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Circus Trip 2018: Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, VA

Day 59, Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, Virginia

After I left the Boston area, I had plans to visit a friend of mine who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.  I was going to spend a few days there, and use that as my jumping off point for visiting Washington, D.C.  I had left Quincy, Massachusetts, and embarked on a long drive through multiple states to get to Alexandria.  I split it over two days, as it is a total of about eight hours driving, through a lot of traffic.  Heading from Massachusetts to Alexandria meant I had to skip some great locations, but you can’t possibly see everything on a trip, I suppose.  It was tough to drive through so many great places and just pass them by!  Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, and more!  I so very much want to go back and see all these places!

All that said, I rolled into Alexandria about 4 in the afternoon, and headed to Jason’s house.  He had planned a surprise for my visit! He knows how much I love history, so he made reservations at Gadsby’s Tavern!

Gadsby’s Tavern was originally built in 1785 by Marylander John Wise, and opened the building next door as the Federal City Tavern in 1792.  There was another tavern on the site before the current building though, which reportedly was in business from around 1770.  An Englishman named Gadsby leased the tavern in 1796; the current name is a nod to him. 

Back in the late 1700s, several notable guests frequented the tavern, including Founding Fathers and Presidents!  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette were all known visitors to the taverns here.  A banquet was even held in Washington’s honor here in 1801; how cool to be in the same place where these men talked politics. 

Gadsby operated the tavern until 1815, and then passed through various hands and it was various businesses, until it fell into disrepair and abandonment.  In 1917, in this sad state, some of the ballroom woodwork was sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, where it apparently remains today.  However, this was the catalyst for the historic preservation.  Gadsby’s Tavern was restored to the period of the late 1700s, and reopened as a restaurant in 1976.

There is a fine dining atmosphere, with delicious food and ambiance.  I had the herb encrusted grill salmon, finished with a balsamic glaze, and served with jasmine rice and sauteed spinach, and a glass of white wine.  To add to its charm, period actors make their way around the room, reciting the words of our Founding Fathers and engaging restaurant patrons in discussions on the governance of our young, budding country!

It was so much fun getting to see Jason and watch the actors engage with people!  An amazing experience for a history nerd like me!  

After dinner we wandered around Alexandria and got ice cream nearby, just chatting and catching up.  I certainly want to go back and see more of this fascinating and historic city!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Adams NHP

Day 58, Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, Massachusetts

Our second President John Adams lived almost his whole life in Quincy, Massachusetts.  Which makes it easy for a person who wants to see most of the homes a President has lived in, in one tour!  In actuality, Adams was born in 1735 in Braintree, Massachusetts, but the part of Braintree where he was born eventually became Quincy.

The Adams National Historical Park contains an incredible amount of Adams family history, and in a small area around Quincy.  The visitor’s center is downtown, and from there you can book a trolley tour that takes you to the John Adams birthplace home, the John Quincy Adams birthplace home where John and Abigail raised their family, and finally, Peace field, the home that John and Abigail purchased as their retirement home.  The tours are on hiatus due to COVID, so you can come along on mine!

The John Adams Birthplace home is a saltbox style home, originally built in 1681.  It was purchased in 1720 by John Adams’ father, Deacon John Adams, and John was born there in 1735.  It is the first stop on the tour, and you get to go inside and check out the first floor rooms.  There is such history here!

The John Quincy Adams Birthplace home is also a traditional saltbox style home, originally built in 1663, and purchased by John Adams’ father in 1744.  John Adams inherited it when his father passed in 1661, and moved Abigail to this home, right next door to his own birthplace home.  Their son, John Quincy Adams, was born in this home in 1767.  John Adams also drafted the Massachusetts State Constitution from this home in 1779.

In 1787, John and Abigail Adams purchased Peace field, a home that was to be their retirement home, and moved there in 1788.  It was built originally in 1731, and at that time consisted of two first floor rooms, two bedrooms and an attic.  John and Abigail had purchased it sight unseen while they were living in London, after the loyalist owners left Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War.  Abigail was dissatisfied by the home, and set about enlarging it.  Now, Peace field is much larger than the other homes, and more modern.  Four generations of the Adams family lived here, from from 1788 to 1927.  The home was donated to the Park Service in 1946. 

The homes are all incredible, but one building on this tour really takes the cake.  The Stone Library was built in 1870; it was stipulated in John Quincy Adams’ will in 1847.  It took his son Charles another 23 years to finish it, but now about 10% of the books it contains belonged to John Adams, and the majority were from John Quincy Adams’ collection.  The Adams family children between 1870 and 1927 were able to use the library to read and write, and at least four books were written here.  Charles Francis Adams wrote portions of the ten volume, Diary of John Adams, the twelve volume, The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, and The Letters of Abigail Adams in this library, and his son, Henry Adams worked on his History of the United States here too.

What a wonderful tour to see these historic sites!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: The House of Seven Gables

Day 57, Monday, September 10, 2018
The House of Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts

First off, I must admit, I never read this book in high school or college.  I did read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s other well-known classic – The Scarlet Letter.

This home in Salem, Massachusetts, was the home of Hawthorne’s cousin during the 1800s; she entertained Hawthorne at the home often.  It is widely believe to be the inspiration for the home in the book.  In the House of Seven Gables, the home plays a large role and takes on the quality of a distinct character.  The dark shadows and creaking floors, the hidden staircase, and rooms tucked into the gables of the home added to the dark ambience of the story.  The cent shop that created the occupation for Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon provided a backdrop for the local children to mock and tease the old woman.  So given all that, what literary nerd wouldn’t want to see the home that inspired this fascinating story?

The House of Seven Gables was originally built in 1668 in Jacobean and Post-Medieval architectural styles, and its original owner, Captain John Turner I, was well off enough to expand it twice while he owned it.  During this period, it was originally believed to have had seven gables.  Future owners updated the interior in the Georgian style, with thick wood paneling, and removed four gables to make it appear more as a Federal style home, which was popular in the late 1700s.

The home was purchased in 1908 by Caroline Emmerton with the intention of preserving the home and opening it for tours, in order to support her work of assisting immigrant families who were settling in Salem in the early 20th century.  Emmerton had the exterior of the home restored to what is believed to be its original appearance, with seven gables.  She also added the cent shop that is currently a feature of the home, as an attraction for the tours. The hidden staircase from Hawthorne’s story was also added at this time.  Over the last hundred years or so, I can only imagine the numbers of people who have toured this home!

It is incredible to me to think about the people (and fictional characters) who have made this their home for the last 350 years!

The tour was really neat, with a couple of bonuses.  You can take photos inside!  And the tour takes you up the hidden staircase!  It was narrow and steep and oh-so-wonderful!  If you are uncomfortable making your way up a steep, narrow, claustrophobic staircase, you can take the regular stairs up.  I think every home should have a hidden staircase!

The grounds and a few other historic homes are on the property and open; visitors can do a self-guided tour.  One of them is the home that Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in.  It was built in 1750 in the Georgian style, and was moved to the House of Seven Gables site in 1958.  Be sure to check out this home!

Of course the gift shop sells copies of The House of Seven Gables, and Hawthorne’s other works, and I did buy the book and read it.  You can read my review here.

This was such an interesting tour for anyone who enjoys historical homes, literature, or both.  At $15 in 2018, it was on the more expensive end of history home tours, but I thought it was worth it!  So whether you read the book or not, I hope you check it out.  I would love to go back!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Salem Maritime NHS

Day 57, Monday, September 10, 2018
Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Salem, Massachusetts

I was excited to spend the day in Salem, Massachusetts.  It is home to historical sites extending back about 350 years! 

Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the park system’s first National Historic Site; it was designated on March 17, 1938.  It preserves and interprets multiple eras in history, including the Triangle Trade (the trade in cotton, rum, slaves and sugar) between England, the colonies, and Africa, privateers during the American Revolution, and global trade after Independence.  There are several homes and commercial buildings surviving from these periods, and some are open to the public! 

The Narbonne House was built in 1675, and is an example of the Saltbox architectural style.  Saltboxes are defined by the existence of a lean-to built onto the back of the building.  I toured the Narbonne House, and it was interesting to see, as it has not been modernized.  It was built by butcher Thomas Ives, and from 1750-1780, the Narbonne House was owned by Captain Joseph Hodges, and then in 1780 it was purchased by Jonathan Andrew, a tanner.  Descendants of Andrew owned and lived in it until 1964, when it was donated to the park service.  I enjoyed the guided tour of the first floor.

The Custom House was built in 1819; it was the 13th Custom House in Salem. It was here that taxes were collected on imported cargoes. You can see the inside on our own. Check out that gold eagle on top of the building!

The Derby House is the oldest surviving brick home in Salem.  It was built in 1762 by Richard Derby, Sr. for his second son Elias Hasket Derby, a wedding gift.  Hasket became a successful merchant and privateer during the American Revolution, which allowed him to buy a mansion in town and sell this home in 1796. 

The Hawkes House was also begun by Elias Hasket Derby; construction began on the 5,000 foot home in 1780.  It was originally going to be the home that he moved his growing family into, but when the exterior was nearly finished he decided to move to an existing mansion.  It must be nice to have that kind of money! It stood unfinished and vacant for 20 years before it was purchased by Benjamin Hawkes and his business partner.  His business partner had his half of the home removed and moved, so the remaining home is the 3,200 square foot Hawkes House. 

The West India Goods Store was built in 1804, and probably initially was used as a warehouse.  It operated as various stores throughout the 19th century.

The Derby Wharf is the longest wharf in Salem, at 1/2 mile long.  It was originally built in 1762 and then lengthened in 1806.  When it was in use, warehouses lined the sides of the wharf, but they are all gone now.  The Derby Wharf Light is still at the end of the wharf though; it was built in 1871.  It is a square tower that extends 25 feet above the mean high water line.  It originally had a sixth-order Fresnel lens, the smallest order, and was one of only 17 sixth-order lenses in lighthouses around the world.  The light still operates today when a red flashing automated beacon. 

I had lunch at the Brodie’s Seaport restaurant.  I had a Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer (it seemed fitting for Salem, Massachusetts) and fish and chips. 

I also had a chance to wander one of Salem’s original cemeteries, and see the memorial garden that honors the victims of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.  I find it interesting to ponder the circumstances that led Salem’s residents to ostracize and persecute their neighbors.  In writing this, I see similarities between what happened there and the climate in the United States today.  Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.  We best be careful to not continue down this path. 

I would love to return to Salem and see more of its history, and visit more of the Salem Witch Trial sites.  There is never enough time on a trip! 

I ended my visit with a trip to the National Historic Site’s Visitor Center to get my passport stamp and see the exhibits.  It was interesting to connect the sites that I saw with a bit more of the context!

I also visited the House of Seven Gables; the home that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name.  I’ll post about that next! 

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.3

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 9: Old State House

The Old State House was built in Boston in 1713 to house the colony’s government.  It was also at the center of many of the pivotal moments leading up to the American Revolution.

In 1761, James Otis gave a speech against the Writs of Assistance, which allowed Royal customs officials to search for smuggled goods without cause.  In 1768 the colony’s House of Representatives defied England by refusing to rescind their call for united resistance to taxes enacted by the British.  That lead to the occupation of Boston.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old State House, and the building became home to the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The lion and the unicorn atop the facade are reproductions.  The original lion and unicorn, which are symbols of royal authority, were removed and burned after the Declaration of Independence was read here.

Today the building houses a Revolutionary Museum (that I would love to go back and visit).

 

Stop 10: Boston Massacre Site

The British occupation of Boston began in 1768.  By 1770, tensions were high, and fist fights and other altercations occurred with some regularity.  On March 5, 1770, Private White, struck Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting Private White’s superior officer.

That lead to a mob throwing snowballs and yelling.  A regiment of Redcoats arrived to get White out of there, and they had to force their way through a group of several hundred angry colonists.  According to witness accounts, a colonist threw a club, which hit Private Montgomery.  Montgomery fired the first shot.  The crowd did not disperse, and several more shots were fired.  You know the rest; five men were killed.

Interestingly, John Adams was the defense attorney for the soldiers; all but two were acquitted of all charges.

Stop 11: Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 as a center of commerce.  It was designed with market stalls on the first floor and a meeting hall on the second floor, and remains this way today.

In 1764 American’s first protested against the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, which set the stage for what we now call, “no taxation without representation.”  The funeral for the victims of the Boston Massacre was held here.

 

Our walking tour ended here, right at lunchtime, so Clara and I checked out the meeting hall upstairs. Then we decided to get lunch in one of the market stalls in the Quincy Market next door; they had excellent lobster rolls.  They were so delicious!

We also did a bit of shopping in the stalls, and spent some time outside watching a busker who was an escape artist.  It was fun to watch him!

 

Stop 12: Paul Revere House

Paul Revere purchased this home in 1770 when he was 35 years old. By that time the home was already about 90 years old, because it was built around 1680.  Revere lived here when he went on his famous night ride to Lexington to warn the colonial troops that the British army was on it’s way.

Revere, a silversmith by trade, had a huge family.  Revere’s first wife Sarah died giving birth to their eighth child, and his second wife Rachel had another eight children!  Several of these children grew up in this home, along with Revere’s mother.  The home served as a boardinghouse and tenement in the 19th century, and was saved by the Paul Revere Memorial Association in the early 1900s.  It has operated as a historic house museum since 1908!

Clara and I decided to tour the home for $6, and it was fascinating to see a home built in 1680 and a place where one of our pivotal American heroes lived.  Sadly, no photos are permitted inside.  According to the museum website, about 90% of the home’s building materials are original, although they had to renovate to return the home to what it likely looked like when Revere lived here.  There is a lot of good information on their website.

We also saw a religious parade in this Italian neighborhood.  Several men had religious icons held aloft, and they were decorated with bills.  There was a band playing behind them.  I never did figure out what they were celebrating.  I looked to see what Catholic saint’s days were September 9; Saint Peter Claver is the only one who came up, but he was a Spaniard from the region of Catalonia, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  If you know what it was about, please let me know!

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: 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!

Happy 104th Birthday to the NPS!

Today is the 104th birthday of the National Park Service.  Founded on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service manages 419 units within the system, of which 62 have the highest designation of National Parks.

The National Parks Services has over 20 designations for the sites they manage, including National Monuments, National Battlefields, National Historical Parks, National Parkways, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, and more!  I have been fortunate enough to visit 34 National Parks, and at least 127 of the 419 units (although I’m probably missing a few here and there).  One day I would like to say I have visited them all!

In celebration of NPS’s birthday, here are a few of my favorite National Parks photos!  As you can see, it is hard to choose just a few!