New York, New England, New Brunswick, New Places

May 23rd, 2016

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Two years ago I published a screen print of the Statue of Liberty at the request of Eastern National Bookstores so thought it about time to visit the Statue and the bookstore below.  It’s quite a monument.  I trained down from Connecticut in about 45 minutes, then stood in two lines–half hour to purchase tickets and another hour to get on the ferry.  My poster has a silhouette of my 1899 tug as the border for the statue with additional silhouettes of actual immigrants taken from an historic immigration photo.  The actual Statue of Liberty was not accessible–that takes a 6 month advanced reservation….so I contented myself with a walk around Liberty Island.   And the poster was still not up on the walls of the bookstore, but it’s only been two years……

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This is the footprint of tower #1 of the WTC which today is another monument.  The new WTC towers above a full 1776′

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Truly impressive.

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Ranger Kevin Oldenburg of the Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites in Hyde Park NY invites me to give my talk at the FDR Library/ Visitors Center–I am absolutely flattered.  First there is a tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion.

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This was the age of “conspicuous spending” and Frederick (grandson of Cornelius) was certainly conspicuous.  Pardon the blue tarps–they’re rebuilding the porches, columns and all.  Kevin gave me a private tour and we delved into many nooks and crannies……

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In this nook, we found an orrery or clock of our solar system with only the Sun, Mercury, Venus and the Earth and Moon–which was pretty much all that was known when these were figured out.  The ecliptic rises at 23 degrees.  Kevin had answers to all my questions.

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And then a piano hidden in this cranny.  Now I’m a sucker for pianos–even broke my leg walking to one a few years back–but this is quite fancy;  an 1883 Steinway which is tuned and occasionally played.

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The NPS manages dozens of units in  the Hudson River Valley, and in Hyde Park I visit three:  The Roosevelt Home, Val-Kill Residence (Eleanor Roosevelt’s retreat) and The Vanderbilt Mansion.  The Visitor Center at the Vanderbilt hosts nine posters which introduce an exhibit about FDR and his National Park and WPA–CCC involvement.  It will run a year or more so try to attend.

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This is FDRs desk at his home.  He was born in this house and was an only child–which nearly killed his mother at childbirth.  Eleanor moved into this home with FDR’s parents, so never had her own to raise their 6 children–five of whom survived.  I met Elliot Roosevelt in Puget Sound in about 1983.   FDR hosted world dignitaries here in 1939 including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill.

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FDR’s wheelchair can be seen center left–it was a simple oak kitchen chair with wheels added.  That way, he could sit with a blanket over his knees and not draw attention to his polio stricken legs.  He contracted polio when he was 39; it was misdiagnosed which may have allowed this disease to progress further.

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Posted at the FDR Library is this “Message to Congress” that everyone over 80 remembers hearing FDR read on the radio.  Besides plunging the US into a two-front war, it also ended the WPA and the poster project with only 14 parks having participated.

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Also posted in the FDR Library is this letter from Albert Einstein.  Einstein said this was probably the biggest mistake of his lifetime.

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Who wouldn’t love this 1936 Ford Phaeton.  It was equipped with hand controls so FDR could operate the vehicle, which he often did.

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I get back from my talk at 8pm and offer my condolences to my next door campers–a tree crashed down nailing two cars–this was the worst.  Now, I had the pick of this site a few hours earlier and almost camped here, but chose the next one.  My trailer, seen just beyond, was spared……  whew!

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After that scare, and with a week of free time before my Baa Haaba (Bar Harbor & Acadia) talks, I decide to explore the Bay of Fundy.  I live in Alaska where 26′ of tidal variations are the norm.  However, the Bay of Fundy boasts full 46′ tidal fluctuations on average shared at various points around the bay.  The ‘mother of all extremes’ occurred in 1869 when the Saxby Storm piled 71′ of water at the head of the Bay of Fundy.

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The beautiful New Brunswick town of Shediac–Home of the Worlds Largest Lobster–visit if you can and stay tuned……..

ELDA Revisited

May 13th, 2016

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My journeys take me back through New York State and I simply must stop to visit my great uncle’s old estate in Ossining.  He, and all of his siblings, were inventors and David T. Abercrombie was no exception having founded Abercrombie & Fitch in 1892.  This estate, named ELDA after his four children (Elizabeth, Lucy, David, Abbott) was built in 1925-6 by Portuguese stone masons, is five stories tall, sits on 52 acres with three lakes and was once a grandiose estate.

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A closer look at the south side of the building.  It’s massive!  The walls are 3-4′ thick and reinforced with Abbott Steel.  David’s wife was Lucy Abbott Cate of the Abbott Steel Company who built the turret on the Monitor and the steel trusses and compression ring on the US Capitol rotunda.  They held patents on fireproof steel–which wouldn’t warp when heated.  They knew their stuff.

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This is the north side of the building with the curved entrance.  It enters a foyer with the dining/kitchen on the left and living room on the right.  A tea house was later added right behind the tree in the center of this photograph.  The square tower housed guest bedrooms, a gunroom above, a cistern above which gravity fed the entire house.  On top was an observation level where the NYC skyline could be seen, but only when crawling up a narrow catwalk out over the corbelled rim–seen here left center.

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This is the same view today–the entire wing is gone.  A faint roof line can be seen on the square tower.  The newspaper accounts of the time attribute this destruction to a paint factory fire in 1944. But I question this account.

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Here is the living room ca. 1930.

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An identical perspective in 2010……

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…..and today.  Vandals have moved in and have simply trashed the place.  Every window, gone.

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The alcove in the living room.

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A 2010 photo of the hinge details…..

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…..today the doors have been ripped out and stripped of their hardware–here half a hinge survived for some unknown reason.

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2010

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Today, the toilet and tub fixtures are gone.  Who would steal a 1960s turquoise toilet?

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Attic 2010…..liveable.

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2016–the far left panel chopped through the roof.

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And on it goes.  The future leaders of our country.  Or more likely, the welfare kings & queens?

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I think this was a kitchen.

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This was a habitable living space only 6 years ago.

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The entry.

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The gun-room–intact in 2010 has been stripped of doors and some of the intricately carved panels were crow-barred off the walls.

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One parting photograph as I leave.  Every window in the house is gone, every door removed, every appliance tipped and smashed.  I walked on 2″ glass everywhere.  In 2010 I gathered the local/county/state park folks together to try and preserve this property to no avail.  Now 6 years later, it’s worse.  I’m still trying to interest local governments in a park on these 52+ acres.  I’ve also contacted the present day Abercrombie & Fitch–given their track record contrary to the original A & F mission–to  kick in a few shillings–don’t you think?

Oh…..the missing wing of this building.  In 1960 a physicist bought this estate and cleaned it up–a life-time mission of raising his two daughters here.  He was a student of, and understudy to, Norman Ramsey, who won the Nobel Prize in physics for……the Manhattan Project.   Now, it’s just a hunch, but could that forceful blast in 1944 on a secluded 52 acre estate, within a stone’s throw of Manhattan, that took out one wing of Abbott Steel, been related to the Manhattan Project?    Stay tuned!

On to Washington

May 8th, 2016

Blue Ridge Parkway

Instead of following the whole Blue Ridge Parkway, which rattled out my trailer, I decide to take the parallel roads and visit many of the small towns north of Boone, North Carolina–which also rattled out my trailer.

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My first stop north of Boone was just outside of Lexington, VA where I found the Lee Hi Campground and which made a three-way tie for the worst campground on my (so far) 8 1/2 month odyssey: Graceland TN and Ridge Crest NM.  But it was the only “RV” park in the area so I hunkered down in the rain with about 150 semi-trucks that idled their engines all night.  Only water and electricity available and all for $50 bucks!  It was an early departure the next morning for Ranger Doug who likes the open plains.

To give Lexington credit, it is full of beautiful old brick buildings (brick foundry here), the home of Stonewall Jackson, the Virginia Military Academy and the film site for “Brother Rat” starring Ronald Reagan.  On the main street, in a small alcove, was an old piano which I sat down to play, totally fracturing my old Chopin Gm Ballade.  Immediately a Russian visitor came up, sat down and fractured the C#m Prelude by Rachmaninoff.  Afterward, we had a fractured conversation in Russian…..  This is America!

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Half hour’s drive north of Lexington is Staunton, VA which was equally charming.  I stayed at the Shenandoah RV Park which was very well run–they even sent me a personal email thanking me for staying and asked for suggestions.   Lee Hi RV didn’t do that…..   Staunton, the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, was also voted the “Best Small Town in America” a few years ago.  This camp-spot above is really in Shenandoah National Park at the Big Meadows Campground, but I had to mention Saunton.

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I gave four talks in Shenandoah; three at Big Meadows (above) and one at Dickey Ridge which was an impromptu talk.  Considering that the weather was terrible (mild-Alaskan actually), I reached over 70 people.  We put up the four original posters which generated a lot of interest–the Yellowstone Falls on the right is the only original found.  The Shenandoah staff was simply great–making me feel like a ranger again.  Thank you Greta for putting this all together!

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More drizzle which invades the window seal…….  I designed this rear bumper–which houses the gray and black-water hoses–stowed outside of the trailer.  Quick disconnects allow me to hook up in about one minute.  Airstreams are the only place where a straight flush beats a full house……

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It’s only an hour and a half to Washington from the Dickey Ridge Visitors Center.  The only RV camp in the Washington area is the Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, NE of the City by 20 miles.  It’s on the Green Line so I could access downtown Washington DC easily.  My first stop was the Department of the Interior where I signed some of our new prints and a couple dozen postcards, and met a dozen more staff–our federal lands are in good hands!   I also signed up for the Interior Building tour again–can’t get enough of this New Deal art–Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm. This building is a museum unto itself–Ranger Doug highly recommends this tour.  Here’s one example of this mural art–painted by WPA Native American artists:

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In WWII, two anti-aircraft guns were placed on the roof-decks outside this ice cream parlor and one accidentally discharged while being cleaned, knocking the “W” of “Wisconsin” on the Lincoln Memorial–the only shot fired domestically in WWII.  I took photos of the whole room and will post this later up in a cloud somewhere…..stand by.

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There’s more!   The National Postal Museum is one of 18 Smithsonian museums.  I’ve always been curious about the “Inverted Jenny” and four are on display here.  One sheet was inserted in the “spider” printing press backwards, inverting this Curtiss JN (Jenny) 4.  One hundred stamps (one sheet) were released and today each has a value of approximately $100,000.  More on the “Jenny” here.

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Walking around the Mall is always fun and you meet interesting people.  I had to stop here and take in this group–now didn’t our founding fathers want separation of church & state?  I think so, but today (and tomorrow) you can take in 90 hours of continuous bible reading on Federal Land……

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…..and in both English and Spanish simultaneously!

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The Capitol is still under renovations but so I thought I’d take the Rotunda tour.  The freeze-thaw cycles have taken their toll over the years on the dome and leaking has become a problem.  This scaffolding is both exterior and interior so I’ve no interior photos.

I proudly pointed out to the tour-guide that my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s great grandfather, founder of the Abbott Steel Company, manufactured the steel trusses and compression ring for this rotunda (and the USS Monitor’s turret).  Abraham Lincoln insisted that this dome be completed during the heat of the Civil War, replacing the old copper dome, as a symbol of stability and unity for the Union……with slave labor.

The Statue of Freedom crowning the rotunda has a convoluted history arriving in plaster pieces after a halting trip from Rome via Gibraltar and Bermuda.  The five section were cast at the Mills Foundry near Washington until the Civil War broke out.  A labor strike halted the casting which was ultimately completed by a former slave Philip Reid.  Much history is here for the taking…..

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This is the roof dome in the Library of Congress–beautiful!  On the third floor is Thomas Jefferson’s personal library–this alone is worth a trip to Washington and I’m not disappointed travelling from Alaska.

I am very proud to have all my (and co-Artist Brian Maebius’) poster art–both historic reproductions and contemporary silkscreens–as part of the LOC collection. Here is my last LOC visit.  Since then, I’ve found one more original poster (Yellowstone Falls) which now brings the total to 12 of 14.  Still missing are Great Smoky Mountains and Wind Cave National Parks.

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Trump’s new hotel in the Old Post Office Building, right across the Mall from the White House.  Sad to see this history converted into a hotel–perhaps another museum?   Well–no politics here of course!

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Within the walls of the National Museum of Natural History is a huge collection of everything that once was alive–including this White Rhino, now teetering on the brink of extinction; the Northern White Rhinos are gone and the Southern number about 20,000.  Not sure which one this is (N or S), but it was none other than Teddy Roosevelt who shot this one dead.  Back in those days, that’s what a naturalist did and TR was a prolific naturalist.  In the Insect Section, they have an exhibit explaining why they needed a lot of specimens but this philosophy didn’t work here for large mammals.  Tomorrow more museums……stay tuned!