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WQED TV producer and PITTSBURGH Magazine back-page writer writes about his current work and assorted other things.

#7. A quick visit to the Studebaker

June 29th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I’m not a big fan of museums. I get overdosed pretty quickly on displayed stuff: historic artifacts, art, sculpture, insects, natural history whatever, it doesn’t matter. I love the idea and the mission of such places, but after an hour or so, I’m usually sated on inspiration and information and I’m looking for a way out.studebaker-neon

So I didn’t hurry to get to the Studebaker Museum right on time after lunch on Friday. When I got there, the woman at the ticket counter told me I was lucky because “the house tour group” would be leaving in just a minute or two, and my LHA admission got me a free ticket for the house tour too. OK, I said. I didn’t even know whose house I was gonna see. This tour actually took us to two houses.  worker-house-tour1

First, we visited a small working family’s house that really needed a new paint job, especially in the back where we entered.   Just off the museum’s parking lot, this little vintage frame structure houses a recreation of what the home of a Polish immigrant worker and his family might have looked like in Indiana in the early 20th century. It looks a bit like my grandparents’ houses, with some Polish memorabilia added.

Our tour guide himself was classic. Brusk, formal, somewhat jaded, smug, and in a bit of a hurry because this would be his last tour of the day.oliver-mansion

After the low-rent worker house, he walked us to the nearby grand mansion of the Oliver family.  The Olivers profited mightily from James Oliver’s innovations with cast iron plowing equipment in the nineteenth century, and the Oliver Chilled Plow revolutionized farming in the American Midwest and its huge success set this family up for many lives to come.  oliver-interior

The mansion’s impressive and early-twentieth-century excessive but actually no great shakes in terms of a tour.  They had a lot of money and not any special quirks or secrets, no unusual sense of style or taste, and the family’s history got tedious before we ever got to the carriage house.  Enough!radiator-headlights-flags

I wish I had spent all that time in the Studebaker National Museum.  There was less than an hour left before closing when I finally got back there.  I ran around, hopped in the elevator, quickly checked out the beautiful old cars on the three floors of the place.  blue-studebaker

I glanced at the Harley Davidsons on display, skimmed the surface of the Lincoln exhibit, which included the carriage that took Abe to Ford’s Theatre, and I had about two and a half minutes in the gift shop before they kicked us out.lincoln-carriage

I ended up really liking the Studebaker.  I didn’t get tired of it.  It houses a lot of what made South Bend an important city in years gone by, and I wish I had more time to check out some of the interpretive signs and the information behind some of the cars and other vehicles on display.  yellow-studebaker

Like any memorable entertainment, a good museum leaves you wanting more.studebaker-barstool

Tags: Blog Along The Lincoln Highway

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bonnie Jeanne // Jul 2, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I’m not a big fan of guided tours, but should you ever find yourself with a few hours to kill in NYC (not that there is **ever** a moment in NYC that can’t be easily filled), visit the Tenement Museum, http://www.tenement.org/

    Studebaker Museum would be a good place for just picking one or two things to study, then head off to the gift shop for some postcards and send them worldwide, really rambling on about the one or two things I studied.

  • 2 Albert // Aug 19, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Rick, I’m sure the one thing you can agree with me on is the lack of so to speak a true quality auto museum in the Pittsburgh area. I know the Heinz History Center has a few vehicles, as does the Frick, but there isn’t a museum devoted to the automobile and transportation. I envision one day a Western Pennsylvania Transportation Museum being built.

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