Monday, May 30, 2016

Two more state Capitols

Ohio Statehouse - old side
The count of state Capitols visited is up to twelve since we left Tucson on January 31. The Ohio Statehouse (that is how they spell it in their guide) was completed in 1861 and had an addition completed in 1901. It is said to be one of the nation's finest examples of Greek Revival architecture. The door that we entered (this is one of the few Capitols that allowed entry through more than one entrance) led us into the Crypt, another term for a basement, that originally housed the heating system. The arches, made using block and mortar construction, support the Rotunda above.

Ohio Statehouse Crypt

Ohio Statehouse House
Going up to the next floor, the Rotunda is simple but nicely done with a pretty dome above. Open, marble stairways go up on each side to the House and Senate Chambers. The Chambers are simple but nicely done with just enough ornate carving and chandeliers to give some elegance. Overall, this building is not as large as some of the others we've seen.

Ohio Statehouse Senate
Indiana State House
The Indiana State House (note they use two words) was completed in 1888. This is a very large building with a Victorian influence. The Rotunda seemed dark which allowed the stained glass dome above to stand out. Two atriums, one on each side of the Rotunda, give a grand feel with marble pillars and open walkways for each floor above.

The House Chamber seemed dark and dreary with nothing but wood
Indiana State House Atrium
paneling throughout. It also had a very ugly chandelier. The Senate Chamber is unique, not necessarily in a good way, set up on an angle with three floors of windows, from what appeared to be offices, on each side. Very bizarre.

The Supreme Court room was very regal.

Indiana State House - House Chamber

Indiana State House - Senate Chamber
Indiana State House -
Supreme Court

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Several National Historical Parks/Sites

Over the last several days we have visited three locations where the National Park Service maintains sites of historical significance.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves the history of a canal that began as a dream of passage to western wealth. In 1828 John Quincy Adams broke ground for the Canal with the ambitious goal to improve on nature with a navigable waterway from tidewater at Georgetown, Virginia to the Ohio River. The canal made it as far as Cumberland, Maryland in 1850 but by then canals were obsolete and replaced by the railroad. This Historical Park is comprised of eight visitor centers and a trail along the original canal's towpath. Each visitor center tells the story of the Canal and its battle with nature and the race with the railroad.

Our next historical park was Friendship Hill National Historic Site. This site was a home owned by Albert Gallatin. Most people wouldn't know who that is but we do after spending two summers in Montana in the Gallatin National Forest, having hiked along the Gallatin River, and having read the great book Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, we are of the few that had
Friendship Hill home
heard of him so this stop was worked into the trip plan. In short, Gallatin was one of the most influential men in America in the early 1800's which prompted Meriwether Lewis to name one of the three rivers that form the Missouri River after him (along with Jefferson and Madison). Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury for 13 years in which time he funded the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He initiated the first National Road which started from Cumberland, Maryland and went to Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia now) on the Ohio River in 1818. It is now US 40 and extends coast-to-coast. He also worked on the Treaty that ended the War of 1812. Okay, there is more, but that's enough here. To summarize using the words of Patrick Henry, he was "a most astonishing man". I wouldn't say Friendship Hill is one of those must-see places, but it wasn't too far out of our way so we made the stop and had a nice visit.

After moving on into Ohio we went to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. This park is comprised of several locations where the Wright brothers lived, had businesses, and performed their aviation tests. The main visitor center is downtown and is built where they had one of their bicycle shops and the building next door where they had their original printing shop. This visitor center has extensive displays and a film about their lives. Part of the display is about their printing shop, in the actual location, that they ran before they got into bicycles. You can also see one of their bicycles shops in the building next door. This is an excellent stop to learn more about the Wright brothers.

Bicycle shop, print
shop upstairs
Wright Brothers printing shop was
on second floor of this building

While in Dayton we also went to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This museum currently has three (soon to be four) huge buildings full of aircraft and history exhibits. It starts with a discussion of the use of balloons in the 1790's up to modern times. You could spend days in this place if you read every display and examined every aircraft. Here are a few of the hundreds of planes to show a little progression.
Wright 1909 Military Flyer

Bockscar B-29 Bomber that dropped
the Fat Man atomic bomb on
Nagasaki on August 0, 1945 

F-22A Raptor - the worlds first stealthy
air dominance fighter

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

View of Shenandoah Street
Our next stop, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, was another key point of interest that drove the planning of this trip. Robert Harper started a ferry here in 1747 to aid travelers using this natural corridor. While reading about the westward movement, the Revolutionary War, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Civil War or Civil Rights, there is mention of the town of Harpers Ferry.

High Street
Harpers Ferry sits where the Potomac River cuts through the Blue Ridge and merges with the Shenandoah River. The rushing waters from these rivers provided power for factories and caused George Washington to envision the site for a US Armory. These factories, from the early 1800's, utilized innovations that fueled the Industrial Revolution. The town boomed with success. The story is long and interesting, too much for me to recite here, and why would I when you can read from all kinds of other sources that will explain much better?

What I will say is that this place ranks up there with one of the best historical parks we've been to. Between the Civil War and many major floods, the factories that made this town great are gone with only a lot of foundations left. The building restorations that have been done are great and the information plentiful. This is a worthwhile stop for history lovers.

Information sign. The book
Undaunted Courage
discusses this at length

Lower High Street

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Jersey State Capitol

As part of our day trip to Valley Forge it made sense to take in the New Jersey State Capitol in
New Jersey State House
Trenton since we have no idea if we will ever be in the area again. And, after all, we are kind of on a State Capitol tour with this being our 10th since leaving Arizona on January 31st.

The central part of the New Jersey State House is one of the oldest in continuous use in the country. The oldest section was completed in 1792 and additional sections completed in 1848. Some parts burnt down and have been rebuilt. This building is pretty typical of its time based on those that we've seen. Nicely acquainted but not lavish. This was the only Capitol where they would not allow us to do a self guided tour. We were stuck in a guided tour with a group of students, ugh. This limited picture taking options and made us listen to insufferable lessons about New Jersey.


House Chamber

Senate Chamber

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Reconstructed Army Hut
We visited Valley Forge National Historical Park outside of Philadelphia. This is the site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army. On December 19, 1777, 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children marched into Valley Forge and began to build what would become the fourth largest city in America, with 1,500 log huts and two miles of fortifications. During the next six months the number of troops would dwindle to 6,000 due to disease and desertion in the winter, and then grow to 20,000 before they marched out June 19, 1778. Disease killed nearly 2,000 people during the encampment.
Inside army hut
The land was ruined when the army left. Soldiers had cleared forests for many miles around to construct huts and build fires for warmth and cooking. Winter's constant rains and activity of thousands of people turned the fields into deep mud. The fields were so spoiled that no crops could be planted that summer. The farmers quickly dismantled the huts and reclaimed the wood. They plowed down the defensive earthworks and by the next summer they were growing crops again.

General Washington's Headquarters. Twenty five
people lived in this house including Martha Washington.
Far left, in the distance, are army huts for soldiers that
guarded the headquarters. 

Pennsylvania State Capitol

We're spending just a few days in Pennsylvania to see some things. First stop was the Capitol in
Pennsylvania Capitol - Harrisburg
Harrisburg. The building was completed in 1906 and is another opulent Capitol competing for the most lavish in the country. This is one of those buildings where you stand in awe in each room you enter. Each room is so full of beauty you must look around and study each feature to appreciate everything. The Rotunda is grand with its grand staircase, three-tiered gallery, and Moravian tiled floor.

Senate Chamber
The Senate Chamber has mahogany desks imported from Belize, rare green marble walls imported from Ireland, huge paintings, massive gold-plated floor lights, massive bronze chandeliers and intricate gilding everywhere.

House Chamber
The House Chamber features magnificent art including stained glass windows and huge, beautiful murals. There is more gilded ornate carvings everywhere you look, massive chandeliers, and the wonderful rows of wooden desks.

This building is definitely palatial and in the running for grandest Capitol in the country. We are so glad we stopped to see it.

Governor's Reception


Moravian tiled floor in

Monday, May 9, 2016

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive
Shenandoah National Park was established in December 1935 after much turmoil (see park history). The park is about 200,000 acres along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The park is most noted for Skyline Drive which runs the length of the long, narrow park. The drive is over 100 miles long with a 35 mph speed limit due to its continuous twists and turns. The Appalachian Trail runs along Skyline Drive and crosses it several times making it easy to hike sections of the trail. Skyline Drive is a continuation of the Blue Ridge Parkway that originates in Great Smoky National Park 469 miles to the south.

Clouds below
We drove some of the Skyline Drive but chose not to do the whole thing. The park is mostly wooded and after driving for a while we determined that it was many miles of "more of the same". We stopped at Big Meadows for it's distinguishing feature, it isn't wooded, and to learn park information at the visitor center. There are three films available and a nice exhibit telling the park's history. We hiked the Dark Hollow Falls trail and then a section of the Appalachian Trail at Milam Gap.

Big Meadows

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Pens used to sign surrender
The Appomattox Court House National Historical Park had much more than we expected. There are about a dozen buildings of the village of Appomattox Court House with a number of them being originals. The two most historically significant, the Court House and the McLean house, are re-creations. All of the buildings are well maintained and many have some kind of exhibit. There is a very informative film shown at the visitor center and some artifacts on display.

McClean House
We learned some details that were not clear in history books or else are just misunderstood. One being that no surrender events took place in the Courthouse building. The village was called Appomattox Court House thus causing the misconception. The actual site of Lee's surrender was the parlor of the McLean House. Many other interesting facts about the days and circumstances of the surrender are taught at the site. It was quite a long drive to get there but worth it.

Reconstructed Courthouse

Clover Hill Tavern - original - 1819