FROM TIFFANY WINDOWS TO COCA~COLA NOSTALGIA: VARIETY IN VICKSBURG

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Although President Lincoln described the Siege and Battle at Vicksburg as “the key to victory” of the Civil War, and Vicksburg is full of Civil War history, we opted to pass on seeing the battlefield, monuments, cemetery, U.S.S. Cairo, museum, etc.  Civil War buffs we are not.

It was a bit of a dreary, rainy day in Vicksburg; however, we didn’t mind walking the town with our umbrellas in hand, after we took the hop on-hop off bus tour for an overview.

Being the glass buffs that we are, we chose to spend time viewing and learning about the six priceless Tiffany stained-glass windows at the Church of the Holy Trinity, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In all of Mississippi, there are only eleven Tiffany stained-glass windows, so the windows at this church are quite significant.  A husband-wife docent team gave an informative talk about the gorgeous windows.

When the church was built, the original church windows were clear.  The stained-glass windows were paid for by contributions from Civil War veterans around the country, dedicated to the soldiers who died in battle during the Siege of Vicksburg.  The front wall windows were the first ones installed at the church as a memorial of reconciliation in the South following the Civil War.  (It’s interesting to note that Vicksburg was 70% Union.)

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Six of the windows were created by Tiffany Studios in New York under the supervision of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Opalescent glass was used for the windows, giving them a watercolor-like appearance.  Tiffany felt that not only should the color be part of the design, but the texture as well; so, texture was added to the glass to give a life-like appearance.  In one of the windows, the woman is wearing a robe that has wrinkles, created quite effectively with added layers of glass.  Surprisingly, we were encouraged to go ahead and touch the textured glass in these priceless windows.  (Since no insurance company will insure the church, a value for the windows cannot be determined.)

Tiffany was also a genius in how he worked with color to capture light.  In this window, “The Good Shepard,” we were told that no matter what time of day or ambient light, the lantern always looks lit.

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Having the opportunity to see and photograph those incredible windows was well worth visiting Vicksburg.

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For a fun bit of nostalgia, we popped (no pun intended) into the nicely restored Biedenharn Candy Co. building to have a look around the Beidenharn Coca-Cola museum.  Owned and operated by The Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, they did a nice job restoring the building and creating enjoyable exhibits about the Biedenharn family who were the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. Alongside reproductions of the first bottling equipment used to bottle the iconic soda-pop, they explained the bottling process.  In addition, Coca-Cola memorabilia and advertising from past to present were on display.

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When the stopper was pulled out of the bottle, the rubber made a popping noise– “soda pop”.

Bruce and I also checked out the Old Courthouse Museum (built in 1859) and Lower Mississippi River Museum.  Most memorable was exploring the river museum’s M/V Mississippi IV, a former river workboat that plied the river for the Corps for over thirty years and hosted public Mississippi River Commission (MRC) meetings, until she was decommissioned in 1993.

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Headquartered in Vicksburg, the MRC was established by an act of Congress in 1879 with the purpose of controlling the Mississippi River.  In addition, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has its research headquarters in Vicksburg, and the town boasts more Phd’s per capita than any city in the U.S.A.  Who knew?

In addition to Cape Girardeau and Paducah, Vicksburg also did a wonderful job turning an ugly river flood wall into a beautiful work of art.  Here are some of the murals that graced the wall where American Queen was tied up:

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Next up:  NOTORIOUS NATCHEZ

 

PATCHWORK PADUCAH: HOME OF THE NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM

There are many forms of art and craft that have always fascinated me; however, quilting never captured my interest as much as glass-work or woodwork, my two favorite mediums.  That all changed in 2006, when I saw the most amazing quilts as part of a fiber arts exhibit, at the Southwest School of Art, in San Antonio.  Sometime after that, I heard that Paducah, Kentucky was home of the National Quilt Museum.

Paducah?  This California gal had never heard of Paducah, population +/- 25,000; however, I kept hearing the name over and over, after moving to Georgia.  When Bruce and I noticed Paducah was on the itinerary for our American Queen Steamboat cruise, it piqued our interest, because of the National Quilt Museum.  If the quilts at the exhibit we had attended were that amazing, imagine how incredible they would be at a national museum!

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We made the museum our first stop, following the hop on-hop off bus tour of the artsy town that is located on the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, halfway between St. Louis and Nashville.

As soon as we walked into the lobby, we knew this wasn’t just your grandmother’s quilt museum!  There are not enough adjectives to the describe the quilts we saw, and if photography (flash or otherwise) had been permitted, the pictures wouldn’t have done those quilts justice.  Go ahead and check out their website, though; you will be amazed!  Glancing at the current exhibit, you will think those are paintings hanging on the wall.  You can’t possibly imagine the thousands of hours that went into making some of those quilts, obviously labors of love.

I did, however, take pictures (with permission) of the gorgeous stained-glass windows in the lobby and conference room:

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Visiting the National Quilt Museum was not only the highlight of our day in Paducah, but it was one of the highlights of the entire cruise.  Those sentiments were echoed by Bruce as well as several of the other men we spoke with on our cruise.  (Even the men who were dragged to the museum by their wives were enthusiastic about what they saw and happy they went along!)

Aside from the museum, the entire town of Paducah had such a cool, artsy vibe.   As a matter of fact, UNESCO designated Paducah as the world’s seventh City of Crafts and Folk Art, in 2013.  (Santa Fe, New Mexico is the only other American city given such a designation.)

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In addition to the artistic feel of the town, great care has been taken to preserve the historic buildings of Paducah.  As a result, twenty blocks of the downtown commercial district have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.P1140621.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paducah also did a great job of beautifying their formerly drab flood wall with murals designed and painted by Robert Dafford and his crew.  We enjoyed learning about Paducah’s history through these murals, just as we had done in Cape Girardeau.

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Walking around downtown was such a pleasure, and we enjoyed seeing the historic (and beautifully maintained!) homes nearby.

American Queen Steamboat Company’s marketing department definitely got it right when they chose Paducah as the meeting point for American Queen and the company’s third riverboat, American Duchess.  On its inaugural river cruise, the brand-new Duchess arrived before sunset and tied up just ahead of our boat.  It was a beautiful evening that couldn’t have been planned any better.  As the passengers from both boats waved, shot photos, and shouted greetings, the Queen welcomed her sparkling new sister with several loud steam-horn blasts and a calliope concert.  It was a travel brochure moment for American Queen’s marketing department, and we were sure the drones that were sent up captured some amazing shots!  We sure had a lot of fun, too!

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Although several of the crew and passengers went over to tour the Duchess, we opted to enjoy another fabulous dinner in the dining room, and wait until January to see the new girl in town.  (More to follow next month!)

Until then, here are some scenes from that Kodak moment, reminiscent of when the American Queen, Mississippi Queen, and Delta Queen met up in Paducah in 1996, as was depicted in one of the wall murals (above).

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Coming up next:  A DAY “AT RIVER”

 

 

CRUISING TO CAPE GIRARDEAU

Following our visit to Chester, the American Queen Steamboat paddle wheeler steamed on down to the sleepy river town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Founded in 1733 by a French soldier as a trading post, it is now home to around 38,000 residents.

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The American Queen is on the right.

As we had typically done previously during the cruise, we took American Queen’s included hop on-hop off bus for a narrated tour of the town to get a good overview, before hoofing it around on foot.

The historic Glenn House was located in a lovely neighborhood situated on a hill overlooking the river, so we opted to head back up to take the included tour of the lovely 1800’s home.

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Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home was built in 1883.  I especially liked these beautiful stained-glass windows in the foyer:

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Across from the home, we thought this was quite the curious sight:

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This was the original bridge that crossed the river; however, it was ultimately replaced by a new, modern one.  Instead of completely tearing the old bridge down, they kept the beginning of the bridge intact as a river and riverfront park viewpoint.  Clever!

Back in town, the downtown streets were pleasant to meander and photograph.

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One of my favorite buildings that added a bit of charm to the town was this Spanish-style home to Southern Missourian, the local newspaper.  These murals on the side of the building depict the history of the town and newspaper print:

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The highlights of Cape Girardeau, in my opinion, were the fabulous river wall murals.  What started as a necessary—but ugly—barrier to protect the town from flooding, was morphed into attractive and informative works of art.

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“Mississippi River Tales” is an 18,000 square feet mural that covers the 15-foot high wall with 24 panels of history, beginning with the Native Americans who inhabited the area between 900 and 1200, long before our “founding fathers” stepped foot on American soil.  Informative plaques describe each panel that tells the history of the area in chronological order.  Painted by Chicago artist Thomas Melvin, in collaboration with several local artists, the mural has graced Cape Girardeau’s flood wall since 2005.

These were some of the panels of interest to me:

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Immediately following “Mississippi River Tales” was the “Missouri Wall of Fame,” spanning 500 feet of the flood wall.  Depicting 45 people who were born in the state or achieved fame while living in Missouri, this mural included some of our baseball favorites, including Yogi Berra, the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher who had, let’s say, an interesting way with words!

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Unfortunately, the mural also included Cape Girardeau’s very own Rush Limbaugh, who also has a way with words…

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Next up:  PATCHWORK PADUCAH:  HOME OF THE NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM

 

 

 

BUMMING AROUND BURLINGTON

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I liked the historic feel of Burlington, which was quite different from where I grew up in Southern California.  Several of the downtown Burlington buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was great to see the care taken to preserve these old buildings.

Take the Capitol Theater, for example.  Dating back to 1937, the 700-seat theater had been closed since 1977; however, a foundation of passionate citizens was formed to raise the money needed to restore the theater back to its 1937 splendor– with some modern additions.  Such painstaking care was taken in the restoration that the new seats and carpet were reproduced to look like the originals, and a boatload of money was spent to restore the marquee to exactly as it looked in its heyday.

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We took a guided tour, one of the included attractions for the day.  I especially liked the art deco-style lighting throughout the theater, and the old projector was a classic!

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The hop on-hop off bus also made stops at the top of Heritage Hill, a beautiful neighborhood of lovely old homes and Snake Alley.

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Constructed in 1894, Snake Alley was once known as the crookedest alley in the world.  It was built to create a short cut from the top of the hill to the business district below.  Needing to accommodate horses, the mode of transportation at the time, the bricks were tilted higher on the upper edges, making it easier for the horse’s hooves to catch on the raised edge making the ascent easier and the descent a lot safer.

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We didn’t have access to a horse, so we hoofed the 275 feet of Snake Alley carefully on foot to the street below.

While bumming around Burlington, we had a quick look at St. Paul’s Catholic Church:

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In all, it was a pleasant little historic city of 25,000-26,000 people, and we enjoyed having a look around.

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It was another beautiful sail-away highlighted by an entertaining calliope concert!

 

 

 

 

 

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A typical river barge on the Mississippi River

 

Coming up next:  HANGIN’ IN HANNIBAL

ASHLAND’S HISTORY THROUGH MURALS

From Boulder Junction, where we bid farewell to the “Townies,” Bruce and I headed northeast toward Bayfield, our home base for the next two nights.  To break up the drive, we thought Ashland would be a great place to stop, stretch our legs, and see the town’s murals I had read about in my research.

Expertly and beautifully painted by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen, most of the huge murals depicting Ashland’s history are located in the eight-block Main Street business district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

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Ashland’s historic downtown was quite charming.  Between the murals, architecture, lovely little park, and artistic mosaic trash receptacles, it was a great place to visit!

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Coming up next:  BAYFIELD:  FROM BLUEBERRIES TO BOATS