Lee-Fendall House

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

For as historic as Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is, they only have two historic homes open to the public year round. Although in many ways, that doesn’t bother me, I like the idea that history lives on and new memories are filling the halls of the ghostly past.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

One of these two homes is the Lee-Fendall House. What makes this home historic aside from being family owned through many generations, is that the “Lee” in Lee-Fendall is Robert E. Lee’s family. From the time the home was built-in 1785 until 1903 when the house was sold to the Downham family, it was family owned. Eventually in 1937 John L. Lewis purchased the house and lived there until his death in 1969.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

This Victorian home was built-in a country side style, something unique for Alexandria City. Homes as large as this in a city were “urban plantations”. The garden would have been full of stables, laundries, a rabbit house, a pigeon-house. No space spared. Throughout time however, the garden turned into something peaceful and serene, for those who had leisure time. Today the half-acre lot is an award-winning garden maintained partially by the Alexandria Council of Garden Clubs. The council established an endowment fund which continues to support a portion of the garden’s ongoing maintenance and restoration costs since 1974.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

During the Civil War, the house, as many grand houses were, was turned into a medical hospital for union soldiers. It is believed this hospital was for the terminally ill men as a morgue had been built-in the garden at this time. This house is probably most historically known for the simple knowledge that the first, successful, blood transfusion in the US was performed here. Now, that is not to say it could be immediately repeated, however, it was finally understood that it could be done.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

All of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Lee-Fendall House Museum

Visit Alexandria

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The Newseum

Newseum Sign

Continuing my adventures locally, I decided it’s time to start hitting up some of the museums I have been meaning to get to over time. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Newseum, not knowing much about it other than everyone who has been there speaks highly of it. I loved it! Great exhibits of major news events, and about the history of news, from around the world. What a wonderful way to show off the history of life then through the eyes of the media!

Newseum Building

The museum itself stands proudly on Pennsylvania Avenue, although the building looks massive, it’s exhibits are well laid out in small sections surrounding a massive 6 story entrance hall fully equipped with a news helicopter! The museum also offers an introductory video, 4D theatre, and supporting videos throughout most of the exhibits, along with a lot of interactive touch screens and a mock news studio section where visitors can show off their talents and take pictures! Come with me as I take you on a brief walk through of my favorite highlights…

Newseum entrance hall with helicopter

We decided to start at the bottom and work our way to the top. The first exhibit, on the ground floor after the introduction video, is the graffiti covered Berlin Wall, fully equipped with a Death Tower. This particular Death Tower, which stands three-stories tall, was used to house armed guards with search lights on top, stood at Stallschreiberstrasse. This tower was gifted from the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin in 1994.

Berlin Wall at the Newseum

Berlin Wall Death Tower at the Newseum

On our way to the Photo of the Year exhibit, housing amazing and some very tragic and heart wrenching photographs was a satellite news truck, locate next to the cafeteria, surprisingly, with good fresh food. The photo exhibit leads into the FBI exhibit. Home to the ever hot topic in the news, terrorism. On display is everything from the Unabomber’s cabin, airplane engines from 9-11, cells phones from the 9-11 wreckage, a sneaker bomb, and hand written letters from the Waco disaster. A really interesting section.

Newseum FBI Exhibit

Newseum FBI Exhibit Unabomber Cabin

Newseum FBI Exhibit Waco Display

One of the more off the cuff exhibits that I wasn’t expecting was an exhibit on The Anchor Man movie. The most interesting part I found of this exhibit was “The Real Story” signage that went along with it discussing topics such as the format of news and women anchors. Without putting much thought into the history of television news. Heading upwards, there is an exhibit with a massive three wall timeline of “Internet, TV, and Radio”. It’s truly amazing how modern technology has changed the face of news, including the most recent trends of social media. My favorite part of this exhibit was the display case housing an original professional digital camera that was produced by Kodak and Nikon produced in 1994. It’s big, and knowing how heavy my professional camera is, I cannot imagine how heavy the one in the case is! Working our way up to the next floor we found ourself in front of what I feel is probably the most important in the history of the way the news has developed in our country, the First Amendment Gallery. If it wasn’t for so many of our First Amendment rights in this country, especially Freedom of the Press, our news could not possibly be what it is. This section although brief, is very valuable. On the Freedom of Press display,they even discuss Garrett Graff, the first White House Blogger. My favorite, and if anyone was following my tweets from this day, is the big poster of Bart Simpson writing on the chalkboard “The first amendment does not cover burping”!

Newseum First Amendment Exhibit, Freedom of the Press Display

Further down the hall is the “Inside Tim Russert’s Office. Tim Russert (1950-2008) well-known for NBC’s Meet the Press, had a special exhibit, including a recreation his messy office space along with a diagram of what was on his desk.

Newseum, Tim Russert's Exhibit

Around the corner is located an exhibit on a modern news story that effected so many people and their lives. The 9-11’s exhibit. This two-story exhibit houses an antenna from the top of one of the World Trade Center’s buildings. Along with a two-story wall covered with front page newspapers from the attack. Although this section does contain other items such as items found in the wreckage and a limestone cornice piece from the pentagon, the antenna and wall of newspapers is pretty overwhelming and was the majority of my focus in this exhibit.

Newseum, 9-11 Exhibit, World Trade Center Tower Antenna

Probably the most important section of the whole museum is the room full of newspapers from important events from around the world across time. Off to the left of this exhibit were some really old books, including the Magna Carta from 1215. But the room full of newspaper draws is filled with fun and heroic and terrifying stories from throughout history. From war, to peace, to Jesse James assassination, women’s right to vote, to the man on the moon.

Newseum, Manga Carta

Newseum, Tray's of Newspapers

Newseum, Tray's of Newspapers

Although I didn’t discuss all the exhibits, I really enjoyed myself. Be prepared for a long day out. Even if you don’t read all the signs you walk past and stop to watch the videos, the museum has so much to offer. We spent 5 hours including lunch and we figured we could have spent another 2 hours easily. And make sure and take in the 4D movie, it was worth the watch!

Although I the Newseum was happy to sponsor my visit, all of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links


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Walking the DC Memorials…

Growing up in the Washington DC metropolitan area, I know my parents took me to see a lot as a kid. And over the years when friends and family came into town, we would head in and do something touristy. But in all honesty, I rarely cross the river. Since I am a part-time traveller, I figured I should get to know the area I live in just as I would want to get to know the places I visit. Recently I had the awesome opportunity to work with Context Travel and attend their Front Yard America walk in downtown DC with Katie.

In the many years since I have moved abroad and returned to my home city, new monuments have surfaced that I had yet to have seen, so this was a perfect chance to get myself out and about! Katie was full of information, somethings I remember learning as I grew up, some things I think I knew but I had forgotten, and many things, I simply just didn’t know! DC was once mostly swamp area, and during the summers the area suffer’s from immense heat, humidity, and bugs! Fortunately our three-hour tour included a lot of shaded area’s; because it was the first silly hot day of the season, even at 9am the sun was suffocating. We did our best not to let it distract us too much!

Starting by the capitol building in front of the botanical gardens we got a brief overall lesson of the basic city plan in the early days and headed to the Smithsonian castle to view a 3D model of the current city as is. We then wandered our way down the length of the mall, past the Washington Monuments and almost all the memorials. Did you know that there is only one monument in Washington DC? Everything else is considered a memorial. New fact!

Interesting facts and tidbits:

Washington DC, USA

-The (current) Capitol Building is actually the third design throughout time. The first, with a leaky roof, the British kindly burned down for us during the war of 1812. The second was the rebuild from that fire and I think the third update was due to the ever-growing congress and renovations were required for a larger building.

-To get the marble to the capitol building location to build the capitol, a canal was built from the river to the building site following the now road that is called Constitution. The canal is still present under the road, it was never drained or filled in, so the road floods easily.

-The monument that proudly stands in front of the Capitol building is the Grant memorial. It is also the third largest equestrian memorial in the western hemisphere…who would have thought?!

Washington DC, USA

-The Botanical Gardens was originally planned to be directly in front of the capitol building, over time it was moved to the side. Maybe as not to effect the view from the steps to the washington monument.

Washington DC, USA

-The Washington Monument lost funding around the time of the civil war. When construction restarted, they could not get the same marble, you can see the difference in color just shy of half way up.

-2011’s earthquake caused structural damage to the Monument. Repairs are expensive, but there are plans for private and public funds to be put towards the project of repairing and reopening the Monument.

Washington DC, USA   Washington DC, USA

-Smithsonian Castle. Washington is somewhat unique in the fact that they offer free museums. “The Smithsonian Institution was established with funds from James Smithson (1765-1829), a British scientist who left his estate to the United States to found ‘at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.'” (Smithsonian Institute). The Castle was the first building ever built under the name Smithsonian and mostly offers a rest area with bathrooms for tourists, the rest of the building I believe is purely administrative. But they do have beautiful roses out front.

Washington DC, USA

-Our newest memorial, The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial looks out over the tidal basin towards the Jefferson Memorial, a lot of controversy went into developing this memorial from the position it was facing to the paraphrased quotes used around the site.

Washington DC, USA

-Franklin D. Roosevelt was our only disabled president, what are the changes a man in a wheel chair are to get elected again? Of course there were not TV’s and the opposition back then didn’t seem to strike at personal information quite like the cat fights of today! This is one of my favorite memorials.

Washington DC, USA

-The Vietnam Memorial is a long reflective wall listing all servicemen’s name who died in action during that time. Here’s the thing, this memorial was built about what many consider a less important “Conflict” when still nothing had been built for WWII or the Korean War. These soldiers standing watch over the wall was actually an after thought because of the controversy of there being no actual figures.

Washington DC, USA   Washington DC, USA

-In response to the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial was built shortly after, also with a reflecting wall, but this time with a field full of soldier figures.

-The World War II Memorial is one of the most recently built memorials. With a large fountain surrounded but an Atlantic side and a Pacific side, every state and territory is named on a pillar with a memorial wreath.

-The tour didn’t actually take us to the Jefferson Memorial because the walk to the other side of the tidal basin is not by any means a short one! But the beauty of the memorial radiates.

Washington DC, USA   Washington DC, USA

-The Lincoln Memorial, I swear Lincoln gets bigger every time I see him! Lincoln proudly watches over the mall from his perch with a view towards the capitol building.

Wow, what a walk! Although I was a guest of Context Travel on this walk, all of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Front Yard America, Context Travel

Smithsonian Institute

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Small Concert Venues and Jo Dee Messina!

Annapolis, from what I can tell has a beautiful downtown area with shops and restaurants. Although, I have only ever been to Annapolis to see performances at Ram’s Head Tavern, I should really get back one of these weekends and write-up a blog on the area. Ram’s Head Tavern is a great place for a night out, they have great food, good beer and an awesome outdoor seating area. They also offer live music. But what makes this place stand out is that they have a concert hall attached. It seats maybe 400 people, give or take 100 in either direction. It’s a “dinner theatre” style, so you buy seats at a table and order food and drinks during the performance. Small settings are a great way to see any musical act, everyone has a great seat!

Last week I had the opportunity to travel up to Annapolis with a group of friends to see Jo Dee Messina perform. She started with two of my favorite songs of hers, Heads Carolina, Tails California and I’m Alright. Already the night was off to a great start in my opinion. Then she announced, in small settings, she likes to interact with her fans, so she ask us to start offering up questions. Some one even got up on stage and sang with her.

Ila & Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee & “The Dream Lady” Ila

It made the concert personal, which was really awesome. The show I attended was her 4th performance in 3 days, and the second of that day, plus she is a mom of a 3-year-old and a 3 month old, so she expressed her exhaustion to us, but that didn’t stop the show from ending 40 min’s late! My friend Ila asked her a thought-provoking question about dreams, which then got Ila termed as the Dream Lady! Fair play, she had plenty more questions. One of her later questions was when did Jo Dee feel closest to god, and Jo Dee sang us her song that she wrote specifically about that. What an awesome way for a singer to respond to a question!

Heather Markman & Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee & Me

Jo Dee also gave us the honor of sharing a bit of herself outside of the question world and sang for us two new song’s she has recently written and the background of what was going on in her life/in her head at the time she wrote them. How fun! At the end of the night, although she didn’t officially come out to sign autographs, Ila and I snuck up and got our picture’s taken. I will admit, I was so excited, I was shaking! I also promised to give a shout out to her blog, Fumbling Mom. A funny blog sharing day-to-day stories about life as a mom.

Interesting Links:

Fumbling Mom Blog, Jo Dee Messina’s humorous blog about motherhood & other stuff

Rams Head Tavern

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Vampire Legends & Dead Presidents

Old cemetery’s are full of ghost stories and legends. The are filled with those who are long forgotten and recent memories of loved ones. They can be beautiful and eerie. This particular cemetery is located in the heart of Richmond, Virginia nestled along the James River. The Hollywood Cemetery’s history began in 1849 and is home to many of great men who proudly served their nation as well as family burial plots and some of our histories most notable names. The cemetery is one of the area’s main attractions.

grave market, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

I enjoyed an afternoon roaming the rural garden style cemetery with my friend and her son. We passed many people picnicking, biking and relaxing among the grave markers. Some plots have long been forgotten and have been slowly overgrown with plant life, while others remain clean and tidy. I enjoyed the uniqueness of the many mausoleums throughout the grounds. Although many great people are buried in Hollywood Cemetery, artists, writers, and many long forgotten citizens, our day was to see some of the names we recognized most and the beautiful stone work of time gone by. There are several memorials to those who once helped shape the country I call home. In 1869, a pyramid was constructed as a memorial to the more than 18,000 enlisted men of the Confederate Army buried in the cemetery. Te cemetery is also the final resting place to two US Presidents, the president of the Confederacy, 25 Confederate generals, including JEB Stuart.

grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

But first and formost…

The Vampire Legend

I have never been big into vampires, I am not familiar with the recent Twilight phenomenon nor many legends throughout history. But I always enjoy a good local legend. The Richmond Vampire legend began around 1925. The story goes, a bloody creature with jagged teeth and skin hanging from its muscular body, emerged from a cave-in and dashed towards the River. The creature was pursued by a group of men and took refuge in Hollywood Cemetery. The creature then disappeared into W.W. Pool’s mausoleum never to be seen again.

grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

I wont spoil the fun by including the historical facts to this even, but if your interest feel free to check the facts on the Richmond Vampire on wikipedia! Disclaimer: As with most legends there is an explanation, it will spoil the fun!

Dead Presidents

Virginia is the birth place to 8 presidents, thats more then any other state. Something we Virginians are proud of, so it’s not surprising that we find two of them buried here. Three of them are buried out of state, including one at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC and the other three are buried at their homes, scattered throughout Virginia. James Monroe and Zachary Taylor’s graves and located next to each other at the top of a hill overlooking the beautiful river below. Hollywood Cemetery is also the final resting place of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy, among the four years of their succession from the Union (United States). His grave and memorial is located lower in the cemetery, next to what I like to refer to as mausoleum row.

John Tyler:

grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

James Monroe:

grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

Jefferson Davis:

grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

Mausoleum Row:

grave marker, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

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