KC WWI

In 1926, Kansas City dedicated the Liberty Memorial museum in commemoration of the Great War. Congress designated it as the country’s official WWI museum in 2004, and it was reopened two years later with an expanded, renovated facility that is thorough and breathtaking. The museum entrance is under the 217 foot memorial tower.

National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MO

National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MO

The entrance to the museum is a glass walkway over a field of 9,000 poppies, with each flower representing 1,000 combatant deaths.

Glass bridge to the exhibit space

Glass bridge to the exhibit space

The circular exhibit space starts with the origins of the war, and the first half of the circle captures the conflict before America entered the fight. There are incredible artifacts and life-size dioramas, and interactive exhibits to understand the history.

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British trench

British trench

The first half of the story ends in a dramatic auditorium with screens showing a movie detailing the U.S. decision to enter the war.

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The museum examines the home front as well as the battlefront, and details the peace process that sowed seeds for the conflict to continue in less than two decades.

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The museum is in a park with a dramatic view into downtown Kansas City that is especially scenic at night when you can see the artificial flame atop the memorial.

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri

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Oliver Brown

Oliver Brown’s daughters attended Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas. Kansas had a long history of encouraging former slaves to settle in the state after the Civil War. It’s high schools were integrated and the school board attempted to make its Black elementary schools equal to its exclusively White elementary schools. Oliver Brown, a minister, and other local civil rights activists sued the Board saying their children should be able to attend their neighborhood school.

Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas

Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas

Oliver Brown v. Topeka Board of Education was one of five cases consolidated and brought to the Supreme Court by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund seeking to reverse the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case that upheld racial segregation in public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were “equal in quality.” The U.S. District Court in Topeka was compelled to follow the Plessy precedence, but accepted the Plaintiffs’ psychological evidence that African-American children were adversely affected by segregation.

Topeka Federal Courthouse

Topeka Federal Courthouse

Sixty-five years ago this week on May 17, 1954, the Court unanimously reversed Plessy stating the racial segregation in Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia violated the 14th amendment to the Constitution (and the District of Columbia, not subject to the 14th amendment, violated the 5th amendment). Brown has now been the controlling law longer than Plessy, but in the last 30 years, segregated schools have tripled in the U.S..

Monroe school is now a National Historic Site. A former classroom is now a Junior Ranger station for children to learn about this history.

Classroom, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Classroom, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Extensive exhibits review the history of civil rights battles and the on-going struggles. I wondered why the parking lot was overflowing when I visited on a weekday morning. I was surprised to find the Topeka federal court judge in attendance for a naturalization service swearing in 50 new U.S. citizens in the school auditorium. A most fitting historical memorial.

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There is one National Historic Site that is still an operating high school. Three years after the Brown decision, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus stated the federal government lacked the authority to desegregate Little Rock Central High School. President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to ensure the Little Rock Nine students could attend the school. It is a bit jarring to turn the corner and see the ‘50s black-and-white news photos, there in front of you coming to life with parents’ cars and buses pulling up to pick up students.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Arkansas

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Arkansas

Just last year, Topeka unveiled a 130 foot mural by Michael Toombs across from Monroe School celebrating and exploring justice and equality.

Brown v. Board mural, Topeka, Kansas

Brown v. Board mural, Topeka, Kansas

Vicksburg

A remarkable coincidence of the Civil War was the Union victory at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 to stop Gen. Lee’s invasion of the North, and Gen. U.S. Grant’s total victory at Vicksburg the next day. Grant’s relentless campaign in the West got Lincoln’s attention and resulted in his promotion to command the whole Army. The Confederate Army’s control of Vicksburg on a high, strategic overlook allowed them to control traffic on the Mississippi River. The image below shows Vicksburg view of a giant U-shaped bend in the river. This year’s flooding has resulted in the river overflowing the center of the bend.

Mississippi River from Vicksburg, MS

Mississippi River from Vicksburg, MS

Grant’s first assaults in May were brutal but unsuccessful. His army surrounded the city, and began a relentless 40 day siege. Years after the battle, veterans returned to the battlefield and provided detailed descriptions of locations, encampments and battles. Today, the peaceful landscape is dotted with memorials and with blue signs detailing Union positions and maneuvers and red signs for the Confederate troops. A huge portion of the Union Army was from Illinois, and lead miners from the state contributed to one of the most dramatic and brutal events of the war.

To attempt to break through the confederate defense, the miners tunneled under the fortification and filled it with over a ton of gunpowder. The explosion blew open a huge crater that Union troops stormed into. However, they were trapped by Confederate soldiers firing down into the crater. The miners dug a new mine, but the surrender on Independence Day made that assault unnecessary.

Location of the fight at the crater

Location of the fight at the crater

One of the more colorful characters from Illinois commanded an artillery unit in the siege. John Wesley Powell studied at the Illinois Institute, which would later become Wheaton College. As an abolitionist expecting a war, he studied military science and engineering, and enlisted as a private when the war began. He was quickly promoted to captain and would be a lieutenant colonel before the war was over. In the Battle of Shiloh, he lost his right arm, but returned to fight in Vicksburg. After the war, he was a major explorer of the Rocky Mountain region, and despite the loss of his arm completed the first run of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869 on a wooden boat. He did the run again in two years. After creating the Museum of Anthropology at Illinois State University, he became director of Ethnology at the Smithsonian until his death in 1902.

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The centennial of the Civil War was being commemorated when I started school. I remember the news of an exciting discovery of a sunken ironclad ship in the Mississippi. The U.S.S. Cairo was named after the Illinois city on the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was the first ship sunk by a torpedo and was buried in the Yazoo RIver mud north of Vicksburg. After discovery, it was raised and preserved. the museum has an incredible collection of the artifacts that were found.

U.S.S. Cairo Museum, Vicksburg

U.S.S. Cairo Museum, Vicksburg

The Union victory cut off Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas from the rest of the Confederacy and crippled the South’s communication and transportation.

Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

Double V - Tuskegee Airmen

Posting live from a fantastic National Historic Site dedicated to the Airmen from Tuskegee, Alabama. Starting with an overview of the field and hangar.

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Exhibits in the hangars contain reconstruction of training rooms, artifacts, and best of all, recordings from the men and women who worked and trained there.

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Double V: Fighting for Victory at Hime and Abroad. They left a legacy shaping our country's freedoms.

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Rebuilding churches

Unfortunately, the devastatingly sad news of the fire at Notre Dame in Paris is an old story. The architecture is often daring, the maintenance expensive, and fighting fires, earthquakes and other natural challenges is heightened by the architectural extravagance. In 1950, a fire started in the roof of St. Alphonsus Church on the north side of Chicago while repairs were occurring. It was one of the largest fires Chicago. My future father-in-law, who was baptized and buried out of St. Al’s is quoted in historical record.

From the book  Lake View  by Matt Nickeson, 2014

From the book Lake View by Matt Nickeson, 2014

The church’s interior was rebuilt and has subsequently been restored. It looks better than when I married John’s daughter there!

St. Alphonsus Church, Chicago

St. Alphonsus Church, Chicago

In 2010, I visited Socorro, New Mexico, but when I went to the Old San Miguel Mission, it had been ordered closed the month before. The parish was founded in 1598, and the current building began in 1615. Over the centuries it was damaged and repaired numerous times. However, earlier in 2010, a neighboring pueblo church collapsed. Engineers determined that the efforts to preserve the pueblo churches by covering them in concrete stucco actually trapped moisture and was causing their decay. In this image, you can see where engineers removed stucco at the front of the church to examine the conditions.

San Miguel Church, Socorro, New Mexico

San Miguel Church, Socorro, New Mexico

San Miguel was immediately closed and tested to see if it could be saved. Pastor Andrew Pavlak, who is from Chicago, let me in the church to take some pictures. All artwork and relics and half the pews had been removed. An image I took that day was used on the cover of a regional telephone book (in case you remember those historical artifacts) and the proceeds were part of my donation to the church’s restoration.

San Miguel Interior

San Miguel Interior

The church was able to be restored and reopened in time to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2014. My donation to Notre Dame will soon be made. I have no doubt that the Easter Mass of Resurrection will one day again be celebrated in that cathedral.

Old San Miguel Mission, Socorro

Old San Miguel Mission, Socorro

York Minster

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York is one of the most breathtaking structures to experience. A Christian church occupied this space in York, England since the early 7th century. After several churches fell or were destroyed, construction on the current building began in 1220 to compete with the newly constructed Canterbury cathedral. It was completed and consecrated in 1472. How would you like this as your backyard view? The Chapter House, completed in the 1290s is under the conical tower below the central tower which was built in 1420 after the previous tower collapsed!

York Minster as viewed from the York City wall

York Minster as viewed from the York City wall

The religious community would gather for both prayer and business under the ceiling of the Chapter House. Seats were built into the walls. The builders and artists included images of themselves and other in the wall decorations.

Chapter House vault

Chapter House vault

Chapter House canopy

Chapter House canopy

The west front of the Minster is imposing with its great window called the “Heart of Yorkshire.,” is impressive inside and out. The minister has the largest intact medieval stained glass.

York Minster west entrance

York Minster west entrance

West window and the Heart of Yorkshire

West window and the Heart of Yorkshire

East window, restored 2016

East window, restored 2016

The central tower rises 235 feet with the main altar below. Behind the altar is the choir screen which includes statues of the fifteen kings of England from William the Conqueror to Henry VI. I remember these odd faces from my high school European history text.

Main altar looking to the choir

Main altar looking to the choir

William the Conqueror on the Kings’ Screen

William the Conqueror on the Kings’ Screen

Allerton Park

Robert Allerton, son of a Chicago industrialist, built this estate in 1900 and later donated it to the University of Illinois. This central Illinois treasure has woodlands, formal gardens, ponds, and the mansion is used as a meeting and retreat center. Robert Allerton was an artist and collector of art and sculpture, so I’m having some fun converting these images to a painterly look. The first image is of the old stables which now is the dining room. The next image is the upstairs landing leading to the bedrooms. The U of I football team used to stay here before games.

Storm over the Allerton stables

Storm over the Allerton stables

Allerton mansion upstairs landing

Allerton mansion upstairs landing

The gardens are a delight. This is a koi pond off the back porch of the estate looking out onto the woodlands.

Koi pond

Koi pond

The grounds have some large sculptures you can come across while hiking the woodland trails.

Woodland trails and Death of the Last Centaur by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle

Woodland trails and Death of the Last Centaur by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle

The Sun Singer by Carl Milles

The Sun Singer by Carl Milles

The formal gardens have a collection of terrific sculptures as well. These are in the Brick Walled Garden, the oldest garden on the estate.

Girl with Scarf by Lili Auer

Girl with Scarf by Lili Auer

Looking through the Brick Walled Garden to Adam

Looking through the Brick Walled Garden to Adam

Scottish Muses

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh has wonderful displays not only of Scottish history, but world and natural history. The museum is a merger of two museums, including the former Royal Museum which was housed in the marvelous Victorian era Grand Gallery.

Grand Gallery, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Grand Gallery, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Another grand view is in the Animal World gallery.

Animal World, National Museum of Scotland

Animal World, National Museum of Scotland

My favorite exhibit was the Lewis chess pieces. They were found on a beach on Lewis Island in the Hebrides and carved from walrus ivory in the 1100s by Vikings. Unfortunately, only 11 are in Edinburgh, the other 82 pieces were appropriated by England and are at the British Museum in London.

Lewis Chess Pieces

Lewis Chess Pieces

Berserks (rook), Queen and Bishop

Berserks (rook), Queen and Bishop

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is in a grand 1901 building in Kelvingrove Park in the Glasgow’s West End. It’s eclectic collection is like a mash up of all the Smithsonian museums or a combination of Chicago’s Field, Science and Industry, and Art Institute.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Kelvingrove - art gallery, natural history and aviation mash up

Kelvingrove - art gallery, natural history and aviation mash up

We arrived when the museum opened and got in a side door and I got a quick picture of the Diplodocus in the main hall before the school children got in the main doors. “Dippy” is only on temporary display, traveling from London for a visit.

Argyle Street Hall, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Argyle Street Hall, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Stirling view

Stirling castle sits on a rocky crag above the first location where medieval and earlier armies could cross the Firth River and so was of great strategic significance. William Wallace and Robert the Bruce fought and won two battles for Scottish independence over superior English forces. A statue of Robert looks down into the valley.

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce

Below Stirling Castle

Below Stirling Castle

Much of the current castle is a Renaissance wonder built by the Scottish king James V, whose son James VI would become James I of England, Wales and Scotland, the first to hold that title. The orange colored Great Hall contrasts sharply with the gray rocks of the rest of the site. The castle was closed when we arrived to clean and salt the stone walkways for visitors because of the spring snow storm, something I don't think they did in the 16th century.

Great Hall above the castle walls

Great Hall above the castle walls

Great Hall and palace

Great Hall and palace

The palace outer wall had stone figures carved into niches of King James and mythic figures. These were colorfully painted. The interior of the palace sought to convey James’s power. The ceiling was filled the oak carved medallions showing royalty and courtiers colorfully painted.

Palace ceiling

Palace ceiling

Other rooms sought to further convey the royal power. The Queen Mary de Guise bed chamber was surrounded by tapestries of the Scottish symbol of the unicorn. The original of these tapestries are now in The Cloisters in Manhattan.

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By the time we were ready to leave, the sun was out and the snow melted.

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Queen’s throne room

Queen’s throne room

By the time we were ready to leave, the sun was out and snow melted.

Queen Anne garden

Queen Anne garden

Carl Sandburg Home

I worked at a boys camp in North Carolina two summers. We would take an outing down the road to Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. He had lived in Galesburg, Chicago and Elmhurst, Illinois, and then Michigan before buying this farm outside Flat Rock, NC that he called Connemara. This is the house on top of a hill looking down to a pond below. Out buildings and farmland surround the home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.

Connemara Farm, Flat Rock, NC

Connemara Farm, Flat Rock, NC

I now live in Elmhurst, Illinois where Sandburg had moved in 1919. He’d commute by train to Chicago to his job reviewing (silent!) movies for the Chicago Daily News. His home, about a half mile from where we live is gone. Also gone is the Lindlahr Sanitarium that filled most of the space between. Eugene Debs, former president of the American Railway Union and five time candidate for U.S. president for the Socialist Party, had three extended stays at the Sanitarium and would visit Sandburg. Debs died in 1926 walking back from a visit with the Sandburgs.

Eugene Debs visiting Carl Sandburg and children in Elmhurst. Image Carl Sandburg State Historic Site.

Eugene Debs visiting Carl Sandburg and children in Elmhurst. Image Carl Sandburg State Historic Site.

Sandburg wrote most of his six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln while living in Elmhurst, He was awarded the Pulitzer for history for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years in 1940. He twice received the Pulitzer for poetry. His desk at Connemara appears he just walked away from writing. One wall has pictures of the prize winning goats he and his wife Lilian (Paula) raised on the farm.

Sandburg desk

Sandburg desk

Next week, I’ll walk over to Elmhurst College to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin, another Pulitzer prize winning author, speak about leadership and Abraham Lincoln. Can you just imagine her and Sandburg sitting at the kitchen table and talking about Abe?

Kitchen, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Kitchen, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Sandburg’s poetry inspired me when I prepared the eulogy for my brother Herb. I said that Herb personified the poem Chicago: Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.

Amazingly, Paula Sandburg’s brother was Edward Steichen, the phenomenal photographer who collaborated with Sandburg in curating the famous exhibition and book, The Family of Man. Steichen’s photographs hang on the walls at Connemara.

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Flat Rock, NC

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Flat Rock, NC

1060s, 1860s, 1960s

Three National Historic Parks in northern Georgia and southern Tennessee offer a journey through a wide range of our history. Exciting news in the U.S. Senate this week offers the possibility that two of these parks will expand in the largest expansion of federally protected land in a decade.

Ocmulgee National Monument was protected by President Franklin Roosevelt and was a major WPA and CCC project during the Depression. The park protects prehistoric American Indian heritage. Though occupied for over 17,000 years, around 1000 BCE the Mississippians began constructing a huge ceremonial center with temple mounds and earth lodges. The largest structure is Temple Mound which offers a view of some surrounding features.

View from Temple Mound, Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia

View from Temple Mound, Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia

In the far right of the image above can be seen the Earth Lodge. The CCC did extensive archaeological work and reconstructing of the interior. Carbon dating of the floor shows occupation from around 1015 CE. The restoration included uncovering a large eagle platform.

Earth Lodge interior

Earth Lodge interior

The Senate passed the National Resources Management Act this week 92-8. If it also passes the House and is signed into law, Ocmulgee will be designated a National Historic Park and will quadruple in size. Some are working to eventually designate this park outside Macon, Georgia as a future National Park. If passed, the bill will add 2 million acres of protected land, much around Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks in California.

Earth Lodge exterior, Ocmulgee National Monument

Earth Lodge exterior, Ocmulgee National Monument

Near Murfreesboro, Tennessee is Stones River National Battlefield commemorating a Union victory fought on and around January 1, 1863, the day the Emancipation Proclamation was effective. The victory allowed the army to cut off Southern supply lines and continue to move toward Atlanta. The victory also resulted in the freeing of the enslaved near Murfreesboro.

The location pictured below was named the Slaughter Pen reminding soldiers of the Stockyards in Chicago. Union troops used these rocks as protection, but were then trapped there in a Confederate rush and slaughtered among these rocks.

Slaughter Pen, Stones River National Battlefield, Tennessee

Slaughter Pen, Stones River National Battlefield, Tennessee

In Atlanta is the remarkable Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park preserving Dr. King’s birth home, Fire Station No. 6 integrated in 1963 and accepting women fire fighters in 1977, and Ebenezer Baptist Church were King was baptized and ordained and where his funeral was held. Dr. King and Coretta Scott King’s tombs rest nearby at the Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King tombs, Atlanta

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King tombs, Atlanta

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

I visited the St. Augustine Alligator Farm for its well deserved reputation of having a lovely rookery for native birds who fly in to build nests, and are approachable to photograph. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the rest of the zoological park.

Mad Max

Mad Max

When I first got to the park, a keeper was in the pit standing right next to this alligator called Mad Max. Max has an eye infection and the keeper was discussing his condition with the medical staff who were standing on the bridge in the background. Max was sleeping and the keeper tried to get his attention by calling his name and smacking him on the snoot with his hand! This image was later in the day after Max got some medicine.

I’ve seen lots and lots of gators in Florida and walked near them—and kept an eye out for them—while photographing birds. Yet, I was not prepared for the concentration of gators here.

Frenzy

Frenzy

Perhaps you’d like this job of feeding a rat to a gator.

Feeding time

Feeding time

The keeper below, who was the one who smacked Max on the snout earlier, is very comfortable walking around the pit and talking to the gators who respond when he names them. The trainee in the background looks less comfortable!

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The zoo has a remarkable collection of crocodilians from all over the world. In addition to the native birds that fly in and out, there are some captives as well. These two from Africa were in nice light when I visited.

Cape Griffon Vulture

Cape Griffon Vulture

Black-crowned Crane

Black-crowned Crane

If you visit the beautiful city of St. Augustine, I recommend a relaxing visit to the Alligator Farm.

Relaxing with friends

Relaxing with friends

Waste not

On your next trip to Florida, be sure to visit a wastewater reclamation plant. Or visit more than one, I guarantee your senses will enjoy it. You may recall that last week’s Friday Fotos were all taken at the South Central Brevard Wastewater Treatment facility , a/k/a Viera Wetlands. Over the years, many Friday Fotos have been taken there. These facilities take treated wastewater and send them through these developed wetlands for further treatment. Eventually, the water is used for gray-water purposes such as watering lawns or sent to local rivers. The air is filled with the sound of birds—and no odor!

Viera wetland drive, White Pelicans, and American Coots

Viera wetland drive, White Pelicans, and American Coots

The five ponds at Viera have berms surrounding them that permit cars to drive through and see the wildlife. Many people also bike and walk through the facility. In addition to the birds, I’ve seen otters, raccoons, wild hogs, deer, snakes, turtles, a bobcat and many gators.

Orlando wetlands is a far larger facility and doesn’t permit cars. It is located in nearby Fort Christmas, and like Viera, the finally treated water is released into the St. John’s River.

Orlando wetlands

Orlando wetlands

As would seem to befit Palm Beach County in south Florida, they have two premier facilities. Wakodahatchee Wetlands—or just “Wako”—has boardwalks and paved trails and shelters to get out of the sun. Many birds nest in mangroves or other trees close to the boardwalk. In the image below, Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, and Anhingas are nesting.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands boardwalk.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands boardwalk.

Woodstork bring in nesting material

Woodstork bring in nesting material

Just a couple miles away is Green Cay Wetlands. The water reclamation facility has a mile and half of boardwalks over water, through pine, palm and hardwood forests and even has a nature center.

Green Cay Wetlands

Green Cay Wetlands

One of the pleasures of walking through these facilities is that photographers and birders are eager to share unusual birds that they’ve spotted. It’s not a great image, but I was able to add a bird to my life list at Green Cay. Someone pointed out to me a Chuck-Will’s-Widow blending in a branch. This nocturnal bird, with a name resembling it’s night-time call, is nearly a foot long. I returned the favor spotting an American Bittern at Wako and got a crowd of photographers around me. Those images will come in the future!

Chuck-will’s-widow

Chuck-will’s-widow

Statues of Unlimitations

Almost every courthouse in Illinois has one or more statues outside. Certainly, the most common are memorials to service men and women, and many of those are dedicated to Civil War Union soldiers. This monument notes that 1,200 men from Bond County (in south central Illinois) fought for the Union and participated in battles including Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Belmont. You can also see in the distance flag poles which are surrounded by memorials to those who served (and continue to serve) in other conflicts.

Bond County Courthouse, Greenville, Illinois

Bond County Courthouse, Greenville, Illinois

A great many of the courthouses are graced by Illinois’ greatest lawyer. You can find statues of Abraham Lincoln in parks, historic sites and museums throughout the state. Several have him paired with Stephen Douglas in locations where they debated. My favorites, though, are those outside the courtrooms where he rode circuit. The image below is outside the Christian County Courthouse. When he rode circuit, the Christian County courthouse was a wooden building and pigs would sometimes get below the raised floor. When the squealing was disturbing his closing arguments, Lincoln asked the judge to issue a “writ of quietus” to the pigs. This statue by John McClarey commemorates the event. McClarey’s statues of Lincoln in engaging scenes can be found throughout the state, but this is McClarey’s only statue of a pig. The statue is called The Last Stop because Taylorville was the last stop as the lawyers and judges rode through the courts of the 8th Circuit before returning to Springfield.

As an aside, I highly recommend Dan Abrams’s new book Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case that Propelled him to the Presidency. The trial in Springfield was indeed his last before the election, and unusual for the time, had a complete transcript. Robert Hitt, who had been assigned by Chicago papers to transcribe the Lincoln-Douglas debates a year before, was sent to transcribe this trial. Hitt, who later became a member of Congress, is a fascinating character in his own right.

Christian County Courthouse, Taylorville, Illinois

Christian County Courthouse, Taylorville, Illinois

The borders of southern Illinois are guarded by some interesting statues. The town of Chester on the Mississippi River was the home of Elzie Crisler Segar, the create of Popeye. Statues of Popeye and other characters from the comic strip are found throughout town. Outside the Randolph County Courthouse is one of Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl, along with Swee’Pea, who would get into the spinach at times, and the bizarre creature Eugene the Jeep.

Randolph County Courthouse, Chester, Illinois

Randolph County Courthouse, Chester, Illinois

But dwarfing even Lincoln and Popeye is a statue of a true superhero. While Smallville, Kansas might have been the hometown of Clark Kent, the Illinois Legislature has officially declared that alongside the Ohio River, and a gambling boat, the City of Metropolis, is the true home of the Man of Steel. So where better to place a memorial to truth, justice and the American Way, than outside the courthouse.

Massac County Courthouse, Metropolis, Illinois

Massac County Courthouse, Metropolis, Illinois

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park - CLOSED

This little jewel near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is closed during the government shutdown. The park is near the end of the Hyde Street streetcar line and offers a stroll along the Hyde Street pier filled with historic ships. Along with craft on the pier, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has museums, visitor and research centers on the shore.

Lumber Schooner,  C.A. Thayer

Lumber Schooner, C.A. Thayer

The first ship is an 1895, three-masted schooner designed to carry lumber along the Pacific Coast. You can look on to the city, or look up and imagine yourself at sea.

The masts

The masts

The massive 1907 steam tug Hercules towed ships around South America, through the Panama Canal and helped build the navy base at Pearl Harbor.

Steam Tug  Hercules

Steam Tug Hercules

Though there are many other ships along the pier, the last I’ll mention is the 1890 steam ferryboat, the Eureka. Before the Golden Gate bridge, which you can see to the left of the Eureka in the image below, this side-wheel paddle-boat ferried passengers and vehicles across the bay.

Ferryboat  Eureka

Ferryboat Eureka

Originally built to carry freight trains across the bay, after WWI it was reconstructed to carry automobiles and passengers. She continued carrying autos until 1941 even after bridges were built across the Bay. Then she went back to moving train cars until she broke down in the middle of the bay in 1957.

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The bridge view brings us back to looking at the San Francisco skyline.

The  Eureka’s  bridge

The Eureka’s bridge

Trolling

Trolls from Denmark invaded Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois last spring before our national protective fence could stop them. They won’t be deported until at least this summer, so head on over to see if you can spot the creatures created by Thomas Dambo.

Joe the Guardian may spot you driving on I-88

Joe the Guardian may spot you driving on I-88

But beware, the trolls set traps.

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And if they do catch you . . .

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Or invite you home.

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But ultimately, they’re just lovable.

On a mission

As 2019 starts, I’m beginning a new travel photo blog. For the past ten years, I’ve tried to focus my Friday Foto blog on images of nature. However, I also love visiting and photographing historic and urban locales, so this blog will explore those environments. Let’s start with what might be the oldest Western building in the United States, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t until I visited this church still used for services.

Spanish missionaries built their first church in Socorro, New Mexico in 1598, and it is believed they began this structure in 1610. For centuries, the interior and exterior walls of the church were covered in mud plaster, as with all adobe brick buildings. The laborious process needed to be redone nearly every year. After World War II, concrete stucco began to be used to cover the structures thinking it would better protect the building. Concrete stucco lasted longer, making it cheaper, and allowed the poor communities to more efficiently maintain their buildings.

It was also, literally, their downfall.

The concrete trapped moisture in the walls of the building. The trapped water quietly, relentlessly deteriorated the sand, straw and other natural materials in the adobe bricks. The bricks dissolved, walls bulged, the centuries-old wooden roof beams split and cracked. The church was closed in 2010 for a several year restoration. Many neighboring mission churches collapsed or were so damaged, they never reopened.

Mission San Miguel, Soccoro, New Mexico

Mission San Miguel, Soccoro, New Mexico

Two centuries later, Fr. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan friar left his native Spain for Mexico. In 1769 in San Diego, he founded his first mission in what is now California. In front of the Santa Barbara mission is a statue of Fr. Serra, with one of the classic El Camino Real bells which still mark the 700 mile route from San Diego to Sonoma.

Saint Junipero Serra, Mission Santa Barbara, California

Saint Junipero Serra, Mission Santa Barbara, California

Moorish Fountain, Mission Santa Barbara

Moorish Fountain, Mission Santa Barbara

Serra’s fifth mission was Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Unlike the other mission churches he built, this had an L-shaped nave. Below, you can see the arch to the right of the alter where the other nave angles off.

Mission San Luis Obispo nave

Mission San Luis Obispo nave

The 21st and furthest north of the California missions is Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. Unlike the others pictured above, it is no longer an active house of worship, but is a state park.

Mission San Francisco Solano, Sonoma, California

Mission San Francisco Solano, Sonoma, California