Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Philadelphia Zoo Adventure

The Philadelphia Zoo
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gazelle Fountain / Main Entrance
It was predicted to be a hot and humid day in early July but it was summer, so what can you do?  My daughter Katelyn and I decided to head east to the Philadelphia Zoo, located a short distance outside center city.  We had been here before a few years ago and decided to come back to visit some of our favorite animals and attractions.  The zoo is a 42 acre oasis in the shape of a half-moon, flanked by the curve of a multitude of rail lines and the Schuylkill Expressway.  Ironically, your travel route to the zoo becomes more congested the closer you get.  You escape the expressway at the Girard Avenue exit and soon run right into the zoo.  Make a quick turn down 34th Street to find parking for $12, a few dollars short of the price of an admission ticket... an annoying pet-peeve of mine. 

Cheetah Habitat Exhibit
We arrived around 11:00 AM, an hour and a half after the zoo opened for the day and the parking lots were labeled full.  Parking along the street is an option but still costs $12 and requires a long walk to the zoo entrance.  A better option is to continue onward to the Frog Parking Lot at the far end of 34th Street where you can usually find a space and enter the park from the back side entrance.  After parking your car and entering through the South Gate entrance, you are just a few short steps away from the exhibits.  Your goal is to see everything so it doesn't really matter what section of the zoo you start your safari adventure.  We entered into the zoo and started out with the Cheetah exhibit within the African Plains section of the zoo.   

King Merlin at Rest on Pride Rock
As soon as we entered the zoo it began to cloud up, which I hoped would block the sun and cool things off but the clouds brought along a light rain.  We started our loop around the exterior walkway of the park, checking out the animals as we went but the rain intensified into a downpour causing us to take refuge in a souvenir shop that was, thankfully, air-conditioned.  They were not calling for rain so I checked the radar on my phone and watched a colorful storm cell grow on the screen right over top of us that soon produced thunder, lightning, and blowing rain!  We suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the Philadelphia rain forest!  The storm raged on for about an hour and I was glad we had ducked into a store for cover because it kept Katelyn entertained and it was a place with a cool temperature to wait it out.  Eventually the storm passed and we were soon able to go outside to continue our adventure through Africa.

A Really Cool Green Snake
Rather than cool things off, the moisture from the storm created a steam bath atmosphere for most of our afternoon stay but there were many indoor exhibits of reptiles, amphibians, and primates to escape the heat.  We entered the Big Cat Falls area, one of the highlights of the zoo.  It brought back memories of when I was on a field trip in elementary school a long time ago... in a galaxy far far away, back in the early 70's.  Back in the day, the big cats were housed inside small barred cages that allowed them a little room to walk about but not much more.  They paced back and forth at a hectic pace, appearing trapped, imprisoned and restless.  I remember feeling sorry for them.  Sadly, this was probably the zoo experience practiced around the world at the time.  Thankfully, we have since learned to create captivity habitats that are much more open and remarkably similar to their natural habitats and environments.

Tiger in the Big Cat Falls Exhibit
Philadelphia Zoo's Big Cat Falls today is one such created space, with the animals needs placed at top of the list of priorities.  The big cat exhibit is an outdoor habitat that gives them a lot more room to roam about with rock outcroppings, natural vegetation, and sources of fresh water in the form of pools, streams, and waterfalls.  As you walk through the path that twists and turns from one observation point to another, you feel like you really are in Africa or Asia viewing these impressive animals.  Several points give you a close up view of the action in the form of glass partitions that allow for great photographs.  Zoo staff members were on hand at various points to answer questions about the African lions, Amur tigers, snow leopards, pumas, jaguars, and Amur leopards.  There were also several indoor stops along the route to learn more about the cats on display.  We were glad they were air-conditioned to allow us a break from the heat.  Several cats were cooling off in the water, teasing the envious overheated human onlookers!

Jabral / Western Lowland Gorilla
Another popular attraction was the PECO Energy sponsored Primate House where various monkeys, gorillas, and orangutangs were the star of the show.  Many of the primates had access to both indoor and outdoor habitats, with indoor spaces that were four to five stories high and enclosed in glass for easy viewing of the animals.  A group of squirrel monkeys raced about the jumble of trees and various apparatus within their space to the delight of kids of all ages.  Next door, a pair of orangutangs rolled about between the large inside and outside habitat areas, while Colombian black spider monkeys flew through the air, swinging their long arms from rope to rope, simulating vines of the jungle.  One of the monkeys had just given birth to a newborn a few short weeks ago and cradled her baby with the care and concern of any protective mother.  They were perched high above the crowd of human primate onlookers, who were touched by the tender scene. 

Merlin Rolling in the July Sun
We continued our rounds from one exhibit to another and made our way to the elephant preserve, where Ben had entertained us so much during our last visit.  Unfortunately, it was closed off and was now an active construction site for a planned new children's zoo and educational center.  We found out that Ben and his friends had been relocated to another preserve where they were free to roam in a much larger area more like their natural habitat.  Ben had really been fun to watch last year as he entered a pool of water and splashed about playfully, occasionally spraying the spectators with water from his trunk.  We were hoping for a repeat performance and were more than a little disappointed with the absence of the elephants.   However, I'm sure our loss was Ben's gain as he and friends are now in a much better suited place and happier being more free to roam about in a more expansive space.  The zoo staff was hopeful that additional funding would one day become available to create an appropriate environment so the elephants could return to the zoo.

Flamingos on Parade
Next we took a stroll through Bird Valley to see the flamingos, penguins, and various swans that are always beautiful to see.  Right next door was Bear Country where a polar bear appropriately named Klondike was swimming in a large pool that had once been enclosed in glass so you would watch the action from an aquarium-like vantage point.  We also saw an Asiatic Black bear ironically named Ben, who emerged from a dip in the pool.  Ben was accompanied by a Andean bear from South America named Spike, who was wrestling with a plastic barrel for fun.  It didn't look very fun for the clawed and chewed up barrel!  There were a lot of toys available to keep all the animals entertained and several used items were on display for the public to handle to see the wear and tear from the claws and jaws of the wild animals.  We then went on to see the new expanded hippo area that had once been next to the old elephant preserve.  The zebras, giraffes, rhino, antelope, and too many critters to mention flanked the path of our route. 

The Solitude / Home of John Penn Jr.
OK, now for some history... The Philadelphia Zoo touts itself as America's oldest zoo, first charted by the State of Pennsylvania way back in 1859 but were forced to delay the official opening by fourteen years due to the American Civil War.  When it finally opened to the public on the first day of July in 1874, there were about 1,000 animals on display with an entry fee of a quarter for adults and a dime for kids.  Today over 1.3 million people visit the zoo annually to see approximately 1,300 animals, many of which are endangered from around the world.  The site of the zoo was the former home of John Penn Jr., the grandson of Pennsylvania's founder William Penn.  His Adam Style residence known as The Solitude still exists near the center of the zoo property.  Since the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the home has been slowly going through extensive renovations and restoration projects, including an underground tunnel that led to submerged kitchen vaults.  A group called the Friends of The Solitude continue to make needed improvements with hopes to one day open the house for tours to the public.  

Honk your "Horn" if you Love Rhinos!
Some of the architecture at the front entrance of the zoo is original to the early days of operation in the late 1800's.  Just outside the front gate is the best store of the entire zoo with a large selection of everything you could ever imagine buying at the zoo, including a monetary sponsorship of one or more of the endangered animals to help support their continual care.  You can exit the zoo by getting your hand stamped for easy re-entry but this is not an option at the south gate where we parked in the Frog Parking Lot.  Well, it was getting late and we were running out of energy anyway.  We stopped by the Big Cat Falls one more time to see the cats in action.  A black jaguar had made an appearance by playing in a creek within his section of the preserve.  The heat was finally breaking with a welcome breeze bringing a little relief.  Despite the hot and humid weather, the animals were very visible and surprisingly active throughout the mid-day hours of our visit.  Well duh, most were from Africa and used the heat... 

Asiatic Bear on the Prowl
The Philadelphia Zoo is a fun experience the whole family can enjoy.  It is not too big to be overwhelming or too small to lose the attention of the zookeeper wanna be in the crowd.  You can see everything in one day with plenty of time to revisit favorites and take breaks to cool off for a few minutes.  If summer zoo visits are not your thing, they are open year-round with the exception of major holidays.  Zebras in the snow?   Just as out of place as the penguins and polar bear seemed without winter's ice... Just didn't seem right.  I guess the zoo has something to offer in every season, which keeps people coming back and visiting year round.  We will definitely be back again!  

Prairie Dogs Pondering Something

Please Check my Additional Photos of the Zoo at...

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Choo-Choo Barn / Traintown

The Choo Choo Barn
Strasburg, Pennsylvania

Recreated Conestoga Creek
Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved model trains.  The best Christmas gift I ever received was a train set that was up and running around our dining room table one memorable year.  The Santa Fe set was complete with several buildings and accompanying scenery.  It was hard to leave the scene to go open my other presents... I must have been a very good boy that year.  Over the years my father, brother, and I took it up as a hobby, creating a two train layout mounted to a large sheet of plywood in our basement.  It is an expensive hobby and items were added sparingly over the years.  I loved going to several hobby shops and exploring the model train aisles with my dad to check out building kits, train cars, and accessories.  You were only limited by your imagination and wallet!

Dutch Wonderland Model Display
Over the years I have continued to dabble in model trains and set up a layout of my own under our family Christmas tree every year as a tradition.  Some of my favorite historical engines and cars are on display in my classroom for my students to see.  Every year when I get to the Transportation Revolution in Chapter 12 in my curriculum, I set up a small circular running layout in my classroom of an HO scale model of the  Dewitt Clinton, the first steam locomotive to operate in the state of New York in 1831.  It was named for the Governor of New York who promoted the construction of rail lines and the Erie Canal to link the far reaches of his state together.  The models make great props when discussing the role of trains in western expansion across the continent.  I am fortunate to share my interest in the hobby with my friend and former teaching mentor Don Huntsinger.  Don has built several display cases for the trains in my classroom, including the Dewitt Clinton, which protects the fragile trains while being viewed by 125 eighth graders on any given day. 

Red Caboose Motel Model Display
Living in Lancaster County we are fortunate to live so close to the Strasburg Railroad and multiple accompanying tourist attractions.  One of the nearby businesses close to the historic railway is the Choo Choo Barn, a model train display and supporting shops including a hobby store specializing in model trains.  I passed by the hard to miss sign of the Choo Choo Barn several times over the years not really realizing what it was, mistaking it something for very small children.  I was thrown off by a toy store in the complex specializing in Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train sets, that were great fun when my children were small.  They are safely packed away in storage for potential grandchildren someday... However, I'm in no hurry for that phase of my life yet!  Upon closer inspection one day during a drive-by and investigating in more depth on the internet, I thought it was something worth checking out.  Katelyn... grab your purse and... Lets Go!

Alpine Mountain Ski Resort at Dusk
The story of the Choo Choo Barn started in the basement of George Groff with a simple Lionel train set that was a Christmas present in 1945 for his young son... Sound familiar?  Over the years, the train set evolved and expanded, taking on a life of its own and taking over the basement of his home.  Soon friends, neighbors, and complete strangers heard about the elaborate train layout and wanted to see it for themselves.  The family home became a traditional Christmas visit for many who wanted to see what was added to the display in the past year.  Looking for a way to pay for his kids' college education, Mr. Groff saw a barn-like building become available just down the road from the newly opened historic Strasburg Railroad.  He thought it might be a small business opportunity, capitalizing on the traffic flow that traveled along Route 741 on their way to visit the railroad.  So on Thanksgiving Day in 1961, the Choo Choo Barn opened for business and has been in continuous operation ever since.

Busy Amtrak Station at Night
The popularity of George Groff's train display grew as the layout continued to expand year by year.  After he retired in 1979, his youngest son Thomas took over the business and along with his wife, became the new owners.  Over time, several spin-off businesses were created to compliment the Choo Choo Barn's success, including the Strasburg Train Shop where people can purchase high quality items to build their own detailed model train display.  However, it can still be an expensive pastime, so proceed with caution!  Shops continued to be added into what became known as Shops of Traintown, which has grown to include Railroad Books and Videos, Thomas Track-side Station, Candy Junction, Country Keepsakes, and an Issac's Restaurant.  See what can happen when you purchase a single little train set and add it with Location... Location... Location...

Dutch Wonderland at Night
When it first opened, the original Choo Choo Barn model train display had six trains running along track covering 600 square feet of space with six moving animated figures.  Today the layout has expanded to cover over 1700 square feet of space, 22 trains, and 150 moving figures... many of which you can control yourself with activation buttons.  Katelyn and I entered the display through a curtain doorway and were blown away by the active display that seemed more like a miniature world in high gear.  The space was tight with action and I don't think you could fit another square foot of train layout anywhere in the room.  It was fairly compact but there was so much to see, it was hard to leave your observation spot for fear of missing something.  Thankfully, you could encircle the route as many times as you wanted, allowing you to see something new each time.

Fire Department Responds 
The 150 moving figures in the form of people, animals, and vehicles were fun to find and fascinating to watch.  How did they do that?  The most complex scenario involved a house fire that broke out with bright flame and smoke.  A nearby fire station responds with the door rising up and a firetruck pulling out onto the street with lights flashing and sirens sounding.  The firetruck pulls up to the house in distress and firefighters appear to put out the fire with real water.  A ladder rises up to the roof, followed by a firefighter with an axe who climbs the ladder and chops a hole in the roof for another firefighter on the ground with a fire hose that spouts a stream of water into the hole, extinguishing the fire.  A firefighter even rescues a civilian from the home by carrying the person on his shoulder toward the fire truck.  After all was well, the firefighters and equipment disappear as the fire truck pulls back onto the road and returns to the station.  It was amazing and was repeated for the spectators every 20 minutes.  Again... How did they do that?  Amazing!

Traintown Zoo Layout
There was a zoo, a full circus in town, a baseball game, a ski resort, homes being built, traffic accidents, a full town parade, and various businesses in operation.  Oh... and a lot of trains running from one end of the layout to the other.  Most of the buildings within the display were scratch built, meaning they were not constructed according to the instructions of a purchased kit, mass produced by a model company.  As a result, many of the buildings cleverly represent icon businesses within Lancaster County.  You can see the Dutch Wonderland amusement park recreated in miniature form including the working monorail.  The historic Strasburg Railroad is also present complete with historic train that runs the same route as the real thing.  The engine even switches from the front end of the cars to the back at the far end of the route for the return trip back to the station.  Every attention to detail is present.

Town Parade by Theater
A short distance away, the local Red Caboose Motel, a Turkey Hill Market, and the Dutch Haven Bakery have also been recreated within the layout.  It was fun to try to discover the local businesses hidden within the arrangement and I am sure I missed a few.  The realism of the scenery was enhanced by a real stream of running water twisting throughout Traintown, even containing several waterfalls.  The display went through time changes subtlety transitioning from daytime to night where the detail of individual lights came into full view.  Katelyn and I stayed through several simulated days and nights, encircling the layout multiple times.  We were both really impressed and didn't want to leave but it was time to exit this miniature world of wonder to get something to eat!  We headed over to Issac's Restaurant and Deli to devour a Scarlet Ibis and a Blue Heron for lunch.  Yum!

My Train Set Under the Tree
We also payed a visit to the Strasburg Train Shop next door to purchase a few small items for my display back home.   Above is a picture of my holiday train display that has several buildings my father built almost 40 years ago.  The green and white Dairymen's League refrigerated boxcar seen above is the only surviving piece of the first train I received as a Christmas gift so many years ago.  It is my most prized possession and spends most of the year on top of my bedroom dresser protected in one of Don Huntsinger's display cases.  I bring it out of retirement every December to ride the rails one more time, bringing back fond memories.  Thanks Dad!  Occasionally one of our cats is attracted to the moving train and my own version of Traintown is attacked by a giant fur covered creature briefly resembling one of those old Godzilla movies from the 1950's...  Sound the alarm and take cover immediately!

My Dad and Me Back in the Day
I relied heavily on the Choo Choo Barn's website for the background history of the business in my blog.  I encourage everyone to check it out and pay Traintown a visit when in the Strasburg area.  You might run into Katelyn and I who plan to come back for another visit!  All Aboard................

Choo Choo Barn / Traintown
226 Gap Road Route 741
Strasburg, PA 17579
The Dewitt Clinton Model Train
Santa Fe Super Chief Locomotive

Please View my Additional Traintown Photos at...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Historic Fulton Theater

Fulton Theater
 Conestoga Massacre
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

 Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes
(Image Credit / IMDb + Disney Pictures / 1968)
The Fulton Theater is a cultural icon in Lancaster that has been providing quality entertainment and hosting community functions for the city's residents for over 150 years.  About a decade ago, I had the privilege of getting a backstage tour of the theater while attending a graduate level college course.  The theater still offers the tours upon request.  Ironically, I have never seen a show at the Fulton but recently had that chance thanks to a friend who gave me a pair of tickets to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It had been one of my favorite Disney movies when I was a kid starring Dick Van Dike as the fumbling inventor Caractacus Potts, who overhauls a former race car that ends up changing his life for the better.  A car that can convert into a sea worthy boat or fly across the sky with the push of a button... How cool is that?  On a Saturday afternoon in June, Katelyn and I went to the Fulton to experience professional live theater in the city.

The Former Lancaster Jail
The Fulton Opera House / Theater was built on top of the remains of the building that previously occupied the location on the corner North Prince Street and West King Street in the city of Lancaster.  The former structural resident of the intersection was the Lancaster City Jail that gained notoriety during the French and Indian War that raged between France and England on both sides of the world from 1754 through 1763.  In the last year of the conflict, the Native American tribes in the contested Ohio Valley banded together into an Indian Confederacy called Pontiac's Rebellion.  Indian war parties attacked British military forts and isolated settlers cabins along the Appalachian Mountains.  In previous years, the Quaker dominated Colonial Assembly of Pennsylvania had been slow to support armed resistance against Native Americans because it violated their religious and pacifist ideologies. 

 Conestoga Massacre / 1844 Etching
(Image Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)
A group of Scotch-Irish immigrants, living along the Susquehanna River in an area that today would be Dauphin County decided to take matters into their own hands.  A band of men from Paxton (Paxtang) Township formed a vigilante gang bent on revenge against Native Americans for the unanswered acts of violence against defenseless settlers in the frontier.  The Indians responsible were more than 200 + miles away to the west but an easier target was a short distance away in nearby Lancaster County.  The Conestoga Indians were the last surviving members of Susquehannock Nation living east of the Mississippi River along the Conestoga Creek just outside the city of Lancaster.  On the morning of December 14, 1763 a group of 50 men known as the Paxton Boys attacked the small village killing six Native Americans and burning their cabins to the ground.  The mob disappeared and returned to their homes in Western Pennsylvania without immediate pursuit from local authorities.   

Remaining Wall of the Lancaster Jail
Later, Governor John Penn declared the violent acts of the Paxton Boys a homicide and placed the remaining 14 members of the Conestoga Tribe in the Lancaster Jail for their own protection.  The Paxton Boys were furious that the local government was protecting the Indians over the needs of western settlers and decided to take action in response to Governor Penn's words.  Two weeks after their initial attack, the Paxton Boys returned to Lancaster city, broke into the jail and dragged the defenseless Indians, pleading for their lives, into Prince Street where they killed every one of them and mutilated their slain bodies.  Of the dead were 8 children and not one citizen who witnessed the carnage in broad daylight attempted to stop the attack.  It was soon known as the Conestoga Massacre and thus ended the treaty signed by their ancestors with Pennsylvania's founder William Penn in 1701 giving them the right to peacefully live on protected land within Lancaster County.  The Holy Experiment had failed.    

The Fulton Theater Circa 1880
(Image Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)
Warrants were issued for the murderers but not one person came forward to name a single conspirator and the crimes went unpunished.  Native Americans of remaining nations within the colony discretely traveled to Philadelphia where they were given asylum in an army barracks within the city by the Colonial Assembly now led by Benjamin Franklin.  The Paxton Boys would attempt one more time to eradicate the colony's Indian population through genocide by marching a mob of 250 men to Philadelphia where they were confronted by soldiers of the colonial militia, British infantry, and Ben Franklin himself, who eventually defused the situation through deliberations. Many of the Native Americans remained at the barracks in Philadelphia out of fear for their safety but sadly, a third died of the smallpox virus in the overcrowded accommodations.  The members of the Paxton Boys were never brought to justice and faded into obscurity along with the ghosts of the massacred.

Remaining Door / Wall of the Jail
The Lancaster Jail was later demolished and became a construction site for the future theater and opera house.  The rear stone wall facing away from North Prince Street remained intact and was incorporated into the new building.  As a result, a connection to the Conestoga Massacre in 1763 still remains attached to the theater.  A small plaque mounted on the exterior of the rear wall remembers the event.  The theater was completed in 1852 and was named for local resident Robert Fulton, who was an inventor and pioneer in steam technology.  He is most noted for successfully applying steam power to river boats with the launch of the Clermont in 1807.  His work in the field later led to two way travel on the Mississippi River during the Transportation Revolution.  His image is incorporated within the front facade of the theater in the form of a life-size sculpture that stands within a center window well, just above the lighted marquee.  
 The Fulton Theater Today
Katelyn and I headed down North Prince Street in search of parking and pulled into the Prince Street Garage right across the street from the Fulton.  It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the streets were alive with pedestrians exploring the city.  The theater just went through a major 9.5 million dollar renovation project in 2005 and the exterior of the building looked unchanged compared with historic photos I had viewed researching Lancaster's history over the years.  The only modern addition was the lighted marquee of the art deco era that gives the theater its bright glitz at night.  Just inside, we entered the Steinman Lobby and were shown into the beautiful theater.  The concave shaped lines of seats were covered in bright red fabric which gave the old classic feel of a bygone era permeated with class and style.  The ornate moldings that joined walls and ceilings were painted in shades of red and gold suggesting wealth.  The colors of the space were complimented by marble columns and elegant chandeliers, making the theater feel like a palace.  The theater itself was the star of the show.

The Interior Theater Entrance
Our seats were amazing, located right in front of the stage, four rows behind the orchestra pit, front and center.  I asked an usher if I could take a few photos of the theater's interior before the musical began and was surprised to get the ok, with the promise to put my camera away when the show began.  Scouts honor!  I was curious to see how they were going to produce a musical with a car on a small stage.  It turns out the complex sets full of Caractacus Potts' contraptions were amazing and somehow navigated their way within the confined space of the stage.  The car was incredible and looked like it could still win the British Grand Prix.  The musical production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was fun, full of humor, and right up Katelyn's alley!  The child actors didn't miss a note or step and put on an amazing performance.  We were both more than impressed!  

Theater Seating / Mezzanine Level
At the midway point in the story there was a break for a fifteen minute intermission to stretch our legs and seek the facilities.  We passed out a side door to the bathrooms and ran right into history.  Part of the plaster wall was purposely removed to reveal part of the original jail wall in the form of a segmental arched doorway.  A mounted plaque gave a full description of the artifact identifying the arch as part of the third expansion construction project of the former jail.   The lights dimmed signaling it was time to get back to our seats before the curtain opened for the next act.  The second half of the show included 30 local young actors playing the children hiding underground from the dreaded Child Catcher... I hate that guy!  The Fulton operates several community outreach programs including those designed to encourage young people to become involved in the arts.  I was later told many of the child actors in the performance were associated with those programs.  

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(Image Credit / Fulton Youtube Clips)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a true treat for kids of all ages.  The entire performance was outstanding, ranking at the top of my limited theater experiences.  It brought back a lot of memories of when I saw the film created by Walt Disney Productions in 1968 on the Sunday night Disney anthology television series entitled the Wonderful World of Walt Disney.  Sadly, they just don't make movies like that anymore.  After the show, we took a few more minutes to see the parts of the lobby and theater that we missed.  Much of the theater's lobby was decorated with framed advertisements from past productions over the years.  I appreciated how they preserved and paid tribute to so much of the theater's rich history and even acknowledged the negative events associated with the Conestoga Massacre.  You can't help but think what would have been lost if the Fulton would have been razed at some point to build a new modern theater.  

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(Image Credit / Fulton Youtube Clips)
The Fulton Theater became a not-for-profit organization in 1963 and has dedicated their efforts to encourage the arts through various programs that impact approximately 100,000 people annually.  The theater itself was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a member of the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.  Katelyn and I loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang despite the fact, we were singing and humming the songs for a minimum of two weeks.  Please support this historic theater!  For more information please visit their informative web page outlining the various programs and upcoming plays, musicals, and events. 

Fulton Theater / Opera House

A Narrative of the Late Massacres
(Image Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)
"The barbarous Men who committed the atrocious Fact, in Defiance of Government, of all Laws human and divine, and to the eternal Disgrace of their Country and Colour, then mounted their Horses, huzza'd in Triumph, as if they had gained a Victory, and rode off -- unmolested!"
"The Bodies of the Murdered were then brought out and exposed in the Street, till a Hole could be made in the Earth, to receive and cover them."

"But the Wickedness cannot be covered, the Guilt will lie on the whole Land, till Justice is done on the Murderers. THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT WILL CRY TO HEAVEN FOR VENGEANCE."

  • The angry words of Benjamin Franklin / 1764
Benjamin Franklin

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Forks of the Ohio / Part # 2

    Fort Pitt
    Forks of the Ohio / Part # 2
    Pittsburgh, PA

     Model of Fort Pitt
    Following the destruction of Fort Duquesne, General John Forbes deemed that a new fortress should be reconstructed on the site in honor of British Prime Minister William Pitt.  The new fort would be much larger and further inland from the point where the rivers converged to protect the structure from flooding.  General Forbes was dying from an intestinal disease and was in great pain and discomfort.  Now that his mission had been fulfilled, he resigned his commission and handed the reigns of power over to his capable second in command General Henry Bouquet who oversaw the new fort's construction.  General Forbes then began the painful return journey back east over the road that bore his name and sadly died a few weeks after arriving back in Philadelphia.  As the walls of the impressive fort began to rise, so did the white population as a small town began to grow on the fort's peninsula that was later named Pittsburgh by General Bouquet.

    Fort Pitt / Recreated Interior Building
    Following the construction of Fort Pitt, the French retreated back into Canada and the war centered on the key French cities of Montreal and Quebec.  However, the region of western Pennsylvania once again erupted into violence during Pontiac's Rebellion in the last year of the French and Indian War.  Abandoned by the French and losing land to English settlers promised to their tribes, the Indians decided to continue the fight by banding together into a tribal confederacy.  Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Nation, who targeted British Frontier forts and isolated English setter cabins, led the movement.  The British continued to fight the Indians according to European Articles of War, which were ignored by their Native American enemies.  Although the French would fall to such tactics on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec that would lead to the end of the French and Indian War, the English were soundly defeated by Pontiac's hit-and-run tactics throughout the Ohio Valley.  On occasion, women and children were kidnapped from isolated cabins and taken west to an unknown fate.  The conflict was becoming ugly on both sides.

     General Bouquet Negotiations with Native Americans
    (Lithograph Source / Ohio Historical Society)
    --> The British Army, desperate for an antidote to the rebellion, committed one of the first acts of attempted biological warfare in history. Under the direction of General Jeffery Amherst, officers from Fort Pitt acquired blankets tainted with the smallpox virus.  They contained scabs and bacteria from the previous owners who died from the disease.  They were delivered to Native American tribes through disguised humanitarian channels.  The true results of the deplorable tactic are unknown but outbreaks of the smallpox virus did break out across the region within the Native American population.  Amherst was soon called back to England where he was chastised concerning his questionable tactics by Parliament and was removed from command.  He later resurfaced as a military adviser to Parliament and became a career politician. 

    French and Indian War / Post War Map
    The Indian hostilities persisted until Parliament passed the Proclamation of 1763 Act, which closed the Ohio Valley to English settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  The Proclamation Line created a superimposed separation boundary between the English and Native American cultures.  This policy angered Americans who witnessed the French threat removed from the west but did not allow Americans access to the cheap fertile farmland in the Ohio Territory.  This action by Parliament in London would be one of several postwar decisions that would eventually lead to unrest between America and the Mother Country.  The high cost of the French and Indian War led to increased taxes on American colonists, which soon prompted the American Revolution.  Be careful what you wish for... you just might get it!     

     Fort Pitt Museum Entrance
    Fort Pitt continued to serve as an active military base throughout the American Revolution operating as the key American base for campaigns in the west.  General George Rodgers Clark and his frontiersman captured one British outpost after another, eliminating most of the troops of King George III in the Ohio Valley.  After the American Revolution, all British laws in the former English Colonies evaporated, including the Proclamation Line of 1763.  The Ohio Valley was once again open to settlement and Pittsburgh was dubbed the Gateway to the West.  Several more Indian Confederacies would follow in the wake of Pontiac's Rebellion but were slowly defeated by General "Mad" Anthony Wayne in the North and General Andrew Jackson to the South.  Indian hostilities would continue to erupt west of the Mississippi River following the Lewis and Clark Expedition west to the Pacific.  Manifest Destiny, America's determination to settle the west, would eventually prevail.

    Early Village of Pittsburgh
    (Image Credit / Fort Pitt Museum)
    As the region became more stable, the military presence at Fort Pitt continued to slowly reduce in number.  The American Congress stopped investing funds in the maintenance of the fort and the structure began to deteriorate, falling prey to the elements.  Fort Pitt was officially decommissioned by the United States government in 1792 and was soon abandoned.  However, the community of Pittsburgh continued to flourish due to the town's economically advantageous location at the Forks of the Ohio.  The outbuildings of the fort continued to be used as trading posts to conduct business in the fur trade with the remaining local Native American population.  Over time, building materials from the abandoned fortress were recycled by newly arriving settlers and were used to build the expanding town until most of the previous structure had disappeared from the landscape.  The once impressive fortress had slowly faded into history.
    Restored Fort Pitt Blockhouse
    The only remaining part of the fort today is a small brick blockhouse that was built in 1764 during Pontiac's Rebellion just outside the fort's walls.  The former outbuilding used for gunpowder storage was saved from foragers looking for building materials by being reinvented as a small private residence.  As a result, the blockhouse stayed intact over time and was eventually purchased by the Daughters of the American Revolution.   It has since been restored back to its original purpose and opened to the public as part of the museum.   Over the years, the town of Pittsburgh continued to grow into a city that became an economic power center of the American steel industry.  The former site of Fort Pitt was covered over by a collection of large-scale industrial warehouses and railroad lines.  In 1958 the Allegheny Conference of Community Development led efforts to reclaim the space to create a large 36-acre city park.  Point State Park was born and two years later was designated a National Historic Landmark. 

    Aerial Photo of Pittsburgh's Point / 1945
    (Photo Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)
    My friend Brian Repine and I entered the Fort Pitt Museum as it opened shortly after our discovery of the brick outline of Fort Duquesne.  The museum had an excellent collection of art by several well-known artists of the French and Indian War genre including Nat Youngblood, Robert Griffing, and John Buxton.  There were several life size dioramas that help recreate the everyday life of Fort Pitt as a military base and trading post.  The artifact collections on display include relics from Braddock's March, historical flags, fort models, and various weapons from the conflicts associated with the fort.  I especially enjoyed the large observation windows that gave incredible views of the rivers and surrounding landscape including the Fort Pitt Bridge. 

    View of Point State Park at Dusk
    (Photo Credit / Panorama / Buck Cash)
    Unfortunately, Point State Park was in the process of undergoing extensive renovations and improvements during our visit and much of the space was closed off to visitors by construction fencing.  As a result, we were not able to visit the actual point by the landmark fountain where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio.  We hope to return again during a warmer season to visit the city and Point State Park when the construction project is complete and fully accessible to the public.  Stay tuned...
    Aerial View / Point State Park   
    (Photo Credit / Google Earth Image)
    The satellite image shown above from Google Earth shows the four pointed outline of Fort Duquesne and the outline of one of the points of Fort Pitt to the right of the elevated highway that spans above the park's center.  Well, it was getting close to lunchtime and we were off to find the original Primanti Brothers in the famous Strip District along the Allegheny River.  We tried to eat at least two meals a day at Primanti Brothers while exploring Pittsburgh to experience as much of their unique menu as possible before it was time to return back east toward home!  Bon Appetite... Take Two!

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