Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Historic Y-Bridge, Zanesville, Ohio

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In the spring of 2012, Joann and I made our second visit to Zanesville, Ohio. On our first stay, we pulled into town late at night, and while I made supper, Joann ran off down the street to check out and photograph several churches. The next morning, we packed up and headed out of town.

This time, we decided to make Zanesville our base for several nights. We also decided that we should actually check out more of the town. Zanesville is called Y-Bridge City, with the first Y-Bridge opening in 1814.

As we drove around town one morning, we came to the Y-Bridge. There was a small parking lot along the river and we pulled in and parked. It was a rainy morning, so Joann grabbed her umbrella along with her camera and headed out to begin taking photographs.

That first bridge had a center pier made of limestone with the others made of wood. Anyone traveling across the bridge had to pay a toll, except for churchgoers and people in funeral or military processions. Some of the tolls are listed below.

Each foot passenger – 3 cents
Each horse, mule, or ass one year old or older – 4 cents
Each horse and rider – 12 ½ cents
Each sleigh or sled drawn by two horses or oxen – 25 cents
Each coach with four wheels and driver, drawn by four horses – 75 cents

The first bridge required constant repairs and fell into the river in 1818 during a heavy flood. Immediately, construction began on the second Y-Bridge which opened to traffic in 1819. This bridge was also a wooden uncovered toll bridge. Around 1830, The National Road reached Zanesville from Cumberland, MD, and surveyors laid out a new road due westward. Because of heavy traffic from new roads coming into Zanesville, this bridge was declared unsafe after only 12 years.

The third Y-Bridge was a covered structure and was completed in 1832. It lasted 68 years. Then, rumors that the bridge was unsafe began circulating and the community voted to tear down the bridge and rebuild.

The fourth Y-Bridge opened to traffic in 1902. The new bridge was uncovered and was made of reinforced concrete. In the 1940’s, highway engineers spotted signs of trouble with the bridge. For another 30 years, traffic crossed this bridge.

In 1979, the fourth Y-Bridge was deemed unsafe and, in 1983, the main span of the bridge was demolished. Federal, state, and local officials had recommended, and the citizens of Zanesville preferred, to replace the bridge with steel girder construction which would be the quickest and least expensive bridge to build. Historic Preservation authorities insisted the new bridge must include the same type of railing, light poles, and parapets that were included on the existing fourth bridge during its original construction.

In the fall of 1984, the fifth Y-Bridge was complete and this is the bridge that stands today. From ground level, it is hard to see the Y, but locals enjoy giving directions to people and telling them to “drive to the middle of the bridge and turn left.”

At the other end of the park is a historic railroad bridge, so we took several photos of that, too. This old bridge is a 4-span through truss bridge over the Muskingum River on the Ohio Central (formerly CSX) Railroad.

Across the river stands an old grain elevator and, together with the bridge, it made a striking photo. After photographing the Y-Bridge on this side of the river, we decided to cross the river to check it out close up. It wasn’t nearly as striking, so we continued on our way.

On to the backroads we went to explore more of Ohio’s rural treasures.

Happy Shunpiking!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Red Brick School

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In October, 2011, Ruth and I made one of our annual fall trips to Iowa. As usual, Ruth had a million things lined up for me to photograph. At the end of the first day, as the sun was sinking into the horizon, we stopped at an old brick schoolhouse called the Red Brick School.

Because the available light was already waning, I quickly went to work. Even though the little brick school had only one room, it had two doors. Our dad and his siblings attended a one-room school that had two doors. They told us that one door was for the girls and one was for the boys.

There was also an old water pump down the hill from the school, which had been painted red.

After photographing the outside of the building and the old water pump, I thought I was finished but, as I always do with old churches and old schools, I decided to check if it was locked up tight. So I turned the knob on the door on the left and, to my surprise, it opened. I peeked inside and was astounded by what I saw.

The schoolhouse had been restored and the room was filled with old desks. I was immediately transported to another time and I just stood there in awe. There was even an old pot-bellied stove.

After soaking in the magnificence of this grand recreation of an earlier time, I snapped back to the present with the realization that I had but a few minutes to photograph before the light would succumb to darkness.

Against one wall, there was a simple bookcase with shelves that were sagging under the weight of old school textbooks and storybooks. On a shelf next to the bookcase was a box containing word cards and phrase and sentence cards that were used as teaching aids.

It reminded me of our days in the four-room Catholic school we attended, where spelling, phonics, sentence structure, and grammar were taught to us by nuns wearing black habits. In one of the front corners of the room sat an old piano, with a large US flag on a pole standing next to it. On the piano were old songbooks, which reminded me of all the songs the nuns taught us out of some wonderful hard-covered songbooks.

The Red Brick School was built in 1873, replacing a smaller brick school. Bricks from the original school were used to build the north end of the new school. In 1920, 46 students were enrolled in the school, which was used until 1960.

In 2006, Jim Wood donated the school to the Washington County Historical Society and it was restored by repairing windows and tuckpointing bricks, among other things. They also refinished old school desks to bring the inside to life. In 2009, the school opened as a school museum.

There was still more to take in, but the light was quickly fading. Then I noticed some old lunch buckets on the shelf that had seen better days but would serve to bring up fond memories for someone, including me.

When the light was all but gone, I snapped one last photo of the room with the old desks. Luckily, my digital camera somehow captures more light than my eyes can see. However, I needed to finish up in order to find my way back to the car. So I reluctantly exited the school, closing the door behind me. As I walked past the door on the right, I checked it and it was locked.

I walked carefully down the concrete steps and back to the car. As I was putting my camera equipment back and excitedly telling Ruth what had just transpired, I told her that I thought I should go lock the door on the left. It just didn’t seem right to leave it open for possible vandalism when the door on the right side was locked. Ruth agreed, so I walked back and locked the door.

As I returned to the car, I said, “You know, I think the open door was a gift from the Universe and my locking it up to keep it safe was my gift in return.”

Happy Shunpiking!

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Follow the Leader

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In the middle of February, 2008, the ground was covered with snow, so Ruth and I headed west to photograph in Sauk, Richland, and Vernon Counties. We always enjoy ourselves so much when we hit the backroads, and that day was no exception because it provided us with some animal antics that we will never forget.

Richland and Vernon Counties have a lot of ridges and valleys. As we drove through a valley in Vernon County, we saw a herd of goats gathered around a large bale of hay. The farm buildings were up on the ridge and, as I grabbed my camera to photograph the goats, an Amish woman came out of the house to feed the goats.

As soon as the goats realized it was time for some delicious grain, they looked up at the woman on the ridge and began to follow what appeared to be the “lead goat” as he headed up the hill. If there ever was a time that I should have had a video camera instead of a still camera, this was it. As soon as all the goats fell in line behind the lead goat, the lead goat decided to stop for some reason. And, just like in a cartoon, each of the goats bumped into the goat in front of him.

We started to laugh and then the lead goat resumed his trek up the steep hill towards the woman with the grain, with all the other goats following behind.

Soon they were halfway up the hill and we continued to watch as the last goat rounded the bend towards the top.

Did I say the LAST goat? Well, that’s what we thought, but then we noticed that one of the goats was still eating hay and was oblivious to the fact that everyone else had gone up the hill. All of a sudden he looked up and realized that he was all alone with the big bale of hay. So he began to bleat very loudly as if to say, “Hey, where’d everybody go?!”

And then he began to walk quickly, bleating as he did so. “Wait for me! Why didn’t someone tell me it was time for grain?!”

Then I think he must have realized that there wouldn’t be any grain left by the time he got to the top, so he kicked up his hind legs and broke into an all-out run.

And all we could do was laugh and watch him as he hurried up the hill in hopes of a morsel of grain.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Avalanche in Wisconsin

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Have you ever looked at a map and noticed the name of a town that is just too interesting not to visit? That’s how it was with my younger sister and me years ago when we were heading home from a birding trip along the Mississippi.

Peggy was driving and I asked if she wanted the fastest way home or if she wanted to take some backroads. She said she didn’t have a deadline for being home, so I could pick some backroads for us to travel. Looking at the map between our current location and home, I saw a town called Avalanche.

The town of Avalanche was platted in 1854 by Cyrus F. Gillett. The name of the village was said to have been taken from the formation of the earth immediately to the east of the town which resembled a gigantic landslide or avalanche which was suddenly stopped in its destructive course.

On that first trip, Peggy and I took Avalanche Road out of town heading east. Both sides of the road were lined with woods, and suddenly a barred owl flew from one side of the road to the other, barely missing our windshield.

Peggy immediately stopped the car and we were able to get some good looks at the bird as it sat in a tree on the other side of the road. Avalanche Road is one of those roads that don’t have much traffic, so we probably startled the owl from his late afternoon nap.

Since that time, as Joann and I have traveled the backroads of Western Wisconsin, we have made multiple stops in Avalanche. One of the interesting buildings still standing is the Avalanche Lutheran Chapel.

The chapel hasn’t changed much over the years, but we always stop and take a few photos whenever we pass by.

The town also has an abandoned house near the church and we always wonder about the buildings left abandoned. What memories does the house hold of the families that once lived there?

And down the road a small ways is an old farm with many unused buildings. One of our favorite buildings there is an old tobacco barn.

This area of Wisconsin once had a thriving tobacco farming presence. Now many of the tobacco barns around there are slowly falling down.

Avalanche in its early days was a farming community with mills to grind the farmers’ grain, a one-room school, a general store, and a creamery to process the local milk.

The Avalanche history that I read was from 1884, so I don’t know how long the town thrived before the businesses closed and the town all but disappeared.

Sometimes, without realizing it, we drive right by towns that were once thriving communities. We are always fascinated by any information we can find about these towns. We are also sad that we will never get to see and photograph the old buildings that are now gone.

That’s what keeps us eager to spend all the time we can out on the backroads in as many states as our schedules will allow.

Happy Shunpiking!