Thursday, June 14, 2001

A treasure of a town

Metamora, Ind., combines small-town charm with ample shopping opportunities

By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Main Street of Metamora, Ind. is lined with quaint shops.
(Gary Landers photos)
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        Rush hour, Metamora style:

        Pulling into town and crossing the canal bridge, four cars were stacked up at 10 a.m., drivers drumming their fingers on the wheel, necks craned to see the cause of the tie-up.

        A mother duck and her eight waddlers zig-zagged across the road where they had been having breakfast on the porch of Our Place, a shop that sells Delft china, goat milk soap and potent German peppermints.

        A stray quacker tarried on the shop step for just a bit more corn. So we waited ... and smiled. No duck rage here.

        Metamora, Ind., is that kind of place: small-town charm, wonderful shopping and delightful oddities.

        And everybody feeds the ducks. The shops and restaurants lining the canal sell corn, 50 cents a helping. Kids pitch bread crumbs into the canal to lure the ducks closer.

[photo] Canal boat rides are available Tuesday through Sunday (details below).
        In fact, Metamora was registered as a Post Office in 1826 as Duck Creek Crossing. It should have kept the name. (Instead they re-named it in 1838 for an American Indian character in a New York play.)

        This little town, among the rolling hills of Indiana before the state flattens out into corn, is about 45 miles northwest and a world away from Cincinnati.

        It's quiet. You can hear the ducks quack. It's small and very negotiable on foot, with about six main streets, roughly 60-100 stores, restaurants and snack stops to get you through the day.

        The people are kind and chatty, well-versed in the canal-lore of the town. Even the two 1,000-pound draft horses, Red and Jerry, stand patiently between tourist-hauling trips, to be petted by sticky-palmed youngsters and passersby.

        Visitors can laze under the trees beside the canal, picnic in the town park, take to the shade in the gazebo, ride the canal boat through the only working covered wooden aqueduct in the United States, take a self-guided tour of the town's historic buildings or vist the Metamora Museum of Ethnographic Art, devoted to “the aesthetics of indigenous cultures and the psychic aura of objects” from various ethnic groups.

        Or you can shop. And walk. And shop. And walk.

        Here's a very small collection of what can be found in this gentle little treasure of a town:

Black cherry buffet, $2,260
        The Sampler sells traditional furniture pieces crafted from wild black cherry in its workshop in Homer, Ind. about 28 miles from Metamora. The crew of eight makes standard as well as custom-ordered tables, chairs, buffets and desks. Sample prices: buffet, $2,260; wardrobe, $2,890. The shop also carries pottery from M.A. Hadley in Louisville and from Roseville, Ohio; framed prints; baskets; lamps; rugs and hand-loomed throws.

        The Lace Place, in the Canal House, is a throwback to granny's time with lace collars, vests, curtains, tablecloths and napkins with finely crafted detail work, plus a fine collection of miniature tea sets, antique jewelry, hairpins and Victorian knickknacks. The best news is you don't need to fire up the iron to care for it according to owner Judy Hamilton.

        “When I started 16 years ago, most of the lace came from Europe, but now most comes from the United States. The polyester laces don't have to be ironed,” she says.

        Shopper found a lace-front vest with black pearlized buttons, $82.95; a set of four lace napkin cuffs that slide over rolled-up napkins for an elegant table, $7 per set, and a lace-trimmed christening gown, $118.

        The Berry Patch is stocked with collectibles including Daddy's Long Legs dolls. Each has a name and attitude, and is dressed and accessorized with attention to detail, right down to “Jacob's" ($94.99) miniature drum andRev. Johnson's ($96.99) shiny Sunday-best shoes.

Enamelled heart at Rosewood Junction, $9.95.
        Rosebud Junction is the spotto check for gifts folks remember, such as enameled hearts with molded copper bases hand-decorated with enameling and fired at high temperatures, then plated in silver and gold for an heirloom finish, $14.95. Be sure to check out the oversized Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy at the back of the store and the pins made from Austrian Crystal called “They're Brats.”

        Peanut Butter & Jelly is an outlet embroidery store from Dayton with dresses, shirts, jackets, hats and sweatshirts at thrifty prices.

        Fair Exchange Leather has do-it-yourself moccasin kits for $15, plus leather hats, purses, vests and jackets reasonably priced. Shopper wasn't too sure about the basket of rabbit hides for $3.95 each.

Fishing basket, $22.50 at Woodworks Etc.
        WoodWorks Etc., owned by Pam and Ron Colvin of Fairfield, has a nice selection of primitive pieces, including an American flag, fireplace screen, birdhouses, shelves, furniture, country crafts and a fishing basket/backpack with a cut-out spot on top for a pole, $22.50.

        Next door is the Country Peddler with woodworked crafts, mini baskets and watering cans that would make great holiday ornament gifts, scented cinnamon brooms and mini-baskets for candles.

        The Country Cabin is a must-stop for crafts, gifts and cleverly designed pins made by Joyce Haller of Loveland for $1 each. But the star of the shop is the Snowing Machine in the back corner by Hidden Heart of Tarzana, Calif. You place the tree in the base of the over-size cardboard box and attach the slim pipe to the trunk. When you plug in the machine, thousands of tiny pieces of plastic foam shoot out the pipe over the top of the tree like a soft snowfall and land in the box bottom to be recycled. It even sounds like snow, $175.

        Fans of woodworking and wood crafts should stop at the Wood Shack to see the bird-condo “birdaminium” and a collection of pine carvings and woodworking, including those black silhouette figures you see on the roadside. There is a porch full of everything — a pig to a cowgirl, $19.95-$35.

Beyond Shopping

        Other activites that can be found in Metamora:

        Canal boat rides. The Ben Franklin III, a 75-foot-long canal boat pulled by two 1,000-pound Belgian draft horses, takes visitors on a half-hour ride about one mile along the canal, over Duck Creek Aqueduct. Times: Hourly from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, hourly 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Cost: $1, age 3 and up. Tickets at the Canal Boat office at Main Street and Columbia across from Bridge Street.

        Metamora Mill, part of the Whitewater Memorial, has housed a cotton mill, flouring mill, feed mill and is now an operating grist mill and museum. Free. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

    Getting there: From Cincinnati, take I-74 west to the Brookville exit (No. 169). Turn left on Ind. 52 and drive 21.9 miles to Metamora. You can't miss the signs.
   Driving time: About 45 minutes. Metamora is one hour behind Cincinnati time. You gain an hour going and lose an hour coming back.
   Prime time: To get the maximum from your visit, head to Metamora on weekends or holidays when all the shops and restaurants are open. Many shops close Mondays unless it's a holiday. Tuesday through Friday, you'll find half or more open. There were plenty of shops open when Shopper visited on an early June Thursday.
    Parking is free along the canal at at Duck Creek Crossing.
    Information: (765) 647-2109 or
        Metamora Museum of Ethnographic Art. Owner Paul Hendricks started collecting artifacts during a stint in the Peace Corps in 1967-68. Visitors will find everything from American Indian beading and clothing to artwork, clothing, weaponry, jewelry and figures from Central and South America, Nepal, Panama, Africa and the Philippines. It's a funky assortment and interesting. Kids will like the vampire stakes (antique barn pegs, $2.99) and the miniature skull collection. No surprise that this collection is in the town's Odd Fellows Hall. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, and by appointment. $2 adults, $1 children. Information, (765) 647-6365.

        Healing Cross of Metamora. Attached to the Odd Fellows Hall is a tiny chapel containing a kneeler and a large cross containing 14 holy relics associated with the 14 Stations of the Cross. No charge. Donations welcome.

        Horseback Riding at the Salt Creek Ranch, one mile west of town. Open daily. (765) 698-2044.

        Whitewater Valley Railroad runs a train Saturdays and Sundays at 12:01 p.m. from Connersville (on Ind. 1) to Metamora and back. The 16-mile trip follows the route of the Whitewater Canal. Riders have two hours to shop or see the sights in Metamora before reboarding. The round trip and Metamora stop takes about five hours. Cost: $14 adults, $7 children 2-12. (765) 825-2054;

        Canoe trips. There are several spots for canoe rentals around Metamora, including Morgan's (765-647-4904) and Whitewater Canoe Rental (800-634-4277).

        B&Bs. There are several bed and breakfast inns around Metamora. For a partial listing, go to and click on “lodging” and “bed and breakfast.”


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