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Circus Trip 2018: The Soldier’s Home

Day 62, Saturday, September 15, 2018
President Lincoln and Soldier’s Home National Monument, Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home has been a dream of mine for years.  The cottage first came to my attention when I read Lincoln’s Sanctuary, a book by Matthew Pinsker, in 2012. The book documents Lincoln’s use of the home during the summers and early falls of 1862-1864.

Lincoln was bereft after the death of his beloved son Willie in February 1862, of typhoid fever.  So that summer, he and Mary moved to a cottage on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home, a retirement home for aged and infirm war veterans.  Little did they know, it would be a respite for three summers, and would be where he undertook some of the most important decisions of his Presidency, including firing McClellan and drafting the now famous Emancipation Proclamation in the summer of 1862.

Lincoln’s cottage was only declared a National Monument on July 7, 2000, and opened to the public in 2008.  It is still on an active military installation, known today as the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington.  As a result of its fairly recent designation, many people, even Lincoln enthusiasts, have not heard of this important Presidential site.  Interestingly, Presidents Buchanan, Hayes, and Arthur also used the home as a summer retreat during their Presidencies.

The home was built between 1842 and 1843, by George Washington Riggs, who later went on to found the Riggs National Bank.  He sold the home and 251 acre property to the government in 1851, when they were looking to establish a home for veterans.  Lincoln and his family fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere of the home.  It was only three miles from the White House, and afforded the President a relatively easy commute on horseback.  Tad made friends with the soldiers who lived there, and was accepted as their mascot of sorts.

Poet Walt Whitman lived along the route of Lincoln’s daily commute, and the two took to greeting each other with a bow each day as Lincoln rode by.  And in a sad ending to his time at the home, the President and Mary were actually there before they took their last carriage ride to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

As the cottage is on an active military installation, you have to go through a check point and show ID to get there.  While you are onsite, you can only visit the cottage and its Visitor’s Center.  There you can purchase tickets and view exhibits, mostly related to the drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Outside, there is a statue of Lincoln and his horse.  Perfect for selfies!

But the cottage is the real star.  Cottage is a bit misleading of a term, since it is actually a fairly large home.  It is built in the Gothic Revival style, with ornate gingerbread and gables everywhere.  So pretty!

The tour was fascinating, with the docent sharing stories of Lincoln entertaining people in the sitting room, late at night, in his pajamas and slippers.  Or writing at the desk; the desk here is a replica of the desk that sits in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.  The cottage is unfurnished, but you can imagine what it would have been like in Lincoln’s day.  I am always in awe when I get to walk in the footsteps of such a great leader.  My visit here was nothing short of incredible, and truly a bucket list item fulfilled.

Circus Trip 2018: More of DC

Day 61, Friday, September 14, 2018
The White House and The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Wow, I was just seeing how long it has been since I posted a travel post.  Time to try to break through this writer’s block!

On one of my days of sightseeing in Washington, D.C., I wandered over to check out both the US Capitol and the White House.  They are such impressive symbols of our nation and democracy! 

The city also has some amazing architecuture, and you can see I clearly like horse statues.  I mean Ulysses S. Grant did win the Civil War, and General Pulaski represents my Polish heritage as one of the most important figures of the Revolutionary War!

Enjoy the photos and I’ll try to get back on track with my trip posts!

Circus Trip 2018: National Air and Space Museum

Day 60, Friday, September 14, 2018
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

I had one more day to spend in Washington, D.C. that summer, and I got to spend it at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum!

There are so many cool exhibits there, including the original 1903 Wright Flyer, Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B, a Lunar Lander, a space program reentry pod, TWA jetliners, replica hot air balloons and more!

It is such an awesome museum to spend time in – and I really enjoyed it! 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Smithsonian Museum of US History

Day 60, Thursday, September 13, 2018
National Mall, Washington, D.C.

While I was in Washington, D.C., I was able to check out some more of the Smithsonian museums.  I took some time to check out the Museum of US History.  It was so cool! 

I really enjoyed the exhibits there.  I got to see the First Ladies’ gowns, along with Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.  The museum also includes the U.S. flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  It was the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner! 

I also got to visit Winchester; Philip Sheridan’s horse during the Civil War.  It isn’t every day that you see a taxidermied horse!

The furniture that Generals Grant and Lee used to sign the surrender at Appomattox is also included in the collections of the museum.  These unassuming chairs and table played a role in the cessation of hostilities after four years of bloody fighting at the end of the Civil War.  If they could only talk!

I also saw the gunboat Philadelphia, which was used during a battle against the British on Lake Champlain, during the Revolutionary War.  Under the leadership of Benedict Arnold, the Americans fought the British to a standstill in October 1776, but the Philadelphia was sunk.  She was recovered from the bottom of Lake Champlain in 1935, along with the 24 pound ball that sunk her.  It is really neat to see how well preserved she is!  Of course Benedict Arnold later went on to become the country’s most famous traitor, but at the time, he was still well thought of by General Washington and many others in the American command. 

There were a lot of other exhibits, and I spent quite a bit of time checking everything out!  This is a must-see museum!

Book Review: Martha Washington

Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady

Think for a moment about how much you know about America’s first President, George Washington.  Now think for a moment about how much you know about his wife.

Martha Washington: An American Life

Martha Washington was born in 1731, and was quite successful in her own right, even before she met and married George Washington.  But how much do you really know about her?  Patricia Brady’s biography goes into detail on the inaugural first lady’s life, from her childhood to her death in 1797.  She explains what is known about Martha and what has been lost to history, and the fact that women’s stories of the time were rarely told. 

Much of George’s wealth came from his wife, as she was indeed a wealthy woman by the time she married him at age 27.  They had a marriage of love, respect and partnership, and by all accounts George genuinely appreciated his wife’s presence, even sending for her to come to winter camp each year during the Revolutionary War.

It was interesting to learn more about this woman, her strengths and failures, and her life within a period when women typically did not run businesses or manage their own affairs like she did.  It was a worthwhile read!

4 stars.

 

Circus Trip 2018: D.C. Monuments

Day 60, Thursday, September 13, 2018
National Mall, Washington, D.C.

One of the things I really wanted to do the second time I was in Washington, D.C. was to visit the National Mall again and see the monuments that I missed the first time.  I always say that there is never enough time to do everything, and I was excited to see more! 

The Washington Monument, of course, is iconic, and featured in so many photographs!  I was completed in 1885, and stands 555 feet tall.  It is always a favorite!  One day I want to go to the top…

This Doric temple style memorial is the District of Columbia War Memorial, that honors the residents of Washington, D.C. who died in World War I.  It was erected in 1931.  The day that I was there, a couple was getting married! 

The Korean War Memorial was placed in 1995, which several soldiers walking through junipers, meant to represent the terrain they walked through during the war. 

 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a relatively new addition, added in 2011.  There are a number of King quotes places on the walls of the monument, and the impressive likeness of Dr. King stands in the center. 

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial honors the President who guided the country through the Great Depression and most of World War II.  A polio survivor who was often confined to a wheelchair, I was glad to see that the memorial represented him as he was in real life.  There are several statues making up this memorial, including men standing in a breadline, and a man listening to one of FDR’s fireside chats over the radio.  I was also happy to see that Eleanor Roosevelt has her own statue here, as she did much to benefit the country separate from FDR.  This memorial was placed in 1997. 

Finally, I visited the Jefferson Memorial, which was completed in 1943.  It has a huge statue of Jefferson, contained within a Neoclassical style building.  It is so beautiful and has a prominent location looking out over the tidal basin. 

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the monuments, of course.  I saw lots of birds there too!  Dozens of ducks, a couple of Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret! 

I enjoyed wandering and seeing all these tributes to strong, influential Americans!

 

 

 

Weekend Musings: August 7, 2021

I know, I know, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been around!  But guys!  I got to go on vacation!  I got home Thursday night from a week at the Oregon Coast with my friend Jena, and it was amazing.

We did a ton of beachcombing, looking for agates, beach glass, seashells and fossils.  We visited multiple beaches, checking out what was at each one.  The weather was pretty cold and windy the whole week, so we got sandblasted each day and ended up washing sand out of our hair with every shower, but we were happy!  We dug in the gravel beds until our nails had dirt and sand embedded underneath.  We poked around in tide pools and flipped over rocks to see what was underneath.

We tried out a number of different breweries and one cidery, and sampled all the delicious food. Seafood, burgers, fish and carne asada tacos, nachos, totchos; we had so much good grub!

We watched the sea lions on the docks, saw a seal bobbing in the surf, and found pelicans on the sandbars.

We visited a couple of the historic coastal lighthouses.  The Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head lighthouses were both built in the 1870s, and although they are in Newport, Oregon, now, back then they were very remote!

 

We shopped in the local shops and got started on our Christmas shopping…  And of course I got gifts for myself too!

I practiced my photography and played around with the photoball that my dad got me the Christmas before he died.

It was sooooo much fun!

Of course, Cora and Yellow are happy that I’m home, and enjoying lap time and pets.  And I’ve been enjoying a lazy day at home after 8 straight days of constantly being on the go.  I mean, how can you relax when there are more agates to be found?

 

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!

 

 

Refreshed…

Did you miss me?  Did you notice I’ve been away?  Well I’m back!

I’ve been on vacation!  My first real vacation since before the pandemic, and my longest vacation since my road trip in 2018.  I ran away for a full 10 days, and I made the most of my time away!  It was glorious!  I barely checked my work email, and nobody from work called.  I had so much fun exploring the Midwest, roaming around finding little nooks and crannies.  I cannot even tell you how much I have missed vacation!

Today was my first day back at work, after arriving home late last night.  Don’t worry, both Cora and Yellow have forgiven me.  Cora wanted pets as soon as I walked in the door last night.  Yellow took until mid-morning today to decide to give me a chance, but once he got a taste of those pets, he was all in…

I’ll be back to posting soon.  I’ve got adulting to do, since I have no groceries and the place needs a vacuuming.  How does the house get dirty when I’m not even here!?  Meanwhile, meet Big Ole!