Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site preserves the boyhood home of the great civil rights leader. The home is in the residential section of “Sweet Auburn,” the center of black Atlanta, two blocks west of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King’s grandfather and father served as pastors. Martin Luther King’s contributions do not need to be recounted here. Let us just say that he, at long last, healed the nation’s (self-inflicted) wounds and gave the country a new standard of citizenship: “Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man but to win his friendship and understanding.”

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Links: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., National Historic Site

National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum would be worth visiting just to see the building in which it is located: the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. But the museum also presents a comprehensive review of America’s long struggle for racial justice, from slavery through the Civil War and emancipation, to segregation and the black migration to the north, and finally the twentieth-century civil rights movement. The museum houses over 10,000 square feet of permanent exhibits, which naturally highlight the life and career of Dr. King. Visitors can look into the room that Dr. King occupied at the motel, which has been restored to its condition on April 4, 1968, and see place on the motel balcony where he was assassinated.

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Links: National Civil Rights Museum

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep protects a collection of unique prehistoric archeological sites of the ancestral Puebloan people, also called the Anasazi. Human habitation at Hovenweep dates back over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. By about 900 A.D., people started to settle here year-round, planting and harvesting crops on the mesa’s top. At its prime in the late 1200’s, the Hovenweep area was home to over 2,500 people. The inhabitants of Hovenweep were part of the large farming culture which occupied the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona from about 500 B.C. until nearly A.D. 1300. These people excelled in architectural and craft skills as well as farming. The surviving buildings at Hovenweep are the remnants of the settlements built during the high point of their occupation of region. The structures are numerous and varied. Some are square, some D-shaped, some round, some measuring nearly four stories tall. There are towers, kivas, pueblos, room blocks, granaries, check dams, and farming terraces. By the end of the thirteenth century the people of Hovenweep and the surrounding region (such as Mesa Verde and Kayenta) packed up and left the area, presumably moving southward and joining with the people of the Hopi and Zuni. Several theories have developed as to the reasons for the ancestral Puebloans’ departure. Some say they were forced out by hostile neighbors. Others say a combination of overpopulation, overuse of the land, and a 20 year drought beginning in the year 1276 made the area uninhabitable. The first historic reports of the abandoned structures at Hovenweep were made by W.D. Huntington, the leader of a Mormon expedition into southeast Utah in 1854. In 1917-18, J.W. Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution surveyed the area. Fewkes recommended the structures be protected.

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Links: Hovenweep National Monument

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz is one of the most popular tourist sites of any kind in the
country. For purposes of “traveling the past,” Alcatraz is a “three-fer.”
Alcatraz was initially intended to be a fortified stronghold in San Francisco
Bay. It was, however, never very functional as a military facility. It was too
far out in the bay to be resupplied easily, and some of its military buildings
were obsolete even before they were finished. Still, Alcatraz served as a
military prison before it was a civilian one. For 34 years of course, Alcatraz
was the civilian “mother of prisons,” the maximum-security penitentiary el
supremo, the… , well, you get the point. Alcatraz may not have been too far from
land for some very strong swimmers, but currents, tides, and water temperature
of the bay made it the safest place to put the “worst of the worst.” Finally,
Alcatraz was the scene of a controversial 19-month action by an organized group
of Native Americans, who occupied the island to claim it and call attention to
the historical wrongs against their people. Oh, there’s also a fine lighthouse,
and the view alone is well worth the ferry ride.

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Links: Alcatraz Island

Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site

In an effort to capture Missouri for the Confederacy, General Sterling Price and about 12,000 Confederate soldiers invaded that state in 1864. When his attempt to capture St. Louis failed, Price turned his attention to Kansas. Following the Missouri River, Price’s army made its way towards Kansas City. Alerted of the pending invasion, Kansas Governor Thomas Carny called out the Kansas State Militia which was combined with Federal troops under General Samuel R. Curtis to form the Army of the Border. The battle was joined on October 19th, 1864 at Lexington and the Battle of Big Blue on October 22. After initial victories, the Confederates were defeated at Westport and forced to retreat south. Guarding the rear of this retreat, General John Marmaduke was attacked by pursuing Union Cavalry on the north bank of Mine Creek. The charging Union Cavalry numbered only 2,500, but was able to affectively destroy the Confederate force that numbered 7,000. After this crushing defeat at the battle of Mine Creek, Confederate General Price was eventually forced to withdraw into Arkansas, essentially ending the Civil War in the west. Today, signs mark the location of important events in the battle.

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Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Thomas Jefferson recorded what he considered to be his greatest
achievements on his tombstone: ” “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of
the Declaration of Independence of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
and Father of the University of Virginia.” With respects to the great man, he
may have neglected at least one of his enduring legacies: the territorial
expansion of the United States. Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis
and Clark expedition that he sent out to explore it, more than doubled the size
of the United States and brought the country’s territorial claims to the Pacific
Ocean. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates the Louisiana Purchase
and the Lewis and Clark expedition in the city from which the explorers set out.
The memorial consists of the Gateway Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion, and
St. Louis’ Old Courthouse. The arch is 630 feet of stainless steel from which
you can get a magnificent view of the Mississippi River and the St. Louis area.
For those of you afraid of heights (OK, we talking to ourselves here), it sways
only one inch in a 20-mph wind, and is built to sway up to 18 inches. The Museum
of Westward Expansion, located below the Arch, is as large as a football field
and contains an extensive collection of artifacts, mounted animal specimens, an
authentic American Indian tipi, and an overview of the Lewis and Clark
expedition. Just two blocks west of the Arch, the Old Courthouse is one of the
oldest buildings in St. Louis, dating from1839. The courthouse was the site of
the first two trials in the notorious Dred Scott case, which were held in 1847
and 1850. Today, the building houses a museum charting the history of the city
of St. Louis and restored courtrooms.

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Links: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Homepage

The Alamo National Historic Landmark

On the morning of March 6, 1836, approximately 187 Texas defenders lost their lives at the Alamo fighting the overwhelming forces of the Mexican army commanded by Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna. Counted among the dead were James Bowie, David Crockett and William B. Travis. The defenders had repelled the Mexican forces for thirteen days before their crushing defeat. It is their courage and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds that secured the Alamo’s place in Texas history. Their memory was invoked as the battle cry in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 where Texan forces led by General Sam Houston vanquished the Mexican army commanded by General Santa Anna. The Alamo’s military significance has greatly overshadowed that of its early beginnings. It was originally established in 1724 as a Spanish mission, Misión San Antonio de Valero, the oldest of a series of five Spanish missions scattered along the San Antonio River. Today in downtown San Antonio merely a portion of the original mission compound remains as a result of urbanization. It is contained within a 4-acre historical complex maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The chapel of the Alamo stands as a shrine to the memory of its defenders and exhibits artifacts from the battle. The complex also includes a museum, library and gift shop.

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Links: Alamo National Historic Site

Longfellow National Historic Site

Longfellow House has seen a lot more history than your average old house. George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the newly-formed Continental Army, used the house as his headquarters during the Siege of Boston from July 1775 to April 1776. For almost half a century (1837-1882), the house was the home of poet and novelist Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. During that time, the house was a favorite gathering place for many prominent writers, artists, and public figures, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Julia Ward Howe, and Charles Sumner. After Longfellow’s death in 1882, his family continued to preserve the property for ninety years until it was transferred to the National Park Service in 1972. As a result, virtually all of the furnishings are original to the house, and most date from Henry Longfellow’s occupancy. Today, the national historic site also houses an extensive museum collection: American and European decorative arts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; important nineteenth century painters and sculptors such as Gilbert Stuart and Albert Bierstadt; Longfellow’s personal library and family papers dating from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries; and an estimated 700,000 manuscript items, including letters from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, and Abraham Lincoln. The following notice is on the National Park Service’s home page for the Longfellow National Historic Site: “Longfellow National Historic Site closed temporarily to visitors beginning October 25, 1998 for an indefinite period. The temporary closure will allow the National Park Service to make critical improvements to fire protection, security, and environmental control systems, collections storage, handicapped access, and education program space. Comprehensive rehabilitation of this popular visitor site, which includes the Longfellow House and its gardens and grounds, is scheduled to begin in Spring, 2000.”

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Links: Longfellow National Historic Site Offical Web Site

Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Mesa Verde National Park was the first site in the National Park Service specifically established to preserve cultural artifacts. From about A.D. 600 through 1300 the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people lived in “cliff dwellings,” stone villages constructed in the sheltered alcoves of canyon walls. After 700 years of habitation, these dwellings were abandoned within the span of one or two generations. Their descendants still live in the southwest today. The Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are among the best preserved in the United States. Mesa Verde National Park had a difficult fire season in the summer of 2000, but the park has reopened with no damage to the cliff dwellings or the park’s collection of artifacts.

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Links: Mesa Verde National Park

Jerome State Historic Park, Arizona

The 1916 mansion of the James S. Douglas family sits on a hill overlooking the scenic Verde Valley, which was once the Arizona Territory’s most productive copper mining area. The Douglas family made a fortune in copper mining, and lived in the house during the heyday of copper mining in the area. They also used the mansion as a “hotel” for visiting mining officials and investors. The Arizona copper mining industry collapsed when copper prices plummeted during the Depression. The state of Arizona now preserves the mansion as an historic site. The mansion’s well-appointed interior and adobe-brick architecture reflect the high-life of copper mining magnates before the decline of their industry. Exhibits in the house display local mining history and methods. The site also preserves archival records such as photographs, newspapers on microfilm, correspondence, publications, manuscripts, and ephemera.


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Links: Jerome State Historic Park