Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

Overview

The house at 144 Constitution Avenue NE in Washington, D.C. has an interesting history.  First constructed by the Sewall family in 1799 near the new U.S. Capitol building, it was burned by British troops during the War of 1812.  After being renovated by Vermont Senator Porter H. Dale in the 1920s, it was purchased by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont as a replacement headquarters for the National Woman’s Party (NWP).  In 1972, it was named the Sewall-Belmont National Historic Site, affiliated with the National Park Service (NPS), who took over full control when it was established as a National Monument in 2016. 

Highlights

Historic artifacts, sculptures, tours

Must-Do Activity

Free tours are given at specific times (see Hours below) by the NPS, but otherwise visitors can read the museum displays on both floors of the house.  The name Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument refers to the aforementioned Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Alice Paul, a militant suffragette who was arrested during World War I for picketing outside the White House.  The protesters were attacked by men on the street, vilified in the newspapers, and abused in prison where they were force-fed during hunger strikes.  In August 1920, these brave women achieved vindication with the passing of the 19th Amendment allowing all women the right to vote in the U.S.A.

Best Trail

The Sewell House has a placard outside as part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.  In 1814, the British believed there were snipers posted inside the house and burned it down, one of the few private residences destroyed during their march through Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A statue of Joan of Arc greets visitors in the front hallway of the house.  Our tour guide said that the statue is attached to the house’s foundation and is completely immovable. 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bepa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

There is no designated parking lot, so you have to find street parking or take the Metro.

Camping

None

Explore More – In August 1920, which state became the 36th to ratify the 19th Amendment, officially adding it to the U.S. Constitution?

Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Overview

In 1848, Seneca Falls was a small rural town in New York and it still remains that way, but on July 19 of that year it became the focus of the world when it hosted the first Women’s Rights Convention.  Women’s Rights National Historical Park was established on seven acres here in 1980.  Some of the National Park Service (NPS) museum exhibits have not been updated since then, but they still make you think, which is the important point.

Highlights

Museum, film, sculptures, 1843 Wesleyan Chapel, Declaration Park, Elizabeth Cady Stanton house

Must-Do Activity

Nearly two centuries after the convention, some positive changes have been made, but walking through the second-story NPS museum reminds you that we have a long way to go.  The reactions in the newspapers from 1848 are not very different to those written in response to the women’s marches of 2017.  Next door, visitors can enter the reconstructed 1843 Wesleyan Chapel where the two-day meeting was held and read the still relevant Declaration of Sentiments written during the convention.  The NPS also offers free tours of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house, a short drive away.  Two other houses in Waterloo, New York are also part of the park.

Best Trail

There is a walking tour through historic downtown Seneca Falls that includes the National Women’s Hall of Fame (admission charged), only a short distance from the NPS museum. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Declaration Park between the NPS museum and the Wesleyan Chapel has a waterfall wall inscribed with the Declaration of Sentiments and its signers’ names.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/wori/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except at the unaffiliated National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited.

Camping

Cayuga Lake State Park has a large campground only 4 miles east of Seneca Falls, New York.

Explore More – Why is there a sculpture of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the lobby of the visitor center?

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Overview

In the heart of downtown Little Rock, Arkansas is a beautiful high school that took center stage in this nation during September 1957.  A landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision (Brown v. Board of Education) mandated desegregation of schools nationwide.  Blocked from entering the high school for weeks, with U.S. military intervention eventually nine African-American students attended classes here, with the one senior (Ernest Green) graduating on May 25, 1958. 

Highlights

Museum, restored 1957 filling station, memorial benches

Must-Do Activity

Kitty-corner from the still active high school, the National Park Service (NPS) runs a visitor center with an excellent museum on integration.  We were surprised to learn that rather than continue with desegregation, all area schools were closed for the 1958-59 academic year.  Three African-American students attended Little Rock Central High School the next year, and today the school is still operating, serving as a living memorial to civil rights.  Keeping up with the news, it may not seem like we have made much progress in the United States, but looking back to the past shows us how far we have come as a society.

Best Trail

Guided streetscape tours are given on most weekends (reservations required a minimum of 24 hours prior). It is recommended you contact the NPS at least one month in advance to reserve a weekday tour inside the high school.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Across the street from the high school, the NPS has preserved a filling station as it appeared in 1957.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/chsc/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved and there is a small parking lot at the NPS visitor center.

Camping

West of Little Rock, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages a campground at Maumelle Park, near Pinnacle Mountain State Park.  Hot Springs National Park offers a campground 56 miles away.

Explore More – Schools in which Arkansas town had already successfully integrated without any hubbub years before the events at Little Rock Central High School?

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Overview

During the Cold War, there were 150 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos in South Dakota.  Start your visit at the thought-provoking museum in the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center on Interstate 90, located at Exit 131 (the east entrance into Badlands National Park).  It can be hard to get onto a tour of the Delta-01 launch control facility that same day without reservations, but you can always stop at the Delta-09 missile silo at Exit 116.

Highlights

Museum, Delta-09 missile silo, guided tours of Delta-01 launch control facility

Must-Do Activity

Guided tours of the Delta-01 launch control facility have very limited space and a nominal fee, but are no longer solely first-come, first served thanks to an online reservation system.  Guided tours are also available of the Minuteman II training silo at Ellsworth Air Force Base down the road on Interstate 90 at Exit 67, which is home of the free South Dakota Air and Space Museum (that is definitely worth a stop).

Best Trail

Located off Interstate 90 Exit 116, you can walk around the Delta-09 missile silo, which has interpretive signs around a deactivated Minuteman II ICBM.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Stop to read the quote by the front door to the NPS visitor center.  It is a sobering reminder of the brutal logic behind “nuclear deterrence” and “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).”

Peak Season

Summer and the September weekend of the Custer State Park bison roundup.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mimi/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

No fee for the main visitor center or the Delta-09 missile silo, but there is a small charge for the guided tour of the Delta-01 launch control facility.

Road Conditions

Access to the multiple sites is by paved or good gravel roads.

Camping

Campgrounds and free backcountry camping are allowed in nearby Badlands National Park.

Explore More – A single Minuteman II missile has a 1.2-megaton warhead, which is equivalent in power to what percentage of all munitions used throughout World War II?

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

Overview

Bent’s Old Fort on the Arkansas River on the prairie of eastern Colorado has been painstakingly reconstructed to its appearance of 1845.  It was originally built in 1833, long before Fort Larned and Fort Union announced the U.S. military presence on the 1,200-mile-long Santa Fe Trail.  Historical reenactors are happy to talk to visitors about the site and its famous inhabitants and visitors.

Highlights

Reconstructed fort, film, living history

Must-Do Activity

The “old fort” was originally built with the financial backing of the two Bent brothers from St. Louis and a Taos trader named Ceran St. Vrain.  It was a huge success, bringing a period of peace to warring tribes on the Great Plains, particularly after William Bent married a Cheyenne woman.  Things changed once Texas was annexed by the U.S. in 1845 and the military moved in, spurring a move to Bent’s New Fort 38 miles downstream.  

Best Trail

The parking lot is less than a half-mile walk from the fort, yet we found that approaching on foot added to the historic experience, as did speaking with the reenactors roaming inside.  Closer handicap parking is available.  Another trail leads to the banks of the Arkansas River on a 1.75-mile loop.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In 1975, the adobe fort was reconstructed on its original foundation in southeast Colorado based on drawings by Lieutenant James Abert, a topographical engineer stationed here in 1845 and 1846. 

Peak Season

Summer, but watch for afternoon thunderstorms.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/beol/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$3 per adult except $5 during June 8-9 Santa Fe Trail Encampment, September 15 Hispanic Heritage Day, October 20 Native American Heritage Day, and the December 7-8 Traditional Holiday Celebration. America the Beautiful pass accepted, too.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, although they can be closed due to spring floods on the Arkansas River.

Camping

There are private campgrounds in nearby La Junta, Colorado and a public one run by the Corps of Engineers at John Martin Reservoir (27 miles east on Highway 50).

Explore More – What combination of factors led William Bent to burn the original fort and build a new one 38 miles down the Arkansas River?