Friday, January 23, 2015

Traveling with History: The Atlanta History Center

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 the Atlanta History Center—a sprawling complex located on 33 acres in the historic Buckhead section of Atlanta.  The Atlanta History Center’s main mission is to connect people, history, and culture through the Atlanta History Museum, the Centennial Olympic Games Museum, the Swan House, and the Smith Family Farm.  Visitors to the Center can learn all about the Atlanta region's people, from its earliest settlers to the international city it is today. 

Highlights of the Atlanta History Center:

Swan House
For many, the Swan House is the ultimate image of the Atlanta History Center since it is one of the most recognized and photographed landmarks.  It is a mansion built in 1928 for the Edward H. Inman family, heirs to a cotton brokerage fortune. The Swan House allows visitors to glimpse the lifestyle of a prominent Atlanta family during the 1920s and 1930s.  Additionally, thanks to the Hunger Games movie trilogy, special tours called “Capital Tours” of the mansion are also offered.  On these special tours, visitors can sit at President Snow’s desk and even see rooms that are not normally on the tour. 

Smith Family Farm
The Smith Family Farm includes the Tullie Smith House, a plantation house built in the 1840s by the Robert Smith family. The house survived the destruction in and around Atlanta during the Civil War.  Both the house and the detached kitchen were moved to the Atlanta History Center in the early 1970s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Smith Family Farm consists of the Tullie Smith House, the separate open hearth kitchen, a dairy, blacksmith shop, smokehouse, double corncrib, slave cabin, and barn, as well as traditional vegetable, herb, field, flower, and slave gardens.  Visitors can get a sense of a working farm during the Antebellum period.  As my youngest daughter was excited to learn, if you visit at the right time of year, and you can even see the sheep being sheered!

Centennial Olympic Games Museum
Thanks to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, Atlanta became the focus of the entire world for seventeen days.  The exhibit showcases the history of the Olympic games, from its inception in ancient Greece through the modern Olympic Games to the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games and its legacy.  Visitors can stand on the winners platform or sit down and watch key moments from the games.  Also, the museum is America’s only complete collection of Olympic torches and medals.

Down the Fairway with Bobby Jones Exhibit
Bobby Jones is one of the most famous athletes of the 1920s and 1930s, and is the face of modern era Golf.  The exhibit is the largest display focused on the man that many consider to be one of the most important golfers in the history of the game.  The exhibit includes photographs and personal artifacts that follow Jones life, his record tournament wins, his family life, and his help in creating the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.  The exhibit also includes artifacts from the game of golf from its early history to the modern era.

If you are a fan of Atlanta, the Olympics, Golf or are a Civil War history buff, we recommend taking a tour of the Atlanta History Center. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Traveling with History: Daytrip to Hot Springs

By Jeff Burns

            Hot Springs Arkansas is located deep within the Ouachita Mountains  and is set among several natural hot springs for which the city is named. The center of Hot Springs is the oldest federal reserve in the United States, preserved as Hot Springs National Park. The hot spring water has been popularly believed for centuries to possess medicinal properties, and was a subject of legend among local Native American tribes. Following federal protection in 1832, the city developed into a successful spa town. Incorporated in January 10, 1851, the city has been home over the years to Major League Baseball spring training, illegal gambling, speakeasies and gangsters such as Al Capone, horse racing at Oaklawn Park, and 42nd President Bill Clinton and bills itself as “America’s first resort town.”
            Of course, the main attractions are the hot springs.  If you have just a day or so, plan to spend it walking downtown along historic Central Avenue, the core of the National Park area.  There’s lots of shopping but you want to see and experience the baths.  You might start off at the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and get an overview of the resort’s history and bathhouse culture.

            Next, proceed to the Buckstaff Baths, opened in 1912, and the only traditional bathhouse still in operation for your own experience.  There, splurge for the deluxe treatment and spend the next hour and a half or so in pure luxury.  Men and women are catered to on separate floors.  Your very own bath attendant will start you in a large tub filled with spring water at between 105 and 110 degrees (F).  Afterwards, you’re steamed, showered, and swaddled in hot towels.  Finish off with a massage.  It is a glorious experience!
            After your bath, take a few minutes to explore the underworld of Hot Springs heyday at the Gangster Museum of America across the street or the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. The Mountain Valley Spring Company maintains a beautiful visitor center and museum on Central Avenue as well, telling its own story dating from 1871. 

            Have more time?  There’s plenty more to do, year –round.  Check out visitor information for Hot Springs.