The Pierpont Morgan Library National Historic Landmark


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If you’ve watched the series or read The Alienist, a work of historical fiction by Caleb Carr, you’ve seen a representation of J.P. Morgan as a powerful financier who controlled Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt’s New York City of 1896.


In reality he was the USA’s most influential banker, financing the railroad, US Steel, General Electric, etc… With a group of other bankers, he helped to stabilize American markets during the Panic of 1907.


He was also an avid collector of rare books, manuscripts, antiquities and art with nearly inexhaustible funds. He built a lavish library in 1906 to house his collections. In 1924, his son opened to library to the public as a museum.


J.P. Morgan used the West Room as his private study. Its furnishings reflect his fondness for the art of the Renaissance. It was here that he met with the group of bankers in 1907 to resolve the national economic crisis. There is a vault in this room for the most valuable manuscripts.


The rotunda, with its marble columns and elaborate ceilings, was the original entrance to Morgan’s private study. The blue and white reliefs are modeled after the work of the artist Raphael in Rome. The paintings represent the three ages contained in Morgan’s collections: The Antiquities, Middle Ages and Renaissance.


The East Room is the original library. It is three stories of carved walnut and contains rare books including a Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455.


More modern buildings were added to the museum later and contain rotating and permanent exhibits. We enjoyed the Etruscan jewelry section!


Location: 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 11/13/1966

Date of my visit: 9/6/2015


Federal Hall National Memorial


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The site at Federal Hall National Memorial began in 1703 as New York’s first City Hall. The Stamp Act Congress met here in colonial times to protest taxation without representation.  It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first capital of the United States in 1789 and George Washington was inaugurated on its front steps.


The capital and Congress moved to Philadelphia a year later and the original Federal Hall was demolished in 1812. The current building has been there since 1842. It was the Customs House and then the Treasury building.  In 1939 it became a National Memorial and now contains some relics dating back to Washington’s inauguration.


We visited Federal Hall after touring the 9-11 Memorial a few blocks away on a chilly winter day. We arrived in time to take a tour of the building with a ranger. He pointed out a lot of the architectural features and talked about the historical significance of the site.


The ranger pointed out some cracks in the wall over one of the doorways, with gauges to monitor movement. When the Twin Towers fell in 2001, the impact caused tremors which damaged Federal Hall’s structure.


In Sept 2002, a year after the attacks, Congress convened in Federal Hall for the first time in over 200 years to show support for New York’s recovery. In 2004, Federal Hall closed for a two-year renovation to repair the damage.

Location: 26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: 1939

Date of my visit: February 24, 2012

View of the NY Stock Exchange from the steps behind George Washington’s statue. The statue was placed in this spot in the late 1800s, and is believed to be where he stood on his inauguration day.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site


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Sagamore Hill was Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Cove Neck, NY.  Known for being the 26th President of the United States, Roosevelt grew up in New York and accomplished much here before taking on Washington DC. He served as NYC Police Commissioner (where he  initiated sweeping reforms in the police department) and Governor of New York before moving into national politics.


Of all Roosevelt’s achievements, he was proudest of his work in conservation. He created the first National Parks and signed into law the Antiquities Act (under which the president may designate National Monuments.)  So it is fitting that the National Park Service manages the home where he lived from 1886 until his death in 1919. The Sagamore Hill National Historic Site includes the mansion and also the Theodore Roosevelt Museum in a separate building on the grounds.


The mansion was originally 22 rooms, was built for his first wife Alice Lee and named Leeholm after her. But she died before the home was completed, soon after the birth of their daughter. When Roosevelt remarried and moved into the home with his new family, he changed the name to Sagamore Hill (Sagamore is the Algonquin word for chieftain.)


Ranger-led tours of Sagamore Hill can be reserved on the NPS website or purchased on a first-come basis at the visitor center. The North Room, part of a 1905 expansion, is filled with Roosevelt’s keepsakes and safari trophies. This room, along with others on the first floor, served as the ‘Summer White House’ for part of Roosevelt’s presidency. We were awed by this room, though struck by the irony of all the animal trophies in the home of one of our countries foremost conservationists.


The site had just reopened at the time of our visit after an extensive multi-million-dollar, 4-year restoration project. It is beautifully preserved and most of the furnishings are original. The ranger’s narrative gave us a real feel for the dynamic leader and family man Roosevelt must have been.


Location: 20 Sagamore Hill Rd, Oyster Bay, NY 11771

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 7/25/1962

Date of my visit: 2/7/2016

This windmill is a modern replica of the one Theodore Roosevelt originally installed. Because there was no electrical service here in those days, the windmill was used to pump water to a holding tank on the 3rd floor to provide running water for household needs.
A bathroom with running water was a luxury at the time. The house was expanded to include the bathroom in 1905.
One of the daughter’s bedrooms
The kitchen, with running water
Quentin Roosevelt was Theodore’s youngest & favorite son He was killed in action in WWI and awarded a Harvard degree posthumously,

National Historic Landmark: Lyndhurst


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Lyndhurst is a Gothic revival mansion that sits on 67 acre park overlooking the Hudson river. The New York City mayor William Paulding built  Lyndhurst as his retirement home with architect Alexander Davis. Work began on the structure in 1838. It was so ornate and detailed that it took 5 years to complete.


The building was unusual for its time in that it was asymmetrical and featured a lot of ornamental turrets. It has a wood frame structure with a marble facade giving it a castle-like appearance.  The marble for the building was mined at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York.


The second owner, merchant George Merritt engaged the original architect to double the size of the house. The 7000 square foot addition is virtually seamless because it was all Alexander Davis’ vision.


Merritt had Italian-style murals painted on the ceiling of the drawing room near the entrance. There are twelve panels, each panel representing an hour between sunrise and sunset. Merit only spent nine years at Lyndhurst before he passed away.


The estate was then purchased by Jay Gould, a railroad tycoon. Gould lived there from 1880 until his death in 1892. Ownership of Lyndhurst then passed on to each of his children. Anna Gould, the last surviving daughter, donated the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961. It became a National Landmark in 1966.


My daughter and I signed up for a basic guided tour of the mansion. I was able to get discounted tickets because of my membership in the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Our guide Nathan met us at the carriage house and visitor center. There was a short film shown about the history of Lyndhurst. Then our group walked up to the mansion and toured the rooms on the ground and second floors.


The National Trust has kept one room very simple and faithful to the way it was during the time of William Paulding, the first owner.


The more ornate drawing room just off the foyer is representative of the time of George Merritt, the second owner. The rest of the house is the way it was when the Goulds lived there.


Nathan told us that Jay Gould was the most hated man in America during his time. He was a ruthless business man who caused the financial ruin, and perhaps suicides, of some of his adversaries.


But in his private life, Gould was a family man devoted to his wife and children. He took a yacht down the Hudson River every day to travel to his office in New York City. This was not an easy commute.


He returned home each evening rather than staying in his city apartment so that he could spend time with his family.

Jay Gould’s ‘laptop’: Each day this 100 pound folding desk was locked up and carried to Gould’s boat to accompany him to his office in NYC. He kept all of his records here.


Location: 635 S Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: November 13, 1966

Date of my visit: August 24, 2018

There is Tiffany glass-work throughout the mansion. Tiffany was a neighbor of the Goulds.
These elaborate ironwork and marble breakfronts are actually coverings for the radiators.
The high-ceilinged art gallery on the second floor
Madonna of the Roses, hanging in the art gallery
Bedroom of one of the Gould daughters



Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River: Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct


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The National Park Service manages the stretch of the Delaware from Hancock to Sparrowbush, NY…about 73 miles…under the Wild and Scenic River System. The Upper Delaware is considered recreational, rather than wild, since the park has some means to control the flow of the water.


Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct/Bridge on the Upper Delaware is also maintained by the NPS. It is the oldest wire suspension bridge in the US and was built by John A. Roebling, who is best known for building the Brooklyn Bridge.


The Delaware Aqueduct used the same engineering principles as the Brooklyn Bridge.


I attended a meet-up here with the National Park Travelers Club. The NPTC has about 2000 paid members nationwide, all who share a passion for visiting the 417 NPS units.  The club had arranged for a park ranger to give our group a tour of the bridge and The Zane Grey museum.


The Aqueduct was built to carry the Delaware and Hudson Canal across the Delaware River. The canal was built in 1828 to carry coal from mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. The canal was abandoned in 1898 when the railroad became a more efficient means of transportation.


Our tour began at the D&H Towpath Trail on the New York side of the river. The towpath was once used by mules to help the canal boats move downstream. It now passes under the bridge and past the remnants of a half-mile stretch of the old canal.


Next we followed the ranger past the old toll house, which now is a museum with displays about life on the canal.


We crossed the bridge on the southern pedestrian walk and returned on the northern walk trying to imagine what it had looked like when it was filled with water.  (Scroll to the end for a short video clip.)


When the park purchased the bridge, they restored it to its original appearance, except for the concrete road bed installed to safely accommodate a single lane of traffic. It had already been converted from aqueduct to bridge sometime after the abandonment of the canal, but the road was made of timbers. These had rotted out and actually collapsed under the weight of a truck crossing the bridge.


At each display, the ranger paused to point out features like the steel cable used to suspend the bridge and the ice breakers designed to protect the structure from ice floes in the spring.


Back on the New York side of the river, the ranger pointed out some ruins across the street that were from the old canal. State highway 97 follows the path the canal once took, parallel to the Delaware River.



Location: Lackawaxen, PA

Designation: National Scenic & Recreational River

Date designation declared: 1978

Date of my visit: 7/18/2018

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area: Camp Shanks


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Happy Veterans Day and thank you to all who have served!


The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area  is one of the forty-nine federally recognized National Heritage Areas in the United States. The Hudson Valley NHA is considered a National Park Service affiliate. Through the partnership with the Park Service and other organizations, the Heritage Area includes over one hundred sites spread across ten counties in New York State.


Camp Shanks was the military base that was the last stop in the USA for soldiers heading out to the front lines during World War II. The majority of the landing forces for the D-Day invasion shipped out from here.


The government built the complex of barracks, mess halls, and other buildings in 1942 in Orangeburg, NY, forcing hundreds of local residents from their homes via eminent domain.


Approximately 1.5 million G.I.s were processed through the facility before shipping out to combat. Most soldiers spent eight to twelve days there.


There were also female soldiers in the Women’s Army Corps who lived on the base to keep it running.


Today, Camp Shanks is commemorated by a museum behind the town library in a recreated barracks building with displays and artifacts from the time period.


The museum is open on weekends and is staffed by volunteers who are World War II veterans. The three men who were there the day I visited answered my questions and were happy to pose for a picture for me


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

  • DeWint House (Washington’s HQ at Tappan) – Coming Soon!
  • Camp Shanks

Location: 20 Greenbush Road, Orangeburg, NY

Designation: National Heritage Area

Date designation declared: 1996

Date of my visit: 8/18/2018


Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum


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The FDR Roosevelt Presidential Library was built under the direction of FDR himself in order to preserve the records of the 32nd president of the United States. Roosevelt had been a collector his whole life, believed he would only serve two terms when he broke ground for the library and wanted to insure public access to his presidential collections. Dedicated in 1941, it is managed by the National Archives and Records Administration.


Because of the precedent set by FDR’s library, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955 in order to preserve the papers of future presidents for the public. FDR’s is the first of 13 Presidential Libraries.


The land for the library was donated by FDR and his mother Sara Roosevelt. It sits on 16 acres within the Hyde Park estate and the FDR National Historic Site. FDR used a room in the library as his office.


The museum has sections for Roosevelt’s early life and family history, his four presidential campaigns and the different eras spanned by his terms. There are also displays devoted to Eleanor, the First Lady.


There are many interactive displays and videos…you could spend the whole day here if you stopped to press all the buttons, read all of the displays and watch the clips. But I wanted to see the three NPS sites in Hyde Park that day, so I had to take a more abbreviated tour through the library.


Hyde Park posts:

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


Location: 4079 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: Presidential Library

Date designated or established: 6/30/1941

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

Freedom Court, in front of the presidential library, commemorates the shared ideals of FDR and Winston Churchill. The sculpture at the center is ‘Break Free’ and was designed by Churchill’s granddaughter.