EXPLORING NORTH CAROLINA
Dec 06 2013
Another full day of activities on my trip through the Southern United States. My first stop with my host was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The university began accepting students in 1795 and claims to be the oldest public university in the country. It's also one of the top ranked universities in the country and is informally known as one of the public Ivy League schools.
Our next stop was the Cane Creek Meeting House. This was a bit of fortuitous circumstance. It turns out that I was staying in Orange County, North Carolina. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my ancestors were Quakers who left Orange County, North Carolina and founded Orange County, Indiana. North Carolina had been a slave state and when they were unsuccessful at outlawing slavery the Quakers bought and brought slaves with them to Indiana, a free state. A quick Google search and I was able to find the Cane Creek Friends Meeting, the Quaker meeting that my ancestors (Mary Lindley and Jonathan Newlin) originally belonged to.
Our final stop was the small historic town of Pittsboro where we had dinner. Afterwards my host brought me to a party for PhD and Masters students in the Education Department of UNC.
|UNITED STATES • NORTH CAROLINA|
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA // DAY TWO
Dec 05 2013
Spent most of today exploring downtown Richmond before catching my 5:30 bus to North Carolina (Megabus again, I paid $21 this time). There was rain but it was warm, almost 70 degrees. Definitely heading in the right direction it seems. See photos below for my comments on Richmond (and for those that don't know, you can click on the images to make them larger; then use the arrow keys to navigate the album).
|UNITED STATES • RICHMOND • VIRGINIA|
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA (AND HANUKKAH!)
Dec 04 2013
I arrived today in Richmond. My megabus ticket from DC was $1. I really can't say enough good things about Megabus. I had free wifi, electrical outlets, and it was a double decker bus offering great views across Virginia. I did arrive a bit late to Union Station and had to skip breakfast. I seem to do that every time. One day I'll learn not to do that.
So Richmond has pleasantly surprised me. It's a beautiful city with some of the friendliest people I've met. Just walking around taking photos I was greeted by almost literally every person I passed, and not in some shallow way but a genuinely polite way. Today I explored some of the historic residential neighborhoods (as you might have already noticed I'm fond of large historic homes and what traditional neighborhoods can teach us about modern planning). My next venture will be to downtown.
Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and Confederate history is visible everywhere. Most Americans know this history quite well but for everyone else, the United States was originally thirteen British Colonies. Those colonies were unified in their declaration of independence against England and in the ensuing Revolutionary War that followed. The unity of the newly created United States would not last, however. The nation was divided on the issue of slavery and as more states were founded westward the pro-slavery Southern states became very concerned that one day the national government would attempt to end slavery and they wouldn't have the votes to stop it. So they held a referendum and they seceded from the United States and formed their own nation, the Confederate States of America.
The secession was declared illegal and a Civil War broke out. While I personally believe any state should be allowed to secede at any time, I also believe everyone should be involved in the vote. And in reviewing the votes its easy to see that were the African-Americans allowed to vote (and I can't imagine they'd vote to secede and continue slavery) the Southern States would never have reached 51% in favor of secession. The deeper issue though was economic. The Northern states were more industrial. As such slavery was a threat to the growing middle class and therefor outlawed early on. The Southern states were primarily agricultural and slavery became a part of farming life there. In the end the war was fought, the Northern states won, and decades of reunification (called Reconstruction) attempted to repair the rift. But culturally the two regions still maintain somewhat separate identities so I'm looking forward to my ventures deeper into the South.
But back to my travels. I must really thank my couchsurfing host for making my stay absolutely amazing. After taking me to an event for the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond she had a little party to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah. It was my first Hanukkah and one of those little experiences that are really at the heart of why I love traveling and meeting people so much.
|UNITED STATES • OLD HOMES • RICHMOND • VIRGINIA|
Dec 03 2013
Day thirty-three of my travels. It's nearly one in the morning. I'm sitting in a hostel common area. The army vet who checked me in is the only other person here. He's been playing World of Warcraft for the last four hours. I'm not even sure he knows I'm here. But at least now I'm nearly done editing my photos and organizing the rest of my week. With only four hours of sleep last night and a day full of travel I'm surprised I made it this far. And tomorrow I have to wake up early again and head to Richmond.
I'm not sure what I can say about our nation's capital. It's monumental. It's elegant. It's beautiful.
It's kinda boring.
|UNITED STATES • WASHINGTON DC|
Nov 28 2013
Thanksgiving Day and I drove with my sister to Louisville. Unfortunately we got a late start and I didn't get to photograph all the neighborhoods I was hoping to as we had to be back in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Louisville sits right across the Ohio River from Southern Indiana and is the nearest major city to where I grew up. It's also the largest city in Kentucky (it claims to have 750,000 people but that's only because the county and city merged. I put the city population closer to 300,000).
Louisville has a few notable distinctions, other than just being home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Downtown Louisville has the most cast iron facades in the world outside of SoHo in New York (indeed parts of downtown Louisville even look like SoHo). This was a particular architectural style where the facades of buildings were made from cast iron and then painted. Unfortunately I didn't have time to get downtown. Louisville is also well known for its large collection of shotgun houses, particularly in Germantown where the small houses are becoming popular for young professionals to buy and fix up. Shotgun houses are narrow homes usually no more than 12 feet (3.5 m) wide and arranged with one room behind the other and doors at both ends. Unfortunately I also didn't have time to make it to Germantown (I blame all this on my sister who sleeps in late).
I did make it to Old Louisville, which has the largest collection of pedestrian only streets in the country. These are often called 'courts' and are grass streets where the historic Victorian homes face one another. Unfortunately we parked at the wrong end of the neighborhood and I didn't have time to find the courts. (Basically today's trip was a disaster). What I did manage to photograph however, where the beautiful old brick Victorians of Old Louisville and the Highlands. Old Louisville is the third largest historic district in the country and home to some of the most beautiful city mansions in the country, all with a timeless, Southern charm.
|UNITED STATES • KENTUCKY • LOUISVILLE • OLD HOMES|
Nov 22 2013
Another day, another small town. Paoli is the county seat of Orange County and like Salem or Crown Point is a quintessential Indiana county seat town; it has the magnificent courthouse on a town square, a few nice shops on the square, and an otherwise rural and sparse feel. The town has a population of around 3600 people. My father's side of the family comes from Paoli and Orange County and has a long personal connection to the history here. In the early 1800's a group of Quakers left North Carolina in protest of slavery and they founded both Paoli and Orange County (naming it after Orange County, North Carolina which they came from). They brought with them as many slaves as they could so that those slaves could be free (slavery was illegal in Indiana). The Quakers were well known in America for both their opposition to slavery and to violence (which when the Civil War broke out created a philosophical dilemma for some Quakers, as it seemed violence might be the only way to abolish slavery).
The freed slaves were given 200 acres of land and that settlement was known as Patty's Garden. Later it was known simply as Little Africa. Both the Quaker town of Paoli and Patty's Garden became important stops on the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses that helped slaves escape into free Northern states or Canada. My ancestors (Mary Lindley and Jonathan Newlin) were part of that original Quaker group from North Carolina (and were among the founders of Orange County). Years later when the Civil War erupted out their son (my great-great-great grandfather) broke the Quaker vow of pacifism and joined the Union Army. He probably believed this was the only way to end slavery once and for all but he was shunned from the community for taking up arms. I'm not sure if he was ever forgiven as he's not buried in the Quaker cemetery but instead a small Protestant church cemetery near the African settlement of Patty's Garden.
|UNITED STATES • FAMILY HISTORY • INDIANA • PAOLI • TOWNS & VILLAGES|
Nov 21 2013
Corydon is another of Indiana's county seats but holds an additional important distinction, it was the capital of Indiana from 1813 to 1825. Eventually it was decided the state capital should be in the center of the state and the city of Indianapolis was founded for this purpose (and is the closest capital to the exact center of its state). Next to Corydon's courthouse (for Harrison County) is the original state capital building, now a National Landmark. The town's population is around 3000 and there are a few nice shops and restaurants around the town square.
Besides just being the former state capital, Corydon was also the site of the only Civil War battle to be fought in Indiana. Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan led his Confederate Calvary all the way through Kentucky, Indiana, and into Southern Ohio, almost a 1000 mile ride from their base in Tennessee. This was known as Morgan's Raid and it would be the furthest north the Confederate army ever made it into the Union. Morgan was aided by volunteers from Brandenburg, Kentucky. Corydon is not far from the Ohio River which separates Indiana from Kentucky. Kentucky was a slave state but never declared succession from the Union (becoming what is often referred to as a 'Border State'). Even so it often lent support to the Confederate Army and now with 2500 men under his command Morgan was able to defeat the 400 Home Guard defenders of Corydon.
|UNITED STATES • CORYDON • INDIANA • TOWNS & VILLAGES|
Nov 20 2013
Visited Salem. There are more beautiful Hoosier towns to see. Madison is probably the most beautiful town in Indiana. But I feel Salem is one of the most quintessential. It was founded in 1814, when Indiana was still just a territory. It sits in the center of the county, Washington County, which is primarily a rural county. It's the county seat (see my earlier post on Crown Point, Indiana), so it's the classic Midwest design of a large and impressive courthouse sitting in a square, surrounded on all four sides by simple town shops. The population is quite low, around 6000 people. And it's almost untouched by tourism.
|UNITED STATES • INDIANA • SALEM • TOWNS & VILLAGES|
FLOYDS KNOBS, INDIANA
Nov 19 2013
Of all the towns I've visited this week, it's probably most difficult to write about my own, Floyds Knobs (We call it Floyd Knobs, the first 's' is silent). I was born here but spent my early years in rural Wisconsin and then rural Illinois because of my dad's job. We returned to Floyds Knobs when I was in the Fourth Grade. Back then Floyds Knobs was a farming community of less than a 1000 people. There was no real town per say, it was mostly farmsteads covering a few dozen square miles. Many of those farms dated back to the 1800s. Most of the roads were named after the farming families.
I went to college in Boston and Rhode Island when I was eighteen and since then have only been back for holidays. But each time I come back the change to my home county is tremendous (tremendously bad in my opinion). Floyd Knobs is now home to almost 8000 people, which is fine except that most of those new homes came in the form of cookie cutter subdivisions built on the ashes of the old farms. Shopping centers sit on former corn fields. McMansions sprawl across the landscape in every direction, destroying idyllic drives. The community's sin was its proximity to Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville had already consumed and paved over the once beautiful farmlands and vistas of St. Matthews and Middletown and the hunger for houses in rural settings had to be filled somehow.
I should say that I'm not against progress or development (quite the opposite, I always wanted to be a developer), but so often the reckless and laissez faire approach taken in American planning leads to communities that destroy the very essence of place that attracted people in the first place. Suburbanites enjoy when their subdivision sits across from a beautiful farm but when that farm is then sold and cut up into more subdivisions (or a Walmart parking lot) and they are suddenly surrounded for miles in sprawl they complain. Their solution is to simply move further away, where the sprawl hasn't fully consumed the countryside yet. But in doing so they create a type of sprawl that grows like a cancer. They leave the suburbs of St. Matthews for those of Floyd County, only to slowly turn Floyd County into a copy of St. Matthews, the very place they wanted to leave. And when that transition is complete, when Floyd County has been mined and stripped bare of its beauty they'll simply move further out to Harrison County and the process will start all over again. Commutes get longer. Family time diminishes as a result. More and more income is spent on transportation costs. It's an odd sort of 'dream' for Americans to have.
So the solutions I'm interested in are those that encourage development but still protect the shared sense of place that people love, such as rural Americana. Floyds Knobs could easily absorb 30,000 new residents and still maintain its idyllic, pastoral nature but only if Americans are willing to live give up their front lawns (which no one uses anyway) and live in clustered villages. I'll examine these alternatives more when I travel across Europe which is often able to produce lovely small towns and still protect its rural countryside from sprawl.
On different note most of my mother's side of the family lives here in Floyd County and were in fact among the first European settlers of the area. Whereas my father's side were mostly Irish Quakers, British Protestants, and Hessian Lutherans who arrived in 1700s to the original Thirteen Colonies, my mother's side arrived mostly in the 1800s and came directly to Indiana. They were primarily Alsatian, Belgian, and German Catholics and for a time they made up the majority of the county population. I spent some time tracking down the graves of those first European immigrants in my family. Photos below. Also below are photos our family farm and a few shots of Floyd County (mostly Floyds Knobs). Some of the photos I took years ago in highschool and scanned in.
THE FAMILY FARM
RURAL FLOYD COUNTY
|UNITED STATES • FAMILY HISTORY • FLOYDS KNOBS • INDIANA|
CABIN IN THE WOODS
Nov 18 2013
Long ago my parents bought some land as far from civilization as they could possibly manage and over the years have been building a tiny one room cabin on it. Here's your chance to escape civilization (and use an outhouse). We went out there to check for damage after some storms and tornadoes came through the county.
|UNITED STATES • INDIANA|