The Vermilion Town Hall

The Vermilion Town Hall is found on one of the wooded town squares near the railroad tracks and the downtown area.  It was built in 1883, at a time when Ohio was booming and towns like Vermilion were interested in displaying their prosperity and success in tangible form.  Town halls were good ways to make that kind of statement in a civic-minded, yet unmistakable, way.

The Town Hall is an imposing brick structure with an eclectic architectural style that includes large circular windows, towers, and an odd bit of ornamental work over the doorway that looks like two swans yelling at each other.  I’m sure the distinctive architectural flourishes were the source of great pride when the Town Hall was built in the 1880s — but now, perhaps, the town government may look at them more as the subject of nagging, and ongoing, maintenance costs.

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The Captain’s Chair

In Vermilion, Ohio, the barber shop is located in the heart of downtown.  In view of Vermilion’s long nautical heritage, the shop is called the Captain’s Chair.

The Captain’s Chair is a barber shop in its unadulterated form.  There is no pretense of hair styling, or unisex salon trendiness.  The barber pole is in its classic form, if a bit battered.  There is a red and white striped awning, scissors and comb are shown on the big front window, and old-fashioned barber chairs inside.  As you walk by, you can see men getting their clipping or thumbing through magazines as they wait their turn.

The Ritter Public Library

Ohio is blessed with many great libraries.  Most of the small towns in the Buckeye state can boast of a library that has plenty of books, internet terminals, free wi-fi, and helpful, enthusiastic librarians who don’t even shush you.

Many libraries in small-town Ohio are Carnegie libraries, built through the generosity of one of history’s greatest philanthropists.  Others are gems established by people who wanted to honor their parents, friends, or communities.  The Ritter Public Library in Vermilion, Ohio, built through the generosity of  George Ritter, falls into that category.

The Ritter Public Library is housed in a beautiful structure with pink marble pillars and a classical facade.  Inside you will find a spacious, brightly lit place where readers can find new material, browse the internet, or enjoy a quiet moment with a favorite book.  How wonderful to have such a source, and resource, in your community!

In our modern world, philanthropists seem to have moved away from endowing physical structures in favor of creating funds that contribute money to medical research or work to promote justice or environmental interests.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but a place like the Ritter Library shows how bricks-and-mortar charitable gifts can make huge and ongoing contributions to communities.

Sleeping To The Sounds Of The Lonesome Train Whistle

Kish grew up in Vermilion, Ohio, in a house located between two train tracks.  Because there are two tracks nearby, and because a lot of commerce in America moves by freight train, the lonely sound of train whistles and the rumble of passing freight cars are a part of every visit we make.

There is something comforting about the sounds of trains.  The train is far away when you first hear that whistle echoing across the countryside; the train politely gives you plenty of notice that it is on its way.  As the train approaches, the sound of the whistle changes and expands.  Soon you hear the throaty growl of the train passing by — and then the whistle gently recedes into the distance.

We don’t hear many train whistles in New Albany; I’m not even sure where the nearest railroad crossing is.  Curiously, however, the sounds of the trains don’t bother me when we are here or interfere with my sleep.  If anything, I sleep more soundly — and I think the trains, as well as the fresh air and the deep darkness, away from the light pollution of urban areas, may have a lot to do with it.

Ruminations In An Old Barn

We went up to Vermilion this weekend to celebrate Easter with Kish’s family.  On Saturday, Richard and I took Effie for a walk and ended up strolling to one of the barns on the Kishman property.  The Kishmans have been farming in Vermilion Township for generations, but no members of the immediate Kishman family are farming any longer.  As a result, this particular barn is not used for anything except storage of knick-knacks and old equipment.

One of the silos at the old Kishman barn

Barns are interesting buildings.  They are designed simply to enclose space and to keep things within that enclosed space dry and out of the elements.  Once you are inside the barn, it seems cavernous, and there is a luxury of abundant space between the concrete, hay covered floor and the rafters high above.  From the evidence of the eaves, the lingering smells, and the design, it looks like the barn has been home to wasps and yellow jackets, swallows and other birds, and cats and rats and livestock.  Blades, cranks, rotors and other assorted dangerous-looking machinery hang from hooks on the wooden walls.  Some of the design elements of the barn seem obvious, but others are mysterious.  You look up at the walls and wonder why there are latched doorways at odd locations on the walls, including one directly below the apex of the vaulted roof.

The old Kishman barn

Standing in the dusty barn — and I expect that every barn is always dusty — and looking around, you get a strong sense of the challenges of the farming life.  It is easy to envision the farmer appearing in the barn on a cold winter morning, wearing his barn coat with his breath visible in the sharp air, to prepare feed for the livestock, or climbing up the ladder to the hayloft on a hot summer day to hoist and then toss a few bales down to the floor below.

Everywhere there are reminders of the enormous physical demands of farming.  For example, the old Kishman barn has two silos that are about 40 feet high, and each of them has a ladder that goes up to the top.  How often do farmers have to climb to the tops of silos, and what do they have to do when they get up there, perched precariously so far about the ground?  How tough was it to breathe if you had to go into the silo to shovel out the last few inches of grain?

Farming no doubt has its rewards, in working with the soil and with animals and in being your own boss.  But it also has to be one of the toughest jobs around.