Tag Archives: history

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Overview

The only National Park Service (NPS) site named for a court case.  The one named started here in Topeka in 1951 when segregation was the law of the land.  Five cases were consolidated when the issue escalated to the Supreme Court by 1954, when they finally overturned the 1896 ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson.  In his decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “Separate education facilities are inherently unequal.”

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Highlights

Monroe Elementary School, Hall of Courage

Must-Do Activity

Tour the former African-American-only Monroe Elementary School, restored to its 1950s appearance with some classrooms turned into exhibits on the civil rights movement worldwide.  If you visit on a weekday, you might hear the halls filled with the sounds of children again, since it is a frequent fieldtrip destination.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Walking the Hall of Courage gives some idea of what it would have been like as an African-American student attending a desegregated school in the 1950s.

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Peak Season

Spring seems to be popular for school fieldtrips.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/brvb/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All paved with a designated NPS parking lot.  Check the address (1515 SE Monroe St.) for Monroe Elementary School on the NPS website as our GPS sent us to the park headquarters inside Topeka’s main post office.

Camping

None at the site, but nearby Lake Shawnee Campground is run by the county.

Scott in a kindergarden classroom
This is how a classroom at Monroe Elementary School would have looked in the 1950s (note the fireplace for heat).

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There is plenty to see and read in the visitor center, including the story of Nelson Mandela.

Explore More – Which future Supreme Court Justice headed the legal team for the Browns?

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Effigy Mounds National Monument

Overview

This site in northeastern Iowa contains 206 prehistoric earthen mounds, thirty-one of which are in the form of bears and birds.  Some of the rounded mounds have been dated back 2,500 years, but the images of animals (called effigies) began only about 1,400 years ago.  In addition to blades and beads inside the mounds, there is often evidence of fires burned in the effigy’s head, heart, or flank, perhaps as part of a burial ceremony.

Echo with Effigy Mounds

Highlights

Marching Bear Mound Group, Little Bear Mound Group, Mississippi River overlooks

Must-Do Activity

After perusing the museum inside the visitor center, take the steep trail that leads past Little Bear Mound Group to multiple overlooks from 300-foot tall bluffs above the Mississippi River.

Best Trail

Located a short drive from the visitor center, a trail in the South Unit climbs 2 miles one-way to the impressive Marching Bears Mound Group, the densest collection of effigies in the park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It is very difficult to photograph the effigy shapes, so the best shots are found at overlooks of the Mississippi River.

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Peak Season

Summer, but on our second visit during April we found the animal shapes were easier to discern.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/efmo/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All paved except the parking area for the South Unit which may not be suitable for large RVs.

Camping

No campground in the monument, but nearby Pikes Peak State Park has RV hookups and Yellow River State Forest offers more primitive sites.

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Little Bear Mound
The mounds can be hard to discern in the summertime

Tiff next to two of the tallest mounds in the park

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In April, we saw these bear shapes located at the end of the Marching Bear Group, a 4-mile roundtrip hike.
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There is a picnic area at the southern trailhead on the banks of the Mississippi River.
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Coots in the Mississippi River

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Explore More – What is the wingspan of the largest effigy bird?

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Pullman National Monument

Overview

South of Chicago, Illinois, the town of Pullman was built in 1880 as one of the first master-planned communities in the nation.  It was constructed by the Pullman Palace Car Company for its employees to rent houses with modern amenities typically unavailable in the city.  Due to the grassroots efforts of its residents over the years, the town was spared demolition in the 1960s and it remains incredibly well-preserved architecturally.  Pullman National Monument was established in February 2015 by the executive order of former Chicago resident Barack Obama.

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Highlights

Historic buildings, introductory film

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in the neighborhood shows a 20-minute film and offers walking tours.  You can also take a self-guided tour past the historic homes, most of which remain private residences.  More buildings may open to the public in the coming years as the NPS develops this unique historical site in cooperation with its current inhabitants.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Greenstone Church was made with serpentine quarried in Pennsylvania, giving it an interesting color that doesn’t even require a photo filter.  Also, it has gargoyles.

Green!

Peak Season

Open year round, but Chicago is known for its harsh and windy winters.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is a free parking lot at the visitor center.

Camping

None

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Operated 1881 to 1975, the Hotel Florence had the only bar in Pullman until the 1900s and was under renovation in 2016, but may now be open to tours.

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The green rock church

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It will take a lot of restoration work to get the Pullman Factory Administration Building open to the public.
Pullman is known for making the fancy train cars
Scott inside the Visitor Center and museum.

Explore More – Why did President Grover Cleveland direct federal troops to disrupt the 1894 strike by Pullman Palace Car Company employees?

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City of Rocks National Reserve

Overview

In the high desert of southeast Idaho stands a collection of granite spires that served as a welcome rest stop along the California Trail.   At the height of the gold rush in 1852, some 50,000 pioneers passed this site in a single year.  Many left their names painted in axle grease, still legible on Camp Rock and Register Rock.  Today it is a popular destination for rock climbers from around the world, but also has 22 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

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Highlights

Rock climbing, Register Rock, Window Arch, primitive camping

Must-Do Activity

Rock climbers flock here from around the world to take on the granite spires that inspired emigrants on the California Gold Rush Trail to name it City of Rocks.  The grippy granite is fun for any skill level to clamber around on and easily accessible from all campsites.

Best Trail

Trails snake through this area leading to different climbing routes, especially around Elephant Rock, which is a great place to watch other climbers.  Keep watching the skies, too, as a variety of raptors (and pigeons) enjoy the thermals here.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Window Arch is a great place to watch the sun come up, just try not to wake up campers in the neighboring sites.

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Peak Season

Summer, since it is very cold at this elevation (7,000 feet) in other seasons.  Autumn briefly turns aspen leaves yellow.

Hours

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

Fees

Free to enter and only $12.72 to camp per night (so bring exact change)

Road Conditions

A dirt road winds through the park and is accessible to passenger vehicles.

Camping

78 primitive campsites located off the dirt Emery Canyon Road, with several nice sites sit right next to Window Arch.  For more upscale accommodations try the Lodge and Bunkhouse at nearby Castle Rocks State Park.

Lots of fins

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One of the more famous inscriptions
Emigrants on the California Trail passed right through here.

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Explore More – How many billions of years ago did the oldest granite here form?

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Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Overview

Located on the remote northern peninsula of Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands, this isolated spot was selected by King Kamehameha V in 1865 as a quarantine area for those suffering from Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy).  It is fairly noncontagious and successful treatments were developed, meaning patients have not been forced to live here since 1949.  There are still no roads to the settlement, so you will have to get the necessary permits through Father Damien Tours to fly, hike, or ride mules into the restricted-access park.  Nobody under age 16 is allowed.

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Highlights

Kalaupapa Trail, St. Philomena Church, Kalawao Settlement

Must-Do Activity

“Must do” in this case means you are only allowed to enter this park on the 4-hour bus tours led by Hansen’s disease patients who choose to remain living here, which truly enhances your experience.  From them you will hear the amazing stories of the exiles and those who helped them, including two saints: Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope.

Best Trail

Hiking down the 1,600-foot high cliffs is an exciting introduction to the land, or you can ride a mule on the same trail.  Permits required.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The tour stops for lunch at the long-abandoned Kalawao Settlement at the end of the road, which offers stunning views of the 1,600-foot cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

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Peak Season

The weather is nice year round in the tropics, but always be prepared for rain.

Hours

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

Fees

Permits are required to enter this park and the only concessionaire is Father Damien Tours.  A day trip including flights from Honolulu cost $249 per person in 2016, but cheaper options are available if you are already staying on Molokai Island.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads are bumpy, especially in a bus, but you won’t be driving so just enjoy the scenery.

Camping

None

A view of Kalaupapa from near the top of the trail
Tropical jungles and extraordinary overlooks are two reasons to enter the park via the Kalaupapa Trail.

Tiff on the downhill

Scott with an awesome tree

Tiff at the restored church built by Father Damien in the 1800s
Father Damien served here at St. Philomena Church in the later abandoned Kalawao Settlement; he was canonized in 2009.

Active Catholic church in Kalaupapa

Tiff boarding our plane to get topside on Moloka'i
Small airplanes are used to fly in and out of Kalaupapa, offering great views of Molokai.

Explore More – Since 1865, how many Hansen’s disease patients were buried in Kalaupapa?

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