Thursday, June 25, 2015

Annamarie Sculpture Garden: Exploring Art Outdoors!

"The Gateway," by Peter King and Marni Jaime, 1995, Stonehaus Pottery. Permanent collection.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is located near Solomons, Maryland, where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay.

The sculpture garden features a short walking path that meanders through the woods past a variety of sculpture, including over thirty works on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.

"After lyengar," Robert Engman, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

In 1991, Francis and Ann M. Koenig donated this property to Calvert County with the intention that it be developed into a sculpture garden. Over the next decade, their dream took shape as six works of art were installed on the 30 acre property. These diverse pieces are fully integrated into the natural setting of the garden and provide the opportunity to develop an appreciation for the seasonal changes inherent in outdoor art. 

"Standing Nude,"
Nelli Bar, date unk,
Hirshhorn Museum
and Sculpture Garden

"Girl with Braids," 1950,
Hirshhorn Museum and
Sculpture Garden
In addition to the sculpture, the walking paths were created and the allies, or hallways, were cleared. The lovely allies allow visitors to look across Annmarie and have created areas for the installation of sculpture. In 2003, Annmarie became a member of the Smithsonian Institution's Affiliations Program. This program has allowed the Garden to borrow more than twenty-five pieces of sculpture form the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. In 2008, the Arts Building and the Studio School opened, allowing Annmarie to dramatically expand its programs and activities. 

The Hirshhorn Museum has loaned six of its collection to the Annmarie Gardens, which are displayed along the "Woman's Walk." This selection of bronze female figures celebrate the female form and the female experience. As stated in the guide, this "evocative collection affords the opportunity to reflect upon significant women in  your life." The sculptures are beautiful.

Many of the exhibits are whimsical, such as the birdhouse to the left, and the ironic sign to the right. In addition, there were gnomes and fairy houses displayed -- all very fun for kids and adults alike. Annmarie is committed to connecting people to art and nature. 

My favorite painting form the Cosmos exhibit
and I completely forgot to note the artist, title,
etc. My apologies to the artist!
After strolling through the park, make sure you take a few minutes to enjoy the art exhibits. While we were there, the "Cosmos: Imagining the Universe" exhibit was still up, and we enjoyed the exhibit immensely! This exhibit runs from 13 February through 26 July. This exhibit consists of more than 50 works inspired by views of space, the universe, planets and other worlds beyond and explores the connection between science and art.

Annmarie Gardens is close to Solomon's Island, a quaint town and a nice place to stop for lunch or dinner. We enjoyed a relaxed lunch on the Patuxent River waterfront at the Solomons Pier restaurant, enjoying a burger, a most excellent crab cake sandwich, Maryland crab soup, and the blackened rockfish gyro.

Getting there: 13480 Dowell Road, Dowell, Maryland 20629

Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; admission required.

Dogs: Yes, really!!


Looking for other sculpture gardens? Be sure to check out Art Omi, in upstate New York; Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ; and the Baltimore Art Museum's Outdoor Sculpture Garden!

Updated May 2018

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cape May's Victorian Mansions, a Lighthouse, and a Lookout Tower

Cape May, NJ, is the original beach resort on the East Coast. Its collection of authentic Victorian mansions makes it a destination for anyone who prefers the intimate setting of a bed and breakfast inn over those horrible beach hotels found at other beach resorts. I've visited Cape May a handful of times over the past 2 decades. This most recent visit was after over a decade away from this quaint little city, and during this visit, as we walked around, I looked for B&Bs I've stayed at previously. The mansions were still there, of course, but the names had changed. 

The city of Cape May is located on the island (south of the peninsula) and is home of the oldest seaside resort in America, with historical roots dating back to the 18th century.The recorded history of Cape May stretches back to 1620, when Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey surveyed and named the area for himself. It later grew from a small settlement to the large beach resort it has been since the 19th century. The City of Cape May asserts that its status as a vacation spot began in 1766, when Philadelphians drove in by stagecoaches and horse-drawn wagons or arriving by ships. Hotels were already on Cape May as of 1834. The entire city was designated as a National Historic Landmark on May 11, 1976.

This time we spent the night at the Inn of Cape May, a Victorian-era beach resort which was quaint and fully adequate, if not luxuriously comfortable, for the 1-night stay we were planning! It's right on Beach Avenue, which parallels the ocean. We enjoyed the view of the ocean from our window on the fourth floor.

Why I'm including Cape May in this day trips blog is because of the sheer quantity of things to do there. If you're a beach and ocean fan, then of course, there's that. But you can stroll (or bike) around the town and enjoy the Victorian beauties, most of which have been magnificently and colorfully restored. There are artful boutiques and several excellent restaurants. Just outside of Cape May itself are four wineries. We didn't get a chance to go to them, but we are planning a "girls weekend" in the fall -- maybe I can check them out then!

Walking down the promenade toward the cape brings you to... the cape, with its view of the Cape May Lighthouse.

Head south on Sunset Avenue and you'll come to the lighthouse itself, as well as a bird refuge. Cape May is also famous as one of the top birding sites in North America. There are many different parks and birding sites in the area. Due to its location at the southern tip of New Jersey and numerous nature preserves and wildlife refuges, large concentrations of birds can be found in Cape May, especially during spring and fall migration.

On the beach at the light house park is a curious concrete structure, dating back to WWII. This is a bunker that served as a gun emplacement, with turrets on either side.

The Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859, was automated in 1946, and continues operation to this day. It is open, and if you're willing to climb the 199 steps, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view that encompasses Cape May itself, but can extend, on a clear day, all the way to Cape Henlopen across the Delaware Bay.
Head a little further down Sunset Avenue, and you switch eras, from the Victorian era to WWII and the Lookout/Fire Tower, itself interesting for its history and insight in an era in which we feared German invasion of our shores.

If you're at Wildwood, Stony Harbor, or even on the other side of the Delaware Bay at Rehobeth, or further south still at Ocean City -- Cape May is an easy day trip. Just head north to Lewes, DE, and take the Cape Henlopen Ferry across the bay to Cape May.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Delaware Bay Lighthouses

Seagulls stand watch above the Miah Maull Shoal Lighhouse.
Lighthouses stand as solitary sentinels signaling unseen danger -- the peaks and valleys that map the geography under water. Mysterious, silent, and now lonely -- almost all lighthouses are automated, and almost all are slowly deteriorating back into the waters they have protected our sailors and sea-going adventurers from all these years.

Yeah, I'm fascinated by the lighthouses and their stories, of their lightkeepers and their families, their histories and their ghosts.

After last year's expeditions to light houses on the Chesapeake Bay, we -- my sister and I -- decided that light houses on the Delaware Bay would be our next goal. A quick internet search yielded a promising light house tour run by the Cape May Whale Watcher.

The coastal lighthouses of New Jersey are famous for a number of reasons, including their roles in the success of major ports like Philadelphia and their strategic value during times of war. All the lighthouses we saw during this tour could only be seen by boat.

The tour brought us to see six light houses:
  • Miah Maull Shoal 
  • Cross Ledge Shoal
  • Elbow of Cross Ledge
  • Ship John Shoal
  • Fourteen Foot Bank Shoal
  • Brandywine Shoal

The first we encountered was the Miah Maull Shoal Lighthouse. I particularly liked the story behind this lighthouse -- named for a man who lost his life on the very shoal the lighthouse now marks. It's a sad story, though. Nehemiah Maull, born in 1737, was employed as a Delaware River pilot, an occupation that he shared with his father John, who had immigrated to Lewes, DE from England in 1725. In 1780, Nehemiah set out on a voyage to England to stake his claim to a portion of the family fortune. As a river pilot, Nehemiah was surely acquainted with the hazards of navigating Delaware Bay, but ironically the captain of the vessel on which Nehemiah was traveling was not, as the ship wrecked on an unnamed shoal in the bay. Nehemiah perished in the accident, but in honor of his years of service on the Delaware Bay, his name was given to the shoal, so that he would live on in the memory of those navigating the bay. Nehemiah must have been considered too long, as the name given the shoal was just Miah Maull.

Can you see the dolphins in this photo?

Miah Maull Lighthouse was one of the later lighthouses built -- it was begun in 1908 but only completed in 1916, but served for decades. The Coast Guard removed the last crew from the station in 1973, after automating the lighthouse.

 Between lighthouses there is much to see along the way. Several times we spotted dolphins, including once fully breaching the surface of the water before diving down again, only to emerge again playing in the wake of the boat. We also enjoying the superliners hauling all sorts of goods through the bay, as well as a variety of adorable tug boats!

Twenty-five miles inside the bay, a submerged, three-mile-long ridge known as Cross Ledge, lies near the main shipping channel. With a covering in some places of as little as three feet of water, the ledge poses a serious danger to vessels that might stray slightly off course. First marked by a lightship (called the Upper Middle Lightship) in 1823, winter ice flows soon forced the lightship to weigh anchor. After the successful completion of the Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse (which we also visited), the Lighthouse Board approved the construction of the Cross Ledge Lighthouse. Work started on the new lighthouse in 1856 but winter iceflows destroyed the new construction before it was completed. Lightships continued to mark the dangerous site until 1875, when a new lighthouse was finally completed.

In the end, it wasn’t ice or weather that resulted in the now-vacant pier, but rather, two metal lighthouses, Elbow of Cross Ledge and Miah Maull Shoal, which were built nearby. No longer necessary, Cross Ledge Lighthouse was discontinued in 1910.

Sadly, nothing remains of this historic lighthouse. It lay abandoned until it became a target for training missions from the Naval Air Station at Wildwood, NJ. During the war, pilots for carrier air groups and fighter-bomber squadrons flew training sorties over Delaware Bay and dropped small practice bombs (reportedly, sacks of flour) on the defenseless lighthouse. Amazingly, the lighthouse was still pretty much intact after the war, but the Coast Guard, for safety reasons, reportedly burned what remained in 1962.

Today, the hexagonal base serves as a perch for numerous seabirds, and quite surprisingly the granite pier has no light to warn mariners of this man-made obstacle. What for years functioned as a navigational aid has now become a hazard.

The next light we went to see was an ugly one -- again, the historic lighthouse itself did not remain. Despite the then existing lighthouse marking the cross ledge shoal, the Lighthouse Board decided at the turn of the century that maritime traffic would be better served with a lighthouse positioned just over two miles northwest of the original Cross Ledge Lighthouse on an “elbow” of the ledge that protruded toward the main shipping channel. Work began in January 1907, but a September storm destroyed the new construction, killing at least one construction worker, and stranding a government inspector for several days on the ruins of the construction until he could be rescued 2 days later. 

This lighthouse may not have necessarily served its purpose well, as its crew was known for sleeping in life jackets. When visibility was poor due to the bay's famous fogs, ships often passed so near the lighthouse that the whole building throbbed and shuddered from the vibrations of the ship engines and often suffered glancing blows from ships. The crew slept in life jackets so they could jump into the bay at a moment's notice in case the lighthouse came tumbling down around them. The lighthouse was automated in 1951, a lucky thing, because just 2 years later, the crews' fears were realized when a boat struck and partially destroyed the lighthouse. The Coast Guard contracted to have it fully demolished, leaving only the platform, upon which the current light -- now solar powered -- remains.

The Ship John Shoal Light marks the north side of the ship channel in Delaware Bay on the east coast of the United States, near the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Ship John Shoal took its name from an incident in 1797 in which the John ran aground while on the way from Hamburg, Germany to Philadelphia. Passengers and cargo were unloaded safely, but the vessel was lost. In 1877, the lighthouse was completed and inhabited. In 1973 the light was automated.

 After Cross Ledge Lighthouse was completed in late 1875, lightship LV 19 was withdrawn, repaired, and then redeployed the following summer at Fourteen Foot Bank, which is an oval shoal located three-and-a-half miles from the Delaware shore. Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse was activated for the first time on April 10, 1887. This lighthouse had several deaths, and I had hopes we'd hear a ghost story about it (no, disappointingly!). One lightkeeper committed suicide at the lighthouse. Another passed away peacefully in his sleep after serving as a lightkeeper for close to two decades. The lighthouse was automated in 1973 and excessed and sold several decades later. Now the current owner has plans to convert it to a micro-brewery. An interesting fate for such a noble structure.

This current Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse -- the second structure at that location -- was completed in 1914, featured a reinforced concrete superstructure on a cast iron and concrete caisson, resting upon wooden and precast concrete piles. The superstructure of the old light was removed, but the platform remained into the 1950s, used by the Navy for various purposes. In support of this, a small artificial harbor was constructed using a partial circle of riprap; it remains in place, though the last traces of the old light have since been removed. The light was automated in 1974, by which time it was the last manned station on Delaware Bay. It continues to serve as an active aid to navigation. Currently, a preservation society is trying to restore the lighthouse and conduct tours of the interior. I'd love to explore inside one of these lighthouses!

Dolphins weren't the only wildlife we spotted during the excursion. On the way back into Cape May Canal, we were lucky enough to see a bald eagle!

Getting there: The Cape May Whale Watcher Lighthouse Tour leaves from 

Hours: The boat tour leaves promptly at 10:00 a.m.

Dogs: Not on this one.


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Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Maryland Story: The Booths, the Assassination of a President, and Tudor Hall

There's a lovely little Victorian house tucked into the suburban neighborhoods surrounding Bel Air, MD, called "Tudor Hall."

It is a 1 1⁄2-story Gothic Revival cottage built of painted brick. The house was built as a country retreat by Junius Brutus Booth. Junius Brutus Booth, in case you don't know -- was a famous English stage actor in the first half of the 19th century. He is more famously known as the father of John Wilkes Booth, himself an actor before he turned assassin. Junius Brutus was also the father of famed American stage actor Edwin Booth, the foremost tragedian of the mid-to-late 19th century, and Junius Brutus Booth, Jr., an actor and theater manager. Booth was named after Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the lead assassins in William Shakespeare's tragedy Julius Caesar.

In 1821, Booth emigrated to the United States with Mary Ann Holmes, a flower girl, abandoning his wife and their young son. Booth and Holmes claimed to be married that year and settled in 1822 near Bel Air, Maryland. For years they lived in a log cabin Booth bought and had moved to his 150 acres, and whitewashed.

Eventually, Booth decided his family should live in something a little better than a log cabin, and he started building Tudor Hall.

However, Booth never lived in Tudor Hall, because he died in 1852, before it was completed. His son Edwin Booth lived there only briefly on his return from California before he moved the family back into Baltimore. But his other son, John Wilkes Booth, lived there with his mother, brother Joseph, and two sisters from December 1852 through most of 1856.

As was true with many Maryland families during the Civil War; the Booths were truly a house divided. Edwin Booth, already enjoying fame and good fortune by the start of the Civil War, was profoundly Unionist. His younger brother John Wilkes, unfortunately, resolutely favored the South.

We learned all this at a one-day, one-of-a kind symposium on Saturday, May 9, 2015, titled "Tudor Hall, the Booths of Maryland and the Civil War," sponsored by the Junius B. Booth Society (JBBS) and the Historical Society of Harford County (HSHC). This symposium commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln Assassination and the end of the Civil War. The symposium explored the complex theatrical Booths -- who left their mark on America forever (good and bad), the history of Tudor Hall and the attitudes of Marylanders during the Civil War.

Tudor Hall, the home of the theatrical Booths of Maryland, a short distance away from Bel Air, was open to the attendees following the symposium for tours till 7 p.m. The symposium was a fundraiser and the proceeds were split between JBBS and HSHC. All proceeds to JBBS will be used for turning Tudor Hall into a museum.

The property and first floor of Tudor Hall is open to visitors for tours in 2015 at 1 & 2 pm on the dates listed below. This year there are some special talks replacing the 2:00 tours on the dates listed with a (*). All 1 and other 2 pm tours will feature the general tour. All tours and talks last about 45 minutes. See below for details of the special talks and regular tours.

June 14, July 12 at 2 pm:
John Wilkes Booth and Tudor Hall
by Jim Garrett, a life-long Lincoln Assassination and Booth enthusiast, a tour guide at Ford’s Theatre and co-author of The Lincoln Assassination: Where Are they Now? A Guide to the Burial Places of Individuals Connected to the Lincoln Assassination in Washington, DC.

September 13 at 2 pm
Edwin and John Wilkes Booth: A House Divided
by Dave Taylor, the creator and administrator of Dave is a Lincoln Assassination writer, researcher and speaker.

Getting there: Tudor Hall is located at 17 Tudor Lane, Bel Air, MD 21015

Hours: Check out the website or see above for hours.

Website: For more information:
443-619-0008 or [email protected] or

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