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Two Harbors, Minnesota

Two Harbors is about a half hour drive north of Duluth. We took the old scenic drive along the lake.

Two Harbors was originally two separate communities — Agate Bay and Burlington. The towns merged to form Two Harbors and was incorporated as a village in 1888. By the early 1900s, the area was predominantly known for logging and more than 35 logging camps were in the area. It came to be known as the City of Two Harbors in 1907.

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) was originally started in Two Harbors. They discovered a mineral called corundum which could be used to make sandpaper. It turned out not to be really corundum so they moved on to other things. In 1905, they moved to Duluth and in 1907, they ron Ore was discovered nearby. The Minnesota Iron Company bought 17,000 acres so they could build their railroad. Up until the railroad was built, the main transportation route was on Lake Superior. Agate Bay was chosen as the railroad terminus and shipping port because it was close to the iron ore site and had a clay bottom.

These days the railroad serves as a tourist attraction with one trip that runs on the weekends from Duluth to Two Harbors. It is a full day trip with a stop for lunch and a tour. There are other trips all operated by the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

Two Harbors also had a thriving commercial fishing industry but over fishing, along with the invasion of the sea lamprey, destroyed the industry by 1955. Agate Bay gets its name from the translucent reddish-brown stones called Lake Superior agate, the Minnesota state gemstone. They were formed by basaltic lava 1.1 billion years ago.

The Edna G. Tugboat was built in 1896, and named after Jacob Greatsing’s daughter, Edna. He was president of the D & IR Railroad. Edna originally served the shipping industry but during WW1 she moved to the east coast to serve the US Government. After the war she returned to Lake Superior. The Edna G. was the last steam driven tug boat to operate on the Great Lakes. She was retired in 1981 and donated to the City of Two Harbors to serve as a museum.

Castle Danger Brewery…. for the beer lovers…

Local Two Harbors Castle Danger brewery has now gone state-wide.

“Crafting a North Shore experience…”

Lindbergh and other things in Little Falls

I am currently reading The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. It is about Charles Lindbergh, written from his wife, Anne’s point of view. A few years back I took a trip to Little Falls, Minnesota, where Charles Lindbergh grew up. Charles lived in Little Falls until he went to the University of Wisconsin in 1920. The original house was a three-story mansion built by the river just outside of town. It burned to the ground and was replaced with the more modest two-story building we see today. Charles lived with his mother since his parents were not on the best of terms, his father had a place in town. In 1931 the 110 acres and the house were donated to the State of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society took over the house and 17 acres. The remaining 93 acres are now the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park.

Lindbergh House

In 1927, Lindbergh was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In December of that same year he met Ann Morrow in Mexico City and married her two years later. She was the daughter of the US Ambassador to Mexico. Their first-born child, Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. was kidnapped and killed in 1932. Lindbergh ended up having 13 children, many were illegitimate. Apparently he was not the greatest guy in the world. Not only did he carry on several simultaneous relationships but also was a Nazi sympathizer.

He did know a lot about airplanes, though. In later years he was a consultant to Pan American Airways and helped design the Boeing 747. He did some writing and in 1953, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his book about his transatlantic flight. In the late 1960’s, he campaigned for the protection of endangered species and became concerned about what the effects of supersonic transport planes might have on the atmosphere. At the end of his life he lived on Maui in Hawaii and died of cancer in 1974.

We visited a small museum on the grounds of his former home in Little Falls. It was full of newspaper clippings, news reels, and artifacts pertaining to Lindbergh’s life. The plane he flew across the Atlantic, the Spirit of St Louis, is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Down the road from the Lindbergh house, there was a small county museum, the Charles A Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum. Frederick Weyerhaeuser was a German immigrant who started a lumber business in Rock Island, Illinois in 1858. From there he moved to St Paul, Minnesota where he ended up in a joint venture with James J Hill, owner of the Great Northern Railway Company who expanded the railway out to the Pacific Ocean. The Weyerhaeuser Timber Company was incorporated in Tacoma, Washington in 1900.

John, Frederick’s oldest son, followed him to become president of the company. In 1935, John’s 8 year old son George, was kidnapped but luckily it ended happily with the child being returned unharmed, and the kidnappers apprehended, unlike the Lindbergh affair. George grew up to be the president of the company. Today Weyerhaeuser is an international public company and per its website is “one of the largest sustainable forest products companies in the world.”

Charles was another son of Frederick’s who was also in the lumber business. He headed the Pine Tree Lumber Company in Little Falls, Minnesota with his business partner Richard Drew Musser. It quickly became the second largest mill in the Northwest. In 1920 the mill closed and all the timber was gone. Charles moved to St Paul and died in 1930. His mansion in Little Falls is now open to the public. The county museum named in his honor does genealogy research.

However, because of Charles and his lumber company, in the 1930’s, the federal and state governments surveyed the area full of his stumps. New regulations were implemented restricting cutting and demanding re-planting. Most of the trees in Northern Minnesota are now back but the white pine is rare today.

Jessica Lange, the actor, also lived in Little Falls when she was about eight years old. You could drive by her school and house if you were so inclined.

At some point, the Dakota peoples were pushed out of the area by the Ojibwe, and then they were pushed out by the Europeans who settled in the area in the early 1800’s. The town was named for a series of rapids on the Mississippi that ran through the middle of town. Today a dam converts the rapids into a powerful waterfall.

About a ten mile drive north of Little Falls is Camp Ripley, a National Guard, 53,000-acre training center. It is named for Fort Ripley, a frontier Army post occupied from 1849-1877 that once sat on the property. The new training site opened in 1931.

We visited the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley. We drove through big solid gates and showed our ID’s at the gatehouse in order to enter. The museum was very well done and quite extensive, I recommend it to anybody interested in history. There were also exhibits on the grounds surrounding the museum and smaller buildings that housed jeeps and other military vehicles. Part of it was interactive. I tried on a couple of helmets (they are heavy).

On the way back to Little Falls we decided to make a circle and swing by the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. We figured we would just jump out of the car, take a quick walk, take some pictures and be on our way. The Refuge was established in 1992 to preserve a large natural wetland. It is basically a marshland that is home to many species of birds including the Sandhill Cranes.

Our idea had one small flaw. Mosquitoes. Of course there would be mosquitoes in a marshland and we did know that but we had no idea just how many mosquitoes there would be. Within two minutes we were under full attack and had to run for cover. I was still swatting them in the car when we got back to town.

We consoled ourselves with pizza and beer at Charlie’s Pizza in Little Falls.

Quadracci Pavilion

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The Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was added to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2001.  It sits right on Lake Michigan and has a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that opens and closes twice daily.  The museum collection includes 25,000 works from antiquity to the present covering a wide range of art.

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Mercury

This was a lazy weekend where the weather cooled off and rain moved in.  We meandered around one of my all time favorite art museums, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  It is a grand  building with pillars and domes and little gardens.  At its center is Mercury, the patron god of travelers, the winged messenger.

after Giovanni Bologna Flemish, active in Italy, 1529 – 1608, Mercury, c. 1780/c. 1850, bronze, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection 1937.1.131

 

 

 

And just for fun …..

These sculptures were created between 1672 and 1674 for a secluded grove on the grounds of Versailles called the Théâtre d’Eau

 

An Afternoon in Paris

 

 

In 1973 I went to boarding school in Switzerland, my parents had moved to Nigeria and the school options were limited.  A friend of mine from grade school days was living in Paris so when our first long weekend break came up I headed to Paris.  It was my first trip to Paris.  It was November and snowed lightly the whole time I was there.  My friend was in school and her mother insisted I take a bus tour of the city to get an overview.  After that I was on my own.  I was 16.  There were two things I wanted to see, one was Notre Dame and the other was the Louvre.  I found Notre Dame with no problem.  I walked in to an empty building.  It was dark and took me a while to get my eyes used to it.  It was quite and peaceful.  I made my way down towards the apse and as I reached it,  light flooded in.  I looked up and saw the most beautiful rosette stained glass windows I had ever seen.  I sat down and meditated on them.

From there I headed to the Louvre.  It took me a while to find it and the entrance didn’t seem to be very clearly marked but I did manage to buy a ticket and start my tour.  I didn’t have much time so I decided to just see three things and then leave.  I found the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo right away but I could not find the Mona Lisa.  I walked up and down an entire wing of paintings.  I saw painters set up with their easels copying the famous artworks, something I had never seen before in a museum.  Lots of great art, but no Mona Lisa.   I wandered into a room that was full of old jewelry.  No Mona Lisa there.  I was just about to give up and leave when I happened upon a small room off to the side that had a lot of paintings all hung up together on one of the walls.  I was looking at these various, random paintings when right in the middle of them, the Mona Lisa jumped out at me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I stood there transfixed.

It was a magical day.  I have been back to Paris many times but Notre Dame has always been very crowded and stifling.  The Louvre now has a grand entrance and signs all over the place directing you to the Mona Lisa which has such a big protective case that you can barely see it. I was very lucky.