Monday, April 21, 2014

Across Ohio

This could have been a football-themed ride if I'd wanted it to be, beginning with the Steelers stadium along the riverfront in Pittsburgh and continuing to hometowns of famous players in Pennsylvania and across Ohio and other football shrines.  Beaver Falls, hometown of Joe Namath, has a Carnegie Library and was just a bit north of Pittsburgh and not too far from the town Mike Ditka grew up in, Aliquippa, but neither were on my most direct route back to Chicago, so will have to wait for another time.i

It was sheer happenstance that I visited the town where Mike Ditka was born, Carnegie.  I didn't even realize it until after I had left and was reading up on the town.  Later when I was telling the librarian at the Carnegie Library in Midland, the last of my Pennsylvania Carnegies, about the various Carnegies I had visited so far on this trip, I mentioned that among the things I had learned was that Ditka was born in Carnegie.  An older guy sitting at a nearby table leaped to his feet and said,"That's not true.  He's from Alliquipa.  I knew his parents."

"Yes, I know," I replied. "I'm from Chicago and I know the Aliquippa connection.  I was surprised myself to learn he was born in Carnegie."

But the guy would not hear of it, angry that another town would try to steal Ditka, even in a small way, from his town.  I shut up lest we be ejected from the library.  I was having too nice of a conversation with the librarian for that.  He said they were beginning to prepare for the 100th anniversary of their library the next year.  Their library had less of the classical design of the later Carnegies and more the fortress/castle look of the early Carnegies even though it was of the latter era.

Just across the border in East Liverpool I came upon the first of the eight Carnegies on my 250-mile route across Ohio, some of it hilly, but most of it flat.  I initially followed highway 30, part of the Historic Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road across the US from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.  It was established in 1912 and was 3.389 miles long.  The highway 30 segment of it started west of Pittsburgh  and continued across Ohio and Indiana to Aurora, Illinois.  I stuck to it for one hundred miles before angling north at Wooster, a town on my Carnegie quest.

East Liverpool was one of a trio of Ohio towns along with Sandusky and Steubenville that received the first grants in Ohio from Carnegie in 1899.  Eventually there were 112 built in the state, exceeded only by New York, Indiana and California. Illinois and Iowa also are in the one hundred Carnegie library club.  A plaque out front stated East Liverpool had a place in Carnegie's heart as he used to visit relatives there in his youth.  He gave a larger than normal $50,000 grant for a building grand enough to be a state capital.

The football theme came acalling again in Canton the next day fifty miles down the road after a pleasant, but cold, night in my tent in a forest.  The Canton Carnegie was another of large proportions.  "Open To All" was chiseled over the entry and above that below the roof line "Canton Public Library."   It is now a law office, with a good location for its business across the street from a penitentiary.  

Canton is home to the professional football Hall of Fame.  It was on the outskirts of the city, too far out of my way for a detour, especially since I had paid it a visit in 1977 for the induction of Gale Sayers. A week later Ernie Banks was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  I had intended on attending that as well, but the person I was traveling with let his job interfere, something I'm sure he regrets to this day.

Just west of Canton is another significant football town--Massilon, whose high school team has won the state championship 22 times.  If Columbus hadn't been south and well off my route I could have completed a trio of the great football towns of Ohio, other than of course Cincinnati and Cleveland, home to the state's two professional teams.

I arrived in Wooster at dusk.  Wikipedia had no address for its Carnegie, unlike most.  I thought I had found it, but the double-pillared building was the headquarters for the Masons.  I learned from a couple of pedestrians that the Carnegie had been torn down years ago.

I camped a few miles out of town in another forest.  Like the night before I had to push a little deeper into the forest than usual for full privacy, as there weren't even buds on the trees with spring very late this year, so late that the fields hadn't been planted yet.

As so,often happens, I spotted the Carnegie in New London the next morning from a block away, not even knowing I was on the road where it resided.  There is no mistaking their striking features and the warm magnetic power they transmit, something that Masonic building in Wooster lacked.  It was built in 1914 and had no inscription on it whatsoever.  Only a sign out front indicated it was a library, if one could not otherwise discern it.  The Carnegie portrait welcomed all who entered, looking down upon the entry from a far wall, the first thing one would notice after mounting the last few steps and entering the library.

The Carnegie portrait in Norwalk's Carnegie, twenty miles away, hung above the check-out desk, bidding all a farewell as they left, if they could drag themself away from this magnificent domed building with a stained glass ceiling softly filtering the light in.  

Carnegie resided in Belleveu's genealogy room, part of a huge addition to the library, protected from having to look at the former entrance now barricaded over which was chiseled "Free Public Library."  The front of the library faced a busy four-lane highway, a good reason to move the entry to the side, besides making it handicap-accessible.

The Clyde Carnegie, seven miles away, was on the quiet residential Buckeye Street.  Ohio is the Buckeye State and many businesses and products carry the name, just as in Nebraska many things are named Cornhusker.  Ohio even has a Buckeye vodka.  Clyde's Carnegie was an A-plus in every respect--its location, its architecture with a domed cupola, its well-groomed grounds, a plaque on the outside of the building acknowledging Carnegie, the string of authors chiseled on three sides of the building under its roof line, a seamless stone addition, its maintained original entrance, the light fixture outside the entry and also WIFI that I could access sitting outside the library as I arrived Saturday evening after it had closed.  Its exterior was so exceptional, it is one I will gladly return to, certain that its interior would be equally magnificent.

After camping in a yet to be planted field besides a patch of trees I had a final two Carnegies in Ohio the next day along Highway Six, the road that would take me across Indiana and almost all the way to Chicago.  The first was in Napoleon along the Maumee River that empties into Lake Erie.  Its Carnegie, with "Carnegie Library" over its entry, is now a storage facility for the new library just behind it.  The red brick building with two columns was somewhat blocked by a beginning to bud grand magnolia tree.

The Bryan Carnegie had a huge addition behind it, with the front entrance unceremoniously blocked, slightly tainting its white-brick elegance with two inset Doric columns.  It acknowledged Carnegie on its exterior with "1903 Carnegie" chiseled just under its peaked roof. 

I could access its WIFI, but it wasn't strong enough to connect with Janina through our Apple FaceTime feature, as I so easily did from the Philippines.  I'd had no success on this trip, and we had much to catch up on, especially her first smelting outing along Lake Michigan at Montrose Friday night with our friend Tim, who has twice biked with us to Midewin National Prairie.  She was on line.  I went in search of a pay phone that she could call me on.  I spent twenty minutes meandering around Bryan and asking whoever I saw, pedestrians and dog-walkers and joggers, and going into the local movie house and a liquor store, and could find no one who knew of a pay phone.  They have gone the way of the dodo.

It being Easter it seemed appropriate that I camped behind a church just across the border into Indiana, not far from Butler.  I could have pushed into a forest behind it, but the church's gardening shed was far enough from the road to offer all the privacy I needed and spared me from having to push my bike through a furrowed field and then some brambles.  Though it wasn't particularly rustic, it was still Another Great Night in the Tent after Another Great Day on the Bike. 

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