Tag Archives: living history

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Overview

In Hopewell, Pennsylvania, the proximity of iron ore, limestone, and charcoal led to this iron furnace’s success from 1771 to 1883.  It also needed water from French Creek to run the air blast machinery allowing the furnace to reach smelting temperature.  During the American Revolution, it produced cannon, shot, and shells for the Continental Navy.  The 848-acre National Historic Site was authorized in 1938, making it one of the oldest in the nation.

Highlights

Anthracite furnace, film, cast house, tenant houses, ironmaster’s mansion, Bethesda Church

Must-Do Activity

Start with the short film at the visitor center, then take the self-guided walk through the “iron plantation.”  Though the cold-blast charcoal process became outdated by 1883, the original furnace is still used each summer to produce aluminum products.  Other costumed interpreters depict village life from late June to Labor Day.  In September and October, visitors can pick 30 varieties of apples in the orchards for a small fee, similar to Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

Best Trail

The site’s 12 miles of forested trails also connect into the neighboring French Creek State Park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Inside the cast house, moulders cast molten iron into stove plates, cannonballs, and other products.

Peak Season

Summer and apple picking season

Hours

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

Fees

None, but “you pick” apples cost $1 per pound

Road Conditions

Access roads are paved

Camping

French Creek State Park has more than 200 campsites with access to running water and showers.

Related Sites

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – How high of a temperature could the Hopewell Furnace reach when smelting?

Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site

Overview

St. Paul’s parish in Mount Vernon, New York dates back to 1665, with the first church constructed in 1700.  It was deconsecrated so the federal government could take ownership in 1980.  This was the site of an important election in 1733 when Quakers were prohibited from voting, which led to a change in the law the next year.  That election was covered in a newspaper opposed to Royal Governor William Cosby that subsequently went to court for libel, in a trial that helped established the freedom of the press in America.

Highlights

Church tour, 1833 pipe organ, film, cemetery

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the former carriage shed-parish hall where there is a small museum and a short film about the church’s historical significance.  A volunteer will then give you a guided tour of the church that was built between 1763-87, interrupted by the American Revolution.  In 1942, the pews were restored to their original configuration based on a historical document.  If you are lucky, your guide will play the 1833 pipe organ and let you ring the bronze bell that was cast in 1758 at the same foundry in London that made the Liberty Bell.  We met fellow National Park blogger Theresa here on a Saturday morning in September 2019.  She posted about the visit on her excellent blog National Parks with T.

Best Trail

None, but you can walk next door to Dunkin Donuts if you arrive before the site opens.

Instagram-worthy Photo

St. Paul’s cemetery covers five acres and contains about 9,000 graves, dating back to 1704.  Your guide will spend a bit of time covering some famous ones, but be sure to seek out the common grave for Hessian soldiers that used the church as a hospital following the October 1776 Battle of Pell’s Point (fought a mile from here).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

There is a small parking lot on site, which is far enough outside Manhattan that driving is feasible.  We took the subway and had a short walk through an industrial neighborhood.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Saratoga National Historical Park (New York)

African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)

Morristown National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – Who was the New York City publisher who in 1733 printed the inaugural issue of the New York Weekly Journal that later went to trial for libel?

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?

Colonial National Historical Park

Overview

Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia are linked by the 23-mile Colonial Parkway, which passes through the well-known tourist attraction of Colonial Williamsburg.  After the colony of Fort Raleigh proved a disaster, it was not until 1607 that the first successful English settlement was founded at Jamestown, Virginia.  On October 18, 1781, General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his British troops at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.  Though it was more than two years before a peace settlement was reached and General George Washington was able to march back into New York City, from where he retreated in 1776. 

Highlights

Historic structures, Voorhees Archaearium, glass blowing demonstrations, French ship replica, cannons, historic trails, Yorktown Victory Monument

Must-Do Activity

Remember back in 1777 in the aftermath of the battles of Saratoga when the French said they would help kick the British out of the 13 colonies?  Well, not much happened until nearly four years later when Admiral de Grasse defeated the British fleet at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  The ships were unable to resupply General Charles Cornwallis’ troops at Yorktown, who then faced a siege by the combined American and French forces.  Inside the National Park Service visitor center at Yorktown is a replica of a French ship that you can walk aboard without getting seasick.  It also has a replica of General George Washington’s battlefield tent.  Outside, cannons abound along the auto tour.

Best Trail

Five miles of trails wind through Old Towne and New Towne in Jamestown, Virginia.  There is an entry fee charged, since most of this section of the park is run by the non-profit organization Preservation Virginia.  This includes admission to the excellent Voorhees Archaearium, a museum built atop the foundation of the historic statehouse.  Do not miss the reproduction glassblowing house.  This area also contains portions of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary War National Historic Trail and Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The original 1607 James Fort was triangular in shape and, of course, had cannons facing the James River.

Peak Season

Summer, though it can be muggy

Hours

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

Fees

Visiting Yorktown is $10 per person or free with the America the Beautiful pass, but entering Jamestown requires a payment of $20 per person or $5 per person with the America the Beautiful pass.  There is a separate entry fee for nearby Jamestowne Settlement living history museum , but it is free to walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg (more info on our other travel blog).

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no camping permitted within the park, but several private campgrounds can be found in the area, as well as numerous hotels since you will probably want to spend more than a day given the park’s proximity to Colonial Williamsburg.

Explore More – When an “ill” General Cornwallis sent his second-in-command to formally surrender his 8,000 troops, General George Washington was insulted and deferred the honor of accepting to whom?

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Overview

This site in Deer Lodge, Montana commemorates the late-1800s lifestyle of cattle barons and cowboys.  In 1866, Conrad Kohrs bought this ranch from Johnny Grant and went on to amass a huge cattle herd that grazed across 10-million acres of public land from Colorado to Canada.  Today this remains a working ranch with the sounds and smells of horses, cattle, and poultry.

Highlights

Working cattle ranch, living history demonstrations

Must-Do Activity

There is no admission fee and a free guided tour is offered inside the large ranch house originally built by Johnny Grant in 1862, with a brick addition doubling its size in 1890.  After the tour, you can practice your roping skills on cattle dummies.  Be sure to stop by the blacksmith shop to ask the volunteer there about all the different types of horseshoes on display.  Inside the Buggy Shed you can see the elaborate harnesses once used on the huge Belgian draft horses that still work here at the ranch.

Best Trail

You step back into the 1800s when you walk the quarter-mile trail from the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center to the Grant-Kohrs Ranch.  A self-guided walking tour enters 15 buildings with displays on the history of cowboys, barbwire, branding irons, and so much more.  There are a total of 7 miles of walking paths on the property, including a nature trail along Cottonwood Creek.

Instagram-worthy Photo

As you explore, keep your eye out for livestock and cowboys on horseback.  It was calving season for the Herefords when we visited in mid-May.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Entrance road is paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds in Deer Lodge, Montana, and Lost Creek state Park offers a primitive campground 25 miles away.

Explore More – What is a “beaver slide hay stacker” and how does it work?