Wednesday, September 27, 2017

10 fun facts about the Statue of Liberty

An iconic landmark, every year the Statue of Liberty draws approximately 3.5 million visitors. Countless more stand in Battery Park, Liberty Park and other places to gaze upon her.  While Lady Liberty is instantaneously recognizable, how much do you know about the statue itself?

10 Fun Facts About the Statue of Liberty

1. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States. It was given on America’s birthday, July 4 in the year 1884. The idea for this gift was born in Paris in 1865. According to National Geographic, a “group of Frenchmen were discussing their dictator-like emperor” and that of the U.S. democratic government. Eventually, this idea was brought to realization as French supporters raised money (no contributions from the government) to build it and contributors in the United States paid for the pedestal on which the statue would stand. Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi imagined a female statue holding a torch to represent the light of freedom.  Barthodli sculpted the gift and engineer Gustave Eiffel designed its framework.

Lady Liberty holding her torch

2. France brought the statue across the ocean in 350 pieces packed in 214 crates. The gift was first presented to the United States in Paris and then taken apart and rebuilt upon arrival to its new home. She arrived in June 1885 and was dedicated the following year by President Grover Cleveland.

3.  The Statue of Liberty is made up of copper. Her thickness is 3/32 inches (approximately 2.5 mm) thick. The National Park Service (NPS) likens this to being the same as “two American pennies placed together”. Her internal makeup is cast iron and stainless steel.

4. Lady Liberty stands at 305 feet, 1 inch tall (93 m) from the ground to the tip of her torch. This is equated to a 22-story building.  Without the pedestal, her height is still impressive, it is equated to that of a 15-story building, standing at 151 feet (about 46 meters).  In the left hand of the Statue of Liberty is a tablet which is 23 feet, 7 inches in length, 13 feet, 7 inches in width; its thickness is 2 feet. Scripted on the tablet in Roman numerals is JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4th, 1776). 

5. Miss Liberty was given a home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor and she is positioned to face southeast. The island is located next to what would soon become the Ellis Island Immigration Station and the statue would become a welcoming symbol to those immigrating to America (Ellis Island opened in 1892 essentially replacing Castle Garden which operated from 1820 through 1892). Ellis Island closed in 1943 and is now open to visitors to learn more about this period in U.S. history. Today Lady Liberty still serves as a symbol of friendship, freedom and welcome.

6. On Lady Liberty’s pedestal is an inscription; a poem written by Emma Lazarus and entitled, "The New Colossus" that includes the famous phrase, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” Lazarus was born in New York. She had penned the poem in 1883 to help raise funding for the statue's pedestal.

7. Today visitors can visit the island, the pedestal or the crown. All require tickets – if you want to visit the pedestal or climb the spiral stairs to reach the crown, you must book these tickets well in advance. There are 162 stairs from the pedestal to the crown and the passageway is quite narrow. There are 354 steps from the ground to the top (but there is an elevator from the ground to the pedestal for visitors to use). Many decades ago visitors were also allowed to climb to the torch, but the torch was closed to the public in 1916.

Looking up at a section of the spiral steps that lead to the crown

8. The inside of the crown is a lot more cramped than you might imagine. I thought people would be able to walk in a circle around it, but it’s not structured this way. You can only view into the Harbor, see Manhattan Island and Brooklyn, to name a few of the lovely views. There are 25 small windows (which at least some of them do open!) located in the crown where visitors can gaze out. Lady Liberty has seven rays in her crown which represent the seven seas and seven continents of the world.

Photo taken inside the crown summer 2016. It was a balmy July morning and some of the windows were open.

9. Over the years the statue’s once shining brown (penny-colored) copper has turned green. This is due to natural oxidation that has occurred. The oxidation process took about 30 years.

10. Lady Liberty is one massive statue. You might be wondering how much she weighs? The copper weighs 62,000 pounds (31 tons) and the steel amounts to 250,000 pounds (125 tons). The statue’s foundation, made of concrete, comes to 54 million pounds (27,000 tons).

Bonus fun fact: Did you know the current torch located on top of the statue is not the original? The original was removed in 1984 and replaced by the current one in 1986. Visitors can see the original in the lobby of the pedestal.  I did not know this until my July 2016 visit.

Original torch is on display

In October 1924 the Statue of Liberty become a national monument and in 1933 the National Park Service took over administration. Over the decades the Statue of Liberty has become one of the top tourist destinations in New York and in the United States. I’ve been to the island three times, but this summer was the first time I had the opportunity to visit the pedestal and crown.

Visitor Tips


If you would like to visit the island, chances are you can get a ticket with short notice (I've done it on the same day), but if you want to visit the pedestal or climb the steps to the crown, you must book tickets well in advance (we did it back in February for a July visit; a friend got hers in mid-March). There is strict criteria to reserve tickets and also to visit the crown - you can basically only carry medication, water and a camera - there are cash-only lockers visitors can use to store other items. Be sure to look at the current rules before planning your trip. If you are traveling with several people, also know you can only book 4 tickets on a credit card when you make your reservations and tickets are non-transferable. They are only good for the person listed on the ticket.

Personal observations during visits and tour

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

10 Fun Facts About Springwood, the Home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Springwood is the home of 32nd U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today it is a designated landmark in Hyde Park, New York. Also known as Springwood Estate, the property is a part of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site which is open to visitors year-round. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is adjacent to the home and gardens. The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) administers and runs the property.

Exterior view of the front of Springwood. (My photo does not capture it, but there is another wing to the left that matches the one on the right).

Not familiar with Springwood? Here are 10 fun facts about this property located in New York’s beautiful Hudson River Valley.

10 Fun Facts About Springwood

1. Springwood was built in 1826 and the Roosevelt family bought the property in 1867. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born at the estate on January 30, 1882. The family had lived in the Hyde Park area since 1818, but had ties to the Hudson Valley region dating back to the 17th century.

2. When FDR’s father, James, purchased Springwood, it was a large farmhouse. Over the decades, James (he passed away in 1900), his wife Sara and Franklin expanded the home to become the grand Federal style house visitors see today. Sara Delano Roosevelt managed the most extensive renovation, and this is what visitors see today.

This is a view of the south side wing of FDR's home.

3. According to the NPS, Springwood is the only place in the United States where a President was born, stayed connected to his entire life and was buried.  

4. The mansion hasn’t really been changed since President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. The furnishings, antiques, books, Persian rugs, paintings and other possessions remain as they were during Roosevelt's time for the public to see.  For instance, visitors can see the bed where FDR was born, the room he used as an adult and all the things that reflected his life. (When I visited in July 2014, photo taking inside of the mansion was allowed, but check on your arrival about the current policy. If memory serves, flash photography was not allowed, but I am not positive about this).

The room and bed where the future President was born. Many, if not all, of the rooms at Springwood have signs that share history and information about each room.

5. Inside the home visitors can also see Roosevelt’s boyhood stuffed bird collection which is still intact and prominently placed.

6. Some of the notable visitors who stayed at the estate during FDR’s years included King George IV, Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill.

This is the library located inside of the mansion. It is a limited view of this large room as it only shows a section of one wall. Due to lighting, I had a difficult time capturing the entire room.

7. The library at Springwood is the only presidential library used by a sitting president. Roosevelt's library was opened in 1941 (source: brochure picked up during my visit).

8. President Roosevelt's beloved pet, a Scottish Terrier named Fala, is buried alongside him and Eleanor at Springwood’s garden. Fala was very much loved by FDR, who came along to the White House. During a visit to Springwood, visitors learn much about Fala as he was an important part of FDR's life.

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt never owned his beloved Springwood. His father James left the house to his mother Sara. FDR asked his mother to deed the property to the government so the property would go to the American people. One condition set upon this designation was that the family be allowed to use the home after his death. On Nov. 21, 1945, the home and property was transferred to the Department of the Interior after the family relinquished their rights.

10. Springwood was dedicated as a national historic site in 1946. Eleanor Roosevelt said at the time:

“Life here had always a healing quality for him...It is his life and his character and his personality which will live with us and which will endure and be imparted to those who come to see the surroundings in which he grew to maturity."

Bonus Fun Fact: Even while living in Washington D.C. during his 13 year-long presidency, President Roosevelt made almost 200 trips to Springwood.

One section of the expansive gardens located at Springwood. There is also a stable and greenhouse located nearby. The final resting place of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and Fala are located in this garden.

In addition to the guided tour of the house, self-guided tour of the gardens and presidential library, visitors can also see Val-Kill Cottage, the place where Eleanor Roosevelt spent so much of her time for both work and relaxation.  Today it stands as a tribute to her. The two properties are close to one another. From what I understand there is a path that can be walked, but visitors can also drive and park at Val-Kill (a flyer I picked up said there is a 1.8 mile trail connecting the two properties).

We drove over to Val-Kill and parked our car. We were limited on time and the tour we had hoped to go on was full for that time slot and we didn't have time to wait for the next one, so we missed seeing the inside of the cottage. However, we did spent some time walking the grounds.

Approaching Val-Kill from the parking lot. The property is lovely and, in this photo, you can catch a glimpse of the cottage. A lot of recreational time was spent here, but Eleanor also used this space for all of the work she was doing in efforts to help society.

Both sites are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of the property closing on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Hyde Park is located approximately 90 miles north of New York City and 70 miles south of Albany. We really enjoyed our tour of Springwood, the NPS guide was so knowledgeable.

Personal experience during a visit

Thursday, May 18, 2017

10 fun facts about Humpback Bridge, Covington, Va.

Nestled in Covington, Virginia you can find Humpback Bridge. It is one of a handful of these old-timey bridges left in the state. One of Alleghany County’s treasures, it’s a nice place to visit.

Want to know more about this historic bridge? Read on.

10 fun facts about Humpback Bridge

1. The current Humpback Bridge was built in 1857. It was originally part of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), this bridge succeeds three other previous ones built at this location.

2. Humpback Bridge crosses over Dunlap Creek. It spans 110 feet across the water.

3. According to a plaque placed at the site, the bridge is constructed of “hand hewn” timbers.

4. The first bridge at the site was built in the 1820s and was washed away after a May 1837 flood. The second bridge at this location also fell victim to flood in July of 1842. The third “gave way” in 1856, reports VDOT. The current bridge had a close brush with floodwaters in June of 2016 but was repaired and reopened.

5. Its design is called “Humpback” because it is 4 feet taller in the center of the bridge. According to a report by The Roanoke Times, in the past engineers thought putting a roof on a bridge would prolong its lifespan, however, with rising floodwaters it didn’t help, so they began implementing the “humpback” design to raise the centers of bridges.

6. Humpback Bridge was closed to vehicles in 1929. Today visitors can walk across the bridge and experience a feeling of days gone by.

7. There is a ton of graffiti inside the bridge, going back decades, perhaps more than a century. The oldest I spotted was maybe 70 years old. (Did not have the opportunity to really examine it all though).

8. Over time, the bridge stopped being utilized for its original purpose. It was, however, reportedly used by a farmer to store hay for a time in the mid-20th century.

9. A major restoration took place in the 1950s and two local agencies, the Business and Professional Women's Club of Covington and the Covington Chamber of Commerce, raised enough money to get Humpback Bridge restored. It was restored once again in 2013.

10. The bridge today is designated as a Virginia Historic Landmark and sits on a 5-acre park. It is one of seven covered bridges left in Virginia, only five are opened to the public.

Bonus fun fact: Humpback Bridge is a designated "LOVE" location. This means it is one of many landmarks in Virginia where giant artworks pop up to show "love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation". (Read more about this campaign here). Here's my photo:

You can find Humpback Bridge in Covington, Virginia. It is literally minutes off I-64. Take exit 10 and you’ll be there in about five minutes,it was about a half-mile to get there. I had heard so much about this bridge and couldn’t believe my luck when I happened to be passing by on my way to Beckley, West Virginia and saw the sign for Humpback Bridge.  I just had to stop to see it. My stop was in February and hope to get back down there again someday, perhaps in the spring, summer or fall when there is foliage. I'm betting the views are stunning!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fun facts about the Bear Mountain Bridge (N.Y.)

In November 2014 the Bear Mountain Bridge, located in New York's lower Hudson River Valley, turned 90 years old. The bridge, which connects the eastern side of the Hudson River to the west side, is a familiar landmark to those who live and/or travel through the area. 

The region is a very picturesque one and the bridge resides in a central location that is linked to well-known landmarks such as Bear Mountain Park and West Point Military Academy, to name two. It is also an alternative to the larger Tappan Zee Bridge located to the south (which is currently being rebuilt). Many travelers prefer taking less-congested Bear Mountain Bridge as their route, myself included.

Fun facts about the Bear Mountain Bridge


1. Plans for the bridge date back to 1868 (which I find very interesting and never knew despite growing up in the region).
2. The bridge opened to traffic on November 27, 1924.
3. It was a $4.5 million project to build.
4. Construction of the bridge began on March 22, 1923, according to accounts I've read, however, a sign located in Bear Mountain State park points to 1910, I'm unclear as to why the discrepancy. (I wonder if it intended to say the Bear Mountain Park was built in 1910, which sounds as if it would be more accurate).

5. No lives were lost during the building of the Bear Mountain Bridge.
6. The bridge was originally operated by the Bear Mountain Bridge Company. The New York State Bridge Authority (NYSBA) bought the bridge $2.3 million in 1940.
7. The bridge connects U.S. Highways 202 and 6.
8. Technically it links Westchester and Rockland Counties, but Putnam and Orange Counties are also on or near the connecting points, making it almost a four-county meeting point.

9. Bear Mountain Bridge was considered an "engineering marvel" at the time it was built. It held the title of the longest suspension bridge for 2 years.
10. The Bear Mountain Bridge's main span is 1,632 feet between its towers.
11. There is a toll for those heading east, which has increased over the years but is $1.50 today.
12. The Harriman family (a name well-known in the region) helped fund the building of the Bear Mountain Bridge.
13. You can hike underneath the bridge from an entry found in the Bear Mountain Zoo.

14. The bridge was built on top of Fort Clinton, a Revolutionary War site. A portion of that fort is housed within the Bear Mountain Park borders and is available to visitors to see.

15. There is a former tollhouse (closed as long as I can remember), located on the Westchester County side mountain road that now serves as a historic landmark and is open to visitors.

I hope you've enjoyed reading these fun facts! Thanks for stopping by.

Sources aside from personal knowledge included:

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fun facts about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The story

Rudolph is the much beloved story of the reindeer with the shiny red nose. Many kids today probably perceive the story as an old Christmas tale as it is passed down the generations. 

Image credit: Leigh Goessl

But is it really? Did you know that Rudolph is a relatively modern story? The story of the lovable reindeer was penned in 1939. Here are some other fun facts you may or may not know about Rudolph:

Fun facts about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally written as a marketing initiative. At the time, a man named Robert L. May was working for Montgomery Ward. The department store asked May to write a Christmas tale it could hand out in coloring books to customers during the holiday shopping season.

2. Robert May was 34 years old at the time he penned the famous story. 

3. Inspiration for writing the now famous story was drawn from a combination of personal experience and The Ugly Duckling story. 

4. Rudolph was not a native to the North Pole as modern storytelling says. The little reindeer was spotted by Santa Claus while delivering presents on a foggy Christmas Eve. 

5. During its first year, 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph were distributed.

6. Rudolph’s name was almost Reginald (the frontrunner name) , Roddy, Rodney, Romeo, Roland or Reggy. 

7. During World War II, there were paper shortages. Montgomery Ward did not print the booklet again until 1946 when 3.5 million more copies were distributed. 

8. Since the story was written as an employer assignment, May did not own the copyright, Montgomery Ward did. In 1947, Montgomery Ward gave the author the copyright. 

9. In 1948, May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks set Rudolph to music, bringing it to remarkable levels of fame. 

10. Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Saul Bass famous Christmas television special based on May’s story debuted on Dec. 6, 1964.  

Over the years many more Rudolph stories, songs, television specials, toys and other products have been created. Today, in 2016, Rudolph remains as popular as ever. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fun facts about Monticello (Charlottesville, Va.)

Along with his life in politics, the 3rd U.S. President Thomas Jefferson was an avid reader and an architect. His architectural print or influence is on many buildings. One of his best works is his own home – his beloved Monticello, located in Albermarle County, Virginia.

Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
Rear view of Monticello

Today the Charlottesville home is opened to the public and maintained as a historical landmark. Charlottesville is a booming area and with its hub being the University of Virginia (UVA), the college Jefferson founded. Run by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (founded in 1923), Monticello is preserved as it would have looked like in Jefferson’s day.

10 Fun Facts About Monticello

1.  Thomas Jefferson began work on Monticello in 1769, but took many years to finish. The home was a work in progress for more than 40 years. He referred to Monticello as “his essay in architecture” Monticello would evolve during the decades of its build and take on many different styles. The home became habitable in 1772, but wouldn’t be completed to his satisfaction until 1808.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Front entrance of Monticello

2. Originally, Jefferson designed Monticello to have 14 rooms, but in the end had more than 40. 

3. Throughout his life, Jefferson was highly interested in westward expansion, Native American life, exploration and technology. As a result, these interests were reflected this in how he chose to decorate his home. Many original pieces are still on display.

4. Monticello means “little mountain”.

5.  Jefferson was meticulous in his record keeping. Due to this, over the years efforts to get the house back to the way it Jefferson had it is pretty accurate. Touring the home, you can see many original pieces.

6. Monticello has a wine dumbwaiter that is still visible today. 

7. Jefferson was also a farmer and loved to use the latest research and technology to try out new approaches to farming. Over the years he planted more than 1,000 fruit trees (170 fruit varieties) and his garden contained 330 vegetable varieties. He also had a vineyard and plant nursery.
Thomas Jefferson's gardens
Views of the orchard and gardens can be seen from the upper grounds of Monticello

8. “Mulberry Row” was the center of the plantation. Over time, 17 structures came together to form the 1,000-foot-long Mulberry Row. It included about 20 dwellings for free whites, free blacks, indentured servants and enslaved people. Work areas included ironworking, tinning, spinning and weaving, wine cellars, a stable and more.

9. The pond, which is located a short distance from the main house, looks to be ornamental, but like everything else, it actually served a function. Fresh fish that was caught for meals were stored in the pond. 
Fish pond located at Thomas Jefferson property Charlottesville, Virginia

10. The personal library adjacent to Jefferson’s bedroom no longer houses his original books. Most are reproductions of what he did actually own. After the U.S. Capitol was burned during the War of 1812 (which then housed the Library of Congress), Jefferson sold his vast collection, totaling 6,487, to the U.S. government. Most of those books survived (unfortunately, a second Capitol fire in 1851 destroyed some of those), but what survived can still be viewed today in Washington, D.C.

Jefferson lived out his private life at Monticello and died on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day America celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document he had penned. He is buried in Monticello's family cemetery located on the property.