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, February 27, 2011

Root's Country Market and Auction

Root's Country Market and Auction
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Main Drag
Farmer's markets are Lancaster County at its roots.  So today we are off to visit Roots, the oldest privately owned farmer's market in the county.  I know, that was a really poor play on words but I couldn't resist!  As some of you may know, I love to go to farmer's markets.  It's the best place to find excellent quality eatables from every level of the food pyramid.  In addition, there is a flea market, country crafts, tools, clothing, and everything in between.  Farmer's markets are a throw back to an era that has mostly evaporated into the modern age that has consumed our world.  Roots is old school because it is a combination of the traditional stands along with live small farm livestock auctions at the barn.

Vegetables by the Bushel Basket
Roots was founded by A.W. Root in 1925, who started a small poultry auction. Soon stands began to be set up to sell food and other items to the people who flocked to watch the bidding.  I know, another poor play on words... Anyway, as time passed the auction grew and today has several hundred stands selling an endless variety of goods. The farmer's market, flea market, and auctions take place every Tuesday year round and you can still see poultry auctioned off in the evening. Root's just celebrated their 85th anniversary this summer and the future looks bright as the crowds continue to pour in every week!

Zerbe's Homemade Potato Chips
The thing I like best about Roots is that it is not too big and it's easy to find what you are looking for, yet still leaves room for you to explore and discover something unique.  Many Root's vendors retain the traditional high quality items you associate with Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.  There are very few stands selling cheap junk type items as you might find at larger farmer's markets.  The best way to start out when visiting Root's is to take a quick walk through, to take it all in and create a plan of attack.  In summer, the fresh vegetables are the star of the show and the prices are very reasonable as you are skipping the middleman price hikes and buying directly from the farmer.  No produce grown in California can be found here!  It's the freshest you can find, it helps the local economy, and the environment.  Going to Root's can help save the earth!  You can go green by buying your greens at Root's!  Ok, I apologize again, you don't have to say it...

Raub's Fresh Made Subs
After a quick once through tour, it's time to eat!  You pass by mountains of baked goods, fresh cut french fries, deep fried vegetables, funnel cakes, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, pierogies, and anything else you could never eat on a diet.  However, with the vegetables you just bought, you can eat healthy by making a gigantic salad for supper to balance things out.  So now that you have the green light of guilt free dining, where should we start?  We like to hit the Bixler's french fry stand as an appetizer and then move on to Raub's Subs for the main course, accompanied by a large (diet) birch beer to wash it down.  If you have room, there are many options to choose from for dessert.  Katelyn skipped the main course so she could indulge in a soft serve ice-cream cone with a whoopie pie to save for later.  Just for the record, we did have a big salad later that night!

Amish Quilts
Now that we have satisfied our essential primal needs, we can burn some calories by exploring the rest of the market.  Household items abound throughout the interior stands and are often quality made by the very people selling them.  You can't do that too many places in the America, especially at your local commercialized mall. When you go to a farmer's market you can find quality furniture made of real wood that doesn't require a twenty-three step assembly process using a screw driver!  Been there, done that!  We recently purchased a set of beautiful bookshelves for our living room that were reasonably priced and built to last.  There are many hand crafted items, art work, country crafts, and Amish quilts, just to name a few.   There are so many things to take in, more than the eye can absorb in just one day.

The Board Game Stand
The flea market across the street at the Old Mill building is a different experience of the Root's market.  Here you will find antiques and old items for those individuals who collect things from America's past.  There are endless items to pour over inside the Old Mill and in the parking lot out front.  If you are missing a piece from a collection or want to find a toy from your childhood, this is the place you might make a discovery.  One of my favorite items is the collectible glassware from fast food glory days of past promotional campaigns.  I was able to locate several stands containing the old McDonald glasses containing the throw-back characters of the villain Hamburgler and lovable Grimace who's body-type is no longer politically correct for the image of a fast food giant.  The old boxed board game stand was overwhelming in size and scope but your childhood favorite game of Uncle Wiggly or Parcheesi were surely somewhere within the tall stacks of games.  Where did all this stuff come from?  As you explore, you can identify with Mike and Frank on the reality show American Pickers on the History Channel where American history is revealed one piece at a time!

Flea Market Collectibles
Back over at the market is another two story building with a few more collectibles, a small satellite branch of the Old Mill flea market.  Downstairs is a large room of fancy glassware, not really my thing.  However, upstairs is a toy stand selling modern and antique toys from long past.  I am always on the lookout for a Tonka truck I had as a kid that was a mid-size orange dump-truck with a big black snowplow mounted on the front. No luck today.  There is a guy selling old model Lionel Trains, a historic coin collector stand, and a nice elderly lady selling antique housewares.  You never know what you might find.  One man who was selling old tools, also had a marble bust of a ancient Greek philosopher for sale.  A lot of people come here to sell the items they produce with their hobbies, like the bird house guy and the woman selling her original handmade jewelry creations.  I'm getting thirsty!  Let's take a quick break for some fresh squeezed homemade lemonade, a taste you could never get from a powdered concentrate in a can at the grocery store.  I was tempted by the Amish homemade root beer but the gallon size glass bottle looked a little heavy to be lugging around.  Maybe on the way out.

Rabbits, Pigeons and Ducks
We stopped by the small livestock barn, where farmers were making deliveries of ducks, rabbits, chickens, and goats for the evening auction scheduled to begin at 5:00 PM, later that night.  Since I currently wasn't in the market for a nice goat (My wife Susan said No!) we moved on to see what else we could find outside. There was a stand selling beautiful summer fresh cut flowers, freshly roasted peanuts still in the shell, and homemade fruit pies warm from the oven.  Many of the people operating the family stands are second and third generation that have maintained a presence in the same stand locations for decades.  Young children helped out at many stands, which suggested they were being groomed to be the next generation of family members to work the stands in the future.  Farm markets are a microcosm of life in Lancaster County with every race, culture, and religion represented to one degree or another.  Everyone working together in harmony, much like William Penn envisioned with his concept of the Holy Experiment.  It still works.  As a history teacher, I couldn't help myself but to add a little reference to Pennsylvania history.

Interior Market Stands
Inside, you will also find the relics of the old school butcher shop that has since been absorbed by the mega supermarkets, just like everything else.  I remember when I was a kid, my mother still visited the Markley's Meats butcher shop in Brunnerville, located north of Lititz once a week. They also had a stand at the Central Market in center city Lancaster, where we would also stop by to see the friendly Markley brothers who were quick to greet you with a smile and a slice of bologna or American cheese.  They worked with another butcher in their employment who was named Butch.  You can't even make this stuff up!  Markley's Meats are long gone but stands similar to the one they manned at the farmers market can still be found at least half a dozen times within the out buildings at Root's.  S. Clyde Weavers is one of the most popular and all seem to compete with their own special recipes for spicy meat snack sticks or beef jerky.  Many still wear the cotton white aprons and matching paper hats of a bygone era.  In a way, the atmosphere could pass for 1950's America again.

The Watermelon Wagon
So take a trip to Root's Country Market and Auction, back to a bygone era, ingrained with the tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage of long past but not yet lost. The market is open every Tuesday from 9AM to 9PM and is located on Graystone Road in Manheim.  For more details, please check out their informative website at...

You All Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

Monday, February 21, 2011

PA State Capitol Building

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The Rotunda / Detail
(Photo Credit / The Patriot News) 
Hey campers it's time to check out the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in the state's capital city of Harrisburg on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River.  Completing some graduate work over the summer of 2008 required me to spend a week in Harrisburg in a hotel on Market Square, a short distance from the Capitol Complex.  One afternoon we were given some free time away from class for a few hours to explore the city of Harrisburg on our own.  I headed to the Capitol Building where I was able walk around inside on my own.  I found out that they offered free tours during the week and decided to return with the kids to check it out.  They were thrilled!  The forty minute tour was really informative and the building more grand and beautiful than we could have imagined.  It was like a castle from Europe somehow transported to the center of the state of Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania State Capital Building
Many might question why the capital of Pennsylvania would not be located in the city of the region's birth within William Penn's City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia?  The answer is, it was... for a while.  The truth is, Philadelphia had served as the capital of Pennsylvania since the colony was created in 1682 and remained the state's seat of government up until the year of 1812.  Events surrounding the Revolutionary War with Great Britain revealed the vulnerability of the large city serving as the capital of Pennsylvania and the newly formed nation of the United States of America.  The problem with the city of Philadelphia is that it was just too close to the Atlantic Ocean and the foreign enemies that were lurking in the waters off the Atlantic coast. 

Interior of the Rotunda
The Second Continental Congress was meeting in the State House in Philadelphia and were running the day to day operations of the war effort for the Continental Army.  The Declaration of Independence, that had created the United States of America, had been penned by Thomas Jefferson in rented rooms a short distance from Independence Hall, where it was later ratified.  The British set their sights on key cities in America, hoping to bring an end to the rebellion, with New York City and the capital city of Philadelphia at the top of their list of planned invasions.  Supreme Commander General Thomas Gage of the British Army in Boston instructed General William Howe to make his way south toward Philadelphia to capture the city and the leaders of the rebel government.  General George Washington and the Continental Army planned to intercept General Howe and the British infantry at Brandywine Creek thirty miles outside the city of Philadelphia. 

Capitol Rotunda / Staircase
General Washington's received conflicting information on Howe's complex, multifaceted attack plan that was full of decoy movements, which caused confusion within the American lines.  Howe was able to exploit Washington's flank at Brandywine Creek, causing the Continental Army to break and abruptly retreat towards Chester.  The doorway to Philadelphia was now wide open, leaving the capital city of the young nation completely defenseless.  General Howe methodically marched toward the city as the Second Continental Congress made preparations to flee to safety, sixty-five miles to the west in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  One day later the Continental Congress moved another 26 miles further west to the city of York, on the other side of the Susquehanna River.  Fifteen days after Washington's army fell apart at Brandywine, General Howe captured the capital city of Philadelphia without resistance and set up his official headquarters residence within Independence Hall.

Moral Paintings Throughout
After the fall of the capital during the American Revolution and with a new fight with Great Britain on the horizon that came to be known as the War of 1812, it was decided to move the state capital further inland from Philadelphia, far from enemy threats.  The site of Harrisburg was chosen because it was centrally located and a transportation hub that would make it an easy destination for lawmakers from the far corners of the Commonwealth.  The new capital city looked out over the beautiful Susquehanna River from the eastern shore.  The first state capitol building was called the Hill Capitol Building and was tragically destroyed by fire in 1897.  The state legislature was moved to a nearby Methodist church, where they conducted state business until a new building could be built.  The new replacement building project ran out of funding mid-construction and was never completed.  There was talk that the state government should be moved to Pittsburgh or even back to Lancaster, which would devastate the local economy of Harrisburg that had been built around the business of state government.  The city of Harrisburg had to provide a new capitol building, to remain the chosen site of Pennsylvania's state government.
President Roosevelt at Dedication / 1906
(Photo Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)
In 1902 a new plan was quickly put into action to build a new grand capitol building that could house the bulk of the state government offices and keep the state capital from moving away.  The new building was completed four years later at a cost three times the price originally quoted.  This led to a scandal investigation that ended in several arrests, including the buildings designer, Joseph Miller Hudson.  Political scandals are as old as history itself!  Hudson's Italian Renaissance style building was dubbed the Palace of Art because of the abundance of sculptures and mural paintings found throughout the building's interior.  Much of the artwork depicted scenes from the state's history, including several stained glass windows.  The building's dedication ceremony in 1906 was attended by President Theodore Roosevelt, who claimed it was the most beautiful building he had ever seen!

 State Senate Chamber / Recess
The building is truly magnificent and is impressive inside and out.  Many states built their capitol building as a monument to their state's wealth and as a symbol of power.  The Hudson State Capitol Building sits as a crown of pride on the head's of all Pennsylvanians and the state's proud history.  In 2006 the building was designated a National Historic Landmark during the building's centennial celebration. Today the building houses the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which includes the chambers of the State House of Representatives and the State Senate.  The Governor's office and State Supreme Court are also housed within the building.  The tour was really interesting and I was surprised at all the places we were given access to see, including the chambers of the General Assembly, while the lawmakers were on a lunch break.  The House Chamber was a mix of the old with the new, as computer monitors glowed Pennsylvania blue. 

Capitol Building / Rear View
The impressive building's highlight is the 272 foot tall, fifty-two million pound rotunda that was designed to resemble Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.  The rotunda is what sets the capitol building apart and identifies the structure from the rest of the Harrisburg skyline.  The massive five story building was constructed of granite, quarried from the state of Vermont.  The building contains 475 rooms on four floors accessible from the grand marble imperial staircase, designed in the image of the famous staircase at the Palace Opera House in Paris, France.  The Capitol Building is surrounded by the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex which contains forty-five acres, where fifteen of the state's government buildings and administrative offices can be found.    

The Harrisburg Skyline
(Photo Credit / Flicker Images)
In 1982 the Capitol Preservation Committee was formed to preserve the beautiful building and the historical contents inside for the future generations of Pennsylvania.  It is an ongoing process that has yielded ongoing results.  Over 100,000 people take the free tour every year and it is well worth forty minutes of your time.  You can literally see your state tax dollars at work!  The kids were impressed by the size and scope of the building, which encompasses a full two acres of land in the center of the city. It was time for lunch and time to explore the other buildings within the Capitol Complex.  The rear side of the Capitol Building was equally impressive with a symmetrical design containing multiple balconies and cascading fountains.  The entire area is a beautiful walk and a fun place to explore, especially the waterfront park and walkway along the Susquehanna River.  Take the time to check it out for yourself!
Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex 
(Photo Credit / Google Earth)

For More Information on Tours Please Visit


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Monongahela Incline / Pittsburgh PA

 Monongahela Incline
Mount Washington / Pittsburgh PA

Mount Washington's Duquesne Incline
When visiting Pittsburgh, one of the things on your must-see list is a ride on one of the inclines to the top of Mount Washington.  The Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines are two of the most visible landmarks in the city. You can't miss it!  It is one of the first things you see when you look out over the water toward of the steep slopes of Mount Washington.  Never having been to the city of Pittsburgh before, I was surprised how close the impending mountains were to the city.  As the city grew, people began to settle on the top of Mount Washington but getting to work in the city below was a problem.  Necessity is the mother of invention and the Monongahela Incline was one of several built to provide the solution for transporting both people and freight to and from the city. 

 View from the Car near the Upper Station
The people who lived on top of Mount Washington, formerly known as Coal Hill,  needed a better way to get to their places of employment far below along the river banks within the city.  Steep steps, slippery foot paths, and unreliable winding roads were falling short.  I can't imagine walking up Mount Washington after a long shift of manual labor, especially in winter or rain!  The newly arriving German immigrants moving into the expanding city looked back to the Old Country for a potential solution.  Cable car systems were common in mountainous Germany and soon the first horizontal railway was built.  The Monongahela Incline was completed on May 28, 1870  and offered an easy alternative to the previous means of travel.  It became so popular that soon construction began on several other inclines including the nearby Duquesne Incline.
View of the Incline from the Upper Station
The Monongahela Incline is the longest continuously operating incline in the United States.  As the residential population on top of Mount Washington continued to grow, more and more inclines were built to keep up with demand.  At the height of the incline craze there were 17 different inclines operating along the slopes of Mount Washington, charging a passenger fare of one to five cents per trip depending on the frequency of use.  Some inclines were built to carry full loads of freight wagons and accompanying harnessed horses up and down the mountain.  The collection of horizontal railways operated day and night and could transport over 5,000 passengers on an average day.  Today, over 1,500 passengers ride the Monongahela Incline on any given weekday.  Over time, improved road building techniques and the invention of the automobile caused a slow decline in Pittsburgh's dependence on incline travel.

 View of Observation Deck
As the public became more independent of public transportation, several incline systems began to go out of business until only two remained in use.  Today the Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines are the only surviving horizontal railways still in operation in Pittsburgh.  They were saved by the Port Authority of Allegheny County in 1964 who continue to own and maintain their operation today.  The Monongahela incline was declared a historic structure by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 1970.  Together the two organizations work in tandem to keep the historic railway running smoothly. Over the years both inclines have gone through improvements and renovations to ensure their future survival. Although a popular tourist attraction, half the riders today continue to be daily commuters from the top of Mount Washington. 

The Observation Deck Entrance
My friend Brian and I were looking for the way to the famous incline to end our afternoon of sightseeing.  Pittsburgh is not an easy city to navigate even with the help of GPS technology.  The confusing streets seem to be absent of any pattern and travel every which way but straight.  We finally found our destination by sight and began looking for the parking lot of the Monongahela Incline.  We pulled over onto a ramp we hoped would take us to a free parking spot but instead took us through a tunnel all the way through Mount Washington!  We exited the long tunnel on the other side and quickly turned around to backtrack to our target destination.  Halfway back through the tunnel we realized it was two lanes of one-way traffic travel and we were now heading into headlights coming directly at our car!  Luckily we only encountered two vehicles and were able to exit the tunnel without incident and accompanying news coverage!  I learned a new term while in Pittsburgh... Tourist + Moron = Touron!  Without doubt, we were a couple of extreme tourons that day!

Coal Barges are Pushed Beneath Bridge
(Zoomed Image)

We entered into the restored Monongahela Incline lower station and waited for the next car to descend to take us to the top.  It is an 367 foot climb to the top and is accomplished by thick cables that are driven by a powerful electric motor at the upper station.  The electric motor replaced the original steam powered engine in 1935.  The weight of the car is counter balanced by a second car making the opposite trip down the mountain.  There was no conductor or place to buy a ticket as all transactions were handled at the upper station.  However, a sign warned that exact change would be required to pay for the reasonably priced fare of $2.25 per person each way.  It was really cool watching the massive car slowly descend down the tracks right at you from large observation windows from inside the station.  The car safely eased to a stop on the track to our right and we took our seats with a handful of fellow tourons inside the large car.  We waited about a minute before the doors automatically closed and the car began to move.  Hold on tight kids, here we go!

 The View of the South Eastern Shore
The car was divided into three separate compartments and could hold a maximum of 23 passengers or 50 tons.  I was questioning whether it was a good idea to try this right after eating a huge lunch at Primanti Brothers but tried to put that thought out of my mind.  I sat in the front section of the car with a full view of the track below as we slowly climbed ever higher.  I put my hands up in the air roller coaster style to demonstrate my bravery but then realized this was a very touron-like thing to do and quickly retreated back into anonymity.  It was a little nerve racking watching yourself climb up the track along the 35% grade without being able to see behind you.  The station continued to get smaller and smaller and I had seen too many bad movies from the 70's and amusement park rides to feel comfortable.  Every time the car bumped on the track or made a noise I expected us to be released into a free-fall drop for the thrill of a lifetime that would end in eternal darkness!  Brian reminded me that there was a safety cable to prevent such endings but it was about 1/10 the size of the main cable and we had just eaten a very big lunch!

 View of Heinz Field / Steeler's Cathedral
 (Zoomed Image)

We eased into the upper station and safely made it to the top.  We paid our fare with the help of a friendly attendant who put our exact change and bills into some type of old school ATM and gave us our return ticket for the trip back down to earth.  We ventured outside into the strong icy Pittsburgh wind that whipped at us as we made our way to the observation deck.  The view was truly amazing and is known as one of the top ten spots to view a city in America.  It was a gray day with periodic snow squalls but the view of the city below was worth risking our lives on the incline.  We were so brave!  I took as many pictures as I could before the windchill pushed us back toward the station.  It was much colder up top than down below.  A series of two tug boats pushed their collection of barges filled with coal through the river below demonstrating the continued economic importance of the Forks of the Ohio

Control Room View of Track
We reentered the station to escape the wrath of Mother Nature and prepared for our descent.  The friendly clerk allowed me to enter into the control room to get a picture of the view from the extreme top of the incline railway.   We entered the car from one of three tiered doors and took our seats again in the front section of the car.  We had already survived our tunnel fiasco and were in the mood to continue to tempt fate.  As we slowly descended at a rate of six mph, we could watch the incline's sister car make it's climb up Mount Washington toward us.  One of my favorite World War II movies came to mind, Where Eagles Dare starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton.  My favorite part is the cable car scene in the Alps where they were fighting to escape the grasp of the treacherous Germans.  I was replaying the whole movie scene in my mind until I turned around to see a young couple making out in the section of the car behind me, which ruined the illusion.  The other car climbed past us at the midpoint of the track and the city below continued to grow in size.

Center City Pittsburgh / Zoomed Image
We made it to the bottom and discussed a return trip in the spring or summer to take in the view again during a different season.  It would also be a great view to take in after dark.  We also wanted to travel on the Duquesne Incline near the Fort Pitt Bridge, which is a little higher... but that's another story.  We were two cold and tired tourons who were looking forward to a night of rest in our hotel room after a well deserved dinner at Primanti Brothers!  Sleep Well Campers! 

View From Duquesne Incline Upper Station

Please View My Other Photographs of the View at...

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