Tag Archives: National Historical Park

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Overview

One could argue that George Perkins Marsh became the world’s first environmentalist with the publication of his book Man and Nature in 1864.  The sole National Park Service (NPS) site in the state of Vermont is dedicated to his property.  Later owners, Frederick Billings and the Rockefeller family followed through on Marsh’s conservation principles in their management of the farm and forest.  Laurence and Mary Rockefeller donated the estate to the U.S. government in 1992 and the park opened to the public in 1998.

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Highlights

Museum/film in the Carriage Barn Visitor Center, Mansion Tour, Garden Tour, trails

Must-Do Activity

Visitors have to pay for NPS guided tours of the mansion and its original artwork (including paintings by Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt).  There is also an entrance fee at the neighboring Billings Farm and Museum which is run by the non-profit Woodstock Foundation and provides a more hands-on experience that is great for kids, especially after a “do not touch” tour of the mansion.

Best Trail

Frederick Billings bought this family farm to practice the reforestation preached in George Perkins Marsh’s book.  There are 20 miles of trails through the forest around Mount Tom that open year round (though a ski trail pass is required in winter).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Be sure to take a walk through the well-manicured gardens on the property before or after your tour.

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Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

Free to walk the trails, while the wide variety of tours cost extra (discounted with an America the Beautiful pass).  The adjacent Billings Farm is privately managed and charges a separate entry fee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Silver Lake State Park has campsites with running water.

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Tiff out front of the mansion

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The Rockefellers are in the photo on the right

View from the front porch

Jersey cows at Billings Farm
Park at the adjacent Billings Farm.

Explore More – What are some other National Park Service units donated by the Rockefeller family?

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Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Overview

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park preserves Orville and Wilbur’s bicycle shop and explains the development of air travel at a museum next door and several other locations on the Aviation Trail.  The brothers opened a flight school at Huffman Prairie where an interpretive center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is run by the National Park Service (NPS).  We recommend you try one of the flight simulators at the two sites; they are free and they help you understand yaw.

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Highlights

Museums, historic buildings, flight simulators, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Must-Do Activity

In addition to learning about the Wright Brothers, the NPS also has an exhibit on Paul Laurence Dunbar, a local African-American poet whose home is occasionally open for tours.  When Orville Wright ran a print shop in high school, he published his classmate Dunbar’s work.

Best Trail

The Aviation Trail is not a walking trail, but it is mostly free, including the Parachute Museum and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The NPS museum across from the bike shop has a replica of the 1902 glider that the Wright brothers took to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

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Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at the Wright Brothers Aviation Center and Hawthorn Hill mansion.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

The sales counter for the Wright brothers shop
Ranger-guided tours are the only way to get inside the Wright Cycle Company building.
The prices were a little shocking
Bicycles were expensive in 1895!
In a remade grocers of the time
Frank Hale’s grocery store has been restored in its original 1900-1917 location in Dayton.
A catapult like this replica helped with airplane liftoff
Huffman Prairie provides information on the Wright’s post-1903 experiments and flight school.

A memorial to the Wright Brothers

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Try a Wright flight simulator; we were told the one at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center is easier.
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Tiff holds up her certificate saying she flew the Wright Flyer for 3 minutes without crashing.

Explore More – How many winters did the Wright brothers spend in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina perfecting their gliders before their historic flights on December 17, 1903?

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Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Overview

American inventor Thomas Edison still holds the record with 1,093 U.S. patents awarded during his lifetime. Most of those came while running the massive laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey from 1887 until his death in 1931. After perfecting the incandescent lightbulb in 1879, it was here he employed hundreds to work on improving his phonograph, motion picture camera, alkaline storage battery, and Portland cement (one of his most profitable ventures). The park also includes the family estate, Glenmont, located one-mile away (a tour ticket is required to enter the house).

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Highlights

Historic laboratories and workshops, inventions on display, house tour

Must-Do Activity

The multi-story Main Laboratory is handicap accessible and contains 400,000 artifacts from Edison’s prolific career. On display are some of the world’s first electric coffee-makers, waffle irons, and toasters marketed by his company Edicraft in the 1920s.

Best Trail

A self-guided walk around the grounds of Glenmont includes Edison’s gravesite.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At the West Orange laboratory is a replica of “Black Maria,” the world’s first movie studio originally built in 1893 on a track that allowed it to pivot for better lighting.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but not every day of the week

Hours

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

Fees

$15 per adult or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

Entrance to the park

Tiff in the heavy machinery lab

Inside Edison's office/library

Tiff at the West Orange lab

Tiff with Thomas
Edison famously said “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Explore More – On the day of Thomas Edison’s funeral, how was homage paid nationwide?

 

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Big Hole National Battlefield

Overview

Big Hole National Battlefield is located in southwestern Montana, part of the larger Nez Perce National Historical Park, which spans four states.  Back in 1877, following violent clashes with white settlers, five bands of the Nez Perce tribe left the Wallowa Valley of Oregon and were followed east by the U.S. Army.  After the remaining 800 Nez Perce went over the mountains bypassing an Army blockade at Lolo Pass, they stopped to rest in the Big Hole Valley.  A surprise attack by the U.S. Army on the morning of August 9, 1877 led to bloodshed on both sides, with Nez Perce warriors forcing the troops to retreat, capturing a Howitzer cannon, and allowing their women and children to escape towards Yellowstone National Park.

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Highlights

Overlook from visitor center, interpretive film, trail to site of Nez Perce Camp

Must-Do Activity

Start at the visitor center for the 26-minute film and an overview of the battlefield.  You are in for a treat if you happen to be around for a presentation by Dr. Bob Brown acting as Major Charles Rawn to describe his historic connection with the site.

Best Trail

The National Park Service visitor center overlooks the battlefield for orientation, and a paved road leads down to a trailhead to access the site of the attack (Nez Perce Camp), and a more strenuous climb to the Siege Area, army trenches, and the Howitzer capture site.  Interpretive booklets are available for only $1.00.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Montana is known for its Big Sky, which can be quite beautiful when pierced by the tale teepee poles set up at the site of the Nez Perce camp.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but winters are long and snowy in this part of Montana, making summer the best time to visit.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and the Nez Perce Camp Trail is wide and flat enough to allow for wheelchairs.

Camping

None in the park, but campgrounds and dispersed camping can be found in nearby Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest.

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This monument was erected where U.S. Army troops were pinned down by sniper fire and dug trenches that are still visible today.
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The North Fork of the Big Hole River runs through the battlefield.
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The Howitzer capture site is at the end of a steep hike with great views.

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Explore More – How long was the journey between Wallowa Lake, Oregon and Bear Paw Battlefield in northeastern Montana where 432 Nez Perce were finally captured?

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Lowell National Historical Park 

Overview

Built in the 1820s, Lowell, Massachusetts took the idea of a mill town and scaled it up to a factory city.  Utilizing the power of the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, its textile mills grew until its population reached 33,000 by 1850.  The workers were primarily immigrants and predominantly women, many of whom were single and lived in boarding houses like the one you can tour today in Lowell National Historical Park.

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Highlights

Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit, Boot Cotton Mills Museum, canal boat tours, Lower Locks, Jack Kerouac Commemorative Park

Must-Do Activity

It is worth the entry fee to go inside Boott Cotton Mills Museum to hear, feel, and see early-1900s machines still running and learn more about the manufacturing process, living conditions, and labor unrest.

Best Trail

Not a traditional trail, but it is a short walk along the historic canals from the NPS Visitor Center to Boott Cotton Mills Museum, the Lower Locks, and the Commemorative Park to author Jack Kerouac.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Hand dug canals from the Concord and Merrimack Rivers powered the Lower Locks in downtown Lowell.

A dam on the canal system in Lowell

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None for most sites and NPS Visitor Center (free parking there), but Boott Cotton Mills Museum charges $6 per adult for admission (discount with America the Beautiful pass).

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Harold Parker State Forest has a campground open in summer 13 miles east of Lowell.

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A mill at Lowell

Mill reflections

Tiff in the room with all the looms - she was loving it
Feel the power of these loud machines in action inside Boott Cotton Mills Museum.

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The detail on the model was quite extraordinary

Kerowac's typewriter
There are a few artifacts from the life of hometown hero Jack Kerouac whose books inspired the Beat Generation.

Explore More – How did the “kiss of death” slowly kill many textile workers?

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