Roadside America: Marietta, Ohio

Marietta, Ohio, is your quintessential small town. With a population that wavers around 15,000 and a little liberal arts college, Marietta College, nested within the downtown perimeters, Marietta is a quiet escape, especially for those spending time in the relatively larger nearby cities of Columbus, Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

As the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory, history often guides the sightseeing in Marietta. Established in 1788, reflections on Marietta made by famous historical figures are readily recited by schoolteachers. President George Washington remarked on the beauty he had seen in this area in 1788 when he said, “No colony in America was ever settled under such favorable auspices as that which has just commenced at the Muskingum … If I was a young man, just preparing to begin the world, or if advanced in life and had a family to make provision for, I know of no country where I should rather fix my habitation …” Benjamin Franklin acknowledged Marietta’s beauty a year earlier though and said, “I have never seen a grander river in all my life.” But Marietta’s historical intrigues extend beyond the settling of the area for the Northwest Territory.The Native Americans, primarily Shawnee, were settled in the region of Marietta prior to 1788. The large, still-standing burial mound, which is the oldest west of the Appalachians, is erected in the middle of Mound Cemetery. Many Revolutionary Soldiers, including Rufus Putnam, are buried within the cemetery. Mound Cemetery is now a must-see attraction when visiting Marietta, but the town’s attractions aren’t limited to the history books.

Marietta was built at the confluence of two rivers, the Ohio and the Muskingum. The town is nestled into the Appalachians and so if Ohio makes you think of flat cornfields as far as the eye can see, you’re not thinking of Marietta. Just across the river is West Virginia and like West Virginia, Marietta is marked by the dramatic slopes of the hills. Because of the rivers and the low mountains, Marietta is a great destination for outdoors enthusiasts. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or water-skiing, it’s nice to be outside in Marietta. But the town is also recommended for those who are drawn to antiques and haunted tours. There are a few good restaurants and bars in town and a strong arts community that keeps the town interesting with concerts and art walks, among other activities.

If you manage to make it to Marietta, here are some recommendations from a person who grew up there (me).

The Lafayette Hotel
The Brewery
The Adelphia Music Hall
Rinks Flea Market
Downtown Shopping
Sternwheel Festival

[flickr image via gb_packards]

Revolutionary War battlefield of Saratoga to be excavated

One of the most important battlefields of the Revolutionary War is going to be excavated by archaeologists ahead of an EPA cleanup.

Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, General Electric dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River near Saratoga, New York. The dumping was banned in 1977 due to risks to public health, and the EPA has ordered GE to dredge up the affected silt from the river. Dredging destroys archaeological sites, though, and has already damaged Fort Edward, a British fort in the area dating to the mid 18th century. Archaeologists are working to excavate the stretch of river near Saratoga before the dredgers arrive.

Saratoga was on the frontier for much of the 18th century and played a large part in the French and Indian Wars (1755-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). During the two battles of Saratoga in September and October of 1777, the American army stopped the British advance down the Hudson River Valley, then surrounded them and forced them to surrender. It was a major victory that led to the French coming into the war on the American side. French help was one of the deciding factors in an ultimate American victory, and the creation of the United States.

The Saratoga National Historical Park 9 miles south of Saratoga, New York, includes the battlefield, a visitor center, the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler, a monument, and Victory Woods where the British surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Archaeologists hope to find artifacts from both wars and are currently looking for a British army camp.

[Image courtesy U.S. government]

Undiscovered New York: Naval Brooklyn

When you describe the history of New York, you begin to realize that it is inextricably tied to the sea. Just recently we told you about a boat graveyard in Staten Island that has to be seen to be believed. And in fact, New York Harbor has been witness to some of this country’s most important nautical history, from New York’s rise as a trading port for the Dutch and the British, to the millions of immigrants who caught their first glimpse of their new country by boat at Ellis Island.

But no area of New York City has a more famous reputation in American naval lore than the borough of Brooklyn. Not only is Brooklyn home to one of the most historically important shipbuilding yards in the U.S., the borough was host to one of the fiercest battles of the Revolutionary War and is also the birthplace of one of history’s most famous ships.

If stories of bloody battles, abandoned admirals’ mansions and a little Civil War ironclad called the Monitor sound interesting, click below to keep reading…
The Battle of Brooklyn
If you remember your U.S. History, you probably already know about famous events in the American fight for independence like the Boston Tea Party. But did you know one the first major battles of the Revolutionary War was fought in Brooklyn? In August of 1776, British troops invaded Brooklyn by sea, coming ashore with over 30,000 troops near the area of Gravesend Bay. The American forces in the area quickly moved to slow the British advance, staging a small counter-attack at a site known as the Old Stone House. The house, and Brooklyn, was lost to the British, but luckily the American forces lived to fight another day. Interestingly, a recreation of the original 17th Century Dutch farmhouse sits not far from the site of this famous conflict. On the first floor visitors can visit a gallery commemorating the battle.

The U.S.S. Monitor
The bloody U.S. Civil War was a watershed for military innovation, including one of the first naval battles between two armor-plated ships, the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Merrimack at the Battle of Hampton Roads. The Monitor held its own in the battle thanks to a unique design with a single rotating gun turret and a streamlined shape below the waterline. Even though the battle took place on the Virginia coast, the uniquely designed Monitor was constructed in Brooklyn. The ship was built at the now defunct Continental Ironworks in the Greenpoint section of the borough. The famous vessel is commemorated in the area with its own street name (Monitor Street) and a statue at Monsignor Mcgolrick Park.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard

Arguably no shipbuilding yard in the United States played a more important role in U.S. naval history than the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The government first purchased the site in the early 1800’s, commissioning it as a U.S. Navy shipyard. At its peak during World War II, the Yard employed around 70,000 workers and was responsible for the construction of such famous vessels as the battleships U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Missouri. While the Yard’s importance has faded, you can get a unique sense of the site’s history if you’re up for some adventure. Along the edge of the Navy Yards sits Admiral’s Row, a strip of abandoned and decaying mansions that once housed naval officers and their families (pictured above). The mansions’ tall fences, barbed wire and large warning signs offer a “spooky” backdrop for some photos and an easy walk. You can find the site at the corner of Navy Street and Flushing Avenue near the neighborhood of DUMBO.

Try Mount Independence State Historic Site for History and Hiking

Perhaps you are one of those people who makes lists of where you might like to go some day. I have my own list. Thanks to a gadling reader who left a comment on my post on Harriet Tubman and Underground Railroad tours, I have another place to add. “Wise-guy” made a recommendation for Vermont’s Mount Independence State Historic Site for a history lesson and hiking adventure. It does look like a perfect blend of natural beauty and Ameria’s past.

Mount Independence once bustled during the Revolutionary War as the most important military compound in Vermont. These days, you can hike on trails through the remnants that include blockhouses, the hospital and various buildings that tell the tale of what life was like when 12,000 soldiers lived here. The scenery overlooking Lake Champlain offers views and the Visitors Center Museum tells more of Mount Independence’s story through artifacts and displays.

Just to let you know, the historic site is open seasonally. You’ll need to wait until late May before you go, but put this on your list of places to see. While you’re in the area, stop at Fort Ticonderoga in nearby New York. Wise-guy also included a link to the website