Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas, September 27, 2018

Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas, September 27, 2018
Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas, September 27, 2018

Monday, July 23, 2018

St. Paul, MN: the capital tour, Part 3 - Thurs., July 12, 2018

Continued from Parts 1 & 2...

The Capitol had teased us enough. It was time to find out what Minnesota's building had to offer. At this point, we were at 5k (3.1 miles) on our walk. That would be exactly halfway, except we would also be adding the walking tour of the Capitol to our mileage.

We arrived inside the Capitol with 15 minutes to spare before the tour. That gave us time to take a few photos and shop in their little store. We found out that our tour would go outside to get up close and personal with The Quadriga, a unique feature on this Capitol that I have not seen on any of the other Capitol buildings I've been to.
Looking at the main staircase
through the arch on the side of it.
Beautifully restored ceilings
Looking up the main staircase made
from Greek and French marble
When we came inside the building from the searing 90-degree heat (and humidity), the marble benches felt so cool to sit on!

These benches cooled us down a good 10 degrees!
It's time to give you a bit of history about this Capitol. Starting in 1896, architect Cass Gilbert (then age 35) led the construction of the current Minnesota Capitol (the state's third). The Beaux-Arts architecture of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago inspired him to build the Capitol in the Renaissance-revival style. After nine years, and at a cost of $4.5 million dollars, the Minnesota state capitol opened. Cass Gilbert also designed the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

The rotunda has a beautiful view of the inner dome and upper floors of the Capitol. The outside height of the dome from the ground is 223'. From the rotunda to the inner dome is 142'. So it is 81' from the inner to the outer dome.

The design of the dome is modeled after The Basilica of Saint Peter at the Vatican, which was designed by Michelangelo 350 years ago. The outer layer is white marble from Georgia. Hidden inside is a supporting structure of brick and steel. Below that is the inner dome.

Controversy arose over the use of white marble from Georgia. Locals wanted to use granite quarried in Minnesota and argued they would lose stone-cutting and carving jobs if stone from out of state was used. Cass Gilbert insisted on Georgia white marble, saying darker-colored stones would make the Capitol look "gloomy and forbidding." As a compromise, the general contractor leased the Georgia quarry and shipped the rough-cut marble to St. Paul. Local craftsmen then did the cutting and carving on site. Gilbert also specified Minnesota-quarried granite for the ground-floor level, steps, and terraces, and sandstone and limestone for the foundation and interior walls to fully represent the various stones from the state.

The inner dome
Looking up to the third floor
Battle flags of Minnesota were on display. 
First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment
national color battle flag
Our tour started at noon. About 20 people followed our tour guide. Because I couldn't hear very well and didn't retain what I did hear, here is information on the Capitol from the Self-Guided Tour brochure:
"More than 20 types of stone are used in the halls, stairways, and chambers. Prominent among the Minnesota stones is limestone from Kasota and Mankato, which is used on the walls. The vaulted ceilings of the first- and third-floor corridors are decorated with hand-painted arabesques and designs of grains and fruits grown in Minnesota. During the original construction, the building was also wired with electricty and elevators. Even with the installation of electric lights, Gilbert utilized as much natural light as possible, which is evident in the many skylights used throughout the building.
"The murals and paintings--many covering entire wall spaces--represent allegories and historical events. Before the restoration work began, they had decades of discolored varnish, dust, grime, and overpainted areas, which hid most of the original, vivid colors..."
I remember our guide telling us they allowed smoking in the Capitol until 1970 which also contributed greatly to the discolored walls. They left one area up in a corner that showed before and after of the restoration work.

Dark area shows discoloration before restoration.
Old Northwest Territory plaque, circa 1838
Detail on the marble bench
Minnesota is "The North Star State"
("L'etoile du nord" in French)
Because my knee was bothering me, I asked about taking the elevator to the second floor. Our guide pointed me in the general direction. I looked and looked, but couldn't find it. I took the stairs up.

The Governor's Reception Room on the second floor has white oak woodwork and plaster of Paris symbols of Minnesota overlaid with gold-tinted metal leaf. At one time six paintings of Minnesota's involvement in the Civil War adorned the walls; however, two of the painting frames were empty. It seems they had to remove two of the paintings because they were politically inappropriate or historically inaccurate. Those two paintings, Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls of St. Anthony and The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux can now be found in a third-floor exhibit where you can learn more about them. Two new paintings will be chosen for the Governor's Reception Room to replace the two that were taken down.
The Second Minnesota at Mission Ridge, 
by Stephen A Douglas Volk
Governor's Reception Room (you can see
one of the blank frames on the right)
The Battle of Nashville, by Howard Pyle
From the second floor, we had a great view of the marble north star in the rotunda below.

Marble floor of the rotunda
Looking up through columns to the artwork above.
I finally found the elevators to go to the third floor. My mistake in trying to find them on the first floor was that you had to go through doors that looked like you would be going outside. Instead, those particular doors took you into the elevator.
View from inside the elevator.
The ceilings had gorgeous artwork. On this floor, there were paintings of the four seasons.
It's summer on the ceiling!
On the third floor, we were able to go into the viewing areas for the House and the Senate. 
Minnesota Senate Chambers
Art in the Senate representing the
headwaters of the Mississippi River
Next, we had the pleasure of going up 63 stairs, including a narrow circular staircase, to see The Quadriga. No matter what my knee felt like, I was going up there to see it! I took it very slow and let everyone pass me. I was not going to miss this beautiful work of art. You can only see the Quadriga up close on a guided tour.

The Quadriga (Latin for a four-horse chariot) is the gleaming, gold-leaf-covered sculpture at the base of the dome. It is made of sheets of gilded copper hammered around a steel frame. The sculpture was last re-gilded in 2016. The title of this work is Progress of the State. The male figure driving the chariot represents the state, two females portray agriculture and industry, and the four horses represent earth, fire, water, and wind.

The Quadriga as seen on our tour.
Looking up toward the top of the dome
from the Quadriga
Hey, I made it!
Looking down a stairwell from the 3rd floor
Some other people on our tour told us that you can tour the Cathedral of St. Paul. They went on about how cool it was to look out the upper windows at the view of St. Paul and the Capitol. That tour will have to wait for another trip. We still need to finish the walk and then we have a long drive to Steele, North Dakota, this afternoon.

The tour was over and we were on our own. Our tour guide told us where to find the exhibit with the two paintings that had been taken out of the Governor's Reception Room, so we went there while we were still on the third floor. When we finished looking at the exhibits there, we headed down to the first floor which had portraits of all of Minnesota's governors. Susan wanted to find Jesse Ventura's portrait. With a little help from a security guard, we finally found it. 

Jesse Ventura, 38th Governor

After our tour, we continued our Volksmarch. On the way to the Minnesota History Center, we passed another memorial. The walls symbolize barriers created by racial segregation and other efforts to impede the progress to achieving equality. The different-sized obelisks and tiles form a spiral starting at the smallest tile in the middle and move in a spiral to the tallest obelisk ascending over the wall. The spiral ascends above and through those walls. 

"Spiral for Justice," Roy Wilkins Memorial
It was around 2:00 p.m., and it had gotten much hotter since we had entered the capital building. Thankfully, our next stop was in the Minnesota History Center to fill our water bottles, use the facilities, and buy jigsaw puzzles in the gift shop.

We then continued on with the rest of the Volksmarch, passing the cathedral again. The neighborhood beyond the Cathedral is known as Cathedral Hill. This put us at 7k on our walk. Selby Avenue had some beautiful houses, businesses, and even a restaurant or two. 

Lots of hostas in bloom
Virginia Street Church
Mews - Businesses on the bottom
floor, apartments up above
Selby Avenue


Once back at the car, we changed out of our walking shoes and put on sandals or flip-flops for our hours-long drive to Steele, North Dakota. Susan wanted to drive, so she set up Garmin for our destination. Before we hit the open road, we had to get through Minneapolis. Holy cow! The freeway through the middle of Minneapolis is undergoing major renovation and rebuilding. What a mess! We had a big traffic jam for a few miles.

Even after we got out of Minneapolis and headed toward St. Cloud, we had stretches of roadway that weren't a freeway. Along the way, we had a rainstorm that lasted a few minutes. 

Once we finally got going, we loved the scenery alongside I-94. Rolling hills were punctuated with pretty lakes. We stopped at the Fuller Lake Rest Area which had a historical marker about the search for the headwaters of the Mississippi River. 
Info on the Great River Road
along the Mississippi River.
The search for the Mississippi River headwaters.
 You know, we were in downtown St. Paul and we never once got a glimpse of the Mississippi River! That's crazy. 

We continued on our way, stopping only for dinner at Wendy's. By the time we got to Steele, North Dakota, the sun was setting. We made Steele our destination for the evening because the motel was much cheaper than motels in Bismarck, our destination for tomorrow's capital Volksmarch. The motel was one of the nicer ones on our trip and it was the cheapest at $45 for the night.  Not only that, but it was right next door to the world's largest Sandhill Crane. 

After we checked in, Susan and I walked over to the sandhill crane sculpture. However, the mosquitoes were going after Susan and she headed back to her room. For some reason, they weren't bothering me which is very unusual. 




Beautiful in the sunset!
Pretty awesome sculpture!
So ended our St. Paul Capitol Volksmarch day. Wow! 

Tomorrow, we will do the Bismarck, North Dakota, capital Volksmarch. We'll see how my knee does after today's long walk.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

St. Paul, MN: Charles Schulz, Cathedral, Mickey's Diner, Quadriga, Capitol, Part 2 - Thurs., July 12, 2018

Continued from Part 1...

As we walked down the stairs, we came to the historical marker for the Selby Streetcar Tunnel.

Historical photo of the streetcar
Susan Medlin continuing down the trail.
You can see how steep the grade is (16%)
The tunnel exited just below the cathedral.
The tunnel made the grade only 7% which meant the electric streetcars no longer needed a cable assist to get up the hill. From this point, we turned toward downtown St. Paul. There were a number of homeless people along the next few blocks of our route. One couple with an "assist dog" walked with us for a short distance. We heard about how they stand on the corner and beg with a sign. They said all the money they collect goes to feed their dog. I said, "I hope you're feeding yourselves, too." They insisted all the money was for the dog. We left them in the dust.

As we headed toward the Xcel Energy Center, I found a quote in the cement. Here it is...not sure I agree with it because it wasn't exactly quiet at this off-ramp from the freeway, and what is the scent of concrete, anyway?



Xcel Energy Center
St. Paul's downtown skyline
Our entrance to downtown was on 7th Avenue crossing in front of the Xcel Center to 5th Street. We came to the 1902 Landmark Center which originally served as the Federal Court House. It is a grand building. The triangle park across Market Street from the Landmark Center is where I found a number of the Peanuts sculptures. (See yesterday's blog.)
The Landmark Center, corner of 5th & Market
Landmark Center arches (Susan on the bench
waiting for me to take photos)
Many capital cities in the U.S. do not allow buildings or structures to block the view of their Capitol. Not so in Minnesota as you can see in the photo below.

Oops, you blocked the view! I guess it's more
important to stay warm in the winter months.
A pretty pedestrian mall downtown.
Church of the Assumption - Catholic
Romanesque Revival Church built 1870-74
(across the street from Mickey's Dining Car)
Susan and I had eaten a small breakfast at 6:30 a.m., but at 10:30 a.m. our tummies were grumbling. The walk directions mentioned Mickey's Dining Car, a Classic American Diner in a 1930s dining car. We wondered if they would be open so early for lunch. Not only were they open (they're open 24 hours a day)...they weren't crowded. Apparently, there is usually a wait to eat here. There's even a sign inside that says, "30-minute limit." 


Susan outside the dining car.
It's worth reading the back page of the menu for the history of the restaurant and other trivia. Enlarge the back page of the menu by double-clicking the photo below.

Inside the dining car. Photo was taken from our table.
The rules sign in the dining car.
We recommend the Mulligan Stew, and the baked beans were good. The burger was so-so. The fries I could have lived without.

The temperature outside was in the high 80s by this time with high humidity. A break to sit down and eat in air-conditioned comfort, replenish our water, and use the restroom was a most welcome respite from the heat. The food gave us the energy to make it through the rest of the walk.


F. Scott Fitzgerald mural
On the corner just past the F. Scott Fitzgerald mural is the Fitzgerald Theater, home to NPR's radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion." 

Central Presbyterian Church -
Richardsonian Romanesque built
1888-90
Church of St. Louis, King of France
(Catholic)
From the heart of downtown, we walked to the Capitol Complex grounds. Many memorials and pieces of art are spread out over a few blocks around the Capitol. We saw a portion of them.

First, we stopped at the Minnesota Workers' Memorial Garden. "This memorial is dedicated to all Minnesotans that [sic] have given their lives in the workplace.."


Mural

Very large mural dedicated to all types of workers.
More of the mural.
The quote below is also from the Workers' Memorial.

Quote from "Freedom's Plow"
A few steps up the hill is the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial which honors 25 Minnesota women for their leadership in the national 72-year struggle to win the vote. For more than 150 years, American women were denied the basic right of citizenship even as they were expected to conform to laws they had no part in making. Many plaques show the evolution of the Women's Suffrage Movement. One of the groups that came out of the Women's Suffrage Movement was the League of Women Voters, who now educate voters on the candidates and issues. We learned a lot reading everything. Below are a few of the informative plaques


Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial


Where women started out
What women aspire to

A cover of "Life" magazine memorialized.
Our walk instructions told us to head up to the Capitol. And there it was, tempting us. 
Minnesota state capitol
However, I looked farther down the hill and saw a bunch of boulders spread out in a random design and my curiosity was piqued.

I headed down to see what that was about. It is part of a walkway dedicated as a military family tribute. (I admit, we were killing time looking at all the outside memorials. The next guided tour of the Capitol was scheduled for noon and we had 45 minutes until then.) 


The boulders are called "Story Stones" which are excerpts from a letter from a serviceman to a member of their family. Some of the quotes are quite telling about the war they were in or how they were feeling when they received a letter from loved ones. Here are a few...












From the Story Stones, we meandered over to the Korean War Memorial. 

Korean War Memorial
Korean War Memorial
Me paying my respects to the
Korean troops.
Susan with the big sculpture
Time was quickly passing as we explored all the memorials, but it was time to high-tail it up to the capital so we didn't miss the tour. Besides, we still had to take outside photos of the building, too.


Capital Mall area
Pretty posies - dusty miller and purple petunias
The Quadriga (more on that in Part 3 of today's blog)
Things are looking up!
 Time to head inside for the group tour. To be continued in Part 3.