On The Scioto Mile (II)

In the wake of yesterday’s post, our friends Michelle and Lee politely pointed out that there is a restaurant called Milestone 229 at the end of the Scioto Mile, as well as a series of fountains and misting stations right in front of the restaurant.  Both are unfortunately shielded from the rest of the Scioto Mile by some fencing related to ongoing construction.

My bad!  I visited the area today to have lunch with good friend and devoted Webner House reader Mike N, and I’m glad I did.  Milestone 229 serves some good food and looks to have an extensive drinks menu, although we didn’t sample any of them.  It also has a large outdoor eating area as well as a large bend of floor-to-ceiling windows to allow a good look at the fountain area.

There is good reason to encourage viewing of the fountain area, because dozens of happy kids were providing great free entertainment as they ran in and out of the different fountains and soaked themselves to the skin.  From the number of kids, Moms, Dads, and caregivers who were there, I’d say the fountain area has already become a go-to destination on a hot summer’s day.

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A Reason To Take 8th Grade Geometry

We sat huddled in Mrs. Jackman’s 8th grade geometry class at Hastings Junior High, learning the names of differently shaped solids and how to calculate their volumes, discussing the value of pi and the Pythagorean theorem and other equations, all the while wondering when in the hell we would ever use this self-evidently useless information.

Little did we know that Mrs. Jackman’s diligent instruction would have equipped us to nod yes if Louis XIV had asked us to design the extensive, jaw-dropping gardens at the palace at Versailles!  But in fact those gardens — from their layouts, to their perspectives to the far horizon, to the shapes in which shrubs are trimmed, are all about using geometry, geometry, and more geometry.

In my view, the gardens at Versailles are far more interesting and memorable than the palace.  You can only see so much gilt, and take in so many paintings and busts of Louis XIV, and experience so many vaulted ceilings and marble floors, before you experience sensory overload and ultimate disinterest.

But the gardens!  They are full of wonder and surprises. Who would have thought that geometric lines and shapes could be so enjoyable and, in the case of shrubs, even a bit silly and whimsical?

Mrs. Jackman, who considered geometry to be a very serious topic and applied a no-nonsense approach to her teaching, might not have approved, but I chuckled with delight as Richard and I strolled through the gardens and enjoyed the different shapes and patterns that lay around every corner.  The fact is, geometric lines and shapes are pleasing to the eye and to the mind.  The gardens at Versailles are extraordinarily beautiful not just because of the flowers, and fountains, and canals, but because they are laid out in a precise geometric fashion.  The gardens convey the neatness, and order, and patterns that the human brain craves.

A City Of Fountains

The kings, cardinals, emperors, and Presidents of France who have lived in and loved Paris have had centuries to make Paris into a beautiful city.

The fountain next to St. Sulpice

They’ve razed entire sections of the medieval town, built sweeping boulevards, turned palaces and royal gardens into public buildings and green spaces for the common man, and erected monumental structures, triumphal arches, and engineering marvels.  And, equally important from my perspective, they’ve built fountains — lots and lots of fountains.

Paris has some of the greatest fountains in the world.  It seems like whenever you turn a corner in an unknown neighborhood you find another fountain of striking beauty.  Some feature mythological figures, some feature animals, and some feature bishops and snarling lions.  But all are beautiful, and all seem to be surrounded by people whenever you walk past.

The fountain at the edge of the Luxembourg Gardens

Why are people so attracted to fountains?  I think it is because the Parisian fountains are, without exception, beautiful and interesting to examine.  There is a certain pleasing whimsical quality to fountains, whether it is open-mouthed turtles shooting heavy jets of water at four women representing different continents holding up a globe or angry lions seeming to dare passersby to come one step closer to the gushing water.  And there is something about being near tumbling water that is both soothing and cooling.  Who wouldn’t want to sit next to a fabulous fountain and read a book during a lunch hour break?

The fountain at the foot of Boulevard St. Michel

I’m sure that fountains are incredibly expensive to build, maintain, and operate.  But if the city fathers and urban planners in Columbus are looking for a way to draw people to a particular area — say, to the newly constructed Columbus Commons space, for example — they could do a lot worse that build an attractive, more traditional fountain in that area.  Forget about just putting a few chairs and tables on a plaza, and start thinking about rushing water, and minotaurs and griffins, and maybe Christopher Columbus and other explorers on boats.  I’m convinced that when you are talking about fountains, if you build it, they will come.