Here's a short (but soon-to-be long and out of control) list of some of my favorite historic places that you must visit with your children immediately. Tomorrow if you can.
- Ulysses S. Dee
The African-American Heritage Trail in Boston features Underground Railroad sites, the oldest known black church in America, a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts (the all-black Union army unit dramatized in Glory), and no end of cool stuff. www.nps.gov/boaf
Harper's Ferry in West Virginia
The spot where John Brown made his famous raid is a well-preserved historical town framed by three mountains and two rivers. It's pretty exciting to stand there and imagine what it must have been like for Brown and his 21-man army to attack such a well-protected place. And in a nearby town, if you're interested in such things, you can see where Brown was hanged. www.nps.gov/boaf
The Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum in Philadelphia
The Dees went here after our show at World Cafe Life to see Baldy's head, which resides here along with a research library full of Civil War books (many of which I'd never heard of, but now want to read), some of Grant's artifacts including a uniform and some letters, General George Meade's slouch hat and coat he wore at Gettysburg, and other shocking stuff. Skip the "LOVE" sculpture and the cheese steaks and go straight to this place. We even stumbled on a replica of Henry Box Brown's box upstairs! www.cwurmuseum.org
Sagamore Hill on Long Island
Teddy Roosevelt's house on Long Island offers a great glimpse into the lost world in which he lived. Be sure to check out his wife Edith's room, which, with its soft color palette and delicate furniture, provides a sort of contrast to Teddy's den full of dead animals and dark wood, but still, alas, has some dead animals strewn around! I guess Teddy ran out of room.
Most importantly, though, find this guy, this one tour guide. You'll know who he is. Elderly gentleman. Wears an old-timey vest with a watch fob. I first learned about the incident where Teddy got shot then proceeded to give a long speech before going to a hospital from this man. He's a storytelling legend and your life will be sadder if you never get to hear him talk.
The Jumel Mansion, uptown Manhattan
Aaron Burr lived here with his final wife, Eliza Bowen. His bed is quite small and his chamber pot is nearby. There's also this neat triangular room from which Washington surveyed the five boroughs and New Jersey (before of course, the trees grew too tall to be able to see all of this.)
Trinity Church, downtown Manhattan
Alexander Hamilton is buried here. A little exhibit inside has some replicas of the pistols he and Burr used. Name someone of note before 1800 and they probably entered this church. Just go sit in a pew one afternoon.