30 May 2015 – Sometimes a punchy little title just doesn’t cover it. This long lumpy one does, but not in the order you’ll find below. Never mind. We’ll make it through.
So here we are, last 2 days of the trip, hitting the edge of “Oh damn, let’s just jump on the Interstates & get to Toronto.” We had been so proud of our wiggly small roads all through all those states, hardly a sniff of Interstate. But, finally, it is time to go home.
Except that Danna, bless her, has one last delight up her sleeve. We’re going to nip up to the south-east curve of Lake Michigan, and visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (part of the U.S. national park system).
Some 15,000 acres along the shoreline and, yes, it has dunes.
I tell you, this park is a triumph of stubborn citizen will — not once, but often, as each new development threat took shape. First praised in an 1899 scientific article by botanist Henry Cowles (an article, that, it is said, established him as “the founder of plant ecology”), the area was repeatedly proposed for protection, given some, threatened anew, and on the dance went, until a 1966 act of the U.S. Congress established the first national-level 8,330 acres, since expanded.
There is a very industrial Port of Indiana plonk in the middle, presumably the price paid for the protection otherwise gained. (Nothing I found quite states that quid pro quo; I am here drawing conclusions.)
But life’s benefits always have prices, and the port is invisible unless you are actually driving past it. Certainly not visible, or injurious, from here — the Lake View beach, with its splendid dunes & squealing kiddies running in & out of the waves.
We picnic here, wander the beach a bit, read the signage with its recipe for creating a dune: take 1 receding glacier, preferably advancing/receding in cycles, add strong wind & wave action, stir & tumble for a millennium or so & voilà, rippled shorelines & dunes.
Fed & at least superficially educated, we turn back along this road, to regain the main road and our next target, the Cowles Bog.
No, next target but one. Our immediate target is right out here on Lakefront Drive, where we saw, goggled at, almost stopped for, but decided to visit after lunch … this.
Yes, really. The Century of Progress Historic District. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair featured a group of homes under the banner, “Century of Progress,” each one a showcase of innovative building materials & designs.
In 1935, a developer barged five of them over here.
Including the Florida Tropical House …
and the Armco-Ferro House …
and the House of Tomorrow.
All are now publicly owned & administered, but leased to private tenants. While several are clearly under further restoration, the impact of the group is so unexpected & surreal & glorious that you just giggle with joy as you hop around during your 15 minutes of permitted parking.
On to the bog.
Cowles Bog, of course named for Dr. Henry Cowles, and who more worthy of tribute? Three interconnecting loops offer 4-5 hours of steady hiking, but we don’t have that kind of time. We have dawdled quite a while already, it is mid-afternoon, and, alas, an Interstate does beckon.
So we spend an hour. Long enough to enjoy stretches on wooden paths over the bog …
and to admire huge, happy ferns …
and also some equally happy but more delicate yellow-bog-iris-plants-we-guess.
Then back to the car, oh sigh, and we think the fun is over, but you can’t count on that, can you? Because smack at Hwy 12, which runs its ribbon through the park, we see this:
How silly can you get?
It’s boarded up, but we still can’t quite bring ourselves to trespass, so we admire from relatively afar.
Back to Frank Lloyd Wright
I am grateful to reader John Panning, who commented on my previous post, noting another FLW house open to the public in Iowa. It is Cedar Rock, an outstanding example of the architect’s Usonian design (“his version of the average American home”), located in Quasqueton, Iowa.
So there you go: two FLW homes open to the public in Iowa, each a prime example of a different style: Stockman House = Prairie School, Cedar Rock = Usonian.
Why on earth don’t these two organizations cross-promote?
Back even farther, to Wisconsin Barns
Well, that jump is enough to give you whiplash. Back at least a week & multiple states in this trip’s chronology. Don’t care. I want to show you these barns, and they just didn’t fit in earlier on.
I had already seen U.S. barn art, decades ago in Pennsylvania and (I think) closely linked to the Pennsylvania Dutch community. Starting in Wisconsin, and on through the other mid-West states, we saw many examples, all part of the mainstream farm culture.
Here’s a close-up of one, evening shadows picking out the design …
and here’s a long shot of another the next morning, with that fresh early light and that big sky just rolling on & on. (Made me remember my Alberta days.)
Aren’t they terrific? Art as part of the mainstream culture. Not needed for function, not interfering with function, just loved for its own sweet sake.