Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Kykuit: Retreat of the Rockefellers

The John D. Rockefeller estate, Kykuit, is a 40-room National Trust house in Westchester County, NY, built by oil tycoon, capitalist and Rockefeller family patriarch John D. Rockefeller. Conceived largely by his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and enriched by the art collection of third-generation scion, Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States, Nelson Rockefeller, it has been home to four generations of the family.

Kykuit derived from the Dutch word Kijkuit meaning "lookout," appropriate, since the mansion and estate is situated on the highest point in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills, overlooking the Hudson River at Tappan Zee.

The views of the Hudson from inside the house and as you stroll the gardens are incredible. There is a modern art museum in the basement, and a display of several of the Rockefeller's carriages/cars throughout the decades. Although most of the estate is still privately owned by descendants, it was pretty cool to be able to peek behind the curtain.

Kykuit was designed originally as a steep-roofed three-story stone mansion by the architects Chester Holmes Aldrich and William Adams Delano. The initial eclectic structure took six years to complete. Before being occupied it was substantially rebuilt in its present four-story Classical Revival Georgian form.

In 1906, the design of Kykuit's grounds was undertaken by the architect William Welles Bosworth, who designed the surrounding terraces and gardens with fountains, pavilions and classical sculpture.

These gardens in the Beaux-Arts style are considered Bosworth's best work in the United States, looking out over very fine views of the Hudson River. His original gardens still exist, with plantings carefully replaced over time, although his entrance forecourt was extended in 1913. The terraced gardens include a Morning Garden, Grand Staircase, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese-style brook, Japanese Tea-house, large Oceanus fountain, Temple of Aphrodite, loggia, and semicircular rose garden.

If you love architecture, modern art and beautiful scenery, this is a perfect day-trip destination, because it combines it all.

Getting there: 381 N Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591

Hours: May 4-September 30, Thursdays-Sundays; October 1-30, open daily except Tuesdays; November 2-12 Thursdays-Sundays. Visit the website for tour times and types.

Website: http://www.hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A House for the Masses That's Perfectly Unique: Kentuck Knob

"[Kentuck Knob]...is of a spectacular beauty that never palls whatever the season and whatever the gap between visits, whether one month or ten minutes." -- Lord Peter Palumbo

Kentuck Knob began in 1953 when the Hagans, owners of a major dairy company in Western Pennsylvania, purchased 80 acres of mountain land east of their native Uniontown, PA. As friends of the Kaufmanns, owners of nearby Fallingwater on Bear Run, the Hagans asked their architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, then 86 years old, to design a deluxe Usonian home for them. The house was completed in 1956, and the Hagans lived at Kentuck Knob for almost 30 years.

Kentuck Knob is a house with no 90-degree corners.

Designed on a hexagonal module, Kentuck Knob is a one-story Usonian house. Usonian, meaning affordable for the average American, was a signature design of Wright. Both dramatic and serene, the house, situated just below the crest of the hill, appears almost part of the mountain itself.

The tile "signature" of Frank Lloyd Wright. According to the docent, this tile cost the Hagans, the original owners, an extra $1600. Other information I located while researching this post indicated that Wright only provided these signature tiles on houses he approved of. This tile is on the right hand side of the front door (facing the door).
“The house of moderate cost is not only America’s major architectural problem but the problem most difficult for her major architects,” said Wright. This inspired him to design the Usonian home, the concept of an affordable home to serve the masses, and a home that is uniquely American.

Kentuck Knob represents a refinement of the many principles of organic architecture Wright explored throughout his long career. In it, as well, you can find a hint of his cantilevering inspiration at Fallingwater, with cantilevered roof extending beyond the outer walls of the home and other details.

The house tour takes guests through the interior and exterior of the home and provides an insight into one of Wright’s most unique Usonian homes. During the tour, you will learn about the Hagans, Wright and his vision for the home. After the tour, guests can explore the grounds and experience the magnificent view of the Youghiogheny River Gorge.

It was this view that caused the Hagans to purchase the property to begin with. Ironically, although they expected Wright to position the home to take advantage of the view, they should have known better: the Caufmans had held the same expectations, until Wright put Fallingwater ON TOP OF a waterfall. At first, the Hagans were a little disappointed that the house was placed not just on top of, but IN the hill, incorporating it into the landscape.

One of Wright's cool design features was the series of hexagonal skylights that cast an ever-moving pattern on the terrace below. These re-affirm the hexagonal theme throughout the home.

Today, the interior reflects the taste and personalities of the current owners, Hayat and Peter Palumbo, who have filled it with photographs of their family and friends, as well as priceless art and artifacts. Like most other Wright homes, however, there are many built-ins, and the furntiture in the home is almost exclusively Wright-designed. In addition, Palumbo is an avid collector of Wright-designed furniture, and in the home are several chairs from all over the world that were Wright-designed.

Here you can see how the house is set into the hill, connecting it to the landscape.

How Palumbo came to own Kentuck Knob is itself an interesting story. In 1985, Peter Palumbo visited Fallingwater for the first time. During that visit, he was told about the only other home in Pennsylvania designed by Wright was located just 6 miles away, and happened to be for sale.

Berlin Wall Section, East Germany, acquired in 1990
He went to see the home, fell in love with it, and purchased it a mere 6 weeks later. He married his wife Hayat, in 1986, and they have spent time at Kentuck Knob every year since.

The Palumbos have filled the home and grounds with their collection of art which is on display for visitors and includes artifacts from all over the world. They, and the Hagans before them, have left the 1950s-era kitchen intact, with the exception of the addition of a modern dishwasher.

The beautiful woodlands and grounds at Kentuck Knob host a remarkable sculpture collection by modern artists. Some 30 sculptures are placed in the landscape around the house and along the Woodland Walking Trail to the Visitor Center.

Know before you go: Please note that children must be 6 years of age or older to tour the house. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. No babies or infants are permitted on any tours.

Getting there: 723 Kentuck Road, Chalk Hill, PA 15421

Hours: Check the website below for tour availability.

Website: http://kentuckknob.com/

Apple Core, Claes Oldenburg, 1990

For other day trip destinations, go to the Blog's Find a Great Place to Day Trip.

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Room, Andy Goldsworthy, 1992

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Floodstones Cairn, Andy Goldsworthy, 1991-2003

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wetipquin Creek Kayaking Adventure

The Nanticoke River is the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary on the lower Delmarva Peninsula, meandering gently through marshland, forests and farmland, on its journey from southern Delaware to Tangier Sound in Maryland. The Nanticoke watershed is also the most biologically diverse watershed on the Delmarva, and is home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in the northeast. That made it a natural choice for my husband and I to explore as our second major kayaking excursion.

We explored one of the little inlets off of Wetipquin Creek, following it until it became unnavigable. 

The Nanticoke River offers excellent opportunities for paddlers to explore its history, beauty and to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that call it home. Despite the river's importance, the area remains largely undeveloped. It is still a rural landscape, allowing the river to remain as clean and healthy as it is.
Image from Google Maps. To the left of the image is the white line of Wetipquin Road. Just left of that is the park and the boat launch. We followed the creek upstream under the bridge, choosing the north fork.
Wetipquin Creek is a relatively short, meandering tributary of the Nanticoke. When you set out from the Wetipquin Park, which offers parking and a boat ramp (and, importantly, a portapotty), the Nanticoke River will be on your left. Head right, paddling beneath the Wetipquin Road Bridge. 

Once on the other side of the bridge, you'll notice that the creek splits. The northern fork -- or left fork -- is the main stem of Wetipquin Creek and that's the one we decided to explore. he creek is approximately 3 miles from the Nanticoke Bridge to the Wetipquin Road Bridge as the crow flies, but it would have been more like a 4 mile paddle upstream had we gone all the way. 

About three miles upstream, just past Horner Gut, we saw the Long Hill Plantation on the left bank. This historic plantation was built by a man named James Dashiell in the mid-1700s and remained in his family until 1884.

It took us little over 2 hours to paddle just over 3 miles -- just past the plantation, and as relatively inexperienced paddlers, we were exhausted. It was a windy day and we had been fighting the current the entire way, paddling upstream. We turned the kayak around, and let the current help us paddle our way back to the boat launch. All in all, we spent just over 3 hours exploring the creek, a lovely summer afternoon all around.

Wetipquin is a beautiful paddle, along salt marshes and forests. I felt, as we were paddling along Wetipquin Creek, that we were traveling through a landscape that had remained unchanged for hundreds of years. From the water, all we could see were the salt marshes that line the water way, sometimes backed by tall trees and forest. Most other signs of civilization were hidden behind the tall reeds of the marsh.

We either spotted one eagle, which seemed to follow us along the creek, or three or four that swooped above us along the way. One particularly thrilling moment occurred when an eagle swooped just 50 yards in front of us, quickly soaring away into the distance. 

To explore this creek, you will need your own canoe or kayak. The upside of that, however, is that you are unlikely to see other folks while you're out on the water, although we did encounter a motor boat (probably someone just looking for a good fishing spot) headed up the creek as we returned to the boat launch.

Other than eagles and vultures and assorted black birds (red wing and plain) and maybe a wren, we only saw
one great blue heron. We were disappointed, as we expected to see more herons and egrets.

We plan on returning, to explore the smaller fork, which is called Tyaskin Creek. Interestingly, historically, this area was an important source of fish, crabs, and oysters for the Nanticoke people. Wetipquin was probably the location of a Native American town. Much of the area has not been developed, and a paddle up either creek can give you a glimpse of what the area might have looked like to Native Americans who may have paddled the same routes 300 years ago.

Getting there: Google map Wetipquin Park -- there doesn't seem to be a street address that I could find. Wetipquin Park is located along the the aptly named Wetipquin Road in Tyaskin, MD. Wetipquin Road is just off of MD Rt 349.

Know before you go: You could pack yourself a picnic, or ... you could turn right onto Wetipquin Road, following it back down to Rt 349, and hang another right. In less than a block, you'll encounter Boonies Burgers, Beer and Bait. Don't let it scare you -- this is good eats (I mean, good hamburgers and such). Well worth a stop!

Website: http://paddlethenanticoke.com/

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For other great places to kayak in Maryland, check out the places below:
Blackwater River/Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Kayaking
Centennial Lake / Preparing for Kayaking Adventures
C&O Canal at Swain's Lock
Daniels, MD
Lake Clopper / Seneca Creek State Park
Lake Elkhorn
Little Seneca Lake
Mallows Bay Shipwrecks
Patapsco River
Piney Run Park
Potomac River
Wicomico River

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hiking at Jerusalem Village in Gunpowder Falls State Park

Established in 1959 to protect the Gunpowder River and the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, Gunpowder Falls State Park is now one of Maryland’s largest state parks. With more than 18,000 acres in Harford and Baltimore counties, Gunpowder’s narrow corridors host a varied topography ranging from tidal wetlands to steep and rugged slopes.

My first foray into the park was a 4.5 mile Jerusalem Mill loop hike.

Jerusalem Mill Village is a living history museum that spans the 18th through early 20th centuries. One of the oldest and most intact mill villages in Maryland, Jerusalem is located in Harford County, along the Little Gunpowder Falls River. It now serves as the headquarters of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Our plan was to leave from historic Jerusalem Village and follow the floodplain of Little Gunpowder Falls, then return to explore the Jericho Covered Bridge. In fact, you can spend hours in historic Jerusalem Village alone. History AND hiking = woot! The grist mill, now Gunpowder Falls State Park headquarters, was built in 1772 and continued operations until the last miller died in 1961.

The village functioned at a Quaker village into the early 20th century. Evidence suggests that David Lee and several of his Quaker neighbors carved black walnut stocks and assembled rifles for the Continental army in the gunshop that stands behind the gristmill. During the Civil War, on July 11, 1864, Harry Gilmor stopped at the General Store in Jerusalem Mill, now popularly known as McCourtney's, capturing supplies and horses, as part of Gilmor's Raid.

After the Civil War, the buildings in the village were gradually leased out and sold. A succession of owners operated the gristmill until 1961, when it was then purchased by the State of Maryland to be part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

We picked up the trail behind the blacksmith shop, following the white blazes along Little Gunpowder Falls River. The first thing you notice are the purple wild phlox and the sweet wild white rose blooms. As you head in, keep your eyes peeled for indications of colonial history -- the old millrace actually forms part of the trail for a while.

Initially the trail has cedar chips and packed dirt, but at approximately 150 feet the trail makes a hard left toward the river, which you'll then end up following upstream for quite a while, enjoying lovely views of the river to your left, and the woods and sloping hillside to your right. The hike isn't strenuous, but it isn't flat, either. Small hills and slopes will get your heart rate up, without proving to be undoable.

In addition to the river and forest, the trail will take you past a bog filled with cattails, ferns and wildflowers, ford creeks. We followed the white blazed trail outbound, then on our way back, picked up and followed, mostly on purpose, the blue blazed trail, which took us past the powerline clearing, over a creek with some wibbly-wobbly (but doable) stepping stones, and ultimately through a field back to our vehicle. All in all, quite an enjoyable hike.

Getting there: 2813 Jerusalem Rd, Kingsville, MD 21087

Dogs: Absolutely!!

Hours: dawn to dusk

Website: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/gunpowder.aspx

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Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!