Fun Bunny off to see the water!

This was a spontaneous bit of fun I did when I went to the farmer’s market in Old Town, Alexandria. It’s right near the waterfront, so I wandered down.

It was about 7:30 in the morning and the sun was just coming up. I got this shot of the Potomac River.

Potomac River as the sun comes up.  Ducks swim in the water.

I like visiting this area because it’s a mix of both history and the new. This used be a major shipping port in the 1700s. George Washington stopped here on his way from Mount Vernon to Washington, DC.

It was at least several days to travel. Now it takes probably 20-30 minutes, depending on the traffic.

Just up the street is a tavern where people stayed. The tavern made me realize that in many fantasy novels, the writers don’t really have a sense of what the size of one of these places are. It’s pretty small, and you shared rooms with other travelers.

George Washington’s townhouse (a replica) is a few blocks away. There’s also an actual cobblestone street. Very hard to walk on.

I actually like the feel of this area so much I’ve used it as a setting in several stories:

  • Nothing Town,
  • Ambush Cargo
  • Tidying Magic, which is coming out in an upcoming pirate anthology. Ghosts, pirates, and tidying. That’s the Writing Nerd!

Circling back to the farmer’s market, I came across this oddity:

Statue of man hanging from straps over base it was removed from.

It looks like the city was restoring the base, but seeing the statue suspended like that was very odd, to say the least!

Adventures around the Web September 30-October 6, 2017

Story Bundle

2017 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle

As always, there’s a writing bundle in time for Nano.  I always like these bundles because the quality is pretty high.

I wouldn’t mind having either my military writer’s guide or my pantser’s guide show up in one of these…

Women in the Military Service for America Memorial Foundation

Women’s Army Corps

Women were recruited into the WACs because of a shortage of men.  They were initially on civilian status, but were later given military status.  The article gives some descriptions of the training, including how the clothes (didn’t) fit, and what it was like to be deployed.  Some things do not change, no matter the time in history!

June Rivers on Little Things

Dick Van Dyke 

The first movie I remember seeing is Dick Van Dyke’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which I named a kitten after).  And, of course, the walnut episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show (if you haven’t seen that one, it has aliens from outer space).  This link is worth it for the video.  I’d like to be like that at 90!

Arlington County, Virginia

George Washington’s Forest

I’ve walked around all these places.  Had no idea about the mill–and I’ve walked under that bridge (though it looks better on the video. I always thought it looks like a place where you would get mugged). Have to check out the last stop and see the tree.

Adventures in History: Old Town Alexandria

For Labor Day, I decided to wander around Old Town, Alexandria. It’s a place where it’s like walking between two different times.  We have all the historic buildings and shops like Starbucks and Banana Republic.

It was a pretty nice day for wandering.  Not too hot and not too cold (we’ll have cold soon enough!).  Everyone was out walking their dogs, so lots of doggy action.

Alexandria was originally part of Washington, DC.   During the 1700s, it was major shipping port.  Those wonderful tall ships came down the river to pick up tobacco and other goods.  It was such a popular port that the city built out the waterfront from Lee Street down.

Visitor map is here if you want to follow along.  That street will become very important soon.

Potomac River from Alexandria

This is the Potomac River from Waterfront Park.  Maryland is that land in the distance.  In the 1800s, the British burned Washington DC.  Then enemy warships came down this area.  Fearing the same thing would happen to the city, Alexandria waved a white flag of surrender.

Statue of the Seafarer

This statue was also in the park.  It was called “The Seafarer.”  Not a specific person, but a beautiful work of art.

Then it was off to check out Point Lumley.  I admit I was thinking that there might be a lighthouse (there is one somewhere in the area).  Lumley was named after the skipper of a ship that moored there.  So I walked down Union Street.

As I pass a hotel, I catch a passing conversation.  A woman tells the concierge if he knows about the Coast Guard ship on the next block.

Wait…ship?  What ship?

Needless to say I have to explore this.

The Coast Guard ship Eagle moored at Point Lumley

I turn left on Duke street and see these masts.  Holy cow!

I was expecting a Coast Guard cutter, not a tall ship.  Magnificent, isn’t it?

It’s called Eagle.  Across the water, I can hear a woman’s voice over the intercom.  There is also a lot of activity on board, with the crew about their business.

After this, it’s time for Captain’s Row.

Historical signage for Captain's Row

This is a sign in front of a two block street dating back to 1783 and preserved for us to have a look.

Captain's Row Cobblestone street

It’s a cobblestone street.  I read about cobblestone streets in books, but this is what one actually looks like . I try to walk on it, a little bit.  The stones are very uneven.  Some have settled in places.  Not good for my feet.

A closeup shot of cobblestone

And a closeup of what it looks like.

Bizarrely, as I look at cobblestone from three hundred years ago, jets are roaring overhead.  I’m on the flight path for Reagan Airport.

Next up is George Washington.  I’m on Lee Street again, so I follow that to Cameron, then turn left.  I know George had a townhouse here.

From the perspective of today, it seems like a long ways. But if he lived here before the waterfront was built out, then he might have been pretty close to the water.

View of Gatsby's Tavern

My trip up Cameron takes me past Gatsby’s Tavern.  It’s actually a museum and a restaurant.  I’ll spend a whole post on that, since there’s a lot to see.

Sign saying George ate here

And, as you can see, this was a place that George Washington visited.  Hmm.  Maybe I need to check out the restaurant when I visit the museum.

Replica of George Washington's Townhouse

And here is George’s townhouse.

It’s actually a replica of the house and privately owned.  But note in the left window that George is peeping out.  George would stay here when he traveled in from Mount Vernon.

It’s also amazing because I never knew this was here, and I nearly always pass by it trying to get out of Old Town.

By the time, I’ve done a lot of walking, so I’m heading back.  But not without one last stop.

Historic city hall, fountain, and American flag

This is City Hall.  The building is historic.  The fountain and the flag is pretty cool.  It’s a lot of water, and the air is filled with the scents of it.

Back down to Lee Street and my car.  Parking for 90 minutes was fourteen bucks!

Adventures in History: Gunston Hall

After this last week, I really needed a fun outing or two.  So it was off to Gunston Hall.  I’d seen the signs on the way to Pohick Bay Park and Mason Neck Park, but I’d never visited before.  The day started out a little chilly.

Gunston Hall was the home of George Mason.  That’s a familiar name around Northern Virginia, though his role in history is largely forgotten.  And it was an important role!

He was a plantation owner at the time of the Revolutionary War.  He drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights, which was used as a basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights.

When everyone gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution, he was one of three people who refused to sign.  They were called the “non-signers” (some trends don’t die.  I’ve certainly seen some labeling today).  The other two were Edmond Randolph (many streets and schools named after him) and Elbridge Gerry (haven’t seen his name around).

George Washington disagreed and thought the Constitution was enough.  George and George had been friends, but the disagreement effectively ended their friendship.  George Washington never visited George Mason again.

Now for the pictures!

Maps first:

Map showing George Mason's properties

This is a map that shows where George Mason owned land.  All the brown squares represent his land.  He was a third generation Mason, and each family member acquired more land.  He owned a lot of land!  Most of is now gone.  All that’s left is the area where the house is.

George Mason's house

This is the house.  It’s in the Georgian style, where everything is symmetrical, which you can see in the location of the chimneys, the windows–even the door and the window over it.

The name of the house comes from the family home in England.

Inside, I’m walking on a plank floor that George Washington, James Madison, and even Winston Churchill has walked on.  The planks creak under my feet, announcing where I am to the house.

Parlor Room with ornate fireplace

This is the parlor room.  Some of the furniture in the house is original, obtained from donations, loans, or auctions.

The colors on the walls and fireplace are also what they would have been in George Mason’s time.  The fireplace was carved out of black walnut.  It was, indeed, painted, because paint was a luxury item.  If you could afford paint, you painted everything.

The Family Room of the era, showing a desk and chairs

This was the family room of the era.  This desk was the one George Mason actually used, and perhaps he drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights here.  His family would also eat in here.

It was also the room where he passed away.

Framed bed with yellow drapes and green walls

The bedroom.  The green paint was an expensive color for the time.  You can’t see it in the photo, but there’s also a pantry in here.  Mrs. Mason locked up the valuables in it: chocolate, sugar, and tea.

Mrs. Mason was also friends with Martha Washington, so maybe they talked about the two Georges in here. 🙂

View of the gardens through the rear door

This is the view of the gardens through the back door.  The trees lining the path are the original Boxwoods–240 years old!  The trees were struck by a disease or a blight, so they’re not in good shape.

By the time I get outside, it’s nice out.  Comfortably warm, though clouds are moving in. The last of the cicadas are buzzing, hoping for a mate.  They probably only have a few weeks left.

18th Century Kitchen

I stop by for a look at the kitchen.  In George Mason’s time, it was a separate building.  A later owner added a kitchen onto the end of the house.  After the house was turned over to the state of Virginia, that was removed to help restore the house to its original appearance.

The business end of a well

And another well, right across from the kitchen building. I couldn’t see the bottom of this.  There were two women checking this out too and commented it was the perfect place to lose your cell phone in.

The room where the ironing was done.

And another exterior building where the laundry was done.  I was reminded of a story my grandmother told.  When she moved into the family house–after having grown up during the Depression–she was horrified at the seeming extravagance of having eight table cloths.  Turned out the reason for it was because it took so long to clean each one and iron it out.

The school room for the kids

The interior or the schoolhouse where the family’s children learned every day.  Since the winters here can get pretty cold, can you imagine huddling here by the fire and listening to the teacher?  The light might not have been too good either during those winter months.

View of the Potomac River through the trees

My final part was a nice walk out in the grassy area behind the house.  A pebble path wove around, though it was hard to walk on.  The pebbles kept shifting under my feet with each step, and in unexpected ways.  I had to be careful not to fall!

The small T about 1/3 down and 1/3 across is the Potomac River.

It was a pretty fun day.  You can read more about Gunston Hall and George Mason here.

A Veteran/Writer Looks at History: Leesylvania State Park

It’s off to Leesylvania State Park for another round of checking out the local history of the area

Leesylvania State Park is south of Washington, DC, about twenty miles or so.  It’s probably better known for boating because it’s on the Potomac River.  But the park also has a pocket of history–I only found it because I checked out the park.

Leesylvania means “Lee’s Woods.”  In this case, it was General Lee’s father who owned a plantation on the land, along with a family named Fairfax.  Both of those are common names around Virginia: Leesburg (city), Leesburg Pike, Lee Street, Lee Highway, Fairfax county, Fairfax (city), Fairfax Street. I like looking at street names because they often tell a lot about the story of a place.

Map of the park is here if you want to check it out and see where I’m going.

First stop is Free Stone Point Beach.

Freestone Point Beach, viewed from the Potomac River

It looks like a bunch of trees, but it’s actually a bluff.  It’s more obvious during winter after the leaves have fallen.  This bluff was a landmark for ships navigating on the Potomac River during George Washington’s time.

This was Confederate territory during the Civil War.  It’s strange to feel that between the last place I visited and this one, I crossed the battle lines.  But time has a way of smoothing those lines out and blending them together.

The Confederates had an artillery battery here.  It was actually used as a decoy by General Lee while he built batteries at Possom Point, Cockpit Point, and Evansport.

But that didn’t stop a skirmish from happening at Free Stone Point.  On September 25, 1861, a Union gunship fired on the Confederate battery.  They exchanged artillery.  Didn’t do much to either side.

War is strange, isn’t it?

Fishing pier on the Potomac, showing a sign for Maryland

It was a nice walk out here.  I waded into the water–it was surprisingly warm.  The currents were quite strong–a constant slushing sound coming to shore.

I decided to walk on the fishing pier.  Note the Maryland sign.  This was about 30 feet in, so I crossed the state line into Maryland on the river.  When I was growing up, I thought crossing a state line would be more dramatic.  If I hadn’t noticed the sign…

This border was pretty important in 1957, because Virginia did not allow gambling or drinking.  But Maryland did.  So an enterprising person moored a “recreation resort” boat named the S.S. Freestone on the Maryland border.

Off to the Lee Wood’s Path.  That’s about two miles round trip, and I spent most of my time repelling all borders from bugs and cobwebs.

Ruins of a chimney, and the foundation of the Fairfax house.

Ah ha!  Ruins.  These are from the Fairfax family’s house.  The chimney’s all that’s left, with warning signs all over that the bricks are unstable.  This was the Fairfax Plantation house, one of the places George Washington stopped by to stay when he was coming into DC.  Even though Mount Vernon was 14 miles away, they were neighbors.

Path through woods

This is the path I took through Lee’s Woods.  It was steep in some places and had me sweating.  Much better to take it in winter.  It made me wonder what this place looked like when the plantations were here.  How did people get around?  How big were the plantations?

A sign marking where the Lee house stood

The sign marks where the Lee House stood, but time didn’t leave much behind.  If the sign hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have know the house had been here.  There used to be a foundation, but a road building project (now gone) destroyed the foundation.

But the Lees had a garden nearby.  One of the interesting bits here that I like for stories are what they did with the trees.  The nuts from the American birches were ground up for flour, pressed for oil, or roasted for coffee.  And, of course, eaten whole.

White oak trees were used to make barrels for wine, and the dogwoods were used for tool handles.

Site of old railroad, now taken over by trees

You can’t tell with this photo, but that’s a steep drop off.  And it’s where a railroad was built, going from Neabsco to Powells’ Creek.  It was completed in 1872.  Doesn’t look like a place for a railroad, does it?

The railroad company had a lot of problems with the location.  They had to do a lot of work to maintain the grade so it was more level.  Because of the terrain, there were landslides and derailments.  One train had to be hauled back up the side with tree!

Brick Chimney

This was at the end of the path.  I knew I was getting close to the end because I could hear the buzz of boat motors coming from the river.

The chimney is what remains of the Freestone Point Hunt Club.  It was established in 1926 by businessmen from New York.  They hunted ducks on the Potomac and hunted so many that the population declined.  The club closed in 1957, and this is all that’s left.

More information on the park is here.

A Tall Ship and Humidty to Sail Her By

This week, the Hermione was docked in Alexandria, Virginia for tours and picture taking and lots and lots of people:

Hermione, an exact replica of the ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington with news of full French aid in 1780, turning the tide of the American Revolution.

I was hoping to get a ticket for a tour on board, so I left home at 7:30 and got there probably about eightish.  There were already 200 people in line for the stand-by tickets.

It was also headed into the eighties and very humid.  So I walked around and took pictures of the ship.

18th century ship

It was a lot bigger than I expected.  There is truth to John Masefield’s poem line, “And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”  The masts were easily three stories tall.

18th century replica ship

It was so big I was having trouble getting a picture of the whole ship.

Full shot of 18th century ship

Aelxandria overlooks the Potomac River