Saturday, October 14, 2017

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: INNER HARBOR

In Baltimore, "Inner Harbor" refers both to a body of water (part of the 39-mile-long Patapsco River, which flows into Chesapeake Bay) and to the developed waterfront area.  I was surprised to learn that it was in this harbor that the Battle of Baltimore took place during the War of 1812. It was where Francis Scott Key was held in a British ship during the conflict, and from where he saw the huge American flag flying over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, 1814. It seems too far away from the fort for all of that.

The Inner Harbor is a little bit quirky. For example, check out these dragon boats:
That glass-topped building behind them is the National Aquarium (I'm not sure why it is the "National" one), which is the biggest tourist attraction in Maryland, drawing 1.5 million visitors annually.

Did we go there? No. We should have, just like we should have gone to this colossal Barnes & Noble and the Hard Rock Cafe. 

Instead we visited the Historic Ships exhibits. My husband likes ships more than I do.

Four historic ships are docked in Inner Harbor and have been turned into floating museums. We first stopped to see the USS Constellation, "The Flagship of the Anti-Slave Trade." It was built in 1854 and used during the Civil War for many things, including blockades of the South:


Saturday, October 7, 2017

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: FORT McHENRY

I'm embarrassed to admit that I may not have been able to identify the significance of Fort McHenry before I actually visited it.  I am intrigued by the fact that it's not just a national monument, but also a historic shrine. I have always associated shrines with religious sites. Maybe it was designated a shrine because it is a battlefield site, or is it because of its connection to the national anthem? It is the only site in the National Park Service to have both designations.
During the War of 1812, this fort successfully defended Baltimore from an attack by the British Navy.

However, what makes this Fort especially famous is this:

Before we actually went to the fort, we spent some time in the visitor center. I like this view of the star-spangled banner

We learned all about the origin of our National Anthem:

. . . and we saw Key's original hand-written draft of the lyrics.:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: THE BABE RUTH HOME AND MUSEUM

I'm not a huge baseball fan. I'm not even a middlin' baseball fan. However, I AM a Babe Ruth fan. How could you not be intrigued by the Sultan of Swat? One of Baltimore's claims to fame is that it is the hometown of the world's most famous baseball player, and we decided it would be a shame to miss the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

How does a person go from being born in a row house in the working class area of Baltimore called "Pigtown" . . .

. . . to being named "Player of the Century" by Sports Illustrated? You don't have to love baseball to wonder about that!

Monday, September 25, 2017

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF EDGAR ALLAN POE

American poet, short story writer, and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) lived in this small home from 1833 to 1835:



This isn't the only Poe home that is a museum. There's another one that I'd like to see in Richmond, Virginia, and another in Philadelphia, as well as his dorm room at the University of Virginia. Then there is his house in the Bronx, where his wife died in 1847. All of these are museums. If you are a member of the Poe Cult, there is plenty to see.

Even in Baltimore, as the museum points out, there are plenty of Poe sites:


Poe lived here on Amity Street with his grandmother, aunt, and two cousins. It was in this house that, at age 27, he married his first cousin Virginia Clemm, who was only 13. Yeah, it's a little creepy.

The Poe family tree shows the kinship of Edgar and Virginia:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: BASILICA OF THE NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Baltimore is just 32 miles north of Annapolis, but it's a world away in personality. Where Annapolis has a small town feel, Balitmore, population 620,000+, is definitely a big city. That's even evident in the churches. Baltimore has this humongous, far-from-humble church, not just a cathedral, but a basilica, and well-deserving of the designation. Even its name is haughty: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (although it is known around town as simply "the Baltimore Basilica").


The Baltimore Basilica claims the title of "America's First Cathedral" because it was the first metropolitan cathedral constructed after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Construction began in 1806 and was finished in 1821. The architect of this Neoclassical church was none other than "The Father of American Architecture," Benjamin Latrobe, who had a hand in designing the U.S. Capitol. In 1937, Pope Pius XI raised the rank and stature of the Cathedral to a Minor Basilica.

Lots of clean, angular lines--none of those layers of saints and pointy Gothic arches here:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: AROUND TOWN AND ST. ANNE'S CHURCH

We couldn't find a parking space in downtown Annapolis near the State House, so we parked about a mile away. The good part about that was that we got to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Chesapeake Bay. The bad part is that it was about 100° and about 90% humidity.


As we got near to downtown Annapolis, it was a nice surprise to come upon this public art piece showing a man telling stories to three children:
That soda behind the girl on the right almost looks like it belongs there.

Then we learned that it's not just ANY man--it's Alex Haley, author of the epic saga Roots (1976), which became a record-breaking television miniseries in 1977. (By the way, did you know Haley also co-authored The Autobiography of Malcolm X? That came out in 1965.) Roots tells the story of six generations of Haley's own family. The Kunta Kinte - Alex Haley Memorial commemorates the arrival of Haley's ancestor and other slaves in this very harbor:

I had a flashback to the Kunta Kinte statue in Atlanta outside the Martin Luther King Museum, which shows Kunta Kinte holding aloft his baby daughter Kizzy, much like Mufasa holds up his newborn cub Simba in The Lion King.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: THE STATE HOUSE

I'M SO CONFUSED. You know the building where the governor has his office? What is it called? "The Capitol," you say? Not in Maryland, and not in Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina, or Vermont. They all have State Houses.  And then there is Ohio, which, just to be difficult, has a Statehouse. Not to be outdone, Delaware has a Legislative Hall. Geesh.

The Maryland State House is not your typical capitol in spite of the columns out front and the long portico. There is a small, stacked dome rather than the typical massive white one. This building looks like it was built in a different era than most of the capitols we've seen, as indeed it was. Constructed in 1772, it is the oldest state house (and I'm assuming that means oldest capitol building too) in the nation still in legislative use. George Washington himself walked these halls. The treaty that ended the Revolutionary War was ratified here.  For nine months between November 26, 1783, and August 13, 1784, this building even served as the capitol building for the United States, so I guess they can call it what they want, right?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY

We hadn't done much exploration in Maryland other than a visit to Antietam in 2014. We have a goal to visit all the state capitals, so during our recent trip to NYC and DC, we made a trip east into Maryland to visit Annapolis.

Located about two-thirds the way up Chesapeake Bay, this capital city has a definite seaport vibe:

It's an ideal location for the United States Naval Academy, founded here in 1845. In addition to visiting state capitals, we also like to visit major universities, and so we thought we'd check out the USNA.


There was fairly heavy security for a college campus. We had to pass through a metal detector, have our bags checked, and get a name tag to be able to enter the campus. However, after that I was pleasantly surprised. The Naval Academy is really set up to be a tourist destination, complete with an excellent tour guide who leads visitors around campus. We started at the statue of the Navy's mascot, Bill the Goat. (I'm not kidding; that's his name.)
 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

NEW YORK CITY: THE HIGH LINE

In the 1930s New York City city planners designed an innovative elevated railroad called the "High Line" for shipping freight throughout the city. It eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings that had caused many accidents and deaths. Thirteen miles of track were laid  at about third-story level, allowing trains to connect with warehouses and factories and virtually eliminating the impact of industry on city traffic.

As interstate trucking grew in the 1950s, the use of the High Line began to decline, and over the next 30 years, use of the elevated trains gradually diminished before finally grinding to a halt in the 1980s. While still structurally sound, the tracks fell into disrepair and became an eyesore, and so they were slated for demolition. In the late 1990s, however, a nonprofit organization called for repurposing the tracks as an elevated park or greenway, following the model of the Promenade Plantée in Paris.

Construction began in 2006, and the first section opened in 2009. Two more sections have since been completed and opened, with a fourth section to open in 2018. Almost all of the High Line's substantial annual operating expenses come from private donations.

The southernmost entry to the High Line can be accessed from the Whitney Museum, which makes the pathway almost feel like an extension of the museum. Strolling along the 1.45 miles of redesigned railroad track seemed like the perfect way to cap off our visit to the Whitney.

We couldn't have made a better choice for our Thursday evening (in spite of the +90° temperatures). The High Line is one of my new favorite things in New York City. I think I could spend a whole day walking its planks, sitting on its benches to do some serious people watching, exploring its vegetation, checking out its plethora of unique art and architecture, and admiring its creative landscaping.

In order to best capture our experience in New York City's most unique park, the pictures in this post are presented in the exact order that I took them rather than grouped by topic.

The High Line is far from being a straight walking track lined with plants. It has some of the most interesting landscaping I've ever seen. For example, strips of greenery poking up between long slashes in the concrete give the feeling of grass growing between tracks:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

NEW YORK CITY: WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

For years I have been hearing about "The Whitney," a Manhattan museum built in 1931 by American socialite, patron, and collector Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to house 20th century American art (and now 21st century American art as well).  

It is known both for its permanent collection and for a curated international art show held every two years called the Whitney Biennial. According to Wikipedia, the Biennial "is generally regarded as one of the leading shows in the art world, often setting or leading trends in contemporary art. It helped bring artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, and Jeff Koons to prominence."

Lucky for us, we just happened to be visiting during the 2017 Whitney Biennial. I was so excited!

The original Whitney museum was located on Madison Avenue on NYC's Upper East Side. In 2015 it moved into this building in Lower Manhattan designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect and engineer who also designed the Pompidou Center in Paris:

The upper floors of the building present some unique views of the surrounding environs. NYC from above seems somehow more approachable than NYC from ground level:



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