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Archive for November, 2018

The Great North Road

By Linda Tancs

You might think of the U.K.’s Great North Road as the nation’s version of iconic Route 66 in the United States—only with a lot more history attached. It was the only way of traveling the 409 miles between London and Edinburgh for centuries until it was subsumed into the A1 (the longest numbered road in Britain) and other motorways of today. In prehistoric times it comprised part of the network of Roman roads: Ermine Street led from London to York, and Dere Street from York to Edinburgh. The ancient route is lined today with rusting mile markers; its cultural significance is marked by literary giants like Charles Dickens, a frequent traveler who gave it a nod in The Pickwick Papers. There’s even an old street sign inside the rock at Gibraltar where a vehicle tunnel was dug.

A Shrunken Head in Memphis

By Linda Tancs

One of the most enduring landmarks in Memphis, Tennessee, the Pink Palace Museum hosts an eclectic mix of artifacts bearing historical, educational and technological significance. For instance, you’ll find a life-size replica of the first Piggly Wiggly store, the forerunner to today’s self-service grocery store. That was the brainchild of grocery clerk Clarence Saunders, who later conceived of the palatial estate now hosting the museum. But perhaps the most memorable exhibit for visitors is the shrunken head sitting in the middle of the rotunda. Once owned by local businessman Abe Scharff, it was later donated to the museum and is believed to be a relic from his visits to South American tribal regions in modern-day Ecuador and Peru where head shrinking was a common practice. No one is quite sure whether the item is real, but you can read up on the process that headhunters used to get a shrunken head while you’re deciding for yourself.

Trees of Mystery

By Linda Tancs

In the coastal town of Klamath, California, you can walk among giants. California redwoods, that is. In the heart of redwood country is the state’s original redwood nature attraction, Trees of Mystery. The family run preserve has over a mile of interpretative trail to take in the size and scope of these forest wonders, which average eight feet to as much as 20 feet in diameter and some as tall as 375 feet. For a bird’s-eye view, take the sky gondola. Have a green thumb? You can buy a seedling and try to grow your own giant.

Quebec Rural Style in Michigan

By Linda Tancs

The oldest home on Mackinac Island in Michigan is the Biddle House. Dating back to 1780 and built in the Quebec rural style, it was purchased in the 1800s by Edward Biddle, a wealthy fur trader who hailed from a prominent Philadelphia family (one of the first families of the United States). Biddle married Agatha de la Vigne, a Native American born on Mackinac Island who partnered with her husband in the fur trade. Often overlooked in island history is the fact that most residents in the 1800s were Native American. Now that the house is in the midst of a renovation, its Indian roots will be highlighted with a two-room exhibit.

A Natural Landmark in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

Protected and administered by Rutgers University, Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center boasts more than 500 acres of conserved land, much of it uncut forest, one of the last in the Mid-Atlantic. In fact, the old growth forest is the only uncut upland forest in New Jersey, and it appears on the National Park Service Register of Natural Landmarks. Public tours led by university faculty and researchers occur throughout the year on designated Sundays. The meetup point is at the forest entrance located at 2150 Amwell Road (Route 514), just east of historic East Millstone.

An Iron Plantation in Pennsylvania

By Linda Tancs

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Elverson, Pennsylvania, is an example of an American 19th century rural “iron plantation.” Operating from 1771 to 1883, Hopewell and other iron plantations led the industrial revolution in the United States. Hopewell and sites like it were called iron plantations because these early industrial enterprises were typically isolated, largely self-sufficient communities centered around the production of iron for sale. Comprising 848 acres, the site’s cold-blast iron furnace and accompanying community have been restored to the way it looked during its heydey in the 1830s and 1840s.

A Village for Book Lovers

By Linda Tancs

Imagine a village with barely 500 residents becoming a center for arts and literary culture. There aren’t too many, worldwide, but one of them is in the Northern Catskills—Hobart, New York, to be precise. The only book village east of the Mississippi, the tiny hamlet boasts five independent book stores featuring second-hand and antiquarian books, prints and other works. You’ll also find art galleries, antique shops and a calendar full of writing festivals, book signings and lectures. This Thanksgiving weekend the town hosts one of two semi-annual sales drawing hundreds of book lovers and collectors.

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