Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Niagara Falls

It wasn't our anniversary but we decided we should see the falls since it was only a four hour drive north of here.  Everyone said the best viewing was from the Canadian side and, fortunately, we had packed our passports.

The falls are located on the Niagara River which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.

We're early risers so we had no trouble crossing the border at the Rainbow Bridge right next to the American Falls.  (It was another story coming back across!)

After paying $20.00 for parking we walked through the Welcome Center.......

.......and emerged for our first good look at the falls.

Niagara Falls actually consists of three falls:  the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.  Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful in North American falling 188 feet.

It's difficult to understand why 14 people have intentionally gone over the falls.  Some survived, some drowned and others were severely injured.

The American Falls, the smallest of the three falls, drop a mere 70 - 100 feet.

Tour boats from the American and Canadian sides get in close for a look at the falls.  On July 9, 1960 a seven year old boy, wearing only a life vest, accidentally went over the falls.  The tour boat Maid of the Mist got in close and threw him a life ring.  He was completely uninjured, becoming the only person to go over the falls accidentally and survive. 

Soon, we said good-bye to the falls and headed down river (which was actually north) to a beautiful little town called Niagara-on-the-Lake and the historic British Fort George.  We had to make the most of our time in Canada!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Corning Museum of Glass

Last weekend we went to Niagara Falls, but on our way through New York stopped at the Corning Museum of Glass.

The museum was founded in 1951 by the Corning Glass Works and is dedicated to all things glass - 
only glass.

Once through the doors, our first stop was a glass making demonstration.  Hand blown glass making is quite labor intensive and requires a lot of skill.  It takes five or six years of training to master the craft.

I'm not sure this glass chair is very comfortable.

The museum contains over 45,000 objects behind - glass!  Making it very difficult to take pics of this beautiful chess set - Jews on one side and Catholics on the other.

 They have objects that are 3500 years old here.  This glass table and crystal chandeliers were made for the St. Louis World's Fair.

After walking through many many galleries of glass we finally came to my favorite part - the gift shop!

Unfortunately, this was one of the most expensive gift shops I've ever been in so not very many items came home with me.  It was a nice way to stretch our legs before continuing on to Canada though!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weekend in Connecticut

Our weekend in Connecticut was busy and wonderful!  My main purpose in going there was to see the tavern that my ancestors had owned in the 1700s.

The Keeler Tavern started out as a farmhouse build around 1713 and converted into a tavern and stagecoach stop in 1772 by my ancestor Timothy Keeler.  It also served as the Ridgefield Post Office for over fifty years.

Timothy was an outspoken patriot so the British fired at the Tavern during the Revolutionary War (April 27, 1777) and a cannonball still remains embedded in the wall.  The curators at the museum were delighted to meet another descendant of Timothy Keeler - but I still wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the tavern.

While we were in the area we searched several local cemeteries for family grave sites.......

..........and found quite a few!

Not far from Ridgefield, in Norwalk, is the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion built in 1868.  It was originally called Elm Park and has 65 rooms, including 17 (or was it 19?) bathrooms.  It had state of the art technology for the day.

If you ever watched the old horror soap opera Dark Shadows or saw the movie The Stepford Wives then you've seen the inside of this house.  Unfortunately, our tour guide cited "copyright laws" as being the reason I couldn't take pictures inside.  It is magnificent!

On our way to Hartford we stopped at the Elephant's Trunk Flea Market.  I have seen it on HGTV's Flea Market Flip and PBS's Road Market Warriors and I wanted to shop here myself.

I cannot tell you how many times Hubby and I said, "If only we could get this home!"  I still managed to find a few things to buy but I can't show them.  They're Christmas gifts!

Our next stop was the home built by Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) in 1874.  It is a 25 room Gothic mansion and is impeccably restored with most of the original furnishings.

We had an excellent tour guide but he made sure no one took pictures inside this house either.

With all the beautiful historic homes in the area we were inspired to spend our last night in Connecticut at the Simsbury 1820 House.

When you stay at a historic inn you have to be prepared to climb stairs.

But the accommodations are always worth it!

After a delicious breakfast the next morning we said "good-bye" to Connecticut and headed back to Pennsylvania to plan some more adventures.

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!