Thursday, February 10, 2022

HGB Ep. 422 - Cincinnati's Union Terminal and Art Museum

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Moment in Oddity - Dead Man's Hole (Suggested by: Jill Phenix Martinez)

Dead Man's Hole is located a few miles south of Marble Falls in Burnet County, Texas. This is a limestone sinkhole with a 7-foot diameter opening and a depth around 15 stories deep. In 1951, a group of spelunkers from the University of Texas explored the hole. They found natural gases coming from the hole so they had to use special breathing apparatus. They found that the hole split into two arms. Imagine their surprise when they found the bones of seventeen people in the bottom of the hole. There had been a large oak tree that sat here once and it was used for hanging people. Sometimes the bodies were discarded into the hole. There was a group of zealous secessionist Texans in the area named Fire Eaters and they killed anyone who didn't share their views. One of the men they killed was a New York-born judge named John Scott and they dumped his bullet-riddled body into the hole. The Fire Eaters hanged a man named Adolph Hoppe from the oak tree and cut his body down so that it would fall into the hole. The final body identified belonged to Benjamin McKeever and his was a retribution killing done by the friends of a man he killed. The bag of bones retrieved from Dead Man's Hole were taken to the Burnet County Courthouse and eventually disappeared. Why they were taken to a courthouse is anybody's guess. The hole is now part of a park and is covered by a metal grate. Dead Man's Hole and that lost bag of bones, certainly are odd!

This Month in History - United Artists Created

In the month of February, on the 5th in 1919, United Artists was created. Actors wanted to be able to control their own interests rather than being dependent on the big studios. United Artists was formed by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith and it quickly did well because these were all big name stars. Veteran producers eventually joined, but by the 1940s, the studio was struggling financially. The production studio was sold in 1951 and UA only financed and distributed films with the original partners selling their shares in the mid-1950s. Successful films like The African Queen and West Side Story and franchises like James Bond and the Pink Panther helped UA to thrive again. Several Best Picture Oscars came in the 1970s, but then UA was struggling again. In 1981 it merged with MGM and eventually became a boutique producer of smaller films before being acquired by Tom Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner. Later, the UA brand was subsumed into MGM and in 2018 became United Artists Digital Studios, which it still is today.

Cincinnati's Union Terminal and Art Museum (Suggested by: Angela Wallingford)

Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio was one of the last great American train stations built and has the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere. The terminal has helped tourists get around, welcomed World War II soldiers home and now features several museums. The unique Art Deco building also served as inspiration for the Justice League's Hall of Justice. The Cincinnati Art Museum has stood for over 136 years. Both of these locations have several ghost stories. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Cincinnati's Union Terminal and Art Museum.

After the Great Flood of 1884, Cincinnati was in need of a plan for railroad traffic. The city had several stations, all of which were too close to the Ohio River and so prone to flooding. Plans were delayed over the years by the Depression of 1920 and World War I, but by 1927, seven of the biggest railroads had reached an agreement and chosen a site for their one massive terminal building. The site was in the West End near the Mill Creek. Architectural firm Fellheimer & Wagner were chosen to design the building and they started ith a Gothic style structure, but eventually chose Art Deco. The Union Terminal Company was formed to contruct the building and that began in 1928. 5.5 million cubic yards needed to be hauled in to fill in the Mill Creek valley. Construction was finished ahead of schedule at a cost of $41.5 million. The complex officially opened on March 31, 1933.

The terminal complex had 22 buildings covering 287 acres with the main structure set as a T-shape with a long half dome over it and five floors. The main facade was inspired by the Helsinki Central Station in Finland. There are seven limestone mullions with two of them supporting a large central clock made from 52 panes of glass. Neon tubing was added to the hands, giving them an orange-red hue. Behind the mullions is a semi-circle of frosted windows. There are two bas-relief carvings made by Maxfield Keck on each end of the arch. The north carving represents transportation and the south carving represents commerce. Nine doors lead into a marble vestibule and the rotunda with its interior dome that spanned 180 feet and rose 106 feet. The design of the complex featured three concentric lanes of traffic for cars and taxis, buses and streetcars. Ninety-four miles of track brought in and out 216 trains a day carrying around 17,000 passengers.

The exterior of the main terminal was constructed from steel, concrete, masonry curtain walls and fine-grained limestone. That limestone includes the fossils of snails, sea lilies, brachiopods and other organisms. There is also Cold Spring dark rainbow granite. The original dome was terra cotta that was replaced with aluminum sheathing in 1945. Other parts of the complex include a washing platform, cinder pit, coaling station, a power plant, two electric substations, roundhouse, water treatment plant, a mail handling building and an express terminal. The express building was two stories tall with offices on the second floor. This was 742 feet long and had platforms with canopies. The Western Hills Viaduct spans the rail yards and is 3,500 feet long.

The interior of the terminal was very bright with lots of light and warm colors. The marble in the rotunda is 150 million years old and features fossils. There was red and yellow Verona marble and dark red Tennessee marble. The dome ceiling was plastered in yellow and orange. Everything was accented in aluminum. The flooring was terrazzo of gray and rose coloring, divided by brass strips. The pattern flowed in such a way that it guided people to and from the main entrance and platforms. The rotunda has murals depicting American and Cincinnati history. The heating was ahead of its time with ramps being heated and hot air venting from behind light fixtures. The rotunda had a semi-circular central information desk and ticket kiosk with 18 ticket windows. There was a newsstand, tobacco shop, soda fountain, drug store, telegraph center, a tea room, a small theater, clothing shops and two dining rooms. The waiting rooms featured marble and wainscoting with zebrawood, walnut and holly. There were connecting bathrooms that had marble walls and showers.

The train concourse was demolished in 1974. American Oak Leather-upholstered settees and chairs in aluminum frames were used for seating rather than wood benches. The interior featured industrial mosaics made by Winold Reiss representing fifteen local businesses: piano manufacturing (Baldwin Piano Co.); radio broadcasting (Crosley Corp.); roof manufacturing (Philip Carey Co.); leather production (American Oak Leather Co.); airplane manufacturing (Aeronca Company); ink making (Ault & Weiborg Corp.); laundry-machinery manufacturing (American Laundry Machine); meat packing (E. Kahn & Sons); pharmaceutical production (William S. Merrill Co.); printing (U.S. Playing Card Co. and Champion Paper Co.); steel manufacturing (American Rolling Mills [Armco]); rolled steel manufacturing (Andrews Steel Company and Newport Rolling Mill); soap making (Procter & Gamble Co.); and machine tools manufacturing (Cincinnati Milling Machine). Those mosaics were saved and moved to several different locations. Several were moved back to the complex and placed in the museums. It took three months to remove the murals and it was very difficult. Two of them can be seen in the movie Rain Man.

Passenger train service would come to an end on October 28, 1972. Eventually it would return in 1991 when Amtrak started operating out of Union Terminal. The complex had never been very busy. People in the city called it a White Elephant. Traveling by train was already losing its luster by the time it opened with the only uptick coming during World War II. By 1962, only 24 trains were passing through the terminal. The city decided to brainstorm some other uses for the building. The Cincinnati Science Center opened in 1968, but closed soon after in 1970. Just before demolition was scheduled, the terminal was nominated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Southern Railway bought the passenger yard and turned it into a freight yard and they had the terminal concourse demolished. The city of Cincinnati purchased the terminal in 1975 and started looking for tenants. Columbus based Skilken Organization stepped forward with plans to turn the building into a mall called the Land of Oz. Their plan included a bowling alley and ice skating rink. Cincinnati awarded them a lease and the developer spent $20 million renovating the terminal. They installed retail shops and restaurants, but the bowling alley and skating rink never happened. There were 54 vendors and 8,00 visitors a day coming through after it opened in August of 1980. By the following year, tenants were already moving out of the mall and Oz closed in 1984. Part of the building was renovated to become the Cincinnati Museum of Health, Science and Industry, which opened in 1982. This would be joined by the Cincinnati Historical Society and Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and later the Omnimax theater and Cinergy Children's Museum were added. All the museums are known as Cincinnati Museum Center now. 

When Amtrak started service here again, the former men's lounge was turned into their waiting room and ticket counter. Major renovations to the entire complex were started in 2016 and completed in 2018. Another museum was added in 2019, Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center. The Rookwood tea room had that name because it was completely decorated in Rookwood Pottery tiles. During World War II it operated as a USO center and in 1980 it became a GD Ritzy's ice cream and chili parlor. Then it was a United Dairy Farmers ice cream shop. Today it is a Graeter's ice cream parlor.

For years, people have claimed that the complex is haunted. One of the stories is connected to a World War II plane. A ghostly pilot has been seen inside the plane on several occasions. There are mysterious sounds that seem to hearken back to the war with the sounds of people crying and welcoming back soldiers. The disembodied playing of children is also heard. The most famous ghost that is here belongs to a former fifty-year-old security guard named Shirley Baker. She had been working here for a year when the sound of breaking glass was heard on September 6, 1989. Shirley told co-workers that she was going to investigate and was never seen alive again. When she didn't return after a while, her co-workers went looking for her and found the broken glass and Shirley's car missing. Eventually her body was found in a shallow grave in Clermont County. She had been kicked to death. Three men were apprehended for the murder after two years. Shirley's apparition has been seen roaming the hallways and she checks the doors to make sure they are locked by rattling the door knobs. She has spooked many of the cleaning crews. One of the employees, Jessica Urban, was in a storage room when she felt a strong cold spot and then a flash of blue and she was sure that it was Shirley.

Angie's experience, "I do have personal encounters here. There was a replica of an ice cave in the Natural History museum, at the end of the cave was a small pool of water with a water fall and large chunks of "ice". Leading a  group one evening, which I had done 100s of time, I watched as a dark shadow rose from behind one of the 'ice' chunks and run into the  waterfall. A co-worker was walking down a ramp in a gallery near this ice cave, said she saw a shadow moving quickly up the ramp, she froze, the shadow went through her with a cold gust of wind. I was working an overnight one evening in the Natural History Museum, I needed to go to the offices on the second floor. There was a big fancy event happening in the rotunda, so I wasn't able to take my normal route through the rotunda and up the elevator.  I had to take the stairs, which I had only done a handful of times before. I walked out of the stairwell, and into a long hall, to my left overlooked the rotunda, to my right, a lot of doors. As I walked, I mumbled that I had no idea where I'm going, then a door opened, I peeked in, and it was the door I needed. I walked through, saying, 'Thanks Shirley', and door closed behind me. I later told my supervisor about this, she looked at me wide eyed and told me that Shirley has been known to open the doors for women, but slams them shut on men."

The Cincinnati Art Museum

In the late 1800s, public art museums were just gaining steam in America. In 1881, the Cincinnati Museum Association was formed with the goal of founding an art museum in the city. Their first goal was to find funding and they found a large donor in Charles West. He was a successful local businessman and philanthropist and he donated $150,000. The Cincinnati Art Museum sits on a hill in Eden Park because that is where West wanted the building to be built. Other people had wanted downtown Cincinnati on Washington Park or Burnet Woods, but when you put up the big bucks, you get to choose the location. West did something else that helped raise funds. He challenged the citizens of the city to raise matching funds within a year. The citizens met the challenge in a MONTH! Clearly, the people wanted this museum.

Cincinnati architect James W. McLaughlin was hired to design the building and he chose the Romanesque-revival architectural style. The museum officially opened on May 17, 1886 and is still open today, making it one of the oldest public art museums in the United States. The displays have changed over the years and additions have been made to the building over the last 136 years. So many changes that it is actually hard to make out the original structure. The dome, tower and west facade are the only original elements visible. The building was made from local blue limestone, red granite from Missouri and Bay of Fundy polished granite makes up the columns. The windows were made from large sheets of polished plate glass and red Akron tiles were used on the roof.

The Art Academy of Cincinnati relocated to the museum in 1887 and the first big addition came in 1907 when the Schmidlapp Wing was opened. This wing was named for Emma Louise Schmidlapp who was the daughter of financier and philanthropist Jacob Schmidlapp. He did this as a memorial for Emma who was killed in a train crash, along with her mother, in February of 1900. This addition was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham in the Doric style. A corridor gallery attaches this to the main building. In 1910, the Ropes Wing was added because of bequeaths from sisters Eliza and Mary Ropes and was designed by Cincinnati architects Garber and Woodward. More additions came in the 1930s with the Emery Wing named for Cincinnati philanthropists Thomas and Mary Emery and the Hanna and French wings. These were also designed by Garber and Woodward. The courtyard was enclosed and the museum took on a more rectangular shape. That courtyard would be officially named the Alice Bimel Courtyard in 2004 in honor of a longtime museum volunteer. Frederick H. Alms was a founder of the Alms and Doepke Dry Goods Company and his widow Eleanora bequeathed money for the Alms Wing in 1937, which was designed by local architects Rendigs, Panzer, and Martin. The main entrance was moved in the 1950s and that is the entrance that is still used today. The Great Hall was divided into two floors at this time as well. 

The Adams-Emery Wing was built in 1965. A two-year, $13 million renovation started in 1993. The Great Hall was returned to its 1886 appearance. A staircase that had been demolished was rebuilt. The first floor of the Adams-Emery Wing became the Cincinnati Wing in 2003 and is dedicated to Cincinnati's art history. The Longworth Wing was opened in 2013 and named for Joseph Longworth, a significant figure in the history of the art academy and museum. The Rosenthal Education Center opened in 2015. The CAM is part of the Monuments Men and Women Museum Network, launched in 2021 by the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. The collections in the museum span 6,000 years of human history and include over 67,000 pieces. This is the largest collection in Ohio. There also seems to be a collection of spirits here.

Employees and visitors claim to see mysterious orbs and figures. A painting of a woman with a lyre is said to sometimes sing in French. A Samuel Best clock in the Cincinnati wing no longer has its bells, but people say that it still manages to chime. A ghost rises from a mummy displayed in the antiquities gallery. This usually looks like a black mist that rises to the ceiling and disappears. A storage closet above this area was used by security guards to catch a break and a nap. One day a guard awakened to see a menacing head floating directly in front of him. He tried to get to the door, but the head kept blocking him. It took several minutes for him to escape and he was done working for the museum. There is a legend that someone hanged themselves from the third floor balcony in the main room. People claim to see this hanging figure on occasion. And the women's bathrooms have several stories, of course. In the Dutch Gallery, women with long hair feel as if someone is pulling their hair.

Russell Ihrig shared stories from staff at the museum with Local station 12 in 2019. He said, "In the Great Hall, they'll see sort of shadowy figures moving around on the staircases and on the balconies, and they kind of disappear and move around. I've had guards tell me about a woman that walked past them in a certain staircase when they were closing and they said, 'Oh, we're closing, ma'am,' and then when they looked again, she was gone." Another group of people "heard someone cough, and they turned around and they didn't see anybody, and all they could hear was the whispering and someone saying, 'Frank!'" Also, "People have seen a sort of hooded figure, which many interpret to be a monk, in that room, rising up and floating through the space." Russell shared a story on an interview he did with the Cincinnati Museum Center that was chilling. A security guard who worked the desk in the morning would always say good morning to another guard named Rosemary who would walk past him in the morning. She would greet him warmly. One morning, she passed the front desk without responding to his greeting and he wondered what was wrong. Later in the break room, he wondered aloud to the other guards, "Anybody know what is Rosemary's issue today? She walked past me this morning without responding to my greeting." The guards looked at each other and one of them said, "Well, Rosemary died last night." 

Museums are such fun spaces. There are some interesting stories connected to these two complexes dedicated to the art and history of Cincinnati. Are Cincinnnati's Union Terminal and Art Museum haunted? That is for you to decide!

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