Buildings with Soul

McConnelsville OH garage 08-24-2014As I travel across this great land, particularly in older sections of towns, I am struck by something: buildings used to have soul and were built as monuments to the people and businesses that inhabited them.

After Curator Jessica and I gawked at Big Muskie’s monster dragline bucket and marveled at the Muskingum River levels in the Great Flood of 1913, we crossed over the river into McConnelsville, Ohio.

We hadn’t gone too far down West Main Street when I abruptly whipped into a gas station to take a photo of the front of this beautiful old garage.

Winged wheels

McConnelsville OH garage 08-24-2014Something looked familiar about the winged wheels. Then, it dawned on me: a subtle variation of that was the symbol of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Whoever built this garage wanted to let everybody in town know that this wasn’t a blacksmith’s stable or some shadetree mechanic – this was a place where the automobile was celebrated.

I get the same feeling when I drive around in St. Louis and see buildings that may not have ornate artwork on them, but still carry the name of the owner or business because it was expected to last.

Where in Cape was such a building?

I’m trying to think of any buildings like that in Cape. I’d have to nominate the old Farmers and Merchants Bank at the corner of Sprigg and Good Hope whose stone columns said “bank” as soon as you saw them.

The Boat House across from Capaha Park would be another.


Miners’ Memorial Park

Big Muskie' dragline bucket 08-24-2014Giving Curator Jessica access to my RoadsideAmerica ap just as we were embarking on a road trip to northern Ohio was dangerous. In addition to our normal stops for stuff like interesting buildings, historical markers, cemeteries and just stuff, she announced that we just HAD to make a side trip to McConnelsville, Ohio, to see Big Muskie’s bucket at the Miners’ Memorial Park.

I agreed to the diversion only if she would agree to be photographed with it to give the huge bucket some scale.

In service for 22 years

Big Muskie' dragline bucket 08-24-2014The plaque at the memorial made is sound like the big, bad EPA was responsible for shutting down open mining and causing workers to lose their jobs. It sort of glossed over the fact that the 1977  Clean Air Act reduced demand for soft coal and that the power costs made it unprofitable to operate. The 22-story-tall Big Muskie, with its 310-foot boom and 220-cubic yard bucket sucked down as much power as 27,500 homes and cost tens of thousands of dollars an hour for electricity alone.

The public’s growing opposition to strip mining added to the decision to scrap the world’s largest single-bucket digging machine ever made. It was parked in 1991 and scrapped in 1999 when no company wanted it because of the cost of dismantling, transporting and operating it.

John Prine’s Paradise

Earth Day 1969I had to introduce Jessica to John Prine’s song, Paradise, which contains these words:

Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land.
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken,
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man

And, Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the green river where paradise lay?”
“Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking.
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”

Links to Big Muskie Stats

Bucket photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery. Oh, by the way, the only thing that kept me from having to endure a visit to the Feline Historical Museum was that it was closed on the days we were in the area.