Riding Through Time With Jeff Guinn and Henry Ford

As the LEAP ambassadors’ research drew to a close, still more adventures await them on the road. Although the various activities we got to engage in on the way to Detroit were elucidating and interesting, the true focus of our trip was as stated previously, to help Jeff Guinn in researching the Vagabonds.


For that effort, from Monday to Thursday, we followed the same routine; getting to the Henry Ford Museum’s research library around 9 a.m., researching for a few hours, getting lunch with Mr. Guinn and Mr. Fuquay, researching some more, and finally spending an hour touring the museum or the adjacent Greenfield Village.

This was a phenomenal opportunity to see a best-selling author in the research environment. Additionally, we got to hear many stories and see many amazing artifacts.



One highlight was being taken back into the conservation section of the Henry Ford, where we were shown a Lincoln refrigerated truck that was being restored.

1922 Car Used by Vagabonds
1922 Car Used by Vagabonds

Incredibly, this was the very refrigerated truck that Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison had taken along with them on a few of their camping trips! We got to stand next to real history, and see how the team of the Henry Ford is working to preserve and restore such artifacts for future generations to enjoy.

Henry Ford Museum, Conservation

Another special treat was being able to help Jeff Guinn pick out pictures for his book from the Henry Ford’s digital collection.

The Vagabonds, Beson Ford Research Center, Jeff Guinn
Reviewing Vagabonds Photographs for Mr. Guinn’s Book

We sat down and looked through 231 pictures, narrowing these down to about 40. Mr. Guinn will look through other sources before settling on which ones he wants to see appear in the book. At that point, the marketing team for Simon & Schuster, Mr. Guinn’s publisher, will dissect his choices, and they will make the final decisions.

During our breaks, where we could wander freely in the museums. Following our first day, which we spent focusing primarily on the Beatles Exhibit and automobiles in the Henry Ford Museum, we spent the last couple of days looking over planes, civil rights exhibits, Americana, and even furniture.

Henry Ford Museum

But this was no ordinary furniture; many of the pieces were owned by highly accomplished gentlemen. We saw a desk used by Edgar Allen Poe for most of his adult life, for example. It is possible that some of the stories and poems that are so loved today, like “The Raven,” “The Telltale Heart,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum,” were scribed at this very desk.

Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Ford Museum, Writing Desk
Edgar Allan Poe’s Writing Desk

We also got to see John Hancock’s card table and Mark Twain’s writing table!

Mark Twain, Writing Desk, Henry Ford Museum
Mark Twin Portrait & Writing Table

In the planes section, the Museum had a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane…

Wright Brothers, Henry Ford Museum, Kitty Hawk
Replica of Wright Brothers’ Plane

…and a little known Ford plane, which never really proved successful commercially.

Ford Plane, Henry Ford Museum
Ford Company’s Unsuccessful Plane

In the Americana section, they had a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”….

Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Henry Ford Museum
Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”

… and the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.

Abraham Lincoln, Assassination, Ford Theater, Henry Ford Museum
The Abraham Lincoln from Ford Theater

As the above suggests, some of the artifacts were unusual, even unsettling.

On a more inspirational level, the Museum had the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to take a back seat, both literally and metaphorically.

Rosa Parks, Bus, Segregation, Henry Ford Museum
The Bus on Which Rosa Parks Refused to Take a Back Seat

Amazingly, people were even allowed to sit in the seat she refused to relinquish.  The Museum also had guidelines of the “Montgomery Improvement Association” (led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) distributed to African Americans which helped them stand for their rights without putting themselves or others in undue danger.


Wrapping Up

Finally though, Thursday afternoon rolled around, and our time at the Henry Ford drew to a close. We said our goodbyes to Jeff Guinn and Jim Fuquay while thanking them for giving us the opportunity to work with them for a week.

L-R: Jim Fuquay, Brian Aldaco, Jeff Guinn, Paul Oliver
L-R: Jim Fuquay, Brian Aldaco, Jeff Guinn, Paul Oliver

Besides being a great researcher and a great teacher, he is a very personable and amiable man, who really does love his work. The joy he takes in his research is reflected in both his books and in his interactions with others. After spending a week with Jeff Guinn, you can’t help but be interested in whatever subject he’s writing about!

Jeff Guinn and Paul Oliver
Jeff Guinn and Paul Oliver


The Vagabonds: Ford, Edison, Firestone, Burroughs, Harding, Coolidge

Adventure is to LEAP trips what innovation is to Henry Ford, a process waiting to happen with unexpected ways of achieving it. During today’s visit of the Henry Ford research center and museum, we continued on our Vagabond quest, a three-part odyssey that includes: (1) to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with research on the Vagabonds, (2) to learn as much as possible about the research process, and, (3) when possible, supplement our academic learning with additional learning from the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

“The Vagabonds” Project

Our project is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn, who has written almost twenty books over his career.  Although Guinn uses a professional research (Jim Fuquay), he invited us to give us the opportunity to learn by doing and observing.

Jim Fuquay and Jeff Guinn
                                                                                                            Jim Fuquay and Jeff Guinn

His current book project is on “The Vagabonds,” a group that consisted of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs, and, later, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.  These men gathered once a year to travel parts of the country while camping.

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Harvey Firestone
             L-R: Ford, Edison, Burroughs, Firestone

Our research primarily took place at the Benson Ford Research Center, which has some 26 million artifacts, all but one million of which are paper documents.  Mr. Guinn assigned us several tasks:

  • itemizing the Vagabonds’ itineraries across the period 1915-1924;
  • itemizing Mr. Ford’s major achievements;
  • reviewing Mr. Ford’s newspapers, The Dearborn Independent
The Vagabonds
                          Paul Oliver, Ryan Brim, and Brian Aldaco Researching

To complete these tasks, we had the run of the archives, which included a library, endless storage space, and the Museum itself, which had its own artifacts on display.  We made use of all three.

Henry Ford Museum

But we also had a chance to break and enjoy free time, which doubled as a foundational education to both Ford and American history.  In the Ford Museum, for example, there are wings for the history of the automobile (including buses), the locomotive transportation, air transportation, civil rights, furniture, clocks, and electronic devices in the home.  It was a massive museum.

In the automotive section, for example, we were able to see Ford’s first vehicle, the “Quadricycle” of 1996.

Henry Ford, Quadricycle
                                                                                    Ford’s Quadricycle

We also saw the famous Model T, the speed-setting “Goldenrod”….

The Goldenrod, Henry Ford Museum, Land Speed Record
                                     “The Goldenrod,” Holder of the Land Speed Record from 1966-1991

…and plethoric presidential limousines, including those that used by Teddy Roosevelt…

Teddy Roosevelt, Brougham, Henry Ford Museum
                                           Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidential “Limousine,” the Brougham


FDR's Presidential Limousine, Henry Ford Museum

…John F. Kennedy, which was used for 11 years after his death…

John F. Kennedy Presidential Limousine, Henry Ford Museum
                                            The Limousine in Which Kennedy was Assassinated

…and Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan, Presidential Limousine, Henry Ford Museum

Interestingly, while on the trip, John Hinckley was released from his court-mandated asylum-cum-prison.  When he shot at Reagan, one of the bullets hit the limo, ricocheted off, and hit President Reagan under the arm.  It was a timely trip in many ways.

We also had a chance to see a special exhibit on The Beatles.

The Beatles, Henry Ford Museum
                                                                                           The Beatles

It included authentic memorabilia, original instruments and cases, music samples…


…and even a section where you can become a Beatle.

The Beatles' Exhibit, Henry Ford Museum
         The Beatles, 2016: Yawn, Aldaco, Oliver, Brim (note: Ryan’s hairdo is more or less the same)

We advantageously stuck our heads through the opening of the exhibit and in between the Beatles’ mannequins and wigs, ready to take the very amusing photograph. Although small, this temporary exhibit was well put together and informative by capturing the rise of the Beatles, along with their overwhelming fame, innovative methods of recording music, and legendary status.


Next to The Beatles’ exhibit was the Dymaxion House, the house of the future from the late 1940s. The lightweight aluminum circular house with its own rainwater collection system, a downdraft air system, and the ability to withstand high speed winds was designed by architect Buckminster Fuller. It is the last remaining model of two total units, which Fuller hoped would become the all-American home.


The exhibits were educational, but so was the research.  On one afternoon, for example, we had the chance to sit in on an interview Mr. Guinn conducted with Bob Casey, the former curator of automobiles for the Henry Ford Museum. He was immensely generous and helpful, sharing insights from his many years with the Museum.

Such generosity was the norm.  Mr. Guinn generously invited us to accompany him on this research trip, the Research Center staff were professional, generous and knowledgeable, and the people with whom we met went above and beyond their duties.  It was a learning experience not only for the factual knowledge we gained, but also for the ability to witness the professional norms of the research and Museum business.


Greenfield VIllage

Late in the afternoon, we also had a chance to explore Greenfield Village. Our first stop there was the Model-T station, where we could hop onto an authentic Model-T!

Model T, Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum
                                             Brian and Ryan (B-Ryan) Enjoy a Model T Ride

Brian and Ryan got on first and drove off merrily, while Prof. Yawn and Paul waited for the next one. The latter pair got to ride in a 1914 Model-T.

Greenfield Village, Model T Ford, Henry Ford Museum
                                      Driver and Paul Oliver Discuss the Model T and Avoid Oncoming Traffic

The driver was extremely helpful and full of fascinating information. For instance, she explained that one way to distinguish a 1914 was to note the brass used in its design. After 1917, brass was no longer used on the exterior because it was needed for the American war effort in the First World War. She also told us that the Model-T was designed to be the “universal car,” designed to compete with the horse and buggy as opposed to other motor companies. This was a good sales strategy until the outdated Model-T started to slide the way of the horse and buggy as a transportation relic!  Although, it should be noted that despite the Model T falling out of fashion, the machines did not stop working.  Indeed, one of the cars on which we rode had more than one million miles on it!

Following our Model-T ride, we went our separate ways, each exploring a different part of the village. Paul returned to the frozen custard place for a second go at the delicious dessert before wandering aimlessly down to the “Porches & Parlors” district of Greenfield Village. In true tycoon style, Henry Ford would arrange for various houses or buildings that interested him to be purchased and placed in Greenfield Village. This undertaking, and the subsequent efforts of the Henry Ford Museum to continue this tradition, have left the village as an eclectic hodgepodge of American history. In the part that Paul wandered through, he saw the home of Noah Webster, creator of the first American dictionary, and a home owned by the great poet Robert Frost.

In the tradition of taking the road less traveled, Paul continued on to see some of the slave quarters from the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, as well as the cabin of George Washington Carver. His longest stop was at the Daggett Farmhouse, which is an authentic edifice from 1760, originally located in Connecticut. The owner was a dilettante in the extreme, being a butcher, a carpenter, a farmer, and a home-builder all-in-one!

Meanwhile Ryan and Brian boarded an authentic steam engine train on Firestone Station. From there they toured through the perimeter of the Village, trailing through homes and warehouses of nearly every time period in American history. With the clickitty-clack of the track and the roaring whistle of the engine, the locomotive ride provided an authentic sensual experience for what a trip in such a machine would feel like during the 1800s. But after completing the full circuit, as the last ride of the day, with great sorrow we saw the Village and Museum close for the day.

Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum
                                                             Greenfield Village Train Ride

We then left the grounds en route to meet with Mr. Fuqua and Mr. Guinn for dinner.

Dinner: Lue Thai Cafe

After the short drive to Dearborn we met for dinner at a place called the Lue Thai Cafe. We had the crispy rolls, followed by huge entrees of Thai food. Paul had the peanut noodles, Ryan had the udon noodles, and Brian the jub chai, not knowing what to expect from this foreign cuisine. Over dinner, Mr. Guinn and Mr. Fuqua lamented the current cost of college tuition (a subject dear to Brian and Paul), while comparing to the “back in the day” cost. They also regaled us with tales from their time working at the Fort Worth Star Telegram. With plates half empty, for even though we very much enjoyed the spicy taste of thai there was no more that would could take from the bountiful serving, we departed with a “see you later” and went back to our hotel. Both of these men really are chock-full of great stories, and it is a pleasure to be able to work with them for a week!


Our Kind of Town–Chicago

On our Sunday Chicago adventure, the LEAP Ambassadors continued on the path of artistic enlightenment by visiting the Chicago Institute of Art and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie Home. This as part of our Vagabond Research Trip which would lead us our first meeting with New York Times bestseller author Jeff Guinn, which we would soon meet with in Dearborn, Michigan. However, to shake off our morning drowsiness we climbed up Willis Tower to hover over Chicago in the skyscraper’s Skydeck.

Willis Tower Skydeck–by Brian Aldaco

Upon entrance of the tower, with grounded pillars exposed so as to view the building’s essential elements to its prominent stature, we  joined the crowed who anxiously await the hundred-and-three-story ascent to the glass viewing enclosure. Huddled inside the elevator we arrived at our floor of destination after a minute long ride (the same climb which takes ninety seconds to complete during windy weather). At the top of the 1,730 ft building, a size comparable to 283 vertical Barack Obamas, the view of the Windy City was breathtaking.

Willis Tower, Skydeck
Chicago Skyline from Skydeck at Willis Tower

Whether this was caused by the vista from the clouds or the vertigo of being on their level, our hearts were firmly set on forcing our bodies to step over the ledge onto the clear-glass viewing deck. Suspended over the city, with feet seemingly floating over the ground, sweaty palms, and throbbing heads nervous about the deck’s ability to keep us safely enclosed…

The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck
The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck

…Professor Yawn wisely suggested that we create a photo-op by jumping upon the skydeck.  This turned out to be more fun than dangerous, but ultimately futile as a photo-op because the skydeck photographers couldn’t time the photos correctly.

Art Institute of Chicago, by Brian Aldaco and Paul Oliver

Having experienced our elevated adventure, our next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago; a sprawling, labyrinthine art museum that contained art from a myraid of different cultures and ages.

Art Institute of Chicago
Paul Plans his Route in the Art Institute of Chicago

We had the opportunity to see several famous pieces, such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic…

Grant Wood, American Gothic, Art Institute of Chicago
American Gothic, by Grant Wood

Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, and of course, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

 After viewing Nighthawks together…


…we went our separate ways. Paul traveled back in time to Ancient Greece and Rome, looking at the Roman statuary, Greek pottery, and Byzantine pieces on display. Of special note in this section was a Roman reproduction of the Aphrodite of Knidos. The original Aphrodite was a Greek statue, and it was contentious in its time, for it was the first instance of a goddess being depicted in the nude. Also of interest were the Greek amphoras, kylixes, and other pottery pieces. The amphora is a larger container that presents a larger space for the artist, whereas the kylix is a smaller, but broad object, that was used as a wine goblet. The amount of wine that could be held by a kylix looks substantial, but the Greeks believed it to be a mark of the barbarian to drink wine unmixed. Therefore, they would add water to it, which perhaps justifies the size of the kylixes. The pottery itself takes two styles generally; black figure and red figure. The color refers to what hue the people depicted are, so on a black figure amphora, the heroes or gods represented are black, and the background is red. The reverse is true for a red figure work. Paul also went to see the Medieval Arms & Armor section, but unfortunately it was not open yet!

Simultaneously on the Modern Wing of the museum, Professor Yawn, Brian Aldaco, and Ryan Brim viewed multiple works from artists of diverse periods in art history. The turn of 20th century was captured by works of artists such as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and James Whistler, the latter of whom helped usher in impressionism in the United States.

James Whistler's Nocturne, Art Institute of Chicago
James Whistler’s “Nocturne–Blue and Gold”

In further floors we also viewed works from Great Depression artists such as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper whose desire to capture everyday rural and urban American life was astonishing. We also attempted to study the abstractions and surrealism behind the works of Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, and Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, Art Institute of Chicago
Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”

To further strain our left analytic hemisphere, we viewed the works of conceptual artists such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and other contemporary artists.

Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, Art Institute of Chicago
Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A”

Millennium Park, by Brian Aldaco

Having completed our journey through a century’s worth of art, we joined the pedestrian throng towards Millennium Park. As we passed Jaume Plensa’s Crowne Fountain, where happy children frolicked under the spewing gush of water (which shot from the mouths of the fountain’s face-depicting pillars); its refreshing spray was welcoming against the city’s heat. Going along the park we found its signature Cloud Gate sculpture, most commonly known as “The Bean.” With its mirror image of the surrounding skyline which warped as the rounded angles revolved around the sculpture, we neared it’s metal surface and seemingly became part of the picturesque vista. Soon after taking a couple of pictures of us LEAPing by the sculpture…

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…we ordered a Chicago-style hotdog at a nearby stand. Thus, we lunched in true Chicago style over the city’s patrimonial treasure.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s “The Robie House,” by Ryan Brim

After some the authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in Millennium Park, we headed over to the campus of the University of Chicago, where we toured the Robie House, built by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. Like many of his other homes, Wright built the prairie style house by accentuating long horizontal lines to draw one’s eye across the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House, Chicago, Prairie Style
Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Robie House”

Before we entered the front door, we were met with a low ceiling that was similar in height and in material to the one just inside the greeting area. This created a sort of transition space that allows a guest to have a seamless transition between the outside and inside. Once we went up the stairs to the main living area and dining area, the ceiling became taller, and the room brighter. This is another one of his techniques called “compress and release,” forcing people out of the dimly-lit greeting area and into the bright living space. Although there are no doors separating the dining and living areas, there is a fireplace that breaks up the two spaces.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House
Living Area in “The Robie House”

Mr. Wright believed that there should be as few enclosed rooms in a house as possible, so he made an opening at the top of the fireplace so that someone in one room could see the continuing ceiling across the whole floor. He did this by diverting the smoke into two separate chimneys, leaving the middle open from obstruction. There were also many windows and French doors all along the room connecting the exterior with the interior and making the room seem much bigger. In the dining area, there would have been a dining table with pillars as legs extending above its surface on which one could set lights. Similarly the table was fashioned with high backed chairs, so when people would eat dinner together there they would have sufficient lighting and the high chairs made the table seem to be a space within a space. On the third level were the bedrooms and bathrooms, each with natural lighting from many windows. The servants quarters and kitchen were on the second level, keeping them level with the rest of the family for according to Wright’s philosophy everyone was of equal worth. Just above the servant’s quarters was the car garage where the gift shop is today.

Moving On

After leaving the beautiful home, we made our way through Illinois and Indiana to finally reach Michigan. Somewhere along the state in need of a place to switch drivers and stretch our legs, we stopped at Coloma, Michigan, to go to the Chocolate Garden. The small business which specializes in chocolate truffles, according to one of the ladies working there, was started in 1998 as an online business. The eventual physical location was built in an old barn, but quickly expanded. Notably, the Chocolate Garden has been featured on the Food Network, which helped propel it to fame.

In addition to the Chocolate Garden’s wide assortment in chlorate truffles, it also has a “tasting bar.”

Chocolate Garden's Truffles at the Tasting Bar
Chocolate Garden’s Truffles at the Tasting Bar

It is here where for a small fee it is possible to taste up to three different types of these truffles of chocolatey delight. Professor Yawn lamented that the LEAP ladies were not along on this trip, as they surely would have enjoyed this stop. With this in mind, we joyously sampled the rich, delectable chocolate truffles. The “Darkest Dark” truffle and the “Vanilla Rose” were both exceptionally scrumptious. It was truly a must-stop for any chocolate aficionado and a tragedy that the ladies were not with us.

As we left, Professor Yawn, in a seemingly magnanimous gesture, proffered us a truffle he had purchased. Brian and Paul both took the sample from him and enjoyed the chocolate taste for a brief second.  As it turned out, though, the truffle was a “Cayenne Kick,” which packed a nasty spice that only becomes apparent after a few seconds. Needless to say, Professor Yawn got a kick out of our reactions.

After our sweet treat we continued on our trip where we eventually entered Dearborn ready to soothe our growling stomachs at Rex’s Golden Grill. With a diner menu of fish and chips and burgers, we were very much satisfied with the evening’s repast. It was so that we finished our Sunday evening in Dearborn, ready to start our first day of Vagabond research early in the morning.

Truman’s Terrain and the Land of Lincoln

Although our trip’s primary purpose is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with his research, our path to and from Detroit consists of various related (and otherwise educational) stops.  Today, the stops included the World War I Museum in Kansas City, the Capitol of Missouri in Jefferson City, and some historical sites in Springfield, IL.

World War I Museum

With a towering concrete edifice, the World War I Monument was recognized as the national commemorative memorial of the war’s destructive toll.

Liberty Tower, World War I Monument, World War I Museum, Kansas City
Liberty Tower, World War I Monument

Standing at the foot of the tower, we looked up to a blinding peak, which seemed to scratch the sun. With such an admiring sight, we found the elevator to climb the approximately ten-story structure. As we stepped onto the balcony of the memorial our sights were lost among the mesmerizing vista of Kansas City.

Kansas City, Skyline, Union Station, World War I Museum
Kansas City Skyline

Perched on our elevated vantage point, we spotted various spouting fountains riddled amidst the city, appropriately nicknamed the City of Fountains.

After descending the 90-year old elevator–a very cozy metal enclosure hanging over rickety wires-we returned to the ground. We then rendezvoused outside the memorial and returned inside the museum, ready to view the exhibits of diverse aspects of the Great War.

With a brief overview of the complexity of the war’s inception, composed of treaties and alliances among the European nations, we began the tour with relics of the nations’ emperors and rulers.

World War I Museum, Timeline, Kansas City
Paul Examines the World War I Timeline

Such antiquities included marksmanship trophies, luxurious smoking pipes and flasks, and  other royal artifacts. As we followed the museum’s exhibits we also viewed the different models of the combatant’s firearms with pistols and rifles from each of the European countries. This exhibit provided a sense of the period’s need for manufacturing, where each nation used its resources and laborers to mass produce their own firearms. Among the exhibits were showcased other aspects of the war which had not been experienced prior to the Great War, such as chemical warfare. With masks worn by these trench soldiers, grenades which contaminated the air with hazardous gas, and the spray of mustard gas which would burn the flesh of patriotic fighters, the atrocities witnessed in this war were unlike any other. Furthermore, the dugouts in which the military denizens took, what could loosely be termed, refuge, imposed a very deplorable, unsanitary, demoralizing lifestyle for the fighters of World War I. To further exhibit the effects of industrialization on war, there were also maquettes and life-size models of the war’s u-boats, primitive military air-crafts (some made out of cloth and wood!). and missiles.


Most notably, in the American campaign section of the museum, we found two modified Ford Model T’s which would have been used during the war.

Model T, Henry Ford, World War I, WWI Museum, Kansas City
Paul and Ryan Examine the War-Purposed Model T

Even though the war acted as a catalyst for the modern industrial culture and economy, it also began a new age of catastrophic war. No other showcased artifact was able to capture this horror than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” which we listened to inside one of the museum’s powerful exhibits. It was this poem that spoke the truth of the war’s atrocious effects on the lives of those who died and survived World War I. After this reflective visit to the museum, we went back to our traveling mini-van and got back on the road in order to reach Jefferson City on time for our tour of Missouri’s Capital Building.

Jefferson City, Missouri’s Capital

After the two hour drive into Jefferson City, we hopped on an already-started capitol tour. Our tour began on the second floor, where there are sixteen murals done in a style called three point perspective, where, at different angles, objects in the painting seem to be altered. For example, in one mural depicting a civil war battle, Union forces look to be attacking, while Confederate forces are retreating, but, at another angle, the roles of the opposing sides seem to switch.

On this same level are the House and Senate chambers. On the house side, there is the House Lounge room, where Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian, painted a mural covering all of the walls.

Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri Capitol, House Lounge
Thomas Hart Benton’s Murals in the House Lounge

The murals depict the history of Missouri, both good and bad, from French traders and farmers trading with the natives, to the time of Tom Pendergast, also known as “Boss Tom” (seen in the mural above on the bottom right).

When Boss Tom was arrested on tax fraud and sent to prison, one senator snuck in at night and carved Pendergast’s prison number on the back of his suit. Other congressmen would put out their cigars and cigarettes on his face, and Mr. Benton had to come back years later to repair the mural.

All the faces in the murals are native Missourians, except for one: an Osage Native American who was living on a reserve in Kansas, since natives were removed from their lands in Missouri.

Interestingly and sadly, when Mormons settled in Missouri, they were hated by many, and the governor passed an executive order in 1838 to allow anyone to drive them off of their land by any means necessary, whether that be tar and feathering, burning their house, or murder.

Benton Depicts the Treatment of Mormons in Missouri’s Early History

On the third floor is a hall of famous Missourians, where busts of well-known natives of the state are featured. Two in particular—Emmet Kelley, a famous clown, and Stan Musial, a famous baseball player—are special in that, if you take a picture of them with the flash on, you see features not visible to the naked eye.  With Kelley, for example, you can see his clown makeup when photographed with a flash.

When Stan Musial is photographed with flash, the red “SL” on his cap is visible; without the flash, or by the naked eye, the SL is visible, but not in Cardinal red.

Also on this floor is the grand staircase, a huge staircase which leads from the grounds outside to the third floor, the largest bronze doors cast since the Roman Empire, and a 9,000 pound bronze chandelier suspended from the ceiling of the dome. Having finished the tour of one of the “most interactive capital buildings” (according to Brian Aldaco), our hunger was calling our attention.

Missouri's Capitol Dome
Missouri’s Capitol Rotunda

For lunch we went to a place called Arris, right next to the beautiful Missouri Capitol. Arris is a Greek pizzeria. Every pizza that they serve is named after a different figure from Greek mythology or history, including Achilles, Athena, Atlas, Poseidon, and Plato. Curiously, it seems that the philosopher has determined that eating animals is unjust, as the Plato was a vegetarian pizza.  We went for a meat option.


Between the LEAPsters we split the Aiyaiys pizza, made up of cheese, mushroom, green peppers, and sausage. Professor Yawn got a gyro sandwich of Illiadic proportions in lieu of pizza. We also discovered that Greek pizza bears more resemblance to Italian pizza than American pizza. “Like the Italian pizza, this one had less tomato sauce, and a thinner crust,” commented Paul Oliver. Having tasted among the finest in Greek pie we drove towards Springfield, Illinois in hopes that we would make there on time before the closing of Lincoln’s burial grounds.

Lincoln’s Tomb

After another long car ride we arrived at Lincoln’s Tomb. It is an impressive edifice, boasting a central obelisk that rises to a point high above the rest of the mausoleum.

Lincoln's Tomb, Springfield, IL

A statue of Lincoln adorns the front, his hand outstretched before him. Beneath him various statues of heroes stand. At the base of the tomb is a heavy, metal door that allows entrance into his sepulcher.

The rest of the necropolis was quite beautiful as well. The landscape of lush, green grass and tall trees provided a verdant resting place for the dead. Most curiously, adjacent to Lincoln’s tomb was the old home for the tomb’s caretaker. Due to an edict issued by the governor at the time of the crypt’s construction, all government buildings had to be made in a gothic style. The caretaker’s home is therefore made of stone bricks, and has a presumably faux-watchtower built into its side, as well as battlements upon the roof.

As the tower’s bell knoll marked the time for the cemetery to close, we rode to take a peak of Illinois’ Capital Building. On its grounds stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln…

Abraham Lincoln, Illinois Capitol Building
The LEAP Guys with Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Capitol

….and Stephen Douglas which we were fond of (he appeared to be strutting). After admiring the very dramatic architecture…


…we rode a few blocks in search of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas home.

Unlike the Usonian homes we had visited in our previous trip, the Dana-Thomas home was designed in a more oriental-inspired design but it still stood as a home far ahead of its time. Even though it was built a hundred years ago, due to its very modern appearance, it could have very well been built yesterday.

To continue on our search for interesting homes, we also went in search for Lincoln’s Springfield home. Situated along South 8th St. and East Jackson St., the homes that surround the former Illinois senator’s residence are preserved as they were in the 19th century. With the street left unpaved, walking towards Lincoln’s home was an enjoyable stroll down a period of American history that is left frozen in time in those few blocks near The Great Emancipator’s home. As we caught the last glimpses of the residence, with the sun already beneath the horizon and fireflies glittering along the dirt road, we hoped onto our minivan ready to make our three-hour ride to Chicago. With a very satisfying day of historical learning coupled with an estimated total travel time of eleven hours we deemed it appropriate to pat ourselves on the back for having enjoyably finished the second day of our trip.


OKC and KC are OK–and More!

Today the LEAP Center got an early start (5:30 in the morning!) to our trip to Michigan. We are heading north to assist author Jeff Guinn in researching a group called the Vagabonds. This team of influential businessmen and geniuses, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone, would go on road trips across America during the summer months, just like we are today! Also like the Vagabonds, we not only have a final destination in mind, but we are willing to take in the sights along the way. In the spirit of our mission, we made our first pit stop in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art

As we approached the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we were captivated by the building’s clear facade through which we could see a long, colorful glass sculpture true to Dale Chihuly’s style. Upon entering we were able to get a better view of the piece. As we ventured through the third floor, which showcased modern artists, we made our way to the Chihuly exhibit. With the room kept in low lighting, the vibrant colors of blown glass, warped into various shapes and sizes, were accentuated.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly
                                                           Brian Aldaco Admires Chihuly’s Glasswork

This left us in more awe as we admired his works of art,

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly

…which included not only his bowl collection, but also his “Persian Ceiling”….

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling

…and “Reeds.”

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Reeds

Venturing into the lower floor, we were able to explore more American and international art. Exhibited in this floor were works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, Roy Lichtenstein, an Alexander Calder mobile…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Alexander Calder, Mobile
Ryan and Brian (B-Ryan, as we call them) Construct a Mobile

…Charles Willson Peale…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Charles Willson Peale, George Washington
Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington

Thomas Moran…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s “Grand Venice Canal”

…and a nice wing on WPA art…


…just to name a few. Surrounded by the works of such great artists we left with an improved cultural wealth.

Apart from this, during our Oklahoma City visit we also chased after historical wealth by visiting the Land Run Monument. With 38 different bronze frontiersmen (or Sooners) as a representation of the state’s rush of immigrants eager to receive land in the 1889 Land Run, the monument has become the longest series of sculptures in the world. Strolling among the giant rushing horses and wagons, artistically molded by sculptor Paul Moore to keep a perpetual sense of urgency, we were also inspired to get on the road towards our next city of our Midwestern tour.

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City

After crossing the Kansas-Missouri border onto Kansas City, we soon arrived at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. With the ground ornamented with various sculptures…

Louise Bourgeois, Kemper Museum of Art, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider Mother”

…from a giant spider to a crying giant, the interior works of art were just as intriguing. We were treated to another Chihuly…

Kemper Museum, KC, Dale Chihuly
One of the Kemper’s Three Dale Chiluhy Sculptures

…as well as myriad national and international artists.  The museum offered a sense of different disciplines practiced within the contemporary arts community. Among the ones included inside the facility were mixed media formats, photography, glass media, and various other forms of unconventional, at times whimsical forms of expression.  Unfortunately, we visited when two of the four galleries were closed for installations, so our visit was only half fulfilled.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This, however, left us more time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is only a short walk from the Kemper. The Nelson-Atkins museum has a copious outdoor green space, populated by pieces of statuary. Perhaps the most renowned piece present on the museum grounds is Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Rodin, Thinker
Rodin’s Thinker

Other works included various pieces by Henry Moore…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Henry Moore, Reclining Figure
Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure”

…a glass maze called the “Glass Labyrinth” (by Robert Morris),

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Robert Morris, Glass Labyrinth
Robert Morris’s “Glass Labyrinth”

…”Three Bowls” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, which, in addition to being three-dimensional art, also possesses a distinctive smell, giving the art a multi-faceted interaction with the senses…

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Three Bowls

We also saw one of George Rickey’s kinetic pieces of art…

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, George Rickey

Most curiously, we also saw four giant shuttlecocks, one of the many quirky creations of sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen…

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Shuttlecock


With just 30 minutes left before the museum closed, we headed inside to take a look at their exhibits. We had the fortune to enter near the Roman and Medieval pieces, giving us a taste of a very different art style from the contemporary and modern works we had viewed at the other museums. After perusing some of the 19th-century masters such as Claude Monet…

Claude Monet, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

…and Vincent Van Gogh…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Vincent Van Gogh

…we headed to the “Naguchi Sculpture Court,”


Isamu Naguchi, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Naguchi Court
“Six Foot Energy Void” by Isamu Naguchi

which showcases seven of the artists’ works in one room.

And with the closing of the Museum, we took one last look around the park before heading back to the van and driving towards out next stop: dinner!

Grunauer and Union Station

To wrap up our first day, we ate at a German restaurant called Grünauer. We started out with Jausenbrettl, a sampler platter of German meats. We split several entrées including Jäger Schnitzel Vom Schwein (pork scallopini with spätzle), Schweinebraten (roast pork loin and shoulder with red cabbage), and Bauernschmaus (smoked pork loin, bacon, and a bratwurst with sauerkraut), but the best part by far was the apple strudel and Nutella crepes we had for desert.

Since Union Station was so near, we decided to walk through and around it to walk off the huge meal we had just ate. It is still in operation to this day and still beautiful…

Union Station, Kansas City
Union Station in Kansas City

and has seen many famous celebrities and presidents come through, such as Eisenhower, FDR, and Truman. As we left the station via a bridge which stood over a system of railways (with a passenger train ready to depart and a resting open-top freight cart anticipating it’s delivery), we took in the city’s nocturnal, tranquil ambiance. Thus we satisfyingly completed the first day of our Vagabond research trip.


Travel Reflections: Favorites from the South (and Midwest)

The LEAP Center’s mission is to offer unique educational opportunities for students.  An example of this is the Center’s annual trip to the Southern Legislative Conference, to which the LEAP Ambassadors are invited to attend.  While the conference offers the opportunity to learn about policies among 15 southern (and near-southern) states, the travel to and from the conference also presents learning opportunities.

Following the students’ 11-day trip across eight states and more than 20 educational sites, the seven students selected their favorite destinations across categories such as food, historical landmark, museums, and cities.  The results are below:

Favorite Cities:

  • Eureka Springs, AR: This quaint little town proved to be the favorite of the group, with almost every student placing it on their top three.
Flatiron Building, Eureka Springs, AR
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of “Flatiron Building” in Eureka Springs, AR
  • Lexington, KY: The site of our conference also proved popular.  With its beautiful horse farms, pretty downtown, and attractive parks, students enjoyed four days in the horse capitol of the country.
Triangle Park, Lexington
The LEAP Ambassadors at Triangle Park, Lexington
  • Hot Springs, AR: This was a surprise to our professor, but the students enjoyed seeing the springs, the historic architecture, and meeting other SHSU students by happenstance!
Ozark Bathhouse, Hots Spring Arkansas
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of Ozark Bathhouse, Hot Springs, AR

Favorite Restaurants:

Little towns ruled the culinary arts on this tour!

Favorite Works of Architecture:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright House (Bachman-Wilson House) at Crystal Bridges was the favorite, edging out some other top designs.  The large living room won the day!
Frank LLoyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson Home
  • Anthony Chapel at Garvin Gardens, Hot Spring, AR was one of three Fay Jones’ Chapels the student saw, and it proved the favorite.  Although larger than the other two (which are in Bella Vista and Eureka Springs), the three designs are very similar.
Garvin Gardens, E. Fay Jones, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Garvin Gardens by Fay Jones, Hot Springs, AR
  • Honorable Mention should go to several structures.  The students very much enjoyed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Union Station in St. Louis…
Union Station, STL MO
LEAP Ambassadors at Union Station, St. Louis, MO

…the Old Mill is always a favorite stop.

Gone With the Wind, Little Rock, Arkansas, Old Mill
LEAP Ambassadors at Old Mill, Little Rock, AR

…and The Parthenon proved a favorite as well.

The Parthenon, Nashville
The LEAP Ambassadors at the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee

Favorite Works of Art

  • The Turrell Skyscape, “The Way of Color” at Crystal Bridges:

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  • Au Cafe, by Stanton MacDonald-Wright was also popular, providing much head-scratching and discussion.
"Au Cafe," by Stanton MacDonald-Wright
“Au Cafe,” by Stanton MacDonald-Wright
  • George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the Crystal Bridges Museum
George Seurat, Pointillism, SLAM, Outer Harbor
George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the St. Louis Art Museum


  • Hiking: The students enjoyed both their hike at Pinnacle Mountain…
Pinnacle Mountain, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Abassadors at the Peak of Pinnacle Mountain

…and Devil’s Den State Park…

Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors at Devil’s Den State Park
  • Ropes Course at Megacavern in Louisville, KY
Megacavern, Ropes Course
Karla Rosales and Ryan Brim at the MegaCavern
  • Tie:  Skeet Shooting…
Brian Aldaco, Skeet Shooting
Brian Aldaco Hitting Targets

…and meeting Blair Hess and Cameron Ludwick, authors of “My Old Kentucky Road Trip.”

Camp Nelson, Blair Hess, Cameron Ludwick, My Old Kentucky Road Trip
LEAP Ambassadors with Authors Blair Hess and Cameron Ludwick

It was another enormously rewarding road trip, providing us with the opportunity to learn about history, art, architecture, civil rights, politics, law, and public policy.  It was a happy eleven days!

LEAP Ambassadors, Pinnacle Mountain
LEAP Ambassadors at Pinnacle Mountain

Exploring Northwest Arkansas: Razorback Country

July 15, 2016

Rejuvenated from sleep, we woke ready for our day, which would consist of touring the University of Arkansas Law School, hiking and catching a movie to wind down.

University of Arkansas School of Law

When we arrived at the University of Arkansas School of Law, we met with Ms. Kalesha McGraw, the Assistant Director of Admissions, and she welcomed us to the school before taking us to the student lounge for a quick overview of the law school. We learned about the admissions process, the class schedules and sizes, and the student life in Fayetteville. We also learned about notable (former) faculty such as Bill and Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton becomes elected, University of Arkansas -Fayetteville will be the first law school to have more than one faculty member become President of the United States. The rest of the Q&A section with Ms. McGraw consisted of questions that ranged from the cost and the admissions process to the actual courses and the structure of the classes.

After our informative Q&A session, we walked upstairs to observe Professor Day’s Professional Responsibility class. This is a required course and helps students prepare for the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). This exam is a prerequisite for taking the Bar Exam and tests law students’ knowledge on ethics. During the summer fewer students are on campus, but classes are still in session. The topic of discussion for class today was on conflicts an attorney may face during their practice. Throughout the class, the Professor explained conflicts using cases where ethical issues arose. To explain a complicated scenario, the Professor and students even role played a scene which presented the situation in an interesting and clear way. We enjoyed the class and our Professor’s informative teaching methods!

Following class, we took a quick tour around the building visiting places like the courtroom and the library. The law school was even nice enough to provide lunch for us! Satisfied, we stopped to admire the Jesus Moroles sculptures in the courtyard…

University of Arkansas School of Law, Jesus Moroles, Fayetteville, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors at University of Arkansas School of Law, Jesus Moroles’ Sculptures

…and the front of the school on our way out.

Front of U of A Law, With Additional Moroles Sculptures
Front of U of A Law, With Additional Moroles Sculptures

Many thanks to Ms. McGraw and the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville Law School for their hospitality!

After a morning filled with learning and a long trip, some of us decided to take a mental and physical break.  Others, however, soldiered on, readying ourselves for a brief bit of shopping and a hike in Devil’s Den State Park.

Before driving down highway 170 into Devil’s Den State Park, we stopped to peak into some shops in town. Once everyone was satisfied with what they had purchased, we began our journey to Devil’s Den. As our second hike of the trip, the first being the climb up Pinnacle Mt. near Little Rock, we felt prepared and pumped up for the rugged expedition that we were about to take part of. With the sun falling on the horizon, the weather was a prime condition to explore inside the woods.

Devil’s Den

This 2,500 acre state park offers myriad outdoor activities, from rafting to camping to hiking.  We chose the latter, embarking on the Devil’s Den Self-Guided trail, which is 1.5 miles round-trip.

As we began on our trail we descended down masonry steps. Such modifications to the trails and other man made structures within the state park were once Civilian Conservation Corps projects from the Great Depression. The engineering talent of these laborers is clear when taking these steps and observing how strong they still are, even after almost a century of its construction! The traces of useful man made structures became fewer as we went deeper into the woods.

Ahead of us stood trails traced through the rocky cliffs with trees filtering the sun and casting a serene shadow over the whole scene. Then, the trail neared a river, waters sonorously rushing through and echoing through the woods. This sound at times kept us focused, as we knew that as long as we kept the river at our left shoulders we were going the right way. Along the trail, at times encountering uneven, slippery and rocky ground, we found caves in which the temperature inside would lower presumably by ten-twenty degrees.

Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors, Caverns
LEAP Ambassadors in One of Devil’s Dens’ Caverns

The trail also goes by the more descriptive name of “Double Falls” Hike, so named because of two falls that appear about halfway through the trail.  For us, though, the trail could have been named “Triple Falls,” because, hearing water of the main trail, we made tracks over a hill to find a small waterfall.

To get there, we had to cross a log bridge…


…but this only added to the excitement of our discovery.

Having safely traversed the fallen-tree bridge, we frolicked in the waterfalls…


…okay, frolicked may be too strong of a word.  But we did have fun.

We found additional falls further along our hike.

Waterfalls, Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambasadors
Waterfalls in Devil’s Den State Park

Only a few feet beyond these falls was another waterfall, equally as delightful.

LEAP Ambassadors, Devil's Den State Park, Waterfalls
Waterfalls at Devil’s Den State Park

From our trek we had worked our selves into perspiration and slight exhaustion. The refreshing, cool water of these natural showers, however, were just the perfect manna we needed to continue on our journey through Devil’s Den.

From the falls, the hike wends it way downhill, which offers another striking view of the falls.


And this perspective provided additional photo ops.

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We even found another log bridge on which to climb.

Tree Bridge, Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Enjoy Devil’s Den State Park

As we completed the 1 1/2 mile hike, ducking our heads to evade pesky spider webs threaded from tree to tree…


…we contemplated our accomplishments. We had finished another hike on our trip! With tiring limbs and sweaty backs, we climbed the van with a sense of victory and ready to relax and catch a movie.

But, first, we made two more stops.  We picked up food from Hammontree’s, an excellent grilled cheese specialty restaurant in Fayetteville.  We also made our way to Mt. Sequoyah, the highest spot in Fayetteville, where we watched the sunset.

LEAP Ambassadors, Mt. Sequoyah, NW Arkansas
LEAP Ambassadors at Mt. Sequoya

It was, we thought, a fitting end to a wonderful trip.

Movies and Winding Down

Once we had freshened up at the hotel, we climbed back into the van and drove to a near by movie theater to watch the remake of Ivan Reitman’s hit movie, Ghostbusters. Even though the original film is about 30 years old, most of us had previously watched it and waited in anticipation through the previews to see how similar this remake would be to our beloved original.

We found many differences between the new film and the original Ghost Busters film, an obvious one being that women instead of men were playing the lead roles. Most of us focused more attention to the fact that Paul Feig’s film also includes multiple nods to Reitman’s original and Sigourney Weaver, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and even Bill Murray make appearances. After an hour and forty-seven minutes filled with laughs that echoed in the theater (mostly Megan’s), we were ready to turn in for the night to prepare for our long journey home tomorrow morning.


Bridges, Springs, and Mountains: Traveling through the Ozarks

July 14, 2016 –

Even as we entered the homestretch, nearing the end of our trip, we remained excited about our time in Northwest Arkansas.  With trips to Eureka Springs, the Thorncrown Chapel, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ahead of us, we were ready for a day of fun and education.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Written by: Brian Aldaco, Megan Chapa, and Kaitlyn Tyra

After hearing about how great of a little town Eureka Springs was from all of the people that we had met at the Southern Legislative Conference, we were all ready to go see it for ourselves! Before our planned bus tour we visited Fresh Harvest, a fine olive oil shop near the visitors center. None of us had ever been to an olive oil tasting, so this was another “first” to write off in our books! One of the workers kindly walked us through some of the different kind of olive oils and explained the differences among them.

During the explanations of the oils, we were given the chance to taste each one until we had found the ones we loved. They had everything ranging from balsamic and vinaigrettes to jams that contained rich olive oil. We were also informed that they are made in house and are even bottled there. After wandering around the aisles filled with canisters of oil and tasting all of those that sounded appealing (such as white peach and raspberry), we chose some of our favorites, checked out and scurried to our bus tour.

Once we all made it out of Fresh Harvest, we leaped into the bus and began riding through the winding roads of Eureka Springs to tour through a one-of-a-kind city. Eureka Springs is most famously known for its system of freshwater springs that can be spotted all around the town. We began the tour by getting on highway 62, leaving the town behind as the bus snaked it’s way through woods and cliffs. On the roadside one could see various motels curiously built amidst the rocky mountains of what could be perceived as a town of low significance. However, such a statement does in no way describe Eureka Springs. With a rich history of Native American tribes, our guide described the importance of the Osage, the tribe which roamed the area before the Europeans made their way though the hidden Ozark Valley. The tribe, fierce protectors of their territory, would even share their healing spring water with their warring enemy tribes. It was en route to a scenic roadside view of this valley that we could appreciate the rugged terrain these tribes and early settlers of the town would have faced in settling on that land. Through hills of endless forests we continued on to an unobstructed vista of the White River along with its green, vast valley.

The White River, Near Eureka Springs, AR

Doctor Alba Jackson used the Blue Spring waters to treat Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War after discovering it’s “healing effects” from treating his son’s failing eyes. It was after this destructive time period that many sought healing via Eureka Spring’s natural waters. As word spread through the nation of the town’s natural spring water, (which could allegedly be used to treat and cure any type of illness from the common cold down to yellow fever and more) the once forested Hidden Ozark Valley was cleared in order to build what would become Eureka Springs. From one day to another, the small settlement went from a few cabins to Arkansas second largest city in 1878.

On our way back towards Eureka, we drove though a winding driveway, and through the heavy foliage, one could barley see a towering, gray structure which deliberately blended itself with its natural surroundings known as Thorncrown Chapel. Designed by E. Fay Jones (a student of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright), the forty-eight feet tall wooden chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Design of the Decade Award in the 1980’s.

Eureka Springs, Thorncown Chapel, E. Fay Jones
The Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, AR

We all sat in awe of the towering chapel that blended with the surrounding nature and compared it to the Anthony Chapel we had previously seen. After leaving the chapel, we went into the city’s historic loop, Kings Highway, also known as Ojo and Summit and about 10 other names, in true Eureka Springs fashion. Home to only three chain restaurants, the city prides itself in keeping it’s commercial culture untainted by chain food. Such an autonomy has preserved the city  as the old town it used to be.

The Crescent Hotel is one of the buildings of the town that has stood the test of time as it still towers over Eureka Springs.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs
The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR

Although the winding roads were scary for some of us, the visit to this historical hotel was the scariest part of the tour. Seated high above “Mysterious” Valley, the hotel is supposedly the most haunted hotel in the country. In 1886 the Hotel was opened at a resort for the wealthy to vacation. Since then, it has changed ownership many times. It served as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women at one point; at another point, a scam artist took over, making it into a fraudulent cancer hospital.

With this history, it’s no wonder that some guests have reported supernatural experiences. For example, each night between 12-3 am a women dressed in white has been reported to fall from the third story balcony. The story goes that during the hotel’s time as a College and Conservatory, a young woman committed suicide after she learned of her pregnancy, which was frowned upon during her time. Today, this is just one of the stories that tour guides tell visitors from all over the country during the many ghost tours given daily.

Eureka Springs, Crescent Hotel, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors on Balcony of Crescent Hotel

After a stop full of fascinating stories (some believable and some not so much) we boarded the bus to visit many of the springs from which the city is rightfully named.

Last week, we visited Hot Springs, Arkansas to learn about the bath houses and natural spring waters. This week, in Eureka Springs, we learned the waters are similar except for one major difference, the temperature! Eureka Springs consists of cold spring fed waters that are much more refreshing than the hot springs whose water is always 100+ degrees. While visiting at least four of the springs (the city is home to many more) our tour guide kindly narrated interesting stories that caught our attention like the reason why doing laundry at the Laundry Spring is now a misdemeanor crime.

Tour Eureka Springs, LEAP Ambassadors
Tour Guide John Thomas Shows The LEAP Ambassadors Aspects of the Springs

We learned that the way to spot a spring is to look out for a garden. The tenants of the springs would plant gardens outside to make their cave more home like. We also toured downtown Eureka Springs, which lies partially underground in the tunnel system that benefits the city by adding additional real estate for the tourist shops and restaurants.

Because the city lies within the northwest Arkansas hills, the streets are extremely winding and occasionally bumpy. This created many strange angles for real estate, but it is also a symbol of Eureka Spring’s unique style. We stopped for a few quick photo opportunities and to admire the view one last time before closing our tour.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors View the Crescent Hotel

Many thanks to Mr. John Thomas of Eureka Van Tours for an energetic, informative, and jam-packed tour of Eureka Springs! Following our informative tour, we headed downtown for a quick lunch at Mud Street Café. This cafe was built in 1888 under the city’s surface. The venue’s name originates from the very street on which it was built. Because of the dirt roads and underground spring, floods were habitual and caused the street to become muddy. The cafe had original limestone walls, oak tables, and Victorian carpet making it exclusive. Orders around the table varied. Megan ordered the Cajun wrap and others ordered a variety of burgers and sandwiches. We even sampled the crème sodas and the coffee with peppermint schnapps!

Mud Street Cafe, Eureka Springs
Burger at Mud Street Cafe, Eureka Springs, AR

The food and drinks were delicious, leaving some of us a little drowsy. We managed to fight our sleepiness because we wanted to check out the small shops along the historic downtown Eureka.

LEAP Ambassadors, Flatiron Building, Eureka Springs, AR
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of “Flatiron Building” in Eureka Springs, AR

With menacing rain clouds forming in the sky, we hurriedly boarded our van ready to drive towards Bentonville.

Crystal Bridges Written by: Beatriz Martinez, and Karla Rosales

Upon arrival, the pitter patter of the raindrops on our heads hurried us into the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We navigated through the halls in order to reach our tour guide. We eagerly waited for out tour to start because we all knew that we were about to explore another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces; the Bachman-Wilson home.

Similar to the Kraus house we had visited in St. Louis, the Bachman-Wilson home was designed as a Usonian-style home. Derived from the abbreviation of “United States of North America”, this form of organic architecture was invented by Wright to create homes that would be compatible with nature and stand alone as American without other influences. The original owners of the home were Gloria and Abraham Wilson. Having seen the Shavin house, they implored for Mr. Wright to make them a home of their own. After continuous requests to Wright, one day the Wilsons received a telegram saying, “I suppose I am still here to do houses for such as you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes are well-known for their small, yet comfortable size; compression and expansion of spaces; radiant heat; and clerestory patterns (this one being of a Samara design).

Frank Lloyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home
Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Crystal Bridges

The home was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey during the year of 1956, however, after the Wilson’s divorce a year later they decided to sell their home which led to a series of events that ends with the home finding its home at Crystal Bridges. Unfortunately, the location on which the house had been built suffered from the problem of flooding. At one point, the home was 6 feet underwater!

Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino bought the home in 1988.  Recognizing the worth of this wonderful home, they decided to sell it to an institution that would preserve and relocate it to a place where it would not be harmed. Interestingly enough, the blueprints of the building were tracked down and unearthed. The endeavor was a tedious task, one that required the home to be taken apart piece-by-piece, individually marked, and bubble wrapped, and transported to its new location.

Although the home wasn’t built at Crystal Bridges, our tour guide argues that it was destined for the site, as it exemplifies the type of architecture of Crystal Bridges (designed by Moshe Safdie) and that of Arkansas’s most famous architect, E. Fay Jones.

Frank LLoyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson Home

Enjoying the work of one of America’s most renowned architects, we continued on inside to take a look at the other forms of American art that Crystal Bridges had to offer.

The first exhibit in the museum displayed colonial to mid-nineteenth century American art titled “From the Colonies to the Civil War”. The time frame begins in 1621 when Mayflower pilgrims found Plymouth colony to 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. This exhibit displayed a lot of portraits painted in oil on canvas. In that same mid-nineteenth century we got to see artwork by Roxy Paine called “Bad Lawn;” it is a plant sculpture formed from industrial materials that was then painted by hand.

Roxy Paine, Bad Lawn, Crystal Bridges
Roxy Paine’s “Bad Lawn” at Crystal Bridges

This work, “Bad Lawn,” is very different than her typical stainless steel structures, but like her other work, it is designed to make viewers reconsider their relationship with nature.  To emphasize this point, the Curator at Crystal Bridges placed the work in the same room as many of the 19th century’s foremost nature painters: Asher Durand, Thomas Moran, Tom Cole, and Albert Bierstadt.

Then we moved on to Professor Yawn’s favorite exhibit, late nineteenth-century art titled “American Art Flourishes at Home and Abroad.” The time frame for this exhibit ranged from the Civil War to the founding of the NAACP in the early 1900’s. The exhibit displayed an abundance of landscape paintings because landscape painters were interacting with the outdoors and celebrating the natural world.

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, The Bubble, Crystal Bridges
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble” at Crystal Bridges

A key example of this art is Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble,” in which she pictures a model dancing with an orb.

Before the 20th century exhibit, we stopped to see a small exhibit called “Reel Women, Icons and Identity in Film” which displayed photography of popular actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood between 1930 and 1960. The 20th century exhibit titled “Depicting Change in a Modern World” displayed great events in history the like the roaring twenties in America, the Great Depression, and World War II. The art in this exhibit was much more modern and colorful.

In this exhibit, Karla found her favorite piece of art by artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright titled “Au Cafe.”

"Au Cafe," by
“Au Cafe,” by Stanton McDonald-Wright, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

At first it appears to be simply abstraction, but as you look closer you can see the artist with his wife drinking a martini depicted in colorful shapes. The final exhibit was 1940’s to Now, it displayed a timeline of important events during this time frame. Amazingly, we have visited many of the places where these important events took place.

Two pieces of art that made some students cringe and others awe at the realistic figures were pieces of hyperrealism by Evan Penny and Duane Hanson. Penny’s work was a self-portrait, titled “Old Self,” and it was indeed very realistic.

Evan Penny, Old Self, Crystal Bridges
Evan Penny’s “Old Self” at Crystal Bridges Museum

We were fascinated by the detail that Penny put into the piece; indeed, some of us were even started as we entered the room, thinking that it was a real person we were seeing.


Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” was just as realistic, but more sad.

Duane Hanson, Man on Bench, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” at the Crystal Bridges

It was very interesting how the sculptures looked so realistic!

Another piece that captured the interest of all of us was the “Untitled” piece by Felix Gonzalez Torres that invited us to not only touch, but eat a piece of the art!

Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled, Candy, Crystal Bridges
Felix Gonzales-Torres’s “Untitled” at Crystal Bridges

After making additional stops to see a Picasso…

Crystal Bridges, Picasso, Seated Woman
Picasso’s “Seated Woman” at Crystal Bridges

…Jackson Pollock…

Crystal Bridges, Jackson Pollock, Reclining Woman
Jackson Pollock’s “Reclining Woman” at Crystal Bridges

…Thomas Hart Benton…

Thomas Hart Benton, Steel Mill, Crystal Bridges
Thomas Hart Benton’s “Steel Mill”

…Lyonel Feininger…

Lyonel Feinenger, Schlossgasse, Crystal Bridges, Cubism
Feinenger’s “Schlossgasse” at Crystal Bridges

…and Andy Warhol…

Andy Warhol, Coca Cola, Crystal Bridges
Andy Warhol’s “Coca Cola”

…we headed outside to see the sculpture garden.

Here, we posed for a photo next to Robert Indiana’s “LOVE,” which we’ve seen in several locations.

Robert Indiana, Crystal Bridges, LOVE
Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”

Another sculptor we have seen much of is Louise Bourgeois and Crystal Bridges has a particularly fine sculpture by her, “Maman,” meaning “mommy.”  “Maman,” like many of her sculptures, is a spider, this one carrying 20 eggs.

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, Crystal Bridges, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Maman,” at Crystal Bridges

We were especially interested in a sculpture by James Turrell called “The Way of Color.” it is made with stone, concrete stainless steel, and LED lights. The lights inside the sculpture change color as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Luckily, we got there right at sunset and were able to view the different colors!

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Walking around and through the museum was a timeless journey. The students loved being able to chronologically view the art and watch it change over the decades and adapt to its time. Some of us loved walking into an exhibit and immediately recognizing pieces by artists such as Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gilbert Stewart, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell.

Moshe Sofdie's "Crystal Bridges"
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Designed by Moshie Sofdie

Even though it seemed like a timeless journey, once we looked at our watches it was a little past 9 PM, so we knew that our dinning options would be limited.

The Foxhole

The Foxhole was our dinner destination and we were excited to eat after a long day of exploring. As one of the highest rated places to eat in Bentonville, we were intrigued by what awaited us.  They offered a twist on the Korean dish “Steam Buns.”  The group was split on the food, with a majority liking them very much, being particularly impressed by the tender and flavorful meat, which one newspaper described as a “flavor-forward, hand-held entree” that “really shine(s).” We also enjoyed the homemade creme sodas, the chips and aioli dip.  After sipping down the little bit of soda left in our glasses, we all gathered into the van and made our way back to the comfort of our hotel for a good nights rest to energize us for our law class in the morning!