Monday, October 31, 2016

The Mattress Factory Art Museum Pittsburgh, Penn

Hearing the name of this museum, The Mattress Factory, you would be totally at a loss to understand what they were going to offer you in the way of art. In a former incarnation it was indeed a "mattress factory". Today it is home to a fascinating museum of installation art.

The evolution of The Mattress Factory began almost with its inception over thirty years ago. It has evolved into one of the tops museums of its genre in the world. Even the neighborhood on the north shore where it is located is eclectic. The Mexican War Streets offer wall murals that are with a visit on their own.

One of the unique aspects of this museum is that the works of art are created onsite. Artists are invited to come to the museum, there are paid and housed and encouraged to produce unique pieces that bring the museum to life. They stay anywhere from two weeks to two months and they are allowed all the materials and freedom that they need to be creative.

There are sixteen installations in their permanent collection including works by James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, Greer Lankton and Bill Woodrow. Every year over 30,000 people come here to participate in the experience what the museum offers. While the majority of them are locals there are many who come from other parts of the US and even around the world.

What exactly is installation art? Installation art takes a space and uses the environment to create art. The visitor is drawn in and becomes almost part of the piece. Every room is an assault on at least one of the senses and often more than one.

If you have ever been to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas you have already been exposed to James Turrell’s work. The Tunnel that connects the Beck Building and the Law Building is a work of his art called The Light Inside. You actually are inside of his piece of art!

This is the sort of museum where you need to keep a close watch on. The art changes so dramatically from one installation to another that you will want to make sure not to miss the latest offerings.

Keep an open mind, come prepared to either love it or hate it. I'm voting for love.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Iken Barns self catering in Suffolk

If you are looking for a scenic location, a little off the beaten path, on an estuary in Suffolk, then Iken Barns  is the perfect place to spend your vacation. The barns are lovely and come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations. Richard Johnson, who owns the property, came to the area to pig farm in 1983 and in 2002 decided to go from farming into hospitality. It is a good thing he decided to do that because he has created an amazing oasis here where you will have everything you need for a relaxing holiday. You can easily walk to the Snape Maltings for dining and shopping and historic St Botolph’s church is visible across the estuary. The property is now managed by Kate, when we were here his daughter Emma was the manager.

The majority of the barns are Victorian buildings that were converted using material from other buildings that were torn down on the farm. One of the barns is older and was moved to the property. The newest addition is a functions building where a variety of classes are held. The Barns are a venue for weddings etc.

We chose the Estuary Barn for a holiday. It is a second story unit with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. One bedroom is a double and one a twin. The main part of the unit is open concept with the living room, dining, and kitchen. There are three couches where you can cozy up to the gas stove and the TV. There are plenty of windows and soaring beamed ceilings. The heating is under floor and it was quite comfortable.

The kitchen has everything you need for a comfortable stay with a dishwasher and washer/dryer in addition to the fridge/freezer and stove. Additionally, a crockpot, toaster, and microwave as well of a French press and crockery are offered. A balcony with a table off the back overlooks the estuary. The beds are warm and inviting and your every comfort has been provided for. The only issue we had was that there is not enough soundproofing between the bedrooms and bathrooms. Sounds from one bathroom are all too clear in the other, the same for the bedrooms. Great for a family with children, not so great for adults. It certainly was not a deal breaker.

If you want a spa treatment in your unit, it can be arranged. There are also bicycles and horseback riding is also available. The units are decorated to a very high standard.

The street that the barns are located is more of a lane and for timid drivers might be a challenge. There are pubs close by within a five-minute drive or in the summer an easy walk. The village of Snape is close by and there is a small store there. Saxmunden has a Waitrose which is a large grocery where you will find everything you need at reasonable prices.

This is a perfect location for visits to Ipswich, Colchester, Sutton Hoo, Framlingham Castle and some of the seaside resorts including Aldeburgh.

Kate will provide any information that you need as well as warm welcome. She should be around to offer advice or to help if have problems operating any of the appliances. The units have plenty of brochures if you run out of ideas for things to do. For the outdoor lover, good weather will provide abundant opportunities to enjoy nature. The views are stunning, that much I can attest to. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Visiting Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement is a state-sponsored educational site that was originally created to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown in 1957. It is located adjacent to Historic Jamestowne. The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation offers combination entry tickets to both Jamestown and the Yorktown Victory Center which will save you 20percent off the individual ticket prices. Check their website for opening times and prices.

Keep in mind, school children will be here in abundance during the week, hundreds of them.

Visits begin at the Visitor Center where there is a very interesting film “1607 A Nation Takes Root”. It lasts about 20 minutes and runs every 30 minutes. The relationship between the Native Americans and the English is explored and the beginning of African American presence in Virginia. It is very educational on many levels.

The next stop is the galleries, they are amazing, allow plenty of time to tour them. Again the first exhibit explores the Powhatan people from many different angles including their homes, culture, family life, recreational activities and government among others. Next, the Western Africans who came to Virginia are introduced in the same way and finally the English. It is very interesting to see how the three compare and differ.

There is so much more in the galleries as it ends with the rise of the Plantation Aristocracy in 1699. It is now time to head outdoors.

Depending on which path you take you can head to the Powhatan Village or James Fort. 90 minute guided tours are available but touring solo is perfectly acceptable.

The fort, which is triangular in shape has plenty of buildings to tour including a church and even some soldiers gear to try on for great photo ops. The homes are furnished and give a historical interpretation of what life would have been like within the palisades of the fort. Interpreters are located throughout the grounds and feel free to ask questions.

Head down to the dock where three boats are berthed and can be boarded. The Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery are recreations of the ships that brought the original settlers to Jamestown. Again, there will be interpreters onboard to field question and offer information. The views are beautiful along the James River.

The Powhatan Village had several demonstrations going on in including one on cooking. Reed covered homes dot the village and can be walked through.

A thorough visit to the Jamestown Settlement can take all day but at the very least three to four hours are needed. Of course, there is a great gift store unfortunately filled with school children but that is what you would expect of such an educational site. Be sure to bring the kids or the grandkids, they will love it and so will the adults.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A visit to Historic Jamestowne

Historic Jamestowne is administered by the National Park Service and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on behalf of Preservation Virginia. It is the location of the original James Fort and Jamestown. Begin your visit at the Visitor Center where you can watch an orientation film and visit the museum. Try to arrive so that you can take the 11 a.m. archeological tour. It is one of the most popular tours that is offered at the site.

The actual site is quite a distance from the visitor center. You need to take a long footbridge to get to the monument which is where the regular ranger tours meet. We arrived in time to take the 1 p.m. orientation tour. Do take one of the tours, they are very informative and you will learn a lot about what has actually been discovered here.

A lot of walking is involved in a visit here and you need to be somewhat mobile. There are paved paths but within the palisade, it is rough going and uneven ground. The monumental statue of John Smith draws visitors like a magnet. This is an active archeological site so there will no doubt be actual work going on when you visit, new discoveries are being made all the time.

The original location of the chapel has been discovered and you can walk in the church that is on the site. Sites of graves have been marked around the property and the actual skeletal remains have been removed to the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium.

After touring the palisade, walk over to the Dale House Café and enjoy lunch or a snack overlooking the James River. The food is surprisingly good, varied and not too pricey.

The Archaearium is outstanding. It holds the multitude of items that have been recovered on-site at Jamestowne. The range is unbelievable, from the practical to the little trinkets that people tend to save in their pocket. However, it is the skeletal remains that are the big draw. The biggest without a doubt is “Jane”.

The discovery of human bones in a trash pit along with other food sources, horse and dogs is considered significant. The skull and tibia showed signs of having been butchered. This was the first physical evidence of the cannibalism that had been reported during the “starving time”, the winter of 1609/10. The bones belong to a young girl, about 14 years old who was likely a servant. A recreation from the skull of what she would have looked like in life is located in the Archaearium.

Allow the better part of a day to enjoy everything that is offered here. The educational aspects are outstanding. You really will be standing and walking in the steps of the first English settlers in America and it is hard to describe how impactful this is.

Additionally, this is a very scenic area and there are a multitude of paths to enjoy the river views and if you are lucky, you may sight a bald eagle.

On your way in or out of the area stop at the Glasshouse of 1608 to see the artisans making glass which was one of the first industries that started in the area.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Virginia Cider Week

Virginia Cider Week will kick-off its 4th edition from November 11 - 20. During Virginia Cider Week, restaurants, shops and cider makers across the state will hold dinners, in-store tastings, workshops and classes promoting Virginia cider. Virginia is the first state to have an officially proclaimed “Cider Week”, and this is only the second weeklong cider celebration in the US. 

Over 100 restaurants and shops in 30 cities will promote cider during Virginia Cider Week. The cider celebration includes over 60 special events taking place at various locations across Virginia, with several events in Charlottesville and the surrounding area. Visitors can expect cider promotions and tastings at shops, cafes, bistros and fine dining restaurants. All the details can be found at

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Erhlander House Museum Rockford, Il

Swedes played an important role in the founding of Rockford, Ill. How the first settlers ended up here is an interesting story. Originally planning to settle in the Chicago area, they were forced to continue on to the end of the rail line by a cholera epidemic. This was very lucky for the future city of Rockford. At their peak, native born Swedes made up 22 percent of the population and even today, about 9% of the population is at least partly Swedish.

The Erhlander Home Museum, maintained by the Swedish Historical Society, is an excellent example of how an immigrant prospered in the city of Rockford. John Erhlander, along with other Swedes, owned or managed 90 furniture factories which were instrumental in the growing prosperity of Rockford. After living in Rockford for 20 years, he was able to build a large brick Italianate style home in the popular neighborhood of Haight Village where the mayor was one of his neighbors.

The house remained in the Erhlander family until 1951 when John’s daughter Mary, no longer able to maintain the house herself, moved out. She allowed the Swedish Historical Society to hold meetings at the house. They opened it to visitors in 1953 and the Prime Minister of Sweden was one of the first people to visit. After Mary’s death in 1968, murals that she had painted on the walls were discovered and they are visible to visitors today. She was a well-known local artist.

The first floor of the house has many pieces of original furniture and looks as if the family still loves there. Upstairs there is a bedroom that looks like Mary just stepped out but there are also other rooms set up like a museum.

One of the rooms tells the story of Swedish immigration to the United States and to Rockford in particular. There is also a collection of Swedish dolls in the costumes of their particular area of Sweden. Also on display is a collection of wood carvings by Axel Farb and Oscar Frisk as well as clocks and watches that were made in Rockford.

One interesting fact that you will learn here is about the “sock monkey”. While they are not manufactured here or even invented here, the iconic sock with the red toe was and Rockford is very proud of the part they play.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Visiting the Virginia State Capitol Building

Richmond, Va. is a city filled with history. One of the most historic buildings is the Virginia State Capitol Building. Originally designed by Thomas Jefferson, it is an impressive building that has been a model for countless other buildings around the country. The original space was expanded by adding an underground area below the building in the hill that it sits atop. Security is tight; it is, after all, an active building where legislators meet. Entrance to the Capitol is on Bank Street which is in the new section. On street parking is available but limited. Tours are offered but it is not difficult to tour on your own if that is what you want.

Houdon Statue of George Washington

The Rotunda is spectacular. It soars two stories with a dome in the center over the magnificent sculpture of George Washington by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. It is life-sized and Houdon visited Washington at Mount Vernon to do a facial mask and to get his exact proportions. Additionally, there is an Houdon bust of the Marquis de Lafayette and later busts the of seven other men who are Virginians who became President of the United States. All in all, it is a very impressive sight.

Robert E. Lee in the Old Delegates Hall

One of the most historically significant rooms in the capitol is the Old Delegates Hall. It was the scene of the trial of Aaron Burr for treason in 1807. There are many plaques, statuary and other historical items on display in the room but one thing that can’t be missed is the statue of Robert E. Lee placed on the spot where he accepted the command of the Army of Northern Virginia. He has his back turned to the statue of George Washington in the Rotunda. Among the Virginians who are represented in this room are Cyrus McCormick, John Marshall and Sam Houston.

The Old Senate Chamber

For the first 50 years of its existence, this room was a courtroom. The senators met in a small room on another floor. In the early 1840’s it was converted to use by the Senate and in 1861 it became the Hall of Congress for the Confederacy and served that roll until 1865. It was in this room that the body of well-loved Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson lay in state and also that of former president John Tyler. There are several monumental paintings in the room that are also worth a look.

Additional posts:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Springfield, Illinois for Lincoln Lovers

For Lincoln lovers, there is no destination that offers quite as much as Springfield, Ill. This is where Lincoln came as a young unmarried man to begin his career in the law. It is where he met and married Mary Todd, bought a home and filled it with young sons. It is where he began his political career in the Illinois legislature and finally it was where his body was returned to be buried after his assassination.

The city of Springfield allows the unique opportunity to walk the streets that Lincoln walked, to see where he worked and to learn more about him than you ever dreamed at the amazing Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

You can visit the historic sites in any order, they all stand alone. If you plan to visit between May 30 to August 30. “History Comes Alive” in Springfield will be happening. There will be a lot of special things to see and do. You can interact with Union soldiers, meet former presidents (not the real ones) and much more. Visit the Official Springfield Illinois Area Travel Information Site for times and dates.

Old State Capitol

The Old State Capital  is where Abraham Lincoln began his political career in Springfield as a representative from New Salem and you can see where he took his seat as an Illinois legislator. His body lay in state in the building as well. You can visit the site without taking a tour but there is a lot to be learned if you are willing to be led by a knowledgeable guide. Tours are offered on a regular schedule so please check when you arrive when the next one is being offered.

Lincoln Herndon Law Office

Lincoln Herndon Law Office is another site that must be visited on a tour, at least to get off the ground floor!! It is well worth the effort just to be able to place your feet on the same original floor that Lincoln walked on. This writer couldn’t resist the temptation to place her hand on that floor and touch where the great man walked. There is a museum of sorts with exhibits at ground level that can be enjoyed while you are waiting for your tour to begin. There is a lot of information to be gleaned from a visit here including what an indulgent father Lincoln was.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

The Lincoln Home National Historic Site  is operated by the National Park Service. The family home of Abraham and Mary Lincoln must be visited on a guided tour. There is a visitor center where the free tickets can be procured. Two films are offered in the visitor center and it is a good place to start any visit. You need to be able to climb stairs to visit this house. It is one of the most important sites for those who want to meet Lincoln the man, not just the president.

Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is one of the most intensive places to visit. It is also the most popular of the presidential library sites. Allow plenty of time, several hours at least to enjoy all the information that is available here. Lincoln’s life is divided into the years before the presidency and the presidential years. Both parts are packed with exhibits. There are also two presentations offered in theatres that you need to squeeze in between everything else. In addition to the permanent exhibits there is a temporary exhibit space. If you need to eat, the building has a Subway Restaurant where you can grab a bite to renew your energy. 

Lincoln Tomb Oak Ridge Cemetery

Lincoln Tomb Oak Ridge Cemetery  is the final resting place of the 12th President and a major attraction in Springfield. For a few months in the warm weather on Tuesday evening you can be a part of the flag lowering ceremony at the tomb. It is a very emotional experience with soldiers in period costume and the playing of taps. You can also visit the grave while you are there for a few minutes after the ceremony. Be sure to check the schedule to avoid disappointment.

If you still haven't had your fill of Abraham Lincoln, plan to visit New Salem and see where he lived before he came to Springfield. 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Woodrow Wilson Museum and Presidential Library Staunton, Va.

Woodrow Wilson's Museum and Presidential Library is located in the city of Staunton, Va. His father, a first generation American of Scotch-Irish ancestry was the Presbyterian minister in the city. He accepted the post in 1854 and brought his wife and two daughters to live here in 1855. They were from the north but adapted easily to the southern way of life. His mother, Jessie Woodrow, was a Scot who had been born in England where her father, also a Presbyterian minister, was serving. Her family immigrated to Ohio when she was a child.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856,  at 12:45 Staunton. In April 1857 Jessie wrote the following to her father about her new son “The boy is a fine healthy fellow. He is much larger than either of the other ones were and just as fat as can be. Everyone tells us he is a beautiful boy. What is best of all, he is just as good as can be, as little trouble as it is possible for a baby to be.”

The family only stayed here for a few years but it always remained in the heart of the future president. He returned to visit Staunton after he was elected president but before he took office. He spent his 56th birthday in the home where he was born. After his death, Mary Baldwin College decided it wanted to set up a memorial in the city of his birth and they purchased the manse. The rest, as they say, is history. Today not only is there the historic birth site but a museum and the Presidential Library.

If it has been a few years since you visited or if you have never visited you will be delighted with what you will find here. Your visit begins in the Visitor Center where the shop is also located. There is a 12-minute film to watch to prepare you for your visit to the museum and the manse. After watching the film, head to the museum building to purchase your ticket and to sign up for the guided tour of the manse. You enter the manse through the basement and it is disturbing to find out that the Wilson family had three slaves helping at the manse when they were here.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and encouraged us to ask questions. The tour is not too long, maybe a half hour; it covers the basement and first floor of the house. You then head back to take your time enjoying all the information that is on display in the museum. The presidential Pierce Arrow is one of the most popular exhibits. The museum is very well organized and the information is well displayed and explained. Allow at least a half-hour and a lot more if you are a history buff.

As presidential sites go, this one is pretty darn interesting. We spent quite a long time here and left feeling as if we knew Woodrow Wilson a lot better than we had when we walked in. Pictures are allowed in the museum but not inside the manse. A parking lot is located behind the buildings which is accessible from E. Frederick Street.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dana Thomas House Springfield, Illinois

Lovers of Frank Lloyd Wright homes will not be disappointed with a visit to Springfield, Ill. The Dana Thomas House is one of his best efforts and has been maintained in really pristine condition. If you are staying at the Inn at 835, you can just walk a couple of block to the house otherwise there is on-street parking near the house and it should not be a great problem finding a spot.

Resist the temptation to try to enter one of the doors of the house, there is a visitor center that you need to visit first. After getting your entrance ticket, you watch a seven-minute video that will familiarize you with the architect, the former owner and the house. You will learn that between 1987 and 1990, five million dollars in restoration was done on the house. Over a million people have visited the house since 1981. It is a perfect way to begin your visit. There is no photography allowed on the tour so be sure to get as many photos that you want on the exterior of the house.

Tours are guided and begin from the carriage house. You may have to wait for your tour to be filled so allow time for that. The Dana Thomas House was originally constructed in 1893 in the Italianate Style. Susan Lawrence Dana hired the firm of Adler, Sullivan and Wright to modernize her home in 1902. It began a two-year collaboration that produced one of the finest “Prairie Style” homes that Wright ever produced.

The design of this home is timeless: it looks just as modern today as it did over 100 years ago. You need to be able to climb stairs to take this tour, there are actually a lot of different levels, many more than you would expect by looking at the exterior. In all, there are 16 levels to the house.

You are wowed from the first moment that you step inside this home, the entrance is extraordinary. You will learn that Susan was a very modern woman who was socially active and the house allowed her to do a lot of entertaining. The house as was Wrights style is constructed with natural and organic materials and three are interesting fountains and uses of light throughout the 12,000 square foot structure.

As you walk through you will find several rooms that were retained for sentimental reasons from the original Victorian structure. Understanding that Wright was given free rein when it came to the amount of money that he could spend on the construction and you will begin to understand why this house is so amazing. All the little innovations that are included seem so perfect for today that it is hard to imagine they have conceived over 100 years ago.

The history of the house, however, was not all happy.

While retaining ownership, Susan could not afford to live in the house after 24 years and moved into a smaller place not too far away. For 37 years there were corporate offices located in the house. The good news is that they did not destroy the beautiful unique home and it was able to be returned to its former glory and opened to the public. It is amazing that so much of the original pieces have come back home.

Our guide to the house was Rose and she made it very enjoyable. She was able to answer everyone’s questions and obviously is very passionate about her work here. Before or after your tour, take the time to tour through the garden and to really appreciate what a treasure this home is

Other things to do in Springfield, Ill. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ronald Reagan's childhood home Dixon, Il

Ronald Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911 in Tampico, Ill. The family moved to Dixon, Ill., which “Dutch” always considered his hometown in 1920, when he was just shy of 10 years old. He was known by the nickname “Dutch” because his father described him as a “fat little Dutchman” at birth and his mother always gave him a Dutch boy haircut. He lived in Dixon through high school and his family didn’t move from town until after he graduated from college. In all, they lived in town for 17 years.

The house at 816 Hennepin Avenue that remains today was only the family’s home for three years, from 1920-23 but it was the one that stayed in the future president’s memory and he remembered having a lot of fun here. The house itself was a rental; the elder Reagans never owned a home until Ronald bought them one in California.

The house was built in 1891 for $1,500. The Reagans rented it for $15 a month. You must tour the house with a docent. Begin your visit at the Visitor Center where you will pay your entrance fee of $5 and, depending on when the next tour is taking place, you can watch the nine minute video either before or after you tour the house. The visitor center is next door to the house and has the small gift store and four rooms of exhibits.

You enter the house like a guest would through the front door. Go upstairs you will see the bedrooms first. The boys, Dutch and Moon (Neil), shared a bedroom and a bed. There was a third bedroom but their mother Nell often brought home the men she rescued after they were incarcerated and she used the third bedroom for her projects. There is not a lot of original furniture in the house but there is a quilt in the bedroom and an iron wash tub. A rocking chair was often used by the future president at a neighbor’s house to listen to the radio; she willed it to the house on her death. At home, the boys who called their parents Jack and Nell had no radio and were encouraged to read by their mother.

The house is quite simple, what you would expect of an average working family. It has a warm feeling however and it did for the family as well. The President and Mrs. Reagan returned here on Feb. 6, 1984. His brother Neil came as well and they ate dinner in the dining room and then removed a brick in the brick wall of the fireplace to show where he used to stash his boyhood pennies. What was interesting is that Neil does not appear in any of the photos, by his own request.

You are free to wander around the grounds and to look at the Model T that is on display in the garage. Local members of a Model T club restored her to operating condition and at that time she was named Bessie. The home is open for visits from April to November seven days a week. It is only closed on Easter Sunday.

This is a very interesting place to visit and though it is a little off the beaten track, it is worthwhile to come for a visit. This writer was en route between Moline, Ill. and Sheffield, Ill. and it was only a slight detour. It is located about 100 miles west of Chicago and 42 miles southwest of Rockford. This is the only childhood home mentioned in Ronald Reagan’s autobiography so it obviously was important and memorable to him.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Visiting the Parthenon in Nashville, Tenn.

Have you ever wished you could go to Athens and see the Parthenon? If that is not in your plans for the near future, you can do the next best thing, visit the Athens of the South, Nashville and see their version of the Parthenon. Just in case you think this might not be as good as seeing the original, the Greek Government has used the Nashville Parthenon to help them to do some repairs and renovations to their original building. That says a lot about the quality and the authenticity of the Parthenon in Nashville.

The Parthenon is open to the public and houses a small art museum, it is however just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to visiting here. I was taken on a tour in December with the Museum Director Wesley Paine.This, of course, is an amazing way to see the Parthenon and it may not duplicate any other visitor's experience. Wesley really knows her museum. She was full of interesting information about the original building and about the times in which it was constructed.

In 1897 Nashville was the site of a World's Fair, it was called the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. The Parthenon was constructed as a temporary building and was never intended to outlive the exposition. As you look around Centennial Park today, it is hard to imagine what it would have looked like when the exposition was in full swing. That is the first thing you get to see as you being your tour.

These days entrance to the building is on the east side at sidewalk level. After you pay your entrance fee you head through some hallways that contain great pictures of the Centennial Exposition and all the great buildings that were part of it. There were many temporary buildings constructed by other countries. For the people who visited this exposition, this was probably the only time they were ever exposed to foreign culture. 

For example, at the Egyptian Pavilion, there were camel rides and in the Cuban Village there were what was considered some very racy dancing girls. The Exposition was also very indicative of the times it happened in, there were efforts at making it an alcohol-free zone (which failed) and also there were areas where African Americans were not allowed to go.

After the fair, the other buildings were torn down. The Parthenon was saved but it was not designed for the long haul and in 1920 it was decided that something was going to have to be done to either preserve or tear down the building. Obviously, the choice was made to rebuild the building. It took 10 years from 1921-31 to complete the building. The depression was in full swing and there just was no money for the Athena statue at that time. It would be over 50 years before the statue was added.

An elevator takes people to the upper floor where the Athena statue is. This statue by Nashville artist Alan LeQuire is breathtaking. It stands 41 feet 10 inches tall and in covered with 24 karat gold. It took eight years to create. When you see it you will understand why. One interesting fact that we learned was that the spear that is leaning against Athena began its life as a flag pole at a McDonalds.

The upstairs level of the Parthenon is divided into two rooms, the one where Athena is which is called the Naos.

The second room called the Treasury Room is where visitors originally entered the building. The doors are worth a stop to look at. They weigh 7.5 tons and yet one girl in our group was easily able to close the door. Don't try this on your own, however. In this treasury room, there are smaller versions of the sculptures from the east and west pediment.

James Cowan donated the first 63 paintings that now make up the collection that is housed in the Parthenon. He gave them to the city of Nashville anonymously. On his death in 1930 the donor's name was revealed. These are now on display along with special exhibits. While it is not on the par with many larger museums, this is a fine small museum and certainly worth looking at.

The Parthenon is a very interesting piece of Nashville history and should be on any visitor's list of places to see. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Amazing Greenfield Village Dearborn, Michigan

Greenfield Village is a living history museum. You will feel as if you have entered a time machine that can take you back to 17th century New England or 16th century England. Every area of the village has something different to offer.

You can purchase a ticket for the village in combination with a ticket for the Henry Ford Museum. If you do this you will only pay the $5 parking fee once, so a good idea. Once you get into the village you need to decide if you want to use their transportation system. If you do, a day pass is $10, with this you get a bracelet and you can ride the train, the omnibus, the bus, the Model T and the carousel as many times as you want.

The train takes 45 minutes to make a trip around the outside perimeter of the village. There are three stations including the station near the gate. You get a running commentary and all the important points in the village are pointed out. You can get off where you would like or just take one round to get acquainted with everything.

You can pick up the Omni bus right near the gate as well and take it to Main Street or down to the Porches and Parlors area. If you take it down Main Street you might want to stop at one of the restaurants for lunch. There is a modern Cafeteria and a Historic Stage Stop. Both offer good food and service.

Porches and Parlors

The depth of the collections in this section is unbelievable. Would you like to stand in the courthouse where Abe Lincoln tried some of his early cases? How about George Washington Carver's Cabin? The Martha Mary Chapel has a bell that was made in the Paul Revere Foundry. Have you ever wondered what the inside of a slaves cabin looked like? Wonder no more, the Hermitage Slave Quarters are located in Greenfield Village.

Noah Webster's home from New Haven Ct, Robert Frosts House, A Cotswold's Cottage from England, the Daggett Farmhouse and the oldest windmill in the United States are all located on these very scenic streets. It truly is like a walk into history.

If these were the only things here it would be amazing but how about visiting the Wright Brothers workshop. See where they came up with the idea for their aircraft. You can also visit the Wright family home.

The Henry Ford family farm house, the school house that Henry attended and the home of his favorite teacher are all here as well as is the Firestone family farm. The depth of the collection is unbelievable.

During the season there are craftspersons working in the village. Off season there are docents in many buildings but no activities except on the weekends.

The carousel is a gem with a frog as one of the animals and that is quite rare. The Model T has to be taken from the Model T loading dock. It is quite a still be to tooling through the village in a vintage car. If you are a train aficionado there is a Roundhouse here, one of only twenty still in existence in the United States.

A visit to Greenfield Village can certainly be a multi-day affair, there is so much to see and do. Without a doubt, if I could only recommend one place in the United States to visit, this would be it, If you live in the area a membership would certainly be a great idea. On the way out be sure to stop by the gift shop, it is large and filled with interesting items, some actually made within the village.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Museum of the Confederacy Richmond, Va.

The Museum of the Confederacy is next door to the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va. You will want to buy a combination ticket which is $15 for adults. Be sure to check on the times of the White House Tour to coordinate it with your visit to the museum, you can do this when you buy your ticket.

What a different perspective on the War between the States you get here. Being from the North, the Confederates are usually regarded as traitors. At this museum, the southerners are patriots doing what their forefathers did before them, leading to a second revolution to protect their rights and liberties. In the South, 900,000 men served the glorious cause, that is three out of four white males of the age to serve.

The display of tintypes and ambrotypes is particularly poignant, it puts a face on the war and the face is very young. It is gut wrenching. Another exhibit shows the jacket of a young man killed in the conflict. The hole is quite visible where the bullet went through the material and into his body.

Stonewall Jackson is well represented. They have his cap, his scabbard, his field officer sword and even a handkerchief with bloodstains that was used to bind his wound. They do a great job of making all the exhibits easy to follow and visually appealing.

The entry level floor introduces you to some of the main players in the War. There is an excellent display of Robert E. Lee memorabilia. Everything in the display is original. You see the sword of General Johnston that was worn by his father during the Revolutionary War. You also see the epitaph written by a young soldier and hung on his tomb as well as that soldier's jacket.

Fans of JEB Stuart will enjoy seeing his boots, his gauntlets his saddle and that jauntily rakish hat. The display brings him very much to life.

The exhibits are spread over three floors. The upper floor has a lot of maritime information. This was a sea war as well as a land war.

On the lower floor, there is a short video about flag conservation. You will understand the importance of this work when you see how many flags they have been able to preserve. On this lower level, you meet the average soldier. There are letters written to mothers and sweethearts back home from the battlefield. These offer an insight into what was going on in their heads and what was going on in the battlefield. They are sad, touching and occasionally humorous.

There is a lot to see and read here. Depending on what your level of interest is, allow about three hours for the visit to both the Museum and the White House of the Confederacy.  A small gift shop is located on the lobby level.