Monday, May 23, 2011

Charleston, West Virginia

Sat, May 21st - Mon, May 23rd

The Capitol building in Charleston was completed in 1931 for just under $10 million. It took eight years and the east and west wings to the rear of the building were built first. It was designed by Cass Gilbert, who designed the world's first skyscraper, the Woolworth Building in New York City in 1912. He also designed the Capitols in Minnesota and Arkansas and the U.S. Treasury Building and Supreme Court Building in D.C. Two thirds of the interior is marble -- Imperial Danby, Italian Travertine, Tennessee and white Vermont. The dome is four and a half feet taller than the U.S. Capitol.

It's hard to tell from the picture, but the 4000 pound chandelier is 8 feet in diameter, made of 10,000 pieces of Czechoslovakian crystal, is illuminated by 96 light bulbs, hangs on a 54 foot gold-plated chain 180 feet above the floor, is lowered every four years before the governor's inauguration and it is dismantled and each of the 10,000 crystals is individually cleaned. It takes three days to lower it, clean it and raise it back up again with a hand operated winch. The solid marble columns weigh 34 tons each.

The outside columns in the very first picture weigh 86 tons each and that is the front of the building facing the Ohio River. It is hard to see, but the statue out front is called "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight". It is based on a poem of the same title and depicts him pacing at night in a robe, under the strain of a nation torn apart by civil war. It is the first time in our travels from the south to the north, that we have seen even so much as a mention of Lincoln. After 4 years of fighting and 600,000 deaths, the Civil War produced only one permanent change in territory, the creation of the 35th state, West Virginia. It was the border region between North and South and played an important role in the Underground Railroad. A lot of Northerners were against slavery, not on moral grounds, but because it took jobs away from whites. John Brown was hung at Harper's Ferry, with Lee and Jackson in attendance, after he tried to start a slave riot and take over an arms plant. One of the exhibits claims to be the rope and noose he was hung with and other personal possessions of his. This statue of Stonewall Jackson is here because he was born and grew up in the part of Virginia that is now West Virginia. Many historians believe Jackson was the greatest general of the Civil War and perhaps in U.S. history. His troop movements and campaigns are still studied by military leaders and history students.

This Union Soldier statue is a memorial to the 32,000 West Virginians who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Reno, Nevada is named after Jesse Lee Reno, the highest ranking Union General from West Virginia.

Booker T. Washington was born in Virginia and grew up in what is now West Virginia. His middle name is Taliaferro. Sounds Italian to me?? The Governor's Mansion is just across the street, but it wasn't open for tours on the days we were there.

This one is a memorial to the many hundreds of coal miners who have died in mine disastors and labor union disputes. There are also statues to honor police men, firemen, veterans, mountaineers and the Spirit of Virginia.

Just across the street from the front of the Capitol are these very steep steps down to the Ohio River with no railings or guards of any kind. I went down the first few steps, but found it kind of scary. If you tripped or lost your balance a little, you would be right in the river. Just across the river and down a few blocks was where Daniel Boone lived from 1788 to 1795 when he was a representative in the General Assembly and a lieutenant in the local militia. His biography was published in 1784 and the museum has his musket, walking stick beaver trap and surveying stone.

We spent two afternoons (about 8 and half hours) in the State History Museum. It's a wonderful and free museum. The foyer walls were covered with beautiful, full-size, homemade quilts. This is just one corner.

I'm sure lots of you will remember Fiesta Ware. Your Mom or Grandma probably had some. They were celebrating the 75th anniversary of Fiesta Ware made by the Homer Laughlin China Company, which is celebrating their 140th anniversary. Their company claims to have manufactured 1/3 of all dinnerware ever sold in the U.S. They are the first and largest pottery company in the country with over 1,000 skilled workers, in a 37 acre facility stretching more than a mile along the Ohio River near Newel, WV. It was started in 1874 in Liverpool, Ohio by Homer and Shakespeare Laughlin. How's that for names? Their parents must have been into literature. In 1927 they started several new lines, including Virginia Rose, of which Dawn has a set in her dining room hutch, that once belonged to John's grandparents, and was given to them by their parents for their 25th wedding anniversary. In 1935 they created Fiesta Ware, the most famous and collected line ever made in any factory. Next time you are in a restaurant, check the bottom of the plate to see if it is a Homer Laughlin.

This is supposedly the most popular artifact in the museum and has been for over a 100 years. It is Emmeline and Alexander, the dancing fleas. In the late 1800s they starred in a flea circus in New York. Dressed in lavish costumes, they entertained visitors with amazing stunts--pulling carts, jumping thru hoops and leaping 10 inches thru the air. They were donated to the museum in 1906 and are still here. I think it's been a long time since they have done any performing, if they ever did?? How do you dress a flea in a tux, anyway? They are under a magnifying glass on the front of this circus wagon. They wouldn't get my vote for most popular exhibit. I suppose the school kids are intrigued.

In case you are interested in the origins of Mother's Day, here it is.
They also claim to have the oldest seed in the world, 360 million years old. I have to wonder, how do you find such a thing, figure out how old it is and decide that it is the oldest.

In the early 1900s tobacco companies tried to boost sales by including baseball cards in packages. It was so effective, they began including pictures made of silk or flannel which many women used in quilts. Mary Levy collected small national flags that came in cigarette packages. She made this quilt with the flags and used it to teach her children the flags of the world.

A little info. about the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Later in the museum, I saw that there was a sheriff and a governor named Hatfield.

West Virginia First Lady inaugural gowns and dolls.

Lumber companies prohibited smoking, so workers chewed. This is a collection of Skoal and Copenhagen boxes from the office of one of the companies. In 1870 there were 10 million acres of old growth trees covering 2/3 of the state. The timber boom of the early 1900s left the state's mountains barren and desolate by 1920. Due to 1930s conservation efforts, 80% of the state is now covered by trees. Between 1870 and 1920 they produced nearly 30 billion sq. ft. of hardwood, enough to cover the entire state 1.2 million times. Timber is the state's only renewable resource and the only one found in all 55 counties. Other big industries for them early on were salt, coal, oil, natural gas, pottery, glass and marbles(Marble King). Since WWII they have chemical factories like Dupont and Union Carbide and one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, Milan. Back in the early 1900s lots of young children worked in the factories and mines. When one 14 year old was asked how he could work such long hours in the hot glass factory, he said he chewed lots of tobacco.

The museum is arranged in a time line working it's way thru Native Americans and European settlement. This section was all about the history of coal mining in the state. You are in a mning tunnel with the little coal cars that run on the tracks and you can hear a continuous drip, drip, drip. It feels very much like you are in an actual mine. The state's mining industry has a lot of negative history including many mining disasters, child labor issues, violent union riots, black lung disease, etc. They do have a great variety of industry in the state due to lax labor laws in the past.

This saddle with the cutout in the center was designed by General McClellan for the cavalry during the Civil War. It made me wonder why it took until the late 1900s for someone to design bicycle seats with cutouts.

Most decorated woman to serve in the U.S. military.

We didn't see either of these bridges, but I wish we had. They sound very impressive.

There are not a lot of campgrounds around Charleston, since there isn't much land that isn't completely covered with trees. We finally found the Rippling Waters Church of God Campground and Retreat Center. It was about 20 miles north of Charleston and about 4 miles off the highway down a winding, narrow road. We should have unhooked the car, but we were lucky and didn't meet anyone on our way in. It was a really beautiful setting and there were very few campers. I highly recommend it, but I advise unhooking your tow vehicle before you drive in.

I was able to go for several nice hikes while we were here. It was so peaceful and secluded. I loved it here and would have liked to stay longer.

I'm not sure if this is a swan or goose or duck. But he just kept turning this way and that way, just as if he was posing for me.

We will be heading for my brother's in Ohio on Tuesday for my niece's graduation. We will be spending most of the summer visiting family and friends, so there probably won't be many blogs, unless we happen to stumble on something interesting.

Have a great Memorial Day.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Foam Henge, Natural Bridge, Buena Vista & Staunton, Virginia

Mon, May 16th - Fri, May 20th

This is Foamhenge, a quirky replica of Stonehenge. According to the artist, Stonehenge was perhaps used as a temple, observatory or tomb and took 1,500 years to complete, using stones weighing as much as 50 tons. An estimated 600 to 1,000 men dragged stones 20 miles. Foamhenge was completed in 6 weeks using beaded styrofoam blocks up to 420 pounds delivered on four tractor trailer trips from 100 miles away. It took 4 to 5 Mexicans and one crazy white man to construct . The purpose is to educate and entertain.

The artist's friend had requested that he do something in his memory, so two days after his death, he made a mold of his face and used it to create King Arthur's Sorcerer, Merlin, and Foamhenge. It is located on a hill right along the highway near Natural Bridge, Va. It is free to stop and enjoy at your leisure. All he asks is that you treat the place with care and respect.

He has a quirky sense of humor. He sounds like the kind of guy that would be fun to meet and have a visit with.

Which theory do you like best?

Next we went to see the famous Natural Bridge. The first written description of it is in the diary of a German settler who followed Cedar Creek upstream in 1742. In 1750 a teenaged George Washington working with Thomas Jefferson's father, surveyed the Bridge and carved his initials and a surveyor's cross in the rock wall 23 feet up, where it is still easily seen. In 1774 Thomas Jefferson bought 157 acres, including the bridge, from King George III for 20 schillings ($160 in today's money), due to it's lack of farmable land. In 1804 he built a two-story stone and log house, where many famous friends came to stay and see the Natural Bridge, including four presidents, Daniel Boone and Sam Houston. In 1816 "freeman" Patrick Henry and his wife, Louise (whom he had bought as a slave and emancipated) leased the land to farm approximately 10 acres and serve as a custodian for the place. Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826 the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In 1830 a hotel was built and visitors were lowered in a cage to get a better look. Troops on both sides detoured to see the famous bridge during the Civil War. At dark they do a light and sound show "The Drama of Creation", which started in 1927 with Calvin Coolidge pulling the ceremonial switch. The sound system is amazing, the best I've ever heard. Symphonic music fills the ancient walls and a wonderful, deep voice reads the creation verses from Genesis while the lights fade at each day's end. It ends with beautiful choir music like you would hear in the great cathedrals of Europe. It is all very impressive. It started out as a footpath for the Indians and evolved into a main traffic route that is now U.S. Rt. 11.

There is a mile long hike along Cedar Creek that takes you by a Monacan Indian Village where they do demos on cooking, tanning, making clothing, ceramics, tools, etc. Lace Watefall is at the end of the trail. There are also caverns to tour, which we skipped. But we did go thru the Wax Museum and Factory and the Toy Museum which has 45,000 toys all collected by five members of the same family from 1900 to 2000. There were dolls of John Wayne, Mae West, George Burns, Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill, the Honeymoners, etc. What kind of parent buys their children Jesse James or Billy the Kid dolls? There were also soldier sets for practically every battle of every war ever fought. I found a Tammy Doll just like I used to have. The caption said in order to compete with Tammy, the new Malibu Barbie's bustline grew by 1/4 inch. The Tammy Doll only lasted three years. She never had a chance.

We had supper that evening at the Pink Cadillac Diner, which is also a museum of sorts. The food was really good and reasonable and the walls of the three dining rooms were covered with movie memorabilia. It was also just across the road from the KOA where we stayed our first four days here.

Then we moved a few miles to a city campground in nearby Buena Vista. It was very nice and just across the road from the River Walk.

So I had a very nice hike every night while John played on the computer or watched the tube. Here at the end of the trail was a nice park bench to sit and listen to the water and watch the deer graze among the wildflowers.

One evening after the rain at sunset, there was a very pretty rainbow.

This is Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista. It is a nondenominational school funded by the Mormons. I thought it was a beautiful bit of architecture. Another tidbit, Charlie Manuel, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, when they won the World Series, is from here.

At Staunton (pronounced Stanton), the county seat of Augusta County, there is this tribute to the Statler Brothers, who are from here. It is four bar stools standing on a record, a tribute to their style of sitting on stools when singing together.

We came to Staunton to see Woodrow Wilson's birthplace, library and museum. This is the back entrance with Victorian-style gardens to the Presbyterian Manse (parsonage) where he was born. He was the son, grandson and nephew of Presbyterian ministers. He graduated from Princeton and was a professor and president at several colleges and universities. He published textbooks, curriculum reforms, and many volumes about government, politics and administration. He became Governor of New Jersey and two years later ran for President and won. Teddy Roosevelt was the only other president who published as much as Wilson.

1919 Pierce-Arrow Limousine used by Wilson during his last year or so in office and purchased for him by a group of friends when he left office.

This portrait of Wilson was a gift from some greatful person in Europe, for joining the war and coming to their aid. It is totally embroidered on a flour sack from the food aid that the U.S. sent them. I wouldn't have even noticed that it wasn't a painting, if I hadn't read the caption and looked at it very closely. Very unique.

In the basement of the museum, it was set up like trenches used in the war. The moment you walk in the sounds of battle start, and you hear orders and conversations going on between soldiers. Along with the dark dank feeling of the basement, you really got a feeling of what it was like to be there. In the trenches there were rats and lice, unsanitary conditions causing dysentery and influenza, and water in the trenches caused a serious condition called trench foot. Even the slightest wounds became infected. If you were actually in the war trenches, I think this exhibit might be a very unpleasant experience.

Wilson's dream at the Paris Peace Talks of 1919 was to establish an international organization to resolve disputes without war. This is a picture of the Peace Talks in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles just outside Paris. We have actually been there. Luckily, it wasn't that crowded when we were there. Unfortunately, the European Allies were more interested in punishing the "aggressor nations", forcing Germany and Austria to accept disastrous peace terms that set in motion higher inflation, unemployment and economic depression. Wilson was unable to convince the American public to accept the League of Nations. The end result was WWII, following which Wilsons dream finally took hold in the form of the United Nations.

Wouldn't it be great if the United Nations could actually resolve issues between countries and thereby prevent all wars?


Friday, May 20, 2011

Appomattox Court House & Lexington, Virginia

Thur, May 12 - Sun, May 15th

Interesting t-shirt. Thursday we toured the Appomattox Court House battlefield. They had a Union Private in costume and character visiting with the crowd at Clover Hill Tavern. He was explaining what had happened in the days following the battle and was very entertaining. This is Clover Hill Tavern and the rooming house behind it. Once the surrender had taken place, per Lee's request, there were almost 30,000 parole slips printed up here over a five day period, and handed out to the confederate soldiers. They guaranteed them safe passage home, including free travel on and free food at any Federal facilites along the way.

There was an excellent guide who took us on a walking tour of the grounds and described the progression of the battle and surrender. There were about 120 people living here at the time of the battle and it is virtually unchanged, due to the railroad bypassing them by about 3 miles and the town sort of dying out. This is the Richmond/Lynchburg Stage Road that Lee was so desperately trying to reach, for badly needed supplies that were coming in on the train.

Unfortunately, 25 year old Brevet Major General George Custer managed to capture his train supplies and take control of the road. Lee was surrrounded on three sides with his men sick and starving. This is the site of his last camp where he conferred with his officers and was going to make one last attempt to break thru, when he got word of the hopelessness of the situation and sent word to Grant asking for surrender terms. This is the Peers house, site of the last shots fired. Each time the cannons were fired, they backed up a little till they were up against the front steps. The steps still lean a little to this day.

This is the McClean home where Grant and Lee met to sign a letter listing the final surrender terms. All officers were allowed to keep their side arms and anyone who had a mule or horse, was allowed to keep it. Grant immediately had 28 thousand and some rations sent to the starving troops and made provisions for parole slips for all soldiers who signed a pledge not to take up arms against the Union again. The next day they had an official laying down of arms where 4,500 union troops lined up on either side of the road for about a half mile, while the Rebs marched thru for most of the day laying down and stacking their arms. To the Reb's surprize, the Union troops gave them three cheers and a salute. They returned the salute as they marched by in tears. Their commanding officer said, "Grant treated us nobly, more nobly than ever was a conquered army treated." There were 65,000 Union troops in the area. Grant left a national hero after 11 months of constant toil, bloodshed and death trying to defeat Lee. The war didn't end that day, but it was the beginning of the end.

This is Washington and Lee University in Lexington, said to be one of the prettiest campuses in the nation. It started as Augusta Academy near Greenville in 1749 and was re-established as Liberty Hall Academy at Timber Ridge in 1776. In 1782 it was moved to Lexington when it was endowed by George Washington with $50,000 worth of stock the State of Virginia had given him, and it was renamed in his honor. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Robert E. Lee took over as president of the university, on the same day he signed his oath to the Union. When he died in 1870, it was renamed Washington and Lee University. Students today still receive $3.00 per year from Washington's original endowment. Washington was good friends with Lee's father and Lee admired him very much.

This is a Japanese Dogwood on campus. There are lots of these in the area. At a distance, it looks like there are just a bunch of butterflies sitting on a bush. They are quite beautiful.

This is a chapel that Lee had built while he was president. He and his wife, parents, children and a couple other family menbers are entombed in the lower level of the chapel and his horse, Traveler, is buried just outside. His horse's skeleton was taken on tour around New York and places before he was finally buried here.

Just across the street is the Virginia Military Institute, the nation's first state military college in 1839. Stonewall Jackson was on the faculty and it is his statue between the flags, behind the cadets and in front of the main entrance to the first barracks. Around the side to the right is a statue of George Wahington at the other entrance to the first barracks. To the left, at the entrance of the second barracks, is a statue of George C. Marshall, 1901 graduate and Army Chief of Staff in WWII. There is also a museum and library on campus dedicated to him. He was later Secretary of State and is famous for his Marshall Plan to help Europe rebuild after the war, for which he won the Nobel Prize. There is an Oscar for Best Picture of 1970 in his museum honoring the movie about General Patton, who attended his first year here and then went on to West Point. I think Patton's father, grandfather and uncle went to VMI.

Another museum on campus has Stonewall Jackson's horse, Little Sorrel, stuffed and mounted among other military artifacts. It happened to be graduation weekend, so we got to watch the 1,500 cadets do their parade marching on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a ceremony for the seniors to turn over their leadership to the underclassmen. Sunday was the annual parade to honor the cadets who were killed at the Battle of New Market, when the whole school marched out to participate in the Civil War battle. It was quite a production, all that marching, music, ceremonies and such. Graduation was on Monday with more parades, but we were warned that it would be a madhouse, so we left town. We also toured Stonewall Jackson's home and walked thru the Stonewall Memorial Cemetery. His grave is on a hill in the center of the cemetery with a statue of him on his horse.

There is a very nice free museum in the country near Steele's Tavern, Virginia. It is the homeplace of Cyrus H. Mc Cormick who invented the first successful reaper in 1841 at the age of 22. It has a a replica of the original blacksmith shop he used, a replica of the original grist mill, a museum, his home, and a nice walking trail thru the woods along a stream. At the World's Fair in London in 1851, he was given the Council Medal (their highest award) by the Royal Commission of the Great World's Fair, for his invention that mechanized farming and changed the world. His company became International Harvestor and eventually Case. He was a good friend of Robert E. Lee's and a generous donor to Washington and Lee University. This being graduation weekend, we found it amusing to see a pair underwear hanging over the statue's head. We stopped to visit with a couple from Australia just in front of the statue and shared a chuckle.