Monday, April 27, 2009

Vinyl siding and a good deal on real estate in Florida

The justification is easy. No more painting. You can put plastic on your house and “never have to paint your house again.” It's maintenance free!

Yeah. Right. And I’ve got some swampland down in Florida to sell you too.

Here’s an example of maintenance free vinyl.

This is a home not far from mine in New Albany. The resident did not apply the vinyl. He only has to clean up the mess as a result. Water was getting behind the vinyl and the homeowner had no idea.

The application of vinyl to a home, on top of the original surface, covers up original architectural detail. It diminishes the character of not just the individual home, but also the surrounding neighborhood. It also leads to hidden maintenance issues like this that could result in major structural damage.

Plastic has many great uses (like Wiffle balls and bats!). Keep the integrity of your historic home intact and keep the plastic off of it. Thanks.

Further reading:

New Albany Design Guidelines for Siding and Trim

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Albany Weird - The Reno Brothers Short Visit in 1868

A friend has inspired me to dig up and recount some of the weirdest history and people of New Albany. We’re an old river town after all, and we had characters aplenty coming and going as often as a train pulled in or a steamboat tied up. Some put roots down here and went to procreating, providing us with a healthy dose of distinctiveness that carries through to today.

So begin several posts in which New Albany’s strange and little-known history will be shared and discussed.

The Night the Reno Brothers Hung Out in New Albany

Think of the wild American West and it’s doubtful that New Albany, or even Indiana, would be in your thoughts. Train robberies and shootouts just don’t seem to fit. However, if you are familiar with the Reno Brothers Gang then you know that would be a mistake.

You can read about the Reno Gang at their Wikipedia page. They were troublemakers, and damn good at it. They relished swindling travelers in shady card games and swindling the U.S. government by enlisting in the Army during the Civil War under multiple names, collecting enlistment bounties and then bolting. These scoundrels (from the Seymour area) are also credited with the first three peacetime train robberies in the United States.

My focus will be on the Reno Gang members who visited New Albany. It was the last place they visited.

The Gang appears to have robbed one train too many. They’d taken $96,000 in cash and bonds from a train in May 1868 and soon after had attempted to sell some of the bonds in Syracuse, New York. The railroad company was alerted and arrests were made. Gang members Frank Reno and Charles Anderson were tracked down across the border, in Canada. Simeon and William Reno were arrested in Indiana shortly thereafter. All were brought to New Albany, which was known to have the sturdiest jail in the region. A photograph of the jail is below – it was located at the northeast corner of State and Spring (current location of the PNC Bank).
Previous law enforcement failures to stop the Reno Gang had given rise to some vigilante justice in and around the Seymour area. A group calling itself the “Southern Indiana Vigilance Committee” had had some success in tracking other gang members down. Lynching was the justice they dispensed.

Having four Reno Gang members in New Albany was a juicy target the Committee could not pass up. At 3:30 am, December 12, 1868, about 70 members of the Committee arrived by train from Seymour. This was a business trip and their business was hanging the Renos.

Upon arrival, the Committee stormed the jail and shot Sherriff Thomas Fullenlove (not fatally) in the shoulder and got the cell keys. They were in and out in twenty minutes. The engraving below depicts how they dispersed around the jail while the deed was done.
The Reno Gang was hanged from the jail catwalk, one at a time. Frank Reno was first. Charles Anderson last. The mob then made their way down to the train station at the base of State Street and headed off back to Seymour. No charges were ever filed.

After the hangings, this simply delicious proclamation was issued by the “Southern Indiana Vigilance Committee.” Click the link to read the entire thing.

Do not trifle with us, for if you do we will follow you to the bitter end and give you a short shrift and a hempen collar. As to this our action in the past will be a guarantee for our conduct in the future.

So there you have it. The first train robbers in the United States had their butts hanged right here in New Albany, at the current location of the bank where I do my business. It’s some damn strange history and enough to give me the shivers when I visit the bank.

More Reading:

Images provided by the Floyd County Historical Society

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Stuff at S. Ellen Jones Elementary

Role models are important. Not everyone has the benefit of having a good one. However, the kids at S. Ellen Jones Elementary do: Officer Chad Armenta of the New Albany Police Department. Last year the Horseshoe Foundation awarded a grant to the school that pays for Officer Armenta to work 2 hours a day to perform liaison/truancy duties.

Attendance at the school has improved – that was the goal. Friendships have also been formed, as well as a positive respect for law enforcement. The daily presence in the neighborhood has also helped bring an improved sense of safety and stability.

Yesterday the school staff, children and the S. Ellen Jones neighborhood got the chance to thank Officer Armenta and the Horseshoe Foundation. It was a fun program that was followed by popsicles for everyone.

Call me a softy if you want, but hearing a choir of 1st graders sing tugs mightily at the heartstrings. It was also moving to see the hugs Officer Armenta got at the end of the ceremony. It was an inspiring afternoon and a bit of good news I wanted to share.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Repeating the Message Again, Again, Again....

The message may get repetitive, but it will continue to be delivered. The world can’t build its way to sustainability. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got and make it more efficient.

“Experience has shown that virtually any older or historic house can become more energy-efficient without losing its character. Restoring the original features of older houses — like porches, awnings and shutters — can maximize shade and insulation. Older wooden windows perform very well when properly weatherized — this includes caulking, insulation and weather stripping — and assisted by the addition of a good storm window. Weatherizing leaky windows in most cases is much cheaper than installing replacements.”

Save the Windows!