Journey Indiana


Episode 414

Coming to you from the Seiberling Mansion and Howard County Museum in Kokomo...tour the Tyson Temple in Versailles; check out the Rotary Jail Museum in Crawfordsville; see where US 40 travelers might have stayed more than 150 years ago; and travel up, up, up into the Owen County courthouse to check out their recently renovated clock.

AIRED: January 04, 2022 | 0:26:46

>> Production support for "Journey Indiana" is provided by

Columbus Visitors Center,

celebrating everywhere art and unexpected architecture

in Columbus, Indiana.

Tickets for guided tours and trip planning information at

And by WTIU members. Thank you!

>> ASHLEY: Coming up, tour the Tyson Temple in Versailles.

Check out the Rotary Jail Museum in Crawfordsville.

See where U.S. 40 travelers might have stayed

more than 150 years ago,

and travel up, up, up into the Owen County Courthouse

to check out their recently renovated clock.

That's all on this episode of "Journey Indiana."

>> ASHLEY: Welcome to "Journey Indiana." I'm Ashley Chilla.

And we're coming to you once again

from the Seiberling Mansion and Howard County Museum in Kokomo.

On this episode, we're featuring some of our favorite

historical properties from around the state,

just like this one.

And we're starting things off in Versailles,

where producer Ron Prickel has the story

behind the incredible Tyson Temple.

>> Located in the southeastern corner of Indiana,

Versailles is the seat of government for Ripley County.

With the population of around 2,000,

this community is like many small county seats

with a skyline that's easy to overlook.

But one church steeple, just a block west of the town square,

makes the skyline of Versailles unique.

This cross is the apex of what is referred to as

the Tyson Temple.

>> Oh, it's art deco.

It's one of a kind.

People come here and they see it, and they're awestruck

by the structure and the -- just the design of it,

the way it's been preserved over the years.

It's just a very unique building.

>> In the late 1800s, Versailles' native son

James Tyson was living in a boarding house in Chicago,

where he met and befriended Charles Walgreen.

Walgreen at the time owned just one drugstore,

but soon came to Tyson with a proposal.

>> He said he would like to buy a second store,

but he was short $1,500.

So he says to his friend Mr. Tyson.

He says, man, I would like to open that second store.

And, of course, Mr. Tyson had an extra $1,500.

So he loaned him the $1,500, and that was the start of Walgreens,

so to speak, in terms of additional stores and chaining.

>> By 1917, Walgreen had multiple stores,

and Tyson had become the secretary-treasurer

of Walgreens Incorporated.

>> Walgreen went public in 1928,

and, of course, him being an integral part of the company

and a friend of Mr. Walgreen's, he was entitled

to a large number of shares at the initial public offering.

But he never forgot his hometown.

1930, he decided to create an endowment,

and he donated 18,000 shares to that fund

for the benefit of the citizens of Versailles.

And he had some ideas as to what he wanted to do going forward,

and one of those was to memorialize or commemorate

the life of his mother, Eliza Adams Tyson.

And he asked his good friend James High,

which he grew up with here in Versailles,

how that would best be served,

and James High recommended that he build a church.

>> In 1936, the cornerstone was laid.

Then the next year, May 16th, the church was dedicated.

I think there was a lot of excitement

about the church going up.

>> I understand that there was just thousands of people here.

>> Tyson was there.

He presented the church to the board of trustees.

I think the church itself was the main draw.

I don't think people had ever seen -- around here

had ever seen a church or a building like this.

>> When the church opened, there were only 500 people

in the town of Versailles.

But 5,000 people attended that initial celebration and opening.

And then in the next three years,

27,000 signed the register out here.

So it was quite an event!

>> Despite their folded and faded appearance,

the original architectural drawings display

intriguing details of the structure's art deco style.

A close inspection reveals that the church is 90 feet

from the front steps to the rear.

The width measures 41 feet and 5 inches across,

with the building interior height coming in at 32 feet

from the auditorium floor to the apex of the roof.

To get the overall exterior height of the structure,

the dimensions of the unusual steeple need to be included.

>> From the spire, it's an inverted cone,

and it's aluminum and stainless steel,

and there's a 6-foot aluminum cross at the top.

From the top of that cross to ground level, it's 100 feet.

The spire itself is 65 feet.

And that spire, incidentally, cost $35,000 to construct.

>> The exterior finish of the church utilizes

an unusual material to give the building its polished look.

>> It's that glazed terra cotta brick, primarily.

Now, the downspouts and the guttering is all copper,

but it's gilded with lead, if you will.

The church was designed to be built without structural wood.

>> Mr. Tyson had visited the temple in Jerusalem,

and he got the idea that he would like to do it

without wood or nails.

That's why it was called the temple, supposedly,

it's like Jerusalem's Hebrew or Jewish temple.

>> It's concrete and masonry.

If you can build it out of masonry, it will last

a lot longer than wood, and it's more structurally sound.

>> The interior ceiling is adorned

with gold and silver stars.

The location of each star is significant.

>> The 250 silver stars and the one gold star

were all hand hammered and imported from Germany,

and they are in the form of the night sky,

the night that Eliza Adams Tyson died,

and that gold star is in the position of the North Star.

The windows are interesting

because they are all imported from England.

They are stained glass, leaded windows,

and they are grouted with zinc.

>> Originally, the church was built in 1937 for $150,000,

which was a lot of money back then.

>> In addition to all the architectural technique

on display, there are also many examples

of religious symbolism found in the church.

>> The gold leaves that go horizontal

and represents the streets of gold of heaven.

The scallops running vertically

are representative or symbolic of the Hasmonean scrolls

that were used to write most of the Old Testament

and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The arch itself is representative of the rainbow

after the flood that Noah saw.

And the three rings up at the top on each column

are representative of the Holy Trinity,

Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The flame represents the Pentecost.

The apostles were on fire and had passion to spread the word.

Those recessed handrails as you come up,

those are an influence from Rennes, France,

where he visited a cathedral, and he saw those,

and it struck a chord with him.

And he thought, ah, must have made a mental note

and said, I'm going to use those.

>> As each Sunday marked the passage of time,

it became increasingly expensive to maintain

the unique look of the church.

>> Over the years, they have had to rebrick

the two sides and the front.

And the copper roof was replaced back in the '80s.

And it was $250,000 to repaint and refurbish the inside.

We used to have glass block windows in the front.

They were a maintenance nightmare.

Since it's been built in 1937,

we put between $1.5 and $2 million back into it.

Any replace or repair comes out of the Tyson Fund,

which is a godsend, because we couldn't keep it up.

>> Even though it's now been over 80 years

since the temple first appeared on the Versailles skyline,

it still manages to attract onlookers.

>> They schedule tours.

A lot of times, I'm out there doing something,

they drive by and then they drive by again.

And sometimes they will stop, and ask a question,

and it's captivating from a visual perspective.

>> I have been here working on things, and people will walk up

and want to just tour the -- and I will stop what I'm doing

and walk through, and let 'em look

and their eyes are wide open coming in here.

They just look around, like, how did this happen?

>> Sometimes they don't talk too much.

Sure, you are visually awestruck,

but there is a feel of -- I don't know what it is,

magnificence, power, testimonial,

it's almost as if the structure itself is witnessing.

>> This is where I grew up.

This is -- this is my church.

When I was young, I didn't appreciate all the symbolism

and the beauty of the church.

It's on the National Registry.

I want to always be on it, because I think it's

a really special place, and I think it should be on it.

>> When I come through those front doors, I'm with God.

I feel his presence. Yeah.

And I think everybody does.

>> If it can touch one heart or one soul

through all of these tours and these different things,

and people become closer to God,

then in my opinion, it served its purpose.

>> ASHLEY: Up next, we are headed to Crawfordsville

to check out the Rotary Jail Museum.

Producer John Timm has the story.

>> A rotary jail is a system that was supposed to be safer

than traditional jails at the time.

It is a full circle of bars with one entry point

on each level, and that made it so that every inmate

had to go through that one entry point,

and then they were rotated out to a solid wall of bars.

This made this system inescapable.

It also made it much safer for the guards

that were working during that day.

The rotary jails were created

to solve a problem of jails at the time.

This allowed them to keep the same amount of inmates

with a much smaller workforce.

Only three people were working at our rotary jail

at any given time, and that was because

instead of moving the guards to the inmates,

the inmates were moved to the guards on an individual basis.

We are at the Rotary Jail Museum

of Crawfordsville, Indiana.

It was the first Rotary Jail Museum ever built.

It was the first of 18.

Only three of those still exist.

The one in Gallatin, Missouri,

the one in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and this one right here.

The Montgomery County rotary jail system was built in 1881

and remained operational until 1973.

Our rotary jail is two sets of rotating cell blocks.

Each one has eight pie-shaped wedges,

and those are encompassed by a solid wall of bars.

So there's only one entry point on each level.

So the cell had to be lined up to that opening

before a prisoner could be let in or out.

The way that the jail works is it is a solid circle of bars,

and the cells rotate within those bars.

Between each cell is a solid steel plate

that was used as a security measure,

and as that spins inside of the bars,

it made it possible to get fingers and toes caught.

The rotary jail system stopped being used in the late 1930s

because of the injuries that were being sustained.

The rotary nature of the jail was supposed to be

a safer design for both the guards and the inmates,

but once it was put into practice,

they realized that a lot of these inmates

were receiving fractures and amputations to their limbs

that were stuck outside of the bars

before the cells were rotated.

In the 1930s, there was a renovation to make

this a stationary jail as the rotary jails

were no longer considered safe.

We have 16 cells on the rotary level,

and we have a women's cell, a maximum security cell,

and three cells in the infirmary level.

That's where those amputations and fractures were cared for.

The sheriff and his family lived here on property.

The jail is not a quiet place.

And so there was very little privacy for the sheriff

and his family, because they could hear the inmates

at any given time.

The design for the rotary jail is based

on a railroad turnstile.

All the cells are built on top of that turnstile,

and we hand crank that around to move the cells

to the entry points.

We make sure to turn the rotary jail on every single tour

that we have so that everybody can experience that

before we lose that function.

We could hold 37 inmates at any given time,

but we were rarely at capacity.

This was a jail and not a prison.

So most of our inmates only spent one to two days,

and over half of all of those arrests from 1881 to 1973

were alcohol-related.

One of our most famous inmates that was here

at the jail was John Coffee.

A lot of people will recognize that name from

"The Green Mile" by Stephen King.

John Coffee was executed, and it was later found out

that he was completely innocent of his crimes.

Instead of having the mouse from "The Green Mile,"

we had a raccoon.

And it was around for about 20 years,

and it would come up every night and get food

from the inmates and the turnkeys,

and it eventually began doing tricks for its food.

We have a lot of different visitors,

and they come from all over the country.

We have those that are interested in criminal law.

We have those that are in college studying history.

And we just have residents around Crawfordsville

that have never come in before, and just want to see

what we are about.

The rotary jail system is a really important piece

of history, because this is from a bygone era.

It is technology that is no longer used.

It is one of three that are left in the world,

and it has a lot of history behind it.

So I definitely feel like it's worth preserving.

>> ASHLEY: Up next, we're headed to Cambridge City,

for a look at the Huddleston Farmhouse,

a National Road Heritage Site.

>> They were Quakers.

They came to Nantucket Island first,

and then they settled in Massachusetts.

Then after the Revolutionary War,

they moved to Guilford County, North Carolina.

Jonathan Huddleston's wife was Phoebe Gardner,

and they moved to Indiana in early 1800s

because he was very strongly abolitionist.

They lived in Union County, Indiana, first,

and then they moved up here to the Mount Auburn area

where the house is.

And the whole area up here was at one time known as Hudville

because almost every house west of this library

was built by a Huddleston.

>> They moved here with their family, 13 children,

to establish a travelers inn on the National Road.

The National Road had been created earlier in 1830s,

and really come through this area.

So the Huddlestons recognized that there was

going to be an opportunity here,

where they could build a travelers inn,

and both have a farming establishment,

but also service the travelers that would be passing by.

So the area really became kind of a hub of local

and regional, national travel across the country.

It's a perfect symbol of the whole crossroads of America,

because you have the National Road here in front,

that John Huddleston actually helped create himself.

He created that.

You also have the canals that run through Cambridge City,

that ran from Hartford City all the way down to Cincinnati.

And then you also have the train that is right behind us,

follows the property line there.

So it's a true sense of the term of crossroads of America.

>> At one time, there was miles and miles

of pioneers going west on this road out here,

and there would be as many as 40 wagons,

either on the road or on his property.

He sold food for the horses and oxen.

He sold groceries to the people.

He didn't house the people.

They stayed in their own wagons.

If they had terribly rainy, bad weather,

he would allow them to sleep in the basement

or sleep in the barn.

Some of them had waterproof wagons.

So they could sleep in their own facilities.

>> The National Road was the first road that was funded

by the federal government.

This was very important in both

making the westward expansion a concrete notion.

So they created the road to connect the eastern ports

to the Mississippi River.

So by doing that, you are not only funneling people and goods,

but you are funneling dollars this direction.

So it really cemented the westward migration

that they were hoping to accomplish.

The Huddleston House was saved because Mr. Eli Lilly

saw this home, and he saw the value in preserving it.

In 1966, he found the house.

He was working with the Indiana Landmarks,

and he had requested that they purchase it,

and Indiana Landmarks obliged by after they received

the donation from Mr. Lilly for the purchase price.

So when they did that, we took over the building,

and we began rehabilitation for the site.

This is one of the last remaining travelers inns

on the National Road that has public access to it.

The majority of them are private residences,

or they just don't exist anymore.

So if we weren't going to preserve this building,

and if Eli Lilly did not identify this

as being a significant building to save,

then it just wouldn't be here,

and that would be a missing element

to our shared local and national history.

So it's very important to preserve these

because without them, we won't have any physical reminders

of our past.

>> ASHLEY: Finally, a historic property in Owen County,

with an equally historic and recently renovated clock.

Producer Jason Pear has the story.

>> My father was a clock repairman and had a business,

as he retired, where he made clocks and repaired clocks.

And so I grew up around it quite a bit,

and lived in a house where at times

there were in excess of 100 clocks running and chiming

all at the same time to drive you crazy.

>> So it's no wonder that Owen County's most prominent clock,

one that hadn't functioned properly for decades,

caught Ronan's eye.

>> When I moved here 15 years ago,

I noticed that the clock didn't run right.

It rarely ever had the right time,

and it never struck correctly.

>> It stuck with Ronan, and eventually,

he shared his concern with some coworkers

at Bloomington's Cook Medical.

>> At some point, we were sitting at lunch one day,

and it came up that Spencer's clock hadn't run in years,

and, you know, two engineers and a horologist

ought to be enough to figure out how to get a clock running.

>> The sheriff arranged a tour, and what they found inside

was a Seth Thomas Model 16 Public Clock installed in 1911.

>> Well, there's a central machine we would call the clock.

It is weight driven.

It is geared down so that there's a central shaft

that comes out of this machine that rotates once an hour.

It goes to a differential that goes to each clock dial.

There's a second device behind the dial

that divides that one revolution into 1/12th

and that's where your hour hand is fastened to.

For every one revolution the clock makes,

the hour hand makes 1/12th of a revolution.

[ Chime ]

>> At least that's how it's supposed to work.

What the guys found during that first tour

was more than a little concerning.

>> 60, 70% of the parts that made that clock

mechanically run were gone.

>> Most of these clocks by the '40s and '50s

were getting converted to electric.

There were a couple of companies in the country

that went around and converted hundreds and hundreds

of these clocks to electric

because it took the maintenance away from it.

All they did was take all the drive train off

and put an electric motor on that drove the faces instead.

>> Despite the missing parts and lengthy list of other issues,

the restoration seemed doable.

>> From a technical standpoint, it's actually fairly simple.

Gary Neff, being trained as a horologist,

that wasn't a problem for him.

He knew exactly what to get, what was going to be needed.

The really hard part is it's in a very difficult place

to get to, and all of those parts are really, really heavy.

It's a cast iron frame.

>> Eventually the clock was relocated to Ronan's shop,

just a few blocks from the courthouse.

>> It was a beautiful clock.

If we rebuilt it, taking it back to its original condition,

if you will, it would still be a very accurate clock,

not Quartz accurate, probably, but still a very accurate clock.

>> So the decades' old modifications had to go,

which wouldn't be easy.

>> The clock is currently made up of three different clocks,

and several parts that I machined.

>> After months of work and just before

one of the county's bicentennial celebrations,

the clock was re-installed, this time with the help of a crane.

It was as good as new, and with one modern concession.

>> We're running the clock as a purely mechanical clock.

That means that there's weights that drive

the pendulum mechanism, and there's weights that drive

the bell tone mechanism.

Those weights would normally have been hand raised.

We would go up with a big handle and crank the winch up.

We've put electric motors on there

so somebody doesn't have to go up and do that all of the time.

>> A century old self-winding clock,

which is good news for Ronan,

who suddenly found himself with a new part-time job.

>> I have now become the official timekeeper

for the Owen County Courthouse clock, because I can see it,

and I stop and either speed it up or slow it down

on a regular basis.

>> He can have the calls;

although, I have a feeling I will probably come stop by

and check on it occasionally myself, just --

just because it's my baby now.

>> Is there any particular reason in the modern age

why you have to have a clock on top of the courthouse?

I think the answer would be no, but just the fact

that it's there very publicly visible

working as opposed to not working.

I think that has a psychological effect that's positive.

>> Right now everybody has a watch or they have a phone

or something that tells them what time it is.

100 years ago, that didn't exist.

They were expensive pieces to have.

It was hard to keep them on time, to keep them running

and everything else, and so the courthouse,

it was relied upon by the people when they came to town,

they could see what time it was, and people could

adjust their watches to the courthouse time.

>> And now, thanks to Ronan, Carl and Gary,

Spencer residents can rely on their clock once again.

>> Production support for "Journey Indiana" is provided by

Columbus Visitors Center,

celebrate everywhere art and unexpected architecture

in Columbus, Indiana.

Tickets for guided tours and trip planning information at

And by WTIU members. Thank you!


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