Friday, February 26, 2016

Photos on Friday: Day trip down I-81

I haven't really been able to get downtown lately and with all the snow and ice we've had since mid-January didn't venture anywhere too much in Northern Virginia either. Last weekend we did take a road trip down I-81 to the Radford/Blacksburg/Christiansburg area, so I thought I'd use that as this week's Photos on Friday theme. It's a beautiful drive along I-81 and over the years I've gotten several great future day trip ideas to take from the DC area. (Many to still be made :)

Here are some photos I took from the passenger's seat:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Photos on Friday: Presidential Inauguration 2013

It's that time of the U.S. political landscape where the presidential election has and will continue to dominate news until November rolls around. So I thought for today's Photos on Friday I'd bring out some pictures I took just before President Obama's second Inauguration. It was a busy time all throughout the District - here are a few of the many pics I snapped when downtown in mid-January 2013.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Calling train enthusiasts - check out the Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival

Manassas Train Depot
Every year Manassas pays tribute to its rich railroad history with its Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival, usually in early June. As customary, it takes place in the Historic Downtown Manassas district. As a part of its annual tradition, train memorabilia, model trains, live entertainment, train rides and more are part of the festival's fun. The models are created by several local train groups and are usually on display under the Harris Pavilion. Visitors can enjoy Country and Blue Grass music as they view the trains.

The event reached its 23rd year in 2017. The event is free, except special attractions such as the train rides.

There will are excursions from the Manassas Train Station to Clifton and back. Check the official site for ticket sales and excursion times. In previous years tickets have gone on sale in the first week of May and were around $5.

The railway festival typically kicks off a series of events that will occur throughout the summer. One of my favorites is the annual Fourth of July celebration. Celebrate America will take place on July 4 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (kiddie rides open at 3 p.m.). There are tractor rides and live entertainment, fun for all ages.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

12 interesting facts about Petersen House

On the night of April 14, 1965 President Abraham Lincoln was fatally wounded by John Wilkes Booth during a showing of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre.  After the shots were fired, President Lincoln was carried into a home across the street. When tending to the president’s injuries, doctors knew he wouldn’t be able to make the trip back to the White House. 

The home President Lincoln was carried into was owned by a family named Petersen. Located at 516 10th Street, today that home is known as the “Petersen House” and is a historic property. 

The Petersen House where President Lincoln died
Sign on the fence in front of Petersen House
The townhouse is maintained and operated by the National Park Service (NPS) and visitors are able to visit the home as a part of their Ford’s Theatre Tour.

Interesting facts about Petersen House

1. The townhouse at 516 10th Street was built by William and Anna Petersen in 1849. Both William and Anna came to the United States from Germany. Mr. Petersen was a tailor and the couple had 10 children (five survived to adulthood). 

2. The house is made of red brick. It has three stories, along with a basement. During the Civil War there was a high demand for rooms in Washington D.C. with many people traveling into the city. The Petersens routinely rented rooms in their home to boarders.

3. When President Lincoln was carried across the street, he was placed in a bedroom rented by William T. Clark. Clark was a Union solider who was not home at the time. The original bed where Lincoln was rested is not currently in Petersen House, but this plaque shows a photo of the original, along with some other information (click on the photo to enlarge to see detail).

The Petersen House where President Lincoln died

4. More than 90 people came through the Petersens’ doors that fateful evening to pay last respects to President Lincoln as doctors were tending to him. During this time the Petersens and some of their boarders stayed in the basement. Government officials conducted inquiries during this time.

5. Mary Lincoln passed those terrible hours waiting in the Petersens’ parlor, overcome with grief. Son Robert was at her side.

The Petersen House where President Lincoln died

6. After the president’s death, the home became a popular tourist destination.

7. Mr. and Mrs. Petersen lived in their home until they both passed away in 1871.

8. In 1878 a man named Louis Schade purchased the Petersen House. He paid $4,500 and used the townhouse as both living and work space. Schade was the owner of The Washington Sentinel and ran the paper from his new home.

9. After many years, Schade tired of the stream of visitors to the house and decided to move.  The Petersen home was purchased by the U.S. government in 1896 for $30,000.

The Petersen House, Washington DC
Visitors wait for their tour of Petersen House

10. The house was leased to the Memorial Association of D.C. in 1896. Osborn Oldroyd, a Lincoln enthusiast since the 1860 election, was a Civil War veteran. He lived in the home, bringing his extensive Lincoln collection to the Petersen House to put on display. Eventually, this collection would be purchased by the U.S. Government and become a part of the Ford’s Theatre collection. 

11. Today the Petersen House is furnished as it would have been in 1865. None of the furniture inside of the home is original. After the Petersens died, their furniture was sold at auction.

12. The bed Lincoln was lying on when he died was bought for $80 by William H. Boyd. Boyd’s son sold the bed to a wealthy man in Chicago named Charles F. Gunther. Today the bed is currently owned by the Chicago Historical Society. 

The Petersen House is open to visitors from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To see the Petersen House, it is part of the Ford’s Theatre Tour. I have a detailed post on the history of Ford’s Theatre and how to get tickets in this post if you're looking for more information and/or how to visit.

Additional source:

Monday, February 8, 2016

11 fun facts about Oatlands Plantation

Out in Loudoun County is Oatlands Plantation, a historic home that is deeply connected to early American history. Located in Leesburg, the property operates as a museum and historic site and can also be rented for special events. It is a beautiful home and the gardens are spectacular. 

Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg Virginia
Front view of the mansion

Not familiar with Oatlands? If not, read on, it has an interesting history.

11 fun facts about Oatlands Plantation

1. Oatlands Plantation was established as a farming property in 1798 by George Carter, it had about 3,500 acres. Carter, a descendant of the famous Carters, the family that was one of the very first to settle in Virginia from Europe, had inherited the land. His ancestors had arrived in 1649 and his father was Robert "Councillor Carter" the III, grandson of Robert "King" Carter.

2. Carter began construction of his magnificent home in 1804 and his plan was to build a classic Federal-style mansion. However, he changed his mind in the midst of construction, deciding to go with a Greek Revival style. The home took decades to complete as the post-recession after the War of 1812 took Carter’s attention away from investing in his new home. 

Rear view of the main house

3. Oatlands was completed in 1835. This was the year Carter also finally married at age 58, wedding a widow named Elizabeth Grayson Lewis. The couple had two sons together. 

4. Carter passed away in 1846. Elizabeth and her sons managed Oatlands, but the Civil War brought hardship to the family. Oatlands had been run using slave labor and the plantation ceased to operate as it had in the past. Carter was a strong believer in slavery, while his father ("Councillor") had fought against it. 

5. Over the years Oatlands operated as a girls’ boarding school and then was converted into a bed and breakfast.

6. In 1897 the Carters sold the home to Stilson Hutchins, the man who founded the Washington Post. Hutchins never lived at Oatlands and only owned the property for a few years. 

7. William Corcoran Eustis and his wife, Edith Livingston Morton, a wealthy couple from Washington, D.C., bought the property from Hutchins in 1903. William Eustis used the home as a vacation property and was an enthusiastic horseman. He also loved fox hunting and held events at his new home.

Standing in front of the mansion looking beyond across the beautiful land

8. Edith Eustis was a good friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, having grown up together in New York. FDR was a frequent visitor to Oatlands.

9. Edith made it her mission to restore the once elaborate gardens at Oatlands. She paid a lot of attention to detail and brought many modern designs into the garden. Visitors today can see the hard work she put into her restoration. Edith passed away in 1964 and her children donated the home and gardens to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg Virginia

10. The original greenhouse still stands on Oatlands’ property. It is the second oldest greenhouse located in the United States and the oldest one in the South, according to Oatlands. A bachelor’s cottage, built in 1820, also remains. The greenhouse is open for visitors, but not the bachelor's cottage.

Oatlands' greenhouse was built in 1810.
11. In May 2014, Oatlands announced it had acquired 54 adjacent acres to the main property. This property, called "Oatlands Hamlet" was originally part of the plantation and contains two historic stone houses. One of the homes is believed to have once served as a dairy and was later converted to a house by Anne Eustis (daughter of William and Edith). 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Oatlands. If in the Northern Virginia area, I would recommend a visit, especially if you enjoy history and architecture. To learn more about the property and tips for visiting, I have an earlier blog post that shares additional info and photos.  

Saturday, February 6, 2016

10 interesting facts about Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre is located in downtown Washington, D.C. not too far from the National Mall. Most people recognize this site as the location where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Before that tragic event, it was a popular place where people gathered to be entertained.

Today that tradition continues at Ford’s Theatre. The building simultaneously operates as a museum and historic site. I thought for today’s post I’d post some other facts about this historic site.

10 interesting facts about Ford’s Theatre

1. Ford’s Theatre’s roots began in 1861 John T. Ford, a theatrical entrepreneur from Baltimore, leased the First Baptist Church on 10th Street and established a theatre. He converted the church and called it “Ford’s Athenaeum”.  Unfortunately, a fire tore through the building in 1862 and destroyed it. Not to be discouraged, Ford raised funds with plans to build a new theatre. The cornerstone for the new building was laid in February 1863.

2. Performances commenced later that year and ran consistently until April 14, 1865, the tragic night where Booth crept in and attacked the President. President and Mrs. Lincoln were attending the showing of “Our American Cousin”. About 1,700 people were in attendance that evening. Tickets for the showing ranged from 25 cents to $1. Lower and upper balcony boxes cost $10 and $6 respectively. 

The balcony seats where President, Mrs. Lincoln and their guests were sitting on the night of April 14, 1865
3. Ford was forced to close his theatre during the investigation and he made plans to reopen in July 1865. However, he received threats of arson if he were to reopen. Many people, angry over the President’s assassination, wanted to burn the theatre down. Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War at the time, placed a 24-hour watch on the building to ensure it wasn’t burned. The theatre was closed for a long time.

4. Washington’s YMCA had the idea to buy the building and rename it “The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Temple”. The project never got off the ground due to lack of financial support. Instead, the federal government made a deal with Ford to rent the building with an option to buy. In the fall of 1865, the building was converted to federal offices.

5. After the closing of Ford’s Theatre, the building housed government offices for many years. In 1867 the U.S. government purchased the building that had once been such a popular theatre. They paid Ford $100,000.

6. In June 1893 a part of the interior collapsed. Twenty-two people were killed and 68 sustained serious injury. The building was then converted into a government warehouse.

7. In 1932 the building was opened as a museum, which was and continues to be run by the National Park Service (NPS). However, it wasn’t until the 1960s when the building was restored to its 1865 appearance. The chairs are replicates of the type present in 1865.

8. In 1968 performances resumed at Ford’s Theatre and continue today. The building operates as both a historic site and working theatre.

9. In 2008 Ford’s Theatre underwent major renovations and restorations which were completed in July 2009. In addition to working on the theatre itself and adjacent museum, a new Lincoln education center was planned to be opened in 2010. Today visitors can tour the theatre (NPS rangers talks are very informative if you choose that option on your ticket), visit the education center, and the Petersen House, which is the boarding house across the street where the President was brought to after he was attacked.

The next two photos were taken at the education center. 

Looking down from the upper floors

10. Ford’s Theatre is a very popular tourist attraction. It is estimated about 1 million people visit each year. The building is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Christmas Day. (During the rest of the year, if shows are running, tours of the theatre are suspended during those times).  

If you've visited in years prior to the 2008 renovations, you'll quickly note the procedure for touring has completely been revamped along with the renovations. Admission to visit the museum and theatre is still free, but these days it is a lot harder to get walk-in tickets unlike in years’ past. For more information about visiting Ford’s Theatre and choosing tickets, I have details on this blog post.

Ford's Theatre National Historic site is at 511 10th St., NW, the Petersen House and educational center are located directly across the street. 

Exterior shot of Ford's Theatre (2012)