Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Benjamin Parry Mansion

Right in the center of New Hope is a conspicuous and lovely stone mansion -- clearly an old building (and therefore, incredibly interesting to me!). We were visiting Bucks County and staying across the street in the Logan Inn, so I was excited when I realized that the Benjamin Parry Mansion was open to the public.

Benjamin Parry played a big part in New Hope's history -- including eventually helping the town gain its own name. He was a third generation Quaker, born on March 1, 1757. He came to the town, then called Coryell’s Ferry, in the early 1780s from Upper Moreland Township (at the time it was part of Philadelphia). He purchased the Hope Flour Mill from the Todd family after Dr. Todd’s death in 1785. (The Bucks County Playhouse now occupies that site.) Parry expanded the mill operations along the river, adding a lumber mill, saw mill and flaxseed oil mill. When the Hope Flour Mill was destroyed by fire in 1790, Parry rebuilt it within a year and named it the New Hope Flour Mill, thus giving Coryell’s Ferry its new name. New Hope Borough was incorporated in 1837.

Parry invented a process for preserving corn and grain for long distance shipping in 1810, and in 1812 he led a group of local businessmen and investors in the construction of the first bridge to Lambertville. Shortly after that he and his investors opened the first New Hope bank.
Parry also operated a flour exporting business in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of the New Hope Historical Society.
Benjamin Parry dominated the New Hope community for more than a half century. He was well respected for his integrity. When he died on November 22, 1839 his obituary noted that he was esteemed by a large circle of acquaintances and revered as an honest and good citizen.

Benjamin completed the construction of the Parry Mansion in 1787, the year of his marriage to Jane Paxson. The Parry Mansion is a must-see if you want to understand New Hope. Tour guides are trained to offer historical information along with the "stories" that have been passed through generations.

The furnishings of the eleven rooms reflect 125 years of decorative changes. Each room represents a different time period during which the Parrys occupied the Mansion, making the tour that much more interesting.

The dining room. Photo courtesy of the New Hope Historical Society.
The tour took the group through the entire first and second floors, starting with the center hallway, and taking us through the lovely formal dining room and into the colonial kitchen, which is almost totally furnished with pieces made in New Hope, Solebury Township and Bucks County.

Photo courtesy of the New Hope Historical Society.
In the Empire bedroom, visitors can see the American Empire influence in the heavy, dark and massive furniture. The black walnut bed belonged to the Parrys and was found in the attic. It had to be trimmed slightly to fit in the room.

The Colonial bedroom represents the earliest period of the house and incorporates some furniture from even earlier dates.

Photo courtesy of the New Hope Historical Society.
The floor is unpainted and was frequently washed with sand and lye. The plaster walls are merely whitewashed. The painted trim closely approximates the room's earliest paint color. The fireplace is the only source of heat and hot coals would be used in the footwarmer and bed warmer.

There is sparseness and severity about the chamber that is relieved by the red and white George Washington toile hangings on the bed and at the windows. Although examples of this pattern were not found here in the Parry Mansion, this fabric was especially reproduced from an original fragment for this particular room.

It is thought that Benjamin probably used this room as his office since it overlooks the Parry Mills across the street (now the Bucks County Playhouse). Benjamin and Jane's canvas and leather traveling trunk still sits patiently at the foot of the bed.

Getting there: 45 South Main Street, New Hope, PA

Hours: Tours of the Mansion and its grounds are conducted on Saturday and Sunday starting at 1:00 until 5:00 pm from May to November.


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Updated May 2019

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Visiting our Ice Age Past at Cranesville Swamp

Cranesville Swamp Preserve is a 1,600-acre preserve situated in Preston County, WV and Garrett County, MD. The swamp formed 15,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, when glaciers inched close but never reached Maryland. The climate warmed and the glaciers retreated but many of the boreal plants remained. Nestled in a mountain valley bowl known as a frost pocket, where colder conditions still prevail and the climate is cold enough for these "ice age" plants.

I was really intrigued the first time I heard about this swamp -- a colleague at work mentioned to me she and her husband were going to check it out during, it turns out, the same day we were there. After seeing it in early fall, we both determined that we would try to return in about 6 or 7 months, to see it as spring was breaking from the winter cold.

Boreal bogs formed thousands of years ago when ponds filled with peat moss. Many bogs were mined to use their peat as a soil additive. Those that survived provide a glimpse of what much of North America looked like during the ice ages.

This site was protected by The Nature Conservancy in stages, beginning in 1960. Since that time, the Conservancy has acquired more than 1700 acres which will be held in trust in perpetuity.

Deep within the bog, small pockets of virgin forest remain, somehow missed by the logging locomotive named the Swamp Angel that passed directly through the wetland in the late 1800s. Red spruce and white pine trees have been restored by the thousands and the preserve now supports thriving populations of wildlife. If you're lucky, you'll spot a beaver or possibly a bear, or perhaps a water shrew or owl.

All told, 19 different plant communities occur in the preserve, ranging from shrubby wetlands to hardwood forest. Management focuses on maintaining the visitor facilities, reestablishing red spruce, invasive plant control, and managing a permitted hunting program to control the deer population.

We visited in early autumn, when the leaves began to turn glorious colors.

There is a small parking area, with a kiosk that provides a map roughly indicating the various trails. You want to make your way to the board walk, and to do that you can take the blue trail which leads directly out of the parking area (but isn't visibly marked as the blue trail) or you can take the orange, yellow or white trail -- you will eventually get there.

Getting there: I couldn't find a street address, only coordinates: 39.524758,-79.480838

But I also found directions, which were pretty good: Take I-70 west to I-68 at Hancock. Continue on I-68 about 65 miles to Exit 14. Follow US 219 (Garrett Hwy) south for 19 miles. Turn right (west) on Mayhew Inn Road, and after 1.4 miles turn left on Bray School Road. In 1.6 miles at the “T” intersection, turn right on MD 15 (Oakland Sang Run Road). After 1 mile, turn left on Swallow Falls Road and follow for 2.6 miles to a sign for Youghiogheny Mountain Resort (I didn't see the sign, btw, but Cranesville Road is well-marked). At the sign, take a hard right on Cranseville Road. Take next left turn onto Lake Ford Road. Stay to the right at the fork at Feathers (road or street); Cranesville Swamp is 0.2 miles further.

Enjoy the drive -- from Hancock on, you'll encounter some lovely scenery, especially after you exit off of I-68. And as with other posts, especially those about fall foliage, sometimes the drive is the thing, the entire point. Although not the case in this post, the beauty of the surrounding countryside was a welcomed bonus to a lovely day.

Hours: The preserve is open year-round during daylight hours.

Websites: Because of it's location straddling two states, there are several websites providing information about Cranesville Swamp. and

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Fort Washington Stood Sentinel Through Multiple Wars

Fort Washington is a War of 1812-era fort which has stood sentinel, guarding Washington DC through most of this nation's history, although it didn't always look like it does now. The original fort, overlooking the Potomac River, was completed in 1809, and was originally called Fort Warburton, but later renamed. During the War of 1812, the fort was destroyed by its own garrison during a British advance.

Looking out the Gate House, from the parade grounds inside.

When completed in 1809, Fort Warbuton was the only fortification on the Potomac River. Perpendicular earthen walls stood 14 feet above the bottom of the ditch that surrounded the river side of the fort. A tower facing the river contained six cannon. It mounted 12 or 15 guns which commanded the river below its position.

The central parade grounds.

On June 18, 1812, in response to British impressment of American sailors and other grievances, the United States declared war on the Great Britain. Our former colonial overlords more or less ignored us until the Napoleonic Wars had ended, but on August 24, the British defeated the main militia force defending the Capital at Bladensburg and captured and set fire to the Capitol. Apparently, game on!

Then, August 27 came. The British fleet of 10 ships approached the fort, expecting resistance. Alexandrians, living just a few miles up river, expected the fort to defend and protect them. However, Captain Dyson, the commander of the fort, decided his meager troops were no match for the British, and proceeded to abandon the fort, blowing it up as he left. The Brits paused in their journey up the Potomac to finish destroying the fort, and then headed toward Alexandria, VA. (Captain Dyson was subsequently court martialed. He was dismissed from the service, but received no other punishment.)

From this ignominious defeat, though, Fort Washington rose. By December of that year, a treaty of peace had been signed and the war with Britain was over. In 1815, work started under Pierre Charles L'Enfant just after Dyson had abandoned the fort was continued under Lt. Col. Walker Armistead of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although it would be another nine years before the new fort, now named Fort Washington, was completed.

Time and the earthquake that hit in 2011 has taken their toll on the old fort.

In the 1840s, the fort underwent an extensive remodeling program to bring it up to the standards of the third generation of coastal fortifications. Work crews constructed 88 permanent gun platforms, increased the height of the east wall, rebuilt the drawbridge, strengthened the powder magazines, and added a caponniere to protect the approaches from Piscataway Creek.

Officers quarters.

Growing shortages in the number of personnel after the Mexican War stretched the resources of the U.S. Army. At Fort Washington, as at many other posts, the garrison was withdrawn leaving only a skeleton maintenance staff. In fact, between 1853 and 1861, only one soldier, Ordnance Sergeant Joseph Cameron, was stationed full-time at the fort.

For a time during the Civil War, Fort Washington was the only defense for the national capital, and it was vitally important, for it controlled movement on the river. Quickly, however, Maj. Gen. John G. Barnard of the Corps of Engineers directed the building of a string of 68 enclosed earthen forts and batteries to protect all approaches to Washington, including nearby Fort Foote. By the end of the war, 20 miles of rifle pits and more than 30 miles of military roads encircled the city. Ultimately, the fort did not see any action during the war, as it was not a factor in any land campaign and the Confederate Navy never attempted to raid the city from the Potomac River.

Looking over the Water Battery from the foot of the fort.

Fort Washington did service, of one type or another, for each subsequent war, through the end of World War II. In 1946 it was given to the Department of the Interior and became a national park, and many of the newer buildings were torn down, Since that time it has been a public park commemorating the long history of coastal fortifications and serving as a recreational area for history buffs, naturalists, and other park visitors.

The troops enjoyed a gorgeous view when there weren't British ships floating up the Potomac!

I'd taken my kids to it when they were little and impressed with such places. This is a great fort for a kid to explore. There's only one better -- Fort Delaware. Both of those forts have a lot of interesting nooks and crannies to explore, both inside and outside of the fort. The visitors center, located in the yellow house on the hill in front of the fort, provides exhibits describing Fort Washington as the guardian of the Nation's Capital.

While you're there, especially if you visit on a weekend, you're likely to encounter a few re-enactors. However, you can pretty much explore as your whims and will dictate. There are some steep stairs leading down to the lower level of the fort that are quite steep but worth the effort.

Plus, after you explore the fort, take some time to explore the lighthouse and riverfront below. The expansive grounds of the present Fort Washington Park, with its three-mile river trail and river view, are a scenic venue for picnicking, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

Getting there: 13551 Fort Washington Rd, Fort Washington, MD 20744

Hours: Fort Washington is open year round. The park grounds are open from 8 am - sunset. The historic fort and the visitor center are open from 9 am - 4 pm during winter months and 9 am - 5 pm during the summer months. Admission fees are collected from May through October.

Dogs: Yes! While I was there I noticed several well-behaved pooches touring the fort with their humans.


The more recently added Decatur Battery.
Updated May 2018.

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Ghosts of Historic Savage Mill

Those aren't orbs -- those are raindrops!

Very close to home is the ghost tour of historic Savage Mill, in Savage, Maryland. Savage Mill is a historic cotton mill complex in Savage, Maryland, which has been turned into a complex of shops and restaurants. Buildings in the complex date from 1822 to 1916.

Led by Marty, this tour details the somewhat sad history of a 200-year-old working mill, where children labored at quite young ages before Federal labor laws took effect. Who says Federal regulation is bad?

Although the mill and town were named after the Kingston, Jamaican born John Savage II (who lived in the late 1700s) of the Philadelphia shipping firm Savage & Dugan, But it was the Williams brothers -- Nathanael F., Amos Adams, Cumberland Dugan and George -- who built it. Savage merely financed it.

In December 1821 the mill was chartered as the Savage Manufacturing Company. The main product was cotton duck, used for sailcloth and a wide variety of other uses. By 1832, the cotton mill site had a grist mill, saw mill, machine shop, foundry, blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, brick-making facility, farm, rental houses and company store -- many of these buildings still exist.

As with many mill and mining operations of its day, workers from the factory worked 6 days a week in 10 hours shifts and were issued company scrip in various denominations that were usable in the only store in the village on Commerce street that was also owned by the company. By the end of the week, they usually owed more than they were paid. Men, women, and children all worked at the mill, with women being paid half of their male counterparts. Children also received a pittance.

The oldest remaining mill structure is the stone carding and spinning building, probably built between 1816 and 1823. The mill was expanded by the Baldwins before 1881, and that expansion included the brick tower with Romanesque overtones. Other buildings include the weaving shed, preparation area, paymaster's office, and several early-20th century warehouses and power plants

Although I couldn't find specific information about what it was like to work in Savage Mill, it is not likely it was much different than other mill and factory operations in the Industrial Age -- quite severe by modern American standards. Employees worked long shifts -- often from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., averaging more than 70 hours a week. The noise from the machines would have been horrendous. Although the rooms were hot, windows were often kept closed during the summer so that conditions for thread work remained optimal. The air, meanwhile, was filled with particles of thread and cloth. Yuk.

For many years, the mill operated around the clock, seven days a week. A number of mill workers died, right there on the premises. Marty recounted children sliding down banisters, but falling over, landing three stories below, quite dead.

One woman, who worked at the mill attending to workers' children and fell to her death, is said to haunt the mill buildings, often appearing in startling places, such as the men's bathroom (much to the distress of modern day shoppers!).

Shop owners closing up late at night often hear the sounds of children running up and down the hallways, still trying to grab a few moments of fun. One playful ghost trips modern-day shoppers as they climb the stairs, always at a particular step.

This particular tour is notable -- and so very enjoyable -- because most of it is inside: so whether it's a dark and stormy night, or just too danged hot or too danged cold, you can enjoy the tour in comfort.

Getting there: 8600 Foundry St, Savage, MD

Dogs: Although many ghost tours welcome your four-legged friends, this one takes place mostly indoors.

Hours: Check the website for tour times and availability.


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Try the Cider and Wine

The region around Gettysburg -- Adams County -- is known for the Civil War battle that raged there in 1863. But if you confine yourself to the just an exploration of Adams County's Civil War sites, you'll be missing out on a whole array of other wonderful day trip destinations. Long time readers of this blog understand that I love checking out wineries! One of Adams County's wineries is Hauser Estate, home to both wine and hard cider.

For the tasting fee of $5, you can pick six wines or six Jack’s Hard Ciders to sample; we tried the flight of hard ciders. (You can do both, wines and ciders, for $10.)

The hard cider are varieties of Jack's Hard Cider. There are several options to choose from: The Original, of course, which goes down smooth and easy. Helen's is sweet and crisp, like, as the blurb says, eating an apple, although I was struck by the hint of peach in the Peach Hard Cider. I also tried the Pear Hard Cider, but didn't like that as much as the peach (I'm also a fan of peach wine, when I can find it, so I'm sensing a trend here).

I also tried the Breakfast Hard Cider, based on the description that it has a taste of coffee, and although when I heard that I wondered how cider and coffee can go together, the answer is, "just fine, thank you!" Others in my group very much enjoyed the Dry Hopped Hard Cider, which offers hints of lemongrass and citrus.

My favorite of the hard ciders, and what I walked away from the winery with, was a growler of the Bourbon Hard Cider. It gets its bourbon flavor -- just a hint of it that enriches but doesn't overpower the cider -- by being put into oak barrels that formerly were used to age bourbon whiskey.

Like many other regional ventures, there are references to the Civil War battle that raged not far away: there is Devils Den Red (featuring strawberries and bramble fruits) and the semi-sweet Jenny Wade White and the dry and fruity Wheatfield White. There is also Abe's Apple Wine, and in retrospect, I should have requested a small taste of that wine, given the apple theme of the day!

Tours are at 1 pm daily, most days. The wine production facility was built into the hillside, so it's all but invisible as you drive up to the winery. The day we were there, we saw workers picking over red grapes, which will be used to create the winery's cabernet franc. I've been on winery tours before, but never while the work was actually in progress, so the tours seemed somewhat sterile to me. This one showed, I think, what it's "really like" to work in a winery. A little bit hectic, a little cluttered, loud, busy.

Wineries vary regarding whether they welcome your bringing a picnic along to enjoy with your wine samples or a bottle you purchase to enjoy onsite. Hauser Estate allows you to bring your own picnic -- something I appreciate. However, they do bring in caterers periodically, for special events and such, and when the caterer is onsite, they request that you patronize the caterer. Okay, that sounds like a fair deal. Kids are welcomed on the premises, and there are non-alcoholic beverages available to supplement whatever you bring for them. Dogs are also welcomed, although not in the building, but the roomy patio and deck are open to your well-behaved pooch.

While you're enjoying your wine or hard cider, check out the gorgeous view, including that of the unique round barn, below. On your way there, or on your way home, be sure to check out the Round Barn and Farm Market.

Built in 1914, the Round Barn is one of Adams county's most unique landmarks. The barn is constructed around a central silo that rises 60 feet. Now the first floor serves as a family owned and operated farm market, offering a variety of produce and locally produced items. Check the Round Barn's website for operating hours and events. The second floor serves as a wedding or events venue.

Getting there: The Hauser Estate wine production facility and the tasting room is located at 410 Cashtown Rd,  Biglerville; however, they also have a store front in Gettysburg at 19 Lincoln Square

The Farm Market inside the Round Barn.

Hours: The tasting room is open Monday - Wednesday, 11 am to 6 pm; Thursday, 11 am to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 10 pm; Sunday, noon to 5 pm. The Gettysburg storefront has slightly different hours.

Dogs: Both pets and children are allowed to be here! The kids can come inside, but pets must remain on the patio/deck areas.

Websites: and    . Round barn:

For other day trip destinations in and around Adams County, go to the Blog's Find a Great Place to Day Trip or click on the Gettysburg or Destination Gettysburg label below.

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