Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Moat Garden Magic

Grounds Manager Deb King has been hard at work on recreating Lew's Moat Garden. After filling in the moat, he had a round garden, and we're lucky enough to have pictures of it. Take a look at the original and all the progress Deb has made this year!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Visitor Questions Answered

Sorry about the lack of posts here lately. We've had a slight time management problem...but it's a good kind! We've had so many visitors it's been hard to get blog posts written!

I'm going to do a quick round-up of a few visitor questions that I've had over the past several weeks. I wasn't able to answer the questions definitely at the time, so I told people to check our blog and I would post when I found out.

Where did Lew and Susan meet?

They met at a party at Susan's sister and brother-in-law's home, Lane Place. Of course, Lew had already had encounters with Susan's family--when he was a boy, he sneaked into the Elston homestead hoping for a glimpse of their piano!

Is that Lew's sink?

It is! We think he had the sink so accessible so he could clean his paintbrushes. (No, that isn't Lew's fire extinguisher.)

Is that a water pipe?

Yes! That is an oriental narghile, or water pipe, that Lew brought home from Constantinopole.  It's made of clear, blue glass with floral designs painted on it and a terra cotta top piece. The flowers appear to be burgundy hibiscus, yellow roses, and bittersweet. On one flower petal is the sultan's tughra in a circle, on the next flower petal is a gold oval with:  "B. Fucmez - Constantinople" around some Turkish writing.  Under this is a small circle with what may be "LEW" in it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ben-Hur Around the World

The Wallace name has spread far and wide and with it the name Ben-Hur. Schools, taverns, and businesses of all sorts have traded on the marketing juggernaut that was Ben-Hur in the late 19th century.  There are a handful of places around the world that also took these names in tribute and likely in hopes of trading on the famous names.

The small community of Wallace, Indiana, is located in southeast Fountain County. Established in the early 1830s, the village had a blacksmith, cabinet maker, general stores, shoemaker and two doctors. When the community received its first post office, local leaders named it after Lew's father, Governor David Wallace. In 1951, there were eight students in the high school graduating class and Wallace could boast about the same number of firms that had been in business in 1880. As of the 2010 census, there were 105 people spread among 52 households in Wallace. 

It is interesting, given Lew Wallace’s lack of enthusiasm for traditional learning, that at least two schools in Indiana adopted his name. Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Indiana, has had an impressive history and continues to have an active alumni association. In Indianapolis, elementary school P.S. #107 is also named for Lew Wallace. At least one school in Albuquerque has also been named in honor of Lew Wallace, and New Mexico also has a Lew Wallace building as part of their State government complex. 

The name Ben-Hur saw greater utilization by people looking to identify their communities. Ben-Hur, California is an unincorporated community in Mariposa County. Again, a rural post office led to the naming of the community in the 1890s. The post office was closed in the 1950s, but the Ben-Hur name continues to be associated with the tiny settlement that remains. Ben-Hur in Lee County of western Virginia is another unincorporated settlement.

Yet another of the Ben-Hur communities is an unincorporated area in Limestone County, Texas. This town near Waco was originally named Cottonwood, but by 1895, there were three other communities in Texas named Cottonwood. The local residents decided to rename the town. At that time Ben-Hur, Texas, had a population of about 100. By World War II it had a thriving population of over 200, but today there are fewer than 100 people and a couple of closed businesses in Ben-Hur, Texas. 

Perhaps the most exotic of the Ben-Hur communities is a small settlement in the Kalahari Constituency of the Omaheke Region of Namibia on the border between Namibia and Botswana. Just how or why Ben-Hur was used to identify this settlement is not known.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Take a Walk in the Garden with Deb King

Grounds Manager Deb King invites you to visit us Sunday, July 14 at 6 p.m. for a Garden Tour.

Learn about her ongoing re-creation of the Moat Garden, the Montgomery County Community Foundation Going Green Grant she was awarded, and how she chooses what plants to grow here.

Discover plants such as ligularia, moonflower, celosia, and more. Come armed with questions. For a preview, check out Deb's 2013 Bloom Report and 2012 Bloom Report on our Facebook page.

Admission is $5. Some potted plants will be available in exchange for a donation to the garden fund.

Please RSVP or call 765-362-5769 to reserve a spot.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lew Wallace in the Movies

The name of Lew Wallace is widely remembered for the wildly successful movie interpretations of his masterwork Ben-Hur in 1925 and 1959. These were not the only times that the General’s name (and even the General) showed up in Hollywood movies. In 1914, Wallace’s book, The Prince of India, was adapted as a silent movie. This forty-four minute film moved along at a rapid pace and bore little resemblance to Wallace’s book. Starring Thurlow Bergen and William Riley Hatch, the plot involved a devil-may-care newspaper reporter, a stolen gem, a fun-loving Indian prince, a temptress, and a climatic scene with a run away trolley car. Lew Wallace would not have been pleased with the artistic license taken in the filming of this movie. 

The General himself has been represented in several productions. These include Land Beyond the Law (1937) which starred Dick Foran, a matinee idol of "B" movies and one of the movie industry’s most successful singing cowboys. Foran played wild and woolly Chip Douglas, who becomes a lawman after his father is killed in the New Mexico territory; through his efforts he helps avoid a range war. Although uncredited in the movie, Governor Lew Wallace is portrayed by Joe King. King was a talented character actor, director and writer. Working steadily from 1912 until 1946, he was in such significant movies as: They Died With Their Boots On, Sergeant York, Destry Rides Again, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Cain & Mable, and Anthony Adverse.

In 1955, director Mervyn LeRoy brought Wallace to life in Greer Garson’s, Strange Lady In Town. In this movie, which co-starred Dana Andrews and Cameron Mitchell, Garson sets a western town on edge when she arrives and begins her own medical practice. Her first patient in Santa Fe has a toothache and is brought in by Billy the Kid. After all sorts of intrigue, Garson’s character attends the Governor’s ball where she meets Governor Lew Wallace who happens to mention two things. First, that he is working on a novel called Ben-Hur, and second, that he has a chronic heart condition. The ever helpful lady doctor suggests that perhaps his collar is too tight. This “miracle cure” for a heart condition actually contradicts what the town’s male doctor has told the Governor and more intrigue follows until (spoiler alert) the lady doctor and the gentleman doctor ride off together in his buckboard at the end of the movie.

The actor who portrayed Lew Wallace was Ralph Moody, a big, burly man who looked nothing like the real Lew Wallace. Moody often played gruff old men or Native Americans. He had an extraordinary career as a working actor from 1948 to his death in 1971 with well over 100 appearances in both movies and on TV. He was, in fact, one of Jack Webb’s favorite actors and appeared frequently in Dragnet.

Strange Lady in Town also introduced audiences to Susan Wallace in one of her rare portrayals on screen. Mrs. Wallace was portrayed by Louise Lorimer. Like Ralph Moody, Ms. Lorimer was a talented actress who worked steadily from 1934 until her retirement at age 87 in1985. She played alongside some of Hollywood’s leading lights in both the movies and on TV. Among the more significant movies she worked in were: Gentleman’s Agreement, Sorry Wrong Number, The Snake Pit, Sorrowful Jones, The Heiress, The Young Philadelphians, and Marnie. Her appearance as Mrs. Wallace was only slightly closer to reality than Ralph Moody’s presentation of Lew Wallace.

More recently Wallace has been portrayed (often more accurately) in documentaries and videos, including a 2006 film called: No Retreat from Destiny: The Battle That Rescued Washington. This production tells the story of the Battle of Monacacy. On the History and Discovery Channels, documentaries on Billy the Kid often discuss Wallace’s governorship using period photos and an occasional actor portraying Wallace.

Beyond the feature movies, Wallace’s Ben-Hur also appeared in books and movies as part of the plot. In Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, the famed private eye, Philip Marlowe, enters a book store that he believes is a front for evil doings. In an effort to trap the seductive woman running the store, Marlowe asks: "Would you happen to have a Ben Hur 1860?" She asks: "A first edition?" to which Marlowe replies "Third. The one with the erratum on page 116." The lady obviously doesn't know her Ben-Hur (since it was published in 1880 and there is no edition with an erratum on page 116) and, therefore, isn't the store owner. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is caught reading Ben-Hur at school when she is supposed to be studying another subject.

For over 130 years Ben-Hur and Lew Wallace have been part of popular American culture. The impact of Wallace’s book is demonstrated in the many ways it and its author have been incorporated in other creative endeavors over the past century. Keep your eyes open and ears tuned, as you never know when Lew Wallace or Ben-Hur will show up to move a plot along.  

Sources: Marie Stocks for finding blog comments on the Slate article regarding Wallace in the movies and Kyle Gobel for watching The Big Sleep. Internet Movie Database (IMDb)