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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: Friendship Hill NHS

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Point Marion, Pennsylvania

Who has heard of Albert Gallatin?  Anyone?  No?  Don’t worry, I hadn’t either…  Get ready for a history lesson!

Albert Gallatin was a Swiss man who immigrated to the United States in 1780; he started out in the U.S. as a surveyor.  He made his way to western Pennsylvania, which at the time was way out west on the frontier.  He purchased property and set about building his home in stages, with the first section being built in 1789.  He established himself as one of the richest men in the area; which apparently wasn’t difficult.  His neighbors were mostly poor farmers, who made whiskey with their surplus grain after the harvest; the whiskey became the local currency in what was essentially a cashless society.  Stick with me here, the whiskey piece is important…

Gallatin played an important role in the Whiskey Rebellion.  You see, after the Revolutionary War, the newly formed United States was badly in debt as a result of the war.  The country needed money, and the best way to raise money?  A tax!  Never mind that we just spent years trying to win our independence, largely because of the taxes levied by the British.  Of course, the cashless western Pennsylvanians didn’t have cash to pay the tax, and whiskey was really their only marketable product, so they were a bit resentful of this new tax.  Resentful enough to tar and feather a tax collector or two.  They also resented that if they were accused of evading the tax, the nearest court that was approved to try them was in Philadelphia, over 300 miles away (I didn’t think Pennsylvania was that big of a state, but that’s a blog post for another time…).

Gallatin, being an educated and wealthy man, ended up getting unofficially appointed as the man who would negotiate on behalf of his neighbors; he always lobbied for the peaceful solution, but he wasn’t always successful.  Eventually, he succeeded in getting the Federal government to allow people accused of violations of the whiskey tax to be tried locally, which helped.  Gallatin continued to try to convince his neighbors to submit to the new tax, which became more of a pressing issue after President George Washington mustered up an army to go out to western Pennsylvania to quell the violence against the tax collectors.

Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, thought that Gallatin had been responsible for stirring up the locals and trying to evade the tax.  He tried to dig up evidence to charge Gallatin with treason, but everyone that he interviewed said that Gallatin had been urging his countrymen to pay the tax, and to abandon their violent tactics against the collectors.  Thankfully though, just as things might have erupted into a more widespread insurrection against the army, area men held a vote on whether to submit and pay the tax, and the measure was narrowly passed.  Gallatin, for his trouble, got elected to Congress!

He had clearly caught the eye of George Washington and others in the new United States government, and he served in the House of Representatives between 1795 and 1800.  On January 1, 1801, he was appointed by new President Thomas Jefferson to serve as Secretary of the Treasury.  He served until 1814, under both Jefferson and President Madison, and had two notable accomplishments during his tenure.  One was determining how to finance and pay for the Louisiana Purchase, the huge swath of land that Jefferson bought in 1803, for a cost of 15 million dollars.  After the war, the nation’s debt was $80 million, but even with the additional $15 million, Gallatin was able to reduce the national debt to $45 million by the time he left the cabinet in 1814.

His other achievement was the National Road.  Gallatin was a big believer in improving roads and infrastructure in the young United States, and he delivered a report to Congress recommending that roads and canals be built to increase commerce and travel.  He was able to create a plan that allowed the road to be built without the nation going more deeply into debt.  The National Road, originally known as the National Pike, stretched all the way west to Vandalia, Illinois.  It is now U.S. Route 40, and traverses the entire country, east to west.

If you thought Albert Gallatin is making you feel like a slacker already, there’s more.  He financed the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He served on the Commission that ended the War of 1812.  He also served as a U.S. Ambassador to France, and after he left public life, he founded a wee little bank that is now well known… as JP Morgan Chase…

Visitors to Friendship Hill can tour the home where he lived with two wives; Gallatin and his first wife eloped against the wishes of her mother.  Sadly, they were only married for 5 months before she died of illness in October 1789; she is buried at Friendship Hill, and you can walk out to see Sophie’s gravesite.  Gallatin and his second wife had six children; three of whom died in infancy.  The home was added onto over the years, with additions in 1798, 1823, and 1824.  It is built in the Federal style, and it is quite impressive in its size.  Sections of the home are exposed stone, stuccoed, and timber frame, which gives it a rather eclectic look.  Gallatin sold the home in 1832.  The furniture is not original to the home or the Gallatin family, but gives a representation of what it would have looked like in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

I enjoyed wandering around the home on the self-guided tour, and taking a walk of the grounds.  There are nine miles of trails on the site, and I saw a few people taking advantage of the park setting.  The home is high up on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River.  It is so peaceful and quiet out there!  I can’t even imagine how remote it would have been at the time…  Friendship Hill is certainly a less visited National Park site, with estimated annual visitation of a little over 25,000 people.  It was well worth the visit to learn about this now little known man in U.S. history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Polymath Park

Day 40, Friday, August 24, 2018

Acme, Pennsylvania

When I toured Fallingwater, I had the option to add on a second tour of Frank Lloyd Wright homes nearby; Polymath Park.  I hadn’t heard of it, but why not?

Later in life, Wright was having a hard time making the rent, so to speak.  His homes had always been elaborate, time-consuming and costly, plus he was strict with his demands for how his clients could decorate their finished homes, so as a result he never really had all that many commissions.  He decided to design a series of “Usonian” homes; pre-fabricated kit built homes that could give people the prestige of owning a Frank Lloyd Wright home, without the cost of commissioning a project.  And Wright would get a much needed influx of cash.

It is also important to know that Frank Lloyd Wright took on architecture students, teaching them in his image, and ensuring that there were an increasing number of Frank Lloyd Wright “style” homes out in the world.  Polymath Park is the new name for what was originally a retreat for two wealthy Pittsburgh Jewish families, Balter and Baum.  Apprarently, even in the 1960s, the gentleman’s clubs and hunting and fishing camps of the area were not welcoming to Jews, so Balter and Baum decided to create their own.  They commissioned Peter Berndtsen, one of Wright’s more successful students, to build them each a home in the woods of the Laurel Highlands near Fallingwater.

In the early 2000s, the current owners purchased the Balter and Baum homes with the intention of saving them from redevelopment.  They decided they wanted to open them to the public.  This labor of love led to the purchase and move of two additional Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian homes.  One was moved from Illinois, and the other from Minnesota.  And then there were four.  The owners rent these homes out as overnight lodging, and run a restaurant out of their nearby home.  They also give tours, showing the homes, and giving a bit about the history of Frank Lloyd Wright, his students, and these unique pre-fab homes.

Each tour takes you to three of the homes; when I visited the fourth home had been purchased but not yet moved to the site.  You are treated to a blast from the past, with the characteristic Wright style design, but with more utility and cheaper materials.  It was interesting to be surrounded by so much mid-century modern!

Sadly though, as interesting as the history was, I wouldn’t recommend this tour. You only get to go inside one home, and it’s one that they rent out to overnight guests (apparently that’s part of the agreement to stay there – they do the tour right around you).  Awkward!  I felt that was a bit of a bait and switch, because they aren’t clear in their advertising that this is largely an exterior only tour.  You aren’t allowed to take photos inside the home you get to go inside either!  The other two homes were “exterior only” views – brief stops, without even a walk around the outside.  For me, it wasn’t worth it for the price of the tour.  There are enough Frank Lloyd Wright homes that I could look at the outside of for free.

You win some, you lose some!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fallingwater

Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018

Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Thursday was a rest day.  It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too.  My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit.  I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath.  It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania!  I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!

The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote.  The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself!  Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.

 

Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip.  The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me.  I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs.  So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!

Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece.  It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store.  The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception.  What is unique, however, is the home.  Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.

It is incredible!  There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below.  There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home.  Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall.  Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.

Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support.  Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home.  The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.

Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house.  The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests.  Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.

 

The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home.  Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall.  Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!

 

2018 Circus Trip: Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

The previous evening, I crossed into Pennsylvania (sorry I wasn’t able to get a pic with a sign!), and discovered that Pennsylvania really LOVES its toll roads.  In the span of about 30 miles, I racked up $17 in tolls!  Ugh!  I was excited to start exploring a new state though!

I first learned about the Johnstown Flood when I read a book about the event by David McCullough about a dozen years ago.  I have always thought that this tragedy could have been avoided, and find the story pretty interesting, so I wanted to see the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

In 1889, the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania was a thriving community built on the banks of the Conemaugh River, just past where the Stonycreek and Little Conemaugh Rivers joined together.  The Cambria Iron Works was a bustling iron and steel mill supporting a town of about 30,000 people.  Above the city was the South Fork Dam, an earthen dam originally built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania between 1838 and 1853 as a part of a cross-state canal system.  Once the railroads took over, Pennsylvania sold off the canal and dam to the railroad, who in turn, sold the dam and its lake to a private interest.

That private interest was the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a membership club for the wealthy elite of nearby Pittsburgh.  The hunt club was built near Johnstown, and members and their families could enjoy a country respite from the dirty, crowded city.  Unfortunately, over several years before the flood, a series of alterations were made to the dam which affected its structural integrity, regular maintenance was lacking, and leaks that sprang up were repaired haphazardly.

Which leads us to May 31, 1889.  During the three days leading up to this fateful Friday, there was rain.  In fact, so much rain that they estimated between 6 and 10 inches fell in the 24 hours before the dam breached.  Colonel Elias Unger, who managed the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, lived above the dam, and recognized that it was in bad shape that morning.  He called in engineers and laborers who tried desperately to clean out the spillway, which had been clogged by debris.  They also tried to dig a new spillway to release water, but stopped when they became convinced that it would just cause the entire dam to give way.  Unger also sent a man to the telegraph station to warn communities down below of the danger, but it is unclear whether the message was received in Johnstown.  Oops.

When the dam finally breached at about 2:50 pm, more than 3.8 billion gallons of water released in a torrent downstream.  It hit several communities along its path, which suffered more or less depending on whether they had enough advance notice to get to higher ground.  One community was wiped away completely; the land where the town had been located was scoured down to bedrock.  Johnstown, about 14 miles from the dam, was hit about an hour after the dam breached, and by that time the river was carrying a huge amount of deadly debris along with it, including trees, logs, houses, locomotives, barbed wire, animals, and human victims.

The horror was unimaginable and people died from drowning, being bludgeoned to death by debris, and even being burned, as a large pile of debris got trapped by a bridge over the river and caught on fire.  Bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio, 357 miles away by today’s roads, and as late as 1911.  When it was over, 2209 people had died, including entire families; at the time it was the largest civilian loss of life in U.S. history.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial preserves the site of what remains of the dam and gives visitors a view of the narrow valley where the waters raged, and have continued to flood the towns below periodically (most recently in 1977).  The Visitor’s Center has exhibits on the flood, photos and artifacts that were collected from the flood waters, stories of the people who died and those who survived.  There is also a very powerful (and not suitable for young children) movie on the event; it evokes the fear that you would have felt as that wall of water crashed into town.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial was authorized by Congress on August 31, 1964 and annual visitation of the National Memorial is approximately 112,000.

It was very interesting to see the artifacts and the movie; they also have a list of nearby sites that also relate to the flood, including the Grandview Cemetery (where most of the victims are buried) and the historic structures of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.  I’ll blog about those next!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: First Ladies NHS

Day 37, Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Canton, Ohio

After I left Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I went down to Canton, Ohio and spent a little bit of time there.

Canton is where the family home of Ida Saxton McKinley is located, the wife of President William McKinley.  The home is beautiful!  It was built in 1841 by Ida’s grandfather and modified in 1865; and remained in the family until 1919.  Although Ida and William McKinley didn’t own the home themselves, as her father purchased a home for them a few blocks south, the President and his wife spent a considerable amount of time living here with Ida’s sister and her family, 13 years in total.

This historic site is unique, because although the home is tied to a US President, it focuses on the story of Ida McKinley, his wife.  She was born in 1847; the daughter of a wealthy banker, and enjoyed a privileged upbringing.  She and William McKinley were married in 1871, and had two daughters together; sadly, both died in early childhood.  Ida was grief-stricken over the loss of her daughters and the death of her mother, which had occurred two weeks before the birth of her first daughter.  She believed that the deaths were God’s punishment of her, and developed epilepsy, which severely hindered her ability to participate in society.  Despite her health issues, McKinley was devoted to her and made accommodations for her seizures and ailments in his schedule and public appearances.

 

 

Of course, you probably know that during a Presidential trip to Buffalo, New York, President McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901 by anarchist Leon Czolgosz; he died of his wounds on September 14, after gangrene set in. Ida had accompanied her husband on the trip, but was not present at the shooting.  She held up well while McKinley fought to survive, but her health suffered even more afterwards.  She went back to the home in Canton where her sister Mary Barber and Mary’s family lived, and her sister cared for her until Ida’s death in 1907.  During that period, Ida largely spent her time in a rocking chair, crocheting slippers to give to her friends as gifts.  President McKinley, Ida and their two daughters are now interred in McKinley’s memorial monument in a nearby cemetery – an upcoming post!

 

 

The First Ladies National Historic Site is operated as a partnership between the National First Ladies Library, and the National Park Service.  There is a small visitor’s center in a nearby historic bank building and the home, which is open to the public on a tour.  The historic site has a movie about Ida Saxton McKinley and the role of First Ladies in general.  There was also an interesting exhibit on First Lady fashion, with featured dresses of several different first ladies in history.  It was interesting to see a perspective dedicated to the women who supported their husbands in their First Lady roles, as well as the women who took on their role for other family members, as not all First Ladies were spouses.

What a unique historic site!  I hope we will have a woman as President too, so we can see our first First Man!

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Sights of Cuyahoga Valley

Day 36, Monday, August 20, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Monday was my second day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I intended to make the most of my day!  I hadn’t slept well the night before though, so it took a bit to get going.

Me feeling pensive at the Streetsboro KOA

I started with a short walk to the Everett Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in Summit County, Ohio.  There used to be over 2,000 covered bridges in the county!  Sadly, though, this one is a reconstruction.  The original Everett Covered Bridge went over Furnace Run, and was based on an 1869 Smith Truss design, but the date of construction is unknown.  In the flood of 1913, the bridge was damaged, but repaired.  In 1975, a spring storm destroyed the original bridge for good.  A local fundraising campaign earned enough money to rebuild the bridge, and this historically accurate reconstruction was completed in 1986.

After checking out the bridge, I found a spot next to Furnace Run to relax for a little bit and watched some trail riders take their horses in the shallow water.  It was so peaceful!

Trail riders at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next up was a 3/4 mile (each way) walk to the Hale Farm, where the first buildings were constructed about 1825.  This living history farm is privately owned, and closed on Mondays, so I didn’t get to see it except from the fence line, but it was still a nice walk and cool to check out.  We don’t have anything that old at home in the Pacific Northwest!

I went over to Beaver Marsh to try my hand at wildlife spotting.  Jackpot!  The marsh has a wooden boardwalk going over it, so you can walk out over the water.  It was amazing!  I saw snapping turtles, painted turtles, wood ducks, song birds, a Great Blue Heron and lots of fish in the water.  I spent quite a bit of time in one spot, watching what I thought was a snapping turtle but wasn’t positive.  I wanted to wait to see if he would move – and he finally did!

It was a nice relaxing day, and I enjoyed seeing more of the park, and doing the series of shorter walks.  Even though I spent two days there, I still feel like there is way more to see there; I will certainly have to come back!

That evening I went to the grocery store to replenish my food, and spent another night at the Streetsboro KOA.  It rained hard that night!

Circus Trip 2018: Brandywine Falls

Day 35, Sunday, August 19, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

My first day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park I did some exploring.  I didn’t know much about Cuyahoga Valley before I went, so I was curious to see what it was all about.  I entered through a side road towards the middle of the park, although I didn’t know that at the time!  Later I learned that Cuyahoga Valley National Park is kind of a long, skinny park going through the valley, with some fingers of land going off to the sides at some points, and a main road traveling through it.

I stopped to check out the Happy Days Camp near The Ledges section of the park, which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression as a youth camp.  These days the building is used as an events center, but it was quiet the day that I was there.  Nearby there is also a community cemetery, which like many old cemeteries, has seen better days.  It was still cool to see it and wander among the old graves; the trail to get to the area from the parking lot even took me under the street through a culvert!

Next I checked out the Boston Store Visitor’s Center and got my passport stamp and some postcards.  I also got some information on hikes – the ranger explained that many of the waterfall hikes would be a bit disappointing in the height of summer, as many of the waterfalls dry up.  I decided to hike to Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot waterfall; the tallest waterfall in the park.  I left my car at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center, and headed down the Towpath Trail.

The Towpath Trail follows the old Ohio and Erie canal, which was built in the 1820s to provide an easier route to move goods to and from the Great Lakes.  I walked along the Towpath Trail for about a mile (best guess), and looked at the canal walls and the remains of the locks that evened out the water levels along the canal.  How cool!  It was a sunny, hot day, and there were a lot of runners and bikers on the trail, but not many walkers like me.  I turned off at the Stanford House, a historic home that was built in 1843 along the canal.  James Stanford originally settled the property in 1806, after coming to the area as a part of a survey group.  When he died in 1827, he willed his property to his oldest son George, who built the home and a number of outbuildings, including the barn which also still stands today.

After passing the home down a few generations of Stanfords and then their neighbors, the home was purchased by the National Park Service in 1978, who operated it as a hostel for several years before converting it to a community meeting space with overnight accommodations.  It is such a pretty property, and the trail to get to Brandywine Falls passes through it. You pass through a meadow, and walk through a forest with bedrock outcroppings, and cross over a little stream a few times on the way to the falls.  There were other people, but it wasn’t too busy except at the falls itself!

There are a number of good views of the falls from a boardwalk that is built into the bedrock, the falls are in between rock outcroppings.  It isn’t very tall based on my west coast waterfall standard, but it is pretty!

From the Stanford House the trail to Brandywine Falls is about 3.6 miles if you do the entire loop, but with starting from the Boston Store I would estimate you add another 2 miles round-trip.  That’s a pretty good hike!  There are some stairs, but the total elevation gain is only about 190 feet, so although the park rates it as moderate to difficult, I rated it as easy.  If you aren’t interested in hiking to the falls, you can park up above them and just take a short walk down the boardwalk to the viewpoint; that isn’t as fun, in my opinion!

After my hike, I headed back to the Boston Store, and got a sandwich and some iced tea to eat in the sunshine, before heading back to my campground for the night.  What a nice day!

 

Cuyahoga Valley NP History

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of our newer national parks, having been designated on October 11, 2000 by President Bill Clinton.  It is the only national park that began its public life as a National Recreation Area, having been designated as an NRA in 1974.  Cuyahoga Valley is unique in several other respects as well; it is the only national park in Ohio, located between Akron and Cleveland in a fairly populated area.  It was already filled with roads, farms, small towns and several existing parks before it became a national park, so the National Park Service coordinates with the towns and the metro park system to administer the park.

The land that Cuyahoga Valley National Park sits on has a long history of use by several tribes, including the Wyandot, Ottawa, Objibwe, Munsee, Potawatomi, and Shawnee, but the Lenapé Nation is considered the grandfather of many of the other tribes in the upper Ohio River Valley.  A series of treaties and white encroachment on their land pushed the tribes off the land in this area in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

White settlement began in the late 1700s, and increased when the Ohio and Erie Canal established a well defined trade path between Akron and Cleveland in 1827.  Towns and services sprung up along the path of the canal, feeding passengers and workers on the barges, and quenching their thirst at the taverns!  Farming and sawmills were also common in the area.  Even after the railroad came to the valley in the mid-1800s and greatly lessened the use of the canal, it still operated as a method to move coal to the Great Lakes for the ships there.  The canal was finally doomed when a flood in 1913 washed out large portions of its banks, and some of the locks had to be dynamited in order to release the floodwaters.

The park is located along a 20 mile section of the old Ohio and Erie Canal, and it’s towpath has been turned into the Towpath Trail, for walkers, runners and bicyclists.  The park also has dozens of waterfalls, including the 65 foot Brandywine Falls, which is the tallest in the park and the second tallest in Ohio; some of the waterfalls dry up in the dry season though.  There are historic buildings, and living history museums, and some old cemeteries scattered throughout the park.  A rebuilt covered bridge, a marsh and lots of wildlife round out the park!

The park has an annual visitation of 2,096,053 in 2018, and I was one of them!  I spent two days there in August 2018; I’m excited to share my experiences!

 

Circus Trip 2018: William Howard Taft NHS

Day 34, Saturday, August 18, 2018

Cincinnati, Ohio

On my way through Cincinnati I stopped at the William H. Taft National Historic Site.

Taft was the 27th President of the United States, as well as the 10th Chief Justice of the United States.  He was born in 1857, and lived at his family home in Cincinnati, Ohio until he went to Yale University in 1874.  Even before he was President, he achieved many notable accomplishments!  Taft rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a judge while he was still in his twenties and then he was appointed as a judge of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  He also served as the civilian governor of Philippines, from 1901 to December 1903.

William Howard Taft (from Wikipedia)

Roosevelt spoke with Taft about appointing him to the Supreme Court in 1902, but Taft didn’t feel like his work in the Philippines was finished, and he also still had a desire to run for the Presidency.  One of Roosevelt’s goals that year was to eliminate Taft as a potential rival to the Presidency, as Roosevelt wanted to run himself.  Taft did accept the role of Secretary of War in 1904, and added Presidential Cabinet member to his list of accomplishments.

In 1908 he was elected President against William Jennings Bryan with Theodore Roosevelt’s assistance.  Taft and Roosevelt’s relationship deteriorated due to political disagreements during Taft’s Presidency and ultimately Roosevelt decided to run for President as a third-party candidate and split the vote, resulting in Woodrow Wilson’s win in 1912.

Several years after Taft left the Presidency, he did finally realize his dream of becoming the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921, and served until his death in 1930.  He was the only person in our nation’s history to serve both as President and as Chief Justice!

The National Historic Site is located in Taft’s birthplace and childhood home in Cincinnati.  The home was built in the Greek Revival style and is believed to have been built in 1842 in the Mount Auburn neighborhood of the city.  At the time, Mount Auburn was a popular place for wealthy residents of Cincinnati, where they could escape the heat and humidity of the inner area of the city.  Taft’s parents lived in the home until 1889, when they moved to California to benefit from the better climate.  The home was leased for ten years, then finally sold to a local judge in 1899.

The exterior of the Taft family home

The home went through the usual decline in the time period after it was sold out of the Taft family.  Outbuildings were destroyed, the home was divided into apartments, and by the time it was acquired by the William Howard Taft Memorial Association in 1953 for $35,000 it was in a sad state of disrepair.  The home needed restoration, and once it was completed, the home was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

The home has been restored to the period when William H. Taft lived there during his childhood.  The first floor of the home has rooms decorated in period furnishings, and it’s beautiful!

The upstairs rooms are set up as exhibits, with information on Taft’s life and career.

The home is open as a part of a tour, but you are welcome to go through the upstairs exhibit areas at your own pace and take your time.  The Visitor’s Center has an interesting movie on William H. Taft and his life and career.  Be sure to check it out!  The day that I was there, there was a large bus tour of elderly women, but they were on the tour in front of me; my tour was fairly small.  You can see it all in about 90 minutes; and keep in mind, I go slowly…

Taft wasn’t a President I knew much about, but the William J. Taft National Historic Site provided an interesting overview of an accomplished man.