Tag Archives: museum

Historic mining town of Bisbee, Arizona

DSCN1081The historic mining town of Bisbee is located in the SE corner of Arizona, just south of Tombstone and barely north of the Mexican border. It was founded in 1880 and has a long history of underground mining for various minerals.  In almost 100 years of continuous production before the Bisbee mines closed in 1975, the local mines produced metals valued at $6.1 billion (at 1975 price) one of the largest production valuations of all the mining districts in the world. This staggering amount of wealth came from the estimated production of 8,032,352,000 lbs of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 lbs of lead and 371,945,900 lbs of zinc!

After a brief stop in Tombstone we landed in Bisbee in the early afternoon and found a quiet camp spot at the Queen Mine RV Park, which is located on the edge of town just next to the Queen Mine. It also backs right on to the local open pit mine, which is HUGE and really enables you to see the various strands and layers of the sediment.

open pit mine bisbeeThe mine tour is run by former Phelps Dodge mine employees and they do a great job of getting you geared up and organized to go under ground – complete with rain coat, helmet, belt and light. We were then loaded onto a series of trolley cars that are pulled by an actual mine cart. Lots of safety conversations about not reaching out to touch the walls or leaning over to pick up your helmet if it falls off (so you don’t whack your head on the mine beams as they go by).

The mine tour takes you down over 1500 feet into the mine and you learn a lot about former mining techniques, life as a miner and the tools and technologies that were used over the last 100 years.

The tour is only an hour in length and goes by fairly quickly however there is a small museum that you can visit before or after and it is very informative.

It is also an easy walk into Old Bisbee to wander through the shops, check out the various artists and grab some food – of which there are a surprising number of choices (and variety). Well worth the stop if you are in the area!

Fort Moultrie National Monument, Charleston

fort moultrie signFort Moultrie was first built in 1776 (at that time called Fort Sullivan) to prevent British naval incursions into Charleston Harbour. It was built of palmetto log walls that readily absorbed the shots and shells fired when 9 Royal Navy warships attacked on June 28, 1776. Colonel William Moultrie and his 400 men fought a day long battle that ended with the heavily damaged British ships being driven from the area. This decisive American victory galvanized the Patriot’s cause for independence, and resulted in the fort now being called Fort Moultrie.

The first fort was beaten up and washed away by storm waves so a 2nd fort was built in 1798 of earth and timber. It unfortunately faces the same demise due to coastal storms. The third and present fort was constructed of brick in 1809. Originally fitted with 40 guns, the fort garrison consisted of 500 men.

On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina left the Union, Fort Moultrie’s small Federal garrison abandoned the fort, moving to the unfinished but more defendable Fort Sumter. State militia troops occupied Fort Moultrie the next day. Confederate Fort Moultrie participated in the April 12, 1861 firing on Fort Sumter that began the American Civil War. Heavily damaged by Federal bombardments that commenced in 1863, Fort Moultrie remained in Confederate hands until February 1865.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fort Moultrie underwent numerous changes as improving military and engineering technologies added to the complexities of coastal defence.

New threats of submarine and aerial attacks ultimately rendered static seacoast defences obsolete. On August 15, 1947 the army lowered Fort Moultrie’s flag for the last time, ending 71 years of service.

This was the last of our Charleston Forts and Hunter proudly got another Junior Ranger Badge along with his Civil War Historian patch!

 

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston

main houseRounding out our tour of the Charleston area, we spent the afternoon at the Magnolia Plantation, which was founded in 1676 by the Drayton family and continues to be held by the family. It is the oldest public tourist facility in the low country and the oldest public gardens in America, having opened to the public in 1870 as a way to raise funds to maintain the plantation after it was ransacked by Union troops at the end of the Civil War.

The Plantation started out at 2000 acres along the Ashley River where it grew a number of different crops, finally becoming very prosperous growing rice. It is now down to 500 acres and provides an extensive tour showing you the grounds, the slave houses, the gardens, the house and a small petting zoo that they have developed. The Plantation is also very bike friendly with bike and walking trails throughout.

We started our visit with the movie and then moved onto the petting zoo. The animals were incredibly friendly and very well cared for. Tim was intrigued with the peacocks (as you can see from the photos) and Hunter enjoyed all of the animals.

We then took a stroll through the gardens. They had started out as a 3 season garden but were gradually turned into a 4 season garden. At this time of year, there should be an abundance of camellia’s, azaleas, daffodils, pansies and other flowers. Unfortunately, due to the freezing cold weather, most of the blooms had died off or not bloomed at all. We were able to see some orchids and other plants in the solarium.

Slaves played a big role in the economic success of Magnolia over the years, both in the fields and in the gardens. These houses were occupied from the 1850’s through to the late 1990’s. Many of the slaves stayed with the plantation after the civil war and shifted from being slaves to “servants” or “field workers” – doing the same work but now having their freedom. The neatest thing for me was that the overseeing of the Gardens has been in the same 1-2  families for the last 200 years, having started with the first slave gardener in the 1840’s.

Our next stop was a train tour of the property to see the breadth of the property and some of the local flora and fauna. A number of the old rice fields have turned into swamps and are covered in duck weed – a murky green substance that is on the surface and the ducks just love to eat. Other fields are definitely havens for wildlife but you can see where the rice would have grown. Although the weather was quite cool, were were lucky to see 2 alligators out on the banks trying to soak up what little sun there was.

The last stop on our tour was to check out the house. They do scheduled tours of the house every 30 minutes to limit the number of people in the house and provide you with a historic overview. There is no aimless wandering allowed. The house has an interesting story as it is actually the 3rd house in this spot on the property. The 1st was burned down due to nature and the 2nd was burned down by Union forces at the end of the Civil War. This house was built in sections as the family could afford to rebuild over the last 100 years. It was lived in by the family until 1975, when they decided to open it to the public and move out to a house in Charleston.

Overall it was a worthwhile experience. We chose to do the tour as a package with a guide from Historic Tours of Charleston. The plus side was that this is slow season and there was no one else on our tour so we basically had a private tour (same thing happened with the pirate tour in the morning). The downside was that it felt quite scheduled and rushed and we weren’t really able to wander where our interests took us. It would be a great place to spend the day and either walk or bike ride around. They have a small cafe on site so lunch and snacks are available.

Fort Sumter National Monument (Charleston Harbour)

fort sumter signWe have been working our way up to Fort Sumter National Monument as it is the starting point of the American Civil War between the Union and Confederate. We were all quite excited to spend some time here. Fort Sumter is on a small island in the middle of the Charleston harbour and is only accessible by boat, which leaves from either the Fort Sumter visitor centre or from Patriots Point, which was where we caught the boat.

Fort Sumter has a long and varied past. It was built as part of the coastal defence program that was initiated in the mid-1800’s to protect the United States from potential conflicts with the British, French & Spanish. Charleston was a high priority location due to the deepwater port and economic trade so there were actually 4 defence sites built in the harbour; Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson and Castle Pinckney.

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina voted to secede from the United States of America (click on the link for all the reasons why, they are fascinating). After that vote, the South Carolina Governor (confederates) decided to take all of the National fortifications, including the 4 sites in Charleston Harbour. At this time, the only fort that was actually “in service” Federally was Fort Moultrie, under the leadership of Major Anderson. Following the succession vote, he chose to move his men, under cover of darkness, out to Fort Sumter as he felt it was more defendable. At the time, the last stage of armament for Fort Sumter was not yet completed so, although there were very tall walls and a surrounding of water, there were no mounted cannons.

For the next 2 months, the Confederates demanded that the Union leave Fort Sumter and the Union refused. During that time, the garrison was busy trying to complete the armament of the Fort. When the Confederates finally attacked, only half of the cannons had been mounted and the Major Anderson surrender after 34 hours of battle. The Confederate Army was able to hold Fort Sumter for 4 years before it was taken back by the Union as part of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Although a bit rushed, as you are only able to stay on Fort Sumter for 1 hour, we completed another Junior Ranger badge and the 2nd of our 3 forts towards our Civil War Historian badge.

Patriots Point Museum – It’s a naval candy store!

USS laffey 2Patriots Point Museum is located right in the middle of the Charleston harbour. It comprises the USS Yorktown (Aircraft Carrier), the USS Laffey (Destroyer), the USS Clamagore (Submarine) as well as a Medal of Honour Museum, Vietnam Support Base exhibit and Cold War Memorial. Talk about a full days exploration!

We unfortunately only had 2.5 hours so it was a bit of a speedy tour. Having visited the USS Midway (Aircraft carrier) in San Diego a few times, we decided to start with the boats we’d never explored before – the destroyer and the submarine.

They were both really interesting to walk through. The USS Laffey (Destroyer) was built in 1944, in time to support the D-day landings and decommissioned in 1975 after a very full career. TheUSS  Clamagore (Submarine) was built in 1945 and decommissioned in 1975, having served through the Cold War era.

The biggest learnings were around the submarine – they are really tight spaces (width & height) and people slept where they worked. This meant that if you were a weapons tech, you slept in the weapons room. That’s a little too close for comfort for me. Tim and Hunter thought it was really cool and spent quite a bit of time on the Sub. I’m not a big fan of small, confined spaces so my tour through was fairly quick.

The USS Yorktown is only slightly smaller than the USS Midway in San Diego, was built in 1943 and decommissioned in 1970. It is staffed by an amazing group of volunteers that are happy to tell you all about the ship and answer any and all questions that you have. As we were running short on time, we focused our exploration here on the flight deck. Isn’t that just nirvana – having military airplanes ON a military ship!

the Mighty Eighth Airforce Museum

hunter historic plane 2The Mighty Eighth Airforce Museum is an impressive facility that is chock full of information, from the battles in World War 2 (1940’s)  through to the bombing of Iraq (1996).

From the perspective of one who has now seen many Army, Airforce and Navy museums (who knew I had such an interest…) this one was very well done and had a great mix of artifacts, general information and movies to keep the stories and the experiences moving through time.

We spent over 2 hours here and everyone came away having learned something new. It is just off I-95 on the western side of Savannah, with lots of parking and reasonable rates.

Georgia State Railroad Museum

hunter locomotiveThe Georgia State Railroad Museum is located just outside of the historic downtown area in Savannah. It is one of 5 sites that are run by the Coastal Heritage Society, with the focus on preserving the heritage of coastal Georgia.

It provides plenty of parking (more on that later) and is part of the discounted ticket package that you can get when you go to 3 sites (you pay for 2 and get the third for free). Very reasonable ticket prices as well.

The staff at the museum were fabulous, even with the frigid weather (note the outfits that we are wearing…). There is a series of tours that go throughout the day and they are very informative. You learn all about the executive cars, the locomotives and the various parts and history of the railyard itself.

** Note – their parking lot is gated and open between 9-5. They close the gates at 5pm and if your vehicle is still there, you are locked in. We happened to get delayed on our historic Savannah wanderings and learned all of this first hand when we arrived back past 5pm to find the truck and camper on the wrong side of a large locked gate. With this forecast to be Savannah’s coldest night in 30 years, we weren’t excited about the idea of spending the night in the camper in the parking lot. Thanks to the above and beyond assistance from Officer Santoro of the Savannah-Chatham Police Department and Nora Jones from the Coastal Heritage Society, we were rescued after 2 hours and able to head back to our campsite at Tybee Island. **

Fort Jackson – the little fort that could…

fort jackson visitors centreFort Jackson is a restored 19th century fort on the banks of the Savannah River. It is a National Historic Monument and the oldest standing brick fort in Georgia.

In 1808 Fort Jackson was started as a brick fortification, built upon an old earthen battery from the Revolutionary War, as part of Thomas Jefferson’s national defence fortification system. Fort Jackson saw fairly immediate use during the War of 1812 against the British. During the 1840’s & 50’s additional construction occurred with the addition of a moat, drawbridge, barracks, privies a rear wall and another powder magazine.

The intent of Fort Jackson was to protect the City of Savannah that was just upriver. During the Civil War, it was a Confederate fort that successfully held back numerous Union attacks. Even well after Fort Pulaski down stream had been taken. It was turned over to the Union troops when General Sherman took Savannah on his famous “March to the Sea”.

Having spent the morning at Fort Pulaski, it was interesting to see the difference in size, structure and approach to construction during different time periods. We were lucky to be the only ones in the fort when we visited (bad weather scared off most people) so we got a personalized musket firing demonstration. You can never see enough of these!

fort jackson soldier with musketThrough all of our reading and fort adventures, Hunter had really become quite knowledgeable about the who/what/where/when of American Revolutionary & Civil Wars. He can recite all of the steps and tools used to fire both muskets and cannons and has his eye out for civil war costumes that he can pick up for halloween next year.

fort jackson hunter confederate hat

Fort Pulaski, Tybee Island Georgia

fort pulaski cannon studyingFort Pulaski is a Civil War fort that is now a National Monument run by the National Parks Service. It was commissioned by President James Madison as part of the coastal fortification system shortly after the War of 1812. Construction started in 1829 and they were still working on the armament in 1860. As it turned out, before United States troops could occupy the fort, they had to conquer it.

fort pulaski lee hunter

On January 3, 1861, 2 weeks after South Carolina seceded from the Union, and one week after Federal troops occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown ordered state militia to seize Fort Pulaski for the Confederate States of America.

When it was constructed, people felt that it was “un-takeable” as it had 7.5 foot walls and was located over 1,000 yards away from the closest firm ground. This was based on the usage of smooth bore heavy artillery. When the Union came to attack in February 1862, they spent 2 months hauling heavy artillery across the sand and marsh of Tybee Island at night. They brought with them 5 experimental rifled cannons and it was these cannons that successfully penetrated the fort walls and resulted in the Confederates surrender after only 30 hours. The union then took over the fort, repaired the breached wall (notice the red bricks) and used it as a base to attack Savannah and a prison for Confederate soldiers.

The entire fort area is incredibly well maintained. It felt like we were in England looking at old forts and castles there, with the green grass, large moats and solid fort walls.

fort pulaski musket firing

They had a great interpretive program and junior ranger program. We all learn so much from these and Hunter is so proud of the badges that he gets. Because we are doing this as part of our school curriculum, Hunter has to complete all pages of each book vs the minimum to get the badge. We learned all about firing a musket and about the transition from smooth bore to rifled artillery.

fort pulaski rifle cannon

Fort Frederica, Georgia

fort frederica visitor centreFort Frederica is a National Monument run by the National Parks Service. It is more of a ruins than an actual fort these days and highlights the 1700’s when Georgia was settled by the British, through to 1742 when the British and Spanish clashed as part of Spain’s attempt to expand north from Florida. The British were successful in defending their land and the fort was disbanded shortly after then 1742 battle.

Walking through this fort was a big change from the Castillo de San Marcos that we saw the day before. The grounds were beautiful but it left a lot up to your imagination.

The visitors centre had some great artifacts of that time period. The best was a 1700’s drinking game that is the precursor to pinball. Games were how pubs differentiated themselves from each other to gain customers.

fort frederica drinking game