Thursday, November 12, 2015

Decatur, Indiana

I've  been criss-crossing Indiana for years from top to bottom and side to side at the outset of bicycle tours and also upon their completion.  I vary my routes through the state as much as possible.  Lately its been dependent on Carnegie libraries I have yet to visit. Since the state is so thickly freckled with them, its not difficult to piece together a series of roads I have never ridden in my quest to see them all.  

Carnegie funded 167 libraries in the state, by far the most of any state.  California is second with 144, then Ohio with 114 and Illinois 111.  Only two other states had more than 100--New York 110, of which 66 were in the Five Boroughs, and Iowa with 108. I have visited well over half of those in Indiana and Illinois, but still have hundreds of miles of pleasurable riding in the years to come before my bike has taken me to them all.

I'll have the thrill of laying eyes on ten more in the Hoosier state that have eluded me on my present ride to Georgia.  Last November my route took me through the heart of Indiana, including Indianapolis, to Louisville for its nine Carnegies.  This year I'll go further east before heading south so I can pass through Cincinnati for its nine Carnegies.  Only four cities have more--Cleveland and Baltimore with 14, Philadelphia with 26 and New York City. I'll have a fine day getting to know Cinncinati through its Carnegies, just as I did in Louisvile last year and also Denver two months ago.  

I've already cut across Indiana to the Ohio border.  Rather than crossing into Ohio, I'll stick to the Indiana side of the border for four more Carnegies in addition to the six I've already visited.  Two were small town libraries modestly constructed of red brick and four were small city libraries majestically constructed of Indiana's trademark limestone.  All were magnificent.  Which was moreso is dependent upon the eye of the beholder.

I had to take a small, county road the last few miles to reach Monterey.  Its Carnegie had an uncharacteristically large number for its address--6260 E. Main.  Generally the street number of a Carnegie is no higher than 200, what with numbering systems for towns usually emanating from the town center, and Carnegie's stipulation that the library be no more than a block or two from the center.  It was no surprise the library was on Main Street, as that is by far the most common street for a Carnegie.  There are thirty-five Main Street Carnegies in Indiana.  The next most popular street address in the state is Washintgton with six.  There are three Walnut and three High Streets.  The towns with High Streets must have had an English influence, as High is what the English call their Main Street.

Monterey was barely large enough to have a town center, but its Carnegie was just a block from it in a residential neighborhood.  Its street numbers started from Highway 35 nearly ten miles away.  The building was identitied as "Library" over its front entrance.   Above its side entrance was the greeting, "Your window to the world."  What its interpretation of the world was I do not know,  as the library closed at one on Saturdays and it was later than that.

I ventured off onto another small country road to reach Roann and its Carnegie.  Like Monterey, it was so small there were no signs for its library.  I was looking for Chippewa Road but missed it, as I was distracted by a sign for a covered bridge and didn't notice it was on Chippewa.  After I passed through the town without spotting Chippewa, I doubled back and asked directions from someone who was cleaning out his garage.  Along Chippewa were a couple of antique stores catering to the crowd attracted by covered bridges. The library resided in a nice open space.  A plaque gave notice that it was on the National Registry of Historic Places.  This despite the addition to the back providing access for the handicapped.

There were no signs either in the city of Wabash for its Carnegie, but I knew  it was just off the main thoroughfare through the city.  There was no missing this grand limestone building with a green dome peaking above it. It was further distinguished by a large limestone addition and "Carnegie Library" chiseled into its front and rear facades.   Its original entrance framed by four columns had been barricaded and now resembled a porch.  A four-sided clock tower with Carnegie etched on all four faces was erected in 2009 in the name of Elizabeth Pearson, a benefactor of the library.  It resided near the summit of Hill Street, making it all the more regal.

The Carnegie in the similarly sized city of Huntington, twenty miles down the road, was vacant and had fallen into neglect.  This once proud chateau of a building was still adorned with "City Free Library" on its facade, though in its latest incarnation had served as an administration building for the local  school system.

All through Huntington I had been following signs with a quail on them to the Dan Quayle Museum of the 44th Vice President of the United States under George Bush the first.  It was just a block beyond the Carnegie and in much finer standing than the former library.

As I exited Huntington I came upon my first supermarket of the day.  I had gone all day without a chocolate milk.  It was a little late in the day for it, but it was a need I had to fulfill.  With day-time highs in the low fifties and night-time lows near freezing I bought a half gallon carton so I would be good for the next two days.  It didn't cost much more than the pints that the Dollar Stores only offered.  I also stocked up on honey and baked beans.  Along with bread and ramen and other reserves, I was set for the night,  but couldn't resist going around back to give the dumpster a look.  

Right on top was a bag of fried chicken from its deli department and several containers of dips and containers of chopped fruit.  A little deeper I found bread and several half gallon jugs of apple juice and packages of chocolate chip cookies.  If Tim had been accompanying me in his car, as he did last year, we would have had food for days.  I only had space for one loaf of bread, one juice, one dip, one package of cookies, one container of fruit and three pieces of chicken.  I had no regrets over not going to the dumpster first, as I got food I needed inside as well.  

My panniers were bulging from this bounty.  I  couldn't fully fasten them, but that was okay, as I would be camping soon.  It was near dark.  Within a few minutes I came upon an Army Corps of Engineers lake surrounded by woods.  There was a picnic area on one side of the road and a barrier blocking the entrance to a boat launch on the other.  I went around the barrier and disappeared into the woods. An hour later, as I was still feasting on the chicken mixed in with ramen and dip, I heard the rustle of leaves from some critter no doubt as excited about the chicken as I was.  I banged my metal water bottle with my knife and it scurried away.  I later scattered the chicken bones a good ways from my tent.  They were gone in the morning.

It was less than two hours the next morning to the next Carnegie in Blufton.  It now provided office space for the local government.  A sign out front advertised flu shots.  The new sprawling library, complete with an electronic message board, was right across the street.

Decatur's Carnegie was now a courthouse, desecrated with a shed of an entrance tacked on to its front. The new lackluster library was right next door.  It had been built in 1979 at a cost of $730,000.  The much more magnifcent Carnegie was built for less than $15,000 in 1905. The first librarian was paid $35 a month.  It had a painting in its lobby of the Carnegie as it was, showing the "Carnegie Library" on its facade, now covered with "Adams County Superior Court."

As is frequently the case, Decatur's library had a sculpture out front of a child reading a book.  This one was entitled "It must be a good book."

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