Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fond Memories: MINUTE MAN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK




As I was sitting around in the Visitor Center at the TR Site this week, fondly remembering all of the awesome places I visited over the past year, I suddenly realized that I'd never gotten a chance to blog about my amazing trip to Minute Man National Historical Park!!  So, working from the theory that late is better than never . . . I hope you enjoy this illustrated account of my adventures:



One of the first things I learned upon my arrival in Concord, Massachusetts (that's where you can find Minute Man NHP!), is that it's considered the birthplace of the American Revolution!  This is where the first engagement of the Revolutionary War occurred . . . way back in 1775.
 

My first stop was the North Bridge Visitor Center, where I looked at the new exhibit that provides a great overview of the battle.  It didn't take me very long at all to figure out where I would have wanted to be back in 1775.  I also went through the surrounding exhibit, which helped me to get a better understanding of why the battle happened and what caused the British military forces to come to Concord.


Park Ranger Ryan Walsh did a great job explaining the exhibit and the battle to me.  I was fascinated to learn that the militias of the Massachusetts countryside had been preparing for the possibility of war by storing ammunitions and arms.  I couldn't believe it when Ranger Ryan showed me one of the original cannons that had been hidden in Concord: “The Hancock.”  Wow!
 
 
Then, I took a look at some of the other artifacts, including Concord Militia member Captain David Brown’s musket.  This musket is believed to have been carried by Captain Brown at the battle on April 19, 1775.  (That's 238 years ago!  Almost exactly!)  Captain David Brown, like his counterparts, were average men such as cobblers, coopers, tavern keepers, and farmers. These common men stood up for what they believed in against one of strongest militaries in the world in 1775.
 

I was so inspired after learning and reading so much about the battle that I wanted to know what it felt like to stand up to the British army.  Here I am facing down (up?) a light infantry soldier from the British army. The light infantry were key members of the British column on the day of the battle.

 
I finished off my visit to Minute Man NHP by making my way down to the North Bridge, where I paid my respects to the soldiers on both sides who  did not make it home that day, including the grave of the fallen British soldiers.  I was particularly moved by the J.R. Lowell poem “Lines” which memorializes their sacrifice.
 
 
I took one last look on my way out of the park.  I thought about the words of the “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and I think truly understood what the author meant by “the shot heard around the world.”
 
 
Thanks to Ranger Ryan for teaching me so much and showing me around Minute Man National Historical Park.  I had a great time!

 
 

 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Back in at the THEODORE ROOSEVELT INAUGURAL SITE (for a little while, at least!)

So, after all this time on the road, would you believe that I'm actually back in good ol' Buffalo, New York???  It's been really fun catching up with my friends at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site (or, as we like to say, the TR Site).  They've been extra busy while I was gone.

For instance, the last time I was here, there was a big bank building standing right next to the TR Site.  See??


Well, now the bank is GONE!!!  Check it out!  There I am, sitting where the bank used to be.


With the bank building gone, the TR Site is now working on recreating -- as much as possible -- the landscape that Theodore Roosevelt would have seen when he was inaugurated here on September 14th, 1901.  This postcard  shows what it looked like back then.

In the coming months, the TR Site folks will get some grass planted, but in the meantime they've already started by planting a few new trees in the side yard.


One thing that's slightly different about the newly reclaimed side yard, though, is that a driveway has been added to the Site's parking lot from Delaware Avenue.  Visitors used to have to drive around the block to get to the parking lot, but now they can just drive right through -- so much easier to find the TR Site now!  Plus, there's this great new sign pointing the way!


Speaking of visitors, while I'm here for the next few days, I've decided to hang around in the Visitor Center and say "hi" to everyone who stops by.


Since I was in the Visitor Center anyway, I decided to take a look around the TR Site's museum shop.  Check out these awesome National Parks lunch boxes!  Wish I'd had one of these with me on my trip!  


I also wanted to tell everyone about all of the cool National Parks I've been to in the last year, so I made a map with all of the spots I've been to marked, and also added all of the Junior Ranger badges that I earned along the way! It was a lot of fun remembering all of the amazing places I've been too, and all of the great people I met along the way!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Visiting the NORTHEAST MUSEUM SERVICES CENTER

Mr. Moosevelt has had an exciting trip to Charlestown, Massachusetts! While visiting the staff at the Northeast Museum Services Center (NMSC), he helped out a lot with the many projects that are ongoing at the Center.
First, he checked in with Budget Analyst Lisa, to get the lay of the land at NMSC.  At NMSC, we work with museum collections such as archeological artifacts, archives, and library records from National Parks in the Northeast Region of the NPS (Maine to Virginia).


Once he felt oriented, he was ready to work on some museum collections! In the Archeology Lab, Mr. Moosevelt helped mend ceramics from Saratoga National Historical Park.  In this photo he’s helping to piece together chamber pots dating from the 1800’s so they can be mended by our staff. Chamber pots were used as toilets before there was indoor plumbing.  Don’t worry; Mr. Moosevelt adopted the curators’ protocol of washing his hands before and after touching artifacts!


While working in the archeology lab, he cataloged a tiny pearlware toy tea set that dates from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s.


Mr. Moosevelt needed to read through a lot of books to learn about ceramics.  He’s glad he brought his reading glasses with him!


After helping out in the Archeology Lab, Mr. Moosevelt headed upstairs to do some research in the Cultural Resources Bibliography, checking out some reports from Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.  Sagamore Hill was the home of Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 to 1919.


He also checked to make sure the collection from Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (his home park!) was in good shape… and it is! NMSC archeologists will be using this library collection to help them catalog artifacts from the park later in the year.


He pitched in to rehouse some records from Acadia National Park in the Archives.  Archivists rehouse old papers, letters, and photographs so that they stay protected and safe for future generations to use.


(A moose’s-eye view) More rehousing of books from Acadia.


Mr. Moosevelt also took a look at some oversized archival materials from Lowell National Historical Park, learning about the creation of the park in 1978.


He learned about the difference between buffered and unbuffered acid-free tissue paper and when to use each kind.  Acid-free tissue paper is specially designed to protect archives and museum collections from deterioration. “Buffered” tissue contains special chemicals to protect artifacts from acidic materials, and is good for paper maps, books, and other artifacts made of natural fibers. “Unbuffered” tissue does not contain those chemicals, and is better for artifacts like photographs, blue prints, or synthetic fibers.


He even tested out a vacuum for a housekeeping plan!  It is important that we keep historic houses and buildings clean so that they last long into the future.


After all that hard work, it was time for Mr. Moosevelt to hit the road, trekking across the Zakim Bridge on his way to his next adventure!












Friday, December 14, 2012

In the Steps of Theodore Roosevelt - at YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

My recent travels took me all the way to Yellowstone National Park -- where my new friend Justin showed me around.


One of our first stops was Mammoth Hot Springs -- one of Yellowstone's many famous geothermal features.


Mammoth Hot Springs are really quite remarkable.  From what I understand, there was a volcanic explosion in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago.  One of its legacies is a chamber of partially molten magma that heats ground water and sends it through thick layers of sedimentary limestone on its way back to the earth's surface.  The hot water dissolves some of the rock and carries it to surface, where we see it as chalky, (often) white mineral deposits.


The hot springs are constantly changing and can even look different from one day to the next!!  I was fascinated by the layer of snow at the edges of the hot springs!



Next, Justin took me to Palette Spring, where the mineral deposits were more colorful.  It turns out that various forms of heat-tolerant bacteria live on this particular hill and they create the striking shades of orange, green and brown seen behind me in this photo.









Our next stop was the General Store, which was not only all decked out for the holidays, but also carried a great selection of moose-themed products!!  As Theodore Roosevelt would say, "Bully!"







Speaking of Theodore Roosevelt, we also stopped at a very impressive stone arch named for the 26th president.  It's located at the park's North Entrance, and was actually built while he was in office.  It turns out that folks back then were worried that the North Entrance to Yellowstone wasn't impressive enough, so they wanted to build something to add a element of grandeur to the area. 




By happy coincidence, as construction of the arch got underway, TR was planning a cross-country presidential trip that would bring him to the area in April of 1903.  He was the honored guest in an elaborate ceremony to dedicate the as-yet-unfinished arch and lay the cornerstone.  There are even photos of the event!


TR speaking to the crowd gathered for the
 dedication of the arch at the park's north entrance.
(Original image from the Library of Congress)

At the bottom of the arch, there is a stone that reminds visitors that Yellowstone was "Created by and Act of Congress [on] March 1, 1872"  That was during Ulysses S. Grant's administration and it marked the creation of the very first national park in the world!  Wow!!



The quotation carved at the top of the arch ("For the benefit and enjoyment of the people") comes from what's called the Yellowstone National Park Organic Act -- the law that created that park!


I don't know about everyone else who makes it here, but I certainly I enjoyed my visit to Yellowstone and feel like I benefited from it as well!

Many thanks to Justin for showing me around this amazing place!


(By the way, if you want to read more about the history of the Roosevelt Arch, check out this 2003 article by Lee H. Whittlesey and Paul Schullery.)



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Visiting an Old Friend at the Longfellow House - Washington's Headquarters NHS

Longfellow House - Washington's Headquarters NHS
overlooking the Charles River in Cambridge, MA
Yesterday, I made an afternoon stop by the yellow mansion on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This house, which is now known as the Longfellow House - Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site, is not a new place to me. I visited here when I was president to call on my friends, descendants of the Longfellows. Today, though, I came to visit my fellow furry friend, Horace, who served as my guide throughout this historic home.

This house has quite the history, too! It's over 250 years old and was built by a Loyalist who fled before the American Revolution. So, this house has history that's even older than our country! After that, General George Washington used it as his first headquarters during the war - can you believe it? During the mid-19th century, the home was owned by a very famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote poems like "Paul Revere's Ride" and "The Village Blacksmith." Horace reminded me of all the rich history of this house as we sat in the parlor and drank tea.

But let me introduce my friend Horace to you! He is a Steiff bear who's lived in Cambridge since 1904. He was owned by Priscilla Thorpe, a granddaughter of Henry Longfellow. Priscilla is also  the young girl I met when I first visited the home. She curtsied so nicely and offered me a beautiful rose. By that time, the poet had passed away, but his children and grandchildren worked very hard to preserve it in his and George Washington's memory. I'm glad they did! Now I can come back and visit the friends that I made here.


After Horace and I finished reminiscing, he showed me around the grand house. First, we stopped in the main entry to say hi to the father of our country, George Washington. He's looking pretty serious here, but that makes sense when you think about what he had to do to create the first organized American army while he lived in this home.



Our next stop was to see Henry Longfellow's study - where he wrote most of his poetry. It's a very grand room, with lots of books, paintings of his friends, and cozy chairs to work in. This is where Horace told me a very touching story about how the children of Cambridge showed Henry how much they cared for his poetry. You see that chair that I'm sitting in below? It's made out of the same chestnut wood from the trees that once lined Brattle Street, right out the window. Towards the end of Henry's life, the city of Cambridge decided to cut down the trees in order to widen the streets. This saddened Henry, who loved nature. It also saddened the children in the city, who were very familiar with his poem, "The Village Blacksmith," which says:

UNDER a spreading chestnut tree 
  The village smithy stands; 
The smith, a mighty man is he, 
  With large and sinewy hands; 
And the muscles of his brawny arms         
  Are strong as iron bands.
So, to keep the memory of the trees that the blacksmith who once worked under the chestnut trees just down the road, the children of Cambridge gathered the wood and had this chair carved from it. They gave it to Henry on his 72nd birthday. It's pretty comfy, too!


On the way through the library, I made sure to stop and say hello to Henry himself. Did you know that Henry's the only American to be honored in the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey in London, England? This is a copy of the bust that still sits there today. 


Before we went outside, Horace asked me if I remembered any of the letters that I sent to the family? I said, "of course!" The Dana's, who are related to the Longfellows by marriage through Henry's daughter, Edith Longfellow, were friends of mine. Horace asked if I would like to see the letters. He said that they meant so much to the family they saved them all these years!  So, we went into the old basement, which is where the archives are now located, and took a look at some of the letters. I wrote this one in 1904, from the White House, to Richard Henry Dana III, who married Edith. I was congratulating R.H. Dana for speaking up and saying something against The Boston Herald:
My dear Dana:
I am glad you spoke as you did at the Reform club. I would like to have seen those people when you spoke. What a disingenuous paper the Boston Herald is!
Sincerely yours,
Theodore Roosevelt

After we looked at this, I told Horace that I must go - I have to make it into Boston soon. But what a nice trip that was! I hope to make it back to the old yellow mansion in Cambridge again soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moosevelt gives a big thumbs-up to National Historic Landmarks!


National Historic Landmark, maritime history, Olympia, US Navy
U.S.S. Olympia (Photo by National Historic Landmark Program)
The peripatetic Theodore "Bully" Moosevelt was last seen in Philadelphia sporting a new souvenir tattoo, inspired by the historic evidence that his great-great grandfather once served aboard the U.S.S. Olympia, one of the world's greatest warships, a vessel that straddles the shift from the Great Age of Sail to the massive steam engines of the Industrial Age.

In honor of Veterans Day, it was time to walk in the footsteps of his Moosevelt ancestor, to stand on the very deck where, in 1899, the famous Admiral George Dewey once greeted Governor Theodore Roosevelt.

To get to the National Historic Landmark Olympia, moored on the Delaware River waterfront near the Independence Seaport Museum, he crossed the National Historic Landmark Becuna, a WWII-era submarine.  Becuna was commissioned in 1944 and served in World War II as the Submarine Flagship of the Pacific Fleet under the command of General Douglas MacArthur and received four battle stars for her World War II service.

Once aboard, Bully noted the tall masts that allowed Olympia to operate under sail or steam power.  Instead of the grey color most often associated with naval vessels, Olympia is painted white.  She is the last of the Great White Fleet, the steel-hulled warships that served under Theodore Roosevelt as Commander-in-Chief.

And it all began in San Francisco, where Olympia was built at the Union Iron Works.

Mare Island, USS Olympia, naval history
"Union Iron Works, Engineers & Shipbuilders, San Francisco, 1893"
(Photo by National Historic Landmark Program)
What a beautiful ship.  Bully visits Officer Country (just like his g-g-grandfather did back in the day).

(Photo National Historic Landmarks Program)

(Photo courtesy Independence Seaport Museum)

From here it was time to head to the bridge, where Commodore Dewey gave that famous command, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."  The exact spot is marked, so you can, literally, stand in his [brass] footsteps.

full speed ahead, ship's wheel,
Bully checks out the ship's wheel (very like a sailing vessel!) and rings the engine order telegraph
to alert the engine room to power the ship at a certain speed (very like a powerful warship!).
In the background is a schematic of the Olympia, showing the placement of the wheel and the telegraph.
(B&W Photo is of display in Independence Seaport Museum; Bully photos by NHL Program)  

Bully gives the order
Bully imagines what it might be like to give Gridley the order to fire, by speaking Dewey's famous phrase down the brass speaking tube.  You see, there was no radio or intercom then.

This speaking tube seems just a step up from two soup cans and a piece of string, but it worked.

Olympia was the first naval vessel to be outfitted with refrigeration.  The large water cooler (a welcome respite from the tropical heat) was known as the scuttlebutt.  Can you think of a modern phrase that includes that word?
The term corresponds to the colloquial concept of a water cooler in an office setting, which at times becomes a meeting place for "water cooler talk." Water for immediate consumption on a sailing ship was conventionally stored in a scuttled butt: A butt -- or cask -- was "scuttled" because it had a hole in it, allowing the water to be accessed.  Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumors.  -- Naval History & Heritage Command

After a drink of water from the scuttlebutt, Bully was hungry.  His g-g-grandfather dined with the sailors (the ropes attached to the tables allowed them to shift with the movement of the ship).

(Photo courtesy Independence Seaport Museum)

He was invited into the junior officer's mess where he was impressed with the fancy table settings.

(Photo by National Historic Landmark Program)

After dinner, he went for a stroll, and marveled at the big guns.  It was one like these that Gridley fired, defeating the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, establishing the United States as a world power, and making the Olympia, Commodore Dewey -- and Theodore Roosevelt -- famous the world over.  Wow.  That was some gun!

(B&W Photo is of display in Independence Seaport Museum; Bully photo by NHL Program) 

After a long day, it was time to hit the hay.  Or the hammock, in this case, very much like the sailing ships of yore.

Sailors in hammocks aboard U.S.S. Olympia. z z z z z z z z z z...
(Photo courtesy Independence Seaport Museum)

hammock, sailor, Olympia, navy
After a long day, Bully and his bison buddy hit the sack. z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z .........
(Photo by National Historic Landmark Program)
naval history, armed forces, veteran, Olympia
Olympia carried home the body of WWI's Unknown Soldier
(Photo courtesy DC Public Library Commons)
Bully fell asleep thinking about Veterans Day, and how, in 1921, Olympia's last mission was to bring the body of World War I's Unknown Soldier from France to Washington, D.C.

The ship has an amazing history.  How terrible that it's in danger.

In danger?

Yes, Olympia might be scuttled or sold for scrap unless she can be transferred to new owners who can move her and get critical repairs underway.  Even though she's a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark, the ship hasn't been in drydock since 1945 and needs to be overhauled.  The museum doesn't have the millions of dollars required.

Now engaged in a complicated application process, there are two organizations that hope to qualify to be Olympia's new owner and caretaker.  The Mare Island Historic Park Foundation, San Francisco, California, and the South Carolina Olympia Committee, Beaufort, South Carolina.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has supported Olympia and created a page with more information for all  who want to help save the ship.

Olympia has faced danger before and made history.  Here's hoping both the ship and her extraordinary legacy live on.