TimManBlog

Whatever I'm Thinking

Hermann: Missouri’s German Village

November 30, 2022
(Photos and memories of June 3, 2015, and November 1, 2022)

Wilkommen! Welcome to Hermann, an old German settlement in central Missouri!

Hermann was founded in 1837 by a German settlement society known as the Deutsche Ansiedlungs-Gesellschaft zu Philadelphia. Their purpose was to establish a self-supporting colony dedicated to perpetuating German culture, built around farming, commerce, and industry. You might say the founders succeeded — nearly 200 years after its founding, Hermann is the center of a thriving wine-making region and a popular tourist destination known for its Maifest and Oktoberfest celebrations. The town’s population in 2020 was 2,185.

A German-born organist and music teacher named George Bayer was the leader of the first group of colonists and is considered the town’s founder.

Statue of George F. Bayer at the Gasconade County Historical Society in Hermann, Missouri.

Under Bayer’s leadership, the colony cultivated wine grapes similar to those found in Germany’s Rhineland region. The area around Hermann is known today as the Missouri Rhineland.

The town was named for Hermann der Cherusker, better known under his Roman name Arminius, or colloquially as “Herman the German.” In 9 AD, Arminius defeated and destroyed three Roman legions at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, ending Roman designs to expand their empire into Germany and changing the course of history. In fact, to this day, the western boundary of the nation of Germany roughly follows the old border between the Roman Empire of the 1st Century AD and the lands of “Germania.”

Statue of Arminius, or “Hermann der Cherusker” in Hermann, Missouri.

As I walked around Hermann, I realized that nearly every building in the downtown area dates from 100 years ago. Along First Street, several wineries, distilleries, beer halls, German sausage shops, and festival buildings demonstrate that Hermann maintains its old Rhineland heritage.

My first visit to Hermann fell on a cloudy June day, but for my second visit, I made sure to arrive on a sunny fall day when I could capture some of the Autumn foliage around town. Below are some houses and residential streets from November 1, 2022:

The 1889 Gustav Wohlt House, 124 East First Street, Hermann, Missouri. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town’s history museum, the Historic Hermann Museum, is housed within the old German bi-lingual school building at the corner of Schiller and 4th Streets. Many of Hermann’s streets are named for German artists and composers such as Schiller, Mozart, and Goethe.

The Historic Hermann Museum, 4th and Schiller Streets in Hermann, Missouri.

4th Street serves as a secondary commercial street in Hermann, featuring bars, restaurants, and festival space for the annual Oktoberfest. If you come here, try Wings-A-Blazin’ for some of the best chicken wings to be found anywhere!

Looking west up 4th Street toward St. George Catholic Church at the top of the hill.
St. George Catholic Church in Hermann, Missouri.

Hermann is located on the banks of the Missouri River approximately 80 miles upstream of St. Charles, Missouri, where the Missouri meets the Mississippi River (St. Charles is a suburb of St. Louis). Such a place is a prime location for the county seat of Gasconade County, Missouri, and Hermann has fulfilled that role since 1842.

The Gasconade County Courthouse in Hermann, Missouri.

The Gasconade County Courthouse was built in 1889 on a bluff overlooking the Hermann town center and the Missouri River. A historical sign outside the building explains that the courthouse was funded entirely with private money and may be the only example of a public building in the United States that was financed in such a manner.

Here are some photos from inside the courthouse: the main courtroom, a chandelier hanging above the ground floor lobby, and a painting of a paddle-wheeler plying the Missouri River below the courthouse.

Historical mural inside the Gasconade County Courthouse. Hermann, Missouri.
The Missouri River at Hermann, Missouri.
Gasconade County within the State of Missouri.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on June 3, 2015, or November 1, 2022.

My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Greenville, Mississippi, is Feeling the Blues

October 30, 2022
(Photos and memories of October, 2022)

Welcome to Greenville, Mississippi, the heart of the Mississippi Delta and home to the Delta Blues!

The Walnut Street Blues Bar. Greenville, Mississippi.
Lampposts on the streets of Greenville — “Greenville: Heart & Soul of the Delta.”
The view from atop the levee at Greenville, Mississippi.

Walnut Street in Greenville runs along the river levee. Plaques of famous bluesmen have been embedded into the sidewalk, forming a Delta Blues Walk of Fame. I don’t recognize any of their names, but they all seem like colorful characters.

Unfortunately, Walnut Street along the levee can boast only two blues nightspots. Civic leaders are trying to develop the Walnut Street area for more tourism, but they have a lot more work. You could say that Walnut Street is singing the blues…but not in a good way. The Mississippi Delta has strong ties to the Democratic Party, which may explain some of their difficulties.

Greenville office of Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat representing the Second Congressional District of Mississippi.

Greenville’s two main downtown streets, Main Street and Washington Street, end at Walnut Street and the river levee. In decades past, Washington Street was the town’s main commercial street, while Main Street held church and government buildings.

Washington Street was once a wide downtown street full of shops and shoppers, but that was 50 years ago. The two photos below, taken from nearly the same spot on the town levee, show how commerce has disappeared from Washington Street. The street is just as wide today, but the people have just…left.

Some typical storefronts along Washington Street:

Greenville’s World War II Memorial looks down an empty Washington Street.

The Greenville World War II Memorial, at the end of Washington Street at the levee.

While Washington Street was the commercial center of town, Greenville’s Main Street has most of the churches. These are large and impressive…and not vacant.

To be fair, the Methodists are here too, but their church is actually a block off Main Street.

First Methodist Church of Greenville.

It has always been my opinion that the South boasts the nation’s best cooks, its best warriors, and its best storytellers. The stellar list of Greenville’s writers includes Shelby Foote and Walker Percy, and the proliferation of writers here should surprise no one familiar with Southern culture.

Greenville’s writers.

Greenville is the seat of Washington County, Mississippi. The courthouse is along Washington Street, 5 or 6 blocks east of the downtown blocks. The building was constructed in the Richardson Romanesque style in 1891 of beige limestone blocks. This courthouse may not be as flamboyant as some other Romanesque courthouses, but it has a stately presence.

The Washington County Courthouse was constructed in 1891. Greenville, Mississippi.
Confederate soldiers’ memorial on the grounds of the Washington County Courthouse.
Washington County Courthouse. Greenville, Mississippi.
Map of Washington County within the state of Mississippi

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on October 6, 2022

My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Honesdale, PA: Church Street and Pennsyltucky

September 30, 2022
(Photos and memories from September 12, 2013)

The Pennsyltucky Grill, Honesdale, Pennsylvania (sadly, permanently closed since 2021).

Honesdale, Pennsylvania, has been a working man’s town for 200 years — that’s how long they’ve been mining anthracite coal around here. It looks a little like Kentucky because the town’s center is nestled in a valley along a stream surrounded by steep Appalachian hillsides.

Downtown Honesdale, Pennsylvania
The Lackawaxen River flowing through Honesdale, Pennsylvania
Wayne County within the state of Pennsylvania

Overlooking Honesdale is Irving Cliff, named for writer Washington Irving (“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”), who loved the spot.

The Irving Cliff within Gibbons Memorial Park overlooking Honesdale. The 30-foot “Winter Star” shines at night.

In 1883, the Irving Cliff Hotel was built at the summit but was destroyed by fire in 1889. It was not rebuilt. In its place, the town constructed a 30-foot “Winter Star,” which shines at night over the city. Until recently, the star was replaced by a cross during the 40 days of Lent, but this practice was discontinued after a First Amendment challenge.

More photos of the Lackawaxen River as it flows through Honesdale:

Honesdale is often cited as the “birthplace of American railroading” because it was the home of the first commercial steam locomotive run on rails. In 1829, a locomotive named the Stourbridge Lion rolled down some newly built railroad tracks here, testing whether a steam engine railway could haul coal from the Honesdale’s mines down to the Delaware and Hudson Canal, connecting to the town of Kingston, New York, and New York City. The system worked very well.

Memorial to the Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to run on rails in America.

Below are two historical signs explaining the significance of the Stourbridge Lion and the Delaware & Hudson Canal.

Honesdale was laid out in 1826 around two parallel streets: Main Street and Church Street. Obviously, Main Street was meant for commerce, while Church Street was reserved for quieter pursuits. Even today, most businesses occupy lots on Main Street, while over eight different church buildings stand up and down Church Street.

Here are some of the church buildings that line Church Street in Honesdale. Most of the major Protestant denominations are represented.

Honesdale’s Catholic Church is not on Church Street but is ne. This larger church replaces an older Catholic church that once graced Church Street.

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Honesdale, Pennsylvania

This is Honesdale’s Main Street business district, including the police department, and the Honesdale National Bank building, Hotel Wayne, and the Limerick Irish pub:

Honesdale’s large downtown park is along the center of Church Street. It includes a fountain, shade trees, grassy areas for dogs to play, and a tall statue honoring Wayne County’s contribution to the Union victory in the Civil War.

The 1880 Wayne County Courthouse lies behind the town park. This is a two-story structure built of red brick.

Wayne County Courthouse was built in 1880 and is still in use. Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
Wayne County Courthouse
Courtroom inside the Wayne County Courthouse

Below: Displays hanging inside the Wayne County Courthouse, including a portrait of Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, for whom the county was named.

Another old brick church along Church Street, Honesdale, Pennsylvania

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on September 12, 2013

My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Moundsville, West Virginia and its Ancient Mounds

August 31, 2022
(Photos and Memories of August 27, 2009)

Grave Creek Mound. Moundsville, West Virginia

Moundsville is a small city incorporated in 1830 and built along the banks of the Ohio River in West Virginia’s “Panhandle.” Settlers named the town for an ancient Indian burial mound they found nearby. The mound rises over fifty feet from the surrounding countryside and is located just a block away from the riverbank.

The historical sign at the site provides the basic information.

Historical sign explaining the burial mound at Moundsville.

The mounds at Moundsville were not built by the local native American tribes at the time of white settlement. They were built by tribes that had left the area long before the settlement of the Ohio valley by other Native American tribes, such as the Shawnee.

A West Virginia state park and museum provides the essential background and history of the site.

Museum exhibit at Grave Creek Mound.

I wanted to climb the path to the top of the mound. However, the museum caretaker would not allow this, as she explained that they had a “yellow jacket problem” up there.

Grave Creek Mound. Moundsville, West Virginia

Moundsville is the seat of Marshall County, West Virginia; the county was named for Virginian John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The county courthouse is currently undergoing renovation, but beyond the fencing, the front grounds are filled with Civil War memorials. Notably, a Union Civil War statue occupies the place of honor at the corner of the courthouse grounds, facing the town’s main downtown intersection.

Marshall County Courthouse. Moundsville, West Virginia

What is now West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia when the Civil War began in 1861, and Virginia was one of 11 states to secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. However, the western counties of Virginia were still mostly pro-Union, so these western counties seceded from the state of Virginia. In 1863 the seceded portion was admitted to the United States as the new state of West Virginia.

Marshall County Courthouse. Moundsville, West Virginia
Working fountain behind the Marshall County Courthouse.

Moundsville was once a thriving stop on the Ohio River – that water highway to the West. In the mid-20th century, the West Virginia panhandle was a bustling part of the steel industry. Today, the old steel valley has mostly closed, and its best young people have moved elsewhere.

The Fostoria Glass Museum (was the Fostoria Glass Company). Moundsville, West Virginia

Country music superstar Brad Paisley grew up in little Glen Dale, just on the northern edge of Moundsville. The town of Glen Dale has marked the 8th Avenue street sign “Brad Paisley Boulevard” based on a line in one of his songs referring to “Tomlinson and 8th” in his hometown.

West Virginia is so mountainous that a wall of a forested mountainside looms over the horizon in any direction you care to look.

Jefferson Street. Moundsville, West Virginia

When in a West Virginia town, it’s always fun to separate its “West” features from its “Virginia” features. The county courthouse is “Virginia” because of its white and silver Colonial-style cupola. The county was named for Virginian John Marshall, the first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. That’s another “Virginia.” The locals speak with a Southern accent (although not as pronounced as their down-river neighbors in Kentucky), which is also “Virginia.” For “West,” there’s the fact that every building in town is red brick construction due to the many old brick factories just upriver north of Wheeling. There are no colonial mansions here. Add to that the “West” countenance of the folks on the street. They are a sort of cross between denim-clad hillbilly mountaineer and rough-hewn industrial worker; none seem to belong inside or outside a tobacco plantation.

Hillbilly’s Pub & Grub. Moundsville, West Virginia
Moose Lodge. Moundsville, West Virginia
An old corner bank building, now being used as a family vision clinic

It was a sad day for Moundsville. The only coffee shop on Jefferson had no customers. The lone waitress stood behind the counter, bent over a newspaper spread out over the countertop where local older men should be sitting to chat about the old days over a cup of joe or a glass of sweet tea. Few of the other storefronts on Jefferson had anyone inside at all.

An old corner building. Moundsville, West Virginia

However, I may have seen an old Virginian sitting near me at lunch in Wendy’s (the only busy restaurant in town). He was an elderly gentleman who was probably old enough to have seen the Depression. Most patrons were quickly gobbling whatever form of cheeseburger ordered at the counter. This man, however, sat at a table with his wife as if they were expecting wait service. He had neatly combed full head of gray hair and wore sharp gray suspenders over a plaid shirt and gray slacks. He sat upright at his table, perfectly erect, next to his wife, eating his meal. As I watched him furtively, I saw a genuinely comfortable demeanor that seemed to say, “I am a dignified person, here or wherever I am, in any company, because of how I carry myself today and how I have lived my long life.”

A well-maintained front-yard fish pond in Moundsville
Marshall County within the state of West Virginia

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on August 27, 2009

My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Fort Benton, Montana: Head of Navigation on the Missouri

July 31, 2022
(Photos and memories from August 1999 and July 2013)

The Missouri River at Fort Benton, Montana, looking downstream.

The population of the ancient town of Fort Benton, Montana, may have shrunk to 1,449 people in 2020, but its history and landmarks are more than enough to make it interesting.

Fort Benton 150th Anniversary quilt, as displayed inside the Chouteau County Courthouse at Fort Benton.

Fort Benton was founded as a fur trading outpost in 1846 on the upper Missouri River.

Historical sign describing old Fort Benton.

While the mountain fur trade was declining in the 1850s and 1860s, the age of steamboat travel was growing. Fort Benton occupied the head of navigation on the Missouri River, making it a vital trading station for all points between St. Louis and the Far West.

In 1860, the U.S. Army completed the Mullan Wagon Road, a 624-mile military road from Fort Benton to Fort Walla Walla, present-day Washington state, effectively linking the Missouri River to the waters of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.

Proving Fort Benton’s importance, in 1892 the Grand Union Hotel was constructed along the riverbank.

Entrance to the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton, Montana

I stayed a night at the Grand Union Hotel in 2013; the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel is a classy old place and includes the Union Grille Restaurant, which boasts serving “Montana Regional Cuisine.” I’ll stay again the next time I’m in the area; it’s always nice to have a drink or two in an old historical setting. They’re also nice enough to send me e-mails every year advertising their big Christmas celebrations.

Fort Benton was a wild place in the late 1800s, dubbed the “Bloodiest Block in the West.” The sign below details its reputation; the other photo below shows the same stretch of buildings today.

Here are some more photos of Fort Benton’s downtown district today, including some old watering holes.

More recently, Fort Benton has become known for the story of Shep, an ever-faithful shepherding dog who lost his master but showed up at the Fort Benton train station to meet every train for the next four years, awaiting his return. After Shep’s death, the town built a statue to honor the dog. Man’s Best Friend — proven by his actions. The historical sign below provides the details of Shep’s life and death.

Fort Benton is the seat of Chouteau County. The Chouteau County Courthouse was built in 1884 and is still in use today. Chouteau County was named for Pierre Chouteau, Jr., a St. Louis-based merchant who established a trading post that would eventually become the city of Fort Benton.

The Chouteau County Courthouse, Fort Benton, Montana. Built in 1884 and still in use.
Chouteau County Courthouse, Fort Benton, Montana
Chouteau County within the state of Montana

Today, although bridges for highways and railways have replaced slower riverboat traffic on the Missouri River, the river’s charm remains.

Picnic tables along the banks of the Missouri River, near the Grand Union Hotel. Fort Benton, Montana.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on July 15, 2013.

My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Dayton, Washington, and the Fields of the Palouse

June 29, 2022
(Photos and memories from June 18, 2009)

It’s a glorious day in Dayton, Washington.  A few wisps of cirrus clouds accent the bright blue sky.  On the horizon, I see the white of high clouds above the blue sky, which meets the spring green of Palouse hillsides.  The canola fields of The Palouse are spectacular.

Canola fields of the Palouse above the town of Dayton, Washington

The small town of Dayton (population 2,500) lies in a valley below hillsides of grain; some are striped with brown fallow portions.

Downtown Dayton, Washington, below the Palouse’s striped fields of wheat.

Dayton lies at the southern edge of The Palouse, a spectacular grassland region of southeastern Washington and northwestern Idaho. The town wasn’t named for Dayton, Ohio, as you might suspect, but for early settlers Jesse and Elizabeth Day, who came here in the 1870s. The population here is about 2,500 persons.

There’s only one commercial street in Dayton.  The Liberty Theatre is at one end; Disney’s “Up” arrives in town in two weeks.  A few coffee shops surround that, but there’s plenty of activity here.

Main Street Dayton, Washington

Down the street, an Eagle’s aerie dominates the main business block.  A nostalgic mural is painted on the front wall and provides a reminiscence of life in 19th Century Dayton.

Here are a few more photos of Dayton: if your thing is boutique hotels, then try The Weinhard Hotel; the old-fashioned reliability of Elk Drug provides both prescriptions and a soda fountain; enjoy the look of a beautiful old Victorian home; and the Dayton train depot is the oldest in Washington state, dating from 1881. Dayton’s business district has been designated a National Historic District.

Across the street from the Liberty Theatre on Main Street, the Columbia County courthouse is a gem of gingerbread.  It’s gray wood with stone trim.  The square dome is three stories above a fine green lawn that was being mowed as I took photos.  The front and back entrances have statues of Lady Justice above them; the east and west entrances have golden eagle statues. It’s been in use since 1887.

The Columbia County courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1887 Columbia County courthouse, Dayton, Washington.

More photos of the courthouse, including the interior stairwell, a closeup of the statue of Lady Justice on the roof, and a historical plaque explaining Dayton’s history.

Lewis and Clark rafted down the Snake River in 1805 during their voyage to the Pacific Ocean. For their return trip in 1806, they traveled overland, passing through present-day Dayton along an old Indian trail that connected Celilo Falls on the Columbia River with the Nez Perce lands of the Palouse. A town mural memorializes their journey.

Mural showing the travels of Lewis and Clark through Columbia County, Washington.

On the hillsides outside of town are seemingly endless fields of canola flowers.  The yellows against the sky and the distant Blue Mountains were spectacular.

Columbia County within the state of Washington.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on June 18, 2009.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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The Lonely Road Through Eureka, Nevada

May 30, 2022
(Photos and memories of Eureka, Nevada from April 10, 1999, May 7, 2012, and May 10, 2021)

The Loneliest Road in America (US Highway 50). This stretch is between Ely and Eureka, Nevada.
Eureka County within the state of Nevada
Eureka, Nevada, along Highway 50 — “The Loneliest Road in America.” The Owl Club Casino is on the right.

Back in the day, in the 1880s, Eureka was a big silver and lead producer with multiple mines, smelters, saloons, and over 10,000 residents. Today Eureka has about 400 residents, yet its place on the “Loneliest Road in America” attracts new visitors every day.

Map of US Highway 50 across Nevada. Eureka is at #5 on the map, in east-central Nevada.

Traveling US 50 in Nevada is something like a roller coaster. Between Ely in the east and Fallon in the west, Nevada’s landscape is a series of north-to-south mountain ranges separated by deep desert valleys. Driving the Loneliest Road involves climbing a mountain range to its summit (mountain passes reach about 7,000 feet) and then descending to a flat sagebrush valley. Then repeat. Sometimes the valleys have dry alkali lakebeds. You’ll see a herd of mustangs grazing the sagebrush if you’re lucky.

Wild mustangs roam the open ranges along Highway 50 in northern Nevada.

The city of Eureka lies 70 miles west of Ely, Nevada, and 70 miles east of Austin, Nevada, along US Highway 50. There are no towns in between, not even a hamlet. It’s all open range, and travelers like me (and you) love it!

Despite its small population of 480, the town of Eureka can boast of being the county seat of Eureka County, Nevada, which has a population of 1,987. Their courthouse was built in 1879 and is still in use today.

Eureka County courthouse. Eureka, Nevada. Constructed in 1879.
Eureka County courthouse. Eureka, Nevada.

This is the District Courtroom in the Eureka County courthouse. Beneath chandeliers and a metal-plated ceiling, an old wood stove stands on one side of the courtroom while a flat-screen TV stands on the other. Built in 1879 and is still in use today.

District courtroom on the second floor of the Eureka County courthouse.
District courtroom. Eureka County courthouse

This shotgun is on display in the courtroom. Stagecoach drivers used this weapon to guard the stage line between Eureka and Ely, Nevada. Good at close range. The genesis of the term “riding shotgun.”

Rifles were used to guard the stage line between Eureka and Ely, Nevada.

The Eureka Opera House is across the street from the courthouse. I took this photo from the second floor of the courthouse.

Eureka Opera House. Built in 1880 and restored in 1993.

A number of Eureka’s other buildings have been restored to their 19th Century splendor.

The Jackson House Hotel, Saloon & Cafe. Eureka, Nevada
The Owl Club Saloon and Restaurant. Eureka, Nevada

Everyday essentials are available to Eureka residents from more commonplace structures in town:

I entered Eureka from the east along US Highway 50. This is the view I found along Highway 50 as I headed west towards the next town — Austin, Nevada, population 167.

The Loneliest Road in America with the Toiyabe Range in the distance. US 50 between Eureka and Austin, Nevada.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author either on April 10, 1999, or May 7, 2012, or May 10, 2021.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Georgetown, Texas – Town Square and Spring Wildflowers

April 23, 2022
(Photos and memories of Georgetown, Texas from April 5, 2017)

Texas Wildflowers — bluebonnets and Indian paint brush — outside Georgetown, Texas

Texans are known to brag about their state, and one of the things they like to brag about is their spring wildflowers. Although skepticism is good for mental health, don’t be skeptical of Texas wildflowers; they’re remarkable — as was the cloudless sky, which enhanced the colors remarkably. But sunny days aren’t all that unusual for central Texas:

Texas Wildflowers blooming in April. Williamson County, Texas

Texas Highways magazine has an excellent run-down of the various wildflowers in the state here. Two varieties predominate in Central Texas, the bluebonnet and the (red) Indian paintbrush. They bloom in late March and early April and are easily found along rural highways in central Texas, including Williamson County, north of Austin. Here are a few more photos:

Wildflowers. Williamson County, Texas
Williamson County within the state of Texas

The city of Georgetown is the county seat of Williamson County, Texas. Georgetown boasts a population of 67,000 in 2020, up from 47,000 in 2010, making it America’s 7th fastest growing city. Williamson County, population 609,000, is just north of Austin, and as Austin grows rapidly, this county is quickly becoming Austin’s northern suburbs.

The new Williamson County Justice Center. Georgetown, Texas

Williamson County is now too big a place to be using its old courthouse anymore, so a modern Justice Center has been built to replace the old courthouse. Six or seven blocks away, the old courthouse still stands in the center of the town square, easily found by its metal dome rising above the surrounding two-story buildings. This grand three-story yellow brick structure is preserved well and well-renovated and erected in 1910.

Old Williamson County courthouse (front). Georgetown, Texas
Old Williamson County courthouse (rear). Georgetown, Texas

The old Confederate monument stands outside the entrance to the old courthouse. Like so many others in the old South, this monument honors the memories of soldiers and sailors who fought in that war rather than its causes. “In Memory of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors,” reads the inscription. As a Pennsylvanian born and bred, I don’t carry angst for wars fought over a hundred years ago. I also understand that war cannot be changed to peace without honoring an adversary’s honored dead. I took this photo in 2017, and I hope this statue remains as long as these soldiers’ descendants live nearby.

Confederate soldiers’ monument in front of the old courthouse. Georgetown, Texas

Along the side of the old courthouse stands a historical sign and a statue of county prosecutor Dan Moody (shown below). In 1923-24 Moody prosecuted ten Ku Klux Klansmen for flogging a white traveling salesman after he had ignored their warning to leave Georgetown. Despite the Klan’s impressive power in Texas at the time, Moody won his case, garnered great fame for himself, and later became state attorney general and the 30th governor of Texas.

Georgetown boasts that it has the “most beautiful town square in Texas.” Every town in Texas brags about something or other, and if they did not, the local Chamber of Commerce and tourist board would find something to brag about. But, as I said earlier about Texans bragging on their wildflowers, don’t be skeptical about the Georgetown locals bragging about their town square. It is, in fact, a beautiful location.

The beautiful old courthouse and the buildings around the courthouse have been designated the Williamson County Courthouse Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the structures in the square date from the 1880s and 1890s (the most beautiful era of American architecture) and are generally two-story buildings constructed of handsome red brick or locally quarried limestone.

I’ve put together a gallery of some of the buildings around the square:

Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas

The photo above shows a building on the corner with an onion dome. The historical sign on the building refers to these features as a “pressed metal parapet.” Here’s a closer look:

Onion dome structure on a corner building in Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas

The corner park shown in the gallery below includes the town’s Founding Stone marker. The white church is nearby.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to Georgetown, Texas!


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on April 5, 2017.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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The Languor of Santa Barbara

March 27, 2022
(photos and memories of Santa Barbara, California from May 2005 and March 2016)

The town of Santa Barbara and California’s Santa Ynez Mountains beyond. This photo was taken in 2005 from atop the county courthouse.

Languor: n. (lăng′gər, lăng′ər): A dreamy, lazy, or sensual quality, as of expression: “the clarity of her complexion, the length and languor of her eyelashes (Jhumpa Lahiri).”

That’s Santa Barbara, California. Herewith then, are some photos of languor.

I’ve visited Santa Barbara many times over the years, with the most recent visit on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day 2016 (more on that later). Such a gorgeous day. I started at Mission Santa Barbara.

Mission Santa Barbara

From Wikipedia: “Often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Missions,’ [Mission Santa Barbara] was founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén for the Franciscan order on December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, as the tenth mission of what would later become 21 missions in Alta California.”

Early water storage and irrigation system at Mission Santa Barbara

Although founded over 200 years ago, the mission remains a parish church today and is part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

St. Patrick’s Day at Mission Santa Barbara
Inside Mission Santa Barbara

Besides being a working parish, Mission Santa Barbara is also a museum and historical site drawing thousands of tourists each year.

Entrance to Mission Santa Barbara

A few blocks below the Mission, on Anacapa Street, stands the magnificent Santa Barbara County courthouse. Constructed in 1925 to replace a building damaged by earthquakes, this courthouse is a classic of design and style.  Well-known and often photographed, it was designed in the mode of a Spanish castle and includes a prominent corner tower and turrets, red tile roofing, a courtyard, and open patios and porches for natural cooling.

Plaque found inside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse

This is one of the main entrances, along Santa Barbara Street. The Latin inscription on the archway reads Discite Justitiam Moniti, translated as “Hear and Be Just,” or “Having Been Warned, Learn Justice.”

Santa Barbara County courthouse
Discite Justitiam Moniti

Here’s another entrance. The Latin inscription on this archway reads Dios Nos Dio Los Campos; El Arte Humana Edifico Civdades, translated as “God Hath Given us Countryside; the Art of Man Hath Built Cities.”

Santa Barbara County courthouse
“God Hath Given us Countryside; the Art of Man Hath Built Cities”

Perhaps nothing describes languor better than an open, grassy courtyard in a Mediterranean-style palace on a warm, sunny Spring day:

The open courtyard within the Santa Barbara County courthouse
Clocktower, corner turret, and interior courtyard. Santa Barbara County courthouse
Family play time. Santa Barbara County courthouse
Courthouse roof and other red tiled roofs. Santa Barbara, California

Not to be outdone by the magnificent exterior, the magnificent courthouse interior includes a mural room and other paintings. I’ll just show them below as a set of tiled galleries:

More:

Santa Barbara County within the state of California

State Street is Santa Barbara’s main shopping and commercial street. I photographed the shops and the shoppers.  Italian restaurants were mixed in with jewelry stores and fashion stores.  Most if not all buildings were done in the Spanish Adobe style. 

Starbucks’ walls were whitewashed with the sun. 

A Starbucks Coffee shop along State Street in Santa Barbara

Even the Macy’s store looks like a castle.

Macy’s department store, Santa Barbara

Further down State, young people were drinking green beer in bars made up for St. Patrick’s Day.  The Old Kings Road English pub was fully decked out in green Guinness banners and shamrock-shaped green balloons.  From what I’ve seen back in England, no English pub would ever celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in such a way. However, the “NO WANKERS!” scribbled on the chalkboard is very English indeed!

Old Kings Road English pub. Santa Barbara, California

Amidst the languor and the glamor, offshore oil rigs can be seen from the center of town dotting the ocean surface. They have always been, perhaps, the underpinning of prosperity in Santa Barbara. Let’s not forget them.

Offshore oil and gas rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel

Languor.  The sun comes up on a clear morning — every day.  It’s warm and clear — every day.  It’s cool in the evening — every day.  Rich people live here.  Why do they work? Why do their children work instead of just drawing on the trust fund?  But they do work in the shops, and they converse with friends.  But they do work, perhaps not at the frenetic pace or with the sense of urgency found so much elsewhere, but they do work still.  Perhaps this tells something about the human condition: people still strive even in paradise.


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author either on May 21, 2005, or March 17, 2016.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Key West, Florida

February 28, 2022

The Southernmost point in the Continental U.S. Key West, Florida

Key West is a special place. It stands at the southernmost point in the continental United States and at the starting point (Mile 0) of U.S. Highway 1. Key West was the home of writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. US President Harry Truman often spent winters here in a building preserved as the Little White House. Many other US Presidents — from Ulysses S. Grant in 1880 to Jimmy Carter in 2007 — have visited the island. President John F. Kennedy visited Key West in November 1962, a month after the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Key West is 90 miles from Cuba.

For most of us, the trip to Key West is a most memorable drive, a 2 1/2-hour excursion along a chain of islands (called “key’s) and bridges across shallow, turquoise waters.

U.S. Highway 1, dubbed “the Overseas Highway”, connecting mainland Florida to Key West

The Florida Keys take their name from the Spanish word “cay” meaning a “reef,” which is appropriate since the keys are exposed portion of an ancient coral reef.

Mile 0 of US Route 1 at the corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets. Key West, Florida

The corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets marks mile marker 0 of U.S. Highway 1. Tour guides and souvenir shops can be found at this corner, as can adventurous long-haul travelers starting the road trip of their lives — 2,370 miles along U.S. Highway 1 from Key West to its northern terminus in Fort Kent, Maine.

Mile 0 marker at Whitehead and Fleming Streets. Key West, Florida

On the corner as mile 0 stands the Monroe County courthouse, constructed in 1890.

Monroe County courthouse. Key West, Florida
Monroe County courthouse and Kapok Tree. Key West, Florida
Kapok Tree in front of Monroe County courthouse. Key West, Florida
Inside the 1890 Monroe County courthouse. Key West, Florida
Monroe County in the state of Florida

I’ve been to Key West once before this trip, staying four days here in the summer of 2004 as I was doing a road trip comprising all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums/ballparks. Summer days here are obviously warmer than in February and I think they’re less crowded also. It was easy getting into Ernest Hemingway’s house back in the summer of 2004 without waiting in line — no such luck in February 2022.

The Ernest Hemingway house on Whitehead Street. Key West, Florida

One thing that surprised me about Key West was the fact that classic homes were being built here as far back as the 1830s. The Patterson-Baldwin House, for example, was built in 1838 and was also used as the first schoolhouse in Key West.

Patterson-Baldwin House. Key West, Florida
Historical sign in front of the Patterson-Baldwin House. Key West, Florida

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1832. It stands catercorner to the Patterson-Baldwin House.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1832). Key West, Florida

I took photos of the “Artist House” because it’s one of many homes on Key West that fly the Conch Republic flag. The “Conch Republic” was proclaimed by Key West Dennis Wardlow on April 23, 1982, as a tongue-in-cheek secession from the United States to protest the US Border Patrol’s establishment of a roadblock and inspection station along Highway 1. The “independence” of the Conch Republic lasted one minute, after which time the mayor duly surrendered to the United States and applied for 1 billion dollars in foreign aid!

The Artist House and Conch Republic flag. Key West, Florida

A number of Key West homes feature prominent banyan trees. These trees, native to India, grow aerial prop roots from their upper limbs that extend downward to the ground until they burrow into the soil to form additional tree trunks for the plant. After many years of growth, a banyan tree in front of a house can include a dozen or more such trunks.

The Philip Cosgrove House and its prominent banyan tree. Key West, Florida
Historical marker for the Cosgrove House. Key West, Florida

Here are several more photos of the many points of interest in Key West:

Get your Key Lime Pie here! Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe. Key West, Florida
Key West Weather Station. Key West, Florida
Birthplace of Pan Am World Airways. Key West, Florida
Key West Lighthouse. Key West, Florida

Duval Street is Key’s West’s main street, which in Conch Republic terms equates to fun bars, live music, and nightlife including Sloppy Joe’s, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and many others.

Duval Street. Key West, Florida
Inside Sloppy Joe’s bar at 3:00 in the afternoon. Key West, Florida
Inside Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Margaritaville‘. Key West, Florida
A train/tram carrying tourists down Duval Street. Key West, Florida

That’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed my photos. I know Key West is on the bucket list of many of you — don’t put it off any longer!


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on February 24, 2022, except for the photos of the “Southernmost marker” and Ernest Hemingway’s house which were taken on July 1, 2004.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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