Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 5: Clara Barton's Birthplace

Salut mes amis, 

We got up early on Friday, August 10th to drive down to Connecticut for a visit with some of my guardian's extended family. On the way down, I visited Clara Barton's birthplace in North Oxford, Massachusetts.

Born Clarissa Hartlowe Barton on December 25, 1821, Clara Barton is most known for founding the American Red Cross (in 1881), but she also worked as a teacher. During the Civil War, she was known as the "Angel of the Battlefield" because she nursed many a soldier back to health.

Although Clara died on April 12, 1912 in Glen Echo, Maryland (she died while the Titanic was sailing!), her name and legacy lives on. The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc. is in the same area, and behind her house is a camp for diabetic girls.

I had a lot of fun touring Clara's birthplace and listening to the tour guide tell about Clara's life. There were a lot of period artifacts to look at, some of which belonged to Clara and her relatives. Here are some of the things that I saw on my visit :

This spinning wheel was more like a ferris wheel to me!

I squealed when I saw a wood-framed foot stove just like Kirsten's! Hot coals from a pan inside the foot stove would give off heat and help warm up the house on a cold winter day.

Clara's family even had indoor plumbing! Obviously this is a lot different from what we are used to today, but not many people had indoor plumbing when she was growing up. Can you imagine having a well inside your house and having to fill a bucket up several times a day, whenever you needed water? I think I'm going to go kiss my faucet right now!


Isn't this dress lovely? I don't think it belonged to Clara herself, but it is reminiscent of something that she might've worn. It reminds me a little bit of Elizabeth's riding outfit, even though it's a bit more modern. The jewelry displayed on the dress belonged to her, though.


Here I am posing with a picture of Clara!

I met several new friends while on the tour of Clara's house. In the bedroom, I met this lovely girl. She belonged to one of Clara's nieces, if I remember right. I wished that she'd have lent me her dress; I love it!

Posing next to this trunk made me think of the antique dolls (complete with their own trunks of clothes and accessories) that inspired Pleasant Rowland to create Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly. My friend Samantha could use a trunk like this - her armoire is way too full!

On top of the trunk was this beautiful paper doll set. I'm drooling over that red dress that the doll is wearing : 

Here is an overall view of the bedroom. It's a room that my guardian would be very content to live in. With a quilt on the bed and dolls, what could be better? My guardian loves simple, old-fashioned, yet elegant things.

In the parlor, I stumbled upon this piano. The ribbon across the chair prevented me from playing it, but I wanted to get a picture with it regardless. It reminded me of a fancier version of Josefina's! I wonder if Caroline would've had something similar to this?

Also in the parlor was this huge writing chest. This reminded me of Felicity's clothes press, but with a pull-out desk! Gorgeous.

In the kitchen, I met another little friend sitting in this high chair.

Would anyone like tea? I carefully admired the Barton family's tea set, pretending all the while that I was a proper young lady in the year 1831. I was also reminded of the time when my friend Nathalie had high tea in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Here is another friend that I made while visiting the Barton family's house.

Now this bed looks just about my size! Had I been tired, I might've curled up for a quick catnap.

Here I am sitting by the kitchen hearth, trying to imagine what cold winter nights in New England - that is, a New England without all of the modern conveniences like electricity! - would be like. I figured that the Barton family spent many a winter night huddled together on this rug, telling each other stories while keeping warm. 

Thanks for joining me on my tour of Clara Barton's Birthplace! Have you ever toured a historical house?


Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 4: Longfellow's Home {Boston Tour; Part 6}

Salut, mes amis!

My last stop on the guided bus tour of Boston was actually in Cambridge (which was settled in 1630 and incorporated in 1636)! A city inevitably made famous by Harvard University, Cambridge is part of the Greater Boston area and is the fifth most populous city in the state of Massachusetts (which is really evident by August of every year, when students flood in to attend Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Lesley University, etc!). There were 105,162 residents in the city at the time of the 2010 Census! Did you know that a resident of Cambridge is called a Cantabrigian? Isn't that a funny word? 

The bus driver let me off at the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which is a National Historic Site. The house was originally built in 1759 along the Charles River for merchant and Loyalist John Vassall. The Vassalls fled for England in 1774. Shortly after the Vassalls fled for England, General George Washington (along with wife Martha) chose this house as his place of residence when he arrived in Cambridge in July 1775.  It wasn't until 1843 that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, celebrated poet (who wrote Paul Revere's Ride), and his new wife, Fanny Appleton, moved in. 

I did not get to explore much of the Longfellow House, as we didn't have the time to take a guided tour. At this point in the day, I was very thirsty, and I was so grateful that the house had drinking water available! Quenching my thirst and buying one small thing in the gift shop was all I had the time for.

The photo below shows the Longfellow family: Henry with wife Fanny Appleton and sons Charles and Ernest. There were also four daughters in the family: Fanny, Alice Mary, Edith, and Anne Allegra! I guess this photo is proof that sons were much more valued than daughters! I, for one, am glad that notion has changed. 

Thanks for joining me on my guided tour of Boston! Please check back - I still have a few other places to post about! 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 4: Site of The Boston Massacre {Boston Tour; Part 5}

Salut mes amis,

I soon found myself hustling through a lunchtime crowd right smack down in the Boston downtown. It was crazy and very reminiscent of my days spent in New York and Paris! Here I am at the intersection of Devonshire and State Street, in the proximity of the Old State House. Please excuse my messy hair! My hair wasn't cooperating with me, and I didn't bring a brush along: 

The intersection of Devonshire and State Street is an important one because it is the site of the Boston Massacre, an event that heavily foreshadowed the start of the American Revolution five years later! When the bus driver dropped me off, a park ranger was in the middle of giving a speech about the historical event, so of course I stopped to listen. The sign that he is standing behind gives some good basic history, so I will copy it here for you:

On March 5, 1770, in the street before you, nine British soldiers were confronted by an angry mob. 

"The soldiers did fire without orders and killed five of his Majesty's good subjects . . . How fatal are the effects of posting a standing army among a free people!"

Samuel Adams' description of the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere's engraving of the scene fueled public outrage, and helped arouse revolutionary fervor of colonists all over America. 

The first person shot to death by the British was an American named Crispus Attucks, a mixed-race runaway slave (turned sailor). Little is known about him other than his involvement in the massacre. Still, he is the most remembered in history books. 

After listening to the park ranger speak about the Boston Massacre, I crossed over to Quincy Market. Otherwise known as Faneuil Hall Marketplace, it is a historic shopping mall that caters to tourists like myself. It is located near Faneuil Hall, which has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742, and has played host to notable speakers like Samuel Adams (a monument of his likeness is in front of the building) and others promoting the idea of independence from Great Britain. It was also ranked as #4 in America's 25 Most Visited Tourist Sites by Forbes Traveler in 2008! 

A sign located in the proximity gave me some good background information about Quincy Market. Here is what it said: 

"The marketplace has been a vital part of Boston since 1826 (named in honor of Mayor Josiah Quincy, who organized its construction without any tax or debt) when it first opened to accommodate local merchants and city residents. You are one of the 18 million (!) visitors we will host this year. 

Keeping true to its roots, the marketplace strives to maintain a balanced mix of diverse shops, independent merchants and local artisans. Today, the North and South Market buildings are home to retail shops, restaurants and business offices. Quincy Market houses more than 40 different food vendors (!), featuring an array of delicacies from around the globe. Our world class restaurants offer innovative and eclectic dining." 

Also in the same proximity is this giant sculpture of a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese noodle! Talk about random, but I guess it's a good indicator of where to get food in downtown Boston! "You know you love it?" Okay, I'll admit it. I do love Kraft Mac & Cheese! It's a great comfort food. 

Talk about 'love,' I was a hit among those little girls in the right-hand corner! They noticed me posing for pictures and couldn't stop staring. I felt famous! 

By this time, I was quite famished, so I strolled into Quincy Market. More than 40 food vendors is right! You can buy Indian food, Greek food, Italian food, Chinese food, sweets, typical American fare, and so much more within these walls, and it was packed! I quickly decided on a slice of good Mediterranean-style pizza and headed outside for breathing room!

I snapped these photos of Quincy Market while I was eating. The open air market stalls reminded me so much of Florence, Italy - at least from what my friend Chiara has told me about them. With the booming Italian American population (The city greeted over 44,000 Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, as compared to 14,000 Irish and 17,000 Jews!) in Boston, I guess the similarity to Italian cities shouldn't be surprising!

So, here's a question for you, and you should've seen it coming! Do you like Kraft Mac & Cheese? If not, what is your favorite food?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 4: Paul Revere & the Old North Church {Boston Tour, Part 4}

My next stop in Boston is much more recognizable. Even if you've never visited Boston, I'm sure you've heard of this poem before:

"LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year."

That would be the first stanza of "Paul Revere's Ride," a famous poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about the fateful night of April 18, 1775 in which Paul Revere, a Patriot and silversmith by trade, alerted Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord (the first battles in the Revolutionary War). 

But what does my next stop have to do with Paul Revere? This is the Old North Church, where Revere told three Boston Patriots to hang two lanterns in the steeple on the night of April 18, 1775 to warn Patriots in Charlestown (across the Charles River that divides the Charlestown section from the rest of Boston) that the British Army was coming. Upon seeing the two lanterns, the Patriots in Charlestown would then be able to ride over to warn Lexington. Although Revere did ride over to Lexington himself at a later point, having back-up riders from Charlestown was a good idea in case Revere was arrested and couldn't make the trip himself. 

The two lanterns were hung for less than a minute, so that British occupying Boston wouldn't notice the obvious signal. Militia in Charlestown had been told to look for signal lanterns. But why were there two lanterns? Longfellow's poem is famous for this line, "One if by land, and two if by sea." Hanging only one lantern in the steeple of the Old North Church was supposed to have meant that the British were coming by land. Hanging two lanterns in the steeple, as was done, meant that the British were coming by sea - in other words, the British troops were crossing the Charles River in boats instead of marching over Boston Neck and the Great Bridge. 

This is the Old North Church, otherwise known as Christ Church in the City of Boston. Located in the North End, it is an Episcopal parish and the oldest active church building in Boston (it was built in 1723) : 

This plaque rests on the steeple of the church as a reminder of Paul Revere's ride :

Here I am with the church steeple! This was at a VERY difficult angle to shoot from, so consequently, the photo isn't the best:

According to this map of the Old North Church grounds, there is a lot more than just the church to see! There is a War Memorial, 18th century gardens, and the Parish House, to name a few. That being said, I didn't have the time to see anything but the church!

This is one of the sites on The Freedom Trail, which I talked about in an earlier blog post

This is the inside of the church. I was standing in a pew at the front and looking at the rear. Isn't the organ lovely (it's from 1759)? 

Do you see these four mounted angels? {Click on the picture to make it larger.} They are STOLEN property! Here's the scoop: These hand-carved wooden angels were made in Belgium for a Catholic church in Québec, Canada. A pirate ship attacked the ship carrying these angels as they were on their way to Québec, and the pirate captain (Thomas Grucy) was a member of the Old North Church. Grucy gave his church a gift that was not his to give! The Old North Church, upon finding out that the angels were indeed not theirs, contacted the Catholic Church in Québec. The real owners allowed the angels to stay in Boston, which is why they are (of course!) in this photo : 

Here I am in one of the box pews. Box pews were common in Protestant England and New England churches from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The high walls kept cold drafts out of the seating areas in the unheated church building. People would often bring a heated brick or stone in a foot-warmer to place in the center of their pew. 

Each box pew is labeled with the name of the person (and their family) who is allowed to sit there - the more status you had, the more up front you were. There is even a box pew in the back that is "For strangers and wardens." This had me laugh because, in some churches today, people fight over the back pews. The front pews are last to be filled! 

~ Sophie

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 4: U.S.S. Constitution Museum {Boston Tour, Part 3}

After walking around Shipyard Park (located in the proximity of Charlestown Navy Yard), I decided to tour the nearby U.S.S. Constitution Museum. This museum celebrates the U.S.S. Constitution, a ship especially known for her actions during the War of 1812. The ship (nicknamed "Old Ironsides") and her crew helped to defeat British warships and captured several merchant ships as well. The museum has many hands-on exhibitions that are perfect for kids and their families. According to some of the museum curators, there will also be special Caroline Abbott events held at the museum some time this fall. As you all know, Caroline is American Girl's newest historical character, and she is from the year 1812! Even though her story takes place in upstate New York, I felt as if I was walking into Caroline's world as I toured the museum, which made me extra excited to meet her! 

This is the U.S.S. Constitution on her 213th birthday, which was held on October 21, 2010. The ship was first launched on October 21, 1797, and she left on her maiden voyage on July 22, 1798.

Mr. Ephraim Lawrence greeted me at the entrance to the museum. He introduced himself as a shipwright from Falmouth who came to Charlestown Navy Yard to help build what became known as the U.S.S. Constitution, a 74-gun ship. Although he was not the least bit interested in politics, he took the job to earn the money for his sweetheart, Mary. Aww, what a great guy!
After I said my goodbyes to Mr. Lawrence, I came to a sign that told me a little bit more about the War of 1812 and Boston. This is what it said :

"When the Federal government established a navy yard in Massachusetts in 1800, it naturally looked to Boston Harbor. A thriving town of more than 34,000 people, Boston was home to hundreds of skilled ship carpenters, riggers, caulkers, and other maritime tradesmen. With such a community close at hand, the Navy established the new yard just across the Charles River on Charlestown's grassy tidal flats. 

During the War of 1812, many Boston tradesmen and laborers worked to build and repair US Navy vessels. Local merchants supplied hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of timber, paint, canvas, rope, clothing, and foodstuffs needed to send the ships to sea. Thousands of local men (like Ephraim Lawrence) signed on as crew." 

Here is the other ship that is docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard.  The U.S.S. Cassin Young is  a destroyer that was created to defend against smaller (but powerful) torpedo boats. The first American destroyer, the Bainbridge, was created in 1902. The U.S.S. Cassin Young wasn't built until  December 31, 1943 by the  Bethlehem Steel Company that came out of San Pedro, California. The ship was used in the Central Pacific  against the Japanese during World War II. She was also used during the  Korean Conflict in the 1950s. 


Once inside the museum, I compared myself to a typical soldier who fought during the War of 1812. I found that I was just about the same height as his dog! 

Here I am standing next to a mural. I wonder if Caroline's father is one of these men? It's too bad I didn't dress appropriately for the era; otherwise I would've blended in a lot better! 

Below is a scale model of the U.S.S. Constitution. Designed by Joshua Humphreys, she was built in such a way as to "out-sail, out-maneuver and out-gun her opponents." She could repel enemy cannon fire with her thick sides of solid oak. She could sail swiftly with her long, slender body and towering rig. She was provided with cannons superior in size and number. She was the largest ship ever built in Boston at the time (1797), and crowds were eager to see her launch. She was so large that shipbuilders feared her launch might cause a dangerous tidal wave! Spectators were warned not to get too close to the water's edge.

There was a stage in one of the museum rooms. I'm told that it is a puppet stage, but it was just about my size! I emerged from behind the red curtain, waving to my imaginary crowd of fans. I pretended that I was Caroline Abbott making my debut on society! 

Here is a really excellent poster about why the War of 1812 really matters. I think some of us (myself included) tend to forget about this war and could use a refresher of why it actually took place! Click on the poster to make it larger, if you can't read it : 

At this point during my visit, I was getting beyond thirsty! I took this as a sign to venture into a local pub. Unfortunately, there was only some kind of ale for sale, and there were too many adults around for me to sneak a sip! Where is root beer when you need it? 

Here I am posing with one of the cannons on the U.S.S. Constitution! It looks big enough that I could shoot out of it! I'm so glad they didn't use human cannonballs! 

Here I am trying to steer the broken helm (wheel) of the U.S.S. Constitution! I believe this was due to a shot from the HMS Java on December 29, 1812. The crew had to steer manually, using the tiller, for the rest of the engagement.

The U.S.S. Constitution didn't have a female officer onboard until 1996, when Lieutenant Commander Claire V. Bloom became the first! She wore an 1813 regulation First Lieutenant's uniform - the only modification being a purse! To read more about Ms. Bloom, see the poster below : 

How do YOU compare to the average sailor on board the U.S.S. Constitution in 1812? I personally found it interesting that men considered for the job had to be on the short side and that many of them had gray eyes!  

Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish looking at the museum, as I had to board my tour bus for another stop. However, I really recommend it to anyone touring Boston, especially since it is so pertinent to Caroline Abbott's time period!



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