Friday, April 18, 2014

Traveling with History: Macon

By Jeff  Burns

For many people, Macon is just the close-to-midpoint –of Georgia on I-75 on their way to and from Florida.  However, Macon has lots of historic and interesting sights to see, and lots of dedicated people eager to share it with you.
On this particular day, we were drawn by a special antique quilt exhibit at the Cannonball  House downtown.   The Cannonball House, named for damage sustained during the Civil War, was built in 1853 as a planter’s townhouse, to be occupied during the winter months.   It is an example of authentic Greek Revival architecture containing fine period furnishings, and it also houses a small but interesting collection of Confederate artifacts connected to the city and state.

The tour guides and volunteers are knowledgeable and take you through the house and its history, including the 2-story brick building in back which housed the kitchen, dining room, and servants’ quarters.

A few blocks away is the Tubman African-African Museum, at least for the next year.  If you walk, you can enjoy the great revitalization of downtown Macon.  Everywhere you look, buildings are being restored to their original beauty, and there are lots of restaurant choices. 

The Tubman on Walnut Street has been a Macon fixture since the early 1980s, and in 2015, it will be moving into a beautiful new (and 10 times larger) facility, also downtown.  Then, the museum will finally be able to display all of its collection, 90% of which is currently in storage.  Its mission is to educate its visitors about African-American art, history and culture and to serve as an active community resource, and the staff, one of the most enthusiastic and friendly museum staffs we’ve ever encountered, is definitely up to the task.

In addition to the local history, inventors, and folk art galleries now on display, the Tubman will be able to feature much more in the new location, including a large collection of artifacts acquired from the now defunct Georgia Music Hall of Fame, like Macon native Little Richard’s first piano.

Make plans to see the new Tubman in 2015, but don’t hesitate to visit before then.

So next time you’re passing through Macon, stop in for a while and enjoy the Cannonball and the Tubman and the other sites that we’ll be blogging about in the future.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Traveling with History: Road Trip through New Hampshire

By Jeff Burns

            In the summer of 2012, my wife and I decided to do a road trip through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  The plan was into fly into Burlington, Vermont, rent a car, and just go wherever the roads took us.  It was a wonderful trip even though New England was in the midst of a heat wave, with highs reaching the mid-80s.  As Georgians, it was absolutely refreshing even though the New Englanders were sweltering.
            We noticed an immediate difference between Vermont and New Hampshire as we crossed the state line.  New Hampshire seemed a lot more commercial with sprawling shopping centers and less of a regard for zoning regulations.  Nevertheless, we still found lots of interesting places to see.

            Augustus Saint-Gaudens is one of America’s greatest sculptors, our Rodin.  His works include the Robert Gould Memorial and the design of the famous 1907 $20 gold piece, often called the most beautiful American coin ever minted.  His home, studio, and garden are part of a beautiful National Park service site near Cornish, New Hampshire. 


            At Canterbury, you can immerse yourself in Shaker life.  Canterbury was one of the many New England settlements founded by the followers of Mother Ann Lee, who touted a life of simplicity and celibacy as the way to salvation.  It was occupied by Shakers until the 1960s.  The village is perfectly preserved and thoroughly tells their story.  We learned so much.


            Portsmouth is a picturesque waterfront town with one of the most unique museums in the country, Strawbery Banke. Visitors to Strawbery Banke have the opportunity to experience and imagine how people lived and worked in this typical American neighborhood through nearly four centuries of history. Using restored houses, featured exhibits, historic landscapes and gardens, and interpretive programs, Strawbery Banke tells the stories of the many generations who settled in this Portsmouth, New Hampshire "Puddle Dock" community from the late l7th to the mid-20th century.  Most houses have docents or re-enactors who bring the history to life.


            Overall, New Hampshire was a great trip!