Thursday, July 20, 2017

Moravian Tile Works & Fonthill Castle

Posted by Stu On March - 13 - 2016

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Photos from 3/13

I drove by this a few times on the way to New Hope and was curious what exactly it was.  After being assigned a paper for a Museum Studies class and randomly choosing Fonthill Castle from a list of local museums, I got my answer.  Henry Chapman Mercer, who owned both Fonthill Castle and the adjacent Moravian Tile Works (as well as the Mercer Museum elsewhere in Doylestown) was a wealthy archaeologist, anthropologist, and lover of history.  Fonthill Castle was his home and now serves as a museum.  Unfortunately, it was closed the day we stopped by, but the Moravian Tile Works were open.  The Tile Works are a living history site, with workers making products as they were made nearly 200 years ago.  I was intrigued by the architecture of the place, which consists of a mix of several styles from previous civilizations.

I’m aware I’m not really providing all that much information or history here.  Again, I didn’t get to tour the castle, and I really don’t know much about Moravians.  I just thought the place looked cool and was interested in the living history aspect of it.  I encourage you to research Mr. Mercer on your own and perhaps visit the 3 places related to him.

The tile works are closest to the road and what originally caught my eye.

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Fonthill Castle is found behind the tile works.

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Popularity: 7% [?]

Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson Ruins

Posted by Stu On April - 10 - 2015

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Photos from June 2013

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Old Brunswick Town predates the American Revolution and was once an important port along the Cape Fear River.  The growing size and importance of nearby Wilmington chipped away at Brunswick’s significance and population.  In 1776, the British attacked the town and scattered its few remaining residents, and the town was never rebuilt.  During the Civil War, the site was used to construct Fort Anderson.  Once nearby Fort Fisher fell, the Union then set its sights on Fort Anderson, ultimately pushing out the Confederates and claiming the fort.

Many of the foundations of the town have been excavated and restored.  Walls from the St. Philips church still stand.  A trail runs through the site with signs describing the businesses and dwellings of the town and even runs along and on the mounds of Fort Anderson.  The visitor’s center offers a small museum with artifacts found on the site.

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For more information, check out Brunswick Town & Fort Anderson’s official site.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Thousand Islands & Boldt Castle

Posted by Stu On January - 15 - 2014

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Photos Taken October 2011

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From my experience, few people are aware that The Thousand Islands refers to an actual place and not just salad dressing.  The area in question is between Ontario and New York, along the St. Lawrence River and the uppermost section of Lake Ontario.  The name The Thousand Islands is also a little off; there are actually closer to two thousand of them.

Several companies offer boat tours of the islands.  Many tours allow you to visit one of two castles, either Boldt Castle on Heart Island or Singer Castle on Dark Island.  This time, we opted for Boldt Castle.  Someday we’ll return and check out the other one.

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If you are coming from the US side, you do not need a passport for these tours since the boats do not land in Canada.  The two islands with castles are also entirely within the United States.

The tour itself consists of a boat ride with a guide giving short histories and random facts about many of the islands, houses, and owners.  At the end, if you want (and why wouldn’t you), the boat drops you off on Heart Island, and for a small fee you are allowed to roam the island and its buildings.

One story I found fascinating involved some statues on the US side.  During Prohibition, according to our guide, whether or not the statues’ eyes were lit up let bootleggers on the Canadian side of the river know whether or not it was safe to bring over their booze.

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The following is a somewhat blurry photo of the smallest official island, known as Tom Thumb.  Our guide said to qualify as an “official” island, it must be bigger than a square foot, has to be above water year round, and must have at least one tree.

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So those are some of the sights to be seen during the boat tour.  It’s amazing how some of the houses have virtually no yard between them and the water.

After going up and down the river a bit, the boat then pulls into Heart Island.  A quick history – in 1900, multimillionaire George Boldt ordered the construction of Boldt Castle for his wife.  She died four years later.  Heartbroken, George halted all work on the island and never returned.  The castle and its surrounding buildings remained abandoned until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Commission  paid one dollar for Heart Island.

All money made on the island goes toward restoring and preserving the castle and grounds.

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You are allowed to roam most of the castle.  There are two other buildings on the island as well.  The powerhouse is at the back of the island and now serves as a museum.  Alster Tower, at the front of the island, was closed for repairs when we visited.

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Popularity: 10% [?]

Fort Ticonderoga

Posted by Stu On August - 27 - 2013

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Photos taken October 2011

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Fort Ticonderoga, if even mentioned in any of your US History textbooks, was probably briefly brought up for a sentence or two in a chapter about the American Revolution.  The fort was actually built by the French during the French & Indian War (or The Seven Years’ War for you non-Americans) and was originally named Fort Carillon.  The French, outnumbered four to one, managed to repel an initial British attack, but then surrendered the fort later in the war.  I’d crack some joke about the French surrendering, but the French-Canadian part of me won’t permit me to do so.

The fort was significant during the American Revolution.  Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys (militiamen) managed to capture it from the British.  Some of the cannons and other weaponry from the fort were then brought to Patriots in Boston to help drive British troops out of Boston, ending their occupation and control of the city.

Fort Ticonderoga would switch hands again.  Not far away from it is a hill known as Mount Defiance.  The British dragged cannons to its top and aimed them at the fort.  The Americans retreated and once again the British controlled the fort.  After the American victory at Saratoga, however, the war began moving south, and Fort Ticonderoga had little importance.  Eventually it was abandoned and stripped.

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So…  French, then British, then American, then British.  Then… nobody cares anymore, so let’s abandon it.  Got it?

Much of the fort has been reconstructed.  Monuments to soldiers from both wars can be found on its grounds.

This monument honors the Marquis de Montcalm for defending the fort against the initial British invasion (the guy who was outnumbered 4 to 1):

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This is a monument dedicated to the Black Watch, or Scottish regiment, during the French & Indian War.  The Black Watch is sometimes referred to “The Ladies from Hell” due to their kilts and intense fighting.

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These and other monuments can be found on the road leading to the fort.  To walk the actual fort grounds costs a reasonable admission fee.

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The inside of the fort serves as a museum. Also on the grounds is The King’s Garden.

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Popularity: 24% [?]

Walt’s Filling Station

Posted by Stu On August - 27 - 2013

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Photos taken October 2011

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Another discovery through geocaching.  We stopped here on the way home from our Quebec/New York trip.  This may look like a gas station from the 1950’s, but this is really the side yard of someone’s home in Hallstead.  Vintage soda machines, signs, and gas pumps… someone went to great lengths to collect and present all this.  I felt awkward walking up the driveway, but I read that many others had done it.  Whoever was home did slam the door while I was poking around, however.

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Popularity: 14% [?]

Lausanne

Posted by Stu On May - 8 - 2013

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Photos taken June ’12 via camera & camera phone, hence different photo sizes

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Another find via geocaching.  Seriously, if you’ve never geocached, get a GPS or smartphone and go play already.

I was surprised to read that a ghost town was only 20 minutes or so from me.  Lausanne, near present-day Jim Thorpe, has very little written about it, and not all that much remains.  The little I know has come from a geocaching description and talking to a group of anthropologists (more on that later).

With almost no knowledge and armed only with a camera, phone, and GPS, I set out early in the morning to the first set of coordinates.  I knew the trek would be a few miles (how many exactly, I forget now) and that I was being led to a few different locations.  This corridor of green was a promising start to the expedition:

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I had read that there would be the remains of an old toll bridge somewhere along the trail.  I crossed water three times on the way to the first destination, but I wasn’t sure just where the bridge was supposed to have been.  The first crossing had an actual bridge, one of the more unusual ones I’ve seen:

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The second crossing had some old planks and pipes in the water, but seeing that this was barely a stream and I stepped over it without getting my shoes wet, I highly doubt there was a toll bridge here:

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Yet another crossing led to a somewhat larger stream with a rock wall nearby.  Maybe the bridge was here.

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After getting lost once and crossing three streams (or the same stream three times) I finally came to the first goal of my tour of Lausanne – several foundations of either houses or storage buildings (as per one of the anthropologists I spoke with):

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I roamed among the ruins of the homes/storage buildings for a little bit and then entered a second set of coordinates that would take me somewhat back the way I just came from, but past my starting point.  But first there was one more water crossing, this time over a type of bridge I had never seen before.  And this time it was the actual Lehigh River, not some piddle of a stream.

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Yep, this “bridge” was just two cables going across the river.  I was about to cross when I noticed someone coming from the other side.  And then someone else.  And then another.  About a dozen people came across the bridge and looked rather confused with me being there.

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One talked to me and I explained I was ghost town hunting/geocaching.  They told me they were anthropologists from Temple University and had an excavation site not too far away.  I asked if they knew about Lausanne at all, and one said he did.  He was the one that said the houses I just came from may have instead been used for storage.  We talked a little longer, and then I decided it was time to make my way across the cable bridge and finish up my exploration of Lausanne.

I finally made it to the old town square; a hotel and post office once stood at the site.

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I roamed the area for a little bit; a lot of it was quite overgrown.  I then made my way back to the car, which was not that far away from the town square.  All in all, this was a fun little adventure.  Being guided to different areas by GPS coordinates and having to cross the cable bridge really made this outing stand out.

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Popularity: 34% [?]

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