A History and Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio

Buettner, Michael G. A History and Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio.  Fourth Edition.  Lima, Ohio; [M.G. Buettner], 1998.

I came across this guide when searching for National Road/ U.S. 40 books related to Ohio [more on this in some future posting] in the CLEVNET catalog.  The joys of subject searches.

Originally conceived in 1912 as an outgrowth of the Good Roads Movement, the Lincoln Highway cut through many Ohio cities including Wooster, Mansfield, Delphos, and Van Wert on its way from Times Square in NYC to San Francisco.  A federal highway system was implemented in 1926 and today the general route of the Lincoln Highway through Ohio can be traced along U.S. Highway 30.

As the name indicates, A History and Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway in  Ohio, focuses on Ohio.  While reading through the guide, you do learn about the national Lincoln Highway, but the author’s intent is to outline the varying roads as designated Lincoln Highway between 1912 and 1928, and what remains of those roads today.  Buettner, president of The Ohio Lincoln Highway League, has done his research, focusing on historic maps, guidebooks of the time (Hobbs Guides and Automobile Blue Books), and good-old fashion newspaper research.

Along with a very detailed description of the route(s) through Ohio which focuses on locating remnants from the different incarnations of the road, the guide also includes odometer charts (both eastbound and westbound), many maps, and several interesting articles about very specific topics (one of note being a description of the concrete posts placed along the highway by Boy Scouts in 1928).  There are also a few political intrigues that are discussed.  Why did the Lincoln Highway skip Marion?

I don’t know if I would recommend this title to a casual reader, but if you have any interest in the Lincoln Highway or are planning on taking a trip on the Great Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway, do search out this title.  The compiled information included is quite impressive.

John Nolen and Mariemont

Rogers, Millard F. John Nolen and Mariemont: Building a New Town in Ohio. Baltimore; The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

As the title suggests, John Nolen an Mariemont tells the story of the planning and development of one of Cincinnati’s premier suburbs by one of the grand masters of planning.  I recently completed Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America by Witold Rybczynski, where the author follows the creation of a housing development in suburban Philadelphia.  Though their back-stories differed greatly, I wanted to see how development differed in early 20th Century in comparison to today.  Though arguably similar to other exurban developments, New Daleville was planned as a ‘new urban’ community.  Mariemont is often cited as an inspiration for New Urbanists.  It made perfect sense to read John Nolen and Mariemont.

My first mistake was thinking that Mariemont, usually referred to as a Garden suburb, was a typical development.  Mariemont was meant to be a study in how America could house its people.  The money came from Mary Emery and the project was the brain child of Charles J. Livingood, a longtime associate of Thomas J. and Mary Emery.  John Nolen and Mariemont follows Livingood’s years of travel and research of Garden cities in America (think Forest Hills Gardens in Queens) to Europe (think or google Letchworth), his acquisition of the land along the Little Miami River, to his business relationship with John Nolen.  Be foreworne, most of the ‘action’ in this book is the correspondence between Nolen and Livingood (they only met a few times) from 1920 through the end of ‘planned’ construction in 1927.  The professional Nolen continously puts out fires, while the Livingood is portaiyed as idealistic and somewhat flighty.  Many letters are written about housing allotment, grading, street naming, and promoting this model community.  (Mariemont was designed with the idea of repeating it elsewhere.)  Planning buffs will not be disappointed.

It is a little thing, but I found the title slightly misleading.  Though the book is clearly about the planning and development of Mariemont, it is as if the marketing department decided afterwards to promote this as a John Nolen biography.  Nolen is one of several main characters in the development of Mariemont, as described by this book, but this is not his story alone.  Livingood is not even mentioned on the book flap.  As I said, it is a little thing, but I found it distracting.  I will not dwell on it anymore.

I have only been through Mariemont a few times and I find it a charming town.  What you learn in John Nolen and Mariemont is that much of Nolen’s original city plan was never completed (mainly because of financial constraints).  The town center, which I find to be one of Mariemonts strongest attributes was planned to be much more.  Think commercial and population density downtown.  Now that would made it even more New Urban.

I’ll give away the ending.  Mariemonts did not spread across the country.  As with Nolen’s professional career, the Depression pretty much ended Garden city developments in America.  But, maybe Mariemonts time has come again.  People are writing books.

The Ohio Guide

Federal Writers’ Project. The Ohio Guide. New York; Oxford University Press, 1940 (1946 printing).

There is a good chance that your local library may have The Ohio Guide, which was compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) and originally published in 1940. This book is part of the American Guide Series, which ended up covering ALL 48 states along with many cities and regions. If so inclined, reading it should not be limited to historians and academics.

The Ohio Guide is broken up into three main parts; historical and cultural essays, articles about major cities (and Oxford, which is described as a typical Ohio college town), and 23 driving tours one could take (following the pre-Interstate national and state highways). There are also eight collections of photos, that come across now as propaganda of ideal communities. (My favorite being ‘The Farm’ and ‘In the Towns’).

Approaching its 70th birthday, The Ohio Guide is more of a historic document than textbook. Not a modern academic study, there are no citations for any of the information provided. Continue reading

Moon Cleveland

Trattner, Douglas. Moon Cleveland. Berkeley, California; Avalon Travel, 2009.

The Moon Handbook for Cleveland is somewhat of a landmark. That being, I am not familiar with any other national publisher who had designated Cleveland with its own travel guide. The other major Ohio cities (Cincinnati and Columbus) have received at least minimal coverage for book-buying travelers from out of state. Both Cincinnati and Columbus have had ongoing editions in the Insider’s Guide Series and the Day Trip Series (GPP Travel). But not so for Cleveland until now.

I will argue that the Moon Handbook is a different publication than the Insider’s Guide and Day Trip Series. The Insider’s Guide is a “travel” guide, but its premise is also relocation, which can take up about half the book. The Day Trip Series is designed not only for travelers, but very likely locals. Moon Cleveland is a strait travel guide that you would pick up in a bookstore in Seattle.

This begs the question why a city like Cleveland would even have a national publisher release a guide book. There are plenty of comprehensive Ohio travel guides (including a Moon Handbook: Ohio) that adequately cover the major things to do in and around Cleveland. I do not see Cleveland as a distinct travel destination, but with over two million residents in its metro area, there are always nomads passing through. Most of these people will want to do something. As a resident of Cleveland, I would hope there is something to do.

I will confess that I wanted to dislike Moon Cleveland. (Where is the map of Slavic Village?) But, it actually makes Cleveland seem bigger and more impressive. Trattner has compiled probably the best snapshot of Cleveland in 2009 that can be found in print. Yes, the major institutions will remain, but when you are focusing on an area as small as Cleveland, the restaurant and entertainment section is very detailed. Though I wouldn’t expect to see the Old Angle (in the neighborhood of Ohio City) in a guide book, it is probably a place I would send someone who is visiting.

Trattner’s food background is evident, but he does a good job overall from his “three days in Cleveland” (Ohio City, Downtown/Tremont, University Circle) to his background information (nice little blurb about Euclid Avenue and the Healthline bus). While I would have liked to see him dig more around the lesser known areas of Cleveland, I must remind myself that this is book for a traveler and not a resident.

I cannot tell you why Moon Cleveland was published, but I like it and I hope it meets sales expectations.

I am curious, do you think a city smaller than Cleveland, without a major tourist destination, could fill up over 200 pages in a travel guide? Is there a city or region in Ohio that is lacking a nationally published travel guide, and needs one?