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

Friday, December 31, 2010

December thaw

Isn't it wonderful that our 50+ degrees today is melting the snow? There is a line of rain approaching from the west as I write this, and probably colder air behind it. It was so spring-like today that some of the animals got confused. I saw this salamander in my garage this morning. I do not know where it came from or where it was going. I hope it finds shelter before the cold returns.
I hope you have a safe and happy new year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Birthright is moving

Yesterday we began our tour of the Birthright of Rensselaer office on the second floor of the old Murray Department Store/Schultz/Harveys/Dollar General/J&L Antiques and Things building. We were in Room 6, and were about to enter another room, a room without a number because it does not have a door to the hallway. It is a supply room. Birthright is a pro-life organization that offers loving alternatives to abortion by supporting women who have chosen to give birth to their babies.
Another wall of the the supply room.
Below is the view from the supply room through room 7 into room 8. The doorway on the right is to a very small closet with a sink. Birthright volunteers (Birthright has no paid staff but relies entirely on volunteers) use the sink for pregnancy tests.
A major service of Birthright is listening. The volunteers listen a lot in this room.
Room 8 has a small selection of maternity clothes and clothes for small children. The door leads to a storage room to which only the volunteers have access.
Looking out the windows on this side of the building, you can see the rooftops of two buildings, Talk to Tucker and Suncatchers, and the brick wall of Uptown Girls. This building does not extend back very far from the street, and you can see that its brickwork could use some tuck-pointing. According to the Walking Tour pamphlet that I think was published by the Jasper County Historical Preservation Society, "This two-part (two-story) Commercial building from 1910 had Guerney Jesson Jewelers, and then housed the first female optometrist, Clare Jesson. Rose Remick was an optometrist there, also. Dr, Sutherland, a dentist, had his office there for may years prior to the present hair salon, Uptown Girls."
The office no longer looks like the pictures above because the volunteers have been busy packing it up. Starting next week, Birthright will be open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 until 1:00, at 116 N Front Street, in a building that for a long time held the law office of Jack Nesbitt and most recently was used by Healthy Families.

Update: The Birthright or Rensselaer web page is


Indiana had a magnitude 3.8 earthquake this morning, centered east of Kokomo. I felt the house moving a bit this morning but I thought it was a passing truck taking snow to Brookside Park. Maybe it was the earthquake.

Update: A bit of background here.


The Lake Village Indiana Old Photos Page on Facebook has some pictures of Conrad in Newton County, and also an informative entry in a discussion forum.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Second floor offices

We had so much fun looking at the old Beaver News building recently that I thought it might be fun to look upstairs over the old J&L Antiques and Things building. You get there via one of the many downtown doorways that lead up. When you have climbed the steep staircase, you arrive at the elbow of two hallways.
One hallway continues straight ahead and another goes to the right when you reach the top of the stairs. The photo below is at the end of the straight-ahead hallway, looking back toward the stairs, which you can see on the left.
Peeking through the window at the end of the hallway, you see an empty office. For many years this was the photography studio of Wayne Erickson. Its most recent occupant was Attitude Studio, which is now on Vine and McKinley.
This is the view from the end of the other hallway. Behind me is the only bathroom on the second floor. To the right is a very large room that was used for storage when this building was Murray's Department Store. It has been mostly empty for many years, and though a number of people have thought of using it, the only one that did was some martial arts group, and they were there only briefly. To the left most of the offices have frosted glass and you cannot see into them. One or two of these offices was used for many years by Frank Fischer, the architect who designed the Halleck Center at SJC and a number of other local buildings.
Here is the view through the one door that does not have frosted glass.
Near the junction of the hallways are the only rooms that are currently occupied. Birthright of Rensselaer occupies rooms 6, 7, 8 and 9. Birthright has had office space on the second floor for over twenty years.
The door of room 6 has the little plaque shown below. I wonder when and where the Adams Detective Bureau was, and what was in this office when the plaque was put on the door. At one time there was a dentist up in this office--maybe it was done back then.
Entering room 6 you are in the office room of Birthright.
From the desk looking the other way, you can see more office furnishings, and a doorway to another room.
We are not going to go through that doorway today. Maybe tomorrow. We better do it soon, because next week this space will all be as empty as the rest of the second floor.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

They've been working on the railroad

There has been construction equipment parked by the Amtrak station for the past week, and this morning it was being used.
I asked what they were doing, and was told that a new platform was being constructed. There were two guys in the old Amshack who looked like they were dismantling it. The guy I talked to said they were moving it for now and that it might be replaced.
I will check back in a few days and see how this project is progressing.

Speaking of railroad improvements, the one that is most needed is a new crossing on McKinley.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I learned from Facebook that the only grocery store in Morocco is closing at the end of the month. The discussion was divided between those who were very sorry to see the business close and blamed it on all the Moroccans who shop in Rensselaer, and those who blamed the poor selection and high prices of the store. I hope someone fills the niche that the closing leaves open.

Meanwhile, Strack and Van Til is busy remodeling and reorganizing their new Rensselaer store, trying to make it better. In October they started a small addition in the back.
A month ago, in late November, they were finishing it. I assume it is storage of some sort. It is only a tiny bit of the what they are doing.
Newton County does have some special things that Jasper County does not have. Such as this.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A present for the Presbyterians

A load of concrete was delivered to the Presbyterian Church three days before Christmas.
Santa was not involved. Van Keppel Redi-Mix was.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Who needs a hill for sledding when the slides have a couple of inches of snow on them?
Have a wonderful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Setting the bridge--film at 7:30

Here is some video of the setting of the Talbert Bridge that happened on December 10.

SJC Christmas video

Saint Joseph's has a Youtube  "Merry Christmas" video this year.

(Which reminds me, I have some clips that need to be put together. One of these days.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I finally checked my e-mail

I finally checked my rensselaer adventures e-mail (there is not much there, so I check it erratically), and found a link to Ryan Musch's explanation of what he plans for the old Beaver News building.

More Snow

I managed to get out for a short while today. It was very pretty--at least if you are not already tired of snow. I tried to console myself by thinking that my brother in Minnesota is dealing with feet of snow, not inches and my daughter was driving through mountain passes where you are not allowed on the road if you do not have tire chains. Another happy thought--we are past the solstice--the days will now start getting longer. (Of course we will not notice it for about six weeks--the days do not get much longer until then.)

If you are young, the snow is fun. I saw a little girl climbing every snow mountain she could find. However, I did not see a lot of other kids out and about.
 And the court house was beautiful with the dusting of snow on its roof.
The are lots of beautiful displays of Christmas lights if you take the time to appreciate them.

OK. Time to get back to work.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cafes, here and gone

I stopped in Jamie's Cafe and Banquets last week to see what it looked like. It has a simple decor with a simple menu and friendly staff.
 There is a room off to the side that is the banquet part of the operation. A reason that the cafe is only open until 2:00 is that the afternoons can thereby be used to prepare for special events such meetings, parties, and wedding rehearsal dinners.
I do not feel qualified to review food, but Little Indiana gave it a favorable review.

The logo of the cafe looks like someone's rendition of unicode 2615. (Blogger does not seem to support unicode insertions.)

I do not think Little Indiana ever did a review of the Los Tres  Garcias restaurant that until recently was serving meals a bit east of the SR 114 and I-65 intersection. I took some pictures two years ago, in December 2008, intending to post something about them, but I did not get a photo of the exterior of the place. I thought I would get a shot of it, but never did, so never posted. They did serve very generous portions, but never seemed to be extremely busy.
The reason I did not take a shot of the exterior was that it was getting dark. Instead I took this picture of the glowing sky.
I do not like the cold, but even more than the cold, I dislike the snow-packed streets. We need a few days of warmer weather to clear the streets.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Restoration and Renovation final

The is the final post touring the old Beaver News building. By the way, I have not gotten a complete story on what happened to Beaver News. I do not know if it was the decline in magazine market of new competitors that spurred their closing.

We left off last time upstairs, and we noticed a doorway to the front of the building. Going through the doorway, you enter a maze of little rooms In the first two rooms you encounter, there are dozens of coat hooks lining the dimly lit rooms Then you emerge into a room with some light, and this old sink catches your attention.
These rooms were once the offices of a doctor. Ryan Musch had been given a name, but could not remember it. The second floor of downtown buildings were common spots for the offices of doctors and dentists. When my family moved to Morton, MN in about 1950, there were both a doctor and a dentist on the second floor above my father's drug store. The dentist moved very shortly after we arrived and I do not remember anything about him. The doctor was still there when we left. My father was disappointed in him because he wrote few prescriptions for my father to fill. And I recall a number of trips to the dentist in the next town we lived in, Little Falls, MN. The dentist was on the second floor.

There is light enough to see the sink above because there is a wall of windows and doors between this room and the front of the building.
Going into the room at the front of the building, the most eye-catching aspect of the room are the woodwork, windows, and doors just behind you. There is nothing to see out of the front because the windows have a translucent covering. For some reason there are four doors. I could not figure out how this office would have looked like when it was in use. Was this the area in which the doctor saw patients?
Below is a view of the doors from the other side. (I could not get all four doors in one shot.)
Here we look through the door on the north and see the sink.
Below we are looking though one of the middle doors. There is a little window in the wall but I do not know what it was for. Now we expect a doctor to have a nurse and a receptionist and a variety of support people. but in 1910 or 1920 they might not have had that. So I would expect a receptionist to be on the other side of that window, but that may be extrapolating the present back to the past.
The radiators seem to be in excellent shape. I do not remember any radiators on the first floor or in the big room behind this office, so it might have been that this office had a separate heating system from the rest of the building.

I thought the old light switch was quite interesting. Someone who knows the field could probably give a pretty good estimate of when this was installed.
There is a big crack in the plaster in the plaster on the north wall. You can also see that the window does not seem to be completely closed. Old windows leak a lot of air even when they have been kept up. At one time this wall had wallpaper, but it is so deteriorated that you cannot see an obvious pattern on it.
It appears that at one time there was a stove in this room because there is a vent for it on what appears to be a chimney. (I found something similar when we did some renovations on our century-old house. Working on old buildings is always an adventure.)
As I was leaving, I noticed the bathroom. I could not see what was in it, so I pointed my camera and took a flash picture.  Again, someone who knows the field probably could give a rough estimate of when it was installed.
If you get to see the building after it is restored, think back to these pictures and appreciated the amount of effort that went into fixing this place up.

If anyone remembers anything or knows anything about this office and the doctor who used it, please comment. My guess is that it has not been used for at least sixty years.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Restoration and Renovation continued

Yesterday we began a tour of the old Beaver News building that Ryan Musch wants to transform into an event center. We entered the building and looked at the main room, Behind that room is a smaller room that clearly was added later. The old exterior has not been hidden, probably because this room was never meant to be seen by the public.
This room is also full of stuff, including more magazine racks.
There were boxes and boxes of old paper--probably business records--that were ready for the recycling center.
I was fascinated by this old cash register. My father had one of this vintage when he ran his store. He loaned it to another business for a retail promotion--Frontier Days or something like that--and never got it back. And that is probably the reason that it interested me.
Coming back into the main room, you can see the wonderful banister of the stairs that lead to the second floor. At the top of the stairs is a door that lies flat with the floor above and has to be lifted to gain access to the space above. The door under the stairs leads to the basement, which I did not see, but was told there was not much there. The old safe that was mentioned in the last post is in the little room next to these stairs. I doubt if that safe can be removed. The was probably installed during the construction of the building.
The second floor was used for storage and there is still a lot to be cleaned out. There is a door at the end that leads to an interesting space that we will look at in the next post.
Other than the junk that needs to be cleaned out, the most striking thing about this space is the ceiling. Clearly at some time in the past. the roof leaked. About half of the plaster has come down. However, the floor is still in good shape, so the leakage must have been repaired before it got too serious.
Advancing toward the door in the front of the room and looking back,  this is what you see. The stairs are on the right, and on the left is what seems to have been a dumbwaiter or elevator of some kind. There are still pulleys, but nothing else. There were once windows on the wall in the back and they could be restored because the addition to the building is only one story.
At one time this space could be reached from an exterior stairs, and you can see the entry if you look at the building from Jack's Uptown Service. There is a door twelve feet up on the wall. My guess is that there was a stairway between this building and the building that was next to it, an impressive three-story building that was a furniture store when it burned fifty or sixty years ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Restoration and Renovation

I peeked into the old Beaver News building this afternoon and the new owner invited me in to take some pictures.The building is cluttered with stuff left by the previous owners, and the first step in restoring and renovating it is to clean it out.

A couple of things worth noting in the picture below. There are heating pipes going up to the second floor, which means that there may be something interesting there. You can vaguely see a bit of detail on the ceiling--more on that later. The florescent lights were added sometime in the history of the building, which was constructed in 1902. (The Jasper County Interim Report is not useful in giving any information about it.)
On the other side of the doorway is a pile of old metal magazine racks. You can see that some of the plaster has come off the brick wall. The plaster was directly on top of the bricks. There is no lathing under it. And windows are out and have been replaced with plywood that is starting to deteriorate. You can see light coming through it.
Turning around and looking toward the back of the building, you can see fairly modern constuction, little office rooms that are now being torn out. Notice the beams above these little offices. There are no pillars breaking up the space, and that was an attraction to Mr. Musch, who wants a large open space.
Here is an overview of the building from the stairs in the back. (Wondering what is up the stairs? You will have to wait for that.) Notice the little windows. There were two-story buildings on both sides of this building, so there are no side windows near the front. This building, however, extends much further back than its neighbor on the north, so there can be some windows here.
One of the little things that I thought was interesting is this air vent in the floor. I am not sure what it is for--the heating of the building seemed to be hot water.
Tucked in the back is another office space with a huge, old safe. Before Beaver News the building was occupied by Warner Hardware. (That was before my time in Rensselaer, but if you have any memories of it, feel free to share them in the comments.) Would a hardware store need a safe like this? Does anyone know what was in this space before Warner Hardware? Why the big safe?
This building has not been extensively remodeled over the years, and as a result it still retains its old metal ceiling. You can see a bit of rust, probably caused by a leaky roof.
Here is a closer look.
Next time, the back room.