Historical Site

Experience 51 of 52: Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse

The “Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse” in downtown Baltimore was a fascinating look at the life of a light-house keeper. We learned:

– The lighthouse was manned by keepers of the “US Lighthouse Service” (and eventually the U.S. Coast Guard)
– Because it was in an isolated location, the lighthouse was designed for 3 keepers
– Each night at sundown the “beacon lamp” was lit and had to remain lit until sunrise
– Each morning the “beacon lens” had to be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the next evening
– During dense fog, a fog bell was sounded
– A cistern was used to collect rain water to provided water for the keepers

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Experience 48 of 52: Civil War Reenactment

To enhance our understanding of the Civil War, experience 48 was spent observing a Civil War reenactment at the local Farm Museum. During this experience, we meandered through a mock Civil War encampment and watched a small reenactment of a civil war battle.

We also learned that “hoop rolling” and the “Game of Graces” were popular activities for young girls during the Civil War period. The purpose of the “Game of Graces” was to make young girls more graceful.

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Experience 40 of 52: Antietam National Battlefield

Our visit to the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland on this beautiful early spring day brought to life the realities of war.  Kate’s recognition that she felt both sadness for the loss of life of each soldier as well as feeling proud of their heroic efforts to fight for their country was enough to validate our endeavor to expose our children to 52 cultural/life experiences.  Putting names and faces to soldiers and seeing the battlefield helps to bring some perspective to the stories we hear about the Civil War.

We began our tour of the battlefield by watching a movie in the Visitors Center.  The almost 30 minute video introduced us to the battle and the reality of war (war is not PG!) and prepared us for our tour of the battlefield.  The 2 hour, 11 stop auto tour took us through the day’s battle and included a stop at the pacifistic “Dunker Church” where portions of the battle were fought and where the confederate and union army signed a truce the following day to exchange dead and wounded soldiers.  Among other sites, we saw a tribute to Clara Barton and read about her founding of the American Red Cross.  We ended that day at “Burnside Bridge” where a small number of Confederate soldiers were able to delay Union attacks for many hours which allowed additional Confederate troop reinforcements to arrive just when the Union were beginning to have success.  The most memorable aspect of our visit was trying to comprehend the 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing in a single day, which is the single largest casualty count in the history of U.S. warfare and five times the number of casualties that occurred on D-Day.

We were also amazed with the over 100 monuments to the regiments and brigades that fought at this important battle.

We ended our day with a visit to a local ice cream shop that I recommend stopping at for 2 reasons: 1) it’s a local, family owned small business and it’s great to help those small businesses and, 2) I don’t think the selection, price and portions can be beat anywhere else!  4.5 stars on Yelp and 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor.com.  Visit Nutter’s Ice Cream for a real treat after you visit the battlefield!

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Experience 35 of 52: Tulum

Tulum was a beautifully located coastal port believed to have been one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans.  The ruins of Tulum provide a glimpse into the life of the Mayan people living from 500 – 700 years ago.  It was protected on one side by a steep cliff and on the other by what was believed to have been about a 15 foot tall wall that was around 25 feet thick and over 1000 feet long.  Defense of the city was obviously very important to the Mayans.

The ruins included three major structures:

  • El Castillo – a shrine that is believed to have been used as a beacon for incoming trading partners
  • Temple of the Frescoes – used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun
  • Temple of the Diving/Descending God – central to the site so it is believed to be a key God

We considered seeing the ruins as necessary since the upcoming “end of the Mayan calendar” had some folks predicting the end of the world.  It was cool to see firsthand the structures that were built by these folks.

You can also trek down to the beach at the base of the cliffs and take a swim in the ocean water.  We passed on this option because we wanted to leave time for a same day trip to Xel Ha.

The ruins at Tulum are smaller than those we previously saw at Chicken Itza but the trip is shorter.  When the gals are older we will consider making another trip to Chicken Itza which was named one of the new 7 wonders of the world in 2006 which happens to be the year that Susan and I visited the site.  We decided to visit Tulum this time because the trip was shorter and would be enough to give the gals an introduction to the Mayan culture and architecture.  We’d recommend visiting Tulum if visiting with younger children and Chicken Itza if visiting with older children.

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Experience 24 of 52: Riding bikes along the C&O Canal

Riding bikes on the C&O Canal towpath allowed the girls to visualize the book “Captain Kate“, purchased during Experience 1 of 52 at the Cumberland Visitor Center, that Susan is currently reading to the girls. The book follows a young girl named Kate and her step-brother as she learns humility while captaining their mule-drawn canal boat from Cumberland to Georgetown. Having heard about the canal, seeing an actual lock with the home a lock master would have lived in with his family and seeing the depth of the aqueduct provided context the girls could apply to help visualize the story.

We began our experience at mile 44 of the C&O Canal, a.k.a, Noland’s Ferry because it was the closest point to our home. As this was our first time on the towpath, we decided we would go as far as Kate and her seven-year old legs (and non-existent trail biking experience) would take us.

We headed south towards the Monocacy Aqueduct where we would have our picnic lunch before making the round trip back home. Grace led the way as if she were a veteran of the Canal and Kate, as she always does, persistently pedaled along determined to stay on the path and keep up with the rest of us.

After a few breaks along the way, we reached the aqueduct and enjoyed the serenity of the Potomac River over which the aqueduct was built. The girls learned that an aqueduct is essentially a water bridge and this aqueduct is considered the finest one of eleven built along the canal. Seeing and walking along the aqueduct also allowed us to envision the depth of the canal and to help us visualize why the draft of a canal boat was less than five feet when fully loaded.

After lunch at a picnic table near the aqueduct we decided to continue another 3/4 mile to Lock 27, a.k.a. Spinks Ferry. This was an easy ride and we were rewarded with seeing an actual lock and the house a lock master would have lived in, as well as several turtles living in the canal.

This experience was worth the time and the effort although the next time we take this adventure I think we’ll seek new sites to see by either starting at Brunswick, MD and riding five miles north to Harper’s Ferry, or starting at the Monocacy Aqueduct and riding about five miles south to the Marble Quarry. Riding along the canal was time well spent and an experience worth repeating. Kate was very determined and did a fantastic job with her biking, however, if you have younger kids who may not be as determined you may want to wait on this experience. Grace, at 10 years old, had plenty of stamina and a bit of an easier time since her bike could change speeds and was intended for trail riding.

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Experience 21 of 52: Spirit Cruise Sightseeing Tour of Baltimore

The five of us enjoying our adventure

Spirit Cruises in Baltimore offers a wide range of cruises from the Baltimore Inner Harbor waterfront. We enjoyed a sightseeing cruise that included a 75 minute narrated tour and we were not disappointed because it highlighted some of the places we had visited over the past year (even before our 52 in 52 adventure began), including:

Besides seeing these attractions from a different angle, we refreshed on many nautical terms, some of which were repeats from our previous experiences:

  • Bow and stern – the front and back of the ship
  • Port and starboard – the left or right side of the ship
  • Forward and Aft – the front/back of the ship
  • Galley – the kitchen on the ship
  • Brig – the jail on the ship

Kate with the tugboats named after her 🙂

A few other things we learned or events we participated in:

  • The body of water that is in the Inner Harbor is the Patapsco River
  • The gals learned that the “Key Bridge” is named after Francis Scott Key and sits close to where it is believed Key observed the battle of Fort McHenry and penned the Star Spangled Banner.
  • We refreshed our knowledge on buoys which we originally learned at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk on a previous experience: “Red, right, returning”.
  • The gals learned about tug boats and their purpose.  We even saw some with a big “K” (for Kate?) on the side.
  • The gals also enjoyed a visit to the “wheelhouse” where the captain was navigating the boat.
  • The gals enjoyed a bit of dancing.

Time Spent: ~3 hours
Cost: This trip was free for us but would have cost $52

In the Wheelhouse

Dancing the Cotton Eyed Joe

Sun setting over Ft. McHenry

Returning to Port

Serenity

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Experience 19 of 52: Washington Monument State Park

When you think of the Washington Monument you immediately think of the “pencil building” in Washington, D.C don’t you?  But there’s another Washington Monument in Washington Monument State Park near Frederick, MD.  The site includes a small number of group camp sites, a quaint museum and a short hike to the monument.  The museum was under construction but its temporary location features some interesting items including weapons used by the Confederate and Union soldiers, uniforms and many artifacts that were found in surrounding farms throughout the years.

There was a room in the museum dedicated to George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist whose estate became what is now Gathland State Park, located about six miles from Washington Monument State Park.  Mr. Townsend wrote under the pen name “Gath”, hence the name “Gathland”.

Seeing the civil war weapons also taught us about the “caliber” of a gun.  We learned that caliber refers to the approximate internal diameter of the barrel.

The hike to the Washington Monument was about a quarter of a mile to the top of a hill.  The trail along the way had signs outlining George Washington’s life which reviewed many of his accomplishments.  According to the official website, here’s the story of the monument:

“Washington Monument State Park is named for the first completed monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington. The Washington Monument is a rugged stone tower that was initially erected by the citizens of Boonsboro in 1827.  According a period newspaper account, on July 4, 1827 at 7 a.m., most of Boonsboro’s 500 inhabitants assembled at the public square. Behind the Stars and Stripes and stepping spiritedly to the music of a fife and drum corps, they marched two miles up the mountain to the monument site. The citizens worked until noon and then held a dedication ceremony and lunch. They resumed work and by 4 p.m. the monument stood fifteen feet high on a 54-foot circular base. The day ended with the reading of the Declaration of Independence and a three round salute fired by three Revolutionary War veterans. The workers returned that September to finish. Upon its completion, the monument stood 30 feet high.”

We climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the monument and were rewarded with an amazing view.  It became quite clear to us why Union soldiers would utilize the monument during the Civil War as we observed how we could see stretches of land for miles and miles.  Even though it was a hazy day we could see parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, the Frederick airport and White Tail Ski resort.

Time spent: About 1.5 hours
Cost:  Free

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Experience 15 of 52: Jamestown Settlement

The Jamestown settlement became the first permanent English settlement to be established in North America.  We visited the settlement on a quiet, humid afternoon and were not disappointed.  The Jamestown National Historic Site provided a sense of the life within the first permanent colony.

Starting at the Visitors Center, we first viewed a movie about the establishment and hardships of the settlement.  We learned about the Powhatan Indians, John Rolfe and Pocahontas and the how tobacco helped to save the colony.

After the Visitors Center we walked through the wetlands and spotted several turtles, a snake and several deer.  We entered the partially re-created settlement and were able to walk around as if it were our colony.  We learned that the settlement location was not the first spot the colonists landed but the spot was chosen because of the deep waters that allowed all 3 ships carrying the settlers to be tied to the nearby trees.

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the “Archaearium” that held numerous artifacts that had been discovered at this historical site.  We were enthralled by the actual skeleton of one of a young man who had been shot and killed during the time of the settlement.  We talked through the exhibit and learned how archeologists came up with their hypothesis that the man was young (because of his bone density and structure) and that he was most likely shot by someone else (because of the bone scatter pattern that would have been created by a weapon of the period from a specific distance).  We also read about currency in the colony and learned that the most expensive item a person could own was a bed.

This was a visit that we all enjoyed.  It’s well worth a trip if you’re in the area.  Take your time, enjoy the history, and imagine what life must have been like in Jamestown in 1607.

Time spent: Over 2 hours (without a moment of boredom :))
Cost: $40 for the four of us

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Experience 7 of 52: Bengies Drive-In Theatre

Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Baltimore, MD opened June 6, 1956.  According to its website, the theatre features the biggest movie theatre screen in the USA measuring 52 feet high and 120 feet wide!  That is an amazing 6,240 square feet of screen!  The theatre typically holds a triple feature on almost every Friday and Saturday night.

On June 30th, Susan, Grace and Kate attended a showing of the Disney Pixar movie “Brave”.  This unique nostalgic experience was worth the time and we would definitely attend a future showing of a desirable movie.

You should know that the entry fee is cash only but the snack bar accepts both Visa and Mastercard.  You should also check out the Bengies website to read their FAQ.  Outside food is strictly prohibited unless you pay $10 for a permit.

Time Spent: about 3 hours (arrive early to get a good parking spot)
Cost: $17 for the show (1 adult and 2 children under 10) + Snack bar funds (about $20)

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Experience 3 of 52: U.S. Capitol Building

Today we toured the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.  Although lifetime Marylanders, this was the first time either of us had taken the opportunity to tour the place where the laws of the land are made.  We couldn’t have been given a better tour than the one provided by Susan’s cousin Lindsay who is currently interning at the U.S. Capitol.  Lindsay used her staff privileges to provide a personal tour while providing us the historical background and personal insights into her favorite part of the Capitol.  We hadn’t seen Lindsay for several years and seeing her today was our favorite part of the trip but we also learned a thing or two!

Some of the things we learned with our children were:

  • The Legislative Branch of government is housed at the U.S. Capital Building
  • George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building in 1793
  • The British burned down the U.S. Capitol Building in 1814
  • Abraham Lincoln continued the building of the capitol dome even during the Civil War because he saw it as affirmation that the union would continue: “”If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”
  • The Supreme Court held session in the Capitol Building between 1800 and 1860
  • The most (in)famous case argued before the Supreme Court while it was held in the Capitol Building was Dred Scott v. Sandford
  • The Greek gods painted alongside George Washington on the dome of the rotunda include Athena, Poseidon, Hermes, Hephaestus and Demeter

We enjoyed this tour and it should definitely be part of a trip to Washington D.C.  We would recommend visiting during the week, however, when the Senate and House chambers are open for the tour (we weren’t able to see them even with Lindsay’s staff credentials).  We would also like to go back and visit while congress is in session so that we can experience congress in action.

Time Spent: About 2 hours
Cost: Free (we parked on the street at no cost but it may not be so easy to locate parking during the week)

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