June 30, 2013

6/29/13 - Roger Williams NM

History Lesson Warning:  The early Colonists came to America for religious freedom. Roger Williams wanted even more freedom, and that didn't make the Puritans in Boston very happy.  He pushed separatism so much, they were going to deport him, but he escaped before he could be arrested.  He spent the winter with his friends the Wampanoags, who later deeded to him the land that is now Rhode Island. 

Roger Williams National Memorial is in Providence, RI, where Rogers welcomed refugees from any religion, and his ideas became the basis for the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  Besides being an early proponent of the separation of church and state, he championed Native American rights and was even an abolitionist.  He organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the original thirteen colonies.  Pretty impressive for a guy who lived 350 years ago!
There's a small parking lot, a small Visitor Center and a small park adjacent to both.  In the park, there's a memorial to Gabriel Bernon, a Huguenot who fled persecution in France and settled in Providence.  (He's not really buried here--he's buried across the street in the cathedal.)
The Hahn Memorial was erected for Providence's first elected Jewish official.  There's a symbolic well at the site of the spring where Rogers gathered the first settlers.
Okay--that's pretty much it for the Rogers Williams NM--good thing we took a little walk around College Hill and took more pictures.  Across the street is St. John's Cathedral, which Mr. Bernon helped found as King's Church.
Massachusetts wouldn't allow Baptists, but Williams welcomed them, then founded the first Baptist Church in America in 1638.  Nearby is First Baptist Meeting House, the Baptists' third church building in Providence and the oldest in the country.
 The Rhode Island School of Design now uses this old house as a museum.
The Rhode Island State House is nearby. There's a nice picture of it in the brochure showing the symbolic well in the Hahn Memorial in the foreground. I wanted to get that same picture (which must have been taken a very long time ago!) but the trees have all grown up and are in the way. 

Click here for more pictures of Roger Williams NM, including some pretty flowers.

June 29, 2013

6/27/13 - New Bedford Whaling NHP

The weather was lousy. It had stormed all night. The RV park roads were flooded. Seemed like a good day to do something inside--so we headed to the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

This particular national park is spread over 13 blocks of the Waterfront Historic District.  This means I can convince George to wander the streets and look at the old buildings.   This Greek Revival building was a bank, then a courthouse, then other businesses, and now it's the Park Visitor Center.  The courthouse identification still shows over the door.

Not knowing a lot about whaling (except that I don't like it), the video at the Visitors Center explained how important whaling was in the 18th century, and how New Bedford, Massachusetts, became the whaling capital of the world.   In the 1850s more whaling ships sailed from New Bedford than all other ports combined.  Besides using oil for lamps, baleen was used for corset stays (ugh!), skirt hoops (I'll think about it tomorrow) and buggy whips.  Two and a half centuries later, we don't have much use for any of that.

Next stop was the New Beford Whaling Museum at 18 Johnny Cake Hill (which I think is a great address!) It is literally ALL about whaling.

There are whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling. (Note: no whales were killed for this display.) There are educational exhibits and artistic ones. 

The museum has a half-scale model of a whaling bark. (I would have called it a ship, but sailors create vocabularies designed to confuse the rest of us.) It's 89' long, so the original would have been about 180'--still not big enough to live on for a couple of years, with no guarantee of any pay at all!
What surprised me most is that although a ship might be out for 3-4 years, it would probably only kill 20 whales. Since they'd annihilate all the whales in an area of ocean before moving on, the mind boggles at the number of ships there had to have been to kill most of the whales in the world. Good thing they figured out that kerosene and gas from petroleum would burn too.  Of course, that's another environmental issue, but they obviously didn't worry about any of that in the 19th century!

We could see the fishing boats in the harbor (sort of) from the museum observation deck.  It would be a pretty view on a sunny day.
The sailors tied complicated knots and carved scrimshaw, whether because of an artistic bent, or out of sheer boredom, or probably both.  I like the polar bear cribbage board on the top picture.  The other one is a collection of whales and other creatures in the sea.

We'd used up the time on the parking meter, so we had to move the truck from where it was by the Sundial Building, where clocks were made. Sailors set their instruments by the time on the dial, and called it "New Bedford time".  (Too cloudy today to check it out today.)
The Schooner "Ernestina" is near the Wharfinger Visitor Center on the waterfront. The ship (oops! I mean schooner!) had a varied career. The building was used for daily scallop and fish auctions for years. 
We wandered through the cobblestoned streets and took pictures of old buildings.  (That's my favorite part.)   I kept tripping on the cobblestones...
We went into the Seamen's Bethel, where Herman Melville went to church before he sailed on a whaler in ???. He described the chapel in Moby-Dick, and perhaps got the idea for Captain Ahab's death from one of the cenotaphs (memorial to men lost at sea) on the wall. Melville likened the old-style high box pulpit to a "ship's prow".   In 1959, they installed a new pulpit that really does look like the bow of a ship.   (I think it's a little tacky myself.)

Here's the link to more pictures of New Bedford

June 28, 2013

6/26/13 - Plimoth Plantation

Just down the road from Plymouth a couple of miles is the living history museum Plimoth Plantation.

Some museums are just exhibits of old stuff; some of them have tours where a guide explains about the old stuff. Living history museums have actors pretending to be historic people who are using the stuff when it was new.
After the standard movie, we headed outside to the Wampanoag Homesite, which is a re-creation of the way a native American family who lived in the area in the 1620s would have lived.  The people here wear traditional native clothing, but speak from a modern perspective, answering questions on how their ancestors lived. (Interesting clothing, no?)  His haircut isn't much different than what you see in this century.  I know that fads in fashion come back every so many years.

George is watching this guy make a mishoon, using fire to hollow out a tree.  It'll end up looking like a wooden canoe (sort of).  He said his ancestors could make one in 4-5 days, using trees that were way bigger than are available now, but it takes him several weeks because he has to put the fire out every day.  Each morning he has to start the fire burning the log again.  I don't think they had that problem in 1627. 

On the left is a bark-covered winter house. Same idea as a longhouse that we see in the NW.  The summer house is made of mats made of rushes.  The extended family lives in the big one in the winter.                        


Next along the trail through the woods is the Craft Center, where artisans create and demonstrate things that would have been used in the 1600s, for both the Wampanoag Homesite or the English Village.  I like this piece.  (I don't think they let the colonists have the fan.)
In the English Village are costumed role players who portray actual people of the period. Since they have 17th century viewpoints, it's a little like time travel to 1627, after a village was built and more people had arrived. It fascinates me how well they stay in character. 

I'm sure you know that we're currently living full-time in an RV.  We often park on grass or dirt or sand, and we're constantly fighting the dirt we drag in. BUT I really couldn't handle dirt floors. (I didn't know they wet them down often to keep down the dust--why that doesn't make mud I don't know!)

And I would HATE having to use herbs to try to kill the bugs--in the walls and the beds and the roof and probably everything and everywhere else! Ugh!  All this history stuff is great, but a lot of it makes me very grateful I was born in the 20th century!

We wandered around a bit looking for Stephen Hopkins, but was "still out in the fields". We did go in his house--and I must say, he keeps a really nasty fireplace.  Maybe his servants are lazy.
We did speak to his daughter, Mrs. Constance Snow, and I told her I was looking for her father because I'm a distant relative. (Four centuries is pretty distant, don't you think?)
More pictures here:  Plimoth Plantation

6/26/13 - Plymouth Rock

Picture this scene from American history:  In 1620, after a long voyage on the Mayflower, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock...
I imagined Plymouth Rock a formidable hunk of granite sheltering the rocky shore, noble and impressive, a landmark visible from sea, like you'd see on the Oregon coast. HA! HA!  It's a smallish chunk of broken boulder placed on the beach in Plymouth Harbor, protected from tourists by a portico built for the 300th anniversary of the landing. The structure covering it is more impressive than the rock.
And then I learned that they're not sure the settlers climbed off the ship onto a rock in the water. It wasn't even identified until 1741.  When they started to move it to shore, it broke in half. Later when they moved it again, it broke again. They tried sticking it back together (you can see the super-glue), but now it's about a third of the original size of the top.  It's not particularly impressive.  However, it's not the size of the rock, it's the point of the rock.  To prove that, a million people come each year to see where America started . The colonists landed here, and in spite of everything, managed to survive.
And I for one am glad they did!   One of my ancestors, Stephen Hopkins, was a passenger on the Mayflower. (Yes, it is all about ME! It's my blog, after all.) He's probably buried on Burial Hill, but the wooden markers are long gone.
A replica of the Mayflower is usually docked nearby, but apparently is in dry dock right now. I was prepared for it to be smaller than I expected, but I really wanted to see it myself.  (I'm sure it'll be repaired and back shortly after we leave the area.)

To see more pictures of historic Plymouth, here's a link:  Plymouth

June 26, 2013

6/23/13 - Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

After visiting Saint-Gaudens NHS, we crossed the Connecticut River on the Cornish-Windsor Bridge. The sign says it's the longest wooden bridge in the US. It was built in 1866 (cost $9,000, length 460').  The Smolen-Gulf Bridge in Ashtabula County, OH, we visited in May trumped it in 2008 (cost $8 million, length 613'). 
Sign above bridge: "Walk your horses or pay $2 fine"
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is dedicated to the land stewardship and conservation of three men (George Marsh, Frederick Billings, Laurance Rockefeller) who lived on a farm in Woodstock, VT. Seems like the first thing Americans do is destroy things, so restoration becomes a problem for future generations. Imagine this view of Tom Hill without trees. 

CAUTION: History Lesson Ahead. You can skip it if you want, but then you'll have to go to Vermont to find out about the park. 

After the Revolutionary Wary, settlers poured into Vermont. Not too many years later, the Green Mountains weren't so green anymore.  The trees had been logged, creating erosion and flooding.  Sounds like the 19th century version of clear-cutting, without benefit of chainsaws. It was an environmental crisis! (Bet you thought that didn't happen until the 20th century!) 

At the Visitors Center we watched a video about the park.  I didn't realize you had to make reservations to tour the mansion, so once again, we weren't able to go in and could only wander around outside. 
Below is the Belvedere with lots of gingerbread. I didn't know what a Belvedere was (hooray for Google!)--it's a summerhouse with an upper story with a view.  There's a huge greenhouse behind it and a pool beside it. 

Our first view of the mansion was from the Terrace Gardens. 
Apparently none of the people who lived there named the house because they just call it the "Mansion". I'm not sure if that's more or less pretentious. 
The view of Tom Hill from the Mansion porch is much nicer now.  It even has color.

I took more pictures.  Click on the link to view them.  more pictures

June 25, 2013

6/23/13 - Saint-Gaudens NHS

When we were almost to Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, our stupid GPS told us to turn left.  After we wound around on several narrow dirt roads, it then told us we were at our destination (we weren’t), then ignored us when we actually arrived at the entrance.   I want a new GPS. 

The home, gardens and studios of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was one of America’s greatest sculptors, is the only national park in New Hampshire.  The movie at the Visitors Center was on Saint-Gaudens life and works.  They called it an “orientation movie”—which tells me that I’m not the only one who didn’t recognize the name immediately.
(Aside for cool story)  Augustus grew up in New York, and in his early 20s, went to study in France.  There he met an American girl named Augusta and fell in love.  When he asked her father for permission to marry her, her father said he had to get an art commission first.  (As in "Get a job!")

The Farragut Monument to honor Civil War Admiral David Farragut was that commission.  The detail and the movement in the sculpture ensured his future success, and more commissions.
Near the Farragut Monument is the Atrium. I like the turtles at the ends of the pool.  You can't see them very well here, but if you've seen one gold turtle, you've got a good idea what these look like.
Next to the Atrium is the New Gallery, which contains some of his work.  This is the model for the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial in Edinburgh.
Moving along is the final version of Shaw Memorial , a monument to the Civil War service of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment of African-American Volunteers in Boston.  It took 14 years to complete.  I don't know if he was just waiting for inspiration it was that difficult. 
The Adams Memorial is a recast of a bronze sculpture to Henry Adams wife, after she committed suicide.  Mr. Adams asked that the memorial not look like his wife.  It's a bit sad, actually.
 After a little detour at the garden, we headed on to the Little Studio, which has more artwork. 

We missed the tour, so we didn’t get to go in the house, which Saint-Gaudens called Aspet.   (I wonder why people name houses; I've never named any of mine.)  We did get to wander around outside and on the porch. 
  More pictures at this link:  Saint-Gaudens NHS