Paul Dunbar House

In an already busy day, it was time to start migrating south towards Cincinatti.  The GeoWoodstock event had a GeoTour for the occasion involving several bakeries.  Tom and I wanted to see if we could make a few bakery visits in on our way to our  hotel.  And I wanted to see if I could gather some more passport stamps.


National Passport Stamp

Tom and I took separate cars, so we took separate routes. I had planned to visit the Dunbar house. Luckily I made it in time for the last tour of the day. Phew! Stamp acquired, and tour achieved.

I hopped over to the Dunbar House without knowing what it was, why it was there, or who it involved.  I was simply eager to get a stamp and learn something new about the area.  Since it was part of the Aviation Heritage region, I assumed it was something related to aviation.  WRONG.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Artiste Extraordinaire


It was a shock to learn that this was the house of a recognized and celebrated poet and author, and had zero to do with Aviation.  I was also surprised to learn that Paul Laurence Dunbar was a black man.  It was a shock because of the age of his life: from late 1800s to early 1900s.  This wasn\’t exactly a progressive time-frame in American history, particularly for African-Americans. And yet, I stood in Paul Dunbar\’s house and learned of his struggles, his mother\’s struggles, and his celebrated success and early demise.  Nicely done, Ohio.

It made this house doubly impressive.  I learned that Mr. Dunbar purchased the very house I was touring specifically to provide for his mother, as he knew he had declining health. He wanted to provide for his mother and give her stability, even after this death.

The park ranger said that any guest who came to the Dunbar house, even after the poet\’s death, the proud mother would gladly give a tour of the house and tell the visitors about her son.  How touching is that?  It warms my heart.  His story is tinged with tragedy, but overall it was a family that achieved success and took care of each other.


Original Typewriter

The Dunbar house has Dunbar\’s original typewriter. It is in a style I couldn\’t imagine; the paper was underneath the typing mechanism. So it was like typing blind and not seeing the results until several lines of written text was already put onto the page.  Crazy.  This must have been a patient and dedicated man!

Now, Crazy Wallpaper Time

Ok, now that we have the official status of this house shared with my one interested reader (hi, Mom!), let me now share with you the madness that is the Dunbar House wallpaper.

When I entered the building I was immediately struck by the very busy wall paper.  Not only was it an excellent representation of the style of the time, but it was meticulously designed with an odd layout I found fascinating.  There was a wooden trim along the ceiling, like a chair rail placed in a very odd spot.  I believe this is called a flying crown molding – which is placed approximately 16\” from the ceiling.


The paper between the crown molding and ceiling is specifically designed to marry the wall pattern with the ceiling pattern.  It was quite clever, even if I\’m disturbed by the noisy pattern.

Visual Noise

The wallpaper runs up and ends at this wooden trim, and a second paper design is then placed from the wooden trim up to the ceiling itself.  Then the ceiling is wallpapered.  The room is intensely wallpapered.  I spun in circles studying every detail.  I was amazed, fascinated, and aghast. It is all visual noise.

I couldn\’t possibly spend any length of time in a room with this much visual noise. But I had never seen a wallpaper pattern with wooden trim of this kind.

Dunbar\’s Portrait hangs over the fireplace and strikes a prominent pose in the parlor. I almost wish the wallpaper didn\’t visually distract me so much so that I could soak up the image of Laurence Dunbar.  My apologies to the man, but that room was madness.

OMG, the wallpaper is everywhere.


We made our way to another room in the home and I found the same style of wooden trim and wallpaper, but with a different colors and pattern. Like one room was bad enough, but I started to fear that every room was going to possess this mess.

I was right.

As we go up the creaky, old stairs and I enter Disney World\’s Haunted Mansion.  Or a long hallway that looks just like the Haunted Mansion.  Because NOW the room has patterned floors, walls and ceilings.

I\’m in visual overload.

I just can\’t believe people lived in this house and didn\’t have nightmares.  I\’m starting to understand why people believe old Victorian homes are haunted.  These wallpaper patters will have you seeing things.

Loafing Holt


We then make our way to Dunbar\’s \”Loafing Holt\” bedroom and study.  He had a desk placed in the corner of his bedroom, and we were told this was where he worked, and his personal photos were on display. I felt like I was intruding on a personal space.

But in this room the wallpaper was a powder-blue and purple floral arrangement pattern. I asked the park ranger if this was really the wallpaper that Laurence would have in his study – and he showed me a photo of Laurence Dunbar sitting at his desk and that wretched wallpaper was visible in the background.


I can\’t believe it. It\’s the least relaxing and most distracting wallpaper imaginable – and it was everywhere. There was no escaping it. Every fold, bend, and nook was papered. HOW did this man work in this bedlam?

I thanked the ranger for the informative tour and sharing Dunbar\’s life and history, and his mother\’s tender attendance to him and his legacy.

Then I escaped the visual assault of the Dunbar house with photos as evidence.  THIS is why people see ghosts.  Those wallpaper patterns would drive anyone insane.

Geocaching Time!

This was the last of the National Park visits today – and it was now time to Geocache!  We started working the Donut Trail as we headed to our hotel.

Road Trip Destinations


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