This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


2009 saw some closings or endings in Rensselaer.

Businesses usually want to be noticed when they open but are less interested in publicity when they close. Hence, they often pass away unnoticed. Some of the businesses whose passings were noticed in this blog were the 2Bobs General Store (and here), the Check n Go (and here), GuyaTech, and the Artisan GalleryEnvoy Expeditionary services came and left without me ever knowing what it did. Does Rensselaer have any tattoo parlors left? The one north of the Amtrak station departed, and the space it occupied was renovated to be an apartment.

A more significant departure occurred south of the tracks from the tattoo place. The Morning Song Birdseed company shut its Rensselaer plant.

Another significant ending happened in the car sales business. GM dropped Charlie Roberts as a dealer, and the Dodge Chrysler dealership closed even though they had kept the Dodge dealership. (It is shown below in happier days either getting a vehicle delivered or shipping one out.) Rensselaer now has no new-car dealerships.

One other possible closing may have been Sharp Electric, though it may have closed earlier than 2009.

There were a number of renovation and construction projects in Rensselaer during 2009, but only one demolition project that I caught. (Usually demolition is much quicker than construction, so it is easy to miss.) The old bulk fuel tanks on Walnut were taken down.

Of course, there are many beginnings and endings of a personal nature as people get new jobs, leave old ones, and move from Rensselaer or into Rensselaer.

What did I miss?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I would like to take a few posts to reflect back on 2009. In this post we will consider the new things of 2009, the beginnings. There were a lot of them.

There were three new restaurants, plus one that moved.  Papa Bills Pizza opened north of town, Aydas opened on College Ave (see here, here, and here), and Slice of Pie Pizza would have opened December 28 if not for a death in the family. (Their new opening date is Jan 4, 2010.)   (See here, here, here,  and here.) And the Doghouse moved.

There were several new businesses that opened downtown. Bags, Bangles and Baskets opened across from the Court House. (See here, here, and here.) Other new downtown businesses included Willow Switch, Tub Time, The Cutting Room, and Sue's Special Occasions. And we should not forget Elk Investments (here and here).

North of downtown Big Dog Rental and Sales (here and here), the Bargain Barn (here and here) and Randall Dermatology opened on North McKinley. I am not sure if the Rensselaer Septic Tank business was new this year or not. There is also a machine shop where the lumber yard on Vine and Cullen used to be, and that may also have been new. And we found a trucking business in a bit of the old Schumacher building.

South on College, a new financial institution, First Trust Credit Union opened in the bowling alley building. The picture below was taken before they opened, when they had the office furniture delivered.

If you have read much of this blog, you know that I like to write about and take pictures of construction. We watched the new hospital building go up (here, here, here, here, and here), the new pump house and water main (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), the new Kirby Risk building (here, here, and here). and the Alternative School (here, here, here, here, here, and here).

There were only a few new housing starts in Rensselaer this past year, as housing has been depressed nationally. The one that got the most attention was the Building Trades House. Shown below is the duplex on Rachel.

What beginnings or openings did I forget or miss entirely?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The White House on Park Ave (Part 2)

Yesterday we visited the White House on Park Avenue and toured the downstairs. Today we will see what the guest rooms look like.

As we get to the top of the stairs, we find doorways to four rooms. In the picture above, two are out of the picture to the left. The doorway that is on the left leads to the the Cottage Retreat, the largest room that the White House has, with a queen and a day bed.

This room also has a whirlpool tub in its bathroom.
Below is a view of the day bed and also the fireplace.
Next to it is the Cameo Room with a bed with a huge headboard.
The dresser is also impressive.
Looking through the door, we can see into the third guest room, the Rose Garden. (Of course, if there was a guest in the room, we probably would not be able to look into it.)
The most arresting feature of this room is the old claw-footed bathtub, which can be used as a shower. Notice the spindle work in the entryway. This room also has a stained glass window.
Leaving it, we can see the bed and also into the Cameo Room that we just left.
The last of the guest rooms is the Bird's Nest, which has a cute little alcove that serves as a sitting room.
There is also one other room with a bed on the second floor, a tiny room barely big enough to hold the bed. The Bergers do not advertise it, but I think they have rented in unusual circumstances.

Staying in a bed and breakfast is more expensive than staying in a motel, but it is a completely different experience.

Monday, December 28, 2009

No 12 days of Christmas?

There were some Christmas trees on the curb the day after Christmas, and there were more this morning. They looked rather nice covered in the two or three inches of snow that we got Saturday and Sunday.

This one looks like it is Scots Pine, a popular pine for Christmas trees.

Our family enjoyed stretching out the Christmas holidays by doing all twelve days of Christmas. That means we kept our tree up and open presents until January 6. I highly recommend using all twelve days.

The White House on Park Ave (Part 1)

Rensselaer's only bed and breakfast is located in the White House on Park Ave. The White House is also known as the Emmet Kannal House, and it was built in 1891. Many years ago it was on a tour of homes, and I recall that it originally had an extra floor, but a fire resulted in the building losing its top floor. It still is a very impressive house, though the Jasper County Interim Report only gives it a ranking of "Contributing." It may be that in the renovation after the fire the house lost a lot of its original Queen Anne ornamentation.

Recently I was invited to a small party at the White House, and I took pictures. (Are you surprised?) As you approach the house at night, you will see several stained glass windows. Since I have a tag for stained glass, I have to include a picture of them.

The whole house is very tastefully decorated. This room is not immediately adjacent to the entry way, but close to it. The hosts, Fred and Sally Berger had the Christmas decorations up, and they were wonderful.
One of the notable features of the house is the woodwork, a lot of it in the form of spindles. I liked the woven panel at the end.
Below is the center of the decorative woodworking that is shown above. I know very little about this form of house decoration. It seems to have died out in the twentieth century. If you know more and can provide some background, feel free to comment.
From the dining area you can proceed into a sitting room. I think the guests can watch television in this room if they do not want to stay in their bedrooms upstairs. 
When the Bergers bought the White House, I went to their open house and pondered this inscription for twenty minutes trying to figure out what it said. Eventually I figured out a very rough translation. It helps to have taken Latin in high school, but it hurts that high school was over forty years ago.

There are several elaborate candelabras in the house, but none is more elaborate than this one near the entryway.
We are in the little room to the left of the entrance, the room that has the candelabra shown above. Behind us is the room with the piano and white Christmas tree. The partial door on the extreme left leads to the dining area. A small fireplace (one of several in the house) is on the right. In front of us we see more spindle work and beyond it is the main staircase to the second floor.
As we go up the stairs and look back down, we get a better view of the room we just left. 
The guest bedrooms are on the second floor. We will look at them another day. Below you see the main hallway, which has more beautiful woodwork. 
If you cannot wait to see what the bedrooms look like, you can cheat and see them here. You can even find out how much it costs to stay in one of them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Christmas came to Dec 25

Here is an articlein the Biblical Archeology Review that discusses why we celebrate Christmas on Dec 25. The author thinks the popular view that early Christians were capturing pagan holidays is unlikely. He thinks it more likely that the date for Christmas was based on the date for Easter. I had not heard that theory before, but it makes sense.

Going to church the Mennonite way

(I thought it would be interesting to use Sundays to focus on Rensselaer's churches and to see how many Sundays I can go before I run out of material. Indiana is richly endowed with religious denominations, with influences from North and South, East and West. This is part of that series of posts.)

The Burr Oak Mennonite Church is located at just west of Interstate 95 at the intersection of CR 100S and 1150W. According to the "Church Services Directory" in the Rensselaer Republican, Sunday worship begins at 9:30 a.m. Sunday School begins at 11:00 a.m. The church has a website at

The Burr Oak church is associated with the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, which is part of the Mennonite Church USA. The church's page there has a considerable amount of information about the Burr Oak Church.

The local church was established in 1919. The building looks more recent than that, and also looks like it has been attained its present form through remodeling and expansion.

The Mennonites have a fascinating history that dates to the very early Protestant Reformation. They come from the Anabaptist tradition that rejects infant baptism, and they have always been nonviolent. Most other denominations were both persecuted and persecutor, but the Mennonites and the closely related Amish were only persecuted. The Wikipedia article on the Mennonites recounts their history.

The distribution of Mennonites in the United States can be seen here. (The distribution of Amish, which no longer have churches in our area, is here.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The mystery photo

I have been enjoying the mystery photo contest in the Rensselaer Republican, and sometimes I can guess it on Monday or Tuesday. The one this week, however, stumped me. I was able to figure out the six possible places it could be, but even if I had visited them, I am not sure I would have seen it because I might not have looked in the right place. However, one of my kids home for Christmas knew it immediately.

I actually have a picture of the object in one of my early blogs this year (see links above), but it is in the distance and you cannot see the design.

Two other people who enjoy this contest had not guessed it by yesterday, so I think this may be the toughest mystery photo since the underside of the court house bell.

If you have not figured it out yet, maybe the color will help.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I went outside this morning to get some exercise and quickly came back in. The sidewalks and roads had too much ice on them to move safely. When it warms up a bit, the ice will disappear and then I will go back.

Here is a good link to check for road conditions if you are traveling in Indiana:
It takes a while to load, but it has all the current road conditions for Indiana from the Department of Transportation. Check it out and bookmark if it is something you can use.
afternoon update: The roads are OK, but ice is building up on tree branches. I do not like the looks of this.

Christmas decorations

Having done too many posts last year of Christmas decorations (here, here, here, here, and here), I have resisted most temptations to take pictures of them this year. However, the decorations in front of the Building Trades house were too unusual to pass up.

As you can see, the brick facade has been completed, as has almost the entire exterior. The students are now working inside.
And here is what the outhouse looks like at night:
It is supposed to be a Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The wet snow that fell Tuesday morning did prompt people to make snowmen.

I do not know what the blue stuff is on these snowmen, but since they were over a mile apart, I doubt if the same people were involve. Are stores selling something to help decorate snowmen? What is the blue stuff?

Plaques: two bridges

I have been collecting plaques around Rensselaer and featuring them on this blog. Today I note two plaques, both on bridges. One is on the Melville Street Bridge. You might be able to see it in the lower right hand side of a rather uninteresting bridge.
Below is the close up of the plaque. It reads:
Jasper County
Bridge No. 4
County Commissioners
Fred Boissy Jr.
Eugene H Lewis
Harold Evers
Bessie B Scheurich
Road Subervisor
Verland Christopher
Warren T. Hobson and Associates, Inc.
Hornback Sickler Corp
Year Built 1981

The other bridge is the Grace Street Bridge, which is more visually appealing.
It has was built by both the city and county, so it has a lot more names on the plaque, which you can see on the right of the bridge.
Grace Street Bridge
Original Bridge Built 1901
Replaced 1965
City Bond Issue - $65,000.00
Jasper County Donation - $10,000.00

City of Rensselaer Officials
Emmett W. Eger, Mayor
William F. Malone, Clerk Treasurer
Thomas B. Dumas, Councilman
Glenn L. Fortune, Councilman
Barton Hamacher, Councilman
Joseph Sheldon, Councilman
J. Byron Phegely, Councilman
Robert E. Burman, Councilman
Bridge Engineer
Dwight Schlegelmilch

Jasper County Officials
Dan Sipkema, Pres., Commissioner
Earl Miller, Jr., Commissioner
Harry F. Bahler, Commissioner
John E. Hopkings, Attorney
Robert Florence, Road Supervisor
Russell L. Horanback, Inc.

The only plaque on the Washington Street Bridge is a historical market. Rensselaer's other bridge, the College Avenue Bridge was once known as the Creamery Bridge, as its plaque states.

Has the practice of putting plaques on the bridges with the names of the political officeholders of the day been abandoned?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More snow

We have not gotten the big snows that other places have gotten, but we have gotten a series of little snows that keep the landscape mostly white. Last night we got another couple inches of snow. It seems to be a bit wet, so maybe by the end of the day there will be snowmen decorating lawns. Now it is decorating cars.

It is also decorating the trees. These trees at Browns come pre-decorated. Just keep them well below freezing and you do not have to do anything else to them to make them look festive.
Everything at Brookside Park looks wintry. The snow has not affected highway traffic, though the city streets are slick.

A little snow has not slowed construction at Countryside.
None of the snow on these roofs is melting, which means either they are well insulated or it is quite cold.
A little more than a year ago we had the great ice storm of 2008. It was a lot prettier than our current snow, but it was also tremendously destructive. I like the little snows better.

Tow Park

This summer I found a park I have not mentioned in any previous post, Tow Park in the Sherwood Forest subdivision. It has a little playground and some nice grass.
There is a crude ball field there but not picnic facilities. Sherwood Forest does not lack open spaces--there is a large open space in the middle of the subdivision. I do not know if that is the way it was planned, or some lots did not sell.
At the back end of the park there is a small pond.
Why is it named Tow Park? There is a plaque on one of the benches by the playground that explains why.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The elevator at night

The grain elevator is lit at night, and is quite noticeable for several miles. There is a walkway at the top that has lights (do people walk up there at night?), and for at least the Christmas season, it has a blue star near the top.

The star faces north and cannot be seen well unless you are on the north side.

Happy Winter Solstice, the  shortest day and the longest night of the year. Days will now begin to get longer, though it will not be noticeable for a few weeks.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Going to church the Brushwood Methodist way

(I thought it would be interesting to use Sundays to focus on Rensselaer's churches and to see how many Sundays I can go before I run out of material. Indiana is richly endowed with religious denominations, with influences from North and South, East and West. This is part of that series of posts.)

Brushwood United Methodist Church is located seven miles north of Rensselaer at the intersection of US 231 and CR 200N. According to the "Church Services Directory" in the Rensselaer Republican, the pastor is Darren Williams. Sunday worship is 7:30, 8:30, and 10:45 a.m.; Sunday school is at 9:45.

As the name implies, it is part of the United Methodist Church, which is also the denomination of Trinity United Methodist Church in Rensselaer. The church has an excellent website at
The church appears to have been extended and remodeled from its original form. There is an old bell in front that may have been part of an older structure.