Friday, November 30, 2007

Hammersmith Farm


Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island, the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, remains an impressive example of 19th century expression of wealth and social standing, when the lions of industry and society created havens for themselves, a place to get away from it all.

More subdued in style than the goliaths of architecture you’ll find on the Newport Mansions tour, the shingle-style 28-room cottage has the distinction of becoming an icon not of the Gilded Age but of the 1960s. The wedding reception of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy was held here in 1953. Afterwards, during his presidency, the Victorian mansion was dubbed “the summer White House” by the press as President and Mrs. Kennedy were frequent summertime visitors.

With gardens originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the lawns and meadows stretch to the bay. The dock there had once berthed the Presidential yacht “Honey Fitz.” However, Robert Redford also took advantage of it in the film “The Great Gatsby” (1974). Contrasting with this period of elegant notariety, the 50-acre property was still the last working farm in the city of Newport.

John W. Auchincloss, the great-grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy's stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss, built the house in 1887. At the time this photo was taken, the mansion was open to the public for tours. Having been sold along with many of its original furnishings, the property is now privately owned, and it is now closed to the public.

The image of a young married couple being photographed in their wedding clothes against an expansive lawn bordered by a rustic rail fence is what most people who have not seen the property in person can recall. The former debutante and the former Senator made history, which was still part of the hazy future when their wedding photo was taken. Located on Ocean Drive in Newport, the mansion can still be seen from the road, and it has achieved the privacy which eluded it for so long.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Last Look at Autumn


One last look at the glorious spectacle of a New England autumn, now already faded, before we bow to bare branches and snow-covered boughs. This photo was taken on the auto road up Mt. Greylock in Adams, Massachusetts.

My November Guest

By Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grady
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so ryly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bellow Falls, Vermont - A Friendly Place to Hang Your Hat


This sign is painted on the side of building on Rockingham Street in downtown Bellows Falls, Vermont. Just across the street from the Miss Bellow Falls Diner, the building on which the sign is painted is owned by Frank Hawkins, who painted the sign and is noted locally for his work on other signs and murals, including a new one on the side of a barn up the road which attracts the motorist’s attention to “See Bellows Falls Vermont ….”

These signs sport a nostalgic look, but they are the product of a modern artist and a modern community which has found its own way of drawing attention from those who would bypass all of small-town America on the Interstate and never look back.

Look back. Better yet, turn back, and head into town instead of passing it by. Bellow Falls is not just a good place to hang your hat, it’s a good place to start your adventure.

Been there? Done that? Bought the T-shirt? Let us know.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Plimoth Plantation


The best thing about Plimoth Plantation is that none of the costumed interpreters ever breaks character. When you enter the stockade village, you enter the 17th century, with all its ills, its controversies, and its hope for a better future. You leave behind the 21st century, as much as you can, and the costumed interpreters will ignore any reference you make to television, automobiles, or Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears.

Survival is what matters here, not the many affectations of a modern day affected society. The Pilgrims fought a life and death struggle for the first year of their presence in Massachusetts, which was made easier by the Wampanoag people who saved their lives by helping them to adapt. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags were not exactly friends, but they were tenuous partners in a new experiment. Before the Pilgrims arrived, there were some 50,000 Wampanoag people in a territory around southern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island. The plague which killed thousands of them was probably brought to them by the Europeans settlers. Relations with the survivors dwindled until King Phillips War some decades later brought culture clash to devastating confrontation.

But the way of life echoed in the harvest celebrations that eventually became our Thanksgiving is an everyday occurrence here. The interpreters will not be dissuaded from intrusive questions on their eating habits and their funny clothes. They are righteous, self-righteous, and busy. Always very busy, though not too busy to share a bit of gossip with you about a neighbor as they pluck a chicken or wipe down a table, or repair a roof.

This is what makes Plimoth Plantation special, that the interpreters do not speak of the people of the era they represent in the third person. It is never “They did this,” or “They used this tool.” It is always, “I.” They portray people who existed, and they never let us forget that fact, because here in this special place they exist still.

Thanksgiving Day at Plimoth Plantation is an extraordinary experience, but the 17th century lies waiting for us here in Plymouth, Massachusetts the rest of the year as well. It is not to be missed. But leave your century at the door.

For more on Plimoth Plantation, visit this website.

Been there? Done that? Bought the T-shirt? Let us know. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Fort at No. 4


The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire is a re-creation of the fort which had stood in this area from 1740 to the 1760s. This was the northernmost English settlement along the Connecticut River in a time when New England could have become New France during the French and Indian War.


The settlers here were farming and trading families. They built a square of interconnected houses surrounded by a stockade, and crowned with a guard tower. Subject to a few Indian attacks, settler families abandoned the fort, replaced by militia troops in 1747, whereupon the fort was besieged again by French militia and Abenaki warriors. The seige lasted three days, but the English troops held out and the French and Indians withdrew to Canada. With the defeat of the French in 1761, and the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the need for the fort ended.


The fort illustrates for us today the commerce of the period, how important the river was for travel, and how the river opened up New England to settlers who found it difficult to travel otherwise through the dense forrests. Western New England is to a large extent demarcated from the eastern half by the settlement and commerce along the river. Our future industries, tourism, and even our accents derive from our north-south association, in an area of New England where Boston, the grand metropolis of American culture and history, has always seemed as distant as the moon.


Today there are costumed interpreters at The Fort at No. 4, and this replica of the 18th century should be included, along with Sturbridge Village’s 19th century and Plimoth Plantation’s 17th century replicas, as must see sights for New Englanders and travelers to New England, alike.

For more information on The Fort at No. 4, see this website.

Been there? Done that? Climbed the guard tower? Let us know.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mt. Holyoke World War II Memorial


Just a few minutes out of Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, a B-24 Liberator on a training mission slammed into the tree tops and rock cliff face of nearby Mt. Holyoke. It was May, 1944. The crew of ten on Army Air Corps flight training were killed instantly in the explosion.

In 1989 this granite monument was dedicated to their memory. Unlike many World War II memorials in the US, this monument does not merely commemorate these fallen men, it marks their place of death.

Most of the flight crew were not New Englanders. The radio operator was from Massachusetts. The wives of a couple of the crew members took apartments in South Hadley, and could have heard the crash that night, and the wail of sirens that followed. South Hadley fire fighters, as well as the fire departments of surrounding towns arrived to help put out the fireball on top of the mountain, and many civilians tried to claw their way up the mountain to reach the men, but it was too late for any rescue attempt. World War II was over for those men, and nothing would be the same for their families. It was a terrible accident that brought the war home to an otherwise quiet part of the world.

Been there? Tell us, or share your experiences at other New England war memorials.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Conway Covered Bridge



On Route 116 in Conway, Massachusetts, the Burkeville or Conway Covered Bridge stands, built around 1870 and is reported by one source as being the oldest surviving covered bridge in the US. Crossing the South River, it has the unique distinction of utilizing iron tension members into traditional timber truss work. These photos were taken more than a decade ago, though it appears to be autumn. There is something eternal about autumn.


The bridge has undergone restoration since these photos, and is now open only to foot traffic. There is some controversy in this country between restoring a covered bridge and rebuilding it to modern Department of Transportation requirements. Some interesting articles have been written on the subject. This bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. Franklin County is home to about half of Massachusetts’ surviving covered bridges.

Been there? Done that? Spit off the bridge? Let us know.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Connecticut Trolley Museum



The Connecticut Trolley Museum is the oldest museum dedicated to electric railroading in the US. The 17-acre site in East Windsor, Connecticut operates a mile and a half railway where visitors can take rides on running trolley cars. There are several trolleys and locomotives and railroad equipment among the museum’s displays.

You can ride the Rio de Janeiro Tramways car, the Montreal Tramways cars, or a streetcar from New Orleans, and try to imagine how this mode of transportation affected, and created, the realities of daily life so many decades ago.


From roughly 1890 to 1945, trolleys were a mainstay of public transportation not only within urban areas, but connecting cities. New England towns and cities were once connected with an extensive web of trolley lines. A lot were lost in the Hurricane of 1938, and many other routes were discontinued and tracks pried up during World War II.

For more info, visit the Connecticut Trolley Museum’s website.

Been there? Done that? Bought the T-shirt? Let us know.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Red Sox World Series Souvenirs

From the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, here are a few mementos:

The program of the 1912 World Series, won by the Boston Red Sox.



The program of the 1915 World Series, won by the Boston Red sox.



A display of memorabilia from the 2004 World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox.



Time to make room for more World Series souvenirs.

For more information on the Boston Red Sox, have a look at this website.

Been to Fenway? Bought the T-shirt or the cap? Remember the Curse of the Bambino? Let us know.