Laramie, WY Part 2

As we left the Ivinson Mansion we headed towards the railroad and found the historic Old Buckhorn Bar.

Established in 1900, it is Laramie's oldest standing and most historic bar. It has the gorgeous, heavy timber carved, mirrored bar back. There are a number of taxidermy heads placed around the walls with antique firearms and signs.

A bullet hole features on one of the glass panels, enquiring minds had to know the story behind this. Alas not from an outlaw's gunfight but a disgruntled ex decided he would take a 30/06 and fire it towards his ex girlfriend in the 70's after they broke up. She survived, the original mirror panel still remains and now it's on a tshirt! A bullet hole glass break pic with 'I survived the Buckhorn Bar'. A beer and we head off to find one with food.

Around the corner is the Crowbar Grill. A neat little place, great food and a nice Belgian White Passionfruit beer. The place was packed on this 4th July considering the rest of the town was very quite.

Next, the Wyoming Territorial Prison, built in 1872 it was restored in 1989.

 

Before entering the Prison building itself we viewed the Warden's house built in 1875 by inmates it was constructed with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and basement.

 

This is a self guided tour into the prison and features furnished cells, guards quarters, dining area, laundry room, an infirmary and the women's quarters.

 

The first room in is the processing room where prisoners were fitted with their black and white stripe uniform. Rules and regulations were cited to each prisoner regarding bathing, airing bedding, hygiene etc.

The walls are hung with pictures of prisoners who were here, information regarding the prison conditions, the locking mechanisms for cells, etc.

 

The Wardens office had also been restored back to 1890's glory. Faded patterns on walls were found and subsequent reproduction of exacting color's and patterns for wallpaper were used in the restoration.

 

Before the erection of the stockade and the calling of the mountains to the west 25% of the prisoners in 1875 escaped. The stockade prevented some but there is record of at least a few scaling the stockade wall and escaping.

 

As you move through the additions of the prison there are preserved excavation sections, an exhibit on Butch Cassidy. A very well presented display on the man, the myth, the legend, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, an 1888 blown up safe, and more.

 

In 1882 the first wing on the broom factory was built and later further additions plus steam pipes heating instead of wood and coal were implemented.

The broom factory building and equipment are still original except the flooring was replaced. Brooms are still made here during exhibit displays and are sold within the gift store.

 

Now in Part 1 I had referred to John Hjorth, the Swedish architect/wood carver. Two of his furniture pieces are on display here – a table and a bench. Other pieces made by prisoners such as horsehair woven hatbands, halter's and a very intricate model ship.

 

A great site which has another small town section that we didn't go into. Definitely worth a visit!

What a great way to spend Independence Day in Laramie, finished with dinner, cupcakes and fireworks looking like glitter against a burnt orange sunset.

Thanks to my darling man and a spectacular Wyoming backdrop!

Kat xo

 

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Georgia On My Mind

Tuesday we hit the road travelling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and into Mississippi. We made an overnight stop at Olive Branch and today are hitting the road for Georgia.

As Elvis crooned across our airwaves yesterday Jack said we would make a stop at Tupelo to Elvis' birthplace and Museum. Yippee!

This morning we made the stop in Tupelo, Mississippi to visit the Museum. No photos are allowed in the Museum which features times during the Depression when times were tough for Vernon and Gladys Presley. There are many photos, memorabilia, clothing worn by Elvis and more.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born January 8, 1935 (his twin brother was stillborn) in the tiny little two room 'shotgun' style house at this very site.

The small church Elvis and his family attended was a block over on Adams Street. When the church needed to build a larger facility it was used as a house and later purchased by the Museum in 2008 and relocated here to its current site on the house and Museum grounds.

 

He grew up with the church services and the gospel sounds that would set Elvis on a path of music, beyond the weekly gatherings around the radio listening to the Grand Old Opry.

It was Reverend Frank Smith who taught a young and shy Elvis a few guitar chords. He was encouraged to perform during services, often with his parents. The Reverend would walk and play which statements attribute this to Elvis performance style.

Also noted in the Museum was that Elvis used to entertain himself with simple toys and Captain Marvel, Jr comics. Speculation maybe? They also suggest his signature hairstyle and perhaps the TCB (taking care of business) lightning bolt could have been attributed to these comics.

 

In 1938, the family lost their house when Vernon was sent to prison for forging a check (cheque) where he served 8 months of a 3 year sentence. Gladys would work to keep food on the table.

As Elvis continued school, taking his guitar with him at times performed for friends. His teacher entered him in a state contest where he placed 5th.

In 1948 the Presley's moved to Memphis. This became a turning point in Elvis' career where he began performing with other boys who played music. He still had the intention of being part of a Gospel quartet.

In 1953, he paid $3.95 to make his first recording 'My Happiness' and 'That's When The Heartache Begins'. Then if you have ever done a Sun Studio's tour in Tennessee, we all now what happened after that and how Marion Kesker had saved the recording and later Sam Phillips produced many of Elvis' recordings.

The grounds to the Museum are spectacular with plaques of information during the years of pivotal moments, a bronze statue depicting a young Elvis in oversized overalls and a meandering walk both wheelchair accessible by way of ramps and paths or stairs to the top of the property to another statue called 'Becoming'.

 

This stunning statue shows a small Elvis and as a mature, larger than life flamboyant style as he had become.

 

Onwards and we cross into another state we have not visited – Alabama. We will pass the Talladega Super Speedway. Now comes to mind, besides NASCAR races of course, is Talladega Nights – Ricky Bobby, shake and bake – a very funny movie. We will make a stop here on the return trip to the Motorsports Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame!

 

From Alabama winding through the Talladega National Forest, we continued East heading across the border into Georgia.

 

We found the range, then the hotel and we are ready for an early start tomorrow. We missed the registration as we forgot we would lose an hour!

Kat xo

 

Port Neches – Beaumont, TX

We spent the day with a leisurely breakfast, fresh air and sunshine before taking a ride with Texas Mac and Texas Flower, first via Nederland and Tex Ritter Park, then to Cowboy Harley Davidson and on to Gladys City.

 

Spindletop – the first place oil was discovered in Texas. So named for the small bursts of escaping gas that rose, ghost like from the ground and appeared like spinning tops.

The actual gusher was called the Lucas Gusher which is actually situated across the highway from the reproduction on the Lamar University grounds. The reproduction gushes water during re-enactments and other celebrations.

 

Here on the University grounds sits the small replica town of Gladys City, representing businesses from the 1901 boomtown. The man behind the plans for this “industrial utopia”, Pattillo Higgins, never actually saw his dream realised. As the news of the oil strike spread, buildings seemed to spring up over night in a haphazard fashion for the workers and their families, in a seemingly unorganised vision of what Higgins intended.

The original town had no saloon, for he and especially his wife, were involved in the temperance movement. Stella Higgins wanted no part of any drinking, gambling or prostitution within town limits. Of course saloons did exist further on the outskirts of town where I'm sure many an oil man may have squandered some or much money on these pleasures.

Mac and Flower are involved with re-enactments of this part of history in their town. Whilst the reproduction Gladys City does have a saloon, it is often changed into a tea room during these shows where high tea, fan etiquette, and discussion about the temperance movement can be participated in.

When Spindletop (Lucas gusher) first gushed in 1901, it did so for 9 days before being capped. During that time an estimated 800,000 barrels oil were lost.

 

The buildings depicted within the city are – Walkenshaw Steelworks, Barber Shop, R.C. Grinnell's Log Cabin Saloon, Guffey Texas Post Office, A.L. Gibson's Dry Goods Store, General Store & Living Quarters, Beaumont Oil Exchange, Edgerton's Photography Studio, T.A. Lamb & Son Printers, Gladys City Drug Store, Gladys City Oil Gas & Manufacturing Co., Nelson & White Engineers, Southern Carriage Works, Broussard's Livery Stable and the Lucas Gusher Monument.

 

There are many artefacts within each of the buildings and is worth a quick little visit and walk through history.

 

After a quick bite at Depot Hamburgers it was back to the house for the men to take a nap and a quick spot of sewing.

This evening we went to Port Neches Wheelhouse Restaurant. A popular waterfront restaurant and tiki type bar huts that seemed to be well patronised for a Tuesday night.

 

The barges, tugs and later a ship came through the river access. When the ships come in the bell at the bar is rung and there are half price 'ship shots'! A blue concoction of vodka, gin, rum and something but surprisingly was pretty good!

 

So the views were great! The food spectacular!

 

Jack and I thank you Mac and Flower for an interesting and exceptional evening. Actually, a fabulous day!

Kat xo

 

Louisiana to Texas

With some time to kill, Jack and I headed South today through forest areas of Lousiana heading down to Alexandria and on to Lake Charles.

Alexandria is almost the centre of the state and the ninth largest city. Sitting on the edge of the Red River, it once supported French trade activities at Post de Rapides. Alexandria, in the parish of Rapides, was first settled around the 1790's.

During the Civil War gunboats arrived in Alexandria around Spring of 1863. Occupied by Union forces during this period they then departed to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Alexandria suffered much through the Civil War with cotton wars, and the ultimate burning of Alexandria as the Union troops departed its shores.

The city was rebuilt and has two remaining properties that survived the fires – one being The Kent Plantation House (circa 1795) which although moved from its original site, still remains on one of the first Spanish land grant allotments.

 

We weren't intending to stop before Lake Charles but when I looked up Kent House and found it was open today and held tours it was a must see!

 

Our first part of the tour started with docent, Miss Carolyn, who gave us a tour of the outbuildings, starting with the Milk House.

A small building, the milk house has an outside cistern that's purpose was to keep the milk cold for butter making.

 

Inside the milk house were variations of butter churner's and mold's for pressing butter blocks.

 

Next, the Kitchen House. This was separated from the main house mostly in part to the fires that often happened in a kitchen. This is the third of such buildings for the Kent House – #1 burnt down, #2 destroyed by a tornado.

 

Notice the brick hearth out front of the fire place? They used to use it for cooking also. Placing hot coals on the hearth, it gave the ability to cook another dish over the coals whilst others were being cooked in the fireplace. Baking in the oven, was only done a couple times a week.

Herb racks were also used for drying homegrown herbs for both cooking and medicinal purposes.

 

As with most large affluential homes, the lady of the house was in charge of the keys, especially for expensive items. Salt and pepper were even kept under lock and key, only being doled out to the cooks each day as an allowance.

Bottle trees, a tradition of the African Americans, were believed to attract bad spirits with the colours of the bottles and keep them away from the houses. The wind creates sounds in the bottles sounding like moans. When they heard the sounds they believed the spirits had been trapped. The bottle would be removed, stuffed full of sticks and leaves and then thrown into the river, thus getting rid of the evil spirits.

 

Next a two room slave cabin of a higher class, as it bears wooden floors. It is brick to board, with saddlebag construction i.e. the fireplace is in two sides or two rooms, one side for the women and the other side for the men or husband/wife and kids the other side. They are very small rooms, sleeping on the floor amongst the kitchen and living areas.

Next we stepped in to the laundry room where all manner of agitators, washboards, irons and other interesting artefacts reside. The Lye soap mold, used ash from the fireplace and pig fat for the moisturiser.

What about rolling your own tobacco? Well the cigar mold would be perfect for pressing and drying. By the fireplace is the cutter for cutting your ends before smoking the cigar.

 

She showed us a candle maker mold as well. Hair tongs, thrown in the fire and used to crimp hair. Hmm I smell burnt hair!

Outside are two old sugar kettles. These were used for laundry – 1 for washing and 1 for rinsing.

 

The gardens were also a staple requirement with a house and sometimes the slaves were given a plot of their own to grow. If they were able to grow something the house garden didn't have or might require for a dish they would actually pay to use some of that produce.

Over to the barn which is made up of hand hewn Lincoln logs it's a dog trot design with two separate barn rooms with a 'breezeway' like central area to keep air flow during the hot summer months.

 

The cotton picking bag would hold 100lbs and would go over your shoulders and be dragged behind as cotton was picked. Some would hold up to 300lbs! Very much back breaking work picking cotton.

 

The other barn building has lots of cool old skill carpentry tools including a foot driven jigsaw.

The blacksmith shop always had a dirt floor because of fire hazards, Windows were for getting air in for the heat.

 

Mr Hinson trusted William the blacksmith slave so much that he allowed him to often take the wagon into town on his own which would almost be unheard of for fear of flight of their slaves.

Eden House, the newest acquisition to the outbuildings has a 300 hundred year old loom and eventually this little house will have samples of cotton to finished fabric product on display.

 

This property was originally on 500 acres, Pierre Baillio II ended up with around 1700 acres.

The property used to also produce sugar cane and indigo. Molasses and sugar were made from the cane and indigo obviously was cooked to produce the blue indigo dye.

This cane press once driven by mules was fed cane stalks, producing the juice that would then be taken for refining.

 

Now Miss Carolyn is quite small and you can see just how short these doors are which were part of the original mill. Mostly slave boys would be the ones to feed the fire for the mill process.

Le Grande the biggest one of the kettles was used for the first round of juice, the paddles were used once brought to the boil to get rid of the 'trash' off the top; Le flambeau the second process during the firing off; Le sirop, now like cane syrup molasses at this point they would take half of it and bottle it for cooking use; final kettle then crystallised and this became their raw granulated sugar.

The hearth is sloping back so if it boiled over it would flow back to the previous kettle and be saved for reprocessing.

 

This beautiful live oak tree is spectacular! So called because their leaves always stay green. (I thought that's what an evergreen was???) it's long low and bendy limbs left unsupported can grow back to the ground. You can see how it has started enveloping the limb support.

The monument beneath is there as a nod to the plantations cemetery as all plantations had their own. Gustavus Baillio, one of the 14 children joined the confederate army and died the day after his 16th birthday.

The second docent, Miss Sandy, took us on the house tour. It is 218 years old, took 5 years to build and was built by Pierre Baillio.

All the brick under the house was handmade by slaves. Some bricks still have fingerprints and even a toes can be seen in them. All the timbers used were from trees on the plantation. Gardens were meant to be looked upon and therefore viewed from the balcony (besides the flooding issues of the bayous beyond). All plants in the garden are period correct as would have been at the time, the grass and brick work period for the garden also.

 

The handwritten recipes of the daughter in the right hand painting are now written into a cook book. The children were well to do with the third also having been to Harvard, coming back home to become judge.

 

The boys bedroom has the only original floors left in the house. The bed in this room is a rope bed to which would have been rest reached and tightened each day – hence the phrase “sleep tight”. The mattress would have straw and often tree moss which might have bugs and chiggers still in it – hence the phrase “don't let the bed bugs bite”.

Into the dining room and above the table is a large wooden paddle known as a 'punkah' – an Indian fan. A boy too small to work in the fields would stand in the corner and pull the cord to work the punkah during the hot months. (Further research shows that the operator was also known as a punkahwallah)

 

Houses were taxed per room so no closets or hallways as they were considered rooms and would be taxed accordingly.

A fireplace on the internal walls of a room was influence of the French. The English had fireplaces on the outside walls at the ends of the house.

Next we visit the parlour room for the ladies. They could sit and chat/gossip, do their needlework and take tea beside the fire. The picture above the fireplace of one of the Baillio women shows a hairstyle covering her ears. In those days you were not to show your ears so if a lady had not the hair to cover she would have to use horsehair, curled and styled into additional ringlets etc to be worn.

In the corner of the room is a sewing table, a fabulous looking little piece with a 'work bag drawer' of beautiful upholstery fabric. This would hold your needlework projects. The drawer above would house threads, needles etc. I want one! How neat is that?!

 

Last, the girls room with its ornate bed was much better than the boys, this feather bed was built in 1810. On the ceiling you can still see holes as this room would be partitioned for the older girls on one side and the younger girls on the other but if the county clerk was coming around to check rooms for taxes the partition could be quickly taken down!

The beautiful armoir, hand made in 1840 has a hidden drawer, the centre leaf piece where the doors close to could be removed be secret latch and the drawer was in behind it where jewellery could to be stashed.

The second owner of the house was a Mr Robert Hinson. The original style of the house was French creole and by the time he bought it creole was out and Greek revival was in. With the addition of the two side rooms at the end of the verandah he had changed the style.

These rooms have higher ceilings, additions of wallpapers and no exposed beams. By now, it was deemed you didn't have enough money to finish the house properly if your beams were exposed.

The gothic revival furniture and empire pieces also show changes in the time periods. This was mostly used as Mr Hinson's office, a more formal area for meetings and receiving businessmen.

 

The beautiful piano was played by his daughters for the entertainment of guests. It has not been restored as piano tuners are afraid to touch it's gorgeous piano wires of sterling silver as it is too precious.

It has beautifully ornate candle holders for light to the music sheets and keyboard and the handles on the sides of the piano lend its use to be dragged onto the porch for entertainment, for it to be heard during parties in the garden below.

 

Shutters were very important in the time and not just for aesthetics. If your shutters were painted green it meant you made your money off the land. If they were blue you were from the water, an importer or exporter. If they were black you had read your letters, so being educated, perhaps a lawyer etc.

If all the paint and all the siding was taken off the Creole section it would be a mud like house. Clay, horse, bear, deer hair and Spanish moss similar to Adobe. If you had the money you would white wash or paint it as Kent House was.

Turning our attention back to where we had made our entry, the narrow staircases were made for original empire dress styles in the early days. As the years and fashion changed (as we know it was pretty dramatic between 1800-1865) Mr Hinson had taken out the middle banister section and put steps in to the front of the porch down to the garden for the ladies in their hoop petticoat gowns. This may not be the only reason but with the restoration of the property they have taken in back to the original.

 

The second room at the end of the porch is the master bedroom, children stayed in here until they were two before they moved to the other children rooms. The day bed was used for exactly that – day naps – as the main bed was not to be messed up after being made. Called the rolling pin bed, the rolling pin was used off the bed head and rolled across the feather bed to get it neat and then placed back into position on the bed head.

The Hinson family with its 11 children, all used the same water starting with father, then mother, then the eldest children down to the baby. By this stage the water wouldn't be so clean and much less than had started, perhaps hence the term 'don't throw the baby out with the bath water'.

Look at the gorgeous red ware set as well, a wedding gift to their granddaughter and one of few sets left. This room in its darkness appears just as it would in that time period although on the top jutting ledges of the armoir would have been lamps, the white ceiling reflecting light across the room so they could at least see a little!

 

As we finish up the tour, the final room on the back porch was 'the strangers room' or as we call it today, a guest room. If someone stopped and asked for a room for the night this is where they stayed. There was a separate staircase and the door to the room did not open into the main house so you could keep your family safe. You enjoyed having people stay as they were useful for gathering information, finding out if war was close, were the levee banks holding during storms etc.

 

What a fabulous hour and maybe a half pit stop. So glad I looked up a little bit about Alexandria and found this fabulous place. Wasn't out of the way either, was only quarter of a mile off the main road!

Now we are in Beaumont, Texas for a couple of nights before heading on to Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill country.

Au revoir Louisiene!

Kat xo