His Final Battle

One thing I forgot to link to yesterday: Famous Balloon Movies, Chapter 2, a scene from CasaBalloona.

Watching Casablanca must have put me in a mood to read about the ’40s, because at the library today I saw a copy of His Final Battle, subtitled “The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt,” by Joseph Lelyveld (2016). I picked it up at once and checked it out. About time I read some more presidential books anyway.

The cover features the well-known photo of FDR hoisting his hat over a clutch of radio microphones. That’s from a 1944 campaign appearance in Chicago, at Soldier Field. The image is fuzzy, but the president looks worn out indeed.

He was born much too early to benefit from the polio vaccine, but only a little too early to benefit from blood pressure medication. Turning at random to a page (p. 91), I found the following:

“The conclusion [about FDR’s death] that comes closest to known facts was propounded in lectures and articles by Marvin Moser, a retired Columbia University medical professor: ‘Roosevelt represents a textbook case of untreated hypertension progressing to [likely] organ failure and death from stroke.’ In the medical literature, such hypertension is sometimes called ‘malignant hypertension.’

“…Safe and effective drugs to lower high blood pressure and prevent clots didn’t begin to become available for more than ten years after Roosevelt’s death. In the 1940s, only commonplace aspirin was widely recommended for purpose.”

Pleasant Home, Oak Park

During the last part of our Chicago Open House visit-as-much-as-you-can excursion on Sunday, in the near western suburb of Oak Park, I found myself face-to-face with a Mills dime slot machine.
Pleasant Home Oak Park Mills slot machineA nearby docent encouraged me to put in a dime. I did so and watched the wheel spin. It might be an antique machine, but it will still give you a fruit-based result. What it will not do is give any sort of payout. My dime was a donation, so I could see the machine move.

Next the docent made it spin without putting a dime in, so I could see the machinery inside in action. The back had been removed just for that purpose. It’s impressive — mainly because I can’t understand at all how such a machine works.

My dime is going to the further upkeep of the building in which I found the slot machine: Pleasant Home, also known as the Farson House, built in 1897.

Farson House Oak ParkAs much as I understand these things, the house is important in the development of the Prairie School. The AIA Guide to Chicago not only has an entry about the house, it devotes more than a page to it, which is major attention from that publication. Prairie School and in Oak Park, but not by Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather George Washington Maher, a contemporary of his who didn’t live nearly as long (dying in 1926), designed the house.

The Maher web site says: “In describing the Farson house, architectural historian Paul Sprague wrote ‘…it was extraordinary… compared to typical residences of the late 1890s. Its clean lines, flat surfaces of Roman brick, stone and wood, and simple rectangular window frames, chimneys and porch openings would have been hard to parallel anywhere at the time except in building by Sullivan and Wright.’ ”

Got an expansive porch, all right.
Farson House porch Oak ParkWhat do slot machines have to do with all this? That’s a tangent worth pursuing — another benefit of looking at things and then thinking, What was it I saw?

The first owner of the house was, according to the Pleasant Home web site: “Famous for his immaculate white flannel suits, red cravats and ties and top hats or straw boaters. [John] Farson gathered around him a vast circle of friends who shared his interests in everything up-to-date. As his passions shifted from horses to automobiles to roller skating, Farson amazed Oak Parkers with his public-spirited nature and high energy.”

He was a Gilded Age millionaire banker (d. 1910), so he could indulge his interests. Slot machines were not one of them, however. That was the business of the second owner of the house, Herbert S. Mills.

“Shortly after the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893, the young Mills built the first coin-operated automatic slot machine and later manufactured Mills machines of all kinds for his penny arcades and fortune-telling machines. Mill’s penny arcades became institutions on American’s main streets and amusement parks at the turn of the century.”

I’ve read elsewhere — a tangent from a tangent — that it was actually Charles Fey who invented the modern slot machine, out in California. But he did partner with Mills to produce them on a mass scale, and no doubt become very rich as a result.

“Raising eight children during the years they spent in the home, the Mills lived more quietly than the Farsons… In 1939, when the Mills family sold the house to the Park District of Oak Park, the grounds were designated as Mills Park in their honor.”

One more detail: while it was probably a pleasant place to live, certainly by early 20th century standards, Pleasant Home takes its name from its location, at the corner of Pleasant St. and Home Ave. in Oak Park.

Logan Square Walkabout

We’re no strangers to Logan Square, but there’s always more to a neighborhood. Aloft Circus Arts isn’t far from the square, but even closer is the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken). In fact, the church faces the square.

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) ChicagoThe church dates from 1912, when I suspect there were a lot more first-generation Norwegians in the area, and was designed by an architect by the fitting name of Charles F. Sorensen. As we entered, I wondered just how Norwegian the congregation is a century later.

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) Chicago

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) ChicagoMore than I’d have thought. According to the church’s web site, my emphasis: “Minnekirken serves as a reminder of a neighborhood heritage long past in which Scandinavians played a significant part. The church is a place where one can experience Norwegian culture in a very real way — whether it be the Christmas celebrations, the after-service coffee hour with traditional Norwegian delicacies, a codfish dinner, or when Minnekirken hosts performers either from Norway or with Norwegian ties. Minnekirken is the only remaining Norwegian language church in Chicago.

By golly, that’s interesting. Like finding out in Charleston that there’s still a French Huguenot church.

Also interesting, and something I didn’t realize at first: the above stained glass window looks like it depicts the Veil of Veronica. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a window with that as the subject.

On the southern end of Logan Square is Logan Square Auditorium, dating from 1915, in the Gilbert Building.

Logan Square AuditoriumThe first floor has retail and the second floor small offices, for doctors and the like. The upper floor has a large ballroom, though with enough chairs I suppose it could be an auditorium. Not especially picturesque, but it would be a good place for an event with a lot of people.

The volunteer in the ballroom showed us a print of a photo of just such a large event, taken in September 1927. A luncheon from the looks of it, with the crowd looking very much like you’d expect, down to the round eyeglasses and Bendel bonnets. Most of the men had taken off their suit coats, so I’d guess the room was warm in those pre-air conditioned days.

According to the caption, the guest of honor that day was Illinois Gov. Len Small, then in his second of two terms. Generally forgotten now, but true to the tradition of Illinois electing crooks to that office.

Not far to the south of Logan Square Auditorium is Armitage Baptist Church. The leaves in this picture cover its ugly, and unfortunately placed marquee.

Armitage Baptist Church, ChicagoDeveloped in 1921 as the Logan Square Masonic Temple, in later years the Masons bugged out and the building was by turns an event venue and a school. Now Baptists meet an auditorium-style sanctuary that’s very spare, except for mostly Latin American flags. And conga drums.
Armitage Baptist ChurchOn one of the upper floors is a gym in need of some restoration, though it looks like you could still shoot some hoops. The church is working on the building, when funds are available.
Armitage Baptist Church basketball courtFew gyms in my experience have Bible verses on the walls, but I don’t visit many parochial schools.

Before leaving Logan Square, we got a quick look at the Illinois Centennial Monument rising over the square.
Illinois Centennial MonumentI took a closer look at its base some years ago. Next year is Illinois’ bicentennial. I still don’t think we’re going to get another memorial.

Milwaukee City Hall

After spending much of the day in churches, we ended Milwaukee Doors Open by visiting a structure of the state. More specifically, Milwaukee City Hall, which is as palatial in its way as any ornate church.

The view of the building from the corner of E. Kilbourn Ave. and N. Water St.

Milwaukee City Hall“From 1895 until 1899, the tallest inhabited structure in the world was Milwaukee’s City Hall, a building noted for its Flemish design and landmark qualities,” says the Wisconsin Labor History Society. “Towering more than 300 feet, it was a pioneering building in an era as elevators finally were becoming practical. The building’s design has been heralded and it still stands as a trademark [sic] of Wisconsin’s largest city.”

The clock tower, from Water St. south of E. Wells St.
Milwaukee City HallI didn’t realize until I read more about the building, designed by local architect Henry C. Koch, that City Hall was featured in the introduction of Laverne & Shirley, probably because I haven’t seen that show in nearly 40 years. At the time, large letters midway up the clock tower said WELCOME MILWAUKEE VISITORS. A nice sentiment, but déclassé on your city hall, and the letters were removed at some point.

The first floor lobby offers a good first impression of interior.
Milwaukee City Hall“The building was one of the first to feature an extensive open atrium, of 20 by 70 feet, rising eight stories in the building’s center,” the city’s web site says.
Milwaukee City Hall“During the Great Depression, seven people jumped to their deaths, and an eighth died of a stroke after one of the jumpers nearly missed him. Afterwards, in 1935, protective wiring was placed around the center rails of the floors to prevent accidents and suicides and remained in place until Mayor John O. Norquist took office in 1988.”

A view from the third floor, looking toward the mayor’s office on the second floor.
Milwaukee City Hall“The building measures 393 feet from the base of the bell tower to the top of the flagpole, making it Milwaukee’s sixth largest. The flagpole measures 40 feet in length.

“The 22,500-pound bell – named ‘Solomon Juneau’ after Milwaukee’s first mayor – was fabricated from melted copper and tin from old church and firehouse bells around the city, and was hoisted to the tower in 1896, first chiming on New Year’s Eve.

“While Milwaukee’s Allen-Bradley building (Rockwell Automation) features the world’s second largest four-sided clock, City Hall’s 18-foot clock was believed to be the world’s third largest when it was fabricated.”

On the third floor is the Common Council chamber. A lot of natural light fills the room from behind the dais.

Milwaukee City HallMilwaukee City HallPeople were taking turns sitting at the dais, holding the gavel, so why not?
Churches have their stained glass. So do municipal buildings, at least this one, at the entrance to the Common Council.
Milwaukee City HallMilwaukee City HallTours of the upper reaches of the clock tower were booked by the time we got there. Too bad. Just another reason to go back next year.

Fairmount Cemetery, Denver

A handy list of “notable burials” at the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver is posted at Wikipedia. So handy that the cemetery web site doesn’t bother with its own list, it merely links to the Wiki site.

Like the list of interred notables at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, I didn’t recognize any of them. Like Arkansas history, I’m shockingly ignorant of the details of Colorado history, particularly the names of governors, Denver mayors, U.S. Senators and Congressmen from the state, local judges, newspaper editors, businessmen, ranchers and others. All those classes of achievement are represented by the Fairmount dead.

Some are intriguing. Such as Arlene White Lawrence, (1916–1990), bishop and the third president and general superintendent of the Pillar of Fire Church. Great name, that. Seems that the Pillar of Fire International is a Methodist sect. Methodists have splinter sects? This one goes back to one Alma Bridwell White.

Encyclopædia Britannica on White: “An intense experience of personal sanctification in March 1893 induced White to organize a series of revival meetings at which she attempted to recover the fervour and piety of primitive Methodism.

“Her zealous emotionalism, together with her outspoken criticisms of the decorous accommodations of the Methodist hierarchy, brought the wrath of conservative churchmen down on White and her husband [a Methodist minister], who was transferred to a still-less-desirable pastorate. She eventually persuaded him to resign altogether.”

Ah, those “decorous accommodations.” Not Where Jesus Would Live, she probably believed. Or Wesley either. The couple then founded what would become the Pillar of Fire Church. Arlene White Lawrence was their granddaughter, who obviously went into the family business eventually. The church, headquartered in New Jersey, is an ongoing thing.

That’s a digression from a Denver cemetery, but cemeteries are good places to digress, as you ponder the stones and the names and the dates. I didn’t happen to see Lawrence’s stone, but never mind. There was a lot else to look at Fairmount, founded in 1890 and sprawling over 280 acres.

Fairmount Cemetery, DenverFairmount Cemetery, DenverFairmount Cemetery, DenverFairmount Cemetery, DenverA sizable mausoleum.

Fairmount Cemetery, DenverAn even bigger one.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver - Eben SmithEben Smith was a Colorado mine baron of the late 19th century. I can only imagine that meant he was a ruthless bastard. Something the position called for.

“Destined to be grand from the start, Fairmount was designed by Reinhard Schuetze, whose success at Fairmount immediately became the talk of Denver,” the cemetery web site says. “He subsequently designed City, Congress and Washington Parks, as well as the areas around the Capitol. Today, Schuetze is known as the father of Denver’s park system.

“Fairmount is home to Colorado’s most extensive arboretum, filled with numerous Champion Trees and one of the largest collections of Heritage Roses in North America.”
Didn’t see any roses, but the trees were all around. Probably some Champions and a lot of also-ran trees too.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver

Fairmount Cemetery, Denver“The cemetery’s two original buildings, the Little Ivy Chapel and the 1890 Gate Lodge, are designated historic Denver landmarks. And the Fairmount Mausoleum contains one of the largest stained glass collections in Colorado.”

The charming Little Ivy Chapel, with a French Gothic look.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver - Little Ivy ChapelThe nearby Chapel in the Pines.
Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Chapel in the PinesThe stately Fairmount Mausoleum. The aforementioned stained glass must be those windows, but I didn’t have time for a closer look.
Fairmount Cemetery, DenverI spotted a less conventional grave site, of fairly recent vintage, near one of the cemetery entrances. A young woman named Jessica, 1986-2009, a victim of a modern plague.
Fairmount Cemetery, DenverSculptor Sutton Betti writes about the memorial: “The project was installed… March 29, 2012, and is my second permanent installation in Colorado. Although there is [sic] no figurative elements in the piece, I enjoyed making it, as this is something quite unique from my past work.

“Commissioned by Jessica’s mother, the memorial is designed to show the young woman’s love of snowboarding. Being a snowboarder myself, I was able to understand her daughter’s love of the sport.”

Denver Union Station and Larimer Square

Hot dry days here in northern Illinois around the equinox. Seems like September making up for the cool August, and the wet spring, but in any case it can’t last. It’s like walking on a shallow ledge far away from shore. Without warning the water’s going to get deep, just as you got used to ambling along only getting your feet wet. The cold will come just like that.

This is what Denver Union Station looks like, from across Wynkoop St. toward the grand entrance, in the early years of the 21st century. That is, earlier this month.
Denver Union StationIt’s easy to get sentimental about trains (this song does so too, but remarkably also addresses the evil done with trains at times). It’s especially easy to get sentimental in the presence of a refurbished structure from the golden age of American railroading.

In the late 19th century, a number of railroads serving Denver collaborated to erect Union Station. A fire and some rebuilding put it in its 20th century form by 1914. The years passed and countless thousands of people passed through the station at the edge of the Rockies.

By the latter years of the century, the place was run down, as passenger train service became a shadow of its former self. In our time — the 2010s — the ad hoc Union Station Alliance revived the place. Kudos to all those Denver companies in the Alliance: Urban Neighborhoods Inc., Sage Hospitality, Larimer Associates, REGen, and McWhinney.

As befitting more recent times, the station is now more than a transit nexus, though it’s still that, with Amtrak serving the station, as well as light rail, commuter rail and buses. Modern Union Station also includes the 112-room Crawford Hotel and 22,000 square feet of ground-floor shops and restaurants.

The 12,000-square-foot Great Hall serves as the hotel lobby, public space, and train waiting room. And as a place for me to rest during my walkabout in downtown Denver.
Denver Union StationBut I didn’t rest too long. I wanted to see the other side.

Denver Union Station

The shed in front (or behind) the main structure is where three RTD light rail lines converge. Directly underground is the bus station. A good idea: less aesthetic buses are underground, better-looking (and cooler) light rail runs at ground level, easy to see. Note also that there are places to lock up bicycles. Multimodal for sure.

From Union Station I wandered through parts of Lower Downtown — known to the real estate industry as LoDo — passing other redevelopment projects.

LoDo Denver 2017 Ice HouseDenver 2017But I didn’t go as far as Coors Field.
LoDo Denver 2017Before long I came to Larimer Square. The heart of the square, the 1400 block of Larimer St., was temporarily blocked off; a gastronomic event was slated for later in the evening, under lights and Colorado flags.

Larimer Square 2017Larimer Square 2017This stretch of Larimer St. is historic as it gets in Denver: the oldest commercial block in the city, laid out by land speculator and Denver City founder William Larimer Jr. in the late 1850s. He was also instrumental in establishing the Colorado Territory (until 1861, Denver City and environs were in the western part of the Kansas Territory).

For much of the 20th century, the neighborhood was a skid row, and by the mid-60s, that rapacious destroyer of interesting historic neighborhoods, Urban Renewal, threatened to raze the area. Fortunately the efforts of citizens, especially Dana Crawford, saved the block — and a lot more of old Denver. Crowford’s still at work.

In The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America’s Communities (2016), Stephanie Meeks and Kevin C. Murphy write:

“True to the time, the original proposal to turn Larimer Square and its environs around, as conceived by the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, was a massive 117-acre project called Skyline that threatened to raze thirty blocks of the historic downtown. Dana Crawford had another vision for Larimer Square.

” ‘Downtown Denver was pretty much intact from its Victorian boom days and it reminded me a lot of Boston,’ said Crawford. So, even as Jane Jacobs was going toe-to-toe with Robert Moses for the future of Lower Manhattan, Crawford… with her friends and neighbors, began buying older buildings in the blighted area, often for little more than the price of the land they sat on.”

Much more effort followed, but that was the beginning of modern Larimer Square — a superb example of adaptive reuse of historic buildings, ongoing for five decades now, and currently owned by Larimer Associates, who carries on the revitalization.

Larimer Square 2017

Larimer Square 2017Larimer Square 2017Larimer Square 2017I enjoyed just walking around, looking at the buildings. The fact that the street was about to be given over to an event added to the sensation.

A Walk Around the Colorado State Capitol

Carved on the riser of one of the front steps of the Colorado State Capitol is a well- known phrase: One Mile Above Sea Level. I’ve read that the measurement has been resurveyed a couple of times, and that step isn’t actually at a mile, a lower one is. Never mind. This is the tourist mile-high line.

Mile High Line Colorado State CapitolAs part of the city’s identity, that metric is well known. I saw a group of Korean tourists (I’m pretty sure that’s what they were speaking) snapping away at the mile-high step just like I did.
Colorado State Capitol Mile High LineCurious. No doubt they only had a vague notion of a mile as a measurement, since presumably they’d be more familiar with the metric system and the traditional Korean units like the ri, which is about a quarter of a mile, a unit descended from the Chinese li.

Then again, that’s the spirit of tourism for you. If I found a carving in East Asia asserting that the spot was One Li Above Sea Level, I might want to pose with it too.

Whatever the elevation, the capitol dome is impressive.
Colorado State CapitolCopper panels gilded with gold leaf from a Colorado mine. Fittingly, since the state owes its origin to a gold rush. The capitol itself dates, as many capitols do, from the late 19th century, designed by Elijah E. Myers, who also did design work on the Texas and Michigan state capitols. He was the only person to work on three, it seems. Now that’s a Jeopardy question to stump the best of ’em.

A further-away exterior shot.

Colorado State CapitolNot visible is the fact that the building is “the first state capitol in the country to be cooled by geothermal power, completed in 2013,” notes the State of Colorado’s web site. “An energy performance contract issued in June 2012 by the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration and Chevron Energy Solutions allowed the upgrade of the Capitol’s HVAC system and installation of a geothermal well that heats and cools the House and Senate Chambers.”

As mentioned, the capitol was closed on Saturday. I got a good look around the grounds instead. The area isn’t heavy on memorials, not like some states, but there are a few. Such as this Colorado Union soldier.
The memorial mentions the Colorado Volunteers’ 22 battles and the names of the 279 who died. You’d think that would be OK, but it turns out that only most of those battles were for the Union. A few were against Indians, including the notorious Sand Creek Massacre, so there’s been some grumbling about the memorial.

An effort is under way to built a permanent memorial on the capital grounds to the victims of Sand Creek. If there’s a temporary memorial there now, I missed it. Adding that, I think, would be better than tearing down Billy Yank.

I did notice, on the other side of the capitol, a much less dramatic memorial.
There are two plaques on the structure, and two other spots seemingly made for plaques, but which are empty. One plaque honors Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr, who objected publicly to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, unlike all the other Western governors.

The plaque quotes him: “When it is suggested that American citizens be thrown into concentration camps, where they lose all privileges of citizenship under the Constitution, then the principles of that great document are violated and lost… we are disregarding the very principles for which this war is being waged against the Axis nations…”

His stance probably cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate in the 1942 election. He has a number of other memorials in the state in our time, however. The other plaque on the memorial is about the Amache detention camp (Granada War Relocation Center) in eastern Colorado.

A Bit of the Chicago Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was pretty much out of the question this year — and it’s probably a logistics hassle of the first order, even of you’re already in the UK — so I went to the Chicago Fringe Festival for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. Though not a trans-Atlantic proposition, it did involve driving into the city, which has its own small hassles.

Fringe1Naturally I left home later than I wanted to, so I caught only two performances, more-or-less picked at random: With the Weight of Her Fate on Her Shoulders and Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton: A Revolutionary Love Story. Per Fringe rules, each ran for an hour or less, with the latter taking nearly the whole 60 minutes, the former not quite so much.

The festival, now in its eighth year, is in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of the Northwest Side. One of the selling points of the festival is that all of the venues were within easy walking distance of each other, and they were. Despite all the years I’ve lived in northern Illinois, it was yet another unfamiliar neighborhood, so I spent some time walking around between the shows as well.

Jefferson Park is a pleasant strolling neighborhood, even in the fairly high heat of late summer, with its residential and commercial thoroughfares (Milwaukee and Lawrence) very much in the Chicago pattern: leafy small streets lined with small apartments, plus blocks of shops along the larger streets. In our time, Jefferson Park is heavily Polish. So Polish, in fact, that the Copernicus Center is there, at 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.

The center includes the Mitchell P. Kobelinski Theater — formerly Gateway Theatre, the first movie palace in Chicago for talkies. That by itself would be worth seeing, but over Labor Day weekend, the center holds its Taste of Polonia festival, which was in full swing Sunday afternoon. So the place was jumping, having attracted more people than the Fringe could ever dream of, and making a lot more noise. As I passed, a band was playing “Come on Eileen,” sounding like the Save Ferris version.

I wasn’t in the mood for a festival, but I did walk by the entrance and took a look at the outside of the building, including the sweeping tower atop the building. That was added in the 1980s and is said to resemble the tower of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, or at least its post-WWII reconstruction.

The Fringe venues were more modest, but I was surprised to learn that three of them were actual theater spaces: the Gift Theatre, Jefferson Park Playhouse and Windy City Music Theatre Blackbox Studio. Jefferson Park, in other words, has a theater scene. Other performances were held in spaces provided by the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park.

With the Weight of Her Fate on Her Shoulders was at Gift Theatre, a 50-seat slice of space with three rows of seats, black walls and a small performance area under a modicum of lights. You can’t get any more basic than that for a theater space, so everything depends on the strength of the writing and the skill of the actors.

Weight wasn’t bad, but not that good. The three young actors certainly had some acting chops. The tight space of the theater fit the setting of a cramped refuge from unseen but definitely heard urban combat going on outside. It also fit what the play seemed to be about: war is hell, it will drive you mad, and then probably kill you. Also, words are weapons. What? One of the characters seemed to talk — verbally harass — another into a violent death. Or was that supposed to be a stray bullet coming into the room?

As earnest as it all was, the short play was something of a muddle. I couldn’t quite bring myself to care whether the characters survived, because I wasn’t quite sure what kind of danger they faced. At times I felt like dozing off, but forced myself to stay awake, like you do during a hard patch of long-distance driving. There’s no risk of causing a traffic accident sitting in a theater, but snoring during a live show would be embarrassing.

I had no such problems with Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton: A Revolutionary Love Story, a fine work of historical fiction, done in the Congregational church’s meeting hall. The thing was engaging. I wanted it to last longer than its hour. The acting was strong, especially the two leads, and while it would have been easy for the playwright — Steven Long — to stray into the tendentious, he avoided that trap, portraying the leads as human beings rather than talking points.

The story was straightforward, depicting meetings between Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, during the year before the authorities murdered him, and Jeff Fort, a major gang leader in Chicago at the time. Hampton spent considerable energy trying to persuade Fort to give up his criminal enterprise and join him in revolution, which he believed would be along Marxist, not racial, lines. Fort was less impressed by the idea of revolution.

As depicted, the two were in a kind of courtship: Hampton doing his best to persuade Fort, who resisted his pleas, along with spells of mutual admiration, quarrels that almost turned violent, and a sense of foreboding. Aptly so, since both men were doomed in their own ways. A short life for Hampton and a long one for Fort. Even now, the real Jeff Fort, aged 70, is at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where he will surely be until he dies.

After the play, Steven Long came out and asked the audience, about 25 of us in all, to mention it on social media. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that, but probably not the last. For my part, I’m mentioning it and the festival here.

My attendance at the Fringe this year was as much an exploratory run as anything else, to see whether it might be worth committing more time and energy to in future years. I’d say yes.

More Vincennes

At Grouseland in Vincennes, during the tour, our guide pointed out a sizable crack in the wall of one of the upstairs bedrooms. She said that was the only damage to the interior walls that the long-time modern owners of the property, the Daughters of the American Revolution, decided not to repair. That’s because the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes make the crack. That crack might be the only visible relic anywhere of that long-ago event. Historic damage preservation, you might call it.

Outside of the Harrison mansion are a few memorials, one of which is homely indeed.
Two blocks south of this marker on March 6, 1814, was born Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Capt. and Mrs. Zachary Taylor.

Miss Taylor married Lieut. Jefferson Davis at Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1835 and died in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, on September 15 of that same year.

Zachary Taylor subsequently became the twelfth President of the United States, and Jefferson Davis the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy 1964

A Confederate memorial, sort of, but somehow I doubt that memorial revisionists are going to be flustered by it.

Grouseland has a small gift shop. You can buy William Henry Harrison Pez dispensers there. I did.

William Henry Harrison PezWHH Pez is now going to keep company with my Franklin Pierce bobblehead.

At the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park gift shop, you can buy a flag I’ve never seen anywhere else: the George Rogers Clark Flag. I got one of those, too.
George Rogers Clark FlagThe Clark flag is now going to keep company with my Come And Take It flag that flies on our deck during the warm months.

Apparently Clark’s men didn’t carry the flag at the Battle of Vincennes, but it was around — a previous American commander at Sackville, before the British took the fort, might have used it. Clark got his name attached to it anyway. Also, it isn’t clear why red and green were its colors. Never mind, all that mystery adds interest. It’s distinctive, and you can find it displayed with more conventional flags at the National Historical Park.
George Rogers Clark Memorial flagsVisible from the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is the Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash (US 50), the border at that place between Indiana and Illinois. An elegant bridge.
Lincoln Memorial Bridge, Vincennes, IndianaThis was where a young Abraham Lincoln (age 21) and his family is thought to have crossed into Illinois for the first time in 1830. On the Illinois side of the river, that event is marked with a memorial.
Lincoln at 21 memorial, entering IllinoisProbably the Lincolns crossed the river on a ferry. Crossed the river, checked out the memorial, and then when on their way. I admit, that sounds like a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, but it’s something I thought of while looking at the memorial.

Lincoln crossing into Illinois memorial

Officially, it’s the Lincoln Trail State Memorial, designed by Nellie Verne Walker and erected in 1938.

One more thing in Vincennes: a small museum to a native son. Anyone younger than me (roughly) might have a hard time identifying him.
Red Skelton mural, VincennesThe museum was closed on Sunday, and we didn’t have time for it anyway, but I did tell the girls that Red Skelton was an old vaudevillian, long before my time. I remember him on television, which was essentially televised vaudeville in his case. Who in our time would do comedy that included “The Silent Spot”?

George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

There’s probably no way to measure this, but I believe that the George Rogers Clark Memorial, which looks very much like it belongs on the National Mall or somewhere equally prominent, is the most obscure large memorial in the country. Who’s ever heard of it, especially outside Indiana? But at more than 80 feet high and 90 feet across at the base, with walls two feet thick, it cries out to be acknowledged as Founding Father-class memorial.George Rogers Clark MemorialThe structure is the centerpiece of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, which is near the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana, just across from Illinois. In early 1779, when Indiana and Illinois were unrealized political entities contingent on a Patriot victory in the Revolution, Fort Sackville stood on the site — more or less. It was around the area somewhere, and occupied by a British garrison.

Above the memorial’s 16 Doric columns, the inscription says: The Conquest of the West – George Rogers Clark and The Frontiersmen of the American Revolution.
George Rogers Clark MemorialIn a tour de force, days-long maneuver in the dead of a Midwestern winter, George Rogers Clark led the forces that assaulted Fort Sackville and took it from the British. But that was just the climax of his efforts.

“Clark began his campaign of attempting to weaken the British position by influencing the French settlers in the area to support the American cause,” the NPS says. “Through these efforts, Clark was able to capture the Illinois Country posts of Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, and Cahokia. Soon after, this French influence was extended over 150 miles to the settlers in Vincennes, and they also declared themselves allies to the Americans.

“… George Rogers Clark in the late summer of 1778 [was] in Cahokia, at a council he called with local Indian tribes in an effort to negotiate peace. By convincing [British Lt. Gov. Henry] Hamilton’s Indian allies to switch sides, Clark could further diminish the resources available to the British.

“Although Clark’s forces at this council were far outnumbered by the Indians in attendance, he impressed the warriors with his bold manner. Many of the leaders of these tribes were convinced to accept the white belt of peace rather than the red belt of war. While this council certainly strengthened Clark’s efforts, there were still many tribes who chose to continue their alliances with the British.”

In older histories, at least, Clark is thus credited with allowing the United States to acquire the Northwest Territory under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Of course, more recent historians disagree about how important Clark’s campaign was in influencing that outcome, as historians do.

Probably the Crown considered that part of North America lost anyway, since newly independent Americans would surely pour into the territory. On the other hand, who knows? Had there been a British garrison in Indiana, and more British-aligned Indians, they might have tried to hang on to the area, as they did Canada.

Also, just in passing, Clark established a settlement in Kentucky that would become Louisville. Finally, he’s William Clark’s elder brother; he of Lewis & Clark fame, whom everyone has heard of. So why is George Rogers Clark so obscure? (Well, not completely to Hoosiers.)

Such is the ebb and flow of historic reputation. Still, Clark got himself a spiffy monument eventually, at the insistence of the people of Vincennes and probably a fair number of Indiana politicians in Washington, around the time of the 150th anniversary of the battle.

New York architect Frederic Charles Hirons designed the memorial, and it was considered important enough for President Roosevelt himself to come dedicate it in 1936 (though the Coolidge administration got the process started).

Inside — air conditioned in our time, a good thing — is a bronze of Clark. On the floor is Clark’s statement to the Virginia Council in 1775, requesting aid for Kentucky: If a country is not worth protecting, it is not worth claiming.

George Rogers Clark statue, Vincennes

Hermon Atkins MacNeil did the sculpture. I’d heard of him already — he also designed the aesthetic Standing Liberty Quarter, which I’d argue we should go back to, once Washington’s been on the quarter 100 years (coming up in 2032).

The murals depicting the campaign are by Ezra Winter. Some details:

George Rogers Clark Memorial

George Rogers Clark Memorial - muralAfter I wrote about Geo. Rogers Clark and his NHP, I mulled over how many National Historical Parks there are, and how many I’ve been to. Fifty-one all together — not the same as National Historical Sites, of which there are 78. I remember visiting 13 such NHPs, two of which were only this year, though I might have forgotten a few. As for sites, only 11. I need to get out more.