other. So he began to contribute his own funds to the city as long as they chose an architect from his list. First it was a church (pictured above) by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and then it was the bank downtown (pictured below)by his more renowned son, Eero, it boiled over to schools, and the library, city hall, and eventually even the jail. It quickly became a canvas for inventive architects and landscape sculptors.
Just pulling into town you could tell that Columbus had become a magnet for aspiring modern and post-modern architects, and it rubbed off on many of the residents, who you can see all wanted to own a home unique to their peaceful and extremely flat environment. This is of course, not to mention the many examples of classical architecture that already formed the bulk of Columbus before Miller became bent for the future. Miller’s private home, commissioned for Eero to design, is a feat of architecture that is said to parallel Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, just recently opened to the public – and on this day and many days into the future entrance to the home was sold out. But we did get to see what many consider Eero’s masterpiece, the North Christian Church (pictured above, which we dubbed Jesus’ spaceship), finished after the architect had passed. It was the finale of a very informative bus tour through the highlights of Indiana’s architecture. We soon learned though, it’s a walking city, and many of the treasures not found on the tour can be found within a mile radius of the Tourist Center (itself a known piece of architecture.
We certainly didn't see it all. Which will definitely prompt a return visit. But just the chunk we did see was enough to be inspired by American ingenuity. It was a bit Eerie, Indiana, or Pleasantville (visit the century old soda parlor for proof), yet still balanced by a World's Fair (or Tomorrowland) type of vision. And....on your way home you can visit the Hoosier's Gym in Knightstown and the Warm Glow Candle Company, off of I-70. Go there.
Some extra sites:
The Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I.M. Pei.
The aforementioned county jail building.
The local newspaper.
The post office.
The Entrance to Cummins Engine Company HQ.
I suppose this is where you deal with your cable bill.