Whew. The past 2 weeks have been a bit of a blur. But a colorful, inspiring, historical, blur. With my oldest graduating from high school and getting ready for college, we decided to plan an epic road trip with the kids along the east coast of the United States to visit the large cities there (including the nation’s capital) as well as hit some of the abundant historical sites.
Now that I’m home (and pooped) I’m realizing how ambitious (and maybe crazy?) we were. It was a busy, full 2 weeks, but I’m so glad we did it. I thought I’d share a few glimpses of some of the places we visited for those who are interested. And I promise there is sewing and quilting related content too. 😉
Our first stop was Williamsburg, Virginia. I’d only ever visited here once when I was 16 and I’ve always dreamed of taking my kids here. Williamsburg was the colonial capitol of Virginia and played a large role in the American Revolution.
Later the capitol was moved to Richmond, which meant Williamsburg remained a little, untouched town in southern Virginia. As a result the area is being preserved and restored to look as is did in that historical era. It’s a beautiful spot with lots of buildings – including homes, businesses, and gardens – restored to look as they would have in the 1770’s.
One spot of interest for me was the milliner’s shop that specialized in clothing, hats, dry goods, etc.
The guide talked briefly about quilting in the 18th Century saying. Small items – like the pieced “pocket” (aka bag that could be tied on and worn at the waist) could have been pieced from leftover fabric scraps, but pieced quilts were not being made yet. However quilting two pieces of fabric together with a batting in the middle was happening at that point. The two were just not combined generally until the 19th Century.
Here’s a little clip of her talking. (Not the greatest video – I should have pulled out my camera sooner, but enough to give you the flavor.)
So, no quilts in Colonial Williamsburg, but lots of other colorful eye candy. These photos were from the restored Governor’s Palace. What do you think of that super-saturated green paint color? Apparently really saturated wall colors were all the rage in the late 18th Century. I love that rug! Also, apparently gingham was in use back then too! (Good taste, right? 😉 ) A lot of the furniture was slipcovered in big gingham checked fabric.
From Williamsburg we also visited Jamestown and Yorktown. (I’d just like to take a moment here to publicly thank Lin Manuel Miranda for writing a hip hop musical about the American Revolution. My kids’ love of the musical Hamilton made them much more interested in all of these Revolutionary War era homes and battlefields. 😉 We walked into one of the houses and my kids were starting to lose interest until the guide said, “The Marquis de Lafayette stayed here.” and suddenly they were riveted. haha)
From Williamsburg we headed north and stopped along the way to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. That home + setting is just so beautiful – especially on a summer day when the gardens are in bloom. I couldn’t take pictures inside the house (there are some photos here) but the rooms were fascinating. And again featured the intense wall colors. Jefferson’s library and bedroom had just recently been restored to the original paint colors which, again, had the intense green for the library and a gorgeous robin’s egg blue in the bedroom.
I think they do a really good job at Monticello of honoring and respecting Jefferson, but also frankly acknowledging his complexities (i.e. promoting the ideal that “all men are created equal” at the same time as being a slaveholder.) The tour about the Hemmings family and other enslaved people at Monticello was equally fascinating and moving.
From there we spent a few days in Washington DC. My husband is from this area and we have a lot of nostalgia when we get to visit. (Fun fact: my husband and I got engaged in Washington DC 20 years ago this summer!) The last time we visited with the kids was 7 years ago, so this time around we did a lot more ‘big kid’ stuff – touring the Capitol Building, Archives, Library of Congress, memorials, etc.
Pictures of the big monuments and icons are familiar, but I love catching all the details too. On the left are the ceiling and floor of the Capitol Building. Top right is the Library of Congress (that is a stunning building!) and bottom right is the rotunda inside the National Gallery. (Another favorite.)
In the DC area we also visited Arlington National Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns (moving) as well as a trip to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. Ack. I love that place. I’m ready to move in. Again, not photos allowed inside, but George was also very stylish with the bright green formal room. A gorgeous time of year to visit (if not a little warm) and once again the gardens are beautiful.
My recommendations if you go to any of the above places: get your tickets ahead of time online. The houses have timed entries and there is a slight discount buying online.
A few more stops in the mid-Atlantic region before you start to get bored with a travelogue: an afternoon in Baltimore and Faidley’s crabcakes lived up to their billing. They were the best I’ve ever had. Also a stop at Fort McHenry where the flag flew during the War of 1812 that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner. Their presentation was really moving!
We learned a little about Mary Pickersgill who sewed the flag that inspired the National Anthem. (It was 30 feet x 42 feet!! It didn’t even fit in her house when it was completed. Talk about a big sewing project.) The flag we’re holding is a much smaller replica, but it was fun to hear about the original after seeing it in the Smithsonian museum a few days earlier.
After Baltimore we spent a couple of hours in Frederick, Maryland. My husband lived there during some of his high school years and then his parents lived there again for 10 years when our kids were younger. We’d visit most summers so it’s a favorite spot.
One of my favorite stops was always the Emporium antique mall. The last time I visited in 2010 I found an abundance of antique quilts – and even bought the hand-pieced Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt that is a favorite of my collection. This time as I ran through (time was short + husband and kids waiting) I only saw a small handful of quilts. I’d thought it would be fun to find another treasure, but didn’t see anything I was dying over. Although, hindsight, looking at the picture of those crazy stars, I wish I’d brought it home with me. Oh well.
Thanks for letting me share a few glimpses of our adventures along the east coast. You can read about our continued travel up the eastern states with stops in Amish country – Lancaster Pennsylvania, and finished visiting family on the seacoast in New England with more pictures of this blue and white scrappy quilt and spectacular scenery.
And now: time to clean up the house (and sewing room) after the past 6-week whirlwind! And maybe a nap too.