Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of two great rivers, the Potomac and the Shenandoah, and three states, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Thomas Jefferson described the scene in his Notes on the State of Virginia: “The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder and pass off to the sea… This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” At Harpers Ferry, you can hike up to Jefferson’s Rock to enjoy the view that Jefferson described. If you’re up for a more strenuous hike, cross the river to Maryland Heights, 1,448 feet above the Potomac, for a breathtaking view of Harpers Ferry and the rivers. Explore Virginius Island along the banks of the Shenandoah River, where mills and factories operated until the Civil War and record floods in 1870 and 1889 reduced the island to ruins. And, of course, stroll the Lower Town Historic District, where George Washington built a federal arsenal, and John Brown launched his ill-fated raid in 1859.

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Links: Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC

James Parton, one of Jefferson’s earliest biographers, said: “If Jefferson is wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson was right.” Perhaps it would be better to say that Jefferson, and America, have been right on the large principles, but sometimes wrong in failing t20150827_113555o carry through on them. Jefferson, the greatest articulator of those principles, spectacularly failed to carry them through on the issue of slavery. His failure anticipated America’s greatest failure, corrected only after civil war and a long struggle for civil rights. We know of no better place to meditate on American history, right and wrong, than surrounded by Jefferson’s words in his memorial by the placid Tidal Basin.

Adams National Historic Site, Massachusetts

The first father and son to have both served as U.S. presidents were John and John Quincy Adams. Both John and John Quincy had long and distinguished careers in public service. For both, the presidency was the least successful and probably least satisfying experience in public service. John and John Quincy Adams were the only two one-term presidents among the first six men to hold the offcie. Both were driven from office by the leaders of broad popular movements against the more elitist style of politics represented by the Adamses. The Adams National Historic Site includes the birthplaces of John and John Quincy Adams, as well as the “Old House,” which was home to four generations of the Adams family. The site also includes the United First Parish Church, where both Presidents and their First Ladies are entombed in the Adams family crypt.

From Boston and Route 128: Traveling south on U.S. Interstate 93 or Route 128, take exit 7 – Route 3 south to Braintree and Cape Cod. Take the first exit off Route 3 south – exit 18, Washington Street and the Quincy Adams T. Continue straight on Burgin Parkway through six sets of traffic lights. At the seventh set of traffic lights, turn right onto Dimmock Street. Follow Dimmock Street one block to the intersection of Hancock Street. Turn right onto Hancock Street. The National Park Service Visitor Center, located in the Galleria at President’s Place is two blocks on your left, 1250 Hancock Street. Parking is in the garage in the rear of the building, turn left just before the building. From Cape Cod: Traveling north on Route 3, take exit 19, Quincy Adams T. Quincy Center. Continue straight on Burgin Parkway through six sets of traffic lights. At the seventh set of traffic lights, turn right on to Dimmock Street. Follow Dimmock Street one block to the intersection of Hancock Street. Turn right on to Hancock Street. The National Park Service Visitor Center located in the Galleria at Presidents Place is two blocks on your left, 1250 Hancock Street. Validated parking is in the garage in the rear of the building, turn left just before the building.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

Mary McLeod Bethune was one of a formidable generation of leaders who arose in the early 20th century within the African American community to confront racism and segregation, and to claim the community’s rightful place in the American dream. “What does the Negro want? His answer is very simple. He wants only what all other Americans want. He wants opportunity to make real what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights say, what the Four Freedoms establish.” Mary McLeod Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida and served as an advisor on African American affairs to four presidents. She founded the National Council of Negro Women to address the problems of the black community. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site is a three-story Victorian town house that was Mary McLeod Bethune’s last Washington, D.C. residence and the first headquarters of her organization.

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Links: Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

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