Sunday, July 21, 2013

Taking A Break From The Chaos




While we were dealing with the mess in the apartment last week, displacement to my mother-in-law’s house, and a few other odds and ends I was also presented with a few job opportunities that I couldn’t pass up. All of these blended together with a dash of sleep deprivation and it turned out to be a pretty chaotic week. Given all that was swirling around, my wife and I decided to keep our plans and get away for a night by heading up to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

After taking a quick nap and checking on the progress of the apartment, we shoved everything in the back seat of the car and made our way down Route 23. Surprisingly, we made great time heading north despite the fact that we didn’t leave the apartment until the middle of rush hour. With about two hours under our belt we stopped at the last rest stop on I-476 before getting off at the Pocono exit for I-80. As we headed out the door, my wife found some brochures for attractions at our destination… we now had the beginnings of a schedule.

We made it to the Candlewood Suites just outside of downtown Williamsport in the early evening. With the week that we had just had we decided to head straight to bed and rest up as much as possible for a full day of activity on Friday. Now we like to keep our place cool to help us sleep but when you walk into a hotel room that has the A/C set to 62 degrees it is a shock to the system especially when it was still in the low 80’s outside.

By morning we were thawed, well rested, and ready to start the day. We checked out and stopped at a local eatery (also known as Denny’s) and made our way to our first stop (thanks to one of the aforementioned brochures that provided us with a buy one, get one on the admission). By this time it was really getting hot out and the cool and empty museum was a welcomed sight.

The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society is an interesting little showcase of local history and with a warm welcome from the museum store manager we made our way through the exhibits beginning with an interesting display of recently discovered and intact prohibition liquor bottles.  


From there we traveled further back in time and examined the interesting details found in the reconstructed rooms reflecting the everyday life in the county at the turn of the 20th century. We walked by a basic workers kitchen…


…did some window shopping at the general store….


…visited the children and their teacher at the school house…


…stopped by the blacksmith shop…


…where many machines were first breathed life over decades from the simple cider press…


…to the aircraft engines manufactured in the county decades later.


The working class blood of the community was further exemplified by the brands that were used to mark logs during the peak of Williamsport’s prominence during the lumber boom in the 19th century.


The service and sacrifice of those in the county was on full display as well in both military service throughout the nation’s history…


…and the civil service in the police and fire departments.


In addition to the telling of the county’s history, the museum is also a showcase for one of the world’s largest toy train collections the vast majority of which came from one man, Larue C. Shempp, who donated the Historical Society upon his passing in 1985.


The last stop before we headed back out into the head was to browse the small but impressive John Sloan Art Collection showcased in the museum across from the main desk. A couple of the paintings in particular caught my attention the first of which was by 19th century still life painter Severin Roesen.


The other painting reminded me of one of my favorites, ‘A View of Delft” by Vermeer, and is by the artist George Loring Brown and titled "Near Sunset: Bay of Naples". 


Before heading out we made sure to thank the director, especially for allowing us to use our cameras, and we also asked her for some recommendations of what would be the best use of our afternoon so that we could see as much of Williamsport as possible. What we found out could not have been planned any better. She let us know that the transportation museum on the other side of the gardens offered a trolley tour as part of the admission. Roughly ten minutes later we were sitting on the trolley, cameras at the ready, as it pulled away from the gazebo.

The hour and a half tour started at millionaire’s row where a wide variety of elegant homes were constructed as a result of the affluence produced by the lumber industry during the 19th century. The Victorian variety included, to name a few, a house designed by Amos Wagner for Muncy state legislator Henry Johnson…


…a wedding gift designed by Eber Culver…


…another home designed by Eber Culver (he was a prolific designer in Williamsport at the time) for local entrepreneur A.D. Hermance…


…a church, Trinity Episcopal Church, designed and built by Peter Herdic (another prolific designer)….


…and a massive four story joint project between the two architectural forces (built by Peter Herdic and designed by Eber Culver), the Park Hotel (now a two story apartment building known as Park Place).


Throughout the tour we also noticed many of the details scattered about the town both from the past…




…and the present…


 
 
… with the tour concluding with a slow coast through Brandon Park…


…which culminated with us pausing at a carving by Peter "Wolf" Toth named Woapalanee. The sculpture is accented with an Indian Proverb scribed beneath it, “To give dignity to man is above all things.”


We arrived at the car with a decision to make. Should we go to the Little League Museum or take a cruise on the Susquehanna River? We decided to change things up a bit and chose the second option. Somehow our timing continued to be perfect and we were on the “paddle boat” within a fifteen minutes of arriving at the dock and we made our way up river in a cool and constant breeze.


The Hiawatha took us slowly up river as we listened to the recording over the speakers about the lumber industry that thrived before the Johnstown flood altered the course of local history. Part of that history can still be seen in the stone islands that dot the river where logs were tied together and contained.


During this education, just like our trip in the trolley car, we were reminded of both the aforementioned past and the present as boats sped past…


…and the horizons on the water were crowned with bridges in each direction.



Approaching the dock, we were glad that we took the time to relax a bit on this trip rather than the constant push to do more and see more.


Before long, we were back on the road with the cruise control bringing us back to reality with every passing mile.