Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas From Arizona

After 4 days of hard driving we arrived home.  We were so happy to be out of that truck!  Since we arrived, we have been running nonstop but enjoying every minute.  I haven't decorated my own home this year since I'm just here for a short time but I'm enjoying the decorations in my daughters' homes.  Our family has truly been blessed!  I'd thought I'd share just a few favorite pictures of some Christmas' past.  I'll be back to blogging next year!

Despite all the hustle and bustle, parties and gift buying, we try to remember the real reason for the season.  So tomorrow night we'll all be attending Christmas Eve service at church to give thanks for the Savior who came to earth as a baby so that we might be saved.

From our house to yours
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

First Train to Paradise - The Railroad That Went to Sea

I'm writing today's blog in a hotel in Mobil, Alabama.  We left Juno Beach early this morning on the first day of a four-day road trip to Arizona.  Maggie, the traveling dog, is happy to be out of the truck right now - and so are we!   I meant to do this post yesterday but we spent most of the day packing the truck.

When we were enjoying the Christmas festivities at Whitehall Mansion (a.k.a. The Flagler Museum) we got to see a special exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Over-Sea Railroad.
Built between 1905 and 1912, the Over-Sea Railroad was the most ambitious engineering feat ever undertaken by a private citizen.  It was the final link connecting Jacksonville to Key West.

Skeptics doubted it could be done and dubbed the project "Flagler's Folly," but Flagler and his employees pressed forward despite five hurricanes, extreme heat, mosquitoes, and disease.  The train engine in this picture was overturned during one of those hurricanes!

Hubby loved reading the stories of the dedicated workers who risked their lives, and sometimes lost them, to build this railroad.

The dream was finally realized on January 22, 1912 when thousands of Floridians welcomed Henry Flagler's arrival aboard the first train to Key West.  The man with the white hair and moustache is Flagler, the woman following behind, carrying flowers, is his wife, Mary Lily, for whom he built Whitehall Mansion as a wedding gift.

This 156 miles of railroad from Miami to Key West, much of it over water, was hailed as "the Eighth Wonder of the World."

That's all for today!  Tomorrow morning, it's back in the truck and on to Seguin, Texas for the next night's stay.  We don't like the trip to get there but we're sure looking forward to a month at home and time with the kids and grandsons.  I'm not sure when I'll be posting again so
Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas at Whitehall Mansion (a.k.a. The Flagler Museum)

For the last 50 years The Flagler Museum, in Palm Beach, has decorated Whitehall Mansion in a traditional early 1900's era "Florida" style and has had Henry Flagler's descendants light the 16-foot Christmas tree in the Grand Hall.  I just couldn't miss this wonderful event!

I've only been in Florida since March but this is the third time I've visited the mansion.  I took four blog postings to tell about my very first visit!  If you'd like to learn more about it you can go to:

If you remember, flash photography is not allowed inside the mansion so some of the pictures may be a little dark.  But I'm not complaining - at least they allow photography!
Here's a closeup of this beautiful tree.  They have decorated with Spanish Moss instead of tinsel, using what is readily available in Florida.  In addition to what you might expect of an early 1900's tree, there are boxes of Animal Crackers hanging on the branches.  In 1903 the manufacturer of this favorite cookie added strings to the boxes with the intention of them being used as Christmas tree ornaments.  Who knew!  On our way out of Whitehall, the Museum gave everyone a box of Animal Crackers to use on their own tree.

When you have more than 75 rooms in your home one Christmas tree just isn't enough!  This one is in the drawing room just off the Grand Hall.

The fireplace in the dining room was decorated too.
I would dearly love to have Christmas dinner in this room!

Even the Breakfast Room was properly adorned.

Naturally, the Music Room had to have it's own tree too.
See the pipe organ at the end of the room?  It is played only once a year - when they light the Christmas tree.  It was installed in 1902 and has 1,249 metal and wood pipes powered by massive bellows.  The Flaglers employed a full-time organist to provide music for all their social functions.

This breath-taking house can be overwhelming, so Hubby bought tea for me in the Pavilion.
Energized, we returned to the Mansion for more Christmas festivities.

This Steinway art case grand piano is original to Whitehall's Drawing Room.  It was custom designed to match the Louis XVI style room. 
We had the privilege of hearing it played!  The pianist played three 7-minute sets of Christmas songs.

Then, we headed to the Music Room to hear that organ!  I learned that the organist plays the organ at a nearby church and it has always been her dream to play this particular organ.

She played with such joy she soon had the audience singing along.
Unlike the pianist, the organist didn't want to take any breaks!

Finally, it was time to head back to the Grand Hall where we watched Henry Flager's four great-great-great grandchildren throw the switches and light up the tree.  That ended another memorable day in South Florida!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Parthenon in Nashville

Before we left Nashville, we had to squeeze in just a little more sightseeing.  On our way out of town, heading to Hannibal, we stopped at the world's only full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  It was fabulous!

You really don't expect to see something like this in the Midwest, but Nashville calls itself the "Athens of the South." 

This imposing structure was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Central Exposition.

It faces east, like the Parthenon in Athens, allowing the morning sun to light the interior.

It was originally built of plaster, wood and brick, but was rebuilt with concrete starting in 1920.  It was finally completed in 1931.

There are 46 columns:  17 on each side and 6 at each end.

Surprisingly, the columns all differ in diameter and are spaced slightly different too.

The bronze doors weigh 7.5 tons each.  They are 24 feet high, 7 feet wide and 1 inch thick, making them the largest set of bronze doors in the world.

The Parthenon serves as an art museum and centerpiece of Centennial Park today. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't opened while we were there in the early morning hours.  We  really want to go back to Nashville sometime and visit the inside!

Some year ago our daughter, Dawn, won a trip to Nashville and New Orleans with a stay at the Opryland Hotel.   She was kind enough to take her sister, Gayle, with her.  They had a wonderful time and Gayle said we should visit the interior of the hotel.  However, we didn't feel too inclined to pay $18.00 just to park, so we had to be contented viewing the outside. 
I really appreciated the manger scene they had on display.  It was so nice seeing Christmas celebrated as Christ's birth.

Soon, we were crossing into Missouri, passing the St. Louis arch, and turning north to Hannibal and Thanksgiving dinner.

Last weekend, Hubby and I returned to the Whitehall Mansion (a.k.a The Flagler Museum) in Palm Beach for the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Grand Hall.  Next week, before we leave for Arizona, I'll share "Christmas at Whitehall."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Hermitage - Home and Plantation of President Andrew Jackson

On our way to Hannibal, Missouri for Thanksgiving, we stopped at The Hermitage, in Nashville, and discovered an unexpected connection to my parents home, Robards Mansion Bed and Breakfast! 

This was the home of President Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife Rachel.  He was the first president with a nickname:  "Old Hickory," courtesy of the troops he marched with in the War of 1812.  Jackson's military hero status and enormous popularity with those he called "the humble members of society" carried him to two terms as president.

Jackson eloped with Rachel Donelson Robards, wife of Lewis Robards, in 1791 - two years before her divorce (the first in Kentucky history) would become final.  Their illegal marriage set the stage for scandal that haunted them all their days.  The builder of my parent's home was John Lewis Robards whose grandfather was brother to Rachel's first husband! 

I really wish I could show you pictures of the inside of this beautiful home but no photography was allowed!  It began as a Federal style home in 1821 and was expanded in 1831.

After a devastating fire in 1834, a Greek Revival facade was added and a separate kitchen, connected by a breezeway, was built to avoid future fires.  This is the back of the house.  The kitchen is on the right in the picture.

The Hermitage began as a 425-acre frontier farm and evolved into a 1,000-acre cotton plantation. 

By the 1840's there were more than 150 African-American slaves living and working on the plantation.  This cabin belonged to a slave named Alfred Jackson who had been born into slavery at The Hermitage around 1812. 
Following Emancipation, Alfred stayed on as caretaker and tour guide after the Ladies' Hermitage Association took over administration of the property in 1889.

The Springhouse is located about 300 yards from the mansion and was the main source of fresh water for the plantation.  Slaves had to carry water to the house.  It wasn't until after the Civil War that a well was dug closer to the mansion.

This was where the Jackson's lived until the first brick version of the mansion was completed.  The farmhouse was originally two stories high, but changed for use by slave families.

The Hermitage pastures are now home to some unusual looking cattle.
The black and white cattle were out in the fields but this fellow came up to the fence to have his picture taken.

Our last stop was Rachel's formal garden.

The Jackson's are still side by side in the Greek inspired garden tomb Andrew built for Rachel in 1831, joining her in 1845.  She died suddenly just days before Jackson's first presidential inauguration.  Even though they never had children of their own, they adopted a nephew of Rachel's.  Many other family members lived with them throughout their lives.  Some of them are buried in the garden too, including slave/caretaker Alfred. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chickamauga annd Chattanooga National Military Park

On our way to Hannibal, for Thanksgiving, Hubby and I made some time for a little sightseeing.  Our first stop was our nations oldest, and largest, national military and historical park.  The huge battlefield actually straddles the borders of Tennessee and Georgia.   On these fields and hills, in the fall of 1863, Federal and Confederate armies fought one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles.

We began our tour at the Visitor's Center where they offer a 23-minute film about  the battle and many other exhibits.

Hubby was just drawn to the 346 weapons on display.  I was drawn to the gift store.  Hubby is holding my purchases.  However, I can't show you what they were since they are Christmas gifts for the grandsons!

Soon, we were driving the seven-mile auto route of the major points of interest in the battle. 

Most of the battlefields' 1,400 monuments and historical markers were  planned and placed by veterans of the battle.

No deer hunting in these woods!

Maggie enjoyed walking on the hiking trails and among the monuments.  The many cannonball pyramids mark where officers fell.

Cannons are displayed all over the battlefield.

Some monuments are huge......

.....and some remind us of the human toll.  This is the Brotherton Cabin.  As fighting started around this farmhouse, the family took refuge in a ravine with other local families.   When the family emerged from hiding they found a couple of their milk cows had survived the intense fighting.  The family intended to give the milk to the other people still in hiding, but when they saw the sick and wounded soldiers they gave the milk to them instead.

This monument stands on the site of 23-year-old widow Eliza Glenn's house which served as Confederate General Rosecrans' headquarters - until it was destroyed.

Civilians became part of the war whether they wanted to or not.  The Snodgrass Family also hid in a ravine while fighting raged around their home only to find their house used as a field hospital after it was over.

Confederate casualties were 18,000 (killed, wounded, or missing) of the 66,000 men engaged.  Union casualties were 16,000 of the 58,000 men engaged.  The South claimed victory at first, but then advancing Union troops pushed the Confederate line to back into Georgia.  This beautiful park is a truly sobering reminder of all that we have to be thankful for in this great nation!

Next week:  The Hermitage - President Andrew Jackson's mansion and plantation.