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Circus Trip 2018: Lowell Part 2

Day 55, Saturday, September 8, 2018
Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts

After I visited the Boott Cotton Mill and Museum, I headed back outside to find a folk music festival happening on the grass outside. I stopped to listen for a while and was impressed by the talent of the musicians!  There was a banjo and fiddle competition and a musical duet.  It was nice just sitting outside and enjoying the music.

Next I headed over to the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit, just across the square from the Mill.  The exhibit is housed in what used to be one of the Boott Cotton Mill’s boardinghouses.  The boardinghouse was built in 1835, and housed 20-40 mill girls in a communal setting.  About $1.25 per week would have paid for three meals per day, limited laundry and a shared bedroom.

The boardinghouses were owned and operated by the mills and had strict rules for the residents.  Girls had curfews, were not allowed to consort with men, were not permitted to drink and had to attend church services on Sundays.  If they broke the rules, their job could be at risk.  Times were different then…

It was interesting to see the parlors, communal dining room, and bedrooms in the boardinghouse.  Even though the girls wouldn’t have had any privacy, it did give them ready access to friends and a support system in a city and job that was unlike anything they had experienced.

After I left the boardinghouse, I took a walk back through the town along the canal and its walking path.  It was interesting to imagine what these workers experienced almost 200 years ago.  I’m so glad that Lowell had the foresight to save these old buildings and their history.

Circus Trip 2018: Lowell NHP

Day 55, Saturday, September 8, 2018
Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts

I was in Massachusetts!  A new state!  I spent several days in the Boston area and the first day that I was there, I spent the day in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Lowell is a city with an important part of our national history, but it may not be a name that you recognize.

How Lowell got its start is a fascinating story.  Francis Cabot Lowell was already a successful merchant when he and his family traveled to England from the United States in 1810.  He became interested in the operation of power looms, but was not able to buy blueprints or a model of any of the looms the English had developed, as they were closely guarded trade secrets.  So he watched the looms operate and memorized how they worked.  In 1812, Lowell and his family sailed once again for the United States.  Since the War of 1812 was underway, all of Lowell’s baggage and belongings were searched for contraband when they left England; but Lowell had committed the information to memory and did not have any written material.

Back in the U.S., Lowell partnered with a machinist named Paul Moody, and the two were able to successfully create the first American power loom. Lowell began the first textile mill using a power loom in Lowell in 1814, and sadly, he died only three years after it began operations.

Lowell is currently the fifth largest city in Massachusetts, starting out as a mill town incorporated in 1826.  Built along the confluence of the Merrimack and the Concord Rivers, Lowell had the water power to sustain a large industrial complex.  The canals and mills were built by immigrant men fleeing the famines of Ireland, and the female mill workers generally came from the farming families of New England. By the 1850s, Lowell was the largest industrial complex in the United States, with several huge textile mills weaving raw cotton from the South into fabric.  Much of the fabric made its way back to the south to clothe the slaves; Lowell was the name given to the coarse cotton fabric that this clothing was made from.

The mills continued to thrive after the war, with later mill workers being comprised of German Catholics and French Canadians.  The mills finally began to close in the 1920s, when new mills were built in the south, taking advantage of cheaper labor.

After many years of decline, Lowell began to see a turnaround, when Wang Laboratories based its headquarters there.  Revitalization occurred, focusing on culture and history, and the Lowell National Historical Park was created on June 5, 1978.  The historical park focuses on the history of Lowell as a mill town, with the Boott Cotton Mills and Museum, the Mill Girls and Immigrants Boardinghouse, and a Visitor’s Center among several other sites.  The sites are spread out among the downtown area, but it is easily walkable, and a great way to spend the day!

I started at the Visitor’s Center to get a map of the sites, and watched their 19 minute introductory video.  It was very interesting!

When I left the Visitor’s Center, it was close to lunchtime, so I stopped in at the Lowell Burger Company, where I had a salmon burger with a handmade patty. It was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture!

Next I headed over to the Boott Cotton Mills and Museum, which has been renovated to its original state, with fully operating machinery.  They give you earplugs before entering and recommend using them, because the looms are loud!  The first floor shows the full operation of a working textile mill, and you can wander though seeing the machines.

Upstairs is the museum area, which goes through the history of the mill, as well as how the various machines worked to create fabric from raw cotton.  It was so fascinating!  It also has exhibits on the mill workers who worked in Lowell, mostly young women from farm families.

What was particularly interesting was an exhibit that gives visitors a chance to weave your own piece of fabric on a small loom.  You could choose colors and different patterns to use.  Then after you were done, they mailed it to you!  It was tough to get it right and I definitely made quite a few mistakes on mine!

I really enjoyed this museum, and there was so much more at Lowell to see!

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Desert Island

Day 53, Wednesday & Thursday, September 5 & 6, 2018
Mount Desert Island, Maine

Much of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, which also has several towns and communities that are not within the boundaries of the National Park.  In my travels to and from the park each day, I stumbled upon places that were fascinating and worth taking the time to tell you about.  Here are just a few!

While driving through the village of Somesville, I had to stop at the Somesville Selectman’s Building.  This little building was built in the 1780’s by John Somes, son of Abraham Somes, who had settled the village in 1761.  Over the years it has served as a cobbler’s shop, post office, town office and museum.  The bridge in front was built in 1981, and the two together make for a truly picturesque landscape!

The Mount Desert Island Historical Society, which includes the Somesville Selectman’s Building, was closed that day, but perhaps one day I will get to see inside this beautiful building!

I also decided to stop by the Wendell Gilley Museum one afternoon because it was raining.

Gilley was widely known for his career in decorative bird carving.  The small museum had many examples of his carved birds and other bird artwork.  It was interesting because you got to see the progression of his work over time.  I was impressed by the art!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anything in the gift shop that was affordable, so I left empty handed.

This area had so much to see and do, and I would have loved to have more time there to explore.  I definitely want to get back to Maine soon!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock, Vermont

Besides a section of the Appalachian Trail, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park unit within the state of Vermont.  So it makes sense that it would be an interesting one!

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is named for the three families that owned this property, and each impacted the farm and the nearby community of Woodstock, Vermont in important ways. 

The son of the first family who lived at the farm on Mount Tom, George Perkins Marsh, grew up seeing the environmental destruction that had been caused by deforestation in Vermont, both for sheep grazing and for industry, as wood was still a primary means of making the fires that were used to process glass, soap, and wool.  It was estimated that by the time Marsh was born in 1801, over 95% of Vermont’s forestland had been logged.  He saw the erosion and loss of fish habitat that occurred on his own property and began to understand the future impacts if people didn’t change their ways.

Frederick Billings grew up reading George Marsh’s writings, including his book, Man and Nature, and was impacted by the call to action of saving America’s forestland.  He became an attorney and purchased the farm in 1869, planted trees and set about creating a sustainable dairy farm, along with carriage paths throughout the property with scenic vistas through the forest.

One of Frederick Billings’ granddaughters married a Rockefeller, and inherited the farm in the 1950s, thus giving Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park its third name.  The Rockefeller family had long had a tradition of conservation and contributing to the idea of setting aside public land that would not be developed.  Laurance and Mary Rockefeller continued that tradition on the Billings farm.  They set about to remodel and modernize the mansion and farm, and opened the Billings Farm to the public in 1983.

The Rockefellers donated their residential property to the National Park Service in 1992, a donation that included this fabulous Victorian mansion with all its incredible furnishings, as well as 555 acres of forested land on Mount Tom, where the mansion is located.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is now a unit dedicated to conservation and operated closely with a private foundation that operates the Billings dairy farm next door.

When I visited, I did the tour of the mansion, which was truly one of the most spectacular historic mansions I’ve seen so far.  I was fascinated.  The fact that the Rockefellers donated all their furnishings made it a place that could be enjoyed for its ornate architectural beauty, its incredible artwork collected by the family, and the remaining evidence of the family’s life there.  So often we see mansions that are decorated with period pieces and we aren’t able to see that people – families – actually lived here.  They lived here with their hobbies, and collections and favorite books.  And they lived here with their letters to friends, family snapshots, their favorite comfy chair, and the hideous plaid carpet.  You can see the life lived in this mansion, and honestly, beyond the expensive art collections, it isn’t that much different than yours and mine.

I definitely want to return, and see more of the mansion and the property surrounding it.  It has several miles of hiking trails and carriage paths, and it would look spectacular during the fall colors!  Of course, I also wanted to see the village of Woodstock, Vermont, so I went there next!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

Circus Trip 2018: Saratoga National Historical Park

Day 47, Friday, August 31, 2018

Saratoga National Historical Park, Saratoga Springs, New York

Saratoga National Historical Park was designated in 1938 to preserve the site of the Battles of Saratoga, the first significant campaign of the U.S. Revolutionary War.  Fought in 1777, this series of battles defeated a major British Army, and resulted in France recognizing the independence of the United States of America.

 

British General John Burgoyne led his army south from Canada into what is now New York, with the intention to meet up with another British Army moving north from New York City and a third force marching east from Lake Ontario.  Unfortunately for Burgoyne, the other two armies never arrived and he was surrounded by American forces in upstate New York. He attempted to break out, fighting two different battles over the course of a few weeks in September and October 1777 on the ground several miles south of Saratoga, New York.  He did not succeed.

Burgoyne eventually retreated to Saratoga, which is now known as Schuylerville, and surrendered his entire army there on October 17, 1777.  After Saratoga, Burgoyne returned to England and was never given another commanding position in the British Army.  The French entered into the war after Saratoga as well, sending not only money, but supplies and soldiers to support the cause.

When I visited, I started at the Visitor’s Center, checked out the exhibits and watched the film of the battle.  It was interesting to learn about it; as I haven’t read much on the Revolutionary War.

Then I did the scenic drive around the battlefield and saw it from various vantage points.  Informational signs explain how the battle unfolded.  It was so interesting to imagine what happened here in 1777.  It is so peaceful now, but it was anything but peaceful during those pivotal few weeks!

I also visited the General Philip Schuyler House, which is near the battlefield in the nearby town of Schuylerville.  Schuyler prepared the defensive plans for the Continental Army prior to the battle, but was replaced before the battle by General Horatio Gates.

The home was built in 1777, and is largely as it was when it was built.  The home has no electricity or indoor plumbing even!  It is owned by the historical park and is open in the summer, but it was closed when I visited, so I just took photos outside.  It’s such a cool house!

Visitation for Saratoga National Historical Park is about 65,000 annually, so even during their peak period in the summer, there really aren’t that many people there. I only saw a couple of people outside of the Visitor’s Center the entire time I was there. It was interesting to see!

Circus Trip 2018: Horse Racing Museum and Hall of Fame

Day 47, Friday, August 31, 2018

National Museum of Horse Racing and Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs, New York

I have long been interested in horse racing.  I suppose it is a natural offshoot of my love of horses.  So when I saw that there was a horse racing museum nearby, I was in!

The museum was founded in 1951, and celebrates the achievements of Thoroughbred horse racing in the United States.  Each year, 8-10 horses are inducted into the racing hall of fame, and are recognized as the best of the best.  Horses like Man O’ War, Secretariat, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Cigar, Seabiscuit and War Admiral.  If you follow horses and Thoroughbred racing, these names are surely familiar to you!

The museum was an interesting venture into the history of horse racing, which traces its roots in America back to 1665!  I enjoyed wandering around learning about the various Hall of Famers, and learning more about the history of the sport.  They had a lot of memorabilia!

After the museum, I found the Spring Street Deli a few blocks away and had the Funny Cide – a sandwich with steak, provolone, portbello mushroom and a horseradish sauce.  It was delicious!  If you are wondering why there is a sandwich called the Funny Cide, he was a New York bred Thoroughbred who is a favorite among the locals!  He was foaled in 2000 and currently lives out his retirement at the Kentucky Horse Park, at their Hall of Champions.

What an interesting dive into horse racing history!

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara has a history of white colonial settlement that spans over 300 years.

The first fort on this site was established by the French in 1679; they named it Fort Conti, and it wasn’t occupied for long.  The French returned again to establish Fort Denonville between 1687 and 1688.  It wasn’t until 1726 that the first permanent structure was built; a stone building known as the French Castle that still stands on site today!  Additional structures were built between 1756 and 1758.  In 1759 the British gained control of the fort during the French and Indian War, and it was British until the Revolutionary War was won, and the Americans were the proud new owners of Fort Niagara.

Of course, the British weren’t known for giving up so easily and they briefly reconquered Fort Niagara between 1813 and 1815, during the perhaps not-so-aptly named War of 1812.  The Americans got it back at the end of the War of 1812, and Fort Niagara never saw combat again.

 

The Fort did continue operating as a peaceful border post, and American troops were stationed here during the Civil War.  It was common during the early years of the Civil War to parole enemy troops, with the condition that they not return to fighting for a year.  The parolees at Fort Niagara were put to work building stuff.  Troops were trained here during both World Wars as well, and the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1963.  Since then, the Coast Guard is the only military branch that is on site.

 

Of course, Native Americans from the Seneca tribe were in the area long before the Europeans came along.  The Seneca was using the area around Fort Niagara as a seasonal hunting and fishing camp through the 1600s.

While I was there, I got to explore the buildings, and I also got to see both a cannon firing and a musket firing demonstration!  Apparently they used to lob tennis balls into the water when they did the cannon firing demonstrations, but the Canadian government asked them to stop, so now the demonstration does not include a projectile.  That’s better for the environment!

 

This was such a cool place to visit!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Washington Tavern and Braddock’s Grave

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit has more than just French and Indian War history. It has the history of a period of colonial expansion and the growth of a young United States that spans over 100 years!

We talked in my last post about General Braddock, who was assigned command in the area after George Washington’s defeat at Fort Necessity.  As he commanded troops to gain control over the French in the area, Braddock’s troops worked to extend and widen the road that George Washington had built in the area two years earlier.  Sadly, Braddock was killed in battle in July 1755 during the Battle of the Monongahela.  It was an absolute disaster for the British, with the French and their Native American allies firing on the British from nearly invisible positions in the woods.  900 of the 1400 British troops were killed or wounded (more than half of the 900 were killed).

Braddock was shot through the lung, perhaps by his own troops, and was carried back off the front line by his men.  He knew he was dying, and asked that George Washington oversee his burial; he died four days later on July 13, 1755.  Washington buried Braddock in the road that they had been building, as he feared that the French or Native Americans may steal or mutilate the body if they were to find it.  Almost 50 years later, in 1804, workers repairing the Braddock Road came upon the remains and reburied him a short distance away.  It is now marked by a monument that was erected in 1913, and there is an original section of the road there as well.  The original burial site of Braddock is marked too.

As the road was already established when Congress authorized the construction of the National Road beginning in 1806, it made sense that it would follow this route.  The Mount Washington Tavern was built here in 1830, as a stagecoach stop for travelers along the National Road.  In the evenings when the stage stopped for the night, men could get a drink in the bar room and women and children could relax in the parlor.  Bedrooms upstairs accommodated multiple travelers and were segregated by sex.  This tavern operated as a business until the railroad came through the area and rendered it obsolete.  It was purchased and maintained as a family home for the next 75 years, before being sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and then ultimately the National Park Service to be added to the Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit.

When I visited the tavern was open for self-guided tours, and I was surprised to find myself absolutely alone in the building.  I mean, the rooms were protected by plexiglass, but there was no ranger.

I wandered around a bit, and got the distinct feeling that this place was haunted!  I checked out all of the rooms, but did not linger!  I wonder what this old tavern has seen over the last 190 years!?  It was still so fascinating to see – we certainly take travel for granted these days!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Flight 93 National Memorial

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Stoystown, Pennsylvania

I was in graduate school when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  I was still asleep, as I didn’t have class until afternoon, and got a phone call letting me know I should turn on the TV.  Seeing that second plane crash on live TV was something I’m sure none of us who saw it will ever forget. Then seeing that another plane hit the Pentagon, and finally a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

 

Seeing the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania was a powerful and emotional experience.  The Visitor’s Center is perched on top of a hill overlooking the crash site; a new, modern building with exhibits that really hit home.  You know it is going to be emotional when you see that they have boxes of Kleenex parked all over the place – take some; you will need them.

You see, the thing about Flight 93 is that it was the last plane to crash that morning.  By then, the passengers and crew knew what had happened to those three other planes.  They knew they were going to die, so they made the heroic decision to fight against their hijackers.  By fighting back, they could at least prevent them from crashing that plane into another occupied building – it wasn’t until later that authorities learned that the likely target was the U.S. Capitol.

The Visitor’s Center has news footage playing of that morning.  You learn that the flights weren’t chosen at random. The hijackers chose long haul flights (more jet fuel to explode) with few passengers (fewer people to interfere with their plans).  The exhibits also include recordings of some of the last phone calls that the passengers made to their loved ones.  You can hear the fear, and the emotion of those goodbyes.  If you are anything like me, you will bawl your eyes out…

One of the exhibits is a note on Best Western Hotel stationary.  It reads, “I was in DC, across from the White House, on the top floor of the tallest building nearby.  The way I figure it, you all gave your life for me.  I won’t waste it.  I promise.  -CH”

You can drive or walk down to the site – I chose to drive since it was getting to be late in the afternoon, and there were only a couple other people there.  I walked out along the path, watching a large, sandstone boulder that has been placed at the impact site and the final resting place of the passengers and crew.  Rays of sun shone down on that stone that afternoon like a message from God.

There were 40 passengers and crew on board that day, along with the 4 hijackers.  The names of those 40 people who lost their lives that day are engraved on a white marble wall; the wall lines up with the final flight path of the plane.  It is a somber tribute to these souls; simple and beautiful.

It may be easier to not confront the pain that this place represents for so many people.  However, it is important to experience, and to never forget.