Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Brick Work Ordered Again for West Freemason Street Historic District

On Columbus Day 2009, Norfolk, Virginia’s city workers were busy at the corners of West Freemason and Yarmouth Streets gently digging up the brick work that was laid the week before. According to a supervisor on the scene the brick pattern was not to the liking of someone at city hall despite the sign-off on the project at the time of installation. As a result the bricks were lifted by backhoe and piled for the bricklayers to redo the work.

The street supervisor told 42N that street bricks were most likely of African origin from the 1800s. The bricks served as ship ballast during the voyage and were eventually unloaded onto huge brick piles near the city’s docks during that period.

Norfolk, Virginia’s West Freemason Street Historic District is known for its visual chronology of residential architecture that represent over three centuries of styles dating from 1686. Surviving fires, floods, wars and the march of time, this area displays a progression of homes from the Federal style, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts Classicism, Queen Anne, and Georgian Revival styles. The street was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Know that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fifes and Drums in Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, America's Revolutionary City, knows how to end an October 14th day. The Fifes and Drums of Colonial Williamsburg marches west along the Duke of Gloucester Street before turning north at the courthouse.

Following this march the band drums for the Virginia militia while we see a demonstration of rifle shooting, more parade marching and the setting off of a cannon. All of this happens in conjunction with a visit by General George Washington on horseback. The general addresses the gathered crowd - many of whom are from England. Huzzah! Know that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Touring the USS Nitze During Fleet Week 2009

The guided missile destroyer, USS Nitze paid a visit to the Nauticus in downtown Norfolk, Virginia in mid-October. The occasion was to help celebrate the US Navy's 234th birthday by welcoming the public through tours of the active duty ship. This was the first visit in four years by a Navy ship to the facility for a public tour. Click here to see Norfolk's WAVY-television report of the ship's tour.

The crew assigned to the 42N group greeted each member and asked if there were any active or retired military in our group. An ex-navy guy and his family from the Norfolk area identified himself. The Nitze crew thanked him for his service and began the tour.

Our guide (the woman pictured above) explained the name of the ship and their ongoing mission. We toured the helicopter landing area and hanger, the ship's fire fighting team, the galley (which was filled with cooks and hungry sailors), and many tight passages. Part of the 'wow' factor was a walkthru of the ship's combat information center - a subdued lighting, computer screen filled room located directly below the bridge. It looks like what you see in the movies. Any sensitive data was scrubbed from the computer screens for these public visits.

Our tour continued upstairs to the bridge and then onto the forward deck to checkout the 5-inch gun and multiple hatches for the guided missile arsenal. An interesting feature of modern warships is the phased array radar systems. Two large flat radar panels are visible in the bottom photo behind the 5-inch gun control.

Our guide explained that she doesn't recommend standing anywhere near the 5-inch gun when it fires nor when the missiles start their climb out of the hatches. She said its pretty noisy. 42N thinks its probably worse to be on the receiving end of either of those two weapon systems.

The Commander of the USS Nitze, CDR Richard Brawley, wished us well at the end of the tour. He is proud of his ship and his people. So is 42N. Know that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Almost Cotton Pickin' Time at Shirley Plantation

During Columbus Day week last year this Shirley Plantation cotton field was already picked and ready for transport. This year the snow-like field awaits the mechanical harvest which had to be just days away from the October 14th summer-like day.

Near Hopewell and Charles City, Virginia Shirley Plantation is open to the public for tours and events. Part of the ongoing revenue for the plantation is the cash crops like cotton and soybeans. Cotton in full bloom adds that dimension of authenticity when visiting the oldest plantation in Virginia (1613.) More on the Shirley Plantation at a later post. Know that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Haunting of Colonial Williamsburg

Ghost tours are a popular events at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia especially in the fall when the conditions seem right to properly frame the stories. This week while the 42N blogger was in the 18th-century living-history park we heard two new reports of super natural sightings not part of the regular ghost tours in Colonial Williamsburg.

A Williamsburg worker told us that people can occasionally see small orb-shaped glowing clouds floating down the Duke of Gloucester Street at night. She described these clouds as the size of small children which move along the street and at times move from side to side in the street.

The second report came from a woman working the gift shop at the DeWitt Wallace Art Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. The woman told us about encounters when she worked in the nearby Celebrations shop (110 S Henry St.) In the basement after Celebrations closed she would tidy the place up and organize it for the next day. In the morning she and others would find items moved from where they were placed the night before. She also reports hearing footsteps after all people were out of the building. She claims that this is a male entity who is just messing with them and is doing no harm. Our visit to Celebrations yielded no brushes with ghosts but we did talk to the sales people.

This week during our night strolls on the streets of Colonial Williamsburg we encountered no mysterious vapors but did observe the ever popular ghost tours in progress. Coincidentally, the Bruton Parish Church, located on the Colonial Williamsburg property, conducted an evening music performance which allowed for its cemetery grounds to be visited at night - another place of many reported sightings.

One thing is for certain, the interest in ghosts especially at such a historic place like Williamsburg is a big draw for the property and privately guided groups. People enjoy hearing a good ghost story, getting scared and trying their luck in seeing or capturing a photo of a colonial spirit. Know that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

USS Wisconsin Prepares for Navy's 234th Birthday

The USS Wisconsin, anchored in Norfolk, Virginia, is being decked out today in patriotic bunting in preparation for celebration of the US Navy's 234th birthday this week. The Iowa-class battleship entered World War II service and presently is a key attraction in the downtown waterfront area. The standout weaponry on these battleships are the nine 16-inch guns.

One remarkable feature of this decorated warship is the rebuilt bow. After a foggy collision with another navy ship during the 1950s, the damaged USS Wisconsin's bow was taken off and replaced with the bow section from the last Iowa class battleship under construction at the time, the USS Kentucky. The merger of the two ship parts is fondly referred to as the WIS-KY after the abbreviations for the two states.

While the USS Wisconsin was closed to tours on this Monday, the ship is readily accessible along the Cannonball trail - the extended sidewalk that allows spectacular views of the warship. Take time to read the various information displays along the walkway. Statues and monuments to other Norfolk-based personnel who gave their lives in defense of our country are located along the path. Know that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rennes Le Chateau at 42N - Surely Just a Coincidence

42N country stretches around the world - as you would expect. While previous posts here concentrate around 42N and 92W, its time to expand the coverage. A quick look around for other interesting places located on the 42N meridian starts pretty much near the prime meridian or the rose line - the first prime meridian.

Located at 42°55'41" N, 2°15'46" E is a church, castle and french town connected closely with the work of Henry Lincoln, Richard Leigh and others -- Rennes Le Chateau. What better place to tie in previous 42N posts with masonic and other related references. Indeed a mysterious place and a mysterious story - enough to inspire author Dan Brown with the creation of The Da Vinci Code and become a tourist spot for decades. Know that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Biderman Hotel Nears the End Along Cedar River

Ironically the knockout blow to the continuing existence of what was the Biderman Hotel is the very reason that brought people out to the site - the river.

In the late 1890s the Cedar Springs Hotel was built along the northern banks of the Cedar River, adjoining present day Palisades - Kepler State Park in eastern Iowa (42N country) near Cedar Rapids. By 1914 the property was sold to Adolph Biderman who turned the hotel and grounds into a major destination place. Adolph's granddaughter Pat Biderman is the present owner of the property. Pat says the hotel's registration book is filled with names from all over the world.

On a September 2009 tour of the property Pat explained how the Cedar River's historic flood in June 2008 put an end to any plans of saving the structure. She started the demolition process of the wooden building noting that the paperwork is more tedious than the eventual bulldozing of the structure. At present Pat has no plans to rebuild on the site.

The hotel was known by the names, the Cedar Springs Hotel, Upper Palisades Hotel and the Biderman Hotel. The image above shows the hotel in the 1930s with many people formally dressed and positioned on the hotel's two porches. The bottom photo was taken in early September. The second story porch was removed many years ago.

In its present condition it is hard to imagine that on certain Independence Day celebrations upwards to a thousand people would come on to the grounds for enjoying nature, fireworks, hotel dinners, and the company of others.
Much more information exists on the property and will be the subject of a later blog entry. Know that.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Just One Word - Plastics"

What's more fun than a barrel of monkeys? Maybe it's the Graduate's classic movie line about plastics that comes to mind. Otherwise, this storage area for plastic barrels make for a great black & white composition.

Long ago when I started took up photography with a friend, we concentrated on black & white imagery as it was the easiest way to process and print photos in his basement darkroom. Later, courses in college emphasized both the news value and the art of black & white photography.

Today with online photo editors and other powerful image software it is a snap to shoot, edit and publish. Still, composition is the key for basic good photography. Look for lines, contrast, and the moment to capture the IT image. Know that.