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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!

 

 

Travel Bucket List

COVID has given me a far amount of time to fantasize about retirement and the things I want to do once I get there. And mind you, I’m not planning to wait until I’m 65! I’ve been coming up with my bucket list… Some of these might not have to wait until I’m retired, but some are harder to do in a standard two week vacation slot, especially if you want to take the time.  Here are some of mine (in no particular order)!

  1. Drive US Highway 20 from coast to coast
  2. Drive Route 66 from start to end
  3. Take a river cruise through the wine country of Europe
  4. Visit the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island
  5. Take an Antarctic cruise
  6. See the Grizzly bears at Katmai National Park
  7. See the Northern lights in Europe (or maybe Alaska)
  8. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru
  9. See the Great Wall of China
  10. Visit Petra in Jordan
  11. See the Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia
  12. See the Egyptian Pyramids
  13. Visit Cappadocia in Turkey and take a balloon ride
  14. Visit Auschwitz in Poland
  15. Go backpacking
  16. Do a multi-day trip on the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park
  17. See the night skies at Chaco Culture National Historic Park
  18. Do an African photo safari
  19. Hike in New Zealand
  20. Camp and snorkel at Dry Tortugas National Park
Treasury petra crop.jpeg

The Treasury Building at Petra (photo from Wikipedia)

What’s on your bucket list?  Have you been fantasizing about travel during COVID-times?

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 207

Last weekend I got to have what was probably the last the last hurrah of mountain hiking before the pass closes, the snow falls and I am confined to the lowlands until next year’s season.

Audrey, Jena and I spent a fabulous day hike at Blue Lake, a spectacular out and back hike with views of the larches. Larches are one of the only types of conifers that lose their needles in the winter, so they give a beautiful fall color show. Blue Lake did not disappoint – it certainly deserves its own post!

We stayed the night in Winthrop, one of Washington’s small mountain theme towns. We poked around and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather, and laughed more than I have in a while. Good girlfriends soothe the soul.

This weekend has been quiet – just yard work and housework. There’s always a project or two at home that I should be doing!

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!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Stanwix NM

Day 46, Thursday, August 30, 2018

Fort Stanwix National Monument, Rome, New York

Construction of Fort Stanwix was begun in 1758 and completed in 1762.  This star-shaped fort was built to protect the British interests at a well-used portage known as the Oneida Carry during the French and Indian War.  What’s a portage you ask?  When goods are being transported by water (especially rivers) there are times when the goods have to be hauled overland in order to get around some sort of obstacle (often a waterfall) along the water route.  It’s along these portages that the goods being transported and the people transporting them are most vulnerable to attack, so that’s where Fort Stanwix came in.

In 1768, the British and the Iroquois signed a peace treaty, to establish boundary lines between the tribal lands and white settlements.  However, the two sides did not include the other area tribes in the negotiations, so it actually inflamed hostilities, which would make things more challenging for both the British and the colonists later on.

In 1776, at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the colonists occupied the fort, and set about rebuilding it.  They also renamed it Fort Schuyler.  Of course, the British weren’t ready to let the colonists go quite so easily, and began a siege of the fort.  Fortunately for the colonists, the British siege was not successful!

In 1781, the fort burned down and was not rebuilt.  The site was designated as a National Monument on August 21, 1935, but it wasn’t until 1974 that construction began on a replica fort.  In 1978, it was completed, and now about 85,000 people visit each year.

There is a dry moat around the fort and it was interesting to enter and see inside the star-shaped fort.  There is an informative movie about the history of the fort and the engagements that occurred there, and then you have a chance to wander and see the different areas of the fort.

There is a parade ground, living quarters, a magazine, and more!  I enjoyed checking it out!

After Fort Stanwix, I had a beer and a snack at the Copper City Brewing Company.  The Pete’s Pale Gansevoort Ale was a great way to relax a bit before I set off to find my next home for the night!

Home was a campground in Saratoga Springs that was hands down the weirdest campground of my trip.  It was a marina, with a very rough section of dilapidated trailers and other detritus, with some boats in the small marina.  Clearly this was home for many of these campers.  The campground for temporary campers was a field – drive through and pick your spot.  There were picnic tables randomly scattered throughout, with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to their placement.  And the bathroom – that’s another story!  This was the only shower that I said no to during my entire trip!  Not with my flip flops would I step in there!  Hard Pass!  EWWW!!!  But it was cheap, and I did have a nice chat with a woman who traveled a lot in her RV with her dogs…  It’s not a road trip without some good stories right?

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Women’s Rights NHP

Day 45, Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York

White women gained the right to vote in the United States 100 years ago, in 1920.  But have you ever thought about when the movement for women’s suffrage began?  1848… That’s right – women had been fighting for the right to vote for more than 70 years before the 19th amendment was ratified by the states.  Prior to 1848, there were scattered movements around the nation, but 1848 is considered the beginning of the movement that we know today as the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  So what happened in 1848?

On Sunday July 9, 1848, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Hunt met and organized a Women’s Rights Convention, to occur in Seneca Falls on July 19 and 20th. They were all Quakers with the exception of Stanton, and they were fed up and wanted change.  During their planning meetings, they drafted 10 resolutions demanding that women should have equality in the family, education, jobs, religion, and morals.  They restricted the first day of the Convention to women, but allowed men on the second day and invited a number of influential men, including Frederick Douglass.

Interestingly, women’s suffrage was not one of the original demands drafted by the organizers, and the women were actually split on whether or not they wanted it included.  It was heavily debated during the convention, with many attendees believing that its inclusion would cause a loss of support for other resolutions considered to be more “reasonable.”  In the end, it was included, and the Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 100 of the 300 attendees; 68 women and 32 men.

If you are interested, you can read the Declaration of Sentiments, which is modeled after the US Declaration of Independence…

The Declaration of Sentiments

The Historical Park has several sites you can visit.  The Visitor’s Center has a lot of information about the convention, the women’s suffrage movement, and these powerful women who were instrumentation in getting it off the ground.

The Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held was built in 1843 and extensively altered in the years after the convention.  When the National Park Service acquired the site, it was a shell of a building with some original portions of the wall left standing.  They have rebuilt it, showing where the construction is original and what is reconstruction.  It is interesting to see!

I also visited the homes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt and Mary Ann M’Clintock.  The Stanton and M’Clintock houses are open to the public on tours, but only on select days (not when I was there).  The Hunt house was acquired by the Park Service in 2000 and they are working on restoring it.  It is not currently open to the public, but one day it will be neat to see!

It was amazing to see these sites and experience where five women started on a course that would eventually change history.  It makes me sad that the cause for women’s suffrage took so long that none of these women were alive to see the culmination of what they set in motion.  We still have a lot of work to do, but it is inspiring to see what these women achieved with their voices!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo, New York

Most of you probably know that President William McKinley was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz while he was attending the Pan American Exposition on September 6, 1901.  That’s my birthday! Well, it is long before my actual birthday, but you get my point.

McKinley hung on for 8 days, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt rushed to get to Buffalo to be by the President’s side.  He originally arrived on September 7, and McKinley’s prognosis was good; in fact it was so good that on September 10 doctors determined he was out of danger, and Roosevelt left to return to a family vacation in the Adirondacks.

Of course, the President soon worsened, and a telegram was sent to summon Roosevelt back to Buffalo.  He arrived shortly after McKinley died on September 14, 1901, having learned the news on his journey back.  A suitable location for the inauguration was sought and determined to be the home of Ansley Wilcox, a prominent attorney and friend of Theodore Roosevelt.  It also happened to be where Roosevelt was staying while he was in Buffalo.

The home itself was built beginning in 1840; it was the Officer’s Quarters of the Buffalo Barracks Compound, built because of concerns about a minor insurrection to the north in Canada at the time.  It was eventually sold and became a private residence, and the Wilcox family purchased the home and built an addition that doubled its size in 1896.  It is built in the Greek Revival style, with huge columns adorning its front porch.  That is how the home looked in 1901, when Roosevelt’s inauguration was held.

Roosevelt was inaugurated in the library of the Wilcox home, a small room that ended up being packed with several cabinet members, dignitaries, and the judge administering the oath.  Theodore Roosevelt was now the President of the United States.  No photos were taken of the inauguration, but several were taken of the room afterwards.

Here is where Roosevelt stood during his inauguration

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site is set up with exhibits on the exposition, McKinley’s assassination, and Roosevelt’s Presidency.  There is an interesting film detailing the political climate at the time, and the events that happened surrounding the assassination.  Upstairs, the rooms on the main floor of the home have been restored to what they looked like when Roosevelt was inaugurated here.  The docent led tour takes visitors to the library when Roosevelt took the oath of office, and photos taken after the inauguration are displayed.

Upstairs you can see additional exhibits and sit at a mock President’s desk!  It was certainly worth a visit and it wasn’t crowded, only averaging about 13,000 visits per year.  It is a must if you are interested in Presidential history!  If you aren’t able to visit, they have a virtual tour!

 

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: Fort Necessity NB

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The French and Indian War started way back in the winter of 1753 – 1754.  The British colonists had formed the Ohio Company, and had purchased land in the Ohio Country, on the far western wilderness of the colonies.  It’s hard to imagine George Washington as a young man, but he lived and served in the British military back before he became a Revolutionary.  That winter, Washington was sent as an emissary by the British to the southwestern Pennsylvania area (then part of the Virginia Territory) to order the French to withdraw.

Of course, the French had gotten there first, and considered the Ohio River a vital trade link between Canada (then called New France) and Louisiana.  They didn’t really want the British trying to lay claim to land they already thought was claimed…  The French, who had already built a fort there, predictably told Washington to go pound sand.  The British were not deterred, and the next task for the young George Washington, just 21 at the time,  was to build a road that would lead through the wilderness of the Virginia Territory into the Ohio Country, an area west of the land now known as part of Pennsylvania, which was destined to become the new frontier.

Washington was leading a force of colonists and British Army regulars back in the spring of 1754, and he was out there in the wilderness trying to construct the road, and ultimately secure a crossing over the Ohio River, in order to open up the Ohio Country for settlement.  Accounts vary, but the French were getting more and more aggressive, because they didn’t really like the fact that the tribes in the area were trading more and more with the British, as well as these interlopers disrupting their plans to control the Ohio River.  It wound up coming to a head in May 1754, with Washington and his troops, along with a small number of sympathetic Native Americans, ambushing a small group of Canadiens, and killing their commander, Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, in what became the Battle of Jumonville Glen.

The French then sent more troops to regain control of the area, while Washington built a fortification to protect his supplies.  Fort Necessity became the location for the Battle of Fort Necessity, where French troops under the command of Jumonville’s brother, attacked Washington’s troops at the fort.  It was raining, muddy, and Washington’s troops were far outnumbered by the French and their Native American allies.  After a rough day of battle against the 600 French troops and their Native American allies, Washington’s force of less than 300 surrendered, and signed a surrender document.  It was written in French, and unknown to Washington, indicated that he had “assassinated” Jumonville in May.  Once Washington found out that the translation he was given was not accurate, he denied that Jumonville’s death had been an assassination, but the French used this “admission” to malign the British and gain support for their cause.

The Battle of Fort Necessity is said to be Washington’s only defeat, and we all know that he went on to become the General who won the Revolutionary War.  As for the French and Indian War though, it went on for several more years.  The British assigned General Edward Braddock to lead troops in the ensuing attempt to oust the French, until Braddock was killed in battle two years later, in 1755.  He was buried under the partially constructed road, to prevent the enemy from finding and desecrating the grave.  He was found and moved to a grave near the road in 1804.  Eventually the French were defeated and western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country (along with other disputed lands north through the colonies), became part of the colony controlled by the British.

Today, Fort Necessity has been rebuilt, as it was originally burned down by the French after Washington’s surrender.  You can see that while a beautiful grassy meadow, it wasn’t easily defended with the woods and higher ground all around.  The fort was basically designed as a place to protect the supplies, rather than a fort that would accommodate all the men that were with Washington.  They had to settle for the meager protection of the entrenchments that were built around the fort. It was interesting to see.

I did get to watch a musket firing demonstration, which I really enjoyed!  I also heard a Ranger talk about the troops that fought there.  They were a combination of regular army, and ragtag colonists who were poor, not well equipped, and just trying to make a living.

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield also contains the Mount Washington Tavern and General Braddock’s Grave.  I’ll share my visits there next!