We traveled from Buffalo to Albany where we visited numerous National Parks, the Women's Rights Historical Park, Fort Stanwix, and Saratoga Battlefield. We explored downtown Albany and visited the shrine of Major League Baseball, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
by RoBoNC on January 3, 2013
After more than eight hours of driving from Buffalo to Albany, we coasted in that evening having experienced a lot of upstate New York, but very exhausted. We went straight to the hotel to unpack and find a place to eat. Using Yelp, we found the Gateway Diner, not far from the hotel. As we pulled in, we noticed several Albany police cars, and being a police officer myself, I knew it had to meet certain standards for the police to eat there. The Gateway Diner is a very casual, affordable, and kid friendly restaurant where they serve breakfast all day along with dinner. My wife ordered the Greek Sandwich with a Greek side salad and I ordered the beef livers smothered in onions and strips of bacon. It was just what we needed after a long day. We headed back to the hotel and began to map out our route and attractions that we wanted to visit the next day. We had planned to have another very busy and productive day. We would eventually end our day in Hartford, Connecticut and there were a lot of places to see along the way. We started our day at the Empire State Plaza, a sprawling campus of government high rises that houses different departments of the New York government and is connected to the New York Capitol. The Empire State Plaza makes up the Albany skyline with the Corning Tower rising majestically into the sky. At 589 feet, the Corning Tower dominates the Albany skyline and is the tallest skyscraper in New York, outside of New York City. The building houses the New York Department of Health and the Office of General Services. There is an observation deck on the 42nd floor that offers views of Albany, the Hudson River, and on clear days as far as the foothills of the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. We did not go the observation floor and that is one of my regrets because I knew that the view would be spectacular. There are four smaller high rise buildings that are numbered Agency 1 through 4 which contain other state departments. In the northeast corner of the plaza is the most unusual shaped building within the complex. It is a performing arts venue that is in the shape of an egg. The building has so been named the Egg and is one of the biggest tourist attractions because of its unusual architecture. On the south side of the complex facing the Capitol building is the Cultural Education center. An eleven story, 1.5 million square foot building, it houses part of the New York State Education Department, the New York State Museum, the New York State Archives, and the New York State Library. On the north end of the complex sits the New York State Capitol. It looks nothing like most state capitols. There is no dome and it resembles a very large mansion more than a state capitol. It was completed in 1899 and was the most expensive government building at the time. It was a very impressive structure costing over a half billion dollars in today’s money. The Capitol rises 220 feet at its highest point. The New York Capitol, the Corning Tower, and the numerous other buildings with various monuments scattered about truly makes this government plaza one of a kind. Just less than a half mile away from the Empire State plaza is the New York Governor’s Mansion located on 138 Eagle Street. It was constructed in 1856 as a private residence and Samuel Tilden was the first governor to reside there in 1875 and the state purchased the property two years later. After spending a few hours downtown walking around the plaza, we then headed up to the Saratoga National Battlefield, about a forty-five minute drive from Albany. On the way out of town though, we made one more stop at the Albany Rural Cemetery. As someone who studies the US presidency and loves to visit presidential sites, we stopped here because Albany is the final resting place of President Chester Arthur. Arthur’s grave sits above the ground with the statue of an angel resting next to it.
Our morning started off cloudy and eventually turned to rain as we headed out of Albany toward the Saratoga National Historical Park. The miserable weather followed us across Vermont, Massachusetts, and into Connecticut. The weather would end up blocking some of our beautiful views across the landscape, but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying our vacation. We approached the Saratoga National Historic Park, our last National Park visit in New York. The park preserves the battle of Saratoga, the first significant military victory of the American Revolutionary War. The battle was significant because it forced a major British army surrender and it led France to recognize the independence of the United States. It also led to France becoming a major ally of the United States during the war. There is a visitor center at the park which offers a short film about the battle. There is a gift shop and tour maps are available. The battlefield tour is a vehicular self-guided tour. The first stop on the tour is the Freeman Farm overlook, where the majority of the fighting took place on September 19, 1777. The next stop is the Neilson Farm. John Neilson lived here and joined the patriot cause to oppose General Burgoyne’s British advance. The home was used by General Benedict Arnold (before he betrayed the US) as quarters during the battle. There are some other homes and redoubts throughout the four square mile battlefield tour. Near the Breymann Redoubt, the 7th stop on the tour is the Boot Monument. This monument is unique in that it is the only US monument that does not feature the name of the person it memorializes. The possible reason is that the person is Benedict Arnold. He was wounded in the foot during the Battle of Quebec, and then injured again in the Battle of Ridgefield, ending with his last injury at Saratoga. Although he fought bravely during the beginning of the war, it was because of his eventual betrayal of the US, that he would forever be remembered as a traitor. The tour ends with the Fraiser Burial Site and Trail. There is a one mile fairly steep hiking trail that goes by the site of the grave of General Fraiser, who was mortally wounded during second battle of Saratoga. The trail then continues to the site of the British hospital, an artillery park, and the Tayler House, where General Fraiser died. After the tour of the battlefield, there are a few other related sites that are not part of the National Park. On the east side of the park is US Route 4. Eight miles north of the park is Schuylerville, where General Phillip Schuyler lived before and after the battle of Saratoga. The original home was burned down by the British but was rebuilt in 1777 shortly after the British surrender. A short distance from Schuylerville is the village of Victory, named for the successful battle of Saratoga. In this small town stands the 155 foot memorial commemorating Burgoyne’s surrender on October 17, 1777. Our visit to upstate New York was now over and in less than an hour we would be in Bennington, Vermont for a quick lunch on our way to Connecticut.
Another hour and half drive from Seneca Falls took us to the city of Rome. (How wish I was talking about the one in Italy). During the French and Indian War, Fort Stanwix was built to guard a portage along the main waterway that connected the Atlantic Seacoast to the interior and the Mohawk River. This route went right through the Oneida Indian territory. Indian skirmishes along the route caused many problems for those that traveled it. Under the command of British General John Stanwix, a star fort, that bears his name, was built in the present day city of Rome. The completion of the fort was finished in 1762 and in 1768, the Treaty of Stanwix was signed. It was a treaty between the Indians and the British to set land boundary lines between Indian lands and British colonial settlements. That same year the fort was abandoned. It was eventually reoccupied by the Continental Army in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. The British tried unsuccessfully to capture the fort and it eventually led to the defeat of General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. The original fort is no longer there, but the National Park Service has reconstructed the fort on sixteen acres in downtown Rome where the original one once stood. The Willett Center is the visitor center for the park. It has interpretive displays on the history of the fort and guide maps. Entrance to the fort is a short walk from the Willett Center. Visitors cross over a drawbridge that spans a huge ditch that surrounds the fort acting as a second barrier if the enemy was to breach the wooden fence that surrounds it. Inside the fort, each star section of the fort consists of a bastion. A bastion is an angular structure that projects outward from the curtain wall of a fortification. Under each bastion there are different rooms such as a bakery in the southeast and a makeshift hospital underneath the southwest bastion. Also in the fort, there are quarters for the officers, the artillery officer, and the commandant. There are also different quarters for the soldiers spread throughout the fort. While there was one main entrance into the fort which was across the drawbridge, there was a sally port on the other side of the fort. This was used to move small group of soldiers out of the fort under cover for a number of different reasons. One of the main ones was to replenish the water supply from the stream outside of the fort. It was also used as a way to sneak out of the fort to get help during the battles. In addition to everything in the fort, there are also three walking trails that encircle the fort. One of the trails date back to the French and Indian War and the other two interpret the events of the Siege of 1777 in the American Revolutionary War.
After we cleared customs at the New York/Canada border, we hopped on the New York Thruway at Buffalo and began our trek toward Albany. The New York Thruway or I-90 is a toll road that stretches just less than 300 miles from Buffalo to Albany. Traveling with a toddler, we made it only an hour on the Thruway before we had to stop. Making unscheduled stops can turn into a unique travel opportunity, though. As we got off of the Thruway, we found ourselves in the town of Le Roy. We found their local McDonalds for a quick bathroom and snack break. While we were inside McDonald’s, I noticed many pictures of Jell-O adorning the walls. I just figured that this town just loved Jell-O. To my surprise, we stumbled upon the birthplace of Jell-O. A block away from the McDonalds is the Jell-O museum. Perhaps one of the most unusual museums in the US, we would not have discovered it had it not been for our unscheduled stop. Our next stop was Seneca Falls where we would go to our first national park on our way to Albany. Seneca Falls is about five miles south of I-90 and it lies along the Seneca River. The Cayuga-Seneca Canal utilizes the Seneca River to connect Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake to the Erie Canal. By building the canal, it created an economic boom for this small town. However, the canal is not what made Seneca Falls famous or even a tourist destination. Seneca Falls claim to fame came on July19-20, 1848. A group of five women gathered together to organize the first women’s rights convention in the US. This convention spanned two days and six sessions and at the conclusion of the convention, the Declaration of Sentiments was drawn up. The Declaration of Sentiments was a document outlying the rights for women that were previously denied them such as the right to vote, right to own property, right to an education, right to employment, and many others. The principal author of the document was Elizabeth Cody Stanton, who based it on the Declaration of Independence. At the end of the convention, the document was signed by 68 women, 32 men, and 100 out of 300 attendees. The document laid the basis for women’s rights although it wouldn’t be until 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment that women were given the right to vote. Seneca Falls is now home to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. In downtown Seneca Falls, the visitor center is a great place to start to learn about the convention and the struggle for women’s rights. The Park actually consists of four different historical properties within Seneca Falls and the nearby town of Waterloo. The first property is the Wesleyan Chapel which was built in 1843. This chapel is where the convention was held at over that two day period. Less than a mile away from the visitor center is the home of Elizabeth Cody Stanton, who called her home the "Center of the Rebellion." She lived here from 1847 to 1862 and the home is now open to the public. In nearby Waterloo, a four mile drive from the visitor center is the M’Clintock house. It is a two story brick building that was the home of Thomas M’Clintock and his wife. The house is historical because their home is where the Declaration of Sentiments and speeches were drawn up for the first Women’s Right Convention. Also in Waterloo, is the Hunt house, home to Mrs. Jane C. Hunt. She invited Stanton and the other women to her home to plan the first women’s rights convention. This house is not open to the public as of yet as it is still going through a restoration process since it was recently acquired by the National Park Service. Seneca Falls and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park are probably not high on most people’s destinations. But that is the wonderful aspect of trying to visit all of the US National Parks. I end up in small towns and see parts of the US that I wouldn’t otherwise.
I was a kid who collected baseball cards and was fascinated by my favorite player, Cal Ripken Jr. I used to watch the Orioles religiously, even though they struggled for many years just to have a winning season. But as any baseball fan will tell you, there is always next year. In high school, I remembered watching the famous baseball game between the Orioles and the Angels on September 6, 1995 at the Orioles stadium, Camden Yards. In this particular game, Cal Ripken Jr broke Lou Gehrig’s 56 year old consecutive game streak of 2130 games. Before the Orioles were due up in the bottom of the fifth, the game is official at that point. Massive banners fell from the B&O warehouse that makes up part of the stadium. The numbers 2131 fell and fireworks flew commemorating Ripken’s record breaking achievement. Ripken received a 22 minute ovation from not only the fans, but from the opposing team and umpires as well. I remembered thinking that Cal Ripken Jr just punched his ticket to Cooperstown. Cooperstown has become synonymous with the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Every baseball player dreams of one day of becoming immortalized in the Hall of Fame. How the Hall of Fame ended up in Cooperstown is not entirely clear. Cooperstown, with a population of just over 1,000 people, is not a major city. The nearest major cities are Albany and Syracuse, which are about 70 and 95 miles away, respectively. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1939 by Stephen Carlton Clark. After the Great Depression, he needed a reason to bring tourists to the town. There has been an erroneous claim that Cooperstown resident and Union General, Abner Doubleday, invented baseball on a cow pasture in town. Doubleday never made this claim and it has been rejected by most baseball historians. Whatever the legends or stories that have been handed down, the fact is that Cooperstown is the home of baseball. The Hall of Fame is a towering mansion consisting of three floors of over 38,000 baseball artifacts, over 130,000 baseball cards, and numerous newspaper clippings and photographs. After purchasing your admission ticket on the ground floor, the tour actually begins on the second floor. The tour begins in the 196 seat Grandstand Theater which offers a 13 minute video on the history of baseball. From there the second floor is broken down into different eras of baseball. The Cooperstown Room documents the history of the cities connection with the Hall. The rest of the floor is broken into the early 19th century, 1900-30, 30-60, 60-80, and 1980-2000’s. There are sections dedicated to African Americans, Latinos, and women in baseball. The tour ends on the second floor with the Today’s Game exhibit, in which every major league team is represented with a clubhouse setting with photographs, videos, and artifacts. The tour then goes to the third floor which begins with Sacred Ground. Through artifacts and videos, visitors can relive the stadiums of yesteryear such as Ebbets Field and Polo Grounds. There is an exhibit on Hank Aaron and an exhibit on different major league baseball records and the stories behind them. The third floor exhibits end with Autumn Glory, a reference to October when the World Series is held each year. There are artifacts from the most recent World Series, different World Series rings from over the years, and video highlights of some of the greatest World Series moments. After exploring the two top floors, the tour continues back on the first floor. It begins with Inductees Row, which includes artifacts and pictures of that year’s inductees. The tour ends with the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery, which is where every baseball player dreams of having their face immortalized in bronze hanging on the wall. All of the players are grouped with their induction class and this is what is considered the shrine of baseball. This is what every baseball player strives for. There are many more small interactive exhibits for children, a bookstore, and museum store. The A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center is also open to museum visitors and could be considered the equivalent of the Library of Congress for baseball. The research center has over 3 million documents, 500,000 photographs, 12,000 hours of recorded media, and a file for every player to have ever appeared in a major league game.
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