Friday, February 21, 2014

Traveling with History: Columbus

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Do you like to travel?  Do you like History?  Do you like combining both?  One of the places to visit with an eye towards history is Columbus—founded in 1828 on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River, it is Georgia's second largest city.  The city’s past is connected to the Creek Indians, textiles, Civil War Naval battles and today’s military at Fort Benning.
Some historic points of interest to see:
National Infantry Museum—Located at the entrance of Fort Benning, the museum honors Soldiers by providing education and training to Soldiers, families, and the general public on all facets of the history of the United States Infantry.  The museum also educates on the origin and development of Fort Benning.  The exhibits within the museum tell the story of the United States Army Infantryman, from the fields of the American Revolution to the sands of Afghanistan. You will also find displays of artifacts from all eras of American history and numerous interactive exhibits helping to bring the nation’s past to life through the latest in technological innovation.

National Civil War Naval Museum—located on the Chattahoochee River the museum tells the story of the Sailors, Soldiers, and Civilians, both Free and Enslaved as affected by the Navies of the American Civil War.  The museum overlooks the Chattahoochee River and houses the largest surviving Confederate warship, the CSS Jackson.  When seeing the CSS Jackson, the sheer size is overwhelming.  Also, the smell of the ship is formidable.  Visitors also have the chance to walk around a full scale ship replica of the USS Water Witch.  For those who love flags, the museum includes the largest collection of Civil War Naval-related flags on display in the country.

Columbus Museum—is a wonderful free museum founded in 1953.  It is one of the largest museums in the Southeast and contains exhibits concentrating on American art in all mediums, artifacts from the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley including Indian archaeological artifacts, and overall regional history. A real surprise is the interactive children’s gallery.  As a parent, I can say the children’s interactive area is one of the best I have seen in a museum.   

Heritage Park—take a walking of the park to see the industrial history of Columbus from 1850 to 1910, through interpretive sculptures and descriptive venues.  The outdoor sculptures and historic elements of the park represent the textile, gristmill, brick and foundry industries involved in the growth and development of the area, as well as agriculture and forest products, dams and bridges, river trade and travel, and Coca-Cola. You can either walk around on your own or schedule a guided tour through the Historic Columbus Foundation’s Heritage Tours.

Heritage Corner—Walk around the historic district at the corner of 7th Street & Broadway.  The area contains the five preserved homes you can tour representing different eras of Georgia history. Among them is the Pemberton House, once the home of local pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton, inventor of Coca-Cola.

The Riverwalk—stroll the banks of the Chattahoochee River stretching 22 miles from Lake Oliver on the north to Fort Benning on the South.  The Riverwalk links many key historic sites and points of interest in the city.  

Kadie the Cow—is a supersized 20 feet tall cow and more of a roadside attraction than a real history lesson.  For many years Kadie stood on a hill outside the Kinnett Dairies overlooking a shopping mall. Sadly, the dairies were torn down in the early 2000s and have since been replaced by Best Buy, but  Kadie remains.  

These are just some of my Columbus historical highlights.  What would you include in your historical tour of Columbus?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Traveling with History: Sacramento

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Do you like to travel?  Do you like History?  Do you like combining both?  One of the places to visit with an eye towards history is Sacramento—the California Capital that was founded by Swiss immigrant John Sutter, but quickly outgrew its Fort Sutter beginnings thanks to the California Gold Rush. Historically, Sacramento was a major distribution point—a commercial and agricultural center, a terminus for wagon trains, stagecoaches, riverboats, the telegraph, the Pony Express, and the First Transcontinental Railroad. It is a great destination for anyone who loves to travel with a mind to history. 

Some great sites to see:

Delta King—a 285-foot-long paddlewheel steamboat christened in May of 1927.  In its heyday, the Delta King traveled between Sacramento, California and San Francisco, California on 10-hour trips.  However, today the Delta King is permanently moored in Sacramento as a hotel.  Enjoy dinner or spend the night on the steamboat. Its sister ship, the Delta Queen can be found in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Sacramento History Museum—located in a reproduction of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks, the museum’s mission is to explore, interpret and display the region’s history from the days before the Gold Rush to the present. The museum does a good of capturing the past in its several galleries. The museum is also the place where you can sign up for a walking tour of the city.  The museum is the starting point for exploring the entire Old Sacramento State Historic Park.

Old Sacramento Town Tour—set out from the Museum to see all of Old Sac.  Within old Sacramento City you will see original and reconstructed Gold Rush era buildings.  Rather than walk the city on your own, purchase a guided tour.  Your guide will describe Sacramento City as it was in the 19th Century.  The city has a varied past—from miners to merchants, politicians, pony express riders, and employees of the transcontinental railroad, all elements will be covered.  The city has survived floods, fires, the Gold Rush, and becoming the California state capital.

California State Railroad Museum—this museum is a HUGE complex that consists of six original, reconstructed, and new buildings in the heart of Old Sac.  This is no ordinary museum where you have one or two locomotives and the rest of the galleries full of pictures of trains.  Rather, this museum is full of real trains, lots and lots of them.  I was expecting a typical museum of one or two engines but was amazed at the sheer volume of trains.  As someone who has not spent a lot of time on a train it was nice to see the history of trains—life sized.   Rather than wander through the museum on your own, grab a docent and learn all about these beautifully restored railroad cars and locomotives that are used to illustrate the ultimate railroad history of California and the West.

Throughout the main Railroad History Museum building, 21 meticulously restored locomotives and cars and numerous exhibits illustrate how railroads have shaped people's lives, the economy, and the unique culture of California and the West. Included are a Pullman-style sleeping car, a dining car filled with railroad china, and a Railway Post Office that visitors can actually step aboard.

Sutter’s Fort—is a compound built near the junction of the American and Sacramento Rivers in 1839.  It was originally called "New Helvetia" (New Switzerland) by its founder and builder John Sutter. The fort was originally a 19th century agricultural and trade colony in the Mexican Alta California Province and was the first non-Native American community in the California Central Valley.  While touring the Fort you can learn all about its association with the Donner Party, the California Gold Rush, the formation of Sacramento, and the end of the California Trail.

Museum at Marshall Gold State Park in Coloma—travel outside Sacramento to Coloma, to see the origins of the California Gold Rush.  Here you can see gold discoverer James Marshall’s monument, the original gold discovery site (Sutter’s Mill) and several historic buildings. At the park you can visit the museum showcasing the area’s history.  The park contains many original and restored buildings from the Gold Rush era, including some dedicated to the Chinese immigrants.  Also, take time at the park to pan for gold.  Yes, they “salt” the mine and it is hard work, but you can take home some Sutter’s Mill gold! Within the park you can also see a working replica of the original Sutter’s Mill.

These are just some of the highlights to see if you head to Sacramento to experience the California Gold Rush.  What would you include in your historical tour of Sacramento?