Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mile 168, ‘S’ Bridge, Wills Twp., Ohio

One of the four ‘S’ bridges along the National Road in eastern Ohio is found along an extremely rural and low-trafficked stretch of road east of Old Washington, Ohio. The bridge was built in 1828 to cross a small creek, and like all the S bridges, was bypassed in the 20th Century. In the 1960s, the bridge was declared a National Historic Landmark. Unlike a similar structure in Washington County, Pennsylvania, vehicles are still permitted to cross this bridge.

This bridge is along a stretch of road now named Bridgewater Road. The bridge itself is part of Blend Road, which is an older section of the National Road paralleling Bridgewater Road. There’s no set area to park and walk around, but because of the very low amount of traffic, it’s safe to park near the entrance to the bridge.

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Mile 127 – Madonna of the Trail (W.Va.), Wheeling, W.Va.

West Virginia’s Madonna of the Trail has it’s own pullout for seeing the statue up close.

Coming from the east, West Virginia’s Madonna of the Trail is the third such statue one comes upon if following the National Old Trails Road route (along which the monuments were laid), or the second statue if following the National Road (which is part of the National Old Trails Road).

West Virginia’s Madonna statue was the second to be built, after Ohio’s monument in Springfield. The West Virginia statue was dedicated in July 1928 (see this previous post on the Pennsylvania statue for a brief history of the origin of the statues).

The West Virginia Madonna is the second oldest of 12 in the country.

Unlike the Pennsylvania statue, which isn’t as visitor-friendly (it’s right up against a higher-speed stretch of U.S. 40), West Virginia’s Madonna is set further back from the road and has a turnout dedicated to the statue, which sits in Wheeling Park. The City of Wheeling assisted the DAR in funding the erection of the statue, and helps maintain the grounds around the statue today.

Like all 12 Madonnas, West Virginia’s is identical to the others, and is maintained by a local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, which is in Wheeling in this case.

(The other monuments are in Bethesda, Md.; Beallsville, Pa.; Springfield, Ohio; Richmond, Ind.; Vandalia, Ill.; Lexington, Mo.; Council Grove, Kan.; Lamar, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Springerville, Ariz.; and Upland, Calif.)

In my opinion, Wheeling is a fascinating, historic small city, but it is one of the more difficult places to navigate for someone not familiar with the area. The steep hills and Interstates 70 and 470 seem to cut the city into disjointed pieces. So, while the West Virginia Madonna is located in Wheeling, it’s a few miles east of the downtown area.

A sign describing all 12 Madonnas at the Wheeling statue.


Mile 257 – Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

The “Palm House,” the original building of the conservatory.

I happened to be at a wedding in Columbus at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, which just so happens to be right along Broad Street – the National Road’s route through Ohio’s capital.

The conservatory is a large, public botanical garden with indoor and outdoor sections. The indoor sections are separate greenhouses, each with a different environmental zone in the world, from the Himalayas to the tropical South Pacific. Some zones are interactive and allow you to hear information about the plants by calling a specified number from a cell phone. The South Conservatory houses a large seasonal butterfly exhibition in a tropical Pacific biosphere – although the presence of animals is absent from all other parts of the facility.

The outside part of the conservatory is a combination of horticulture and sculpture. Paths snake through the gardens, with benches set throughout the park.

The Pacific Islands zone. A Chihuly glass sculpture is on the left.

In addition, Franklin Park also has its own in-house glass furnace, staffed by rotating glassblowers. The glassblowers give demonstrations throughout the day, and also offer glassblowing classes to the public. The conservatory also promotes the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, the works of whom are found throughout the conservatory, intermingled with the flora. Some of Chihuly’s glass art is also for sale at the conservatory’s gift shop, though it’s a bit pricey (think around $5,000 to $10,000).

Franklin Park Conservatory is nothing new to Columbus, and is on public land (Franklin Park). The first structure of the modern conservatory was built in 1895, which is the back part of the building today and called the “Palm House.” Before that date, Franklin Park had served as the location for the Ohio State Fair.

Since the first greenhouse was constructed, several additions have been made onto the building including the glassblowing furnace, a gift shop and a cafe. The conservatory has also hosted numerous weddings and events and possibly the most significant event in its history – AmeriFlora ’92, which attracted over 5 million visitors during its six months. However, despite the importance of the event (some of the outdoor park was constructed for AmeriFlora), the event apparently caused the Franklin Park Conservatory to have financial and management issues. Those issues resulted in the conservatory’s management to be somewhat restructured.

A bonsai in the conservatory’s Bonsai Garden.

Regardless, the conservatory has continued to grow and become stronger financially and has been implementing a master plan for the present and future. The entire facility is kept up to date, informative and clean. For those with a deep interest in horticulture, at least an entire day could be spent touring the gardens and greenhouses. But even for those without a huge plant interest, the conservatory is worth a visit of a few hours.

There is a fee to enter the greenhouses – $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and students and $6 for children 3 to 17. It’s open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ample parking is available in front of the main entrance. General information can be received by calling 614-645-5926 or visitorservices@fpconservatory.org.

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