Follies that aided science, part 6 of 6

Purely personal footnote on follies.

I encountered and enjoyed two follies when I was young. One was an astounding and mystifying piece of architecture on a property that had once been wealthy; the other was more ordinary but still fun.

The big one: In 1960 my radio uncle was renting the main section of a fantastic building in St Joseph. As far as I can tell the building is gone now. It was around 6th and Robidoux, on the SE corner of a block. Everything in that area has been replaced by city buildings, and nothing resembling this place shows on Googlestreet. The main part was a fairly ordinary ‘mission-style’ bungalow, with a two-story apartment wing attached. My uncle got reduced rent for acting as the resident manager for the apts. Below the main wing was a basement containing a museum, with archeological displays and skeletons. From the basement a long tunnel, something like the Hartness tunnel, led down to a large underground auditorium carved from a natural cave. (I’m calling it an auditorium because it had a raised stage at one end.) The auditorium had a separate hillside entrance, something like a mine adit, with a long flight of stairs down to the auditorium. This entrance, and the auditorium and the apts, were built like a school or public facility, with industrial-type floors and walls. There was a little ticket booth inside the hillside entrance. What was it? I haven’t the slightest idea. It might have served as a bomb shelter, but the school-type floors and stairs were older than the ’50s, so weren’t built for that purpose. The tunnel had shelves with full wine bottles, and the attic above the apts contained old pinball machines and similar gambling equipment. Best guess: a speakeasy or semi-legal private nightclub for guests of the manor? Gambling + wine + secret room with a stage = speakeasy? Maybe. Opposite explanation: A convent, with apts for nuns, the main house serving as ‘commons’, and the underground chamber as a chapel.

The smaller one: Across the street from Grandma’s apartment in Ponca, an upperclass bungalow had a stone fish pond in the yard, open for everyone to hang around and watch the colorful fish. Next to the fish pond was a glass display case attached to the house, always full of interesting objects. Nothing mysterious, just a real folly, maintained at some cost and effort to amuse the neighbors. The follies were removed around 1970, probably when the house changed owners, but the house itself is still there as seen on Googlestreet.

Here’s a real mystery in Ponca.

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