Saturday, July 12, 2014


A huge highlight of the visit to Nashville was a kayaking trip down the Cumberland River to watch the fireworks. It was truly amazing and something I would do again. The fireworks display in Nashville is the largest and longest in the South and one of the biggest in the country. To be almost underneath them with the monumental bridges and buildings of Nashville as the setting made for a truly memorable event. Here are just a few pictures to give you an idea of the magic of the moment.

Heading toward downtown.

The General Jackson cruises by.

This is a favorite of mine. Something about the light, smoke, silhouettes and water.

Keeping with the theme of explosive subjects, this was quite a find in the archives of the Madison County, Alabama, Records Center. Huge thanks to Donna for sharing this piece of evidence from a divorce case from the 1920's. I think it speaks for itself.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Middle South

Making my way south, I hit Nashville for some family time and new sights. It was a little hazy when I was there, but cooler than it had been. Here is the State House, designed by Philadelphia architect William Strickland. He is apparently buried up there, too. More on Strickland later.

A great discovery was the Marathon Motor Works, a Nashville-based car manufacturer from the first decades of the automotive industry. The company was apparently quite successful during its short tenure--located at this industrial buildings in Nashville from about 1909 to 1914. Financial mismanagement apparently led to its downfall. The site is now developed into offices and retail shops and is a great example of early industrial construction and how it can be successfully repurposed.

This is not a Marathon car, but it showed up all of a sudden.

Another great stop was the Nashville Farmers' Market--right in the heart of downtown.

I love this arrangement of yellow squash.

One of the great treats of the visit was the opportunity to go inside the truly spectacular Egyptian Revival First Presbyterian Church in downtown Nashville. The church was designed by William Strickland and built from 1849-1851. Strickland was a great architect of the Greek Revival (see the Second Bank of the United States and Providence Athenaeum), but here he is working in a different and popular style of the time.

This most spectacular interior is the real treat.

The stained glass and elaborate decorations are amazing--and beautifully preserved.

There were many more treats--including the fireworks and a South-wide survey of barbecue joints, but more on both of those later.  Here is Clovis in his celebrity motor coach.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Southern Progress

Working my way South for family visits and research. Here are some highlights of the trip.

First stop, Arlington National Cemetery. A view of Arlington House from the grave of John and Jacqueline Kennedy. Robert E. Lee married the step-great-granddaughter of George Washington in this house and made this his primary home until the Civil War. The Union army quickly occupied the site overlooking Washington, D.C., and as the war ground on and the death toll rose, turned it into a shrine to those who have given their lives to our nation. A good place to stop at on the approach to the Fourth of July.

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a sweltering day, but the guard did not show it.

A little further south, a stop at Manassas Battlefield. The battle of First Manassas, the first major engagement of the Civil War, took place on July 21, 1861. The beautiful countryside belies the terrible carnage that was a harbinger of the battles to come over four grueling years.

One of the earliest memorials to a Civil War battle, this was dedicated in June of 1865.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson earned his sobriquet at Bull Run. There is a life-size equestrian statue of him in the park, one of many, many memorials to "Stonewall" in Virginia.

Further south, Clovis and I stopped in Lexington, Virginia, where both Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute are located. "Stonewall" Jackson taught at VMI and so there are many more monuments to him there. Washington and Lee is the burial place of General Robert E. Lee and his family as well. Lee was president of Washington and Lee after the war and died there in 1870. Almost immediately, planning began for an elaborate memorial, further embellished over the years. The United Daughters of the Confederacy were instrumental in many Confederate memorials throughout the South.

Lee's famed horse Traveler is also buried nearby.

 Lexington is also the burial place of Southern painter William D. Washington, painter of an iconic Confederate painting, The Burial of Latane.

The painting, completed in 1864, memorialized the death of a cavalry officer killed during one of General J.E.B. Stuart's famous exploits. A poem inspired the sentimental painting, which was reproduced as an engraving and widely owned in the South after the war.

Enough with the Civil War minutiae, how about a balloon ride from a parking lot?

Or this interesting find in a Lexington antique shop. A Lyle Gun for $1,875.  The U.S. Life Saving Service (from 1878 to 1914, predecessor to the Coast Guard) used this gun to launch the rope used in the "breeches-buoy" method of life saving. When a ship was wrecked close enough to shore, a line would be shot from this small cannon to the ship, where it would be secured to a mast and raised on a large crutch above the surf. Then a pulley system would be put to work to bring survivors of the wreck safely to shore one at a time in a pair of canvas pants attached to a life preserver. You never know what you'll find.