Adventures in the Villa


Eero Saarinen

2017-06-18 Columbus, Indiana, Eliel Saarinen, and many other famous architects…

Our second day in Columbus was Sunday, so, naturally, we went to church. There are many modern churches in Columbus designed by famous architects, so we needed to make a choice. We selected the First Christian Church, designed by Eliel Saarinen (father of Eero…)

2017-06-18 Columbus - First Christian Church 1

It was fun to sing the old hymns in such a modern church. The church was built in 1942. It was the first contemporary building in Columbus and one of the first churches in the United States to be built in a contemporary architectural style.

After church we drove to the north part of town and spent 2 hours walking several blocks of very nice houses, some designed by famous, dead architects.

On this walk we saw:

North Christian Church, the last building designed by Eero Saarinen:

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St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, designed by Steven R. Risting (Ratio Architects):

2017-06-18 Columbus - St. Bart Catholic Church


Schmitt School, designed by Harry Weese; the first school that took advantage of the Cummins Foundation’s offer to pay the architect’s fees:

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2017-06-18 Columbus - Schmitt School 1


Northside School, designed by Harry Weese:

2017-06-18 Columbus - Northside School


We walked about 6 miles through the north Columbus neighborhood, so we needed a break at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor (open since 1900) for lunch:


Since this was Day #9 on our trip, we spent the rest of the day doing laundry, cleaning house, and setting up computer paraphernalia… An enjoyable time was had by all…



2017-06-17 Columbus, Indiana, and Eero Saarinen

We left the Casino Queen RV Park at 5:30 am and we continued east across Illinois. Our destination today: Columbus, Indiana.  First: We crossed the border into Indiana…

2017-06-17 Map Indiana

Columbus, Indiana, is an architectural gem.  It is a typical Midwestern town of 44,000, located about 40 miles south of Indianapolis. It has a Victorian downtown, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is also the home of Cummins, Inc. And therein lies the story:

J. Irwin Miller joined Cummins, the family business, in 1934.  As the nephew of the President, he always felt like others at the firm treated him differently and minimized his contribution to the company.  When World War II broke out he took the opportunity to enlist, and he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. However, he was called back when his uncle died unexpectedly.  He was executive vice president from 1944 to 1947, president from 1947 to 1951, and chairman from 1951 to 1977.

In 1950, Miller helped to establish the National Council of Churches (NCC) and later served as its first lay president (1960–63). Miller chaired the NCC’s Commission on Religion and Race, which coordinated organized religion’s support for strong civil rights legislation, and jointly sponsored the March on Washington. He led religious delegations that met with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to push for the legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1954, he established the Cummins Foundation; during the post-war boom, the city of Columbus started to build new schools. The first schools built were so ugly, and so poorly suited for fostering children’s education, that Miller felt he had to do something.  In 1957, he made an offer to the city that the foundation would pay all the architects’ fees for new public buildings in Columbus IF they were chosen from a list of architects selected by the Foundation.  Thus this small Midwestern city has buildings by Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, César Pelli, Gunnar Birkerts, John Dinkeloo, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, many of which feature extensive interiors designed by Alexander Girard.  The American Institute of Architects in 1991 declared Columbus America’s sixth most important city in terms of architecture. 

So this is why we are heading towards Columbus. Today we will tour the Miller house, and tomorrow we will see the other significant buildings in the city.

After an uneventful drive across Illinois and Indiana, we checked into the RV park at Ceraland; here is another piece of Mr. Miller’s legacy.

CERAland Park, established in 1963 as the Cummins Employees Recreation Association, started out as a corporate recreation facility in Columbus, IN, that has 345 acres of beautiful park land consisting of both indoor and outdoor recreational activities.  In 2012, the CERA Sports Corp was established as a not-for-profit organization that is committed to developing CERAland Park into the highest-quality recreation and wellness provider in the community.

Ceraland offers an 11-acre stocked lake, fishing, paddle boats, row boats, and canoes, 324 site campground, 6 camping cabins, picnic areas, 7 shelter houses, 2 outdoor basketball courts, 4 permanent Corn Hole sets and 3 portable sets, 6 horseshoe pits, 2 sandpit volleyball courts, a go-kart track, 18 hole miniature golf course, driving range, 6 tennis courts, outdoor amphitheater, playgrounds, remote control airplane strip, rifle and archery range, trap and skeet range, 9 softball / baseball diamonds, aquatic center with large water slide and toddler play area, 30,000 square foot sports & fitness center with 2 full gymnasiums, cardio room, running/walking track, weight room, locker rooms, and much, much more.

Currently, CERA has over 100 local community corporations / partners that provide the opportunity for their employees to participate and utilize the services of CERA for discounted corporate rates.  In addition, CERA continues its community outreach by offering an expansive Youth Sports program and events schedule.  CERA is the host site for Bartholomew County Little League, numerous Fast-pitch Softball and Baseball tournaments and leagues and is an AAU sanctioned park.

In 2014, CERA was opened to the public, and, thus, we are staying here for a few nights…

2017-06-17 Cereland 6

There were major softball/baseball tournaments going on this weekend, but the camping area was very quiet:


I don’t know why, but Lynda keeps insisting on taking pictures with me in them. I have expressed my dissatisfaction…

2017-06-17 Cereland 4


After setting up, we headed back into Columbus and met the Miller house tour at the visitor center. After watching a short video we boarded the shuttle bus to ride to the house, about 2 miles away.  The house is about 6,300 square feet, and is set on over 13 acres of beautiful, landscaped grounds. To get an idea of the extravagance of the place, we were told that Mr. Miller paid $30,000 for the land and over $550,000 for the construction of the house. Do the math… This was an extremely expensive house when it was built in the early 1950s.

Unfortunately, no interior photography is allowed, so you can only get a feel for the exterior and the grounds…

The house was designed by Eero Saarinen, the same architect who did the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This is one of only a few houses designed by Saarinen; he and Mr. Miller were close friends, and this house resulted.

The Millers had five children, and this was designed to be a true family home; in addition, was was designed on a grand scale to accommodate the many guests who came to visit – heads of state, titans of industry, famous architects.

The exterior walls are all giant slabs of black slate, with some walls clad in marble. The rest is glass… The interior walls are all the same white marble. There are linear skylights throughout the house, which means the quality and intensity of light changes as clouds pass by…

We entered the grounds through the service entry:

2017-06-17 Columbus - Miller 91


The real entry approach for family and guests is off a small residential street:

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The front yard is impressive:


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So is the back yard…

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And the path to the pool:

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These exterior shots show some of the materials and detailing of the house…


All in all, a very impressive house. Designed to last for hundreds of years…






2017-06-16 Missouri, and Eero Saarinen

Before I get to today’s activities, a thought struck me regarding Frank Lloyd Wright and Laura Ingalls Wilder:  They were both born in 1867; she died in 1957 and he died in 1959. They were contemporaries in time, yet I can’t think of two more different people who lived two very different lives… They were born in the age of horse and buggy and covered wagons; they lived to experience trains, planes, and automobiles. She was modest, a simple homebody, and quite introspective; he was arrogant, a home wrecker, and a master designer of our built environment… A very interesting contrast that just appeared on our trip on two adjacent days…

Now, back to our travels:

This morning we walked to Mansfield, and found a delightful little cafe where we had coffee and Belgian waffles. (Ma and Pa’s Diner had terrible Yelp reviews…) Then we packed up and headed the Villa towards St. Louis.

We did our best to avoid the Interstate, because we could. However, whilst driving the back roads of Missouri, it started to rain. Not just any rain, but a true cloud burst like I have never seen. We drove for about 45 minutes with the windshield wipers at full speed, travelling maybe at 30 mph because we could not see any further ahead.  There was thunder and lightning (luckily, no hail – Airstreams hate hail like Superman hates kryptonite…).  Then, suddenly, within a 5 minute time-span, the rain stopped, the road was dry, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and a guy passed us by in a top-down convertible… I’m just glad we had that vent cover fixed!

We proceeded to St. Louis, then immediately crossed the Mississippi river into Illinois to camp at an RV park behind a casino in East St. Louis. It was 94 degrees and very humid, not a breath of air moving. We plugged into shore power, turned on both AC units, and headed back to St. Louis. There was a convenient light rail train service right at the casino, and we soon were walking the streets of St. Louis.

2017-06-16 Map Illinois

We had two goals to accomplish in St. Louis:  BBQ for dinner, and a ride the top of the Jefferson Memorial Arch, designed by Eero Saarinen. (Eero Saarinen died in 1961, so he did not live to see the arch completed.) But remember the name…

We headed towards the Jefferson Memorial. It was started in 1935; they cleared 40 acres of riverfront property to make way for the Arch. The Arch was completed in 1965, and tours to the top began in 1967.  We found that most of the tickets for the day had been sold out, but we were able to get tickets for the 8:35 pm tour.  This left us plenty of time for our BBQ dinner.

BBQ, as most of you know, is a generic term that literally has no meaning. Saying “I am eating BBQ” is like saying , “I’m eating soup” or “I’m eating meat”.  What kind of soup? Cream based or broth based?  Or, what kind of meat? Braised, grilled, or roasted?  All meaningless without many more descriptors.  Having endured living in Texas for some time, there is exactly one thing I love from Texas and that is their style of BBQ. But I am always happy to try others.  St. Louis BBQ refers not to their sauces or type of cooking – you can find both slow smoked and fast grilled BBQ in St. Louis, with a variety of sauces – sweet, vinegar-based, tomato based – whatever you want.  What is unique about St. Louis BBQ is the way they cut their ribs:  According to Wikipedia, “St. Louis-style spare ribs are cut in a particular way with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed so that a well-formed, rectangular-shaped rack is created for presentation.”

There are 2 local places that seem to have their fans – Pappy’s and Bogarts. We opted for Pappy’s, because it was a nicer walk through the city to get there… always a determining factor in our lives…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Dinner at Pappys

It was terrible.

OK. On to the arch…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 12

The Arch is officially called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, to commemorate Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the massive migration west by the pioneers in the late 19th century as the Federal government literally gave away hundreds of thousands of acres of land. It is probably the largest planned migration of people in the history of the world, and it totally reshaped the USA.

The shape of the arch is what engineers call an inverted catenary arch. It is the shape that a loose chain takes when suspended between 2 points, just up-side-down.  This shape can be calculated using integrated calculus, and it is also the the graph of 100% tension and zero compression, since a chain, while strong in tension, can withstand absolutely no compression. And that is the limit of my knowledge of structural theory, strength of materials, and calculus…

The arch is 630 feet wide, and 630 feet tall. (The Washington Memorial in Washington, DC, is 555′ tall, and would fit under the arch…) The shape of the cross section is an equilateral triangle. As the triangular form ascends to the top of the arch it gets smaller, creating very interesting perspectives…

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The designers knew people would want to ascend to the top, so a complicated tramway system was custom designed to carry 40 people at a time. There are two trams, one in each leg, and the viewing space holds about 100 people… The trams consist of 8 cars each, holding 5 people each. The cars are tiny, cramped compartments, less than 6 feet tall, with a door about 2 feet wide and less than 5 feet tall. As the tram ascends along the curved path of the arch, the tram cars must articulate, a bit like a Ferris wheel, except not in a smooth manner. As the cars ascend they tilt (forward or backward), then abruptly snap back into a vertical position.


Once at the top, you can see forever. Since we were there just after sunset, our views are all at night…

2017-06-16 St Louis - Gateway Arch 31


The old courthouse, where the Dred Scott trial was held


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Illinois across the Mississippi River – our RV park is back there somewhere…


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Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals…

After our terrifying experience (for some reason, Lynda didn’t find it terrifying at all…), we returned home back to the Villa. We have a long drive tomorrow across Illinois and into Indiana…
























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