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Adventures in the Villa

Month

September 2022

2022-09-23 Springfield, IL

Fun day in Springfield today…

Our first stop was the Dana-Thomas House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for Susan Lawrence Dana, a forward-thinking socialite living in Springfield, Illinois. The home, the 72nd building designed by Wright, contains the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture. Wright’s first “blank check” commission, the home has 35 rooms in the 12,000 square feet of living space which includes 3 main levels and 16 varying levels in all. It cost $60,000 or $90,000 to build, depending who you believe. Susan Dana was a widow who lived in the house with an elderly cousin. She had 5 servants, including three who lived in the house. In 1944 the house was sold to the Thomas Publishing Company, who maintained the house while using it as their corporate headquarters. In 1981 Thomas sold the house to the State of Illinois for $1 million; they spent $5 million restoring the house. (A few years after the restoration, one of the original FLlW-designed lamps was sold by Christies at auction for $2 million…)

The tour was great. We were able to see virtually all the rooms on all the levels… However, no interior photography was allowed. This house was VERY Frank Lloyd Wright… Tons of detail, texture, art glass windows, giant urns, great furniture… Wonderful!

The east facade…

The south facade is over 150′ long…

Giant urn… There are several around the property…

These are the windows in the “studio”. Basically it is a giant party room in this separate wing of the house. The windows are all art glass. Over 400 windows contain art glass. Beneath it is the Library…

I always enjoy the utilitarian aspects… This is the carriage house on the rear alley…

All around the house is this band or frieze. It is cast plaster that was painted and glazed…

The eaves show Wright’s Asian influence…

The Breakfast Room is a half-rounded extension of the Dining Room. The tables all match, and when extended and added together hold space for 40 people. And, yes, there are 40 matching FLlW chairs…

The east facade again…

Following the Dana Thomas house we visited a more well-known resident of Springfield – Abraham Lincoln…

This is Lincoln’s Tomb. It is a fairly standard monument, just at a slightly larger scale than most. It was dedicated in 1874… As a life-long reader of all things Lincoln, I was familiar with much of this, but it was interesting to see…

Lincoln’s tomb had a long and interesting story…

Lincoln’s body was located in 17 different places between his death and final burial ten feet under the floor of this monument….

While the life of Abraham Lincoln (12 February 1809 – 15 April 1865) – the 16th President of the United States – was tragically cut short, it was his demise that greatly influenced how its nation’s most distinguished citizens were to be commemorated upon their death. After his assassination in Washington, D.C., he died the following day on 15 April 1865. “Due to increased communications technology, word spread across the country by telegraph and train allowing the country to mourn the loss of its president together”; this essentially marked “the first time the nation mourned as one.” There were many other ‘firsts’ related to his state funeral. For example, Lincoln was the first U.S. president to be embalmed and it could be said that his death “triggered the beginning of modern day funeral service.” As part of the preparations for his lying in state from 19 to 21 April, a catafalque was hastily constructed to support his casket. This raised bier of rough pine boards covered with black cloth has since been used for all those who have ‘lain in state’ in the Capital Rotunda. As well, Lincoln’s state funeral has often been used as a model for others to emulate. After his widow, Mary Lincoln, decided to return her husband’s remains to Springfield (Illinois) for burial, Lincoln’s casket was transported on a funeral train that passed 444 communities in seven states. This was the first time that a funeral train cortège was used for the national commemoration of a president’s death and is known as “The Greatest Funeral in the History of the United States.” Until the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lincoln was said to have the distinction of having the largest funeral throughout the world with an estimated one million people who viewed his body during a period of twenty days (15 April to 4 May 1865).

Shortly after arrival at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, the remains of President Lincoln and his son “Willie” (1850 – 1862) were initially placed in a receiving vault from 4 May to 21 December 1865. From 21 December 1865 through 19 September 1871, the bodies of President Lincoln and his two pre-deceased sons Willie and “Eddie” (1846 – 1850) were held in a temporary above-ground tomb constructed on the site of where the current tomb now stands. As fund-raising efforts were under way to erect a fitting monument to his memory, the National Lincoln Monument Association chose the design of Larkin G. Mead Jr. as the winning entry among the 31 artists who made submissions in the 1868 design competition. The construction of the 117-foot-tall tomb which featured a classical obelisk surrounded by statuary began in September 1869 and the brick and steel monument was sheathed with Quincy granite in May 1871, just as the terrace and interior rooms were being completed. With the death of the Lincoln’s fourth and youngest son “Tad” on 15 July 1871, he was the first to be interred in the unfinished structure, followed by his father and two brothers on 19 September 1871. The burial chamber contained crypts for the Lincoln family and at the centre of the original burial chamber was the Lincoln sarcophagus, made of white marble, with his name surrounded by a carved oak-leaf wreath. The Lincoln Tomb was originally dedicated on 15 October 1874 with remarks by Governor Richard Oglesby and a brief address by President Ulysses S. Grant to “immense masses of people”. Although a custodian of the Lincoln Tomb had been appointed on 28 October 1874, there was an absence of rigorous security measures: there was neither a groundskeeper living on site nor a night watchman patrolling the area; lock-up consisted of a single padlock on the tomb’s chamber door and the president’s sarcophagus was only sealed with plaster of Paris instead of cement. This helped set the conditions for a plan made in 1876 to steal his body by a gang of Chicago Irish counterfeiters. With their master engraver sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary and to pressure the governor to release this man, gang members were to kidnap Lincoln’s body. For ransom, they would demand $200,000 in cash and a full pardon for the prisoner. The local police became aware of the plot and Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s only surviving son, who was also informed, agreed to allow the crime to take place so that the criminals could be caught in the act. The date for the grave robbery was set for 7 November 1876, a presidential election day, as they were hoping the cemetery would be deserted on that night. The gang had sawed and filed the padlock off the iron door to the burial chamber and once inside, had lifted the heavy wooden casket out of the sarcophagus. With a United States Secret Service agent placed among the conspirators, he pretended to bring the horses and wagon up to the tomb and signaled the authorities who were in hiding to rush forward, but the thieves had escaped, leaving the body behind. The conspirators were captured in Chicago ten days later and at their trial, eight months later, they were found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. A similar event occurred in November 1878 whereby the remains of a prominent New Yorker were stolen and held for ransom. This heightened sense of fear for the security of Lincoln’s remains along with the custodian of the Lincoln Tomb having received a postcard from Chicago to “Be careful – do not be alone – Particularly Thursday night Nov. 21st. C.” caused for the reburial of the President’s casket in a shallow grave within the tomb’s interior and remained there for eight more years. It is worth noting that as a means to further deter grave robbing, the State of Illinois revised its statute on its penalty to “not less than one nor more than ten years” in the state penitentiary which became in force on 1 July 1879.

Upon the death of Mary Lincoln in 1882, she was interred alongside her husband within the tomb. Over the years, the tomb had fallen into disrepair and its care was placed in the hands of the State in 1895. With a $100,000 appropriation made by the legislature, the funds would pay for a rebuilding and restoration program in 1899-1901. Robert Lincoln did not want a repeat possibility of his father’s corpse being stolen and in 1899 he notified state officials that he would provide $700 to secure his father’s remains similar to that of George Pullman – the inventor of the Pullman sleeping car – who died in Chicago in 1897. Considering the extreme hostility toward Pullman and to prevent the desecration of his grave, his casket was buried within a structure of railroad ties and encased in concrete. In May 1901, as the reconstruction of the Lincoln Tomb was nearing completion, Robert Lincoln met with the Governor and construction officials to arrange for the final burial of his father. Although he requested a quietened reburial and that the casket not be opened, some people argued that the remains should be identified in order to quell continuing rumours that President Lincoln was not the body in the casket. Finally, on 26 September 1901, after opening the lead-lined casket, 23 people – among them state officials and members of the Lincoln Guard of Honor – slowly walked forward and unanimously agreed that the remains were indeed those of Abraham Lincoln. After the viewing of the body, the red cedar casket was lowered ten feet in a large cage of flat steel bars resting on 20 inches of Portland cement concrete attached to an underground boulder. Four thousand pounds of cement [sic] were then poured down covering the cage and casket so that they would be hardened forever in a solid block of rock. After being moved 17 times since his original burial, Abraham Lincoln could now rest in peace. During the 1920s, the Lincoln Tomb was again exhibiting noticeable signs of deterioration which led to a second reconstruction that began in the spring of 1930. The interior of the burial chamber was redesigned in order to better accommodate “the ever-growing stream of visitors” and to “transform the monument into a hallowed shrine”. As shown in the photograph, in place of the old sarcophagus, a large red granite cenotaph marking his gravesite is flanked by the presidential flag and the flags of states in which Lincoln’s ancestors and Abraham Lincoln himself resided. Adjoining crypts hold the remains of Mary, Eddie, Willie and Tad Lincoln. After the major reconstruction, it was rededicated by President Herbert Hoover on 17 June 1931 and has remained unchanged ever since. The Lincoln Tomb was designated a National Historic Landmark on 19 December 1960 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October 1966.

Written by André M. Levesque, April 2022

This is the grave marker. Lincoln is buried 10′ below this marker… The rest of the family is on the main floor…

A sign denotes one of the many locations of Lincoln…

This is the public holding mausoleum, another location…

But here is the rest of the story…

The final event in the saga of Abraham Lincoln’s corpse occurred on Thursday morning, September 26, 1901, in a large tomb known as Memorial Hall, in the presence of some twenty very prominent people and, of course, The Lincoln Guard of Honor, including Joseph Lindlay. His son, thirteen-year-old Fleetwood, was also present. Joseph had more or less snuck his boy in so he could witness history being made that morning.

Minutes prior to lowering the casket into the pit, some of those present suggested one last look inside the coffin—just to be absolutely sure. So a small group of workmen were summoned to remove the cover.

Here, in the April 1980 issue of Yankee Magazine, is how writer Charles E. Fitzgerald described what happened next…

“All at once the room grew quiet… Voices were muffled to church tones. The chief workman laid his chisel aside and carefully gripped the incised rectangle of lead over Lincoln’s head and tenderly drew it away. The fetid odor that escaped momentarily checked the viewers’ curiosity, fixing them in place. Then quietly they converged to ring the coffin and look in.

“The face of Lincoln was now alabaster white. ‘The features looked exceedingly white to me,’ said Judge B. D. Monroe. ‘Not a natural white but immaculate as a shirt bosom. Anyone who had seen a good picture of Lincoln could identify him.’ The headrest has disintegrated, allowing the head to fall back, and thrusting the chin forward, drawing first attention to the familiar whiskers. Though the eyebrows had vanished, there could be no mistaking the mole on the cheek and the thick black hair.”

After everyone, including young Fleetwood, gazed for several minutes at the face of Abraham Lincoln for the very last time, the casket was closed and lowered into its final—truly final—resting place.

Why, you might wonder, was Lincoln’s face “alabaster white” when back in 1887 it had been the color of “an old saddle?” According to the Illinois State Journal, that was due to a white mold that had covered the entire face during the intervening fourteen years.

As to Fleetwood Lindlay, he went on to live out a full life, passing on in 1963 at the age of 75. By then, of course, he really was the last person to have gazed upon the face of Abraham Lincoln.

Written by Judson D. Hale, New England Today, 2014

I remember this story from 1963. It was nice to see that my memory is correct…!

So it started to rain. We moved on…

This is the Lincoln family home… It was the only home Lincoln ever owned…

It was a one room cottage when the family moved in with their first baby, Robert… They had it enlarged to a full two story house shortly thereafter. On the first floor is a front parlor, a rear parlor, the Dining Room, a “family” room, and the kitchen. Upstairs are his and hers bedrooms, two children’s bedrooms, and a bedroom for the hired “girls”…

The rooms are surprising large… This truly was an up-scale house befitting one of the State’s top lawyers…

As interesting as the house was, we were ready to return to the Villa. Happy hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-22 Traveling to Springfield, IL

We had another long, uneventful day, driving from Kansas City, MO, to Springfield, IL

This is Missouri…

We stopped in a parking lot to have a bite of lunch in the Airstream. And we kept rolling on…

We approached Illinois and crossed the Mighty Mississippi River…

This is Illinois…

After 6 1/2 hours we approached the RV park. If this were Arkansas or Missouri I would be listening for banjos…

We found our campsite. We are here for three days! We unhitched, leveled, put out the slide, hooked up water, power, and cable TV. We could live here!

Happy Hours ensued, then dinner. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-21 Traveling to Kansas City, MO

Another long travel day, this time through Kansas. But we did get in two tourist activities…

We pulled out of the RV park in WaKeeny beneath cloudy skies…

Soon the skies were threatening… And the rain began…

It rained for for two hours straight. Sometimes hard, sometimes not so hard, but it never stopped…

We refueled at a terrible Sinclair station. In the rain… And we were limited to about 15 gallons… So we moved on…

In Abilene, KS, we made a spontaneous, impromptu decision to stop in at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library…

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born and raised, along with 5 brothers, in this little house on the “wrong side of the tracks”…

The house is undergoing a full restoration, so it was not open for tours.

We enjoyed the museum. I’m not big into military artifacts or history, but the WWII exhibits were interesting. After stints as President of Columbia University, Head of the Joint Chiefs, and his eight years as President of the US, he and Mamie retired to Gettysburg…

So we moved on… More Kansas. Quite beautiful…

We fought the tight streets in downtown Kansas City, MO, which, of course, are always under construction… (I only ran over one red pylon…). We arrived at Community Christian Church…

In 1940, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a new church building at 46th & Main Streets in Kansas City, Missouri. Departing from tradition, Wright envisioned a “church of the future”, integrating the entire property as worship space. His design included theatre-styled seating, gallery space for social events and a radical approach to heating and cooling. Instead of a traditional steeple, Wright designed a Steeple of Light that would beam light rays from the rooftop.

​The first concept of Wright’s design was published in the Kansas City Star on July 13, 1940. The building dedication was held on January 4, 1942.

​Community Christian Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020 in recognition of its unique and outstanding architectural design.

Personally, this is the least typical Wright building I have seen. Many signature features, such is woodwork, windows, and details are not present here. But it is an interesting space, and well worth the visit…

The roof is basically flat, but this perforated dome sits atop. The “Light Cannons” that provide the “Steeple of Light” are inside this dome…

The walls are an interesting innovation: They are 2″ x 2″ steel tubes, at about 24″ spacing. Attached to the tubes is wire, then building paper, then about 3/4″ of gunnite; gunnite is an inexpensive spray-on application of concrete… These photos show walls that did not receive the gunnite, so we can see the tubes, wires, and paper…

There is a full projection booth at the balcony level. In the early days the church showed first-run Hollywood movies…

The tiny chapel is not by Wright, but it is fairly compatible…

One of the old light cannons…

It was a lovely tour, lead by two “church ladies”. We concluded the tour on the exterior balcony that overlooks the Park across the street…

I was able to find this photo on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website, showing the “Steeple of Light”…

After the tour we walked across the street to the park; we noticed this guy; maybe he’s looking for Hollywood and Highland…

Across the street was a lovely restaurant… Happy Hours on ordered…

We had one more short drive to the campground for tonight… Over a wacky bridge… Called the Christopher S. Bond Bridge, it is a cable-stayed bridge, 316′ tall…

We parked at a lovely RV park…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-20 Traveling to WaKeeny, Kansas

We are looking forward today to driving down this mountain (8,500′) and getting to the prairie below (5,200′). This was an easy drive, downhill all the way. We passed through Denver, and that was about the most exciting thing that happened today.

This is Western Colorado…
We stopped in Genoa, Colorado, for lunch. Unfortunately, the only cafe in town is closed on Tuesday… Population (2020 census) = 183.

So we ate a salad inside the Villa, then we moved on… We saw no people. We heard one car, then later saw one car. Maybe it was the same car…

We continued on the 70 east through eastern Colorado.

Finally we entered Kansas…

We enjoyed the border town of Kanarado…

While in the Rest Stop east of Kanarado we were “tapped” by a big-rig backing out of his parking space…

The campground in WaKeeny was HOT – 99 degrees or more…

As the AC worked to cool down the Villa we enjoyed a little happy hour, then we went inside for dinner. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-19 Traveling to Central City, Colorado

Today is an adventure! We are driving over the Rocky Mountains. We are starting at Green River, UT, at 4,000′ elevation.

But first, here are the three oldest grandchildren, ready for school picture day: George X, almost 7, Ian, 8, and Roisin, 9…

We are heading east on the 70… We are traveling across barren Eastern Utah, into Western Colorado.

Once into western Colorado the terrain gets much more interesting…

We stopped at a little town called Rifle, CO, where we had a little lunch. We enjoyed walking the 100 year old downtown…

We continued on. The 70 winds along the Colorado River. We are slowly climbing, but not too rapidly.

The first of several tunnels we went through…

We crested the Vail Pass at 10,666′, then we dropped down to about 9,000′, then we climbed up again to the west entrance of the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel. The elevation here is 11,158. These tunnels are the highest tunnels in the USA.
After exiting the tunnel we dropped down to about 7,000′; this is where we turned off for a short drive to the campground: 7 miles long, and another 1,500′ elevation rise.

My hemoglobin was starving! I needed a long rest.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-18 Traveling Green River, Utah

After an uneventful night we headed out. From Arizona, back into Nevada, then up the 15 into Utah…

Utah has magnificent geological formations. We took a few photos, but we are on a tight schedule, so we did not stop often or spend too much time being touristy…

We stopped in a little town called Hurricane, UT, to stretch our legs again…
These next photos are the amazing mountains all through Utah…
We soon headed east on the 70. More great mountains!

We continued East…

We arrived in Green River, Utah, and checked into the RV park. It was still hot…

We had been to Green River before, in 2018, on the Southwest Adventure Caravan. We had arrived from the south, and we spent hours at the Historic Museum telling the story of John Wesley Powell. Powell left from here on the Green River, which joins the Colorado River a few miles south of here. He continued on and explored the Colorado through the Grand Canyon…

We are not heading south – we did that in 2018. Tomorrow we continue East. We will drive over the Rocky Mountains, continue through Colorado, Kansas, and into Missouri. In Kansas City we will tour a Frank Lloyd Wright building. We continue east through Missouri and into Illinois to Springfield, where we will see more Frank Lloyd Wright, and all things Abraham Lincoln. Finally we will head south to meet up with the caravan in northern Arkansas…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-17 Traveling from Redlands, CA

We are off to the east for the first time since Summer 2021! We are joining the Airstream Club International (ACI) in Northern Arkansas for a caravan titled, “Sho’ Me The Ozarks”. We will spend about one month in Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri.

First, to get your attention, here is Evelyn, our 4 1/2 year old grand-daughter, ready for her first time playing soccer…

We left Redlands at about 9:30 AM. The drive north on the 15 was uneventful and quite boring.

We stopped to stretch our legs, like we normally do about every 1-1 1/2 hours…

We crossed over into Nevada…

This is Primm, NV, just over the border…

We drove through Las Vegas on the interstate…

And arrived at Mesquite, Nevada. Unbeknownst to us, while our RV park was addressed in Mesquite, Nevada, it is actually in Arizona…

It was a basic, clean, RV park, with full hook-ups. We need the AC – its 98 degrees…!

I will elaborate more on our plans in the next blog post…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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