Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Quaint to quirky, this state has it all. Vermont is predominately rural with mountains, villages, and a few small cities. From the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River on the east to Lake Champlain to the northwest, Vermont has much to attract the RVer.

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The intense green forests are studded with colorful bursts of summer flowers. Central Vermont, from Burlington to the Montpelier area, offers many interesting and delicious attractions to RVers.

Montpelier, the smallest capital in America with a population under 8,000 people, is a charming historic town with the largest urban historic district in Vermont. It is readily accessible from I-89 which runs from the southeast corner of the state to the northwest.

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background.

Guided tours are available free of charge. Next door to the capitol, the Vermont Historical Society Museum is a must for history buffs.

Montpelier is a walking city. The heart of the downtown is three blocks from the State House. Downtown Montpelier is a vibrant center of interesting, independently owned shops and restaurants. It is also home to the New England Culinary Institute, which operates three restaurants—NECI on Main, Dewey Cafe, and La Brioche Bakery & Café—with irresistible delights in this eclectic New England town.

The Rock of Ages granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Rock of Ages granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s plenty of beautiful countryside to see around Montpelier and a number of interesting tours nearby.

About 7 miles southeast of the state capital is Barre, known as the Granite Center of the World. Its downtown, with several prominent sculptures and granite faced buildings, reflects that heritage. Its famed quarries at the edge of town are sprawling and spectacular with an estimated 4,500-year supply of Barre Gray granite still to be quarried out of the surrounding hills.

The Rock of Ages which claims to be the world’s largest granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. Climb aboard a shuttle bus for a guided tour of the quarry and watch the process of mining granite. From behind a wire fence, gaze down at the 600-foot-deep quarry. In the quarry, workers and machines drill, split, explode, and lift massive blocks of granite. Watching steel derricks hoist the blocks from the deep quarry is quite a sight.

After the impressive quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans working on everything from large mausoleums to tombstones and small memorial markers. The precision cutting, laser etching, and other sculpting techniques are fascinating to watch.

After the Rock of AGes quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans at work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
After the Rock of AGes quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans at work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, is situated on the east side of Lake Champlain and, like Montpelier, is accessible from I-89. Burlington’s waterfront is home to parks, a walking/bike path, fine restaurants, ferry crossings, and cruise boats.

The core of this vibrant city’s downtown is the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall filled with over 100 retail shops, boutiques, cafes, and craft vendors.

The sweetest tour in town, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been making fresh, small batch chocolates on Pine Street since 1983. They offer free factory tours Monday to Friday from June to October, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; tours start on the hour and self-guided tours start at 3:00 p.m. On the weekends, free chocolate tastings are available between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Learn the flavor profiles of four different chocolates with a chance to win a free chocolate gift basket. Lake Champlain Chocolates features caramels, clusters, truffles, almond butter crunch and much more—including lots of factory seconds and free samples.

The Shelburne Museum is a unique American treasure, a sprawling complex of three dozen relocated buildings including a covered bridge, round barn, a lighthouse, and huge 220-foot dry docked paddlewheel steam-powered lake boat. Inside, the 39 galleries house an eclectic collection of art, Americana, architecture, and artifacts.

Ships, lighthouses, whole barns—you name it, it’s here. There’s so much to see that the entry ticket is valid for two days.

200 years of family tradition help make Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks the best maple syrup we've tasted. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
200 years of family tradition help make Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks the best maple syrup we’ve tasted. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This amazing collection just south of Burlington was started just over 50 years ago by Electra Havenmeyer Webb, and it just keeps on growing. Today, it covers 45 acres and 37 buildings and contains some of the best collections of Americana in the country. Kids love the big stuff, like the 220-foot steamship. Serious collectors gravitate to the weathervanes, toys, and tools.

Worth Pondering…

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont
—lyrics by John M. Blackburn; music by Karl Suessdorf; recorded by Ella Fitzerald, Jo Stafford, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and others

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Santa Fe: The City Different

There is no place like Santa Fe.

Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional  Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now an historical museum, the Palace of Governors houses more than 1,700 artifacts. One of the best places to shop for traditional Native American jewelry is beneath its eaves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve never seen anything like this before. A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter.

Santa Fe is the most exotic place you can visit without crossing an ocean. The secret is in its history, the blending of three cultures—Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo.

Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A short stroll west of the Santa Fe Plaza takes you to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of Santa Fe is a long and rich one. Occupied for many centuries by Pueblo Indians, the Spanish conquistador Coronado claimed this land for Spain in 1540. Recaptured by the Pueblo Indians for over a century, the Spanish again took over the region in 1692 and Santa Fe developed and grew. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in the mid 1800s and with the advent of the Santa Fe Trail, American traders, trappers, and pioneers began to settle in the area.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado charged north from Mexico with 300 soldiers in search of the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. What he found was Zuni Pueblo, which he promptly conquered. Thus began some 200 years of alternating strife and precarious calm between the two cultures, a time marked by repeated Pueblo revolts that drove the Spanish from the area only to see them return with more soldiers and repressive measures. By the mid 1700s there existed a greater respect between the two peoples. Catholic and native religions existed side by side and the Spaniards and Pueblo people fought together against the encroaching French and Pawnees.

The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The center of it all is the Santa Fe Plaza. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Spanish brought irrigation in the form of acequias—canals that still functions today—farms, cattle, sheep, and orchards. They practiced silver and goldsmithing, woodworking and weaving—crafts carried on today by their descendants. And in 1610, a decade before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they laid out the Santa Fe Plaza and began building the Palace of Governors. Today this is the oldest continuously occupied building in the US.

In 1821, the year that Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain, American trader William Becknell drove a wagon laden with goods into Santa Fe, making it the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Americans traders and settlers soon entered the area. One of the most famous was Kit Carson who for 42 years called Taos his home.

The US was eying the territory for western expansion and in 1846, President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico. All of New Mexico was vanquished—bloodlessly—by 1,600 soldiers under the command of General Stephen Watts Kearney.

The influx of artists was the finishing stroke. What drew them here? Everywhere you look there’s a painting awaiting a canvas. Joseph Henry Sharp is usually given credit for starting the art boom who in 1883 spent the summer painting in Laos. Other artists and writers filtered into Santa Fe-Taos area including Will Shuster, Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, Mary Austin, and the woman perhaps most associated with New Mexico art, Georgia O’Keefe.

La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
La Fonda on the Plaza is steeped in history, filled with art and offers authentic Santa Fe hospitality. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To know the history of Santa Fe is to enhance your visit—the City Different is a confluence of its storied past and vibrant present. The 400 year-old streets now glitter with galleries, shops, and restaurants.

There is so much to do and see that it is impossible to do it all in a few days or even in a few weeks.

Walking the streets of this charming city, evidence of the early Spanish influence is apparent in the historic missions and houses. But where to start?

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…
I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Charleston: Deep South Charm

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city's skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a  convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a
convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive-through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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Goshen: The Maple City

Goshen is located in the heart of Amish Country.

A Goshen landmark, the Elkhart County Courthouse is a beautiful structure in the historic downtown Goshen. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A Goshen landmark, the Elkhart County Courthouse is a beautiful structure in the historic downtown Goshen. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Almost all roads lead to this varied collection of beautifully restored turn-of-the-century buildings and tidy Victorian homes. Goshen is also laced with eclectic shops, specialty boutiques, and cozy cafés set throughout the historic downtown.

In 1983, the downtown Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Goshen’s downtown is one of the coolest around—hands down. Few towns this size (about 30,000 residents) can boast about a thriving downtown cultural arts scene, beautiful historic architecture, and intriguing places to eat and shop.

Admire the classic courthouse in the heart of town. Peek into the bunker-like police booth on the Corner of Main and Lincoln dating back to the days when John Dillinger was the bane of bankers.

Admire the artistry and talk with nationally known quilters, potters and sculptors at the Old Bag Factory.

Many residential streets are lined with stately maple trees, giving Goshen the nickname, The Maple City.

Just outside of town, walking and biking paths fan out along the Maple City Greenway and the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.

The Old Bag Factory

Since 1984, the century-old bag factory has provided a strong foundation for today's artists and shopkeepers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Since 1984, this century-old bag factory has provided a strong foundation for today’s artists and shopkeepers. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built in 1896 the Old Bag Factory is home to producing artists, antiques, specialty shops, and cafes. The historic character of the complex provides a unique and charming setting for the specialty shops it houses.

In June 1896, J.J. Burns, an Ohio native opened the Cosmo Buttermilk Soap Company in Goshen. Inside, workers manufactured laundry soap, fine bathing soap, and toilet paper.

In 1910, the plant was renovated and purchased by The Chicago-Detroit Bag Company. A 1924 merger put the building under the control of the Chase Bag Factory, and the factory became part of a colossal enterprise. The range of bags extended from waterproof burlap sacks to the fine, sheer paper used in Hershey’s Kiss wrappers.

The term “bagology” was coined during this period, meaning “to elevate the production of bags to the level of science.” However, after many years of triumph and success, the churning wheels of baglogical science caused the building to become outdated; the Bag Factory closed its doors in 1982, after a long, slow decline.

Address: 1100 N. Chicago Avenue, Goshen, IN 46528

Phone: (574) 534-2502

Website: oldbagfactory.com

Olympia Candy Kitchen

The Olympia Candy Kitchen, “the sweetest little place in town,” has been welcoming visitors for almost a century in its unchanged location in downtown Goshen. Its tradition began in 1912 when Greek immigrant Nicholas Paflas began making his own hand-dipped chocolates and running the soda fountain.

From its humble beginning, the Olympia Candy Kitchen has remained a family business, passed down from generation to generation. And it still welcomes visitors with its old-world charm.

From the red and white awning to the original soda fountain complete with high swivel stools, Olympia Candy Kitchen is reminiscent of the days when the world revolved a little slower. Virtually unchanged for 75 years—since its conversion into a diner and candy shop—the dark polished wooden booths, soda fountain, and candy counter will take you back to an earlier time.

The downtown Historic District is an intriguing places to eat and shop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The downtown Historic District is an intriguing places to eat and shop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The candy counter is what made Olympia famous. Passing in and out of the diner, it is an attraction that is hard to walk by without at least a small purchase. It features seasonal selections, such as solid chocolate hearts at Valentine’s Day and Peanut Butter Eggs at Easter, as well as a large supply of candy that is sold throughout the year.

Among the most popular of the delicious confections and hand-dipped candies are the Turtles, which are made with their own home-made caramel, and Chocolate-Covered Cherries, so popular that they were served at the Inaugural Balls of both President Reagan and President Bush.

Address: 136 N. Main Street, Goshen, IN 46526

Phone: (574) 533-5040

Website: olympiacandykitchen.com

Please Note: This is Part 7 of a 7-Part series on Amish Country

Worth Pondering…

Our children are the only treasures we can take to heaven.
A sweater is a garment worn by a child when his mother feels chilly.
Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes”
If parents don’t train their children, the children will train the parents.
Good character like good soup is usually homemade.

—Amish quotes on Family

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Discover the Golden Isles: Little St. Simons Island & Historic Brunswick

Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia.

Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island (though not so little at 10,000 acres) lies only a 15-minute boat ride from its bigger, better-known sister, St. Simons Island.

In terms of development, however, the two islands couldn’t be further apart.

Whereas St. Simons offers residents and the visiting public a variety of condominiums, shopping centers, golf courses, and mini-mansions, Little St. Simons is one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands—a privately owned sanctuary devoted to preserving and protecting its ample wildlife.

Accessible only by boat from Hampton River Marina on St. Simons Island’s north end, Little St. Simons Island is a privately owned barrier island resort offering a limited number of guests the rare opportunity to experience the enchantment and solitude of the isolated beaches and marshlands that bound its10,000 acres of pristine woodlands.

Known for its privacy, The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island features six charming cottages, several of which date back to the early 1900s, that can host a total of 32 guests at one time.

An ideal destination for family reunions and small gatherings, Little St. Simons Island offers guest activities ranging from guided nature walks through the ancient maritime forest (led by a staff naturalist) to canoeing, kayaking, fishing, shell collecting, bicycling, and birding.

Guests may also choose to pass the day relaxing on the porch or enjoying the tranquility of the island’s seven-mile, undeveloped beach.

Year round warm weather in the Golden Isles allows visitors to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing on the beach. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Year round warm weather in the Golden Isles allows visitors to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing on the beach. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little St. Simons Island also provides day trips which include round-trip private vessel transportation, a guided island tour led by an experienced naturalist, a hearty lunch of low country specialties, and an afternoon on seven miles of private beach.

Historic Brunswick

The mainland, port city of Brunswick is named for Braunschweig, Germany, the ancestral home of King George II, grantor of Georgia’s original land charter.

The streets and squares of this quiet port city were laid out in a formal grid similar to Savannah’s and still bear their colonial names—Newcastle, Norwich, Prince, and Gloucester—giving Brunswick a decidedly English flavor.

The unmistakable flavor of the south, too, can be sampled here, home of the original Brunswick Stew.

Docked at the wharf, the array of shrimp boats are ready to trawl the local waters—evidence of the area’s rich seafood industry. Watch the ocean vessels come into port, see the shrimpers unload at the docks along Bay Street, and then sample the catch of the day at one of the fine restaurants.

Historic Downtown Brunswick, also known as the Old Town Brunswick, is enjoying a renaissance, with the ongoing renovation and restoration of historic buildings and public squares. Old Town Brunswick is centered at the intersection of Newcastle and Gloucester Streets, the traditional commercial corridors of the city.

Newcastle Street is anchored on the south end by Old City Hall (1888) with its distinctive clock tower.

At the north end of Newcastle Street is the Historic Ritz Theatre. Built in 1898 as the Grand Opera House, the Ritz Theatre is Brunswick’s center for quality exhibits and performances by local, regional, national, and international artists.

Homes in Old Town reflect a variety of styles dating from 1819, including Queen Anne, Jacobean, Eastlake, Mansard, Gothic, and Italianate architecture. The Brunswick Landmarks Foundation works to educate the public and protect and enhance the special historic character and charm of Old Town.

The downtown district features a growing mix of antique shops, specialty shops, art galleries, theaters, and restaurants.

The Sidney Lanier Bridge, Georgia’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge  provides easy access to the Golden Isles from Interstate 95 (Exit 29). This beautiful structure is 7,780 feet long and 486 feet tall.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Sidney Lanier Bridge, Georgia’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge provides easy access to the Golden Isles from Interstate 95 (Exit 29). This beautiful structure is 7,780 feet long and 486 feet tall. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With ideal weather conditions throughout the year, Brunswick also supports an active and healthy outdoor life.

The beautiful natural scenic landscape invites jogging and walking, from the challenging Sidney Lanier Bridge to the Old Town Brunswick National Historic District and from Mary Ross Waterfront Park to the Howard Coffin Park.

By day, you can try your hand at shrimpin’ aboard the Lady Jane, the only shrimp vessel on the entire east coast that has been certified by the USCG to carry 49 passengers offshore, or fish with any of Brunswick’s local charters.

By night, catch a show at the historic Ritz Theatre or enjoy a unique dinner experience on the Emerald Princess II casino cruise ship sailing seven days a week from Gisco Point near the entrance of Jekyll Island.

Please Note: This is Part 4 of a 5-part series on Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia

Part 1: Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History & Beauty

Part 2: Discover the Golden Isles: St. Simons & Sea Island

Part 3: Discover the Golden Isles: Jekyll Island

Part 5: RV Camping in Brunswick and the Golden Isles

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.

And the sea lends large, as the marsh: lo, out of his plenty the sea

Pours fast: full soon the time of the flood-tide must be:

Look how the grace of the sea doth go

About and about through the intricate channels that flow

Here and there,

Everywhere.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

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Crowley: Where Life Is Rice and Easy

Rice is the bedrock of the region’s celebrated Cajun cuisine and no other Louisiana community is as intimately tied to the crop as Crowley.

Crowley has an extraordinary historic district that includes over two hundred structures featuring turn of the century Victorian homes and commercial district that includes the newly completed Rice Interpretative Center and Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Crowley has an extraordinary historic district that includes over two hundred structures featuring turn of the century Victorian homes and commercial district that includes the newly completed Rice Interpretative Center and Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The swallow ponds and level prairies surrounding the city produce lots of crawfish too, but it was the turn-of-the-century rice mills that gave Crowley its identity and made possible today’s impressive collection of historic structures.

A large number of rice mills line Crowley’s Mill Street where more rice annually than any other city in America helped earn the city the title Rice Capital of America.

The oldest and largest agricultural festival in the state, the International Rice Festival is an annual event held the third weekend in October (October 17-29, in 2013; 77th annual).

The Historical District is home to almost 200 homes and buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Many historic buildings still play prominent roles in the city’s life. One such example is Miller Stadium, a 1940s-era ballpark and the Grand Opera House of the South that first opened in 1901 and was recently revived as an elegant space for world-class performers.

Built in 1920 at a cost of $40,000, the former Crowley Motor Company has been revived as the new Crowley City Hall and Rice Interpretative Center. The second floor features the restored J.D. Miller Recording Studio—a place where legends performed, in addition to the old Ford assembly area.

Built in 1920 at a cost of $40,000, the former Crowley Motor Company has been revived as the new Crowley City Hall and Rice Interpretative Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Built in 1920 at a cost of $40,000, the former Crowley Motor Company has been revived as the new Crowley City Hall and Rice Interpretative Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the early years, Ford dealerships received automobiles partially assembled and ceiling tracks were used to move the Model Ts as they underwent completion of the assembly process. These tracks remain intact to this day.

Two 1923 Model Ts, a coupe and sedan, are on display in the mezzanine and on the second floor.

The restored recording studio depicts its original look and includes the recording equipment, exhibits, photos, and a video that chronicles the history of J.D. Miller, his music, the artists who recorded his music, and the artists whose music J.D. produced at the studio—a place where legends performed.

In 1946, Miller decided to stop playing music and opened his own studio to produce records using local talent. His labels featured Cajun, Zydeco, Blues, Country, and “Swamp Pop” artists. Miller was also a prolific writer of songs and wrote more than 400 titles. His most famous, It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels was recorded by Kitty Wells and the chart-topping recording made her a star.

Other artists who recorded at the studio include Happy Fats, Slim Harpo, Lightin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, Jimmy C. Newman, Clifton Chenier, Doug Kershaw, Nathan Abshire, Sammy Kershaw, Warren Storm, Johnnie Allen, and Sonny Landreth.

What is Swamp Pop music, you ask?

Not to be confused with swamp rock, an entirely different genre, the South Louisiana phenomenon known as swamp pop originated in the late 1950s as a melding of two very distinct styles: traditional Cajun folk balladry, particularly the Cajun waltz, and the slow, triplet-heavy ballad style of New Orleans R&B. (Fats Domino’s own heavily C&W-inflected vocals were a major impetus in swamp-pop’s development.)

The first major song in this vein was Warren Storm’s Prisoner’s Song in 1958, which made it to the national Billboard charts; the next year, however, a band from Lake Charles known as Cookie and his Cupcakes recorded what is considered the definitive swamp pop anthem, Mathilda. The genre took off from there, and remained popular in the region (while scoring an occasional national hit) until about 1965.

In 1960, Wasted Days and Wasted Nights became a national hit for Freddy Fender. Though the genre died off along with the rest of rock’s original styles in the mid-60s, swamp-pop had already by then influenced a number of musicians, most notably Elvis Presley.

Grand Opera House of the South

Tucked away in the heart of historical downtown Crowley sits one of the most unique second-story opera houses still standing. Built in 1901 by David E. Lyons, a livery stable owner and deputy sheriff, the Grand, as it was named then, was referred to as a “beautiful little playhouse.”

The Historical District is home to almost 200 homes and buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Historical District is home to almost 200 homes and buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Costing a mere $18,000 to build, Lyons carefully constructed his masterpiece using virgin Louisiana cypress, pine, and oak. This mostly wooden structure was accented with pressed tin tiles and hand-painted angel medallions in the four boxed seats.

The Grand was known as the place for entertainment and hospitality. Used mainly for vaudeville and minstrel performances in the earlier days and for silent movies and talkies during the later days, the Grand attracted people traveling through the south, specifically those passing through Crowley via the railroad, which was located just a few blocks from the opera house.

For the 39 years it remained open, notables such as Enrico Caruso, Babe Ruth, Clark Gable, Huey Long, and Madame de Vilchez-Bizzet of the Paris Opera were just a few of the famous to grace the Grand’s mammoth stage. Luckily for the 69 years it was closed, the opera house was left nearly untouched and luckily well preserved.

Please Note: This is Part 6 of an on-going series on Louisiana Cuisine/Travel Ideas

Worth Pondering…

Jambalaya

Jambalaya, a-crawfish pie and-a file gumbo
Cause tonight Im gonna see my machez a mio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, well have big fun on the bayou.
—Hank Williams, Sr.

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I Dream of Galveston: The Strand & Texas Seaport Museum

Today we conclude the series on our favorite Galveston attractions.

Strand Historic District

Entrance to tThe Strand Historic District. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Entrance to tThe Strand Historic District. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston’s Strand was the city’s primary commercial area during the second half of the 19th century, when its star was bright and full of great promise. A thriving, energetic, and prosperous district, the Strand developed alongside the shipping channel and port that helped make the city the largest metropolis in the state.

Remaining buildings, many of them restored in recent years, display the range of architectural styles popular during the Victorian period. Notable buildings include Hendley Row, adjoining buildings constructed from 1858 to 1859, now the oldest commercial buildings in Galveston; the 1870 J. S. Brown Hardware Company Building, at one time the largest hardware firm south of the Mason Dixon line; the Rosenburg Building which housed the largest dry goods store in Texas in the 1870s; and the 1884 W. L. Moody Building, built by cotton broker, banker and state legislator Colonel W. L. Moody.

Features that give the Strand its unique charm include the high curbs, the overhanging canopies that were meant to shade the streets, and the horse drawn carriages that pass slowly in the streets.

The Strand Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is roughly bounded by Avenue A, 20th Street, the alley between avenues C and D, and the railroad depot. The Galveston’s Strand neighborhood was never revived after the devastation of the 1900 hurricane, but it was part of a restoration project in the 1970s.

Today, it remains a popular downtown retail center featuring art galleries and studios, specialty shops, restaurants, pubs, delicatessens, and historical exhibits within a 36-block area. The Strand is also the center of Mardi Gras celebrations, Dickens on the Strand festivities.

The Strand remains a popular downtown retail center featuring art galleries and studios, specialty shops, restaurants, pubs, delicatessens, and historical exhibits within a 36-block area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Strand remains a popular downtown retail center featuring art galleries and studios, specialty shops, restaurants, pubs, delicatessens, and historical exhibits within a 36-block area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this part of town are the Galveston County Historical Museum, the Mardi Gras Museum, the Railroad Museum, and the Grand  1894 Opera House.

The Strand, once the Wall Street of the Southwest, is one of the finest concentrations of 19th-century iron-front commercial buildings in the United States.

Website: thestrand.com

Texas Seaport Museum and 1877 Tall Ship Elissa

Indeed, the restoration of this graceful barque of 1877 (Elissa) is reckoned by many to be the finest restoration of an active sailing ship extant.

—Peter Stanford, President, National Maritime Historical Society

The Texas Seaport Museum tells the story of a rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration.

The museum holds two floors of exhibits, historic photos, and displays. First-floor exhibits show some of the people who worked on Galveston during the 19th century, when it was a busy seaport. In addition to sailors and ship owners, there were 13- and 14-year-old apprentices training to become officers in the merchant service.

On the second floor, an exhibit highlights Galveston’s importance as a port of entry for immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries. The city was once known as “the Ellis Island of the West.”

The Texas Seaport Museum compiled a computerized list of immigrants to Galveston for the period 1846 through 1948. Visitors can use computer terminals in the exhibition area to view the list. The database includes the names of passengers and other information retrieved from ships’ passenger manifests. The names of more than 133,000 passengers are entered.

Elissa is a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall & Company. She sailed with a crew of about a dozen, hauled up to 430 tons of cargo in its belly, and carried nineteen sails covering over one-quarter of an acre in surface area. The 134-year-old tall ship, which after 32 years as centerpiece of the Texas Seaport Museum, has drawn tens of thousands of passengers who simply want to walk the decks.

Share the adventure of the high seas at the Texas Seaport Museum, home of the celebrated 1877 tall ship Elissa, a floating National Historic Landmark. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Share the adventure of the high seas at the Texas Seaport Museum, home of the celebrated 1877 tall ship Elissa, a floating National Historic Landmark. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tall ships are classified by the configuration of their sailing rig. In Elissa’s case, she is a ‘barque’ because she carries square and fore-and-aft sails on her fore and mainmasts, but only fore-and-aft sails on her mizzenmast. From her stern to the tip of her jibboom she measures 205 feet. Her height is 99 feet, nine inches at the main mast and she displaces about 620 tons at her current ballast.

At the end of its working career, it sat for years, minus its sailing rig, in a Greek scrap yard.

Marine archaeologist Peter Throckmorton saw it in 1961 and identified it as an old sailing ship. Plans were put into motion to try to save it. Eventually the Galveston Historical Foundation bought it for $40,000. Its hull, made of riveted iron, had to be patched with steel to make it seaworthy enough to be towed from Greece to Galveston, where it was restored.

Old pictures, plans, and documents were consulted during the five-year restoration, which cost about $4 million. Much had to be re-created, but most of the hull and framework are original.

Informational plaques aboard ship identify various features and give their history.

Admission includes self-guided tours of the Texas Seaport Museum and Elissa, a theater presentation, and access to the Galveston Immigration Database.

Admission: $8

Location: Pier 21, Number 8, Harborside Drive

Information: (409) 763-1877

Please Note: This is the eighth in a series of stories on favorite Galveston attractions

Texas Spoken Friendly

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

Worth Pondering…
Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin’
I still see her dark eyes glowin’
She was 21 when I left Galveston.
—Glen Campbell

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