Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grey Towers Mansion

On our last four day weekend, Hubby and I drove to Connecticut.  On our way there we went through historic Milford, Pennsylvania home to Grey Towers National Historic Site.

Grey Towers was built in 1886 for James Pinchot, a successful businessman and philanthropist.  James and his wife, Mary, had their summer home designed to utilize local materials and to reflect the French heritage of the Pinchot family, who first settled in Milford in 1818.

The turkeys are made entirely of lead - a problem since the squirrels like to lick them, resulting in a number of squirrel fatalities.  The bust on the outside of the second floor is Jean Lafayette and he is looking toward France.

The massive front door is wide enough to be a double door but James thought that would be too fancy so ordered one large door be installed.

Through the front door, is the huge foyer.  It is the largest room in the house and the Pinchot family spent decades entertaining guests with afternoon teas, dinner parties and dances.

Musicians played near the fireplace in the foyer as dancers twirled around the floor.

Disturbed by destructive logging practices, James encouraged his eldest son, Gifford, to consider a career in forestry.  Born with a love for nature, Gifford worked tirelessly to raise scientific forestry and natural resource conservation from a radical experiment to a nationwide movement.

Gifford attributed much of his success to his wife, Cornelia, who put her own stamp on Grey Towers.

In a age when men and women would retire to separate rooms to converse after dinner, Cornelia took out the wall between the gentlemen and ladies sitting rooms forcing conversation among both sexes.

Pinchot was eventually elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1922 and was widely regarded as one of the state's most popular and effective governors.

Before he was governor though, he became head of the Division of Forestry in 1898 and in 1905, under his good friend, President Theodore Roosevelt, was named Chief Forester of the newly created United States Forest Service.

The large living room further reflects the families' love of the outdoors.

During Gifford Pinchot's tenure, national forests more than tripled in size to more than 170 million acres.

At present, the upper floors of the house are used as offices for the forestry service and are not open to the public, but there is one more "room" to show.

This is the dining room!  Remember they were only here during the summer - and this water feature and gazebo served as their formal dining room.  Food was placed on wooden dishes, and the rule was you would "pass" it to the person directly across from you by gently pushing the dish across the water.  It was against the rules to pass to the person seated next to you.

If you tired of looking at the other people at the "table" you could look upward at beautiful design.  Cornelia had lots of unusual ideas but I love this one!

Gifford and Cornelia only had one child, a son they named Gifford.  The doting parents built him his own little playhouse.

In 1963, the younger Gifford donated Grey Towers and 102 acres to the USDA Forest Service and on September 24, 1963 President John F. Kennedy personally dedicated the site to the American public.  We loved our tour of Grey Towers but we had lots more to see on our four day weekend!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fort Hunter Mansion

Some of our sightseeing trips are only a day long, like when we visited the Fort Hunter mansion just north of Harrisburg.  The mansion was built on the site of the old French and Indian War Fort Hunter.  Archaeologists are currently working to find the exact site of the fort.

In 1814, Captain Archibald McAllister built the federal style mansion we see today by adding on to his original cabin built in 1786.

The home was quite elegant for such a rural location and the flying staircase was most unusual in a building so far from the city.

This room was where the family spent most of their free time together.

Hubby certainly made himself comfortable there.  Yes, he had permission to sit on the furniture.

Across the hall, the parlor was reserved for important visitors.

The mansion stayed in the McAllister family until 1870 when it was sold to a new family.

The second floor has a master bedroom .............

.............with it's own sitting room.

The last people to call Fort Hunter "home" were Helen and John Reily.  They never had children of their own but had nine nieces and nephews who eventually inherited the property.  To entertain the children when they visited, the Reilys created a play area on the 2nd floor landing with lots and lots of toys.

One of the nieces managed to preserve the property, including it's collections of furniture, toys, clothing and carriages, and open a museum.

Of course, those beloved nieces and nephews had to have rooms to stay in.

The two guest rooms are located on the second floor too.

I wouldn't mind staying in this room myself.  However, I would miss indoor plumbing and electricity.  The mansion didn't have either one until the 1930s.  It still doesn't have central heat, or air, either so it closes during the winter months.

Did you miss the dining room?  That's because in those days people simply didn't have them.  Drop leaf tables were located in sitting areas and meals were taken there.  This practice was very practical because whole rooms didn't need to be heated for the sole purpose of eating.  Opinion is divided about whether this portion of the older house was ever used for dining or just a work space for the servants.

Servants cooked over an open fire.  The second leading cause of death for women in those days (following childbirth) was fire.  That's why they wore primarily woolen skirts.  They were harder to catch on fire.

Kitchen work was labor intensive in those days!

We thoroughly enjoyed our one day trip to Fort Hunter.  Last weekend we took another four day weekend and visited Connecticut.  That's going to take a while to post about!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


When it comes to Civil War battlefields, Gettysburg is at the top of any ones "must see" list.  I considered doing a day by day explanation of the three day battle but figured that would take too long and I'm already so far behind blogging.  But if you have any questions about the battle I do have the answers!

We began our visit at the new visitor's center where they did an excellent job explaining each day of the battle and how it affected the soldiers, town and nation.

Outside the center we couldn't pass up a photo op with President Lincoln.

One of the highlights inside the center was a huge mural, and audio sound effects, depicting the battle.

The artist even painted Abraham Lincoln into the mural.  Can you pick him out?

We spent a long time at the visitor's center but finally got in the car and began our journey through the battle. A good place to start is at the Lutheran Theological Seminary where, on the morning of July 1, General John Buford utilized the cupola of the building as a vantage point for directing his troops.  He realized the importance of holding this area until Union troops could arrive and engaged the Confederate troops for the first day of battle.  And, yes, we climbed up in the cupola too.

Back on the battlefield, we drove past the usual, and unusual, state monuments.

The drive guided us thoroughly through each day of the battle and told us about each officer and the brave soldiers who gave their lives for the North or the South.

Every officer, except one Union officer (a long story), has a monument in his honor.  This one is for General Longstreet, General Lee's second in command.

Some monuments are natural.  This is looking out from Little Round Top toward Devil's Den. The land between The Round Tops and Devil's Den was called Slaughter Pen.  You can imagine why.

Confederate sharpshooters took up positions among these rocks to take aim at Union soldiers on Little Round Top.

The largest of the monuments at Gettysburg is the Pennsylvania Memorial located near the end of the battlefield drive.

On the day we were there, there was a Union encampment with people in costume explaining the different aspects and hardships of the life of a Civil War soldier.

Music played a big part in that life.  Music kept soldiers marching forward, signaled troop movements, and was an all around morale booster.

The 3rd day of battle was the bloodiest yet, culminating with what is known as Pickett's Charge.  The trees on the left of the photo mark the furthest point that the Confederates were able to advance on the Union line.  The charge resulted in the utter destruction of Pickett's brigade and the eventual defeat of the Confederacy.

Following the battle, thousands of soldiers lay dead and dying all over the fields around Gettysburg.  Most of the dead were buried in hastily dug graves.  Others were claimed by family that descended by hundreds into the town to find their loved ones.

It was quickly decided that such a huge battle deserved it's own National Cemetery and the Union dead were re-interred here.  Abraham Lincoln was the keynote speaker delivering his now famous Gettysburg address.  I'm sure we could have spent many more days at Gettysburg but we learned a lot about this pivotal battle.