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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Taste of Rensselaer 2013

The clouds were darkening as we approached the annual Taste of Rensselaer event this evening.
The optimists wanted to believe that the rain would pass to our east, but by the time that the Fendig Summer Theater group was singing, "Singin' in the Rain," they actually were. (The production of the Children's Theater is less than two weeks away.) It was a light rain, however, and though it dampened the picnic benches, it did not seem to appreciably dampen enthusiasm.
Inside the Carnegie Center were exhibits showing what children and others had accomplished during Art Week, the week leading up to Taste of Rensselaer.
There were a variety of food vendors, some who regularly sell food (City Office & Pub, Strack & Van Til, Ayda's, Martin's), other civic organizations and church groups (Lion's, Rotary, Trinity United Methodists, Chamber of Commerce, Carnegie Players, Bethany Youth Group, and First Christian Church.)

Down the block people could have relaxed in the new bench in Hal Gray Park, except that it was probably very wet.
Update: I heard that the two bands that were scheduled to perform canceled. They did not want the rain to ruin their equipment, though I think the rain stopped later in the evening.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Around town, June 27 2013

I have not seen anything this week that screams, "Blog about me." Maybe Taste of Rensselaer on Saturday will be that thing. However, there are lots of little things that are interesting. While there are not many new houses being built, there seems to be a fair about of renovation going on. The house below, on West Washington, recently sold and now has a giant dumpster in front. It appears that a major overhaul is in store. I have always liked this century old house because of the window on the second floor. I hope it is preserved. (Notice that the roof of the porch has already been torn down.)

 The tree removal business has been booming, but I have not seen a bigger take down than this one on South Scott Street. Six very large trees were either down or in the process of being taken down. The house here is the one that had roof damage from a big storm at the end of May.
 I went past the Farm Credit construction site last evening at about 7:00 and was surprised to see men still working. With the long hours, change from day to day is impressive.
The activities of summer continue. The Summer Swim Team has finished it regular season and now is getting ready for the conference finals. The Fendig Summer Theater will be performing in a couple of weeks. Softball is busy in the park. The LaRue Pool has had larger than normal crowds this summer and no one knows why. The wet and warm weather has been great for corn--a few weeks ago I doubted that it would be knee-high by the Fourth of July, but most of it has already exceeded that height.

And in about six weeks school will be starting again for many kids around the state.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Floor & walls

Riding past the high school today, I noticed the yellow caution tape and had to see what was going on. Two dumpsters were sitting on the north side of the high school and one was full.
 They contained the old floor of the gymnasium that had been damaged last year when the gym had a new roof installed.
I guess no one figured out a way to recycle the wood.

The door was open so I could peak inside. Looks a bit different, doesn't it?
Here is a closer look at part of the floor. I am not sure what the little metal tabs are for. 
 By this fall a new and very nice floor should be in place.

Meanwhile, south of town the walls are going up for the new Farm Credit building. The roofing trusses are on the site, so they will soon be put in place.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Almost finished (updated)

The construction on the Amtrak depot is almost finished. The railings are complete and the fencing gone except for that separating the depot from the platform. The lights around the soffit and the gutters were big projects this past week. There seems to be a camera on the roof.

 The waiting room has new black benches.
 The station is getting instant grass.
 The little room with no windows will be the new storage area for the wheel chair lift. The little shed that previously housed it has been removed.
There are still a few details that have to be finished, but I would not be surprised if sometime next week the depot is open for use. We will know when the project is complete when the old station, the construction trailer, and the port-a-potty are removed.

While wandering around town today I discovered a new business in its early stages. People were moving things into the building that not too long ago housed Tub Time and the Texas Mercantile Exchange. I asked what the new business would do and was told it would sell children's clothing and accessories.

Update: As of Wednesday night (June 26, 2013) it appears to be finished. The last of the fencing is gone so that the handicapped lift could be moved to its new room. The construction trailer has left and the job site picked up. But the door to the station remains locked though the lights are on inside and the benches are neatly arranged. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Whoosh (updated)

Another line of thunderstorms with heavy rain passed through Rensselaer this afternoon. My informal rain gauge suggested we got about an inch of rain. Clearing the debris from a drain can create an awesome little whirlpool.
 On a completely different topic, I noticed a new concrete pad in Hal Gray Park. Anyone know what it is for?
Update: I heard from a good source that a commemorative bench will be placed here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ice cream truck

On Wednesday night I heard the sounds of an ice cream truck, so I ran outside to see it.
The lady driving the truck said that they are in Rensselaer Wednesdays and Sundays, and on other days of the week are in Wheatfield and either Kouts or Hebron (I do not recall which). She said that they did not have a permit to stop in the park, so for now would be driving around town.

So if you hear the sounds of an ice cream truck, it is not an illusion, at least not on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Update; I got a message sent on July 3 from the lady driving the truck saying that she would no longer be driving it and did not know if anyone else would replace her. So we may or may not see the truck during the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Annual carry-in dinner at the Historical Society

On Tuesday evening the Jasper County Historical Society hosted its annual carry-in dinner. There was plenty of delicious food.
Following the dinner, Pam Brown-Seely, archivist at Saint Joseph's College, gave a presentation on the early days of the college during which the priests, brothers, nuns, and seminarians raised livestock and tended gardens and orchards, growing most of the food consumed on campus. There are still buildings and ruins on campus from that era.

One of my table companions told me that someone with inside information says that the next endeavors at the Fair Oaks Farms will be a restaurant, then an aquaculture exhibit, and then chickens.

The museum had a new acquisition--a stuffed hawk. I did not get a picture, but the Rensselaer Republican did.

This fall the museum will be an exhibit of maps, some form the museums collection, and some from the state museum.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From the garden

I finally got a reward for the work I have put into gardening this year--the first harvest of peas.
The bunnies have destroyed the peas I planted in my back yard garden. These are from my plot in the community garden, where bunnies do not seem to be a problem.

What is maturing in your gardens?

Monday, June 17, 2013

A challenge (updated)

I missed a number of things late last week--a storm report, the Lt Governor's visit to Rensselaer, Little Indiana's TV appearance (I saw the entire video on-line but cannot find the link now)--and I was unable to do anything interesting with the Tootsie Roll Drive that benefited CDC Resources. The reason none of this appeared on this blog is that I was out of town. While I was gone, I took a lot of pictures, naturally. Below are a few. The first four are from the trip getting there, and the rest are from the destination. Your challenge--figure out where I was. If you knew about this trip beforehand, you are disqualified from the challenge. If you get an answer, explain the reasoning behind it.

I will update with some commentary.

Hopefully I will get caught up in the next few days with what is happening in Rensselaer.

And now, the challenge

Part 1: Getting there

 Being there.

Update: Comments on pictures

Picture 1. I flew Porter Air, which is a small regional airline serving mostly eastern Canada. Their hub is the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is too small to handle large jets. The airline flies Bombardier Q400 aircraft, a small prop commuter plane that seats about 70 passengers. The picture above shows the plane about to land at Toronto. I thought some people who really know their planes might be able to tell the kind of plane from just the landing gear.

Picture 2. Every time we landed, the plane was refueled. This was the fueling stop at Ottawa, which was to be a short stay with continuing passengers staying in the plane, but on landing the plane had mechanical difficulties. After waiting about 20 minutes, we were told that our plane could not continue, and we got off at Ottawa to wait for another aircraft.

Picture 3. I was really impressed that RoadRunner 1117 could identify this canoe. I think the plaque said it was one of two birch bark canoes made the way that the Indians made them. One was given to Prime Minister Trudeau and the other is the one on display in the Ottawa airport.

Picture 4. Porter Air is small, but it gives really good passenger service. At both Toronto and Ottawa it has passenger lounges in which it provides free coffee, juice, soft drinks, almonds, and cookies to its passengers. This computer was in the Ottawa lounge and I could not resist taking a picture of a Macintosh computer running Windows. If you want to run Windows, there are cheaper ways of doing it than buying Apple hardware.

I felt out of place in the airports--I did not have an electronic device that connected to the Internet, but most everyone else did.

Because our flight was delayed, we got into Halifax just before midnight. We were planning to take the city bus to the hotel, but decided instead to go with a taxi, which was much more expensive. The Halifax airport is about twenty miles away from Halifax, out in the middle of a scrubby forest. Porter gave us $12 each in food vouchers because of the delay, so that partially offset the extra cost of the taxi ride.

Picture 5. A ferry connects downtown Halifax with downtown Dartmouth, across the bay. The odd thing about the ferry is that it has no front or back. The two ends are identical so the ferry does not have to turn around as it goes back and forth across the bay.

Picture 6. Halifax exists because of its large, ice-free harbor. During both the first and second world wars, it was the main staging area to assemble convoys to Europe. However, except for this large container ship, I did not see any seagoing ships coming or going while I was there.

In the first world war, a minor collision between two ships, one filled with explosives, led to an explosion that the Halifax people said was the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb. See

Picture 7. The area along the harbor is a major tourist area and Halifax depends a great deal on tourism. The funny tugboat was one of several boats that gave harbor tours.

There were a number of street performers out and about and some of them were truly pathetic. One guy was playing kazoo. An old woman had a CD player playing music, to which she was keeping beat by tapping sticks together.

Picture 8. The Harbour Hopper seemed to be the most popular of the harbor tours. It was both boat and bus--it could drive on land or water. In the picture below, the vehicle has just entered the water adjacent to the Canadian naval port.

Picture 9. I toured the harbor the cheap way, from the ferry. It cost only $1.50 for a senior, and with a transfer the return trip was free. Dartmouth did not impress me--it seemed not  to have much. But maybe I caught it on a bad day. There was a bustling farmers/craft market in the building next to the ferry on the Dartmouth side.

The picture shows the skyline of Halifax from the ferry.

Picture 10. A large sculpture of a wave attracted children despite the warning.

Picture 11. I found a place to get to the water but the only interesting thing I saw was this jellyfish.

Picture 12. This clock, built in 1803, is at the base of the citadel, the fortress that guarded the harbor from enemy attack and is now a tourist destination. The clock still works and is frequently shown in pictures illustrating Halifax.

By the way, Halifax is on Atlantic Time, two hours ahead of Central Time. They are still in spring--their blackberries had not yet blossomed.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Monon Civic Building

  A few weeks ago I had a meeting in what I think is the Civic Building in downtown Monon. It seems to be an old bank building on the corner of Fourth and Market Street. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the exterior.

Inside was a plaque that gave a bit of history of Monon.

Inside an old bank vault is still in place. The walls are decorated with pictures of historic Monon.
 The building has a pretty staircase that goes up to offices that were overlooked the main banking floor.
 The building can be rented for events, but I do not have the contact information.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Melville substation construction

On Wednesday there was finally something worth photographing at the Melville substation. Some kind of structure was being erected.
The substation under construction at the power plant is now completely fenced in, though there are large gaps at the bottom of the fencing. There are some stacks of lumber at the Farm Credit site, so work on the structure may start soon. There is a new house (or perhaps two) under construction in the Madison subdivision.

It has been a quiet week.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bad day to take Amtrak

I stopped by the Amtrak station to see how construction was going and noticed several suitcases on the platform. Then the owners came up the ramp and told me that the train had had an accident in Monon. Amtrak was arranging bus transportation for both those on the train and the five people waiting in Renssealer. (I tried to find out more from the Amtrak site, but there was nothing I could find. However, WLFI was on the case. The train hit a tractor pulling a tank of anhydrous ammonia.)
 The two ladies approaching in the distance had been walking on the track--they seem to have gone down to McKinley and bought something to drink at the Marathon station.

As for the construction, the roof seems to be complete, but there is much activity with the railings (see the left of the picture.) and with the windows.

Addendum: If there were people who missed connections to other trains in Chicago, they may experience life as a misconnect.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reynolds, a new steel town?

While watching the news on WLFI, I saw an ad about a company called Magnetation opening an iron-ore pellet plant in Reynolds, Indiana. The web page for Magnetation says that they are a new company and that they mine the waste of old iron mines in northern Minnesota. (The Mesabi range was an incredibly rich source of iron in its day, and I recall visiting some of the huge mines when I was growing up in Minnesota.)

A press release from November says that the new plant will become operational in late 2014 or early 2015 and employ about 100 to 120 people. The cost of the plant is given as $300 to $350 million. Another press release from May 20 of this year said that the company had found financing for the venture.

If the raw material comes from Minnesota, it may be shipped through the Great Lakes to the the south end of Lake Michigan. If it then is transported by rail, it seems likely to be passing through Rensselaer on the CSX line. Reynolds also has the Topeka, Peoria, and Western Railroad running through it (the railroad coming through Kentland and Remington), but that railroad runs east-west and does not seem like a route that would be used to get the iron ore from Lake Michigan.

I do not understand why Reynolds is a good location for a plant like this. It seems to be far from both the source of raw material and the market for the finished product. If anyone knows more, I would like to hear it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Building trades open house 2013

Last weekend the building trades class of RCHS had an open house for their school project, a house on West Vine Street.
When one goes through the front door, one enters a large room that has the kitchen, a dining area, and a living room area. I did not get a picture of this room because it was full of people--a lot of people came to the open house. It is similar to the large main room in the 2011 building trades house, though the kitchen area has its working surfaces and cabinets arranged a bit differently.

On the east end of the house are two bedrooms with a bathroom between them. The house has lots of electrical outlets and lots of closets. Most of the floors are carpeted.
 The east bathroom is ordinary.
 The garage is on the west end of the house and has a door into the west hallway.
 At the end of the west hallway is a utility room. It has hookups for a washing machine and dryer, and also a third toilet.
 The master bedroom is also on the west end. The bedroom itself looks like the east bedrooms, though it is larger. One thing I thought unusual was that the large closet for the master bedroom had two ceiling lights.
The master bathroom does not have the standard bathtub but rather a large shower area.
Here is the zillow listing on this house and here is the realtor listing.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The pool is open

The summer swim season is now underway at Brookside Park with the opening of the LaRue Pool a few minutes after noon. (I do not think the baby pool is open yet--it did not have any water this morning.) This year the pool has something new. I could not figure out what it was, so I had to ask. Without reading the answer below the picture, can you identify this new addition to the pool?
And the answer is that it is a chair that will allow a disabled person to be lowered into the pool. It is part of the city's conforming with ADA regulations.

Update: The water was warmer than I expected it to be. It helped that they filled the pool last week.

I am not sure what the status of Lake Banet Park will be this summer. The beach will not be staffed with lifeguards, though if you want to rent the facility, you can also rent guards. Employees have been told that they can swim at their own risk, but I doubt that the general public is welcome to do the same. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Construction update 06-06-2013

The concrete pad for the Farm Credit Building seems to be in place. A couple of weeks ago the workers were still installing drainage.
 Dale's Steak and Chop Shop has almost finished enclosing coolers or freezers. It is located behind the bowling alley.
The old woodwork was replaced on the Steinke's and by now may be covered with vinyl siding.
 In addition to vinyl siding, the renovation is adding decorative stonework. This picture shows the back corner of the building.
 In April I wondered how the new garage at the Owen Parker house would blend with the rest of the building. It appears that it will blend very well judging from the roofing tiles.
 Someone who knows a lot about architecture told me a few years ago that the Owen Parker house was the most interesting bit of residential architecture in Rensselaer. Built in 1917, it has elements of Craftsman and Tudor Revival styles. I have no idea who Owen Parker was, but he must have been one of the prominent citizens a century ago.

Another bit of residential renovation that has caught my attention is on the corner of Jefferson and Jackson. It was built circa 1905 and has been gutted, taken down to the studs. When they started working on it, I wondered if they were going to demolish it completely. Here is what it looked like at the beginning of May.
 After a new roof, siding, new windows, a new front porch, and who knows what has been changed inside, this is what it currently looks like.
The other big construction project is work on the electrical substations near the power plant and on Melville. Work continues, but it does not lend itself to interesting pictures.