La Mesilla: Where History and Culture Become an Experience

The historic town of Mesilla lies just south of Las Cruces and is what some might call the hidden jewel of the state

Two miles south of Las Cruces is one of the most historic towns in the Southwest: La Mesilla. Mesilla did not become part of the United States until the mid-1850s, but its history begins with the end of the Mexican-American War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe. Soon after, the sleepy border town would become one of the most important towns in the West, playing a key role in western expansion.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the United States entered into the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1848, it gained control over Texas, New Mexico, and Upper California, setting the Mexican-American border at Rio Grande River. Those wishing to continue being Mexican citizens moved across the Rio Grande back into Mexico. They settled on a small hill and founded the town of La Mesilla.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the mid-1850s, Mesilla had established itself as an instrumental town in the transportation of passengers and goods around the Southwest. The Mexican town prospered as it became one of the only places travelers could stop, rest, and get supplies, no matter which direction they were heading.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But when the Gadsden Purchase was ratified in 1854, the small town would again fall under the authority of the United States as the U.S. gained control of nearly 30,000 square miles of northern Mexico, southern Arizona, and New Mexico. By the mid-1800s, Mesilla’s population had reached 3,000, making it the largest town and trade center between San Antonio and San Diego and an important stop for both the Butterfield Stage Line and the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Lines.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around the plaza, fine hotels and restaurants were built to accommodate the influx of travelers and new residents. Drove-muleteers and miners traveling between El Paso, Santa Fe, and mining companies in the Gila and San Andres Mountains regularly purchased supplies in Mesilla prompting wholesalers from as far away as San Antonio and St. Louis to advertise in Mesilla newspapers. The town was also frequented by Apache Indians, who regularly attacked, stealing livestock and food, and taking captives.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the Apaches were not the only ones to invade Mesilla. During the 1850s, Confederate troops invaded the small town, taking control and declaring it the capital of the Arizona Territory of the Confederate States of America. Headquarters were set up in what is currently the Fountain Theatre and although some residents supported the Confederate cause the town continued to celebrate its Mexican heritage. The broad mix of political views and cultures often resulted in riots and shootouts, quite a contrast to the fiestas, dances, and fairs residents were accustomed to.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesilla continued to grow and prosper until the early 1880s when the Santa Fe Railroad selected nearby Las Cruces instead of Mesilla for the location of its newest route.  Mesilla landowners resented the railroad’s assumption that local residents would help build the line prompting Las Cruces businessmen to persuade the railroad giant northward. With attention now focused on Las Cruces, Mesilla’s appeal and importance began to wane. To this day, its size and population are virtually the same as they were 120 years ago.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the coming of the railroad brought with it its own set of problems to the area. Workers consumed huge quantities of beef placing city officials at the mercy of cattle rustlers. Gunfights often broke out in the streets of Mesilla and horse thieves and cattle rustlers like Nicolas Provencio and Dutch Hubert were regulars in both towns. Even western outlaw Billy the Kid—a frequent visitor of both towns—was tried and convicted for murder in a Mesilla courtroom. It was said that during sentencing, the judge told Billy he would hang until he was “dead, dead, dead,” to which Billy replied, “Well you can go to hell, hell, hell.” Billy was later shot and killed by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett after escaping from a Lincoln County jail cell where he was awaiting execution.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, visitors won’t find wild gunfights or riots on Mesilla’s streets; rather they can visit a new generation of Mesilla residents. Where a stagecoach depot, saloon, courthouse and hotel once stood, you now find restaurants, art galleries, bookstores, and shops. On some weekends, the plaza plays host to festivals and events like Cinco de Mayo, Diez y Seis de Septiembre, and Dia de los Muertos, all celebrating the town’s heritage and colorful past.

San Albino Church, Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the Christmas season, the plaza is aglow with luminarias and filled with the sounds of carolers. Visitors can also see the San Albino Church built from adobe more than 100 years ago or the Gadsden Museum, a local landmark recounting the area’s rich history. And just down the street, shoppers can find the latest addition to Mesilla, the Mercado de Mesilla, featuring an array of merchants, vendors, and restaurants.

San Albino Church, Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Efforts to preserve the town’s rich history, culture, and architecture have made Mesilla one of the best-known and most-visited historic communities in southern New Mexico. Year-round, visitors can experience all the intrigue and independence this historic village has to offer.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are more than enough activities to keep you occupied in Mesilla, the town is located about two miles from Las Cruces, the second-largest city in the state. We defy you to be bored here!

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Boston Freedom Trail

The famous Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick trail through Boston’s historic neighborhoods that tells the story of the American Revolution

Boston, a large, metropolitan city packed with revolutionary history, cultural venues, and sophisticated shopping and dining opportunities. A jaunt around “town” is like opening an American history textbook.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston has some of the worst driving and parking on the East Coast; its winding, angled roads meandering like the old cow paths they originally followed. But, don’t let this deter you; you will be rewarded many times over.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston had been a thriving city long before the United States itself existed. Founded in the 17th century, Boston has been the center of attention in New England since the colonial period. Today, Boston continues to boast some of the best attractions to be found in the Northeastern US. As the “Cradle of the Revolution”, Boston is full of history like no other city in America. For over 350 years, some of the world’s greatest patriots, writers, thinkers, athletes, and artists have called Boston their home, leaving an indelible mark on this incredible city in the process.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip to Boston is necessarily a trip into American history. Boston was the center of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s, and the monuments to those glorious times still stand.

Faneuil Hall (1742) was a meeting place for revolutionary leaders, and it now houses dozens of shops and restaurants. Built by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1741, this imposing structure is the place where the Sons of Liberty proclaimed their dissent against Royal oppression.

Old State House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old State House (1713) was the site of the colonial government and is open for tours.

The oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston, the Paul Revere House (1680) today serves as a museum.

Paul Revere House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The oldest church in the city of Boston, the Old North Church (1723), and its famous signal lanterns are still in use.

The site of the Boston Massacre where five colonists died in 1770 has been preserved.

The First Public School was in Boston; some of its graduates include Sam Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Built as a Puritan house of worship, the Old South Meeting House (1729) was the largest building in colonial Boston. No tax on tea! This was the decision on December 16, 1773, when 5,000 angry colonists gathered here to protest a tax…and started a revolution with the Boston Tea Party.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjacent to King’s Chapel (1688), the first non-Puritan church in the colonies, the Granary Burying Ground has the graves of patriots John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

USS Constitution (Old Ironside), The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even the Boston Tea Party is commemorated in a floating ship museum, not far from the floating museum aboard the USS Constitution, America’s first great warship. Launched in Boston in 1797, America’s Ship of State earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On our National Park ranger-led tour, we visited sites along the Freedom Trail and heard about the American Revolutionary story, the people who lived here, their courage, and what they risked striving for freedom.

State House, The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Freedom Trail, the red-brick line through the city takes us on a tour of 16 sites in Boston’s history for two and a half miles, including Boston Common, the State House, the Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, the site of the first public school, Old South Meeting House, the Old Statehouse, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Freedom Trail was created in 1951 to set recognize and set aside a cluster of historically significant building and locations in downtown Boston.

We began our 90-minute ranger-led tour at the Old State House and concluded at the Old North Church, five sites along the Freedom trail that highlights Boston’s role in the American Revolution. The other sites, prior to and following our ranger-led tour, were on our own.

The Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.

—Samuel Adams

Prescott: Courthouse Plaza, Whiskey Row, Sharlot Hall Museum & More

Prescott is located half-way between Phoenix and Flagstaff. At a mile high in elevation, Prescott stays about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix and 10 to 15 degrees warmer than Flagstaff.

If for you these last few months stuck in coronavirus quarantine have felt a little weird, you’re not alone. For me, April seemed to take forever. Now, in May, I can’t remember what day it is half the time. I’m starting to feel like I’m enduring a perpetual time loop, reliving the same day over and over.

Today is Tuesday. I think. As we pack up the RV and head out on a road trip for Prescott to explore “Everybody’s Hometown”.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in a stunning mountain bowl and surrounded by one of the largest ponderosa pine forests in the West, the beautiful town of Prescott is steeped in history with an authentic taste of western heritage. Unlike most towns in the West that occurred haphazardly by the promise of cheap land, the availability of water, or the craze of prospectors or speculators, Prescott was designed as a proper city from the beginning.

Fremont House, Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Miners prospecting for gold first settled this area. It was that presence of gold that prompted President Lincoln to designate Arizona as a territory in 1863. The cash-poor Union was two years into the Civil War.

Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lincoln dispatched a contingent of loyal Midwesterners and New Englanders to build the territorial capital here in the north-central part of the territory. This was a political play, as he wanted to keep the Arizona Territory in the Union camp. He definitely did not want governing power in its southern reaches—namely Tucson, 200 miles south—where Confederate sympathies prevailed.

Watson Lake, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1867 with the war over, Arizona’s capital finally shifted to Tucson. It moved back here later, but shifted permanently to Phoenix in 1889.

Thus Prescott was created and by outsiders from back east. It was their prim, aesthetic temperament and sense of decorum that forged the town’s character which continues strong to this day.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With shaded trees, well-kept yards, and Victorian houses of an earlier era, Prescott seems the idealized small town. Courthouse Plaza, dominated by the 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse, works for me as the classic town square—the centerpiece of Anytown, USA. In the evenings, people show up here to read, stroll, play on the grass, or just sit and talk.

Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While walking around the Courthouse Plaza, we encountered the bronze statue of Captain Bucky O’Neill, a Rough Rider, sitting astride his mount. Created by noted Western sculptor Solon Borglum, brother of the creator of Mount Rushmore’s four notable presidents, this memorial to the Rough Riders has been called one of the finest equestrian bronze sculptures in the world. Locals refer to it as the “Bucky O’Neill statue” in honor of a former mayor who died at the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War.

Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beneath the statue, etched in cement, a time line denotes past historic events, such as: 1869, John Wesley Powell explores the Grand Canyon; 1945, World War II ends; and 1912, Arizona achieves statehood.

Lynx Lake, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On one side of the Court House Plaza is Whiskey Row. It’s more sedate now than it was prior to 1900 when the whiskey flowed and the faro tables were jammed 24 hours a day in its forty or so saloons.

Whiskey Row, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In spite of its “proper” beginning, Prescott was a cowboy town. In the early 1900s, there were some 40 saloons along the wooden sidewalk of Montezuma Street. The Palace Saloon was one of them. It is still here, serving whiskey and beer at the oldest bar in the state.

Fremont House, Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

John C. Fremont, the storied Western explorer and Civil War general was the territorial governor here for five years. Fremont’s home has been moved to the site of the Sharlot Hall Museum. Prescott boasts 525 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several important structures forming part of the Sharlot Hall Museum complex—two blocks from the Courthouse Plaza—were relocated there to save them from destruction.

Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We wandered the complex visiting the governor’s mansion, the log cabin called Fort Misery and the 1875 home of John Charles Fremont, who became Arizona’s colorful governor in 1878.

Fremont House, Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Strolling the meandering walkway from building to building felt like visiting a quaint 1860s village. From the Bashford House, we walked past the ornate gazebo to the Fremont House. Though sparse by today’s standards, the cottage back then stood clapboard and gingerbread above the rough log house across the path that functioned as the Governor’s Mansion at the time.

Prescott from Thumb Butte Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.

—Diane Arbus

Old Mesilla: Where Time Stood Still

A stroll through Old Mesilla will take you back in time to the 1800s

No visit to Las Cruces is complete without a stroll through Old Mesilla. This little town, just two miles southwest of Las Cruces, is steeped in history. Mesilla (“Little Tableland”) is the best-known and most visited historical community in Southern New Mexico.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesilla is a small town by today’s standards but 150 years ago it was the largest city between San Antonio and San Diego. By the 1870s, it was the county seat and the Mesilla Valley’s leading center of trade. In addition to El Camino Real, the town’s trade connections were maintained through a variety of stage, freight, and mail routes, including the Butterfield Overland Mail, San Antonio Mail, and Wells Fargo Express. Mesilla hasn’t changed much over the years, allowing visitors to see what a 1800s border town looked like.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the sixteenth century Apaches and other tribes regularly camped in Mesilla, but it wasn’t until after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 that the first permanent settlers came to Mesilla to call it their home. By 1850, Mesilla was firmly established as an outpost of Mexico, but with the signing of the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, the village officially became part of the U.S. Since its beginning, Mesilla has had a major influence on the economic, cultural, historical, and political life of the Mesilla Valley. 

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Gadsden Purchase to the Civil War to the El Camino Real and Butterfield Stage Coach route to the trial of Billy the Kid to being a lively social center in the 1880s—Mesilla has been a prominent part of the rich history of the Southwest. Mesilla was the Old West with outlaws frequenting many of the bars and dances. 

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From its origins as a simple dirt lot, the plaza has developed through time with paving, landscaping and a replica 1930s-era bandstand, creating a more modern, but no less inviting, social center. The commercial and residential buildings that border the plaza reflect Mesilla’s maturing as a prime location on El Camino Real and on the southern route to California, where gold was discovered in 1849.

Basilica of San Albino, Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the north end of the Plaza is the Basilica of San Albino, one of the oldest missions in the Mesilla Valley. Originally built of adobe in 1855, that church was replaced in 1906 by today’s San Albino church, a yellow-brick building whose facade is dominated by square belfries with pyramid towers and soaring, arched stain-glass windows.

Double Eagle, Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the plaza’s primary anchor, San Albino continues to reflect the prominent role of religion in the community’s history. Outside the church is a memorial to parishioners who died in combat. In 2008, the church’s historical importance was recognized as it was designated as one of two basilicas in New Mexico. 

La Posta, Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Mesilla offers a wide range of events as well as shopping and dining on the town’s plaza. Enjoy a meal at the famous La Posta or Double Eagle, where patrons can enjoy authentic local cuisine while they visit one of the most historical locations in New Mexico.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many cultural and historical activities are held in the plaza, the Cinco de Mayo fiesta, the 16th de Septiembre Fiesta, and the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). On Christmas Eve, the Plaza comes alive with hundreds of luminarias lining streets, sidewalks, and buildings. Every Thursday and Sunday the local Farmer’s and Craft’s market is held on the Plaza.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, many of Mesilla’s population of nearly 2,200 residents are direct descendents of Mesilla’s early settlers. Mesilla has a rich and diverse heritage with the integration of Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American cultures. The traditional adobe structures and architectural features modified through time still remain as a reminder of the long and significant history of the town.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, come stroll the streets Billy-the-Kid and Pancho Villa once walked, check out the shops and find unique Southwestern gifts to take back home. Step inside one of the most historical cantinas in the area, El Patio. Then stop for lunch or dinner at one of the many cafes and restaurants. But, don’t just concentrate on the plaza, drive or walk around the town taking in all the shops and sights the average visitor misses.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesilla is located south of Las Cruces on Avenida de Mesilla.

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Sweet Home Alabama: Mobile

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful skyline reflecting off the bay; Mobile is more than just incredibly good-looking

Mobile is more than 300 years old and that fact alone says there must be a lot of history associated with a city of that age. The many museums and historical homes help tell Mobile’s story.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the oldest city in Alabama, Mobile has a rich past spanning centuries. French, Spanish, British, Creole, Catholic, Greek, and African legacies have influenced everything from architecture to cuisine, creating a miniature melting pot in the Port City.

Fort Conde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1711, the French erected a brick fort to protect their New World inter­ests and named it Conde. The site, now a 4/5-scale reconstruction of the original early 18th century French Fort Conde, func­tions as a welcome center. The original fort sat on 11 acres of land, therefore a full-size reconstruction was not possible because of the area it would cover in downtown Mobile.

Fort Conde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the Museum of Mobile, a short walk from the fort, you can view a 14th-century dugout canoe and other artifacts from native peoples, relive the voyages of slaves who arrived in Mobile, and hear tales of Civil War soldiers. The museum occupies the old city hall/Southern Market building (circa 1867), a National Historic Landmark. Permanent exhibits span 300 years of regional history, and changing exhibits focus on various individuals and events that shaped the area.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum’s permanent collection contains more than 85,000 artifacts, which range in size from a button to a fire truck. The collection includes items gathered by 19th-century citizens in their travels around the world.

Eight National Register Historic Districts make up what is known as downtown and midtown Mobile.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Street has served as the core of Mobile’s business district since the earliest days of the city. As one of the oldest streets, the name dates to Mobile’s French colonial past: the heir to the French throne is called the “Dauphin.” The street remained largely undeveloped during the colonial times, however, its importance increased once Mobile became an American city in 1813.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile emerged as the third busiest port in America during the boom of “King Cotton.” The late 1830s brought devastation to Mobile’s downtown as a series of fires destroyed many of the early frame buildings. Beginning in 1839, all structures along Dauphin and in the commercial districts were required to be built of brick.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, many of these brick buildings remain, although the storefronts have been periodically updated. Shopping trends of the 1950s and ’60s redirected retail activity to outlying areas of the city creating vacancies in the district; many of the buildings have once again been placed in service.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A stroll along historic Dauphin Street isn’t complete without a stop at A&M Peanut Shop (209 Dauphin St.), where peanuts in the shell are roasted hourly in a 90-year-old roaster.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known simply as the Garden District or Oakleigh, the lovely Oakleigh Garden Historic Garden retains the feel of an old neighborhood. Sidewalks and massive oaks line the streets graced by some of the most charming houses in the City.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Developed primarily after the Civil War, the district’s building stock clearly mirrors the City’s economic prosperity during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The district’s name comes from the antebellum mansion, Oakleigh, constructed in the 1830s by James Roper.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (circa 1834) is the oldest Christian church in Alabama. The historic cathedral sits across the street overlooking Cathedral Square, a tree-shaded park whose design reflects the basilica’s floor plan.

USS Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the mighty WWII battleship USS Alabama, winner of nine battle stars, and the submarine USS Drum. Both are National Historic Landmarks. An aircraft pavilion is filled with over 25 historic planes and military vehicles including the Mach 3 A-12 Blackbird super-secret spy plane.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum located at Hank Aaron Stadium. Hammerin’ Hank was born in a section of Mobile referred to as “Down the Bay,” but he spent most of his youth in Toulminville, an historic neighborhood of Mobile. He went on to become one of Major League Baseball’s greatest baseball players ever and held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years. He still holds several MLB offensive records.

Worth Pondering…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Going Mobile

Once called the Paris of the South, Mobile has long been the cultural center of the Gulf Coast and you’ll find an authentic experience like nowhere else in the southern U. S.

The water is a good beginning point to understand Mobile because the city is on a river, just north of a bay, south of a swamp, and has a storied history as a port. From the powdery white beaches of the gulf to the 800 square miles of alligator-­populated delta, you’re never far from water here.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile was named after the Mauvilla (or Maubilla) Indians who lived here centuries ago. Once called the Paris of the South, Mobile has long been the cultural center of the Gulf Coast and you’ll find an authentic experience found nowhere else in the southern United States. The birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States, the area’s sheer beauty, modern architecture, amazing museums, and famous seafood continues to impress visitors and locals alike.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1702 as the original capital of the Louisiana Territory and nestled along the beautiful Mobile Bay, few American cities boast a history as rich as Mobile’s. In 1711, the French erected a brick fort to protect their New World inter­ests and named it Conde.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The site, now a 4/5-scale reconstruction of the original early 18th century French Fort Conde, func­tions as a welcome center. The original fort sat on 11 acres of land, therefore a full-size reconstruction was not possible because of the area it would cover in downtown Mobile. The reconstructed fort opened on July 4, 1976.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Later the British took ownership and after that the Spanish. In the 1820s, the U.S. Congress ordered its sale and removal and shortly afterwards it was demolished.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaving the fort, history lovers should head across the street to the Museum of Mobile. Opened in 1857 as the Southern Market and used as City Hall through the 1990s, the museum boasts a marble lobby with six brightly colored murals reflecting the city’s landmark moments.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Permanent galleries detail Mobile’s story and include such artifacts as a 14th-century dugout canoe and the Colored Entrance neon sign from the Saenger Theatre, host to many famous black musicians. Upstairs are exhibits detailing The Great Fire of 1919 which left 1,200 homeless, 1979’s Hurricane Frederic which killed three and injured thousands, and the city’s contributions to the nation such as the 1969 World Series champions Mets’ outfield who were all from Mobile.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eight National Register Historic Districts make up what is known as downtown and midtown Mobile. These eight distinct personalities spread throughout the Mobile Bay area truly define the heart and soul of Old Mobile. 

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Street is an historic district in downtown Mobile that consists of many buildings from the 1820s to the 20th century; architectural styles include Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Victorian. Dauphin Street was named after the son of King Louis XIV and this street became the main commercial street of the city.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1839, a fire destroyed many of the wooden buildings that had been built in the Federal style. During reconstruction, many structures were built in the Victorian style of architecture seen today.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bienville Square is a tranquil square with trees, benches, fountain, and a bandstand.

Downtown Mobile is a mixture of the old and the new. Modern office buildings and high-rise hotels are scattered among the historic buildings. The ultra-modern Outlaw Convention Center along the waterfront is an interesting contrast to the older buildings of the downtown area.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Oakleigh Historic Complex contains several buildings in one picturesque area. The Oakleigh Mansion (built around l833) is an old two-story T-shaped building constructed with slave labor. The bricks used in the walls of the ground floor were made by these slaves from clay dug on the property. The main portion of the house is of wood. The house is filled with antiques and original furnishings.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another historic building near downtown Mobile is the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and century-old live oaks are scattered over the grounds. The mansion is an antebellum home with more history associated with the Civil War era.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Charleston: Deep South Charm

With a rich 300 year history, Charleston is America’s most beautifully preserved architectural and historical treasure

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive-through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

James Island County Park Christmas Lights Display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

Savannah: Southern Charm, History & Spanish Moss

This Isn’t Ordinary. This is Savannah.

If you’re heading to Savannah, Georgia, there are several things you should keep in mind: you’re going to walk more than you’re used to and you’re going to fall in love.

LaFayette Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even if you haven’t been to Savannah, you’ve probably heard the rumors of a history so deep you can practically feel it dropping off of every building. This is the very real aspect of the 286-year-old city.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to Savannah encounter Southern-style warmth and hospitality, akin to spending time with an old friend. The distinctive Spanish Moss-draped trees, antebellum homes, and horse-drawn carriages help to give one the relaxed and comfortable impression that there’s no rush here. Evidence of the city’s rich history is everywhere. Take time to explore and learn more about some of the people and the events that shaped Georgia’s oldest city.

Madison Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk down the cobblestone streets of Georgia’s first city, a place filled with southern charm. Steeped in history and architectural treasures, Savannah begs to be explored by trolley and on foot. Much of Savannah’s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s lovely shaded squares draped in feathery Spanish moss—all 22 of them.

Emmet Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Southern live oak is the state tree of Georgia and a common and most striking tree throughout Savannah. Because it never drops all of its leaves at the same time, it looks the same in January and July. The Spanish moss draping hundreds of live oaks in Savannah is not a parasitic plant and does not damage its host trees. It just uses the tree for support.

First Baptist Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the way, you’ll happen upon numerous historic homes like the Mercer Williams House and the home of Juliette Gordon Low who founded the Girl Scouts. Singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer, a native of Savannah, wrote more than 1,100 songs and won four Academy Awards during his career. The Mercer-Williams House, site of the shooting in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was built by his great-grandfather.

From the movie, Forrest Gump, as shown at the Georgia Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 100 movies and TV shows have used Savannah as a filming location including Cape Fear, The Last Song, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Glory, Something to Talk About, Forrest Gump, and the TV miniseries Roots.

City Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1732, British General James Oglethorpe, a member of Parliament and an advocate of prison reform in England, laid out Savannah a year before King George II sent him to the New World to create a military buffer between Spanish Florida and British colonists in South Carolina. Oglethorpe’s blueprint for Savannah was based on a pattern of 24 “squares”—parks, gardens, cemeteries, and other pedestrian green space—of which 22 survive today.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2.2-square-mile original town is now the largest National Historic Districts in the United States. Each square has its own monument or fountain in the center. Homes, churches, and other structures featuring a wide variety of architectural styles line the streets on all four sides of each square.

Our Old Town Trolley Tour prior to boarding at the Savannah Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several historical tours are offered. The Old Town Trolley Tour offers a narrated loop tour that lasts an hour and 30 minutes. Do it all at once, or hop off at your choice of 15 locations within the Savannah Historic District. The trolleys run constantly and allow ticketholders to get on and off at will. The trolley pass can last for one or two days.

Historic River Street, Old Savannah Cotton Exchange © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our guide explained that three different periods of history are represented in Savannah: Colonial, pre-Civil War, and Victorian. It’s interesting and informative to hear the stories that go along with each of those time periods. 

Historic River Street © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As with most cities, it is best not to tour Savannah via RV. Drive your toad into town, and pick up a map of the historic district. One place to do that is the Visitors Information Center located inside the old railway passenger station at 301 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. This is a good starting point to catch a trolley tour into the historic district. Visitors also can choose to drive into the historic district and tour on their own. 

Historic River Street, The Waving Girl statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so much to see and do in and around Savannah, one visit simply isn’t enough. Fortunately, that same Southern hospitality is ready to welcome visitors back again and again.

Creek Fire RV Resort, our home base while touring Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Savannah is a lovely pastel dream of tight cobbled streets. There are legendary scenes to rival any dreamed up by Tennessee Williams.

—Rosemary Daniell

Urbana: Historic Port Town with Old-fashioned Flavor

Turn off the main road or cruise up the Rappahannock River from the Chesapeake Bay to the the charming and friendly historic Colonial port town of Urbanna

Framed by a protected cove on Urbanna Creek off Rappahannock River, the charming, historic Colonial port town of Urbanna is a Tidewater Virginia gem. With the open waters of Chesapeake Bay a few nautical miles away, Urbanna has more boats than people, according to locals.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Urbanna’s marinas, boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and trove of 18th century historic buildings are all within an easy stroll through town, making for an enchanting visit and stay.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1649, Ralph Wormeley patented 3,200 acres on Rosegill Creek and the Rappahannock River. Landowners like Wormeley established plantations on Virginia’s navigable rivers, which they used as private ports, shipping tobacco directly to market without the inconvenience and expense of going through an official port of entry. 

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 1680 Acts of Assembly at Jamestown changed all that by ordering local officials to create 20, 50-acre port towns in Virginia for 10,000 pounds of tobacco each, through which all trade would take place. A small part of Ralph Wormeley’s Rosegill that would, in 1705, be named Burgh of Urbanna, “City of Anne”, was one of them. The town was named in honor of England’s Queen Anne. 

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rosegill Plantation consists of an impressive range of 18th century buildings: a washhouse, the dwelling house, the kitchen, and a storage house. The buildings standing today stylistically dated 1730-1750, a significant example of colonial plantation architecture. The extensive nature of the original complex makes Rosegill one of the oldest and most historic estates in America.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seven buildings in town have been in continuous use since the colonial period. Four of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. All are located in Urbanna’s historic district.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The James Mills Scottish Factor Store (also known as the Old Tobacco Warehouse), which now serves as the town’s Museum and Visitors’ Center, is where planters exchanged tobacco for immediate cash and credit to purchase imported goods for sale. The building, itself, is a valuable piece of history, being the only Scottish Factor Store (circa 1765?) left standing in North America. The Mitchell Map, proudly displayed inside, is also a valuable rarity. This is the first edition, 3rd impression of the map called “The most important map in the U.S,” published and printed in 1755.

Urbanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next door is the Gressitt House, where Urbanna’s Harbormaster once lived. Across the street is Little Sandwich, believed to have been the port town’s Customs House.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Up the hill you’ll find Middlesex County’s original courthouse. It’s one of only 11 colonial courthouses still standing in Virginia today.

Other very special places can be found all around the Town. Cottage Row, a collection of quaint two story cottages built for supervisors of Urbanna Manufacturing Company are located on Taylor Avenue.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the downtown area you will find Bristow’s Store, which first open its doors in 1876. Right down the street is Marshall’s Drug Store where you can sit at the old fashioned soda fountain, right out of the 1950s. Not far from the drug store is Haywood’s Variety Store. Built in 1875, merchants in this location have operated under the name Haywood’s Store since 1911.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the international sailing vessels of the colonial tobacco trade yielded to Chesapeake Bay schooners, then steamboats, then the pleasure boats of today, one thing remained constant—Urbanna’s history and fortunes are one with the Bay.

During the Urbanna Cup Regatta in spring, captains of all ages and skills gather at the Town Marina to race wooden 8-foot Cocktail Class Runabouts.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When leaves change color and the air is crisp, it’s time for the Urbanna Oyster Festival—Virginia’s official Oyster Festival. The event draws over 75,000 visitors to town the first weekend in November (62nd Annual; November 1-2, 2019).

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The family fun features oyster-inspired art, the centerpiece parade with beauty queens and their courts from around Virginia, the hotly contested Oyster Shucking Contest, a juried art show, a holiday house tour, concerts in the park, street parades, boat parades, fireworks, and a monthly farmer’s market.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come see what drew Ralph Wormeley to the verdant plateau overlooking Urbanna Creek in 1649, where the famed plantation Rosegill became one of the great houses of Virginia. And where Urbanna would become one of the great, picturesque towns of Virginia!

Worth Pondering…

He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.

—Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Historic Frankfort: Kentucky Distilled

Frankfort embodies the essence of everything that makes Kentucky special from natural charm and beauty to world-renowned bourbon. You could say that Frankfort is Kentucky Distilled. Frankfort is capitol halls and bourbon balls, rolling hills and rushing rivers, southern hospitality and historic buildings. Frankfort is beauty, big ideas, and bourbon.

Kentucky’s capital city, Frankfort, is nestled between Louisville and Lexington along the banks of the Kentucky River. Built among picturesque hills on both sides of the river, Frankfort is in the midst of the famous Kentucky blue grass region. An historic city, Frankfort is a quintessential river community with small town charm, rich history, and typical Southern hospitality.

Frankfort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll through the city to admire its fabulous architecture, especially the new and old capitol buildings, as well as the new and old governor mansions, which are open to the public.

Center For Kentucky History © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get a sense of local history at the Kentucky Historical Society’s Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. The museum presents the history of Kentucky in an interesting way that appeals to people of all ages.

Center for Kentucky History © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum encompasses all aspects of the Commonwealth’s history from the time of Kentucky’s Early People, the Native Americans who hunted and farmed the land. Exhibits show what it was like to live on the Kentucky Frontier in the late seventeen hundreds and how the Great Depression and World War II influenced the state’s development and its people.

Kentucky State Capitol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The city’s most prominent building is the State Capitol, about 400 feet long and 185 feet wide, built of granite and white limestone in the Italian Renaissance style, with 70 large Ionic columns, and a dome 205 feet above the terrace line, supported by 24 other columns. The Capitol was built in 1905-1907.

Kentucky State Capitol Floral Clock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky’s Capitol is the fourth permanent building since statehood in 1792. It was built to replace the earlier 1830 capitol, still standing and available for tours in the historic downtown area.

Old State Capitol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drinking it isn’t the only way to enjoy Kentucky bourbon. That’s why your tour of the Bluegrass should also include a trip to a candy shop. A Kentucky schoolteacher-turned-entrepreneur named Ruth Hanly Booe is credited with inventing bourbon candy. In 1919, she and another teacher, Rebecca Gooch, set up a candy business in the Prohibition-closed barroom of the Old Frankfort Hotel in Frankfort. The saloon-turned-candy shop was a big success. Ruth became sole owner in 1929.

Rebecca Ruth Candies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The idea of making bourbon candy supposedly grew out of a chance remark during Frankfort’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1936, when a friend of Ruth’s pointed out that her mint candy and bourbon were the two best tastes in the world. Candy made using her secret recipe is still sold by Ruth Booe’s descendants at Rebecca Ruth Candies. You can tour the factory in historic downtown Frankfort at 116 East Second Street, a short distance from the state capitol.

Rebecca Ruth Candies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our informative tour included the story of Ruth Hanley Hooe, a museum of olden candy making equipment, a view of the candy production line, chocolate sniffs, and a bourbon ball sample. We took a bunch back with us to the motorhome for additional research.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Kentucky, buffalo carved a pathway that was followed by America’s early pioneers. On the spot where the buffalo migration route crossed the Kentucky River, bourbon whiskey has been distilled for over 200 years. Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuously operating distillery in America. During Prohibition the distillery was permitted to remain operational making whiskey for “medicinal purposes”.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The distillery sprawls over 130 acres and is home to four centuries of architecture—all still fully operational.The Trace Tour began at the gift shop and included a warehouse and small bottling house where the distillery’s “single-barrel” bourbons—Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock’s Reserve, and Elmer T. Lee—are bottled and sealed by hand.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We walked the path of rolling bourbon barrels and were captivated by the alluring smell and atmosphere of bourbon aging inside the warehouses. Then we toured inside the Blanton’s Bottling Hall and saw signature bourbons being filled, sealed, labeled, and packaged—all by hand. 

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of Buffalo Trace Small Batch Bourbon, Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Bourbon, and Bourbon Cream Liquor.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I take with me Kentucky

embedded in my brain and heart,

in my flesh and bone and blood

Since I am Kentucky

and Kentucky is part of me.

—Jesse Stuart