Preservation Photos #16

The haunted Gimghoul Castle (originally Hippol Castle) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Click on the image to read the ghost story.

Thanks to Maria Gissendanner for sending the photograph and the link.

Road Trip Report 6

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Michigan, part 1

The Henry Ford

We drove up US-23 from Toledo, Ohio into Michigan. I was hoping for a grand entrance into a new state – you know, a big welcome sign and a suddenly different look since I’d never been to Michigan. Yes, that is perhaps a roadside delusion but I was holding out hope.  Anyway, all that to say that the southern portion of Michigan looked much like Ohio.

Since we couldn’t find any breakfast in Toledo, we continued with the hope that a small Michigan town would have a good locally owned breakfast café. We found Bobbie’s Kitchen in Monroe, Michigan and the pancakes were delicious.

Fueled by pancakes and coffee, we continued north in Michigan bound for Dearborn, Michigan and The Henry Ford.  The road scenery didn’t change much or thrill us, but Dearborn wasn’t that far away.

We started our visit at The Henry Ford by taking the Ford Rogue Factor Tour.  The tour takes visitors through the actual factory in five parts: a video with the history of Ford, a simulator movie about the process of making a F-150, an observation deck to see the environmentally friendly endeavors of Ford, a walk through the final assembly plant for a F-150 where you see the actual truck being assembled (Ford’s famous assembly line), and finally a gallery of the classic cars. We enjoyed the visit very much and thought it to be worth the $15 admission.

At the Ford Rogue Factory Observation Deck an exhibit demonstrates how the parking lots are environmentally friendly.

At the Ford Rogue Factory Observation Deck an exhibit demonstrates how the parking lots are environmentally friendly.

The Legacy Gallery at the Ford Rogue Factory.

The Legacy Gallery at the Ford Rogue Factory.

The next day we returned to The Henry Ford to visit Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum. Greenfield Village is a collection of historic houses, some reconstructed and some relocated, that Henry Ford gathered in Dearborn to show people American history. Vinny described Greenfield Village as Colonial Williamsburg meets Walt Disney World.

The Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop - Greenfield Village.

The Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop - Greenfield Village.

A dining cart in Greenfield Village.

A dining cart in Greenfield Village.

Greenfield Village was very enjoyable; we rode in Model T to get a tour of the village, walked in the house of Wilbur and Oliver Wright and the original Heinz (think Ketchup) house. We saw a skit in the general store based on the actual proprietor and one of his costumers. We visited Edison’s Menlo Park reconstruction and saw how a phonograph works. Unfortunately, we were unable to see everything because we didn’t realize it could be an entire day in itself, but what we did see was a good representation of everything in the village. We enjoyed the combination of history and a theme park. (The food from the restaurant, A Taste of History, and the candy from the candy shop were delicious.)

Greenfield Village is a National Historic Landmark.

Greenfield Village is a National Historic Landmark.

From a historic preservation perspective, it is interesting that the entire village is a National Historic Landmark when individual landmarks typically lose their designation once moved.  Greenfield Village is not a living history museum, although there are craft demonstrations and skits and people dressed in period costume to answer any of your questions. It seemed like children and adults were enjoying their visit because there were so many activities, from walking down the (clean) streets to watching a show, to playing games in the town square to taking a ride on the train, in the Model T or in the omnibus, and of course finding something good to eat. It’s a unique place, Greenfield Village, because while being family friendly, people are actually walking through history and learning. There are of course things to consider including the fact that it is a very neat and tidy version of American history – nostalgia at its best, if you will.

Across the village green towards the hardware store.

Across the village green towards the hardware store.

Weighing both sides, Greenfield Village was so much more than we expected and we would gladly return in the future.

The steeple of the Martha-Mary Church that Henry Ford built for his mother and mother-in-law.

The steeple of the Martha-Mary Church that Henry Ford built for his mother and mother-in-law.

The museum closed at 5pm, so around 2:30 we walked over, assuming we would have enough time to see everything. We were very wrong. Again, the museum was so much more than we imagined and probably the most enjoyable museum we’ve visited. The best way to describe it that it is a museum about American history, car culture, innovators, and aspects that have changed American history. It starts with the earliest mode of transportation, the horse and buggy and works up through time with trains and cars and the heyday of the car and roadside America. There are sections for farm equipment, American culture and the typical teenager’s bedroom through the decades.

Also in the museum holds the presidential limo in which J.F. Kennedy was assassinated and the actual bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Visitors sit in the bus and hear Rosa Parks’ voice as she described the events.  The entire museum was fascinating and we wished we had a full day to enjoy it. It’s more than a typical museum because the artifacts are cars, a diner, a motel room display, furniture, tractors, and so much more.  We will also return here.

For those budget conscious visitors, here is how we saved our money. We stayed in Milford, Michigan at Camp Dearborn, a town operated camp. Because the camp is owned by the City of Dearborn, campers are eligible to buy discounted tickets to The Henry Ford. Our combination pass cost $23 (per person) and gave us admission to the village and the museum (and parking). Normally it would cost $23 for the village and $15 for the museum ($38 total) and parking ($5). We did have to travel about 35 miles to the camp, but we felt it was very much worth it, particularly because the camp was great (see a future post).

Our recommendation: go visit.

Alabama #3: Sloss Furnaces

 A series of Wednesday posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area.                     See Post #1 and Post #2.  This is Post #3.

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Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama is a National Historic Landmark and the only 20th century blast furnace in the country to be preserved and interpreted as a historic industrial site.  Sloss Furnaces began operating in 1882, and in the 1920s, at its height, 500 workers produced 400 tons of pig iron per day.  Pig iron is smelted iron ore and coke (fuel derived from coal) that is used to make wrought iron, cast iron, and steel. Birmingham is often referred to as the Pittsburgh of the South, for the abundance of iron producing resources located within 30 miles of the city: minerals, coal, ore, and clay. The furnace, just one of many around Birmingham, operated until 1971, after undergoing modernizations and holding out in a dying industry to due changing production methods.

Sloss Furnaces has been a National Historic Landmark since 1981, the first industrial site of its kind to be considered for this designation. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documented the site. To see the documentation (photographs, data pages, documents, measured drawings), see here, in the American Memory project of the Library of Congress. Today Sloss Furnaces serves as a historic site as well as a location for community and civic events.

Visiting Sloss Furnaces was a unique experience. We could walk almost anywhere we wanted to, gaze at old engines, furnaces, pipes, and other unidentifiable (to us, anyway) mechanisms. We arrived with about 30 minutes to spare before closing, but could have easily spent much more time wandering around inside and outside. Without having industrial knowledge, it is difficult to describe. Yet, it was my favorite place in Birmingham. To walk around in this place and imagine how it must have smelled, the sounds, the dust, the employees working long hours in the heat, is almost like stepping back in time.

There were a few engraved, informational plaques throughout the furnaces, but mostly it was unguided in all senses of the word. Nothing was blocked, though common sense tells you not to walk down the basement stairs that will lead to two inches of standing water in the same way that it tells you not to climb up the ladder to the ceiling even though it’s open and within reach. Having only experienced places where everything is so guarded, an opportunity to roam free and see everything on your own was amazing. The downside was that we couldn’t really answer our own questions, whereas a guide could have helped. However, we did not visit the gift shop and information desk before walking through (again, we were short on time) – but it would have been a good idea.

It seems like there would be many liability issues with open stairwells and so many mechanisms (albeit nonfunctional) within everyone’s reach. But I hope that the freedom for visitors of Sloss Furnaces remains because being able to slip around a corner and not feel like you’re on this forced path is a rare chance at historic sites. Some paths are clearly marked on the outside, but once inside it was the free roaming experience. Most of us cannot imagine what it was like to work during the industrial age. Visiting Sloss Furnaces increased my appreciation and awe for this period of history. I would gladly go back to spend a few hours (with more information to enhance my visit).

Because there are so many pictures to share, I’m including a gallery. Click on the photograph to get the larger image. Depending on your browser, you may be able to zoom in further. Some remain unlabeled because I do not know what it is.