Tag Archives: Architecture

The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

The Titus County Courthouse was built in 1895, but currently looks nothing like its original brick exterior with a large bell tower on top. The building underwent a couple of modernistic renovations, one of which earned it the title of “Ugliest Courthouse in Texas,” although there are other contenders. In the 1990s, the building was restored to its 1940s Art Deco – Moderne appearance. Now I think it’s starkly beautiful.

The ugliest courthouse in Texas? Yes, definitely we needed to put the Titus County Courthouse on our field trip list.

On a recent trip to Texas, family members and I were looking for interesting historical destinations in northeast Texas.  Visiting courthouses usually takes you to scenic and historic areas in each county.  There are 254 counties in Texas, so there are a lot of courthouses to visit. A quick search online in our desired area found several notable destinations.  One place stood out: The Titus County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant was named as The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas. (There are several contenders to that title, according to several websites devoted to Texas.)

Actually, the Titus County Courthouse didn’t look that ugly in the photo — just dramatically changed from its original appearance when it sported a brown brick exterior and a large bell tower.  Bell towers on top of courthouses fell out of favor when they began to fall during high winds during severe Texas weather, so they aren’t usually a feature on Texas courthouses in modern times. The Titus County Courthouse, built in 1895, is the fifth courthouse building in Titus County.  The current courthouse underwent a couple of  renovations, including one that did look hideous, but the building was restored in the 1990s to its 1940s appearance of Art Deco and Moderne, which I think is attractive.  One quirk is that a loudspeaker blasts music, news and commercials from an area radio station in the area around the courthouse.  One website noted this, and we discovered it was true.  It was a Sunday and otherwise quiet in the courthouse neighborhood.

Mount Pleasant is a Texas Main Street City.

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas Postcard

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

Click on these thumbnails to see full-size photographs.

We also discovered one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas, the Old Harrison County Courthouse, which I’ll write about in another post, and also include other Texas courthouses.

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

 

 

 

 

 

Titus County Courthouse: The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

254 Texas Courthouses Website.

Texas Courthouses.

A Link to Several of My Courthouse Photographs in Colorado, Kansas and Texas.

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Filed under Architecture, Photography, Travel

History on Every Street in Jefferson, Texas

The Jefferson, Texas, General Store beckons travelers, tourists and residents with refreshments, clothing and all sorts of other enticements.

Whenever I visit my sister in Tyler, Texas, we go on tours of the many historic towns in her corner of Texas, called the Piney Woods.  On my recent visit, my sister took us (my mother and niece, too) to Jefferson, in the northeast corner of the state.

We happened to go when the city was preparing for its annual re-enactment of the Battle for Jefferson, a Civil War battle.  The re-enactment is reported to be the largest in Texas.  We didn’t see this re-enactment, but we saw many of its participants in town before it began.  You can check out the links below to find out more about this fascinating town, where there is an historic plaque or marker on almost every public building and on many residences. Shortly after the Civil War, which ended in 1865, Jefferson was the six largest town in Texas. Now, although it’s a small town, it retains its historic grandeur. The town, which is in Marion County, was named after Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.

Click on the thumbnails at the bottom of the post to see full-size versions of the collages.

Jefferson General Store

In the upper left, a cat leaves empty pawed from the Jefferson General Store, Jefferson, Texas. Shoppers in Civil War era clothing examine the goods in the general store.

Re-enactors in Jefferson, Texas

Re-enactors in Jefferson, Texas, for the Battle for Jefferson, a U.S. Civil war re-enactment, which takes place the first weekend in May. Some of the many historical buildings are visible in this collage: The Old Post Office, the Marion County Courthouse, Excelsior House hotel; and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

Civil War re-enactors

Participants in the U.S. Civil War re-enactment of the Battle for Jefferson relax and shop in Jefferson, Texas.

History is on Every Corner in Jefferson, Texas

History is on every corner and every street in Jefferson Texas. From the upper left is the Old Post Office, now the historical society; The Excelsior House hotel; The Jefferson Carnegie Library, still operating as a library; and the Sterne Fountain.

Jefferson, Texas.

History on every corner, including old gasoline stations turned into antique stores, markers dedicated to residents who got famous and even old clawfoot bathtubs featured at an antique store.

Jefferson, Texas

Jefferson, Texas, offers tourists a variety of destinations to explore, including the Museum of Measurement and Time and the Jay Gould Railroad Car.

About Jefferson, Texas.

Visit Jefferson, Texas.

Jefferson Carnegie Library.

About the Battle for Jefferson.

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Filed under History, Photography, Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, Travel

Webster House in Kansas City

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

One of my favorite buildings to photograph is the Webster House, formerly the Webster School. It’s in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri. 

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

It’s a beautiful work of art, designed in the “Richardson Romanesque” style.  What a grand place it must have been to attend school there! It’s lovely inside and out with fabulous interior wood woodwork. The school officially opened in 1886 and then closed in 1932. It was restored, opening in 2002, as a beautiful dining and shopping location. The Webster House has a beautiful bell tower, which is a reconstruction. The original was removed after another school’s bell tower fell during a tornado and caused the death of fifteen students.  I like to meet friends and family at the Webster House for lunch or dinner, served in a couple of lovely dining rooms, which were once school rooms.

Behind the Webster House are the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Bartle Hall Pylons, architectural icons and modern additions to the Downtown Kansas City landscape.

The Webster School was designed by the Kansas City School Board’s architect, Manuel Diaz. Webster House is one of the oldest remaining public school buildings in Kansas City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Webster School was the last area school built with a bell tower on top. In 1886 a tornado caused the bell tower on the Lathrop School at Ninth and Broadway to crash into the school, collapsing the third and second floors into the basement and burying children in the debris.  Bell towers were no longer permitted on top of schools after this tragedy.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

History of the Webster House.

History of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Crossroads Arts District.

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Filed under Education, Kansas City, Personal, Photography

Marvelous Melbourne

People gather at Federation Square, which is a civic and cultural center in Melbourne, Australia.  About Federation Square.

People gather at Federation Square, which is a civic and cultural center in Melbourne, Australia. About Federation Square.

Four years ago (has it really been that long?) my husband and I and our long-time friends Mike and Anita visited Melbourne, Australia.  We’re enduring another snowstorm in Kansas City (it’s late March, doesn’t Mother Nature read the calendar!), so I’m looking through my photographs of warmer days and places, including Melbourne.  I’m feeling warmer already!

Melbourne is a gorgeous city of more than four million people  on Australia’s southeast coast in the state of Victoria. It’s known as the “Garden City” and Australia’s “Cultural Capital.”  Melbourne is also the home of the Australian Open. We coincidentally were there at the same time as the tournament as we made our way to Tasmania.

The Old Melbourne Gaol is now a museum. Between 1842 and its closure in 1929 the old Melbourne Gaol was the scene of 133 hangings including Australia’s most infamous citizen, the bushranger Ned Kelly, who was hanged on the gaol grounds on November 11, 1880.

Melbourne was ranked as the world’s most liveable city in ratings published by the Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit in August 2011 and in 2012. It’s no mystery why Melburnians call their city Marvelous Melbourne. People from Tasmania (it was then called Van Diemen’s Land) founded Melbourne in 1835, 47 years after the European settlement of Australia.  The 1850s gold rush in the state of Victoria transformed Melbourne into one of the world’s largest and richest cities.

We were only there for two days in January 2009, so I’m not an expert, but we did take a whirlwind tour of some of notable sights, such as the Melbourne Museum, The Melbourne Aquarium, Rod Laver Arena (from the outside), St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Royal Exhibition Building, Captain James Cook’s Cottage, and Federation Square. We visited the Old Melbourne Gaol, which held Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers (highway robber), who was hanged there in 1880.  Heath Ledger played Ned Kelly in a 2003 movie, also starring Orlando Bloom.

Captain Cook's Cottage in a Melbourne, Australia, park.

This is the home of the parents of Captain James Cook. The cottage was built in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, deconstructed and and then re-built in 1934 in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Melbourne is known for its wrought iron trim.

Melbourne is known for its cast iron trim, which adorns “Melbourne Style” Victorian terrace houses. The gold rush in 1850s triggered a building boom, enabling developers to build costly and ornate Victorian-style homes and public building.

It was a hot day on the streets of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1-21-09

It was a hot day on the streets of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, January 21, 2009.

Contemporary Aborigine Art was on display in an art gallery in Melbourne, Australia, January 2009.

Contemporary Aborigine Art was on display in an art gallery in Melbourne, Australia, January 2009. Melbourne is  Australia’s cultural capital and is home to the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s oldest and largest public art museum.

Coincidentally, we were in Melbourne during the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, held at Rod Laver Arena.  This is as close as we got. It was very hot. The following week, after we left, was even hotter, and sadly there were many bushfires near Melbourne, resulting in many people's deaths and many animals were also killed.

Coincidentally, we were in Melbourne during the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, held at Rod Laver Arena. This is as close as we got. It was very hot. The following week, after we left, was even hotter, and sadly there were many bushfires near Melbourne, resulting in the deaths of many people and animals.

On January 21, 2009, in Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, people gather to watch a re-broadcast of Barack Obama's take the oath of office to become the President of the United States.

On January 21, 2009, in Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, people gather to watch a re-broadcast of Barack Obama taking the oath of office to become the President of the United States.

We rode the free tourist trolley around Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne, Australia, has the largest tram network in the world. We rode the Heritage trams that operate on the free City Circle route intended for visitors.

This is the interior of St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, which is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Victoria in Australia.

This is the interior of St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, which is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Victoria in Australia.

The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site-listed building in Melbourne, Australia, completed in 1880.

The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site-listed building in Melbourne, Australia, completed in 1880.

Phar Lap (1926–1932) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse, whose hide is on exhibit in the Melbourne Museum, which is in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, Australia, adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building. About Phar Lap

Phar Lap (1926–1932) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse, whose on exhibit in the Melbourne Museum, which is in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, Australia, adjacent to the Royal Exhibition Building. About Phar Lap

Click on any thumbnail to see a slide show of more photographs in full size  of Melbourne. Below the slide show are links to information about Melbourne.

About Melbourne.

About Phar Lap

About Federation Square.

About the Melbourne Aquarium.

About the Melbourne Museum.

About Captain Cook’s’ Cottage.

About the Leafy Seadragon.

Here is why is there so much cast iron lacework on buildings in Melbourne.

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Historic Theaters

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

It was love at first sight when I saw The Rialto Theatre.  I was introduced to this old beauty when I visited my friend Jan in South Pasadena, California, in the 1990’s. I’ve taken many photographs of “The Rialto” since then, but may not get the chance much longer if it isn’t saved.  This venerable theater opened in 1925 but it is now closed and in danger of demolition, as are many old theaters.  A scene in Robert Altman’s movie film “The Player” was filmed in The Rialto’s back alley.  “Scream 2” also featured The Rialto.

The Rialto is beautiful even in its decay.   Like so many old theaters, it was decorated grandly.  It has a fanciful Moorish, Egyptian and baroque motif. When I wrote an article for the Kansas City Star’s magazine about Orval Hixon, who photographed vaudeville stars from 1914 to 1930, I saw photographs of many glamorous theaters that have now fallen into ruin or are gone.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the “old days,” an evening spent in the theater was a beautiful experience beyond what was being performed on the stage or shown on the screen. Some of the first movies I saw as a child was in The Orpheum, a gorgeously decorated old theater in Wichita, Kansas, which was originally built for vaudeville shows. Like many entertainment legends, these old theaters needs more than face lifts to keep them alive.  Sometimes only the marquee sign is all that’s saved from an old theater.

Some of the theaters, such as the ones in Hawaii that I photographed, might not be grand, but they have their own charm. Farm workers and U.S. servicemen were among their clientale.

It’s bittersweet seeing these old cinema relics, whether they are grand cinema palaces or more humble screens. I’m grateful many of these historic theaters are still standing, but who knows for how long? People watch films on their computers and even on their phones these days.  When people do go to the theater they want a great sound system, recliner seats, cup holders and even 3-D screens.

Jan and I and our husbands planned to see a movie at The Rialto in the early 2000s, when the theater was still open, but when we got to the box office we were told that the projector was broken.  So we walked across the street to a video store and rented a VHS movie to watch at home. Sadly, I never saw a movie at The Rialto before it closed.

Here’s a slide show of theaters I’ve photographed in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan and Missouri.  There is information about each theater when you click on the photo.  CLICK ON ANY THUMBNAIL PHOTO TO BEGIN THE SLIDESHOW AND SEE THE PHOTOS FULL SIZED.

Click on Cinema Treasures for a guide to more than 30,000 movie theaters from around the world, including theaters that are now closed.

Click on I’m Not Ready For My Close Up to read about my brief appearance on the Big Screen in the movie “fling.”

Here’s a blog that documents grand old theaters, many sadly in advanced decay.  After the Final Curtain

About the theaters featured in slide show:

The Rialto, South Pasadena, California

Friends of The Rialto

Friends of The Rialto Facebook Page.

Sebastiani Theatre, Sonoma, California.

Michigan Theatre, Escanaba, Michigan

Gem Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

Aloha Theatre, Kainaliu, Big Island, Hawaii

Honoka’a People’s Theater, Honoka’a, Big Island, Hawaii

Honomu Theater, Honomu, Big Island, Hawaii

Na’alehu Theatre, Na’alehu, Big Island, Hawaii

Park Theatre, Estes Park, Colorado

Screenland Crossroads Sign from old Isis Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri.

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Filed under Entertainment, History, Movies, Photography, Travel

Kansas City Street Scene

I love this view of one section of Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, juxtaposed between an unrelated mural on the left and the Denny’s sign on the right. I took this photo from my car window while stopped at a red light in June 2012. We were on our way to a wedding reception in the nearby Crossroads District of Kansas City. The Kauffman Center offers two performance venues.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, is an artwork in itself. This photo only shows the west shell (wing) of the building, but the east shell looks similar. Shell seems like the right word for the wings, because the building does have a creature-like appearance. I thought of an armadillo when I first saw it. When my husband stopped at a red light as we drove near it on our way to a wedding reception in June, I quickly took the photo. Sometimes, long red lights are a good thing! My friend Jan and I had recently driven past the Center when she visited from Los Angeles, so Jan, here’s another view!

The two wings (Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall) are designed for the needs of opera, dance and musical performances. The Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Ballet perform in the Center.

The Kauffman Center opened in September 2011, and a month later, friends invited my husband and me to a performance of “Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis” in the glorious Kauffman Center. It’s time we went back!

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Website.

Wikipedia on the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

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Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson

   

Thomas Jefferson Postcard postcard  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence.  

I’m sure I’ve been smitten with Thomas Jefferson ever since my parents first took me as an infant to the Jefferson Memorial, where the great man’s statue towered over me the way he does over United States history.   We also visited Mount Rushmore many times in the Black Hills, where my father’s family lived, and Jefferson’s sculpture there loomed even larger.  

After an introduction by my parents, Tom and I meet! It would have been love at first sight if I could have kept my eyes open.

Jefferson’s birthday on April 13th is a holiday for me.  Happy Birthday, Tom!  Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have welcomed any attention to his birthday, however.  

“In 1803, citizens of Boston wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson asking to make April 13, his birthday, a holiday.  Jefferson courteously turned them down, saying he disapproved of ‘transferring the honors and veneration for the great birthday or our Republic to any individual.’  For the rest of his life, he refused to reveal to the public the day he was born,” wrote Peter Gibbon in an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2007.   

Among his many political offices, Jefferson was the third U.S. President, second vice president, first Secretary of State, Ambassador to France and Virginia’s second governor. Jefferson was cofounder and leader of the Democratic-Republican party, which favored states’ rights, while the Federalists  favored a strong national government. These differences continue in some form in the U.S. political parties today.  

Years after our first meeting, here are Tom and I on another date. I should have worn heels. My friend Anita captured this moment.

Accomplished in many fields, Jefferson was a horticulturist, political leader, diplomat, attorney, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia.  He played the violin and was a dedicated diarist of his daily life.  He was a brilliant writer.  He invented many conveniences and devices, such as the swivel chair. The entry hall of Monticello contained a natural history display of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their expedition, and which are now re-created in a display for visitors to see.   

In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House, Kennedy said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”  

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale, 1791.

Scholars rank Jefferson as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.  

How did Jefferson view his own accomplishments? It was Jefferson’s wish that his tomb stone reflect the things that he had given the people, not the things that the people had given to him, so his epitaph at his burial place at Monticello reads: HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINA.  

However, not everyone appreciated Jefferson’s many gifts, talents and contributions.  In his own time, members of the rival Federalist Party called Jefferson the Antichrist.  Though he was a brilliant writer, he was a poor public speaker and had a lisp.   His estate at Monticello never earned enough to pay his expenses, and he was forced to pay the debts of others, as well.  At his death, his estate and its belongings were sold.  Jefferson liked to live well, introducing exotic foods such as olives and capers and serving French wine nearly every night.   He introduced many new crops and tried to grow grapes for wine, but they didn’t prosper.  There were plenty of political guests to be entertained, which caused him to go deeper and deeper into debt each year because his salary didn’t cover the bills. He agonized over both personal and public debt.  These days, our top leaders jet around and entertain at public expense.  

My husband surprised me with a trip to Monticello for the 250th anniversary celebration of Thomas Jefferson's birthday in 1993. (The trip just happened to coincide with a Grateful Dead concert in Washington , D.C., that we also went to.) Years earlier, we'd driven to Monticello as part of our honeymoon, made it to the parking lot, but both were so stricken with colds that we lacked the strength to even go inside. He knew I'd always wanted to go back.

His beloved home Monticello was designed on neoclassical principles.  Jefferson constantly worked to improve it over the more than forty years he lived there.  After his return from France, he added the dome. It looks much larger than it actually is, perhaps because of its stately lines.  A private non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, operates the houses as a museum.  Monticello is the only private home in the United States that is designated as World Heritage Site.  

Even today, Jefferson catches flak even from people who might otherwise admire his devotion to the Constitution.  According to the New York Times,  in a recent fight over what would be included in Texas textbooks, “Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond (Texas) who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)  

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

Jefferson loved books. After the British burned Washington, D.C. and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own fifty-year collection of books to the nation to rebuild the Library of Congress. Congress accepted his offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6, 487 books.  After watching the carts haul away the books, Jefferson wrote to his old friend and one-time adversary John Adams, “I cannot live without books.”  He immediately began to buy more. I know how he feels.  I can’t imagine life without them and am now sure that I’d feel the same way about books on electronic devices. I need the smell, the feel, the bulk of them lined up on my shelves. Jefferson was widely knowledgeable about a great deal of topics and liked to expound on them.  A recent book has even suggested that Jefferson had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  I doubt it, but the author, who lived in my area, made an interesting case for it. 

 “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” Jefferson wrote, but he had his differences and fallings out with friends over politics, including John Adams.   

 Years later, mellowed with age, Jefferson and Adams resumed their friendship by letter.  On July 4, 1826, at about the time Jefferson died, Adams whispered, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  Adams died later that same day, the Fourth of July.  The spirit of Jefferson does survive. 

Here in 1993, researchers dig and sift the dirt around Monticello to look for household goods and other items from Jefferson's time.

Some of Jefferson’s opponents accused him in print of being an alcoholic and of other moral weakness, which may explain Jefferson’s ambivalence about newspapers.  He also used them against others, as well.  

 “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” he said.   Another famous quote of  his:  “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. ” 

This time, Tom brought along some of his stellar presidential friends. I've been making this pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota since I was a toddler. (I'm not sure it's such as good idea to blast giant sculptures in a mountain, but it was a great childhood memory.) UPDATE: On the April 16, 2010, episode of Jeopardy (my favorite show) there was a question about Jefferson's position on Mount Rushmore.

Yet he also said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” 

He was a strong advocate of educating the public, saying “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” and  “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”  I wonder what he would make of today’s endless noise on the internet.  

According to Willard Stern Randall, “No presidential election since 1800 has taken place without an attempt to damage at least one candidate’s reputation by innuendo, rumor, and ridicule in order to make him appear unworthy of the nation’s highest office, but none has more brutally combined these tactics than the 1800 campaign, which left Jefferson stunned and the country deeply divided for years.”  

This is my ticket to Monticello for the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth, when many of his belongings and furniture were returned. A few years later, I painted a mural of Monticello and its grounds in my kitchen in a house inspired (in a modest fashion) by Monticello. (Okay, it was a rectangle and had red brick and white pillars on the front porch.)

The political parties were bitter foes, and violence wasn’t unusual.  While Jefferson’s vice president, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, in a duel. (See link below.)  

Accusations against Jefferson about his alleged sexual liaisons were widely publicized as a way to discredit him.  He denied them or ignored them, but some, such as his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, were very likely true.  DNA analysis of Sally’s descendants show that they are related to at least some member of Jefferson’s family. Jefferson’s granddaughter pointed the finger at another family member as the father of Sally’s children.  Even if the rumors had not been true, Jefferson, the fervent writer of documents on freedom, was a slave owner. He was troubled by slavery but only freed seven of his slaves, two during his lifetime, all probably related to him.  Although Jefferson was an outspoken abolitionist, biographers have pointed out that his slaves were encumbered by debt and mortgages, which Jefferson never overcame.

Tom and I enjoy some quiet time together after a busy day on the slopes at Beaver Creek, Colorado. Tom finally got to see the great West that fascinated him so much. Of course, he's writing about it here.

Further ickiness:  Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife Martha.  Three-quarters white, Sally was said to look very much like Martha, who was long dead before Sally entered the Jefferson household.  While a Virginia legislator, Jefferson succeeded in passing an act prohibiting the importation of slaves but not slavery itself.  On March 3, 1807, Jefferson as president signed a bill making slave importation illegal in the United States.  

Here is a Thomas Jefferson First Day of Issue Stamp. I think I bought it in the Monticello gift shop. Jefferson and Monticello have been featured on several stamps. Jefferson is portrayed on the U.S. nickel and the two-dollar bill.

Jefferson favored states’ rights and a strictly limited federal government, yet one of his most significant acts as president was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 of 828,800 square miles of territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.   This purchase now comprises 23 percent of the current United States.  Many Americans opposed the purchase as being possibly unconstitutional.   Jefferson himself thought that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, but he decided to purchase Louisiana to prevent France and Spain from having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.   Jefferson believed that a U.S. President did not have the Constitutional authority to make such a deal.  He also thought that to do so would erode states’ rights by increasing federal executive power.  But the potential French threat outweighed his constitutional queasiness.  Additionally, Jefferson had always been fascinated by the west and its people and animals and began drafting plans for a western exploration as early as 1793.  Immediately after his election, he began to plan for an expedition to explore as far as the Pacific, so the prospect of buying the land from the French must have been irresistable.   In 1803, Jefferson sponsored the  Lewis and Clark expedition to explore this newly purchased land.

Thomas Jefferson founded and designed the buildings of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Along with Monticello, the University of Virginia is one of only three modern U.S. sites designated as a World Heritage Site. Of this University, Jefferson explained, "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." The University also followed the direction that higher education should be completely separated from religious doctrines.

It’s probably obvious that I have a crush on Thomas Jefferson.  I’m a Tom Girl.   Though very cerebral and devoted to reason, Jefferson was also passionate.  While in France, he became smitten with Maria Cosway, an Italian artist married to a much older man, a celebrated miniature artist.  William Sterne Randall writes in his biography of Jefferson: ” Thomas Jefferson fell in love with Maria Cosway the moment he met her.  For four years he had been faithful to the vow he had made to his wife on her deathbed.  There is no hint that he had made even the briefest liaison with any of the many Frenchwomen he had met in Paris. But no sooner was Jefferson introduced to the Cosways than he began to devise how he could spend every possible moment with this lively, languid, beautiful Maria, with her musical, slightly Italian accent.”  

Maria and Jefferson spent almost every day together for weeks in Paris, which could partly explain Jefferson’s love of that country, if not its government.  Once while dashing to his carriage to meet Maria, Jefferson fell and broke his right wrist, which made playing the violin very difficult after that. He wrapped his wrist and went ahead to meet her, despite the agony.  Later, struggling to write with his left hand, he penned his now famous “My Head and My Heart” letter to Maria in which reason battled emotion.   

Jefferson, at 29,  married the 23-year-old widow Martha Wayles Skelton. During their ten years of marriage, they had six children, but only two survived to adulthood, including the oldest, Martha Jefferson Randolph.  Jefferson’s wife Martha died on September 6, 1782, after the birth of her last child. Jefferson never remarried, honoring his wife’s deathbed wish. He destroyed all correspondence between them.   After his wife’s funeral, Jefferson refused to leave his room for three weeks. Then he spent endless hours riding horseback alone around Monticello. He didn’t resume a normal life until mid-October, but suffered from depression for years afterward.  

 Martha Randolph, who had twelve children, was considered the third First Lady, acting as hostess to her father, because her father was a widower.  

It’s impossible to do Jefferson’s life justice in this post.  I recommend reading Willard Sterne Randall’s “Thomas Jefferson – A Life.”  I also read Fawn M. Brodie’s  “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History.”  

For more information here are some Wikipedia links are Thomas Jefferson  Monticello  Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party   The Federalist Party  Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton Duel  The University of Virginia

A great website is Monticello — The Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  

Additionally, I’ve selected many of Jefferson’s quotes, all of which I think ring true today.  

  • It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
  • We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.

    On my most recent visit to Washington, D.C., with my friend Anita, I finally visited the Jefferson Memorial -- the first since I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, as a baby. The dome of the Jefferson Memorial suggests the one topping Jefferson's home, Monticello.

  • It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.
  • To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
  • A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
  • A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned-this is the sum of good government.
  • All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
  • Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.
  • Delay is preferable to error.
  • He who knows best knows how little he knows.
  • I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
  • I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
  • I have come to a resolution myself, as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may.
  • I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
  • General Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after eight years. I shall follow it. And a few more precedents will oppose the obstacle of habit to any one who after a while shall endeavor to extend his term.
  • I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of others’ religion by their lives…for it is from our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.
  • The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.
  • Were it made a question whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last; and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of wolves.
  • Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government. I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later.
  • When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
  • I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours…They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people.
  • We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather bed.
  • I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
  • No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.
  • My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
  • No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.
  • No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden
  • None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important.
  • Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
  • Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
  • Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
  • One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
  • Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
  • Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
  • Politics is such a torment that I advise everyone I love not to mix with it.
  • Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
  • Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.
  • Taste cannot be controlled by law.
  • That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.
  • The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper
  • The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave
  • When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.
  • When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
  • Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.

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