For those enchanted by modernist architecture, a pilgrimage to Columbus, Indiana rewards with multiple gems. Add some fabulous food and a side excursion to Brown County and Bean Blossom to complete a memorable long-weekend getaway.
Thanks to the forward-thinking, industrialist couple, Joseph Irwin Miller and his wife, Selma, Columbus attracted world renowned architects such as Eero Saarinen and I. M. Pei. Many of the structures are within a few downtown blocks while others are only a short drive away.
The Visitor’s Center offers tours of the Miller House. When the tour van pulls into the driveway, you’re immersed into the collaborative masterpiece of Eero Saarinen (structure), Alexander Girard (interior) and Dan Kiley (landscaping,) The furniture, rugs, decorations, books, etc. are all original thanks to the family’s donation. From the suspended fireplace to the pillowed conversation pit, the home invites you with its playful refinement.
Sitting above the grassy “void” below, the structure sits prominently on a hill. Various horizontal allées (walkways lined with trees) separate outside rooms although there is no real fence on the property. The nearby road is buffered only by horizontal plantings of arborvitae. The couple desired to not separate themselves from the community and had no gates to close the driveways. (Our tour guide laughingly recounted that children rode their bikes through the property and in the 1970s she even went so far as to drive her car up to the garage in curiosity…until she saw the owners and their driver preparing to leave the house. They all politely waved to each other before she made a quick departure.)
Although we luckily reserved tickets for the house tour, we weren’t so lucky with the downtown walking tour (book as far in advance as possible!) With a $3 map from the visitor’s center and the Columbus IN Tour online app, we successfully explored on our own. Fortunately, the town seems comfortable with visitors walking into and around buildings with no purpose except to enjoy the design elements.
For Chihuly fans, the Visitor Center’s installation displays his typical forms.
A short drive takes you to another Chihuly exhibit. This one features a flat circular panel suspended in a silo. Read more here about his works in Columbus.
In downtown Columbus, it’s easy to find local dining options.
Fine dining with friends at Henry Social Club. Roasted cod, homemade ravioli and tofu with vegetables were all winners. (So good, in fact, that they were eaten before we thought about pictures!)
Find casual dining at Upland Columbus Pump House. Fish-n-chips, pizza, burgers and wings… a peaceful evening on the deck overlooking the river.
Forget about the calories at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor … an authentic soda fountain from 1900.
We found our coffee winner for this trip at Lucabe Coffee.
An easy 20 minute drive to the west of Columbus takes you to Brown County State Park. With miles of paved drives overlooking forested vistas, the park is a particularly popular destination in the fall. (We first stopped by the Farmhouse Cafe and Tearoom in nearby Bean Blossom for a BLT and potato salad to go. A tranquil autumn picnic in the park.)
Closeby, a still driveable covered bridge transports you not only across the water but to a different era.
More to know…
The Miller House Garden design – https://www.gardendesign.com/indiana/columbus-miller-house.html
Architecture in Columbus – https://columbus.in.us/architecture-story/
Joseph Irwin Miller – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-cathedral-builder-in_b_7033742\
Our AirBnb was only a couple of blocks from downtown. It was quiet, comfortable and well-equipped.