Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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: 19% [?]

Fort Mifflin

Posted by Stu On May - 13 - 2010

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Fort Mifflin is a unique and, sadly, little known point of interest in Philadelphia.  It’s right on the Delaware River; it’s actually next to the Philly Airport.  It is a bit of a pain to find, though.  You’re definitely going to want to look this one up first.  There is also a small admission fee; well worth it though.

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The fort’s former hospital, now the ticket & info office.

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Outside the fort’s wall.  Notice the plane coming in.

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All around the fort’s perimeter is very swampy, hence the area’s name of Mud Island.

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The fort was built in 1771 and was used by the military up until 1952.  It served some purpose for every war within that time span.  Although there are several, the two big reasons this fort is so famous come from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
During the Revolution, the British invaded and ultimately captured the city of Philadelphia in 1777.  General Washington used Fort Mifflin as a distraction and ordered it manned until the very last possible moment of escape.  He knew he was outnumbered and under-supplied; fighting full force in Philly would have been suicide.  For five weeks, the British pounded Mifflin, with many of its buildings being reduced to rubble.  The fort’s official website states “It is the site of the largest bombardment the North American continent has ever witnessed.”  Holding Mifflin allowed Washington’s army to escape and flee to Valley Forge; it’s almost certain that if the fort fell sooner, the Revolution would have been much shorter with very different results.
During the Civil War, the fortress was used as a prison for captured Confederates, so it’s no surprise there are ghost stories surrounding the place.  The most famous involves the hanging of William Howe, a Union deserter convicted of murder.  He was held in what is known as Casemate #11.  His signature can still be seen on the wall inside.  He’s said to still haunt the fort, especially the casemate.  When I went, there were actually 2 ghost hunters trying to record voices inside the casemate.
There are, of course, many other supposed ghosts haunting the place.

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Finally heading through the gate…

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Officers’ Quarters & Soldiers’ Barracks

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Quartermaster’s store.  Now a gift shop.  Closed when I went.  I really wanted a magnet :/

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Commandant’s House.  The inside was being restored during my visit…

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Guessing that’s what the place’ll look like after renovation…

Some more outside shots before heading underground to infamous Casemate 11…

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Entrance to Casemate 11

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Some of Howe’s writing.

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End of the casemate.  Imagine this as your prison cell.

Lots of places on the grounds where you can go underground…

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Like I mentioned earlier, the fort served as a prison during the Civil War.  Mister Howe may have gotten special treatment and had his own casemate, but that wasn’t the case for the Confederate prisoners.  6 casemates were used as prison cells.

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The barracks and officers’ buildings serve as a museum, with artifacts, models, and even a small display of photos of TV’s Ghosthunters when they came to visit the fort.

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Ghosthunters stuff

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For admission, hours, directions, and all that jazz, check out Fort Mifflin’s official site.

Popularity: 19% [?]

Mayflower II

Posted by Stu On December - 28 - 2009

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Just up the road a bit from Plymouth Rock is the Mayflower II, which is by all accounts an accurate replica of the original ship of Pilgrim fame.  I couldn’t find any information anywhere on whether or not the ship’s to scale, but it’s likely nobody’s really sure what the original Mayflower’s measurements were.

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…anyway, essentially you’re paying to walk around on a boat.  Other than the inevitable “I’m on a boat” joke, unless you like history, you probably won’t care.  But if you don’t like history, what are you doing in Plymouth anyway?

There’s the standard “props to show you what life was like back then” deal aboard the boat.  Obviously, it’s all replicas.

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After roaming the boat for a bit, you’re greeted by a small, partially hands-on museum.  Some of the stuff’s pretty cool; check it out.  Might as well; you paid to get in here, you know?

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Popularity: 23% [?]

The Old Jail Museum

Posted by Stu On November - 6 - 2009

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The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe is almost like any other old restored prison museum I’ve been to.  Almost.

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Sure it’s got its display of artifacts from when the jail was in use.  Sure it’s got cells you can enter.  And it’s even got a solitary confinement area, aka “The Dungeon,” which you can wander.  However, it also has, according to local legend, proof of supernatural activity.  Right up on one of the cell walls.

4 of the Molly Maguires (an organization among Irish immigrants sometimes equated to a mafia) were accused of murdering a higher-up of the coal company for which they worked.  Long story short, the trial, jury, and judge were all very biased.  The men were never proven to have committed the murder.  They were found guilty anyway and hanged right in the prison.  Before the execution, one of the Irishmen is said to have placed his hand on the prison wall and said something along the lines of “my handprint will remain here to prove my innocence.”

And the handprint is still there.  Allegedly it has been painted over, ripped down, and knocked out of the wall.  And it always comes back.

Unfortunately, the prison loves their handprint.  And nobody is allowed to take a photo of it.  Not even yours truly.  I did, however, get access to sections of the jail that are usually off limits to tours, like the upstairs cell block.

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The tour begins in the prison’s cell block.  A replica gallows is also in the room.  The handprint cell is also in this room.  After an introduction and brief history, visitors are led around to view the cells and can even enter a few.  The handprint cell can be looked into by one person at a time, but expect a museum employee to be watching over your shoulder making sure you’re not trying to sneak in a pic of that handprint.
If you want a picture of the handprint that badly, you can buy a photo for 50 cents in the gift shop anyway.

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After poking around the cells for a bit, we were led upstairs to where the women’s cells are located.  Before heading there though, I stayed behind and checked out the upstairs section of the cell block first, again not part of the regular tour.  But I’m special so I was allowed to go.

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The women’s cellblock, no bigger than a larger room, is only a handful of cells upstairs on the opposite end of the jail.  They reminded me more of cages than prison cells.  I mean look at the “bars.”

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Finally, we headed down to the basement, where the solitary confinement cells are located.  It was dimly lit, as it was back when the prison was in use.

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Popularity: 20% [?]

Space Farms Zoo & Museum

Posted by Stu On November - 27 - 2008

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It’s a zoo! It’s a museum! Lemurs. Bears. Leopards. Kangaroos. Coffins. Indian artifacts. Preserved animal embryos. Old cars. Throw together Popcorn Park Zoo with the Shelburne Museum, add a pinch of the Mutter Museum, and you get something like Space Farms.

Most of the property is a zoo, but there are a few buildings off to the side of the zoo with random collections of just about everything imaginable. The building at the entrance, perhaps the most bizarre, is home to Goliath, the largest bear on record. Goliath lived in the zoo until his death and now greets visitors through the wonders of taxidermy. His skull is also on display.

Above him are many, many trophy heads.

The upper level of this building has all sorts of strange things on display.


Some stuffed minks and a phonograph. Why not?

To go anywhere beyond this building requires a small admission fee. Directly outside is the beginning of the zoo. There are quite a few animals, many I’ve never seen in other zoos. Again, like the Popcorn Park Zoo pics, there were often 2 fences between me and the critters. So if the pics are too “fency” for you, I apologize.

There are quite a few more animals than shown here.
One thing I will say is that many of the animals’ cages are pretty sparse. Most of the critters appeared to be very bored and had no toys or anything to do. Some really need bigger areas; that poor serval up there had nothing to do but pace back and forth in its tiny cage, while the deer have acres and acres to themselves.
Seriously, why do all the zoos I visit have so many damn deer? I think deer are the most boring animal to put in a zoo; even goats are more interesting. Even as a kid and going to Popcorn Park, all the deer they had pissed me off. I see plenty of them in the Pine Barrens and Poconos, and I currently have a family of them that walk through my backyard daily; I don’t need to pay to see them. I don’t care if these deer are Asian; they’re still boring ass deer.

…anyway, at one end of the property are several buildings that serve as small museums. Some have a specific theme, while others just have very, very random stuff displayed.


Old horse-drawn sleighs


Old horse-drawn glass hearse

One building is nothing but old vehicles.



One room displaying glow-in-the-dark rocks is lit only by blacklights.


Coffins!


Hearse!

One building is nothing but vintage toys that make me thankful I had He-Man, Ghostbusters, and X-Men figures growing up.


This eagle statue once sat on top of Grand Central Station.

All in all, the Space Farms is one-of-a-kind, and the few things I’m showing here don’t do the place justice. There really is a lot to see, and I attempted to give a somewhat thorough yet brief summary of it.
For directions and all that jazz, check the official site.


Double fail.

Popularity: 34% [?]

Shelburne Museum

Posted by Stu On November - 27 - 2007

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Lots of pics. Go get some nachos.

When one hears the word “museum” they tend to think of large, ugly buildings full of ugly, boring stuff. Fortunately, the Shelburne Museum is not your ordinary museum. Not in the slightest. While there is some art on display, there is much, much more to see. Many of the collections are just bizarre, ranging from automatons to horse-drawn carriages. And this is not just one museum; it’s several. How’s that? Technically the museum is outside, and several of the buildings house different collections. The buildings themselves can be considered a museum as well; where else can you find a jail, lighthouse, covered bridge, and even a steamship that were bought and moved to one site?

The entrance to the museum is a large round barn. Inside is the ticket booth and some art exhibits, one being various chandeliers. My favorite was the one made of plastic kitchenware.

Next thing we saw was an old creaky carousel. It still works and you can ride it.

What’s this? Oh, a train station.

How about that…a passenger car.

Huh? You can go inside?

Well, that was interesting. What’s up the trail from the train station?
A steamship.

But can you go inside?
Absolutely.

A view from the deck of the ship. It looks like a town, but all but the church way in the back are part of the museum.

Hey, what’s that across from the steamship?

A lighthouse, complete with rocks.


“Turtle Boy”

The covered bridge used to be the entrance to the museum.

This was a very, very tiny jail:


Inside the one-room schoolhouse.


Inside the 50’s house.

Popularity: 16% [?]

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