Monday, October 14, 2013

Heavy metal

I've been admiring for more than a week now the beautiful new sign on the Chariton Area Chamber/Main Street Building, east side of the square. This was designed by Hilary Masters, of the Chamber/Main Street Design Division, and meticulously crafted (and mounted) by Johnson Machine Works.

It's intended to be a 21st century complement to the simple 1951 building upon which it's bolted, expressed  effectively through its curved shape and mildly retro type faces. 

Although not obvious to the passer-by, the sign also reflects continuity. Johnson Machine Works, now into its second century and still operated by descendants of its founders, is Lucas County's oldest large-scale employer. As a rule, the firm fabricates metal components for a global market that are far too large to hang from a building on the square.

But if you cross the street and back up a little bit, you can admire other JMW handiwork --- the striking planters that have been in place at the four corners of the square for a couple of years now. These were both designed and fabricated at Johnson Machine Works to enhance what now is the Main Street District.

Admire the flowers, too, since frost will be along shortly. Other unsung heroes of the Main Street District are our Master Gardeners & Friends who fill and maintain these big planters (ever considered what a challenge it is to keep them watered?). The gardeners also maintain the Post Office garden as well as plantings in Constitution Park, just south of the public library and have been major players in the green revolution that's been underway for two years now on the Lucas County Historical Society Museum campus. 

So hug a gardener, or at least say "thanks," the next time you see one of them at work. 

There's more heavy metal on the square to admire, too, but these examples go back a ways longer. These are the two cast iron horse watering troughs that have been incorporated into the veteran memorial on the west side of the square, filled with red, white and blue petunias.

Four of these troughs, dating from the 1890s, were installed originally on the four sides of the courthouse lawn for the convenience of those who arrived on the square by horse. A third is at the historical society and a fourth remains in private hands.

The manufacturer was J.P. Clow & Sons, headquarted in Chicago, and supplier of other cast iron products, including water and sewer piping.

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