Yes, it finally came to that time of the year for one of our extended trips. 4 full days of Seester Time and we had been planning this trip for months. We were inspired by a Facebook post we had seen of a mapped out tour of ghost towns in Indiana. So, what started as that turned into a little journey through Southern Indiana.
First stop on this trip was a quaint little town called New Harmony .This place has been on our bucket list for a little while. We had read about this place in the past and we were reminded of it when we were at the Indiana State Museum for the Geo-Fest and seen a photograph of this place hanging in the museum. It was a picture of the hedge labyrinth with chapel like building in the center of the maze.
When researching we found that New Harmony has an interesting past. It was community started in the early 1800’s by George Rapp. The land was later sold to Robert Owen in hopes to start a utopian community which and shortly there after failed because of economic strain. So, when we were planning this trip we decided we had to go see it.
Our visit started at the Atheneum. This modern building was quite the juxtaposition to the historical town that we drove through to get to it. Inside, we found very helpful staff that discussed the highlights of the town. They offered a 10 minute video on the history of New Harmony. There was a guided tour but, we opted out and decided to adventure around the community on our own with the self guided tour.
The courtyard around the roofless church is absolutely stunning with all of the statuary and fountains. The roofless church itself is quite interesting. Naively, we were remarking that it’s kind of funny it’s called a roofless church when it actually looks like one big roof. The dome was created by architect Philip Johnson in 1960. Under the dome is a statue by sculptor Jacob Lipchitz titled the “Virgin”. After further review the dome appears to be a structure within the roofless church and what we referred to as the courtyard is the church.
When leaving the roofless church and the historical preserved houses and cabins we ventured into town where we admired the historical architecture of the homes that people live in. Most are very well maintained with well kept yards. Throughout, the town were statues and sculptures. The downtown area had your typical “Indiana small town” feel but, some of the buildings were brightly painted and housed specialty shops and cafes. We stopped into a place called Rachael’s. We had a ruben and turkey panini with pasta salad. The food was delicious and it had a great eclectic atmosphere.
After lunch and resting a bit we made our way around the Cathedral Labyrinth and Sacred Garden.
This is probably one of our favorite parks when visiting New Harmony. Inside was the granite labyrinth, a fountain, benches and black stones lining the fence interior perimeter. We could have sat here for hours.
The labyrinth replicates the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in Paris. The Orpheus Fountain behind the labyrinth was installed in 1998 and is in the shape of a lyre. According to Orpheus Greek legend this instrument was used to tame wild beasts. It is suggested to wash your feet in the fountain and walk the labyrinth barefoot.
It is also worth noting that we saw signs on the entry way advertising night walks during full moons.
After we had to tear ourselves away from this tranquil spot we made our way south of town to visit what peaked our interest originally to the area and made our way to the Harmonist Labyrinth. The hedge maze went through a couple of alterations in paths and was restored in 2008. With the restoration there were gates built into the design because people were too eager to get to the center grotto. So, you can just walk down the middle if you do not wish to walk the entirety of the labyrinth.
The hedges were really tall and some were overgrown so, in places it was hard to determine if areas were open paths or if they were just thinned areas between the shrubs.
In true Sojourning Seesters form we made our way out of town but, came across Maple Hill Cemetery and had to take a look. We stopped for a quick walk through. Inside, we found a hilly and quite steep graveyard filled with artfully crafted headstones as well as ones you typically find. Of course, we found the resting place of many individuals that had significant importance to the history of New Harmony and the surrounding area.
So we head into Mount Vernon to get some groceries for the evening. We decided on getting 2 premade hamburgers to cook over the fire since we were going to be camping in Harmonie State Park. After a small run to the Dollar Store to get some flashlights because we had forgotten to pack the lanterns we were on our way. We get into the state park and get checked into our camp site. We had a nice area and were on an outer loop right on the edge of the woods.
Next on the list was setting up the tent which went really quick since we had set it up in the living room the night before as a practice run. Now the fun part fire…or in our case lack of fire for quite awhile and not so much fun. We bought the wood at the park and unfortunately, most of the wood in the pile was somewhat damp and we were rookie fire starters. We did get it going finally and started grilling our burgers in the little grill basket we had bought, then proceeded to drop the burgers out of the basket and onto the ground as the lock on the handle had slid down. One of us had the brilliant idea of just putting them back on because “the dirt will cook off”….WRONG. Chips and cookies for dinner it was.
So, after our learning experience of dinner we decide to retire for the evening. One of us was in the tent, which had Christmas lights strung up inside (love having electric campsite) and one of us was sitting out by the fire. The sky was so clear and the stars were plentiful and bright. We were enjoying the quiet starry night when all of the sudden there were footsteps and loud noises heard in the woods. Not thinking the “fire tender” freaks out, runs, and dives into the tent. Turns out it was a raccoon raiding our trash bag because one of us did not listen to the other about not putting food in the trash that was left out. One of us threw away the top of a tomato. With that experience we decided it was time to put out the fire and call it a night.
Despite all of our little faux pas with the camping it was a wonderful relaxing day and we had a blast. We had both determined that it would be worth coming back to this area and maybe staying at one of the inns in the town and spending some more time hanging out in the gardens and parks and checking out the local businesses more.
Stay tuned for our next stop……