There's More Than Corn In Indiana...
...and Indiana Beach. And the Indy 500. And Purdue. This week I got to check out the town of Crawfordsville. It was the Rotary County Jail that initially led me to this place. A jail that was build in 1881 to rotate to let prisoners in and out through the one door way.
The main idea was that it would only need one guard per floor. There were 8 wedge-shaped cells on each of the two floors. When a inmate needed to come out, the guard would use a manual mechanism (hand crank) that would spin the cells in a complete circle to align the doors. In theory, a pretty good idea. In reality, not so much. These cells didn't take off very well because well, prisoners' body parts may have gotten stuck and smashed while the cell was moving. Definitely not ideal. Due to the fact it was the start of Labor Day weekend, I was not able to go inside. It was definitely closed. But alas, it led me to walk around the rest of the town.
The Joshua Cup coffee house, was a delightful stumble. A very unassuming coffee shop, looks more like a townhome, which as one point it might have been. Inside, it has all your staples on their chalkboard menu. Non-dairy milks available! Hoo-Ray! Matcha Latte with almond milk coming right up. Not the strongest matcha flavor but still good. Since this shop was most likely a townhome in a previous life, it still has all three floors intact and available for seating. While a bit barren, they have gorgeous exposed brick and tables and chairs and couches on each floor. Cool shop, looks like they have some delicious, tasty, homemade treats as well. I'd totally go back.
Further down the road you can find the Carnegie Museum. Up until 2005, this was the Crawfordsville Carnegie Library. The first Carnegie library to open up in Indiana when Andrew Carnegie donated $25,000 for its construction in 1901. It was one of 1,679 libraries built in the US funded by him. If he donated that much for each of the libraries... that's almost $42 million to ensure people have access to reading and learning! What a guy! And that's just one of his many acts of philanthropy! Today, inside you can find a glimpse of Crawfordsville history. From notable people such as Maurine Dallas Watkins who wrote "Chicago" as a class assignment (the rights were later purchased by Bob Fosse), jazz musician brothers Sydney and Wilbur de Paris, and astronaut Joseph Allen to Hoosier basketball to machinery from days of the past. It's pretty neat inside and best of all, its a free!
The town is flooded with history! It doesn't end there either. A few more blocks away is General Lew Wallace's property. If you don't know this man by name, you may have heard of some of his work. Ben-Hur for example or The Battle of Monocacy (shout out to all the Frederickan readers!). As the historian working at the museum said, Wallace was an intellectual with sever A.D.D. He couldn't just do one thing so he did (almost) everything. By his death his titles included: lawyer, Union general, governor of New Mexico territory, politician, diplomat, author and artist.
He couldn't handle school so he dropped out. He talk himself law from all the books he could get his hands on and passed the bar exam (back then you didn't need to go to law school to actually take the exam). He was also fascinated by war and the military and at 19 he joined the War of Mexico. When the Civil War swept the nation, he became commander and then general and fought in the Battle of Shiloh and Monocacy! His quick and smart decision making at the Battle of Monocacy, despite losing the battle, helped the Union win the war. As governor of New Mexico territory, he dealt with Billy The Kid. Wallace made a deal with him to testify again another murder and he'd be acquitted of all his past crimes. After Billy The Kid was fake-arrested and took the deal, the attorney general didn't care and revoked his amnesty and kept him in jail. Billy the Kid revoked that decision too and escaped jail and returned to his outlaw ways.
As governor, he started writing Ben-Hur and finished it just before he left to become the ambassador for the Ottoman Empire. It went on to become the best selling book of the 19th century. It a number 1 best seller before being a best seller was a thing. Within 20 years of its originial publication date, it became the 2nd best seller ever, next to the bible. It's never been out of print and has been adapted for motion pictures 4 times.
When he wasn't out going and doing, he spent much of his time in the study he had built. He describes it as a "pleasure-house for my soul." I'm pretty sure any bibliophile would agree his study/man cave is pretty epic. So epic is became a national landmark in 1976. Today, it serves as a museum but is fully preserved to how Wallace had it back at the turn of the last century. Just outside his study use to be a Beech tree in which he would sit under and wrote a good portion of Ben-Hur. Unfortunately, the tree was struck by lightning and could not be saved. His son, however, commissions a replica statue of the one sitting at the US Capitol building to be built and sits in the same spot today. If you take a close look to the pictures of the inside, the painting you see were also done by Wallace himself. Oh and Charlton Heston's costume from the 1959 production of Ben Hur is sitting inside as well.