Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fredericksburg's Forgotten Saviour

Fredericksburg felt very little impact from The Great Depression because of the opening of the Sylvania plant on May 21, 1930. The headline in The Free-Lance Star read:

350 Wage Earners Employed in Manufacture of New Type of Wrapping Paper Known as Sylphene. Regular Production Begins On Anniversary of First Public Announcement Of Location At Fredericksburg Huge Building Project Completed in Record Time.

The Story went on to say the plant, “was ready to supply Sylphene (cellophane) the modern attractive and sanitary product for wrapping an infinite variety of articles and packages, to all corners of the United States and perhaps later to foreign countries with every shipment bearing the label: Made in Fredericksburg, Va by the Sylvania Industrial Corporation.”

Thus the world will be shown that “Americas Most Historic City” is likewise a thriving industrial community.”

The plant itself was located off of Rt. 17 in Spotsylvania. However, large amounts of water were needed to cool down the equipment. Due to the slow movement of the Rappahannock River the pumping station was built up river in Fredericksburg to ensure that the hot water discharged was not recirculated into the system. It was said that the water discharged into the river was so hot that a person could not put their bare feet down on the bottom of metal boats when passing by the facility. There was also an awful smell coming from the plant. The cost of the facility was $1,000,000.00. At the height of its operation it employed 2,700 people. It was closed in 1978.

The Last Pump Station (Ignore the Bridge)

This was the pumping station facility built to support the plant in 1947. Located at the City Dock the structure was purchased by Frederickburg luminary, and former Mayor, Bill Beck. He and his lovely wife Susan, have converted the structure into a nice little river retreat with a kitchen, living room/dining room and a small study. This is where, "The Party" is on the 4th of July.

The Walkway to the Pump Station
One of the more interesting front walks in the city.

Signed by the Artists
A part of the last pump station. You can see the names of some of the workers etched into the cement

One of the Original Pumping Stations
This one is located well off the river. There looked to be support wiring leading from the station to the intake about 25 yards to the left.

The Interior Workings of the Old Pump Station
Brought to you by Kodak Easyshare software.

An Intake....I Think
I am told by one who knows about these things that the structure at the river is where water was drawn from and filtered before being transferred to the plant. I have no idea what the large metal frame was used for. If anyone is familiar with 1930's technology I'm all ears.
The Water Line
This water line went from the pump station to the plant.

Some Sights Along the Way

“The road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

During this morning's expedition to located the remains of the old Sylvania Plant I passed by a few interesting sites...........

Ignore the Bridge
It was a beautiful day down at the City Dock this morning. Here a grandfather was teaching his young grandson how to fish. Yes that is the dam railroad bridge in the background. The bridge further down is the Chatham Bridge.
Ever Wonder What's Underneath a Bridge as You Go Over?
Well take a look. During today's morning stroll I passed under the Blue and Gray Parkway bridge over the Rappahannock. Once known in the burg as, "The Bridge to Nowhere." Needless to say the parkway project generated a lot of discussion when the project was first brought forward. Ah, but that is a story for another day.

The Other End of the Rocky Lane.
Off to the left you can see part of the Rocky Lane which I had previously photographed from Caroline Street looking down towards the City Dock. This photos was taken from the City Dock. The house to the right was built at a time that Fredericksburg was a thriving port.
The "Eiffel Tower"
A Fredericksburg landmark--The Purina Tower located next to the train station. Usually the photos of this structure are taken from across the railroad tracks. This photo was taken from the Sophia Street parking lot. The building to the left is the Janney-Marshall Building. The stack in the background is from one of the old rail buildings. A good sample of the city's industrial history.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pack Your Lunches and Turn in Your Parental Permission Slips We’re Going on a Field Trip!

“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it - memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.”

Tad Williams

QUIET ON THE BUS! Today we are traveling to Stafford to the site of the now defunct Virginia Renaissance Fair and Chatham Manor, headquarters of the National Battlefield Parks. And if you are really good we may have time to throw a dart or two.

The Virginia Renaissance Festival-- A Past view of the Past
The Virginia Renaissance Festival on Rt. 3 in Stafford has been closed for years. Passing the dilapidated sign along the road I have always wondered how the site looks today. Yesterday I took my lunch break (for the boss) and trekked back into the woods............

Chatham Manor
Built in the 1770s by William Fitzhugh the manor is now the headquarters for the National Battlefield Parks. Visitors to the home included George Washington, Robert E. Lee. and a number of prominent Yankees as it was used by Union forces as a headquarters during the Civil War.

The Garden Wall
"Old garden walls have spirit, inner beauty of a kind,
Rich and ripe with years gone by, like a fine aged wine.
Let's replant the gardens with blooms of vibrant flowers.
A sanctuary of harmony to share our idle hours."

A Moment of Reflection
A bench located next to the laundry building. One has to wonder who over the years sat upon this bench to take a moment to survey the surrounds or stopped for a conversation.
Too Many Trees
Looking from the rear grounds of Chatham across to Fredericksburg. At the time of the Civil War you would see few trees in this shot. And no those dam Yankees did not cut them all down. Most of the forested areas were cut down for farming, and to support local industry and construction. We actually have more trees today than we did 150 years ago.

Wednesday Nights in the Burg
The field of honor. The dart board at the Blarney Stone in downtown Fredericksburg. Most Wednesday night at about 8:00pm I stand beside the banners of the famed Irish Brigade, 7'9 1/4" from the board with the bulls eye set at 5"8" from the floor and work my magic. If your in the area stop by and we will see if you've got what it takes. Only one House Rule--No Chardonnay sipping allowed.
"The Asymmetry of Women's and Men's Alignment is epitomized in the Positions They Take." What the Hell Does That Mean?

And Russ Smith here is the guy to answer that question. From Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars, to Debrorah Tannen's latest work, You Just Don't Understand (from where I took the quote above), Russ has read them all. You see Russ is a sensitive guy. And he has been tasked to bring out my sensitive side. And as Russ would tell you in his sensitive, caring, and non-confrontational way--I'm a work in progress.

Manliness vs. Sensitivity
The sensitive guy may score with the ladies but they can't score on this board. (Author's Note: My wife does not view this blog).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Randomness of Life

“Happiness, the grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route.”

Charles Colton

Today we are going off the reservation so to speak and cross the boundary of the present. I spent the morning going through 5 years of photo files. What follow are some photos taken at different times, some outside Virginia, and some taken by different people. There was no rhyme or reason in there selection.

An Interesting Street Scene
Norfolk--The battleship USS Wisconsin coming up Granby Street.

To a Galaxy Far Far Away......
Little bro, a Marine colonel, standing next to a car bomb in Iraq. Yes those are artillery shells wired in the trunk. Photographer unknown.

The Archangel Michael
Statue dedicated to the late Father Michael Kelly
Bullets, Booze, and Bones
Something you don't see everyday. These artifacts were discovered during an archaeological dig in downtown Frederickburg. Today a new Marriot Hotel sits on this site.

A Window Somewhere in King George
Looking through the the window of an abandoned home through the eyes of my computer.

Times They Are a Changin.....
Mineral--This barn now sits on a residential lot and the businesses advertised no longer exist.

Fighting a Loosing Battle?
The horseshoes, firewood and deer antlers add to the sentiment. On the other hand the owner of the sign is from Baltimore, MD. Today in Orange the battle is not over subdivisions but a Walmart.

I Wonder What VDOT's Maintenance Cost are for this Road?
A Road off Rt. 3 in Culpeper County. One must wonder, Where does it lead..........?

Todo, I Have a Feeling We're Not in Culpeper Anymore

A brother and sister on a village street in Afghanistan. Taken by my son Brion.

A Lesson in Advertising
Fredericksburg--An echo of bygone days. In the 1920s this was the Athens Hotel run by John Pappandreou. It had the famous European Paln, and rooms rates started at $1.00. Today it has apartments and retail.
In working to take this shot I discovered that there is no angle where the entire sign is visible. For those in marketing class this is a learning moment.

All Aboard!
The old Culpeper train station which is still in operation. The station has been rehabbed and also houses the Visitors Center.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Culpeper, Spotsylvania and Stafford—Buildings, By-ways, Brooks, Battlefields and Babies

“You see, but you do not observe.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Culpeper-One Block Down From Main Street
During my last vist to Culpeper I took photos one block up from Main Street. What follow are photos taken one block down from Main Street showing some of the unique architectural styles found in the sleepy little southern town.

A Church Without A Congregation
The date above the door indicates this church was dedicated in 1908. While no longer in use the grounds around it are well kept. It is located on Rt. 522 between Orange and Culpeper.

Separate But Together
Catherine Rudasill and her husband (just off to the left) lay together but not in the church cemetery located on the other side of the church. Catherine lived a long life and died on her birthday. You don't see foot stones too often. Her husband's foot stone has been overtaken by the tree that now provides the shade for their graves.

The Sentinel
Stafford--Behind the remains of this structure is a cemetery.
Of Simpler Times. Soon to be Lost
To avoid the congestion at the intersection of Rt. 17 and Rt. 1 I take a right turn off of Rt 17 down this small road into Falmouth. In its day, like Fredericksburg, it too was a port but was soon dwarfed by the city. Most of the homes and businesses in this section date back to the early 19th century. Unfortunately, the problems of this century, specifically traffic congestion, will result in the widening and reconfiguring of the Rt. 1 (which can be seen behind and above the white building at the end of the road) and Rt. 17 intersection which will have a significant impact on this area.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Falmouth--Behind the trees you can see the bridge which crosses over this stream. I have driven over this bridge hundreds of times over the years on my way home and never saw what was beneath it. Today I pulled over for a look. Off to the right on the other side of the stream is the remains of a foundation wall.
The Bloody Angle
Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield. The rise in the ground behind the tree is what remains of the Confederate earthworks. The markers in the distance were erected in honor of some of the Union regiments that fought here.

"Around the Bloody Angle, the dead lay five deep, and bodies had to be moved from the trenches to make room for the living. The action around Spotsylvania shocked even the grizzled veterans of the two great armies. Said one officer, "I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of the horrors of Spotsylvania."
Field of Fire
Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield--The tree line is probably within the range of canister fire roughly 600 yards. Canister is, as the name implies, a can filled with small lead balls turning the cannon into a large shotgun. Troops would have advanced across the field in double ranks, shoulder to shoulder, with a distance from the elbow to the finger tips between ranks. The result:

"The enemy fell like grass before the mower." "It seemed as if whole companies were wiped out of existence."

There be Strollers!
It's summer in the Burg. Every Tuesday afternoon the city hosts lunch in Hurkamp Park--Burgers, dogs, related munchies, and live entertainment. As can be seen this event has become the "hang-out" for the Mommy set. Strollers and toddlers as far as the eye can see.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back to 22401—History, Nature, Mystery, Stories to be Written, and the Local Wild Life

“Each zip code has its own unique style, feel and character.”

Will Morrison

Back to the streets of F’burg for a glimpse behind the curtain of, “America’s Most Historic City,” to experience what once was and is. To highlight its unique character and characters…….

Fredericksburg's Morning Mecca
This is were you will find me most mornings. Sometimes conversing on the issues of the day or, more often then not, on the issues that have absolutely no relevance whats so ever to the issues of the day.

I took the photo to commemorate the new paint job and to document that the new awning has still not been installed. If you ever get a chance to visit allow Dan the owner to regale you with his spellbinding tale of the trials and tribulations of getting a new awning.

The Urban Jungle
The entrance to the Old Moose Lodge on Winchester St. The building is almost covered in growth and the only thing holding it up is the growth and the stucco exterior. This building has been condemned and will be coming down in the near future. What will take its place is of a great interest to the neighborhood.

Of Bygone Days......

In the 18th and 19th centuries Fredericksburg was a thriving port city. The Rappahannock River has since silted up and is no longer open to commercial traffic. I've been told that barge traffic did continued into the early 70s.

In its heyday this road would have been full of wagons, carts, and other modes of transport moving cargo up and down to the City Dock below. The wall to the left was recently rebuilt as it was originally--stacked stone with no mortar.

A Site of Firsts in American Military History
On December 11, 1862 this site saw the first attempt to build a bridge under fire; the first amphibious landings under fire, and the first instance of combat in a built-up area.
This is the upper crossing site used by the Army of the Potomac to cross the Rappahannock River during the Fredericksburg Campaign. The monument commemorates the crossing under fire of the 7th Michigan in pontoon boats. At the time of the battle the river was about 100' wider than it is today.

The City Cemetery Gate
On May 10, 1866 the Ladies Memorial Association of Fredericksburg was formed to take care of the graves of Confederate soldiers killed in the four major battles fought in the area. A section of the City Cemetery was dedicated in May 1870 as the final resting place of 3,553 men from 14 states. The organization continues its mission today taking care of the grounds and hosting a ceremony here every Memorial Day.
An ongoing mystery in the City involves another iron gate which was placed at the entrance of Hurkamp Park located only a few blocks from this site. No one has yet been able to determine when and why it was removed. I hope to solve this mystery when my life becomes a little less hectic.
The Cemetery Wall--Old & New

Some of the bricks for the wall around the cemetery were salvaged from buildings destroyed during the Civil War. Today it is not the ravages of war or time which has taken the greatest toll on the wall. Rather it is due to high blood alcohol levels and the inability to make a left hand turn at a high rate of speed that are the problems. A higher curb has been installed to help drivers make the turn (no guarantee on the condition of the car afterwards).