Storm King Art Center

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Storm King Art Center is an outdoor sculpture museum and is part of the Hudson Valley National Heritage Area. It is named after the nearby  Storm King Mountain in Mountainville, New York.

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It contains one the largest collection of modern outdoor sculptures in the USA.

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The Art Center was founded in 1960 by Ralph E. Ogden, following his retirement from the Star Expansion Company. He began the center as a museum for Hudson River School paintings and showcased his collection of European sculptures around the main building.

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The center evolved into a 500-acre, open-air sculpture museum, blending the large scale modern sculptures into the landscapes.

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I visited Storm King on a field trip with my photography class in the Fall of 2015. The place is vast…you could walk around the grounds all day and still see only a fraction of the exhibits.

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To see my other posts from The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area, please click the links below:

  • DeWint House (Washington’s HQ at Tappan)
  • Camp Shanks
  • Storm King Arts Center
  • New Windsor Cantonment– Coming Soon!
  • Purple Heart Hall of Honor– Coming Soon!

Location: 1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, NY 12553

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1960

Date of my visit: 10/11/2015

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Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Vanderbilt family, building on the shipping and railroad business started by Cornelius Vanderbilt, became prominent during the Gilded Age (the period after the Civil War.) In that period the Vanderbilt  grandsons built ornate palaces to showcase their wealth including The Breakers in Rhode Island and The Biltmore in North Carolina.

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The Vanderbilt Mansion, originally known as Hyde Park, is the only Gilded Age mansion owned by the National Park Service. The 54-room Beaux-Arts structure was built in 1898 by Frederick Vanderbilt. He and his wife Louise lived in NYC and used this elaborate mansion as their country ‘cottage’ and entertained only a dozen or so guests at a time here.

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Louise Vanderbilt was a fan of the palace at Versailles and emulated that style of decor in many rooms of the mansion.

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The Park Service had just completed a major renovation when I visited. All of the windows had been removed to be restored by an artisan off-site and then reinstalled.

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While this work was in progress, the furnishings had been put into storage. Some of the rooms were still being put back together and were filled with stacks of plates, assorted knickknacks and sheet-covered pieces.

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We noted that the walls in the foyers and hallways were unadorned and plain. The ranger guiding our tour of the mansion told us that Frederick Vanderbilt had collected antique tapestries and that it looked much different when they were all hanging.

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Unfortunately the tapestries are in need of professional restoration and the park service lacks the funds for that project. Most of the tapestries have been put into storage indefinitely.

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Frederick and Louise were childless. Frederick lived in Hyde Park full-time after Louise’s death and willed the estate to his niece, Margaret Van Alen.

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Van Alen did not want the 600 acre estate and tried to sell it. Because it was the end of the Great Depression, no one could afford it.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who’d already willed his nearby Springwood estate to the people of the United States,  worked with Van Alen to donate the mansion along with 200 acres and some of the other buildings to the National Park Service. The remaining acreage, which had been farmland, was sold off and eventually developed.

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Prior to FDR’s presidency, most of the National Park units were designated to preserve our natural wonders and prehistoric sites. Under Roosevelt’s presidency, the role of the National Park service was expanded to include the nation’s historical and cultural treasures as well. Through his legislation, FDR’s government created a quarter of the NPS units currently in the system.

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The Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site was designated to be representative of this era in American history, not as a museum devoted to the Vanderbilt family. So while this might not be the grandest or best-kept estate in the Hudson Valley, the interpretation provided on the Ranger-led tours gives visitors an excellent perspective.

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Hyde Park posts:

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Location: 119 Vanderbilt Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 12/18/1940

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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The Oculus

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The Oculus was renamed The World Trade Center Transportation Hub when it opened in March of 2016. It was built to replace the PATH station destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 9-11.

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Originally, it was the Hudson terminal, opened in 1909 by the H&M  Railroad Company. H&M went bankrupt and the Port Authority bought them. When the Twin Towers were built in the 1970s, Hudson Terminal was demolished and replaced with the World Trade Center PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) station.

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I used to go through the PATH station when I worked in lower Manhattan. I happened to be off the day in February of 1993 when a car bomb exploded in the parking garage, damaging the WTC station. It was up and running a week later, but in 2001, the North Tower collapsed into the station, destroying everything.

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Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus cost a staggering $4 billion to build and is supposed to resemble a bird taking flight. Modifications were made to the design for safety reasons and some say it now resembles a dinosaur. I prefer to think of it as a phoenix, rising from the ashes.

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I visited the station with a photography group just before the it became fully operational. We had the place to ourselves and it was clean enough for us to lie on the floor to take pictures of the ceiling! It looks very different today, with kiosks and art displays in the center.

Location: Church St, New York, NY 10006

Designation: Transportation Hub

Date designated or established: November 13, 1966

Date of my visit: August 24, 2018

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial: Eliza Tour

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial preserves the mansion of Alexander Hamilton. Built in 1802 on Hamilton’s land in Harlem, Hamilton would live there with his family for only two years before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr.

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Upon his death, Hamilton’s political rivals sought to dismiss or take credit for his accomplishments. But Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, who survived Alexander by 50 years, spent the rest of her life ensuring that Alexander Hamilton’s legacy would not be forgotten. For women’s history month, we took a special tour of The Grange with the AHA society, which focused on Eliza.

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Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was born into a wealthy family in upstate New York. Her father was general in George Washington’s army. She met Alexander Hamilton in Morristown, when the army was encamped there. They were married at her father’s home in 1780. Her marriage survived the nation’s first sex scandal (Alexander publicly admitted to adultery to clear up suspicion of financial impropriety while he was Secretary of the Treasury) and produced eight children.

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Alexander Hamilton died in debt. Eliza was able to re-purchase the Grange after it had been sold off at auction with some help from her connections and her inheritance from her father. She lived there with some of her grown children for 30 years before selling it to move into a townhouse downtown.

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Eliza sat for this portrait while the artist was in debtors prison so that he could earn some money towards his release.

She threw herself into charity work, helping to found the first orphanage in New York City and was the director of the organization for 27 years. She also, along with the widows of James Madison and John Adams, helped to raise the money for the construction of the Washington Monument.

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Eliza tirelessly promoted Alexander’s legacy after his death and persisted in having his papers organized and published as a biography. She demanded an apology from President Monroe for the accusations he’d made against Hamilton and defended Hamilton’s authorship of Washington’s Farewell Address.

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This piano was a gift from Eliza’s sister Angelica.

A week before the duel, Alexander wrote to Eliza: “With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me. Ever yours, A H.”

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Hamilton Grange Posts:

Location: 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: April 27, 1962

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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Eliza’s father gave lumber from his Albany estate to Alexander for the Grange. These moldings are original and were hand-carved

Home of FDR National Historic Site

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I visited the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on a Wednesday in October. October is typically a very busy month for the Hyde Park NPS sites, but it wasn’t too bad on a week day. I stopped at the visitor center, got my ticket for the 9:30 tour and then watched the 15 minute film about FDR.

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FDR was the only president to be elected four times, though he only served three full terms. He passed away suddenly at the beginning of his fourth.

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I hadn’t ever seen the film footage from his inaugural addresses and was struck by the fact that he delivered them standing. I knew that he’d been paralyzed by polio and was the only disabled man ever to serve as president.

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Our docent explained that FDR never admitted that he couldn’t walk and had a gentleman’s agreement with the press to refrain from photographing him in the wheelchair. He had heavy steel braces made so that he could stand behind the podium.

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The original section of the house from 1800

After the film, our group walked over to Springwood, the Federal-Italianate mansion where FDR was born and lived for his whole life. Built in 1800, FDR’s father James purchased Springwood in 1866. FDR and his mother Sara expanded the house in 1915.

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FDR’s boyhood room

In 1943, Roosevelt donated the property to the USA with the stipulation that his family would be allowed to live there for the rest of their lives. He died two years later and the family relinquished their rights, transferring ownership to the National Park Service.

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FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Scottish terrier, Fala are all buried in Sara Roosevelt’s Rose Garden.

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Hyde Park posts:

  • FDR Presidential Library
  • Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site (Coming Soon)
  • Gardens at Bellefield (Coming Soon)
  • Home of FDR National Historic Site
  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site (Coming Soon)

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Location: 4097 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 1/15/1944

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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Governors Island National Monument: Fort Jay and The Hills

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.

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While parts of the island are managed by the National Park Service, the majority of it is managed by the Trust for Governors Island and the City of New York. For ten years, the Trust developed the abandoned section of the island into a hilly park with commanding views of New York City and the harbor.

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Built on the debris of buildings that were once here, The Hills first opened in 2016. It has accessible paths to stroll up to the top, large stone block steps to climb up and in one section, you can slide down.

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After exploring The Hills, we walked back to the historic district, where we still hadn’t seen everything our guide wanted us to see.

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The South Battery was the last of the three forts built on Governor’s Island. Built during the war of 1812, it stood guard over Buttermilk Channel, which separates the island from Brooklyn. Later, it became a barracks, and then the officer’s mess hall.

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Next, we strolled through Nolan Park with its 15 pretty yellow houses. These were built between 1845 and 1902 as quarters for officers with families. Today, they are leased by non-profit organizations who keep the houses preserved.

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At the end of this row stands the Governor’s House. This is a misnomer because no governor ever lived there, but it did serve as the commanding officer’s house.

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For the final stop on our tour, we re-entered the domain of the National Park Service and toured Fort Jay. Fort Jay is the earliest of the three forts on the island and is undergoing repairs to its facade. The entrance is a medieval-looking gate over a dry moat with a sculpture of an eagle standing guard at the top…that eagle has lost a wing and the NPS is in the process of trying to reattach it.

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The largest of the three forts, Fort Jay is of the same star-shaped design as the one across the bay, upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. We went into the cellar to see an odd display of earth borings. This cellar, had the British not been deterred by New York’s defenses during the War of 1812, would have served as a bomb shelter.

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When I visited Governors Island in the late eighties, it was a decaying Coast Guard base. It was nice to see the progress the NPS has made towards restoring some of the historic structures as well as the Trust for Governors Island’s success in turning the unused areas into a beautiful urban park.

To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Hamilton Grange National Memorial preserves the mansion of Alexander Hamilton. Built in 1802 on Hamilton’s land in Harlem, the structure has been relocated twice. In 1889, St. Luke’s acquired the home and moved it 500 feet to sit next door to the church where it functioned as a chapel. In 2008, the National Park Service restored the home to a natural setting, moving it to nearby St. Nicholas Park.

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The Grange is the only home Hamilton ever owned. Hamilton was a penniless orphan from the Caribbean. He came to America as a shipping clerk, took up the cause of the American Revolution and is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States.

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This wine cooler is a replica of the one George Washington gifted to the Hamiltons.

Hamilton was George Washington’s Aide for most of the war and a hero of the decisive Battle of Yorktown. He was instrumental in the ratification of the constitution and became our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in George Washington’s cabinet where he founded the National Reserve, the US Mint and our currency.

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In semi-retirement from his political career, Hamilton purchased a tract of land near the Hudson River in Harlem. Back in those days, this was the countryside…it was nine miles and 90 minutes by carriage to New York City.

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Hamilton commissioned an architect to build a mansion on the property. He provided legal representation for the builders so that they could keep working on the Grange after they were arrested on suspicion of murder.

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The Grange was completed in 1802, but Hamilton would live there with his family for only two years before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr. Upon his death, Hamilton’s political rivals sought to dismiss or take credit for his accomplishments. But Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, who survived Alexander by 50 years, spent the rest of her life ensuring that Alexander Hamilton’s legacy would not be forgotten.

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Now in the midst of a public park, visitors can view a brief film on the life of Alexander Hamilton in the theater on the ground floor. There is also a small museum and gift shop on the ground floor, which is where the kitchen would have been. Tour the historic floor with a ranger or during one of the open houses…in the home’s original location, the Hamiltons could see the Hudson River from their dining room.

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Hamilton Grange Posts:

  • Hamilton Grange National Memorial
  • Hamilton Grange: Eliza Tour (Coming soon)

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Location: 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: April 27, 1962

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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