Monday, May 30, 2011

The National Watch and Clock Museum, Columbia, PA

We visited the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia yesterday and we were very impressed with their great collection of watches, clocks and timepieces.  This museum is dedicated to horology, which is the study of time and timekeeping.

In 1943, 52 members got together wishing to learn more about their collection of watches and clocks. It became nonprofit 1945 and opened their first chapter in Philadelphia.  These days, it is an organization with 174 chapters and over 23,000 members worldwide .

It has grown from a small private collection in 1971 to the building that you see here.  Currently there are approximately 1,500 watches and clocks on display, with an additional 12,500 archived timepieces for research. Exhibits range from the beginning of time to present day and includes many different kinds of clocks and watches including the Engle Monumental clock, .pictured below.  Built around 1876 by Stephen Engle, this monumental clock has 48 moving figures and two organs.  The admission fee of twenty five cents was charged to see the Eighth Wonder of the World, as it traveled around the eastern half of the United States.
The Engle Clock is demonstrated by hand every hour on the hour.  Many thanks to our volunteer Doug, for showing our group this fascinating clock.  

Many thanks also to Joe, pictured with me at the entrance to the museum who we connected with right away. 

There is also a research library on the premises, there are educational programs and you can learn clock and watchmaking.  There is also a short film shown before beginning your tour of the exhibitions.

Our stay at the museum lasted over two hours, but that's just not enough to enjoy all the services this great museum provides.  If you are in the Lancaster County area, the National Clock and Watch Museum is a must see.
.  As usual, here are the links

This is a link from the National Watch and Clock Museum's official site with more information on the Engle Monumental Clock. .

 This is the museum's site

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunken Forest, Fire Island National Seashore, Fire Island

Here I am, binoculars in hand, waiting anxiously for my first ever trip by ferry to the Sunken Forest at Sailor's Haven on Fire Island.  Actually, it was Rob and Susan's first trip there as well.  It was a cold day, but the trip was worth it.The Sunken Forest or maritime foresthas been around for 250 years   and many people do not believe such a place exists on Fire Island's sandy shore. 
A lonely deer and the Visitor's Center. 
 This is a 32 mile long barrier island where change occurs frequently due to storms and its own unique natural environment such as climate, vegetation and soil.  This forest not only supports Fire Island's many different ecosystems, but is the most stable natural feature on the Island. The trees never have to pruned or taken care of, salt spray from the ocean takes care of that.  This salt spray flows over the tops of the primary and secondary dunes, keeping the trees as tall as the inner secondary dune.  What happens is that this dune forms behind the primary dune, which faces the ocean side of the island. The secondary dune protects the forest and
Primary dune on the ocean side of the island
is the only reason that the forest exists here at all.  These dunes are an unusual feature of the island probably caused by an inlet that once ran from the Atlantic Ocean side to the Great South Bay.

While the salt spray keeps the trees low. it also provides the trees with the necessary essentials to keep them growing such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium aerosols.  This also causes the trees to form a sort of canopy by the time mid summer approaches.  This is a natural process which the trees take in through their roots and leaves. There are many examples of such trees which I will provide a little later. 

From the top of the secondary dune

Following a 1.5 mile boardwalk through the Sunken Forest provides a unique view of the beautiful and unique trees, plants and freshwater bogs.  Some of the trees are the rare American holly, shadblow and sassafrass.  According to the pamphlet we received at the Visitor's Center, this maritime forest is said to be at or near it's climax. 

Here are the usual links:

The official site of the Sunken Forest.  This link below provides a virtual tour of the boardwalk, trees and plants. It also explains the history of the Sunken Forest.

Article from Loving Long Island :
An introduction to Sailor's Haven

Cherry Grove, Fire Island, 15 minutes away from Sailor's Haven and where we caught the ferry back from.

Wikipedia article,_New_York

Secondary dune at the back entrance to the ocean side of the island
Canopy tree
Freshwater bog
At the start of the Sunken Forest boardwalk on the bay side
Inside the forest

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Untermeyer Park, Yonkers, NY

This is Untermeyer Park, once the estate of  corporate lawyer Samuel Untermeyer.  It is also known as the Untermeyer Garden Conservancy, a non profit organization dedicated to restoring the lovely Persian garden of Mr. Untermeyer.

I am sitting in the middle of a round temple pictured below on the head of Medusa from the Greek myths.  For those who don't know, one look in her eyes and all men would turn to stone.  Perseus would finally end her reign by beheading her.  This round temple sits atop a swimming pool, also decorated with mosaic tiles depicting sea life, such as fish, sea horses and a lobster. 

The gardens were designed by Welles Bosworth in 1912 and covered over 150 acres overlooking the Hudson River.  At one time it was maintained by 60 gardeners and was supplied by 60 greenhouses.  It was also open to the public every week in the 20's and 30's.  According to the official website, in 1939,  30,000 people visited the gardens in just one day. In 1946,  Yonkers acquired only a part of the gardens and in 1990, would acquire another part making a total of 45 acres.

Entrance to the walled garden
Samuel Untermeyer was a prominent lawyer in his day, and later became a trust buster.  He had a large part in creating the Federal Reserve System and set up legal reforms for the stock exchanges.  He was a Democrat and a close friend of Woodrow Wilson.  His wife, Minnie, was famous for bringing conductor Gustav Mahler to the New York Philharmonic in 1909.

But Samuel Untermeyer was also a passionate horticulturist and wanted these gardens to be the "finest in the world."    He knew much about gardening and often recruited English gardeners to maintain his beautiful gardens.  According to the official website, if he had to live his life over again, he would have wanted to be Parks Commissioner. 

Griffins by Paul Manship. . It is said that these mythical creatures always guarded something precious such as music and culture. In this case they guard the small amphitheater in back.

The outside wall before entering the garden.  Note the battlements and towers typical of Persian gardens.
Back of the garden taken from the stage of the amphitheater.
The Persian Gardens are divided into four sections, featuring the elements of fire, ice, water and earth, The enclosed gardens symbolizes paradise while the four water segments symbolize the rivers of paradise.  Corner towers were served as forts, lookouts or just summer housing.  There is also a spectacular view of the Palisades. 

Swimming pool and lovely view of the Palisades

Eagles Nest also known as the Temple of Love. You can climb down the steps to a cave.

The Temple of Love or Eagle's Nest was designed as a centerpiece for a rock garden which no longer can be seen.  You can climb up to the top and look out at the magnificent view of the Palisades, then climb to the bottom to visit the cave.  There is also a gruesome history to this park. It is rumored that Son of Sam visited this park often and some animal sacrifices were performed at the cave in the 70's. 
 Here are some more pics that were taken yesterday.

This is Tom who helped us find the Temple of Love and gave us some history of the park.
Lower gardens
Here are some links.

Official website.  This not only contains extensive history of the gardens but there is a gallery full of before and after pictures of the garden and the mansion that once the Untermeyers lived in.  It has been torn down and is now a hospital. Check out the Smithsonian collection of slides of the beautiful gardens from 1940 located in the gallery section.

Abandoned New York site.  This tells the history of the Son of Sam and the animal sacrifices inside the cave.

Wikipedia site

Lost Beauty.  More pictures of Untermeyer Park

Magnificent view of the Palisades
The cave

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Raynham Hall Museum, Oyster Bay, LI, NY

Here I am at Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay, LI, NY.  While Susan and Rob have already toured the house, I talked them into stopping as they went past.  The house was not open on this particular day so we just photographed the outside of the house and decided to share its history with you.
After purchasing the property in 1738, Samuel Townsend and his wife moved into  a four room frame house with an orchard across the street and a meadow leading down to the harbor. By 1740, the house, now known as "The Homestead" had grown to eight rooms to accommodate a large family and a growing mercantile business.  Mr. Townsend had become a wealthy merchant who owned four ships that sailed to Europe, South America and the West Indies. Samuel also owned and operated a general store out of his home where he sold a variety of goods.  He served as a Justice of the Peace and was also the Town Clerk and was an elected to the New York Provincial Congress. 
During the Revolutionary War, while many Long Islanders were Loyalists, Samuel Townsend considered himself a Patriot. His son, Robert, was a part of the George Washington's Culper Spy Ring and was known as Culper Junior.  While the British occupied the town until the end of the war, it was during a six month period from 1778 to 1779 that the Queen's Rangers made their headquarters at the Townsend home.  According to legend, Sally Townsend overheard two officers discussing Benedict Arnold's plot to surrender West Point to the British.  She passed the information on to her brother Robert and the rest as they say is history. 

In 1851, the house was purchased by Samuel Townsend's grandson, Solomon Townsend II, also a wealthy merchant and importer.  He transformed the house into a Victorian villa and renamed it Raynham Hall after an ancestral home in Norfolk, England.  It was mostly used a summer house until 1861 when it became a permanent residence. He was also involved with the Town of Oyster Bay and served on the State Legislature. By 1860 he was one of the wealthiest and most respected men in Oyster Bay.

Relatives of the Townsend's bought Raynham Hall in 1914 to prevent further change. It was used as tea room and a meeting place for the Oyster Bay Historical and Genealogical Society until 1941 when the house was donated to the Daughters of the American Revolution.  They kept the house open until 1947 when it was  passed to the Town of Oyster Bay.  In 1953, the house was restored to the original  "saltbox" of the 1740's with the help of the Friends of Raynham Hall. 

I have included some links which will explain more about the house:

This is the official Raynham Hall site.  Very informative site and includes pictures, blueprints and history of the house where I borrowed some pictures from.

 Wikipedia article

Long Island Paranormal Investigators site: