an interactive sculpture

ImageMadison, looking for an interactive flood sculpture, has whittled down the competition to three sculptors who await the vote of the citizens. There are three contenders:

Adam McIntyre’s model is made of resin in the shape of a sail with Imagedates of Ohio River floods along the base and arc of the sculpture. Once activated by hand-print, water would shoot out at the corresponding levels on the sail and reveal the hidden pictures on the concrete base surrounding the sculpture.

Mr. McIntyre’s sculpture seems an all-access interactive sculpture; envisioning this on the riverfront was easy. The model provided for a small seating areas nearby, and I could imagine this almost anywhere along the river, on either side of the street.¬† To vote for Adam McIntyre, text “VOTE” to 1(406) 356-6350 (1-406FLOOD50) or email with the subject: VOTE

ImageDavid Kirby Bellamy’s model is a paddle-wheel boat that turns atop a cylindrical shape sprinkling water as it turns.The bottom of the boat is at the 1937 flood level. Mosaic tiles will display flood and river history inside the cylinder’s walls.

The model, as I saw it in a gallery window, was made in metals, which I found somewhat attractive, but not sure if the paddle-wheel on the top was going to look more like the actual model before me or more like that of the painting in the background. I figured I should include a photo of that as well here, since there a difference. From what I could tell, those metal human stand-ins are not actually part of the planned sculpture. C’est dommage. I actually like that part.

According to the description I read, the boat on the top would rotate and thus a glorified human sprinkler would rain upon those below. In order to get the feel of how high the floodwaters were, one would have to be standing there and looking up, I suppose,but if you are being sprinkled that could be a problem.

I liked the design because it was compact, could be placed in a small space along the riverfront. I have to say, nice painting of the concept.

To vote for Bellamy’s sculpture, text “VOTE” to 1-406-356-6351 (1-406-FLOOD51) or email with the subject: VOTE

The third sculpture, Brian Martin’s model, has a spiral stairway walkup that takes one to the level of the 1937 flood. Not sure how you get there if you are handicapped since a drawing on the wall depicted the stairway inside. The flood is represented by water flowing out of an opening at the top of what appears to be a concrete structure. Branches of a large sculpted tree, wImagehich would extend to either side of the concrete structure,would hold a roof (as though one ripped fImagerom a house in the flood) to form a park shelter. Looked like a few areas were in the plan for water.

I liked this model in that one could get the idea of how how the floodwaters were by going up to view the level and being able to look out and down from the top.

I could imagine many people using Mr. Martin’s design (sculpture/park) because the design lends itself to use of different sections of the park at the same time. To vote for Brian Martin, text “VOTE” to 1-(406) 356-6352 (1-406-FLOOD52) or email with the subject: VOTE

Tough choice, but if you want to take part in the vote, get on it. The decision for which one winds up on the riverfront comes in December 2012. No doubt, it has great bearing on whether or not the Mayan prophecy will come true. ūüėČ

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groundhog holes and graves

Yesterday I visited the¬†Springdale cemetery for a wonderful walk, or I should say climb. The cemetery has some very old graves up on the hillside, and of course, I needed to go there for some reason. It certainly was a beautiful warm autumn day with quite a pleasant breeze. ¬†At one point my shoes were slipping so much I fell into a hole and then decided to take them off and just go the goat route. It was a lot easier barefootin’ it.


At the very top of the cemetery one finds the family graves of David White, who is often mentioned in Madison, Indiana history. Right next to Mr. White’s gravestone, which was at a decided lean, was the hole I fell into…probably a groundhog’s hole; it was pretty big. I was trying to read the name on it when I fell in the hole. So I sat down at that point to take the photo and just laughed about it. Leave it to me to fall in a hole.

I was looking for names more familiar to me now that I am doing a history blog, and ran across a couple of the graves of those whom I have been researching. After walking/hiking for about an hour I started to get tired, so I asked the sexton about a couple of locations. He said there was a Jewish section and I saw  there were markers with Hebrew on them where I was at that point. I reflected on that as I walked, since it was Yom Kippur (yesterday).

I sent photos I took of a double headstone of one family to a fellow in England whose family I have been researching. In the copy of a  letter he sent this past week, a copy of one written from another family member to a cousin in 1905, the author of the letter says he remembered a relative who went by the name Yom, which I found coincidental because of the day. A God-wink, some might say.

Anyway, I was really at the cemetery to see if the sexton had any information on a man written about in one of the letters, who may or may not have been murdered and may have been buried in what had been a cemetery up the street from me. I still have  a lot of research to do.

Something gives me the idea I may be on to something.

Apparently there are a lot of groundhogs living up in the hills high up over the cemetery, but no one to bother them for the most part.¬† I didn’t fall into any more holes after the one. It may have had more to do with the shoes than the holes. At least I didn’t break anything.

Since I hadn’t been to the cemetery for a while, and mentioned shoes, I thought I would share a photo of a pair found the last time I was there, the photo I call sandals and beans.

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crusty and homely and rough

he-was-crusty-and-homely-and-roughSounds more like¬†the description of a good, crusty home-made loaf of Italian bread¬† than the words on the headstone of a priest, but those were the words from someone’s heart that were cut into the slab of stone.

When I was a little girl, Grandma and I would have a picnic day and visit the graves of relatives. Making sure the headstones were still visible she’d pull a few weeds, plant a few flowers and she would reminisce. I don’t do that but today I felt the draw of St. Patrick’s and Saint Magdalene’s cemeteries up on the hill in Madison, Indiana. It was a beautiful day, perfect temperature, a few clouds and a lovely breeze; a convertible day. So I put the top down and¬†ran a couple of errands and then stopped at Frisch’s for a Big Boy sandwich— that being the extent of my picnic.

God knows why I was there since I don’t know anyone whose body is¬†buried in Madison, Indiana, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be respectful of the graves of Madisonians. Sometimes a cemetery is just a nice quiet place to visit, whether you know anyone in it or not.

StMsJesusI didn’t realize there were two cemeteries¬†when I went in the first driveway, where the name St. Patrick’s Cemetery was on a stone wall. I had to come back out to park along the roadside, across the street fromSt. Patricks¬†St. Patrick’s Church to access Saint Magdalene’s Cemetery. I’m not even sure which spelling was correct for the latter.¬†¬†The¬†name on the stone which said Father Jacob Andrew Michael was the second native priest in the Diocese, said he was pastor of Saint Magdaline’s, but another stone¬†proclaimed¬†Saint Magdalene’s Cemetery. I know how I would spell it, but…I didn’t cut the stones.¬†

I have a cemetery map that I bought at the Jefferson County Historical Society gift shop which lists it¬†as the St. Magdelena¬†Cemetery. I wonder¬† sometimes about these things. That isn’t the only misspelling on the map, but¬†I suppose I notice these things more than others. Obviously it is consistently misspelled here in Madison.

When I did an internet search for this cemetery I found this:

St. Magdalene Catholic Church was moved in 1941 from it’s location
in southern Ripley County, when the US army needed the land to
build the Jefferson Proving Ground, to North Madison and placed across
the street from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

All were not removed to St. Patricks, so you may want to check the names on that site if you are trying to locate someone in particular. I’m glad I stopped to read the¬†gravestone of the “crusty and homely and rough”¬†pastor (one whose heart may well have been as soft and warm as a loaf of bread right out of¬†the oven)¬†directly beneath¬†the larger than life-sized Jesus onSaintMagdalene the cross. I like reading¬†sentiments found on old headstones.

In the St. Patrick’s Cemetery, I saw that there were quite a few old headstones that were broken off at the base, or worse broken in many pieces. I don’t know if that’s due to vandalism or age of the materials used, but many just lay in the grass, an obstacle for a weed-eater.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I didn’t really feel a pull in any particular direction, as I sometimes do, but I felt I was there to enjoy a bare-footed walk in the grass and to take a few photos…so I did. I’m not picking on St. Patrick’s for broken headstones; it just happens to be one of millions of cemeteries that has broken headstones that I could have taken photos of…but this was within driving distance.

There were not a large number of old headstones but a few shapes caught my eye as I walked, looking church-window-shaped-stoneat the shapes from the backside of the stones. One was shaped like a church window, others were double stones, one little-lambwas a little lamb and another I cleared to read the simple poem inscribed: “If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and be with you again.”

These aren’t the only cemeteries I have visited in Madison; I’ve been to the Springdale Cemetery a number of times for walks. I have noticed that cemeteries aren’t decorated as much as they were when I was a child, mostly because maintenance is an issue, and thus there is a requirement for flat stones to accommodate mowers at many cemeteries. Vandalism seems to be a problem in a lot of cemeteries, too, and once those older stones are broken, there is often no way to repair them. I noticed a few stones had metal braces holding them together.

All in all, I had a nice little walk in the cemeteries today, looking over the stones of those who had gone on long before I ever got there. There were no stones so grand as to impress me about someone’s stature in life or death, only the gentle breeze of a warm late-summer’s day. As the sun begins to close out the day, I am reminded that the autumnal equinox is two days from today, which is also Rosh Hashanah, a day for bread and stones.

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re-usable piers

Public Meeting

Wilbur Smith Associates presented at a public meeting on September 10th, at the new Milton Elementary School in Milton, Kentucky. I was pleased that they included a video presentation of how a new bridge would look from a new perspective. I always thought we needed more than just  the Madison-to-Milton view. The local newspaper’s article echoes some of the concerns brought up at the meeting. I made a recording myself so I can refer to people’s comments at a later date.


During the public meeting, the question was asked if there were other examples of bridges having re-used piers and being over 30-years old. Audience members were told this type of construction is often done with highway bridges, and two truss-style bridge projects were named.


The current Sewickley Bridge of Allegheny County, PA (built in 1981) is a continuous Warren truss in the form of the cantilever structure, like the one it replaced. The current bridge rests on the piers of the previous bridge which were constructed in 1909. The new Sewickley Bridge is approximately 1,850 feet long, and includes two 12-foot-wide lanes with 4-foot shoulders and a 5-foot-wide pedestrian walkway. The Sewickley bridge is 28-years old. A major aspect of that project was that two original river piers remained to support the new structure. The river piers were modified to accommodate the new wider span. 


The Marietta-Williamstown Bridge was also mentioned as another example of a project which re-used some of the piers from the prior bridge. Yes, it has been done. Just because the re-builds are not over 30-years old it isn’t a deal-breaker for me, considering testing is more reliable these days, and construction techniques have probably improved as well in the last 30 years. The photo shows what  switch-back access to the sidewalk might look like on the Milton-Madison project.

It was clarified, at the meeting, that the one damaged pier in the water closest to the Madison side of the river would be removed from the water and could be salvaged for use on land. Safety is not being compromised. I’m no bridge expert, but I certainly listen as best I can to what is being said. I have not heard anything that makes me think a superstructure bridge replacement will sacrifice public safety for the sake of expediency.


Please see a post I wrote on my history blog (some progress) written prior to starting this blog on Madison general topics.

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There’s something about…


One description for the (2005) Madison movie trailer reads, ‚ÄúResidents of a small town in Indiana band together to try and save the dwindling population…‚Ä̬† The movie is based on a true story. According to the city’s bicentennial webpage (1809-2009) the population in Madison, Indiana is currently about 13,000. According to Wikipedia, the population was 12,004 at the 2000 census. Well, it hasn’t grown much in 120 years or so, maybe a couple of¬†thousand more live here now.

I watched a YouTube trailer and heard one of the actors say, “The whole Madisonwatertowertown is obsolete.” Apparently,¬†obsolescence¬†is a problem that comes with some small-town life along the mighty Ohio River. Madison needs a new river crossing because the current truss-design¬†bridge, built in 1929, is showing its age. Obsolete is the word some use to describe its functionality. In the case of this particular bridge, it is considered functionally¬†obsolete, which¬†¬†means the 20-foot wide, no shoulder-no buffer (and no sidewalk) 80-year old structure cannot adequately accommodate modern vehicular traffic. I don’t cross it if I don’t have to— a sentiment held by many. More than one accident has occurred due to the inadequate width of the lanes on the bridge.¬†An RV driver¬†may not even notice he has knocked off someone’s mirror as he continues along (a true example).

photobydyI have read, from various sources, that approximately 10,000 vehicles use the bridge daily. That number was arrived at prior to the 15-ton weight limit. Within the last few months the weight limit has been lowered to 15 tons, which precludes most truck traffic. That doesn’t keep¬† trucks over¬†the 15-ton¬†limit from using the bridge, as¬†there is no enforcement of weight limits¬† here. There will always be those trying to play by their own rules, but if the deterioration of the bridge continues at a rate higher than expected on initial reports, those cheating may well wind up in the drink, or at least exacerbate the problems exposed in a¬†2008 fracture critical report.

The attempts to decide and agree on a location and come up with the money has previously seemed a Sisyphean exercise. There was no agreement the last time a replacement bridge was considered. In 1995, during a routine bridge inspection, it was found that emergency repairs had to be made to the tune of $10 million. Repairs and indecision about where a new bridge might go pretty much stalled replacement talks, and here they are more than 10 years later, having that same discussion, having  pushed the decision off onto another administration.  The present attempt to get a replacement bridge is not without its problems.

MADISONsignIn 1996, Madison received the distinction of becoming a designated National Historic Landmark District (NHL),¬† downtown¬†is within the National Register District (NR), with some areas within and outside of the city limits not included in the NHL district but still within the NR district. That complicates putting a bridge¬†within the city limits¬†because the impact in neighborhoods with historic structures must be considered, along with other environmental impacts generally studied. Milton, established by the law of Virginia in 1789, is¬†one of the oldest towns in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Obviously it has its own historic districts as well, albeit much smaller than Madison’s district.

Many are¬†embroiled in¬†discussions about what closing the bridge might do route421to the area¬†economically. This is quite the¬†dilemma with¬†no money to build a new bridge and needing to keep the connection to the other side of the river, where¬†the miniscule downtown of Milton sits in the floodplain. Upper Milton is vertically “up the hill”, a dangerous truck route by itself, though still a major thoroughfare. According to today’s Wikipedia page, US Route 421 runs from Michigan City, Indiana to Fort Fisher, North Carolina. The problem is, when the Ohio River floods, there is no way to get “up the hill” or floodmarksanyplace else really, on the Kentucky end of the bridge. Many are opposed to building a replacement bridge without addressing the floodplain¬†issue.

I can certainly understand the concern, but to some extent people must make the realization that¬†downtown Milton will always bein the floodplain unless some major earth-moving occurs. Anything short of a major viaduct will not change¬†how one crosses the river from hillside locations¬†in Milton, so Milton’s downtown would still be in the same predicament regardless.¬† The issue downtown will not magically disappear because the bridge has new approaches, nor will it change if the bridge is placed upstream. Floodplain is still floodplain. None of the alternatives suggested can fix that.

What can be fixed is an obsolete bridge.¬†A recent study indicates that thisconstructin can be done safely, this being a reasonable alternative ¬†closing the bridge for 9 to 12 months, because a¬†superstructure replacement bridge can be made on existing piers. That would be a “planned” closing, whereas if something else closes the bridge, just making necessary repairs would take longer than that.¬† I suppose if there were many more millions available more expensive alternatives that wipe out an entire neighborhood might be considered by many folks a more feasible alternative.¬†There is much to consider here.

¬†I live in the neighborhood which would be directly impacted by any alternatives preferred (at this time) over the two superstructure options so I am not so hot to jump on anything that destroys the fabric of the entire neighborhood and really don’t understand how those with¬†the “historic¬†conscience” can say the best alternative is one that impacts more houses.

Some right of way issues could take years to resolve. I don’t even own any property in Madison, yet am willing to stand up for those that want to remain in the same house or in the same neighborhood their great grandparents lived in. It’s a matter of family, not wealth.¬† Believe me, I understand economic hardship, but¬†not everyone can be bought. No amount of ¬†dollars or landscaping on empty land where once a house stood can mitigate the¬†impact for many whose voice is but a mutter under the raised voices of those who would put asunder an entire neighborhood.

hovel-sweetThere is a certain environmental justice that isn’t as easy as just-hand-the poor-guy-a-sum-of-money-and-make-him-move, and that goes for both sides of the river. Those that purport to want the historic nature of Milton and Madison to remain intact cannot just ignore those sections of town that aren’t as grand as those found in the visitor’s guide, such as the masterfully crafted Lanier Mansion in Madison, but the history is no less important in the eyes of a true historian. The history in the land on which the first settlers in Madison and Milton walked was here long before the fanciest digs were built.

There is real history in this neighborhood that has been ignored to this point. I know because I am the one writing the history in another blog. I never thought I would become the neighborhood historian; I assumed it was already there.  

Another version of the movie trailer excludes that reference to Madison being “obsolete”. One trailer is a bit more upbeat. There¬†is more than one perspective, but the fact is, the bridge IS obsolete and needs to be replaced. If the Milton-Madison project management team gets the applied-for TIGER grant which would pay for a superstructure replacement bridge with minimal approaches, I certainly hope that both communities can find creative new ways to look at this whole thing. Maybe a few new businesses will open, and if that is the case is there something wrong with a little competition now and then to make business owners look more closely at their own hours of operation¬†or what it is they do to provide a service or product to the community? If tourism is the draw here some people haven’t gone along with the hours tourists might be wanting to look or shop, and you really cannot blame that on where the bridge sits or the approach to it.¬†

ViolinI could go on for days on this subject, but will spare the reader my rant. Maybe a new approach really is needed, but surely the context is different.

The Milton-Madison website has posted a few simple FAQ’s for those willing to skip on over there. Of course, there are huge PDF files available there to read as well. 8)

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