Wednesday, August 16, 2017

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF THE SACRED HEART

Newark is New Jersey's most populous city (approximately 282,000 residents), is one of the oldest European-settled cities in the United States, and has one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the United States. The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is 365 feet long and 165 feet wide (about five feet longer and five feet wider than a football field) and took 95 years to design and build. Planning for a cathedral began in 1859, the groundbreaking occurred in 1898, the first mass was held in it in 1928, and the finished cathedral was finally dedicated in 1954.

Sometimes I feel like the remodeling of our house has been about that slow.

One of the most distinct features of the exterior is the two front bell towers, which are rotated 45 degrees so that the corners point out, creating a three-dimensional rather than a flat front. It makes the building feel a little bit like a fairy castle rather than a church.

A series of complicated turrets and steeples can be seen from the back:




A side view:

There were two enormous azalea bushes in full bloom on the grounds:

Note to kids--I love this tribute:

Monday, July 31, 2017

ABOUT TOWN IN TRENTON, NEW JERSEY

Trenton, New Jersey, population 85,000, appears to be a relatively quiet little town. At least it was quiet around the capitol building when we were there.

Directly across the street from the Statehouse is a war memorial.  A domed cupola with a bronze "Lady Victory" statue comes first:

View from behind with the Statehouse in the background:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

TRENTON, NEW JERSEY: STATE CAPITOL BUILDING

The capital city of New Jersey, Trenton, has a population of about 85,000 and is only the 8th largest city in the state. For some reason, I expect the state capital to be the largest city in the state, even though that is often not the case (as in my own state of California). Trenton is located in almost the exact geographical center of the state (north/south), however, which is more than I can say for Sacramento or many other capital cities.

Trenton does hold the distinction of being the site of George Washington's first victory in December 1776 (the Battle of Trenton, which involved the famous Delaware River crossing), as well as serving for a brief time in 1784 as the United States capital. It was named the capital of New Jersey in 1790, and the "state house" (an early name for a capitol building) was built in 1792, making it the third oldest state house in continuous legislative use in the United States.

The New Jersey State House is unusual in its design as it deviates from the standard capitol architecture that is patterned after the national capitol building, although it does have the customary dome, which can barely be seen in the first picture below:

Here is a better view of the dome. I love its unique design:

Even though the original 1792 building had numerous additions in the 19th century as the state grew, it feels fairly small inside, especially when compared to some of the other cavernous capitols. The central "dome room" or rotunda also serves as the main foyer/waiting room. I did love the dark coral walls and beautiful woodwork:

. . . but this dome--not so much. I couldn't get past the image of a fried egg, sunny side up:


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: CATHEDRAL OF ST. MATTHEW THE APOSTLE

We were driving/wandering around the streets of Washington, D.C., on our way back to our hotel when Bob suddenly threw on the brakes. "I think we just passed the St. Matthew Cathedral!" he said.

"Huh?" I replied, having NO idea what he was talking about.
We drove around the block, verified that it was indeed St. Matthew's, and found a parking spot.

Bob has a way of "happening upon" interesting places in the most amazing way.



Construction of this Romanesque Revival cathedral began in 1893, and although the first mass was held in 1898, construction wasn't completed until 1913, at which time the church was dedicated. 

St. Matthew, who was a tax collector, is appropriately the patron saint of civil servants. St. Matthew's Cathedral honors those who serve in city, state, and national governments and in the many international organizations in the D.C. area. Wedged into a space among other buildings, the cathedral is suprisingly spacious, with a seating capacity of 1,200.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Just across the street from the U.S. Capitol is a building whose name I've always been familiar with, but which I knew little to nothing about: the Library of Congress.
U.S. Capitol as seen from the steps of the Library
The main building of the Library of Congress
The Library has an interesting history of stops and starts:

1783:  James Madison suggests creating a congressional library.

1800:  The Library of Congress is signed into existence by President John Adams when the capital moves from New York to Washington, D.C. A total of 740 books and 3 maps ordered from Europe constitute the first collection, which is housed in the capitol building and is meant to service the reference needs of Congress. 

1814:  Invading British troops destroy the Library of Congress and its collection, which has grown to 3,000 volumes. Thomas Jefferson almost immediately offers to sell Congress his personal library as the base for a new collection. (Why didn't he just give it to them?)

1815:  Congress designates $23,950 to purchase his 6,487 books. ($3.69/book is a pretty good deal for Jefferson in 1815.) The library continues to grow.

1851:  A disastrous fire destroys 35,000  of the library's 60,000 or so books, among which are two-thirds of Jefferson's collection. Congress replaces the number of lost books.

1865:  By the end of the Civil War, there are about 80,000 volumes in the library. The next decade sees tremendous growth, both in the number of books in the library and in the power of the organization itself when the library is given jurisdiction over all copyright registration.

1876:  The Library of Congress has over 300,000 volumes and begins construction of the present main library building. 

1897: With a collection of over 840,000 volumes, the Library moves into the Beaux Arts style Thomas Jefferson Building.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

VIRGINIA: MOUNT VERNON

George Washington was the son of wealthy planters in Virginia, but his father died when George was only eleven, and as a result the family experienced some financial hardship (which meant George couldn't go to England for his education). However, his father had owned some property he had named "Mount Vernon," and he deeded it to his oldest living son Lawrence (by his first wife--George was the oldest son born to his second wife). When Lawrence died of tuberculosis in 1752, 20-year-old George moved to the estate to help Lawrence's widow manage the place. When she died a few years later, George inherited it. Not long after that, he married Martha Custis, a wealthy widow one year older than he, in 1759.

We didn't waste any time waiting to get to know George, Martha, and their two grandchildren:

Mt. Vernon consists of 500 acres of prime real estate on the banks of the Potomac River.

The house was built in stages by George himself between 1758 and 1778 in the same spot where the previous home had been since 1735. I'm sure Martha must have bankrolled some of the expenses.

I always thought Mount Vernon was painted white.

We got in a LONG line behind about 1.5 million children on school field trips. Luckily, a colonist had been resurrected so that he could lecture the young 'uns on their behavior (which was, actually, amazingly good):

Friday, July 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: THE REFLECTING POOL AND TIDAL BASIN MONUMENTS, PART 2

We left the Jefferson Memorial and continued clockwise around the Tidal Basin.
Our next stop was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It was dedicated in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. It's distinguishing feature for me was its sprawling layout. It covers 7.5 acres! I kept expecting to come to the end of it, but then there would be another section. Of course, it does have to cover the longest presidency in U.S. history--12 years. The basic format is four "rooms," one for each of FDR's terms.

One especially cool thing about the FDR Memorial is that it is completely wheelchair accessible--a nod to FDR's disabiity.

FDR was known for his pithy statements, and many of them are engraved on the walls of his memorial, such as this one that reads, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."




This one states, "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation...it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world."

Wow. That's an ideology that seems completely foreign in today's political climate.
Next to that quote is a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt--the only First Lady honored at a Presidential memorial. Eleanor stands next to the seal of the United Nations, to which she was the first delegate from the United States:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: THE REFLECTING POOL AND TIDAL BASIN MONUMENTS, PART 1

After a few hours in the Smithsonian Art Museum, we made our way towards the Reflecting Pool and Tidal Basin. Bob had a long walk planned, and it was already mid-afternoon. I told him there was no way we could do all of this with what light we had left. He assured me that we could, and off we went.

There's always something interesting to see while walking through the D.C. streets, like Colossal Head 4 in front of the National Museum of Natural History. It is a copy of the original Olmec stone carving on display in a museum in Xalapa, Mexico:

Bob had tried to get tickets to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which had just opened eight months before, but it was already sold out for the dates we were in D.C.

Walking past it really piqued our curiosity. This will be at the top of my list next time we are in D.C.:

The building looks like a giant slave ship:

We had seen the Washington Monument from a distance from several locations, but it was awe-inspiring to approach the actual structure. Too bad we couldn't climb the 897 stairs inside (which have been closed to tourists since 1971 anyway). The elevator is being renovated, and the building will be closed until at least 2019.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM AND NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

Washington, D.C., is a great city for walking, and our typical day included driving in from our hotel in Alexandria, parking our car in a centrally located lot, and walking, walking, walking, walking.

On Day Two, we walked down F Street, noting all the attractions along the way that we might want to visit on another trip, such as the International Spy Museum. However, the museum's neighbor, the Shake Shack, required much closer inspection and caused about a 20 minute delay in our morning. It was well worth it:

Just down the road are The Smithsonian American Art Museum (commonly known as SAAM) and the National Portrait Gallery, which is also a Smithsonian museum. The museums share space in the Old Patent Office Building. Collectively they are known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, although I don't think anyone really calls them that. The building takes up two city blocks, and while they really are two different museums, we experienced them as a single museum.

A dramatic sculpture on the outside is always a good sign that you've arrived at an art museum. This one, Modern Head (1989-1990) by Roy Lichtenstein, is the perfect piece to stand outside a portrait gallery. It is an impressive thirty-one feet tall and is made of steel:

Entry to the museums is free, and we were lucky to be there on a day that wasn't wall-to-wall people. The SAAM has over 7,000 pieces of art and we had limited time.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Cape Cod Morning by Edward Hopper, 1950

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.: THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL

Day two in Washington, D.C., was Mother's Day, and we decided to spend the morning in an unusual way--attending a service at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, more commonly known as the "National Cathedral." Since we had been running on empty on our first day, we decided to sleep in and catch the 11:15 service.

The National Cathedral isn't a non-denominational church as we had expected, but an Episcopalian Cathedral. It was granted a charter by Congress in 1891, was begun in 1907, and was completed in 1990. Congress has designated it as the "National House of Prayer." The funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford were held at the National Cathedral, which is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States, topped only by the St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City.

It's difficult to capture the size of the building (the central tower is 301 feet tall) with just one photo, but maybe five will convey its enormity:



Every December I attend a Christmas program at the local university that is basically an Episcopalian service (minus the eucharist), so the service at the National Cathedral felt familiar--lots of pageantry and processionals, lots of anthem singing, some reading and response, lots of up and down, etc.
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