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Visit the David Wills House while in Gettysburg

October 15, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Taking Grandchildren to Gettysburg

A visit to Gettysburg tugs on your heart, bewilders the mind and saddens the soul. Yet, it brings forth honor and hope and perhaps, even a sense of peace. At least it did for me.

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Taking the grandkids to Gettysburg

I took my two oldest grandchildren, ages 9 and 11, the day after we visited Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Nine-year-old Kyra put it astutely, “Mimi, these two places are polar opposites.”  Yes, they are. Hershey was delicious fun, play time and laughter. Gettysburg was a solemn history lesson.

What does the chasing of history achieve? Does it matter where events took place and whether or not we can understand them?

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park

Our first stop was the Gettysburg Military Park Headquarters and Visitors Center where we watched a movie narrated by  Morgan Freeman. The film explained the overwhelming loss of life that happened in this small town 150 years ago, some 57,225 causalities (dead, wounded, captured or missing) from both sides during the three-day campaign. The movie also described how the Union victory helped end the Civil War and bring forth the Emancipation Proclamation.

Detail in one section of the Gettysburg Cyclorama

Detail in one section of the Gettysburg Cyclorama

After the film, we climbed stairs to view the historic and restored Cyclorama, the largest painting in the US.  French artist Paul Philippoteaux and his team painted the 377 foot long (now 359)  by 42 feet high work in 1883, 30 years after the battle.  The 360-degree cylindrical painting depicts  Pickett’s Charge, the climactic Confederate attack on the Union forces during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

Children watch the sound and light show.

Children watch the sound and light show.

This type of presentation, popular at the turn-of- the-century, was intended to immerse viewers in the scene with the addition of foreground models and life-sized replicas to enhance the illusion. The grandkids and I were fascinated by the sound and light show effects on articles, like canon, and how they created a realistic intensity to the work of art. (Tip: we visited near the end of the day and practically had the space to ourselves.)

 

David Wills House

David Wills House

But, it was our visit to the David Wills House the next morning that brought the story of Gettysburg together. The old brick home in the center of town was filled with  wounded and dying soldiers after the battle. Leading citizens met there to make plans for proper burials. Wills, an attorney, acquired land for the National Cemetery and sent President Lincoln an invitation by telegram. This led to his coming to Gettysburg and giving the most famous speech in American history.

Lincoln spent the night before the dedication in the Wills House revising his intended remarks. His short speech the next day surprised many, but his words – known as the Gettysburg Address – are long remembered.

Lincoln Bedroom in Gettysburg

Lincoln Bedroom in Gettysburg

While touring the upstairs of the Wills House, including the bedroom as it was during Lincoln’s stay, we saw another film. This one clearly revealed how the freedoms won by the Emancipation Proclamation were not truly fulfilled. The production showed the rise of the Klux Klux Klan and how segregation became a way of life in the South.

The presentation also included footage of Martin Luther King giving his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which had days before celebrated a 50th anniversary and was, therefore, familiar in my grandchildren’s minds. The movie ends with LBJ signing the Civil Rights Bill and more current American scenes.

Cleary, even now, not all men are treated equally; discrimination still occurs and struggles continue.  But, I left the Wills House with a feeling of deeper compassion and hopeful expectation. I think my grandchildren did, too. They are our future and taking them to a place like this is worthwhile. History has meaning, when we try to understand, but that’s not to say fun is frivolous.  On the contrary, both are necessary.

Visitor Center Gift Shop

Visitor Center Gift Shop

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150th Commemoration

Every November 19th, Gettysburg commemorates the cemetery dedication and the delivery of the Gettysburg Address on Dedication Day. This year will mark the 150th commemoration.

Dedication Day will be held at Soldiers’ National Cemetery and will include a Wreath Laying Ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by a formal ceremony. Speaking will be Pulitzer Prize-winning author and noted American Civil War historian James McPherson. The formal ceremony will feature candidates taking the United States Oath of Citizenship and a $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to a Pennsylvania student as part of the “In Lincoln’s Footsteps” speech competition. Music will be provided by the U.S. Marine Corps Band and nationally renowned Lincoln portrayer James Getty will deliver a recitation of the Gettysburg Address.

Coinciding with Dedication Day and the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is Remembrance Day, to be held this year on Saturday, Nov. 23. Gettysburg residents and visitors annually commemorate the sacrifices made during and after the battle.

Remembrance Day will begin with a Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Service at the Woolson Monument in Zeigler’s Grove in the Gettysburg National Military Park at 11 a.m. The service will be followed by the 57th Annual Remembrance Day Parade, which will step off downtown at 1 p.m. in remembrance of the soldiers who served during the Civil War.

The 11th Annual Remembrance Illumination will take place on Nov. 23 at Soldiers’ National Cemetery from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Luminary candles will be lit on the graves of each of the Civil War soldiers to commemorate the sacrifices made at Gettysburg.

For more information on Dedication Day and Remembrance Day events, visit www.gettysburgcivilwar150.com.

Battlefield Memorials in Gettysburg

Battlefield Memorials in Gettysburg

Tour of the State Capitol Building in Lincoln, Nebraska

January 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Nebraska State Capitol Building with statue of Abraham Lincoln by Daniel Chester.

Nebraska State Capitol Building with statue of Abraham Lincoln by Daniel Chester.

While visiting Nebraska in the fall of 2012, I toured the state capitol building in Lincoln, known as the Tower of the Plains. The structure bursts with symbolism and art and made me realize a tour of all 50 US state capitols might be a worthwhile quest.

The building was designed by architect Bertram Goodhue in neo-gothic or what I consider Art Deco style.  It stands on the site of the previous Capitol and features a “cross within a square” floor plan. The broad square base runs 437 feet on each side, partially underground, and rises three levels in height standing for the rolling prairie fields.  The landmark domed tower rises 400-feet and supports a 19- foot tall bronze figure of “The Sower”. The figure represents agriculture as the heart of Nebraska’s prosperity. Mosiac Thunderbirds beneath the “Sower” imply rain.

"The Sower" atop the Capitol dome.

“The Sower” atop the Capitol dome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction began in 1922 around the old building and continued for ten years. Landscaping was competed in 1934 at which  time the Capitol was fully paid for at a cost of $9.8 million.

I found a plethora of art on every wall and corner, on the ceilings and the floor. Why, the place out ranks most art museums. My guide explained that each piece tells the story of Nebraskans from the Native Americans to the pioneers, to the present day.

My favorite artworks included the following areas with descriptions taken from the official website: http://capitol.org/visit.

Vestibule
The theme of the Vestibule is “Gifts of Nature to Man on the Plains”. The sun, an important gift of nature, is represented in the top of the dome, the chandelier and the large floor mosaic. In the mosaic tile dome, surrounding the sun in a large circle are agricultural products of Nebraska, and in the corners of the dome are the four seasons of agriculture.Capitol Building-3

Floor of the Nebraska Capitol Building

Floor of the Nebraska Capitol Building

 

Warner Chamber Native American doors

The colorful doors to the Warner Chamber tell of Native American culture and life. Corn, the Native American’s main agricultural crop and important food source is in the center of the doorway, represented as a tree of life. The Thunderbird, a symbol of rain and life is pictured at its center. On the sides, an Indian man is standing on an otter, a symbol of medicine and an Indian woman is standing on a turtle, symbol of fertility.

Doors to the Warner Chamber

Doors to the Warner Chamber

Hildreth Meiere’s ceiling mosaics within the chamber represent the daily activities of the Native American cultures of the Plains: women hoeing corn, a war party, a tribal council, and a buffalo hunt. The mosaics and decorative borders were designed to look like Native American beadwork.

Ceiling resembling Native American beadwork.

Ceiling resembling Native American beadwork.

West Legislative Chamber doors

The leather doors of the West Chamber show the agricultural foundation of Western Civilization in the ancient middle eastern region. With the Assyrian man and woman planting a tree of life under an Egyptian sun.

West Chamber Doors

West Chamber Doors

Supreme Court

The 8000 piece carved walnut ceiling aids in the acoustical quality of the Chamber. It has coffers which along with the Guastavino Acoustic Tile walls capture sound waves and prevent echos. The public is welcome to attend the court’s sessions and enter from the rear of the Chamber.

Ceiling of the Supreme Court Chambers

Ceiling of the Supreme Court Chambers

 

Memorial Chamber
The central room of the 14th Floor Observation Level is the Memorial Chamber, it is “dedicated to the forms of heroism called for in the public service and in devotion to humanity”.

Memorial Chamber Dome

Memorial Chamber Dome

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www.Visit Nebraska.org
The Capitol is open 7 days a week.
445 K Street
On K, between 14th and 16th Streets
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509–4696
hello@capitol.org • (402) 471–0448


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