2010 Race 2 Finish travel blog

house and grounds of the Benjamin Harrison home

as President Harrison advocated flying the United States flag over every school

a view down Delaware Street

historical sign in front of the Harrison home

front porch and entrance to the home

bronze plaque in front of the home

side entrance

entry hall - most things are original (except the cash register)

they loved wallpaper in the day - and no two walls or...

the formal parlor used for entertaining

the family parlor with Benjamin's and Caroline's chairs

the stairway is more beautiful than it looks in this picture

Caroline Harrison played the piano

a chair made of horns and upholstered with a bobcat hide

the portrait over the fireplace is William Henry Harrison - the 9th...

the dining room

White House china designed by Caroline Harrison and below china she painted

our docent Colonel Bob

the Master bedroom

Whitney workout equipment - Harrison believed in fitness

their daughter's bedroom

 

the third floor ballroom is now used for special exhibits

the current exhibit is devoted to railroads

a corner chair - a cavalry officer could sit down without taking...

Harrison's running mate Levi P. Morton

the estate's herb garden

the carriage house on the alley

Harrison's horse was named Patriot

the carriage called a 'trap' is not original, but the sleigh is

the carrige house displays material on the fight for women's suffrage

 

on the way out we walked through the gardens

decorated by this whimsical sculpture

view of the Children's Museum looking toward downtown Indianapolis

you can't see it in this picture but the dinosaur is breaking...

while this dino stands on her hind legs and peers in through...

how her baby got up there and stuck in the window is...

entry lobby to the museum

a dozen Barbies look down on you as you arrive

water clock - the big balls on the left are the hours...

It's about 12:30 and in half an hour all the balls empty...

Dale Chihuly's tower of blown glass

a cleaning nightmare

the base sits on the roof of a lower level room

the roof of that room is double and filled with more glass

creating this stunning ceiling

some of the individual pieces that make up the ceiling and tower

this Rube Goldberg device fascinates kids of all ages

 

the kids feed the balls back into the system

these mirrors make everybody feel like a kid

this giant dollhouse is very popular

you could not walk through this exhibit without getting choked up

puppeteers who put on one of the live performances

steam locomotive Reuben Wells

 

it's now 2:40 on the water clock

the Etch A Skech exhibit

some of the unbelievable drawings

it takes artist George Vlosich 80 to 100 hours to do one...

 

world's largest working Etch A Sketch

the museum has a great Bob the Builder exhibit

all the heavy equipment is kid sized

everything here is interactive

Bob gives his kitty a ride while this girl reads one of...

stuff built for kids can be a little hard on the grown-ups

this friendly dragon welcomes you to the Dinosphere

 

everything here is so inviting

the Dinosaur Art Gallery

the skull of Dracorex Hogwartsia left and an artist's rendering of how...

some of the flying critters

docent standing next to a fossilized femur bone

the museum's resident polar bear

but now it was time for the Barbie experience!

yes - that Barbie

Camping Barbie with her buds and her motorhome

thanks to the interactive exhibits visitors can design Barbie clothes and do...

a room called 'The Pink Vault'

The Pink Vault inner sanctum

a 1959 mint condition Barbie in her original box!

when you've reached the pinnacle the only way to go is down

passing Egypt on the way to Dinosphere

the entrance is guarded by this prehistoric giant crocodile

Stan and Kelsey duke it out

an unidentified juvinile T-Rex nips at Kelsey's flanks

Gorgosauras skull

excavated skeletons arrive at the lab in these plaster shells

Dracorex Hogwartsia skull installed on the skeleton of a near cousin in...

on the way out Madolyn watches the workmen painting the dinosaur

what kid wouldn't love a job like this?

a scale model of the front dinos

 

 

from this angle you can see a little of the front dino...


. . and Dracorex Hogwartsia!

Our adventure today took us from the stately home of our 23rd President to the exuberant halls of the Children’s Museum. From a thoughtful look at the past, to a hopeful glimpse of the future - it was a day of fun and surprises every step of the way.

We started the day with a visit to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, an elegant brick home on Delaware Street in Indianapolis. The home was built by Harrison in 1875, and with the exception of the White House years he lived in it until he died in 1901. On this rainy morning we were the only visitors, so our guided tour was both personal and comprehensive.

Our docent was a retired Air Force colonel, a well informed man who is passionate about the house and it’s history. He took pride in the fact that his tours are ‘Socratic’ in nature, meaning he asked frequent questions as a means of provoking interest and stimulating thought. It worked! He made this lesser known President come alive - as a lawyer, as a soldier, as a politician and as an honest and intellectual man who was devoted to his family.

Grandson of our 9th President, William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison was elected President in 1888, defeating Cleveland in the Electoral College even though he had lost the popular vote. He served only one term as President from 1889 to 1893, but in that term he admitted 6 states to the Union, added Sequoia and Yosemite to the National Park system, and signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act into law.

He was nominated and ran for President again in 1892 but this time he was defeated by Cleveland. Our docent blamed the loss in part on the fact that Harrison did not believe in patronage and did not appoint his supporters to offices in any great numbers. He also failed to campaign hard because his wife was sick with tuberculosis. She died a few days before the election.

The house is beautifully restored and preserved, and it has the distinction of being furnished mostly with the Harrison family’s own personal belongings. In the end our ‘half hour’ tour lasted nearly two hours.

From the Harrison site it was a short drive to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. This museum is ranked as the largest Children’s Museum in the world, and while it’s exhibits are aimed mainly at kids, it’s a great place to visit for anyone who’s young at heart. From life sized dinosaurs invading the front of the building, to colorful and exciting exhibits on the inside, there is something for everyone and you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. The museum is cleverly ‘educational’ making every exhibit a learning experience without making it seem like one.

One of the first things to catch your eye is the water clock, a fanciful and fascinating device you have to see to appreciate. It stands in the main lobby where exciting exhibits beckon from every direction. There's a 4 story tower of blown glass by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly, and a locomotive that was once the largest and most powerful steam engine in the world. There's a great exhibit on Egypt, there's a planetarium and a doll house, but most enticing of all there is Dinosphere, a world where dinosaurs and dragons come alive.

A recently discovered new species, a 66 million year old dragon like dinosaur is being examined and cataloged right here at this museum! It's being done in the museum's paleontology lab where you can talk to the scientists and watch them work. To add to the fun they've made the official name of the new dino Dracorex Hogwartsia, a direct homage to Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and her 'magical creatures'.

There are many reconstructed skeletons in the museum and some of the displays are awesome. Stan is a T-Rex named for the man who discovered him. Kelsey is a Triceratops named for the daughter of the man who discovered her. The skeletons of Stan and Kelsey are displayed in classic dinosaur confrontation, a smaller T-Rex nipping at Kelsey’s flanks. The effect is awesome, and questions are asked to get the visitor involved.

But there's another 'fossil' on exhibit in the museum, and it's not to be found in the Dinosphere. Barbie has an exhibit all her own. Yes - that Barbie! Barbie Mattel, who turned 50 last year and still can’t stand on her own two feet.

For five generations Barbie has served as a caricature of the ‘American girl’, shoulders like a quarterback, hips like a boy, boobs like a pair of watermelons and tiny feet grotesquely deformed by stuffing them into high heeled shoes from the day she was born.

You might think this would make American women mad but Barbie won them over. They were mesmerized by her vapid stare, and her ever changing ‘fashions’ made them run for their purses. Every girl wanted a Barbie, and every mother made sure she got one. Generation after generation fell into line, with Barbie keeping nimbly ahead of them - changing fashions, hair styles, friends and ’accessories’ - to keep the money rolling in.

Nobody in their right mind wanted to see Barbie naked - that was too weird for words, but everyone wanted to dress Barbie up. Mattel introduced tiny clothing with real zippers and hand sewn buttons and snaps, and when Mattel couldn't cut it moms and grannies pitched in to make Barbie clothes themselves. It was an American phenomenon and the museum sticks to the positives. They ask no significant questions but never mind, It was all in fun anyway - wasn’t it?.

Another ‘Special Exhibit’ tells the story of Etch A Sketch, and does it with history panels, incredibly detailed artist’s drawings, and plenty of demo units the visitor can play with. This exhibit brought back as many memories as Barbie, and I liked them better.

The most poignant exhibit is titled The Power of Children. It tells the stories of three courageous children who faced prejudice, danger and death with a uncommon dignity and character. Anne Frank, a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany, Ruby Bridges, a black girl in Louisiana, and Ryan White, an Indiana boy diagnosed with AIDS - all suffered threats and intimidation and triumphed over them. Their stories are told in pictures, writing and through live performances. The result is riveting - for children and grown-ups alike.

On the way out we passed workers on a lift that had them several stories off the ground. They were painting a dinosaur who was trying to get into the building. Like everything else in this place, it sure looked like fun!



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