Tag: National Park Service

The Vanderbilt Mansion & Estate National Historic Site  4097 Albany Post Road Hyde Park, NY 12538

The Vanderbilt Mansion & Estate National Historic Site 4097 Albany Post Road Hyde Park, NY 12538

The Vanderbilt Mansion & Estate

National Historic Site

4097 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-7770

http://www.nps.gov/vama

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60801-d105845-Reviews-Vanderbilt_Mansion_National_Historic_Site-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

I have visited the Vanderbilt Estate many times over the years and every time I visit I learn something new about the family and about the property. It takes many visits to truly see the beauty of the house and grounds.

I found the best time to visit is in the late Spring as the buds are coming in and Christmas time when the house is decorated for the holidays. It is quite spectacular. The holiday tour is amazing and after Thanksgiving, make a special trip to the Hudson River Valley and go mansion hopping as all the houses are decorated for the holidays.

The Gilded Age, the period following the Civil War to the turn of the century, was a time of unparalleled growth in industry, technology and immigration. Captains of industry, men like Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and others who amassed unimaginable wealth, while the average annual income in the US was around $380, well below the poverty line.

The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their 1873 book, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. The term refers to the process of gilding an object with a superficial layer of gold to improve its appearance. Established millionaires viewed nouveau riche families like the Vanderbilt’s, who flaunted their wealth by building ostentatious  homes, throwing extravagant balls and using their money to buy social prominence, as gilded-all show, no substance.

Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt (1794-1877) rose from poverty to become a shipping and railroad tycoon. He turned a 100 dollar loan from his parents into a multi-million dollar fortune and left the bulk of his money to his eldest son William.

William expanded the railroad operations doubling the Vanderbilt fortune in just eight years but his eight children lived lives of excess, extravagance and self-indulgence. They built 40 opulent mansions and country estates and entertained lavishly, largely depleting the family money.

In 1895, William’s son, Fredrick (1856-1938) and his wife, Louise (1854-1926) bought Hyde Park to use its their spring and fall country estate. McKim, Mead & White, America’s top architecture firm, designated the mansion in the neoclassical style with Beaux-Arts ornamentation and incorporated the latest innovations: electricity, central heating and indoor plumbing. They added the Pavilion, a coach house, power station, gate houses, two new bridges over Crum Elbow Creek, boat docks, a railroad station and extensive landscaping. Many  of the mansion’s contents were bought in Europe from wealthy families who had fallen on hard times. Furnishings and construction coast totaled around $2,250,000.

Hype Park was in many ways self-sustaining, providing food and flowers for the family’s needs here and at their other homes. When the Vanderbilt’s were in residence, as many as 60 staff worked here. Staff lived on or near the property and attended to the grounds and extensive farm. Personal staff traveled with the Vanderbilt’s and lived in the mansion with the family. Seasonal laborers were hired from the community and lived in the servants’ quarters.

Fredrick, a quiet man, preferred to avoid social occasions but Louise loved to entertain, throwing lavish weekend parties with horseback riding, golf , tennis and swimming followed by formal dinners and dancing. When Louise died in 1926, Fredrick sold his other houses and returned to this estate for the last 12 years of his life. He was active in business, directing 22 railroads until his death in 1938. His estate totaled $76 million, over 1.2 billion today.

Gilded Age estates like this flourished in the 1890’s until the income tax (1913), World War I (1914) and Great Depression (1930’s) made their upkeep all but impossible.

The couple had no children and left the Hyde Park mansion to Louise’s niece, Margaret Louise Van Alen, who tried to sell the estate but there were no buyers. Her neighbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, suggested she donate the estate to the National Park Service as a monument to the Gilded Age. She agreed and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site opened to the public in 1940. The farmlands were not part of the donation and remain in private hands. The lavish mansion and its contents remain virtually unchanged from the time the Vanderbilt’s lived here.

(The National Park Foundation pamphlet)

The Vanderbilt Family History:

1650: Jan Aertsen Van Der Bilt is the first Vanderbilt ancestor known to reside in American.

1794: Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt born on Staten Island, New York City, to Cornelius and Phebe Hand Vanderbilt.

1810: Cornelius borrows $100 from parents and buys first two-masted sailing barge to start a ferry service from Staten Island to Manhattan.

1817: Cornelius captains a steamship for Thomas Gibbons and assists in legal battle against steamship monopolies, opening the way for his own shipping business.

1821: William Henry Vanderbilt, one of 13 children and first son, born Cornelius and first wife Sophia.

1830’s-1840’s: Cornelius expands shipping empire, begins railroad management.

1841: William marries Maria Kissam. They have eight children.

1851: Cornelius’ Accessory Transit Company provides shorter, cheaper transportation from New York to San Francisco. He gains national prominence.

1856: Fredrick, sixth child, is born to William and Maria

1861-65: During the Civil War, Cornelius donates steamship to the Union Navy. Receives Congressional Gold Medal. Acquires and consolidates rail lines in the Northeast and Midwest.

1870’s: Cornelius consolidates two core companies, creating New York Central & Hudson Railroad. William slashes cost, increases efficiency, turning it into one of the most profitable large enterprises in America.

1871: Cornelius opens Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street, New York City, the largest train station in North America

1877: Cornelius dies. William inherits most of his father’s fortune, nearly $100 million, to great displeasure of his siblings.

1878: Fredrick graduates from Sheffield Scientific School (Yale). Marries Louise Anthony.

1885: William dies, leaving an estate of $195 million to his eight children.

1895: Fredrick and Louise purchase the Hyde Park estate.

1899: Grand Central Depot is enlarged and becomes Grand Central Station.

1904-13: The new Grand  Central Terminal (GCT) is built in sections on Depot site.  Design insures trains are not delayed.

1926: Louise dies.

1938: Fredrick dies, leave the Hyde Park estate to niece Margaret Louise Van Alen.

1940: Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site established.

1949: 65 million passengers pass through GCT, equivalent 40% of the American population.

1950: Glory days of rail travel end.

1967: GCT designated New York City landmark, saving it from demolition.

1968: New York Central merges with Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central.

1970: Penn Central files for bankruptcy and is dissolved by the courts.

1994: Metro-North takes over the GCT operation and restores it to 1913 splendor.

(The National Park Foundation pamphlet)

A legacy of landscape design:

The estate’s landscape was first developed by Dr. Samuel Bard, who died here in 1821. In the European picturesque style, he planted exotic plants and probably the ginko tree, one of the continent’s oldest dating back to 1799. Bard’s son, William sold the to his father’s medical partner, Dr. David Hosack, who built the first formal gardens and green houses. After his death, the estate was broken up. Later Walter Langdon Jr. reunited the estate, laid out the formal garden’s and hired Boston architects to design a gardener’s cottage, tool houses and garden walls. These structures, the only ones to pre-date Vanderbilt ownership, still exists. Vanderbilt redesigned the formal gardens and planted hundreds of trees and shrubs. On weekends, Fredrick and Louise liked to walk through the gardens twice a day. Today the landscape, restored to its 1930’s appearance, encompassing five acres of tiered gardens, gravel paths, shady arbors, ornate statues and bubbling fountains.

(The National Park Foundation pamphlet)

Disclaimer: This information comes directly from the National Park Service pamphlet of the Vanderbilt Estate and I give the author full credit on the information. Please refer to the National Park System website for any further information on the site as the hours vary during the different times of the year.

 

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Assateague Island National Seashore 7307 Stephen Decatur Highway Berlin, MD 21811

Assateague Island National Seashore 7307 Stephen Decatur Highway Berlin, MD 21811

Assateague Island National Seashore

7307 Stephen Decatur Highway

Berlin, MD 21811

(410) 641-2120

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/public-lands/eastern/assateague.asp

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g57603-d106596-Reviews-Assateague_Island_National_Seashore-Assateague_Island_Maryland.html?m=19905

Bloggers Note: Over the holidays we visited this national park in Delaware when we were visiting my mother. We went to see the wild horses. The horses were so used to seeing humans that they just ignored us. On a beautiful day, it is nice to visit the island and just look at the ocean.

Barrier Islands are among the most dynamic land forms on earth. From ocean to bay, Assateague Island is defined by change.

The rhythms of tides and seasons shape the island. The smallest gust of wind or gentlest of waves moves sand in a ceaseless rearrangements of island terrain. While summer waves and long-shore currents may build a wide beach, most of the year sand is scoured from the shore and moved southward leaving a narrow, steep shoreline. Storms can create inlets or fill them in. They can cut away dunes and wash sand across the island. The retreating dunes mark the islands’s westward movement. New habitats are created-old ones are reinvented. Plants and animals shift and adapt in counterpoint to these changes. On Assateague Island, nature’s rhythmic processes are a brilliant display.

Natural zones shaped and reshaped by wind, wave and current characterize Assateague Island. Distinct plant and animal communities have adapted to each zone. This north-facing view depicts these habitats, left to right from bay to ocean.

Coastal Bays:

Chincoteague Bay and two smaller bays separate Assateague from the mainland. They provide an environment rich in aquatic life and vital to ocean ecosystems. The warm, shallow waters create a productive nursery for mussels, crabs, clams, terrapin and fish. Twice a day, tides rejuvenate these areas and ferry aquatic animals out to the ocean or into the relative safety of the bays.

Just beneath the bays’ surface, in the shadowy world of the seagrass meadows, diverse marine life thrives. Blue carbs molt, hidden in the grasses. Young fish find refuge from predators. Seahorses and pipefish, vulnerable in open water, depend on grasses for anchorage and safe haven. Mud-loving creature cluster around roots. These are the secret gardens of the coastal bays.

Salt Marsh:

Once considered worthless, salt marshes are incredibly valuable areas. They are complex ecosystems defined by the constant ebb and flow of salt water. Tides transport nutrients into the marsh and detritus (decaying plants and animals) out into the bay. Scavengers, like snails, amphipods and fiddler crabs, feed on detritus. They in turn are food for high tide visitors to the salt marsh like fish and crabs. When the tide is out, a banquet is exposed in the mudflats where birds feast on the small creatures that inhabit this transitional area. Few plants can thrive in a salt marsh. Cordgrass, salt meadow hay and saltwort are among those that can. These plants create shelter for willet and rail and hunting grounds for Northern harrier and raccoon. Horses can often be seen grazing on marsh grasses.

Maritime Forest:

The forest edge is bordered by a shrub thicket on both bay and ocean sides. This is another transition area between distinct communities. Greenbrier, highbrush blueberry and bayberry thrive here. Trees, stunted and sculptured by salt-laden winds, mingle with shrubs and vines. Guarded by this thicket, the maritime forest is sheltered from much of the wind and provides habitat for some of Assteague’s other residents. While lobolly pine is the dominant tree, southern wax myrtle, American holly and red cedar survive in the shaded understory. The forest is home to white-tailed and sika deer, raccoons and birds like the yellow-rumped warbler and Eastern towhee. Predators like great horned owls and red fox hunt small mammals, birds and reptiles in the woodland.

Dunes and Upper Beach:

The dunes and upper beach are always in motion. Windblown sand and salt dictate the plant and animal life of this stark environment. Less salt-tolerate plants like beach heather and seaside goldenrod hide on the leeward side of dunes, sheltering the small but fierce dune wolf spider as it hunts its insect prey. Plants trap sand, elevate dunes and form a malleable barrier against the assault of wind and water. Where overwash does occur, piping plovers and other birds find prized nestling habitat. The primary beach front dunes are dominated by American beach grass, with its extensive root system and ability to tolerate relentless exposure to the elements. Many creatures visit the beach but ghost crabs enjoy a great view from oceanfront burrows.

Ocean:

So visually compelling are the surf and ocean that it is easy to forget how much happens beneath the surface. Mole crabs, coquina clams and small invertebrates thrive in the inter-tidal zone where crashing waves deliver food and render all homes temporary.  Shore-birds dance away from the surf while attempting to dine on creatures concealed in the sand.

The ocean food web starts with phytoplankton. Most other marine life is dependent upon these tiny plant for survival. The oceans support more than half the species on earth, yet 95% of these waters remains unexplored, offering endless possibilities for discovery.

Surf and Seashore Safety:

National Park Service lifeguards cover North Ocean Beach (Maryland) and Tome Cover Beach (Virginia, in the National Wildlife Refuge) in Summer only Assateague State Park also had lifeguards in the summer.

Mats and floats except U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices are prohibited at all life-guarded beaches. Surf conditions are posted in multiple locations near the beach. Learn about rip currents (seaward currents) and their danger at http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Never swim alone.

Prevent overexposure to sunlight with sunscreen or protective clothing. Biting insects are abundant spring through autumn. Insect repellent and/or protective clothing are recommended.

About your visit:

Assateague Island National Seashore is open year-round. Camping is allowed in designated areas only. Campers may not bring firewood from out of state. Firewood must be purchased locally. Assateague Island Visitor Center is open from 9:00am-5:00pm year round except Thanksgiving Day and December 25th. Here you can get information and see aquariums, a touch tank, exhibits, maps and a film about the island’s wild horses. You can register for camping and get permits for the Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone at the campground office on the island. Dates and hours vary for Toms Cove Visitor Center. Contact the park for information; phone and website at right.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is open year-round. The Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center is open year-round except December 25th and January 1st. Hours vary seasonally. Contact the refuge for information; phone and website at right.

Assateague State Park’s beach and parking lot are open year-round, 9:00am to sunset. Contact the park for camping information; phone and website at right.

Accessibility: Visitor centers, restrooms, bookstores and some trails are wheelchair-accessible. Service animals are welcome. Call each area for more specifics.

Regulations: Call or visit each area’s website for regulations on firearms, pets, personal watercraft and more.

Assateague Island National Seashore is one of over 390 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about national parks, visit http://www.nps.gov.

The Parks:

Assateague State Park: Maryland’s only oceanfront state park has two miles of beach for swimming, surfing and fishing. Lifeguarded areas are available Memorial Day through Labor Day. The campground is open late April through October Campsites include fire rings, picnic tables and bathhouses with warm showers. A small number of electric hookups are available. Reservations are recommended. Alcohol is prohibited in all areas of the state park. A park store is open seasonally, offering food and souvenirs. Pets are permitted with restrictions in designated areas. The marina/boat launch; located on the mainland side of the Verrazano Bridge, is a popular fishing and crabbing spot and features seasonal kayak rentals. Visit the Nature Center in the campground for live animal exhibits, arts and crafts and family fun. Entrance fees apply. Assateague State Park offers something for everyone.

Assateague State Park

7307 Stephen Decatur Highway

Berlin, MD  21811

(410) 641-2120

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/public-lands/eastern/assateague.asp

Assateague Island National Seashore:

Explore the national seashore and discover the mysteries of a barrier island. Before traveling across the Verrazano Bridge to the Maryland end of the island begin your visit at the Assateague Island Visitor Center. Watch a film about the wild horses. The visitor center also includes restrooms, a gift shop, exhibits, aquariums and staff to provide information and orientation. Touch a sea snail or horseshoe crab. Ask at the information desk for a Junior Ranger booklet and have some family fun.

Enjoy the park roads by bike. Observe wild horses feeding in the salt marsh. During summer, visit the Beach Hut for supplies and beverages and swim at the lifeguarded North Ocean Beach. Camping is available a year-round and reservations are encouraged April 15th through October 15th. Expect rustic conditions, vault toilets and coldwater showers. Electric hookups are not provided. Pets are permitted in designated  areas. Avid paddlers and hikers should not miss the countryman camping experience. The Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone provides an adventurous getaway (permit required). Nature trails, beach-combing and ranger-led programs will bring back childhood memories, while guided kayak tours and campfire programs will make new ones. Entrance fees apply.

Assateague National Seashore

7206 National Seashore Lane

Berline, MD  21811

(410) 641-1441

http://www.nps.gov.asis

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge:

Originally established to protect migratory birds, the refuge today is a destination for birders, beachcombers, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. Careful management of freshwater pools and marshes provides ideal habitat and feeding areas for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent species. The refuge is a paradise for birders and photographers. Walk or bike the trails to catch a glimpse of the rare Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel or the Chincoteague ‘ponies’. Drive the Wildlife loop around Snow Goose Pool between 3:00pm and dusk. Expect Toms Cover Hook to be closed during the nesting season of the threatened piping plover. Visit the Refuge-operated Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center and the National Seashore-operated Toms Cove Visitor Center for exhibits, programs and assistance. There is no camping in the refuge, so check in the nearby community of Chincoteague. A lifeguarded beach is available Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pets are prohibited Entrance fees apply.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

8231 Beach Road

Chincoteague, VA  23336

(757) 336-6122

chinco.fws.gov

Disclaimer: This information is taken directly from the National Park Service pamphlet on Assateague Island National Seashore State Park. It is really a fascinating place. It covers both Delaware and Maryland. Please check out the website and call for more information.  Don’t miss this interesting ‘gem’.

 

 

Olana State Historic Site 5720 Route 9G Hudson, NY 12534

Olana State Historic Site 5720 Route 9G Hudson, NY 12534

Olana State Historic Site

5720 Route 9G

Hudson, NY  12534

(518) 828-0135

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47931-d263717-Reviews-Olana_State_Historic_Site-Hudson_New_York.html?m=19905

Olana, one of the most important artistic residences and planned landscapes in the United States, is the last and perhaps greatest masterpiece created by Hudson River School artist Fredrick Edwin Church (1826-1900). Church designed the landscape and his Persian style home on and around the same hilltop where, as an eighteen year old student, he sketched spectacular views of the Catskills and the river alongside his mentor Thomas Cole.

Even in an era defined by personal architectural statements, the home of Fredric and Isabel Church was unique. Delight in the Moorish details of the building and each room. View the original furnishings of the house and walk or jog along the paths and carriage drives of the surrounding landscape, also designed by Church.

A designated National Historic Landmark, Olana State Historic Site opened to the public in 1967. The house, its contents and the landscape still look very much as they did in Church’s day.

Directions: Located on Route 9G, five miles south of Hudson. Take NYS I-87 to Exit 21, Catskill. Take Route 23 over Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Bear right on Route 9G south. Olana is one mile on the left. Or visit our websites at http://www.Olana.org and http://www.nysparks.com.

Hours: House available by guided tour only. Call for days and hours or visit http://www.olana.org. Reservations suggested; group tours by advance reservation only. Grounds open 8:00am-sunset year around.

http://www.nyparks.com

http://www.olana.org

Olana State Historic Site

5720 Route 9G

Hudson, NY  12534

(518) 828-0135

Disclaimer: this information is take directly from the NY Parks pamphlet on the Olana Historic Site. Please call the site for more information.

General Grant National Memorial 122nd Street and Riverside Drive New York, NY 10027

General Grant National Memorial 122nd Street and Riverside Drive New York, NY 10027

The General Grant National Memorial

122nd Street and Riverside Drive

New York, NY 10027

(212) 666-1640

http://www.nps.gov/gegr

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 9:00am-5:00pm/Closed Monday-Tuesday/Check for tour times on site.

Fee: Donation

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d105812-Reviews-General_Grant_National_Memorial-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

A Grateful Nation:

The Grant Memorial was designed by architect John Duncan. Rising to an imposing 150 feet from the bluff overlooking the Hudson River, it took 12 years to build and remains the largest mausoleum in North America. Its  great size was meant to express the profound admiration Americans felt for the Civil War commander and was propelled to the forefront of America’s pantheon of heroes and declared the equal of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Spearheaded by the Grant Monument Association, some 90,000 people from around the United States and the world donated over $600,000 to construct the memorial, the largest public fundraising effort up to that time. Initial fundraising was led by Richard T. Greener, first black graduate of Harvard and a Grant supporter who credited the general with his advancement. Many African Americans contributed to the building fund.

The memorial is open from 9:00am-5:00pm daily. For information or to arrange for group visits call (212) 666-1640.

Among the most Revered of Men:

This large classically proportioned mausoleum honors the Civil War general who saved the nation from dissolution and the president who worked to usher in a new era of peace and equality for all Americans. Ulysses S. Grant, a plain-spoken unassuming man who studiously avoided pomp and ceremony had volunteered his services for the Union effort when the Civil War erupted in 1861. In doing what he considered simply his duty, he emerged after four years of fighting as one of the great military leaders in history. Aggressiveness, speed, tenacity and the ability to adjust his plans in the face of unexpected impediments all helped to bring him victory.

As great as he was in war, Grant showed magnanimity and compassion in peace. He granted humane and generous terms when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to him on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House. As president he pardoned many former Confederate leaders at the same time insisting on protecting the full political equality of former slaves. He was also concerned that American Indian tribes be treated with dignity  and respect. His fundamental desire for peace was reflected in his efforts to solve international disputes by arbitration rather than by threat of war. At the time of his death in 1885. Grant was universally respected by northerners and southerners alike.

Because of Grant’s status as a national hero, most Americans assumed he would be buried in Washington DC but his family preferred New York City. Grant himself had no strong preference; his only desire was for his wife, Julia to be buried next to him. The funeral on August 8, 1885 was one of the most spectacular events New York had ever seen. Buildings all over the city were draped in black. An estimated one million people crowded sidewalks, filled windows, stood on rooftops and climbed trees and telephone poles for a view of the procession, which stretched seven miles and took  five hours to pass.

Grant’s remains were placed in a temporary vault until an appropriate memorial could be funded and built. On April 27, 1897, the 75th anniversary of Grant’s birth, thousands of people, including diplomats from 26 countries, attended the dedication ceremony for the completed memorial. The dedication parade, led by President William McKinley, was almost as large as Grant’s funeral parade. Julia Grant reviewed the ceremony sitting next to President McKinley. She was laid by her husband’s side after her death in 1902.

The tomb is located in Riverside Park near Columbia University and across the street from Sakura Park, where Japanese Cherry trees are in bloom every Spring. Near the tomb is the memorial to the ‘Amicable Child’ and that should not be missed as well.

Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the National Park Service pamphlet. This is a very interesting National Memorial and should not be missed. It is opened at certain times of the week, so please look for the posted hours. (The memorial is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily. For more information or to arrange for groups visits, please call (212) 666-1640).