Sunday, October 2, 2016

Auburn New York

Today I'm off to Auburn, just a few miles down the road from Seneca Falls. I have three sights to see and I'm going to start off with the one I thought I was least interested in and work my way up to what I was really interested in seeing. I think I've mentioned before that a friend of mine once said that it is the stuff you think is going to be the most uninteresting and boring that turn out to be really special places. This happened today.

I went to the William H. Seward House Museum. We all know Seward from learning a tiny little bit about him in school. He is the guy who bought Alaska from Russia for us. Seward's Folly and all that. So this will be another pretty house with original furnishings from the era. Yes, that was true, but there was so much more. Besides being a Governor and Senator from New York, he was also Secretary of State. He was responsible for keeping Britain and France out of our Civil War and was very close to President Lincoln. They say that most of the famous Lincoln speeches were either written by or heavily edited by Seward. This guy was a power house. There was even an assassination attempt on Seward as part of the conspiracy that ended up with Lincoln being assassinated. Nothing makes or breaks a historical site like a docent. The one I had touring the Seward house was fabulous. He made you live the history. When he was talking about the assassination attempt, I was breathless, waiting to hear what happened next.

Fun Fact: Lincoln was 6'6” tall. Seward was 5'3”.  Can you imagine the two of them hanging out together?   On the second floor of the house, Seward had put portraits of all of the famous people he met and there were a lot of them, from Queen Victoria to von Bismarck.  He cataloged and numbered all of the portraits. Lincoln's portrait was number 66 because of his height. Seward's portrait was listed as 66 1/2. What a scalawag that Seward was. 

A pretty grand house - it had 30 rooms

Mary Todd Lincoln sent Seward the flowers from Lincoln's casket and Seward had them framed

On to Harriet Tubman's house. Harriet Tubman was known as the 'Moses' of her people. She was born a slave, escaped to freedom and then brought many of her relatives up north. I think I talked about her before on a previous blog when I was in Macon Georgia. She ended up settling in Auburn on land the Seward helped her acquire. Back in the day, there was no place for elderly people of color to go – all of the old age homes were for white folk, so she decided that she needed to start a home. There was a twenty minute orientation on her life and then a tour of the home she created for these old folks. Got to say again, a good docent makes a difference and this was just not on the same level as the Seward house tour.

Tubman Home For the Aged - Just your basic farmhouse

On to the Willard Chapel. This chapel was built in 1892-94 and is the only surviving complete installation by Louis Tiffany in it's original location. Tiffany designed the stained glass windows, the mosaic floor( created by Irish Catholic immigrant women because they supposedly had smaller hands), the chandeliers, stenciling, carvings – the whole kit and caboodle. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was a cloudy day and no sun was coming through the window. The docent kept apologizing, saying that we all need to come back to see the true glory. Also, because it was so cloudy and dark, not many of the pictures turned out. Oh well, I guess that is what memories are for but take my word, it was a damn fine place. 

Willard Chapel - Richardsonian Romanesque Architecture (are you impressed?)

The brown pendulum in the center is actually a raised piece of glass

Part of the podium

When the 7th Day Adventists took over the Chapel, they painted over all the stenciling and the deep maroon walls with this off white color.  As the chapel gets more money, they are hoping to restore the walls back to the original color

I think I'm getting sick – either that or allergies. I pulled out a new box of Puffs, opened the box up and this strong smell started wafting through the RV. Evidently, they are now putting Vick's Vapor Rub in tissues. Sort of comforting when you have a cold, but I think it would drive me nuts to have them stinking up my purse or bed stand.

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