Perhaps more appropriate than a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead…
Hey everybody, a friend of mine is in town and I am playing tour guide. Saturday we are going to Ellis Island. I have not been there since the reopening of the renovated gallery spaces last year. My friend is excited because her grandparents came to America through Ellis at the turn of the last century, from Russia. The woman who would eventually become her grandmother made the passage by herself when she was all of sixteen. Soon thereafter she met the man who would become her husband, and they built a life for themselves. Tomorrow we are taking the Long Island Railroad to visit the cemetery where they now rest. I never tire of hearing stories of the brave individuals, each of the twelve million with his or her own story, who passed through the Golden Door.
Next week I will post with a review of the new Ellis Island exhibits.
Speaking of Ellis, if you are reading this and are a teacher be aware that the National Park Service is collaborating with Scholastic for a live webcast on Thursday 29 March at 1:00 Eastern Time. The program is free and will run approximately 35 minutes. Register here.
The intriguing thing about George Steinbrenner was always the contrast between his bombast and humanity. His mean-spiritedness was tempered only by the warmth and generosity he was capable of displaying in equal measure. Nowhere was his vulnerability more on display than in his relationship with Mary Jane Schriner (nee Elster), a young coed he met in 1949 and corresponded with for several years before both grew up and settled down with others. What was so touching about their relationship was its ambiguity; neither was ever sure if they were just friends or romantically involved. As happens often, the unspoken went unsaid for so long that it eventually became too late to ever say it. Schriner died last week, leaving behind a cache of correspondence the young Steinbrenner wrote to her over their four year courtship, decades before the young man was ever The Boss.
(image/New York Yankees, MLB)
Many visitors to New York assume that the the five boroughs, especially Manhattan, “are” New York. Why shouldn’t they? Many who reside here think the same way as well. New York State has a rich heritage dating back nearly four centuries, longer of course when one factors in Native American history. That so few people are aware of this history is largely the state’s fault. In the early years of the twentieth century Virginia and Massachusetts rigorously advertised their roles in the American storyline. New York was slower to do so and has been paying the price ever since. That’s why schoolchildren learn about Bunker Hill and Appomattox but not the Battle of Long Island or Evacuation Day. Hopefully an initiative announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo this past Thursday will do something to rectify that. The “Path Through History” will bring together prominent historians to identify points of interest along the New York State Thruway where heritage tourists can get more than a cup of coffee and a fill up. The program is similar to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground that traces the Old Carolina Road through parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The wife and I have taken the road less traveled many times and have always been rewarded by the experience.
No timeline has been set for the identifying and marking of historical points to interest along the nearly 600 miles of the New York Thruway, but my guess is that they will start popping up later this year or in 2013. There is certainly much to identify; a short list might include spots along the Underground Railroad, the William Seward home, John Brown’s farm, and Grant Cottage where the general and president died. This is a worthwhile endeavor that will highlight New York’s rich history while also bringing tourist dollars to parts of the state that do not always benefit as well as they might. Look for it soon.
This afternoon the Army football team–for the first time ever–will play its annual spring game outside of New York. And not just anywhere outside of New York. The game is being played in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning against that command post’s team. The Black Knights had to get special permission from the NCAA to play the scrimmage against a none NCAA team. The game is part of a West Point initiative to reach out to other institutions within the Army infrastructure. Leaders at Fort Benning were also eager to play the intersquad game to emphasize the revitalization of the Benning football program. For decades in the early to mid-twentieth century Benning’s football team played organized games against college teams from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama with great success.
Doughboy Stadium is not just another building. Benning infantrymen built the stadium in 1924 to pay tribute to their comrades who had fallen in the Great War. Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower coached the team in the mid-1920s, to his great frustration. Ike loved football but he was eager to move on and serve in other ways. Unfortunately for him, the Benning brass grasped his football acumen and made certain to keep him stationed down in Georgia.
A short video is here.
Not long ago I mentioned that Fenway Park was under consideration for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Well, that has now come to pass. Yesterday the ballpark where the Red Sox play was added to the list of 80,000 (and growing) architecturally, historically, and culturally significant structures deemed worthy of protection. Though I love Fenway, I was actually one of the people who would have preferred a new ballpark when there was much discussion of the topic in the 1990s. Others disagreed, and I understood their arguments. As a Sox fan living in the heart of the Evil Empire I can’t say my mind was changed after seeing the new Yankee Stadium when it debuted in 2009. The old ballparks are filled with memories, but it is the people who made them, not the structures themselves. The new ownership decided not to go in that direction and I must say they did an amazing job updating and renovating over the past decade, spending almost $250 million in the process. It is not a coincidence that the team ended an 86 year World Series title drought after revamping.
Now, any further changes must adhere to strict guidelines and be subject to review from governmental and architectural authorities. Thankfully John Henry and his team seem to understand and are committed to the longterm. The Monster Seats they added a few years ago are fabulous and do not detract from the building’s integrity in any way. Fenway is a better visitor experience than it ever has been.
Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees 7-6 in 11 innings. Spring training is now in full swing and in a few short weeks the little jewel of a ballpark will begin its second century. Things could be worse.
Warren Perry of the National Portrait Gallery has just released this video about the other man in my wife’s life. The room with the Balling portrait of Grant is our favorite space in the NPG. If you visit, be certain to look at the details in the frame.