Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Colonial Market & Fair at Mount Vernon (& other surprises)

Another beautiful day in D.C.! Last weekend (Sept. 18th), we made another trip to Mount Vernon. Not to tour it, like we had before, but to take in some extra sights. On Sat. they were having a Colonial Market & Fair. What we also found out, was that they were offering free boat tours on the Potomac River, so the first thing we did when we got there was to head down to the wharf to get in line & were we glad we did!

The photo on the left is of Mount Vernon from the water. The photo on the right was looking down the river towards DC. You can see the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Washington Monument.

Mount Vernon offers a "National Treasure 2" Tour; for those of you who have seen the National Treasure movies, you know that part of the second movie was filmed at Mount Vernon. In taking the tour we got to see some places not open to the regular public!! We had to make sure we kept our special badges on!!

These are photos of under the mansion where the sequence with Nicolas Cage & "The President" were filmed. In the movie, they sprayed cob webs all around to make it look like no one had been down there for along time. In George Washington's time it was used to store a lot of the food.

This building was an ice house in George Washington's time. It has a chute that is attached to the side where the slaves would place the ice after bringing it up from the river. This is where the producers got the idea for a tunnel to use in the movie.

Then it was on to the Market Place! They had tents set up for the vendors who were selling things that would have been found in Colonial Times: baskets, pottery, lace makers, ironworks, farm herbs, rugs, wooden toys pewter ware, handmade soap, and much more. Everyone was dressed up in period clothing to make it more authentic.

There was also entertainment: musicians, dancers...

A Punch & Judy puppet show...
And then there were demonstrations; the soldiers had tents set up with item they used to live on the battlefield...

This woman was using a spinning wheel to make yarn...

And this gentleman said he was employed by General Washington to make sure the area stayed clear of varmints. Can you see what he has in his cage??

As we were getting ready to leave, the soldiers came up to the bolling green in front of the mansion and demonstrated how they would march in formation and shoot. Look at all that smoke from the rifles!! It's no wonder sometimes they shot their own men!! They couldn't see them with all the smoke!!

None of that was on our "list", but it was still very enjoyable!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recent Visitors

Thought you might like to see some pictures of recent visitors to our estate.

Red Foxes are an occasional passerby. This one is actually in the neighbor's yard but we will see him in our yard at times, too.

This owl made a very unexpected appearance on our backyard bird feeder.  He stayed a few minutes, looking all around before taking flight to chase after a dove.

Unlike its mother, this fawn was relatively unstartled when Barb came out to take its picture.  They seem to get more skittish as they get older.  Barb actually talked to this one and, as you can see, it just stood and looked at her. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Exploring SW Virginia - Poplar Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Thanks for hanging in there.  This post will wrap up the SW Virginia series. 

After the staying the first night near Floyd, VA, we had moved on to stay a couple of nights at the beautiful Acorn Hill Inn in Lynchburg VA. 

On Labor Day, we headed out to a couple more places we wanted to see before heading home.  Our first stop was Poplar Forest, just outside Lynchburg.  Poplar Forest was the retreat home for Thomas Jefferson, which he and his wife inherited in 1773.  During his ownership, Poplar Forest was a 4,800 acre working plantation.  He spent little time there for many years, the main exception being when he had to flea from Monticello in 1781 to escape British capture.  

Later, during his presidency, he designed the house that stands today.  After his presidency ended in 1809, he visited three to four times per year until 1823.  Below are entry flags and a commemorative plaque.

It is built as an octagon for space efficiency and has many features similar to Monticello.  The front entry is left, the back garden entrance on the right.

Having been in disrepair for some years, the house is in the midst of a long term renovation and archaeologists continue digs to uncover clues and artifacts from the Jefferson years.  It was fascinating to learn more about the man and his many talents, and stand in the house he himself designed.  Learn more about Poplar Forest by clicking here.

After that we were off to cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It is a beautiful drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains and we had a gorgeous sunny day for the drive.

Thus ended our Labor Day adventure.  We have found Virginia to be such a great place to explore - rich with history and natural beauty as well.  We look forward to our next Virginia adventure!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Exploring SW Virginia - Appomattox and Natural Bridge

We have wanted for some time to see Appomattox, where General Lee surrendered to General Grant, which was the beginning of the end of the Civil War.  As we planned the trip to SW Virginia, Appomattox was a high priority on our itinerary.  On Sunday, September 5, (happy birthday, Dad!) we finally made it.  It has been so long since our high school class in US history, so we couldn't remember why the Confederacy picked this site to surrender.  Then, we learned the answer.

During the winter of 1864-65, the Union army held camp just outside Richmond, VA, the capitol of the south, and nearby Petersburg, a significant rail hub.  As spring broke, the Union army cut off the remaining supply lines and the Lee's army had to retreat.  They headed west to evade Grant's army, hoping to re-supply and turn south to safety.  Grant split his troops - some followed in direct pursuit, and some looped south and west to cut them off.  Several days later, in April, 1865, Lee found his escape route cut off to the west while being pursued from the east.  This happened just outside the small town of Appomattox Court House.  Lee put up one final battle before realizing all was lost.  He asked to meet Grant in town to discuss terms of surrender.

The charming entrance to present-day Appomattox (l) and the sign for the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (r).

On the outskirts of Appomattox Court House there is a cemetery with the remains of 18 Confederate soldiers who died in the last skirmish.  One Union soldier was added some time later. (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

 Note the southern perspective on the memorial stone in the bottom picture, which says "Dedicated to the memory of those who served in the defense of the Confederate States of America" . 

The sign below shows how the town was laid out in 1865.  Some of the structures that we saw are original, and some were reconstructed as close as possible to the original plans.  The courthouse (top right) is a reconstruction.

They had several people in period pieces acting as if in the fall of 1865 who told the story of the final battle and the surrender.

The final battle was waged in and around the small town lanes.  In the end, it was evident to Lee that his retreat was cut off and he had no hope.  A sign shown below indicates the place from where the final cannon shots were fired, in the front yard of some poor townsperson.

When Lee sent word asking to meet with Grant, the house of a local private citizen was selected for the meeting (McLean House).

McLean House was dismantled some years later to be moved to Washington as an historic site but was never moved.  This is an authentic reconstruction built from original plans, sketches and photos. 

A well-know illustration depicted the Grant-Lee meeting in the parlor (l), and the parlor itself (r).

Final orders and parole papers were printed to allow the men of Lee's army to return home.  Some 30,000 of these were printed overnight in the Clover Hill Tavern shown below.  This is an original building. 

 Above (l) are printing presses of the same type that were used to print 30,000 parole papers for the Confederate soldiers.  An actual parole paper is shown on the right.

As usual, we really enjoyed learning more about this important event in our nation's history, to stand where they stood and envision the events as the unfolded.

On to The Natural Bridge.

The Natural Bridge is just that ... a natural bridge.  Over twenty stories worth.

It was quite stunning to stand underneath this awesome geologic structure.  Trivia for the day:  Thomas Jefferson bought 157 acres including the natural bridge from King George III in 1774.  At sundown, they have a creation story with a recorded reading of the Genesis creation story a light show on the bridge.

Not a great picture, but it was really fascinating.

All in all, it was a long but great day. 

Next and last, Acorn Inn and the Blue Ridge Parkway.