Saturday, September 29, 2018

Independence Seaport Museum

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  The museum focuses on Philadelphia history as it pertains to the formation of the US Navy, ship building and shipyards on the riverfront, and the lives of African Americans from the arrival of the first slave ship at Penn’s Landing in 1684 to segregated shipyards in the 1940s. Other exhibits include a large room filled with many types of small boats, posters describing accidents involving ships on the Delaware River, and a changing exhibits gallery which, when we visited, featured Crazy Eddie, a local tattoo artist. Everything is nicely done. The Cruiser Olympia and Submarine Becuna are located outside and are open to tour.

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   The museum is accessible. The cruiser and submarine are not.

   There’s a parking lot and a garage on Walnut Street next to the museum. Neither are good for RVs but we found great on-street parking along Dock Street on the opposite side of Christopher Columbus Blvd. The spaces are not marked so a ticket from the kiosk – payable by cash, credit card or phone app - is good for any size vehicle. Parking is limited to 3 hours however we were informed by a friendly local man that a disabled placard would get us an extra hour for free. This was confirmed later by a parking officer. The sidewalks and curb cuts are in good condition. Museum  39.94611, -75.13992

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Valley Forge National Historical Park

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   In the third year of the Revolutionary War General George Washington chose the easily defended ridge above the small mill village of Valley Forge as the 1777-1778 winter camp for the main body of the Continental Army. Just months before the Continental Army had defeated the British in the Battle of Saratoga, (which is considered a turning point of the war) however, Philadelphia, the patriot capital, was under British control. Valley Forge, 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, was chosen to maintain pressure on the British and to protect the rest of Pennsylvania.

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  The camp included 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children who built 1,500 log huts and two miles of fortifications. It was the fourth largest city in the United States. So many people gathered in one area put a strain on the land and required large amounts of provisions. At times food and clothing were in scarce supply. No battles were fought at Valley Forge but nearly 2,000 people died from influenza, typhoid, and other diseases.

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   A strong advantage of the large encampment of soldiers was the opportunity for strict military training under the guidance of former Prussian officer Baron von Steuben. His reforms in supply systems, fighting tactics, military hygiene, and army organization formed the basis of the modern US Army and prepared the soldiers for five more years of war.

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  The park covers 3,500 acres and has a visitor center, a 10 mile auto tour, ranger tours, trolley tours (in season), a memorial chapel, a partially reconstructed redoubt, Washington’s headquarters, several monuments, and a 5.3 mile paved loop trail.

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   The visitor center is accessible but if your vehicle does not fit in the accessible parking spaces you must park in the large lot which is located down a hill. A fairly long and steep paved path goes to the visitor center. A crushed stone path leads to the huts at Muhlenberg’s Brigade and the reconstructed redoubt. The thresholds of some of the huts are high.The ramp for the chapel is on the west side of the building. A very long ADA compliant ramp goes to Washington's headquarters which is not accessible but there isn’t much to see anyway. Visitors may be dropped off to avoid the ramp. The detached kitchen, the path around the property, and the train station which has exhibits are accessible. Monuments and other sites have paved trails or can be viewed from your vehicle. The paved loop trail is accessible but hilly.

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  The parking lots at the visitor center, Muhlenberg’s Brigade, the chapel, Washington's headquarters, and most of the other sites are large enough for RVs. Line Drive, a one way road is narrow, curvy, and steep but can be driven with an RV.  Park  40.10187, -75.42521

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

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   Iron ore, limestone, and lumber to make charcoal are the essential ingredients for manufacturing pig iron. In the 1700s small iron furnaces sprung up anywhere these three were readily available. Since they were often far from towns each furnace location was a settlement in itself with an iron master's house, tenant houses, boarding house, school house, church, and company store. While Hopewell is not the earliest, largest, or most successful furnace in the eastern US it is one of the most complete and well preserved. It was in operation from 1771-1883 and played an important role in suppling canons and shot to the Continental Army and Navy during the Revolutionary War. Another interesting fact was uncovered in historic documents – both women and free blacks worked in the foundry and were paid the same wages as white men- highly unusual!

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   The visitor center has a short video and exhibits about iron making and the people who worked and lived in the village. Tours of the village, which has 12 stops with interpretive signs, are self guided. Living history programs and demonstrations are presented when staffing is available. During September and October visitors may pick apples in the orchard. Long apple picking poles are free to use but there’s a charge for the apples – $1.00 a pound. The money goes directly to the park rather than the national park funding pool.

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The visitor center is accessible. The village is not wheelchair accessible but a ranger guided tour is available for visitors who can board a golf cart. The historic road goes steeply downhill to the village and is surfaced with large, loose stone. Most of the buildings have steps at the entrances. The iron master’s house which is sometimes opened to tour has a long flight of steps up to the porch and front door.

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  RVs will fit in the lot if backed up over the grass or parked lengthwise across the spaces.  Furnace   40.20711, -75.77332

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center

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  Pennsylvania was founded in 1682 by William Penn, a Quaker, as a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. Quakers, Huguenots, Puritans, Catholics, and Calvinists all settled in southeastern Pennsylvania. The area was also a landing point for groups of Amish and Mennonites from Germany. The large German population was probably an attraction for the Schwenkfelders, a small Protestant sect that followed the religious doctrine of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig.  From 1731 to 1737 most of the Schwenkfelders, 209 in all, sailed to America to escape persecution in their native Germany.  They’re still a very small group today with fewer than 2,500 members.

   The small museum has good exhibits with artifacts and historical information about Schwenkfelders.  Watch the short video for a quick history of the sect. Changing exhibits feature textiles and other items from the museums collections. Don’t miss the family tree carved by Amos Borneman in 1878.

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   The museum is accessible.

   The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Museum  40.40062, -75.5061

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Allentown Art Museum

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  In 1960 Samuel H. Kress, the founder of the S. H. Kress & Co. five and ten cent store chain, donated 53 Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures to the museum from his large collection. Subsequently other donors gave generous gifts of textiles and works on paper. The addition of contemporary and regional art  gives the museum a diverse and slightly eclectic collection of artwork. The delicate and precise craftmanship employed to create katagami, stencils carved from mulberry bark and used for printing repeating designs on cloth, and molas, colorful inserts for blouses made by indigenous Panamanian women by layering  cloth and reverse-appliquĂ©ing, are especially intriguing. 

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   A small park with sculptures and a large mural is located on the opposite side of 5th Street.

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  The museum is accessible but getting to the entrance from the parking lot involves a uphill push along the sidewalk of 5th Street.

   Five spaces in the parking lot are reserved for museum visitors. There are also two accessible spaces. All are suitable for cars or vans only. RVs can be parked on Linden Street but turn your mirrors in as the street is narrow. Museum  40.60464, -75.46807

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum

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  Major highlights of the valley’s history from Native American settlements, to the Revolutionary War, European immigration at the turn of the century and WWII are all touched on in this small museum. It gives a good allover look at the human history of the area but nothing is covered in depth. Also on the grounds is the 1770 summer house of James Allen, the son of Allentown's founder. James Allen, who was loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War, used the house as an escape from Patriot activity in Philadelphia. The house is furnished with period pieces and is open for tours on weekends in the summer.

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  The museum is accessible. I believe the first floor of the house is accessible but we did not visit it.

  Parking is limited. DO NOT attempt to park in the lot located at the rear of the museum if you have a large vehicle. The street is very narrow and the lot is really small. Visitors with mobility issues should call ahead and get permission to park in the drop-off area in front of the museum. The parking spaces on the street are okay for cars but RVs may be too wide to fit due to the narrowness of the street.  Museum  40.60218, -75.46561

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