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Landmarks In America

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Plymouth Rock

By December of 1620, after a long Atlantic voyage, the English Separatist
William Bradford and his crew had explored several landing spots along the
North American coast. They'd rejected various locations after having conflicts
with indigenous people. Finally, according to legend, Bradford and his party
disembarked on a large boulder, which would eventually be known as Plymouth
Rock. They soon declared the surrounding area suitable for their New World
settlement, Plymouth Colony.

Although the rock has much historical significance, evidently none of the
Pilgrims mentioned it in their writings. Knowledge of its location was
traditionally passed from parents to their children. In 1741, the 94-year-old
Elder Faunce identified Plymouth Rock as the stone his father had pointed out
years earlier. Faunce was a somewhat credible source; he had been Plymouth's
record keeper for many decades. Still, his father had not been among the
original Plymouth settlers; he'd arrived three years later in 1623 and heard
the Plymouth Rock story from others. Nevertheless, people accepted Faunce's
story and the identified rock took on great patriotic significance.

It's estimated that the rock weighed about 20,000 pounds when Bradford and 101
other Mayflower passengers left their ship in 1620. Since then, the rock has
lost many sections to souvenir-hunters. It's also been accidentally split in
two and eventually reunited.

How did Plymouth Rock become split? In 1774, as the Revolutionary spirit took
over in Massachusetts Bay Colony, a group of people "animated by the glorious
spirit of liberty" intended to move the entire rock to the Plymouth Meeting
House. Colonel Theopolis Cotton and a group of "Liberty Boys" prepared a
carriage drawn by oxen. As they pulled the rock from the ground, it was
unintentionally cracked it in two!

Superstitious townspeople believed the divided rock was symbolic of the British
Empire. They left the "British half" of the rock in the water. Only the top
"liberty half" of the rock was then moved. It soon rested beneath a Meeting
House flagpole and a flag that declared "Liberty or Death". The remainder of
the rock stayed embedded in the wharf. The next year, a colonial revolutionary
would capture British soldiers and, for his amusement, have them step onto
Plymouth Rock, a symbol of American independence.

The two parts of the rock have experienced a few changes since the 1774
division. In 1834, the top section of the rock was removed to Pilgrim Hall (a
museum) and put under the auspices of the historical Pilgrim Society. In 1859,
the Pilgrim Society began building a Victorian canopy to cover the piece of
rock left at the wharf. The canopy was completed in 1867. Since many bits of
the rock were being taken by travelers and shopkeepers for profit, an iron gate
was soon erected. In 1880 the top of the rock was moved back to shore and
affixed to the bottom portion with cement. At this time, the landing date 1620
was carved.

In 1920 the rock was moved yet again. In honor of the 300th anniversary of the
Plymouth Rock landing, the entire Plymouth waterfront was redesigned with a
promenade and seawall. The cemented rock was moved to the waterfront and a
portico was erected for viewers. Today the rock is managed as part of Pilgrim
Memorial State Park. Tourists can visit the rock for free year-round. From May
through Thanksgiving, staff members are on hand to tell visitors about Plymouth
Rock's history.

History and Attractions of Boston Common

Boston Common is the oldest city park in the United States. The eccentric
William Blaxton settled the land, all alone with his books, in the 1620s. In
1634 he sold the land to English Puritan colonists for use as a shared cow and
sheep pasture. Each household contributed six shillings to the purchase.
Eventually, the land was also used for military training, sometimes by
colonists and sometimes by their British occupiers. Until 1817, the land was
Boston's site for public hangings. Livestock grazing was banned in 1830. In
modern times, Boston Common serves mainly as a recreation center. It anchors
Boston's "Emerald Necklace", a chain of parks that runs about seven miles
through the city. The park itself measures about forty-four acres.

As one of the nation's oldest landmarks, Boston Common has become rich with
items of historical interest. The park is home to the Central Burying Ground,
one of Boston's first graveyards. Among those buried there are choral composer
William Billings, portrait artist Gilbert Stuart, and many casualties of the
1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. Unfortunately, the subway tunneling of 1894
disturbed more than 900 (perhaps 2,000) of the cemetery's deceased residents!
They were later reburied, and a tablet marks the location of the event.

Several monuments can be spotted throughout the Common. The Robert Gould Shaw
Memorial, for example, is a Civil War monument honoring the first free black
regiment in the Union Army. (Shaw commanded the all-volunteer regiment and is
depicted in the Hollywood film "Glory".) Another impressive Civil War sculpture
is The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Located atop the Common's Flagstaff Hill,
this neoclassica l work of art rises an impressive 126 feet. Elsewhere, in the
park's Parkman Plaza, statues pay homage to the ideals of Industry, Learning,
and Religion.

With so many acres of green space, the park has hosted many large public
events. In 1713 a public riot broke out in response to a food shortage. Two
hundred people were present, and the lieutenant governor was shot during the
chaos. A century and half later, in 1969, a Vietnam protest drew 100,000
people. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II also drew large crowds
for their speeches. The park's Parkman Bandstand holds smaller crowds for plays
and concerts.

Boston Common is full of longstanding attractions for people of all ages. The
Public Garden was established in 1837 as the nation's oldest botanical garden.
Prior to that time, the land had been a salty swamp. The 24-acre garden is
especially famous for its fleet of swan-shaped boats. Weather permitting,
visitors ride the boats from spring through autumn.

The Frog Pond is another popular destination within the park. The Frog Pond is
a popular children's wading pool in the summer. During the brisk Boston
winters, it freezes into an ice skating rink. When the Frog Pond first opened
in 1848, school was closed for a day just so children could play in the
fountain! Today the Tadpole Playground is adjacent. Boston Common is flanked by
other points of interest, such as: the Massachusetts State House, which stands
to the north; Park Street Station -- America's first subway station -in the
eastern corner; and Boylston Street Station -- America's second subway station
-- to the south. For those who prefer to walk, the Freedom Trail (a popular
walking tour) also starts to the south of Boston Common at the Visitor Center.

The Massachusetts State House

On July 4, 1798, surviving fathers of the American Revolution met in Boston for
the dedication of the Massachusetts State House. Governor Samuel Adams and
patriot Paul Revere placed the cornerstone, and Revere would later roll copper
sheeting for the capitol's dome. With pomp and circumstance, stone for the
building was drawn by fifteen white horses -- one for each state in the Union.
The State House would come to be known as one of the greatest works of
neoclassical architecture in the United States. It also boasts a prime
location, sitting on Beacon Hill and overlooking the prosperous Back Bay and
Boston Commons.

When the architect Charles Bulfinch designed this graceful seat of government,
he was inspired by the neoclassical Somerset House that rose above London's
River Thames. Architectural buffs describe the State House design as
intermediate between Georgian and Federal styles. It is chiefly red brick with
white accents. It has delicate Corinthian columns, gently arching windows, and
a vast golden dome.

The golden dome has been through a few important changes. The mound was
originally covered in wooden shingles. After Paul Revere laid copper sheeting,
the dome was finished with gold plating. It was painted gray during World War
II to reduce its vulnerability to potential Axis bombers; if there had been a
blackout, the government's dome would've shone conspicuously in the moonlight.

The State House dome is capped with a pinecone. This symbolizes the state's
appreciation for the pine tree. Early Boston architecture, including the State
House itself, relied upon pinewood from surrounding forests.

As state government grew, Massachusetts built additions to Bulfinch's work. In
1895, a yellow brick Brigham Annex was erected for new bureaucrats' offices.
Two marbled stone wings were added in the early 1900s to provide fireproofing
and additional office space. Inside the State House today are the Governor's
office, the chambers of the House and Senate, and three halls.

Doric Hall is named for the ten Doric columns that line its interior. These
were originally carved trunks from pine trees, but today the columns are made
of plaster and iron. Doric Hall is home to many statues and portraits,
including an 1826 statue of George Washington. In the marble corridor just
outside Doric, the "Hear Us" display honors the contributions of several
influential women from Massachusetts history, including Dorothea Dix and Lucy

The Hall of Flags honors Massachusetts residents who served in battles. It
displays copies of battle flags from all of the wars in which Massachusetts
regiments have participated. (The original textile flags are being preserved
elsewhere.) These include flags from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and
II, the Korean War, Berlin, and Vietnam. The Hall of Flags is also decorated
with murals, such as "The Return of the Colors," which depicts the return of
flags after Civil War combat in 1865.

The Great Hall, completed in 1990, is the newest architectural addition to the
State House. This impressive, airy hall is made of tri-colored marble topped
with a glass dome. Circular patterns on the floor were installed to create a
clock motif; a few years earlier, the state legislature had acquired an
extravagant $100,000 clock made in modernist style. The room is also decorated
with 351 flags from Massachusetts localities. The expansive room is used for
large state events. A statue of President John F. Kennedy depicts him striding
across the Hall -- perhaps to meet up with a nearby figure of Horace Mann or
Daniel Webster.

Two statues of Colonial American women stand on the State House lawn. One is of
Anne Hutchinson, whose religious teachings led to her excommunication from
Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. She then co-founded Rhode Island on the
principle of religious freedom. The second statue is of Mary Dyer. In 1660,
Bostonians hanged her for violating a ban against Quakers traveling in their
colony. Dyer's statue eerily overlooks the site of her execution: the gallows
on Boston Common. She is one of four people known as the Boston Martyrs. Along
with the spirits of Anne Hutchinson, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and other
influential Americans, Mary Dyer's spirit lives on at the State House.

Democracy and Tasty Treats at Faneuil Hall

Boston's Faneuil Hall, which has been nicknamed "The Cradle of Liberty", hosted
America's first political town meeting. Since its construction by French
Huguenot merchant Peter Faneuil in 1742, the hall has served as a shelter for
sheep, a lively marketplace, and a center for free speech.

From the start, the hall's activities have been divided by floor. The first
floor briefly held African sheep herded from New Hampshire; a sheep shortage
soon brought that program to a halt. Since 1748, the first floor has served as
a public marketplace; Peter Faneuil encouraged pushcart vendors to permanently
set up shop. The second floor has long featured the meeting hall, though it was
briefly converted a theater during the British occupation of 1774.

The first public meeting held at Faneuil was actually on the occasion of Peter
Faneuil's death; his eulogy was read at the hall. Revolutionaries later used
the site to protest King George's taxes and to pen the famous doctrine
concerning "no taxation without representation". Following the Boston Massacre,
the public filled the hall to capacity to discuss the event. The patriot orator
Samuel Adams gave an impassioned speech, and two years later, he would there
initiate the first Committee of Correspondence. That meeting of colonial
representatives is commonly considered the beginning of the American
Revolution. Today, a statue of Sam Adams stands outside the Hall.

As time went on, Faneuil Hall continued to be a popular political forum.
Suffragist Lucy Stone and abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William
Lloyd Garrison drew crowds in the 1800s. In the past century, Ted Kennedy and
Bill Clinton have helped it maintain the "Cradle of Liberty" nickname.

Architecturally, Faneuil Hall has undergone several expansions and
restorations. First, the entire building was razed in a 1761 fire. It was
quickly rebuilt in time to hear early revolutionaries' speeches in 1762. Next,
the building was significantly expanded in 1806. America's first native-born
architect, Charles Bulfinch, doubled the hall's height and width. He added
galleries around the second floor assembly room and added a third floor. Twenty
years later, additional construction expanded the Quincy Market. This meat and
produce market had been drawing more and more vendors and customers. By the
mid1900s, however, the building had fallen into disrepair and was losing public
interest. Major restoration saved Faneuil Hall in the 1970s. This urban renewal
was among the first in American cities and inspired other projects nationwide.

One architectural element that has remained constant is a 38-pound gilded
copper grasshopper! It's the centerpiece of the building's weathervane. Peter
Faneuil commissioned an artist to create this grasshopper; he was inspired by
one that sat atop the Royal Exchange's pinnacle in London. Thus, for colonial
merchants the Faneuil Hall weathervane was a symbol of Old World commerce. The
grasshopper became so wellknown to northerners that when someone suspected a
spy during the Revolution, they'd ask, "What sits atop Faneuil Hall?" Those who
didn't know were deemed likely British agents.

Today's Faneuil Hall Marketplace refers to a group of four buildings: Faneuil
Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. The marketplace has pubs,
restaurants, and more than 125 vendors offering a wide variety of food and
crafts. Each year more than 15 million people visit the market. The popular
landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now part
of Boston National Historical Park.

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a familiar symbol of
independence, freedom, and justice in America. Originally called the State
House Bell, it was commissioned in 1751 by colonial representatives. The bell
has been tolled on important days from the colonial era to modern times. After
enduring cracks, repairs, and an exciting hideout from the British, the bell is
now on display. It is rung every Fourth of July.

In 1751, three men representing the Pennsylvania Assembly wrote a letter to
their colonial agent in London. On the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn's
Charter of Privileges, they requested a bell for Philadelphia's State House
steeple. The agent arranged for casting at London's Whitechapel foundry, and
the bell was delivered in 1752.

The bell was met with much excitement. First of all, it weighed an impressive
2,080 pounds! More importantly, it was a solid, solemn symbol of what the
Pennsylvania Assembly hoped to uphold. William Penn had been especially
progressive with religious freedom, Native American rights, and democracy
overall. The bell was inscribed with a Biblical passage to capture this spirit:
"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

However, early on the bell cracked! Historians disagree about the source of the
fissure. In any case, the London foundry set about casting another bell.
Meanwhile, two Philadelphia men (John Pass and John Stow) attempted to repair
the one that had cracked. They fig ured that the alloy had been too brittle, so
they added more copper. This healed the wound, but people disliked the bell's
new tone. (They were aiming for a pleasant E note.) The men tried again, and
their second attempt was hung in the State House in 1753. When the re-ordered
British bell arrived, it was placed elsewhere in the State House to sound the
hours. Today, the State House is known as Independence Hall.

The State House bell was rung on many famous occasions in US history. It called
the Assembly together and summoned townspeople for special announcements. It
tolled when Benjamin Franklin headed for England to address colonists'
grievances; it tolled for discussion of the Sugar Act in 1764 and again for the
Stamp Act in 1765; and it rang again for the First Continental Congress in 1774.
The bell continued to signal important events, and many events were deemed
important during the Revolution. A group of citizens who lived near the bell
actually petitioned for less tolling, stating that they were inconvenienced and

Suddenly, in 1777, the city's bells were all removed. The British would soon be
occupying Philadelphia, and surely they'd melt the bells for cannon fodder. The
State House bell and more than a dozen others were moved to Zion's Reformed
Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania for safekeeping. They remained hidden beneath
church floorboards until after the occupation in 1778. After its reemergence,
the bell continued to sound for important events such as elections and the
Fourth of July.

It was referred to as the Independence Bell or the Old Yankees' Bell until 1837
when abolitionists noted its relevance to slavery and freedom. The bell's
Leviticus inscription can be interpreted as a call to end enslavement. For
example, the entire passage from Leviticus 25:10 includes, "And ye shall:
proclaim liberty throughout the land: and ye shall return every man unto his
family." Abolitionists adopted the bell as their symbol, and since then it's
been known as the Liberty Bell.

By 1846, the Liberty Bell had developed a thin crack that was affecting its
sound. It was repaired in time for George Washington's birthday that year, but
when rung on his birthday, it cracked severely. A replica "Centennial Ball" was
given to the city in 1876. The original bell is now on display in a new
pavilion, the Liberty Bell Center. The Centennial replica is hung in the
steeple of Independence Hall, and a third bell -- the "Bicentennial Ball"
granted by Queen Elizabeth -- hangs in a nearby tower.

The original bell is still rung, though gently, every July 4th. Young
descendents of famous revolutionaries are invited to tap the bell thirteen
times in celebration of the original thirteen states.

The White House

Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue is among the most famous addresses in the
United States. The 132-room home and workplace has also been known as the
"President's House" and the "Executive Mansion", but since 1902 it's officially
been called the White House.

When George Washington was President, government meetings were held in various
cities. He and Martha Washington kept two homes in New York and one in
Pennsylvania. Seeing the need for a federal city, the President and Congress
agreed in 1790 to the Residence Act. This provided for a district "not
exceeding ten miles square: on the river Potomac". The new federal city would
be designed by Pierre L'Enfant, and the city planner would hold a blueprints
contest for the President's house.

James Hoban, an Irishman living in South Carolina, won the competition with a
classic Georgian design. (Thomas Jefferson was also among the entrants; he
competed under a pseudonym.) Hoban based the building on a duke's palace in

Two states, Maryland and Virginia, ceded land for the new federal district.
Both were slaveholding states, and slaves broke ground for the home. The work
was completed by European immigrants. The new house wasn't built in time for
the Washingtons to move in; John and Abigail Adams were the first to take up
residence in 1800.

The building has undergone countless changes since the years of John and
Abigail Adams. Interior redecorating and structural changes started with the
next resident President, Thomas Jefferson. He ordered French furniture and
French wallpaper, and he added space outdoors to conceal stables and storage.
Other Presidents would make even larger additions: Theodore Roosevelt -- who
had six children and required more space -- contributed the West Wing; and FDR
added the East Wing during World War II to conceal construction of an
underground bunker.

Each Administration's time at the White House brought something new, but here
are some of the more notable changes:

* British soldiers burnt the building in 1814 during James Madison's
presidency. Most of the home and its contents were destroyed by fire. A
thunderstorm saved outside walls, and Dolley Madison rescued a famous portrait
of George Washington. The architect James Hoban was available for renovations.

* The White House needed an extensive washing after 20,000 muddy partiers
celebrated Andrew Jackson's inauguration. Jackson soon installed running water.
He also planted magnolia trees and made plans for later landscaping.

* James Garfield installed the first elevator.

* Harry Truman extensively renovated the whole house and added a second porch.
He also added basements for wartime safety.

* The White House was made more wheelchair-accessible during FDR's service. A
pool was also added in consideration of his physical challenges.

* Richard Nixon cemented over the FDR pool to create a Press Briefing Room.

* Jacquelyn Kennedy directed the most extensive and historically accurate White
House restoration. She also planted a flower garden.

* Rosalynn Carter contributed an "Office of the First Lady."

Today the White House Complex consists of six stories and 55,000 square feet of
space. The Executive Residence spans several floors. Two basement levels also
provide storage, service areas, and a bomb shelter for the President's family.
The West Wing holds executive offices including the Oval Office, the Cabinet
Room, and the Situation Room. The East Wing is home to offices for the First
Lady, White House correspondence staff, and other White House staff members.

Some of the interior is visible to the public, but tours must be pre-arranged
by a member of Congress. Visitors might tour the State Floor, where several
rooms are simply named by color: the Green Room, Red Room, and Blue Room. The
Green Room is named for the moss green silk that lines its walls. It's used for
informal meetings and photo opportunities with foreign political leaders. Famous
Green Room paintings depict Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, and Abigail
Adams. The Red Room is decorated like an early-1800s parlor with a marble
mantel. The Blue Room is the White House's most formal setting. It's shaped
like an oval and is furnished with gilded furniture. This is where the White
House Christmas tree is traditionally placed. Visitors might also see the Map
Room, the State Dining Room, or the famous Lincoln Bedroom.

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument, which is visible from almost everywhere in Washington,
D.C., is truly a city landmark. The 555-foot tall obelisk has punctuated the
National Mall since 1884. It honors George Washington, "Father of the United
States", who was unanimously elected the nation's first President.

When George Washington died in 1799, Congress praised him as "First in war,
first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." Politicians proposed a
Washington monument in the early 1800s, but they disagreed about details. For
example, should the monument include Washington's tomb? Would it be appropriate
to depict him in ancient Greek style? When a statue was eventually presented,
people objected to the half-clad classical Greek sort of George. Congressional
quibbling ultimately led to the creation of a private monument foundation.

The National Monument Society was formed in 1833. The members raised a
considerable amount of money within a few years, and in 1836 they announced a
design competition for the memorial.

An artist named Robert Mills submitted the winning design. He proposed a
600-foot obelisk that would protrude from a circular base. The base and obelisk
would be decorated with statues and frescoes of national heroes, including a
toga-clad George Washington in a horse-drawn chariot. In the end, however, the
obelisk would be a bit shorter, and the artist's plan for statues and frescoes
would not be realized.

The monument's cornerstone was laid amid great celebration in 1848.
Ceremonially, the National Monument Society ensured that the stone was set with
the same trowel George Washington had used when setting the Capitol's
cornerstone years earlier. The city celebrated that night with fireworks.

With the cornerstone set, the National Monument Society increased its efforts
to fund the project. Ordinary citizens were urged to pledge $1 each.
Businesses, professional organizations, foreign governments and Native American
tribes contributed stones. Sometimes the stone donations were engraved with
messages that didn't speak to the theme of George Washington; one block of
stone read, "We will not buy, sell, or use as a beverage, any spiritous or malt
liquors, Wine, Cider, or any other Alcoholic Liquor." Engraved stones make up
interior walls of the hollow monument.

Scandal erupted around a stone donation in 1854, and the entire project came to
a halt. The anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party stole and smashed a donation made
by Pope Pius IX. They dumped the stone chips into the Potomac River. This
resulted in Congress rescinding an approval for $200,000 in memorial funds. The
Know-Nothings then assumed management of the monument society, but their legacy
is unimpressive. Everything they added to the monument was eventually removed,
and no real progress was made until after the Civil War.

Because of the cut in funding, the monument ended up being shorter than
originally planned, and without the statues envisioned by Mills. A lag in
construction time also led to stone being sourced from different quarry layers,
so the coloring of the monument is not uniform.

Work was finally completed in 1884. The monument, though short of its goal, was
the largest structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower was completed five
years later. It was much larger than the Egyptian obelisks that inspired it;
these are typically about 100 feet tall. The walls were made fifteen feet thick
at the base and narrowed to 18 inches near the top. The monument was capped with
a 100-ounce aluminum pyramid. At the time, aluminum was scarce and was valued
like silver. This was the largest cast-aluminum item in the world.

Starting in 1888, adult male visitors were allowed to travel up the Washin gton
Monument in a twenty-minute steam-powered elevator ride. Somehow the ride was
deemed too risky for women and children; they would have to climb the 800
stairs for a view! Progressively speedier elevators were installed since then,
and for safety reasons people are now forbidden to use the stairs.

From the top of the Washington Monument, tourists can see most of Washington,
D.C. as well as parts of Maryland and Virginia. In March and April, flowering
cherry trees can be spotted in West Potomac Park below.

The Lincoln Memorial

Inside a Greek-style temple, a 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln looks out over
Washington, D.C. Above him are the words, "In this temple, as in the hearts of
the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is
enshrined forever."

Some say that the grandeur of Abraham Lincoln's memorial does not suit his
style; he was a modest man -- why immortalize him in a 99-foot tall Greek
temple? But supporters celebrate his grand achievements. Shortly after Abraham
Lincoln became US President, several states seceded from the Union. Before his
presidency ended, Lincoln saw his country through civil war, preserved its
union, and passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

The President was assassinated in 1865 just six days after the Confederate
General Lee surrendered. Congress formed the Lincoln Monument Association two
years later. However, they did not choose the site in West Potomac Park until
1901. It was 1911 before they appropriated funds; President Taft approved a
bill for $2 million. (The memorial's final cost was $1 million more.) In
February of 1914, on Lincoln's birthday, the first stones were set. The white
marble memorial was completed in 1922. It was dedicated on Memorial Day that
year, 57 years after the president's death. Tens of thousands of people were in
attendance, including many veterans from the Civil War.

The work was the collective effort of an architect and several artists. The New
York architect named Henry Bacon designed the building. He chose a Doric Greek
style, much like the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, complete with the
traditional 36 columns. After constructing the columns, he realized that there
had also been 36 states in the nation at the time of Lincoln's death. He then
had each column engraved with a state name, and added above them the names of
all 48 states that existed by 1922. (Alaska and Hawaii were later mentioned on
an inscription leading to the memorial.) The building is massive, with each
column measuring more than 23 feet around its base.

From inside the stone building, Lincoln gazes out over the Reflecting Pool and
toward the Washington Monument. His larger-than-life figure appears to be a
continuous piece of marble, but it's actually made of 28 interlocking blocks
carved by the artist Daniel French. Several types of marble are used throughout
the monument, perhaps to symbolize Lincoln's force for unity; stone is used from
Indiana, Colorado, Georgia and Tennessee. One marble wall features an
inscription of the President's famous Gettysburg Address. Another displays his
second inaugural speech. The memorial also has murals entitled "Emancipation"
and "Union" by Jules Guerin. Ernest Bairstow and Evelyn Longman also
contributed to the memorial's carvings.

The building has been used as a backdrop for events related to civil rights. In
1939, the African American singer Marian Anderson was told by the Daughters of
the American Revolution that she would not sing to an integrated crowd at
Washington, D.C.'s Confederate Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt, who immediately
resigned her own DAR membership, suggested the Lincoln Memorial as a stage.
Anderson opened her act with "My Country 'Tis of Thee". Martin Luther King, Jr.
delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. This was
also the scene of Vietnam protests and the Million Man March.

The memorial is staffed from 8 a.m. to midnight every day but Christmas. The
lower level of the monument houses a bookstore, restrooms, and the Lincoln
Museum, which was funded with pennies from schoolchildren. At night, spotlights
illuminate the outside of the Lincoln Memorial. The lights seep inside and cast
shadows across Lincoln's face for a spectacular view.

Mischief and Stunts at Niagara Falls

In the 1820s, when War of 1812 fighting had ceased in the Niagara Falls region,
local hotel owners wanted to revive tourism. The Niagara Falls had once made
popular tourist destinations of two cities along the international border:
Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, and Niagara Falls in New York, USA. To
attract attention, the hotel owners sponsored the first daredevil Niagara Falls
stunt on record: they sent a defunct ship over Niagara's Horseshoe Falls.

The hoteliers' stunt drew a crowd indeed. On September 8, 1827, about 10,000
people gathered to watch the condemned schooner be swept over the waterfall.
The ship crashed 173 feet down to a whirlpool gorge below.

Within two years, daredevils were risking their own lives in Niagara Falls
stunts. In October of 1829, a man named Sam Patch dubbed himself "The Yankee
Leaper". He survived a long, deliberate fall into the gorge at the bottom of
the waterfall. People also swam across or tried to sail. In 1886 a man named
Carlisle Graham was the first to fall down Niagara Falls in a barrel. Many
people, including women in petticoats, imitated this stunt. For example, in
1901 a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor rode a barrel over the edge.

Some people tried crossing over Niagara Falls instead of riding its force
downward. Tightrope walkers like French acrobat Jean François "Blondin"
Gravelet strung wires across the gorge and traversed it before giant crowds of
onlookers. In 1859 Gravelet crossed the water blindfolded, in a sack, pushing a
wheelbarrow, and carrying a man on his back! He even succeeded tightrope walking
while on stilts. Most famously perhaps, Gravelet sat down midway across a wire
to cook and eat an omelet.

Despite stories of successful crossings, many people have died or been
seriously injured in daredevil stunts at Niagara Falls. When Annie Taylor
emerged from her barrel, she warned, "No one should ever try that again!" Such
stunts are now forbidden by law in both cities of Niagara Falls. After Kirk
Jones jumped the Falls in 2003 (and was released from hospital), he was
arrested for "Mischief" and "Performing a Stunt".

Until the winter of 1912, anyone was permitted to cross an ice bridge that
formed across Niagara Falls. The water froze into ice blocks as thick as 50
feet, and the Niagara River became a popular sledding destination. People even
erected shacks on the ice and sold liquor! However, a tragedy involving cracked
ice put an end to the winter tradition.

Horseshoe Falls is the highest section of Niagara Falls and is in Canadian
territory. The American Falls on the US side drop about 70 feet into rock.
These two main sections of the waterfall are divided by the uninhabited Goat
Island. (The goats were gone by 1780.) A third section on the American side is
called Bridal Veil Falls (earlier called Luna Falls and Iris Falls). It's
separated from the American Falls by tiny Luna Island.

These waterfalls are the most powerful in North America. An average of 4
million cubic feet of water rush over Niagara Falls every minute. The flow is
higher in spring and summer when ice melts and more rain falls. Most of the
water flows over Horseshoe Falls, and the remainder is harnessed for
hydroelectric power by the Sir Adam Beck Station in Ontario and the New York
State Power Authority.

Mount Rushmore

In 1927, workmen with lively nicknames like "Whiskey Art", "Palooka", and
"Hoot" quit their regular jobs. They were among the 400 people invited to
create Mount Rushmore, a massive mountainside carving of four United States
presidents in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The work would be on-and-off
labor lasting fourteen years.

Mount Rushmore was conceived by the South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson
in 1923. He had learned of a similar project underway in the southern US. Just
east of Atlanta, the sculptor Gutzon Borglum had been commissioned to carve
into Stone Mountain the likeness of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a
column of soldiers. The historian thought a similar undertaking by Borglum
could draw tourists' dollars to the Black Hills region.

To help maximize tourism interest, Borglum suggested that South Dakota choose a
theme of national significance. The men settled upon the first 150 years of
United States history, with four presidents being selected to represent the
nation's development. These include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Collectively, these men symbolized the
country's founding, expansion, and unity. The project received approval from
Congress and President Calvin Coolidge.

As the project began in 1927, Lakota Sioux people and their supporters opposed
the undertaking. Traditionally, they had called the mountain Six Grandfathers
Mountain and traveled it for spiritual journeys. Following the Black Hills War
of 1876-1877, the Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the land to the Lakota in
perpetuity. Now, the land had again been taken. Furthermore, the creation of
60-foot faces of United States presidents, symbols of their oppression, would
forever mar the sacred landscape. The fact that Borglum was a Ku Klux Klan
member added to the insult!

Six Grandfathers was first informally called Mount Rushmore during an 1885
expedition. Charles Rushmore, a wealthy New York lawyer and prospector,
suggested giving the mountain his name. However, it was also known to white
Americans as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and
Keystone Cliffs. The United States Board of Geographic Names officially named
Mount Rushmore in 1930. Borglum chose this particular mountain for two reasons.
First, its face met with sunlight for most of the day. Second, it was composed
of smooth granite. The rock would be conducive to carving, and the material
erodes very slowly (about an inch every 10,000 years). Nonetheless, over
fourteen years of labor the faces suffered minor cracks. Fractures were sealed
with pegmatite and are evident in lighter streaks on the presidents' foreheads.

As the project went on, some people continued to question what the faces were
symbolizing, and whether the monument should be considered racist given the
history of US expansion through native lands. In 1937, before the project was
finished, a bill in US Congress proposed adding the face of Susan B. Anthony, a
symbol for civil rights. However, federal funds were ultimately refused.

Members of the American Indian Movement occupied the monument in 1971. The
Lakota holy man John Fire Lame Deer said that the protestors formed a symbolic
shroud over the presidents' faces, "which shall remain dirty until the treaties
concerning the Black Hills are fulfilled". (A monument to the Native American
leader Crazy Horse, first proposed in 1939, is being constructed eight miles
away. It is also controversial.) Of some solace to opponents is that the
monument, already six stories tall, was intended to be much larger but lacked
funding. The original project cost just under $1 million during the Great
Depression. (The largest single donation came from Charles Rushmore himself,
who gave $5,000.) Borglum had hoped to depict the presidents from head to waist.

The artist also intended to chisel an expansive panel in the shape of the
Louisiana Purchase. This would include gilded words commemorating founding
documents and territorial expansion; imagine the golden 8-foot tall letters "U.
S. Constitution" carved into a mountainside. Instead, similar information is now
engraved on porcelain panels inside a vault installed behind the faces in 1998.
The engravings include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution,
biographies of the four presidents, and a history of the United States.

A 1998 update to the Visitor Center cost $58 million. The renovation added the
porcelain panels, expanded visitor parking, and created a Lincoln Borglum

Old Faithful Geyser

Imagine thousands of gallons of boiling water rushing forth from the earth.
Shooting toward the sky, the water forms a tall, steamy column -- sometimes 180
feet high! When the water falls, it's only a matter of time before another surge
will appear. Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupts regularly
and has attracted sightseers since at least 1870.

In 1870, a team of surveyors explored the area of northwestern Wyoming that
would become Yellowstone National Park. The team (known as the Washburn
Expedition) explored lakes, mountains, plants, and wildlife. They also observed
many geothermal features. While camping, they noticed a geyser that erupted
about every hour. Since this geyser was nearly as reliable as a wristwatch, the
men named it Old Faithful.

A geyser is a hot spring that occasionally erupts; the term is derived from an
Icelandic word meaning "to gush". Such gushers are rare. A geyser can become
blocked by mineral deposits, and tectonic activity (earthquakes) or human
intervention can alter their behavior. Only about 1,000 geysers are known to
exist on Earth, and about half of those are located in Yellowstone.

How does a geyser like Old Faithful work? A geyser, like any natural hot
spring, has its water heated by magma, or melted rock deep within the earth.
The force of heat (convection) pushes the water up through porous rocks. After
steam and boiling water are expelled, the cycle starts anew. Geysers'
"schedules" widely differ; for example, some erupt every ten minutes, and some
erupt just twice a day.

In geological terms, Old Faithful is a cone geyser. The name refers to a
cone-shaped formation of minerals that has formed at the geyser's mouth. This
cone shapes the narrow spray that bursts forth. In contrast, a fountain geyser
has eruptions burst from an open pool.

Observers have documented more than 137,000 Old Faithful eruptions, and people
have noticed changes in the eruption schedule since 1870. This might be a
result of a 1998 earthquake changing underground water levels, or the
cumulative effect of many tiny quakes. The geyser has also been altered by
vandalism; e.g. visitors have thrown items into Old Faithful. At the start of
the 21st century, a handy formula involves measuring the duration of an
eruption. If it lasts for 2.5 minutes or less, the next eruption will follow
about 65 minutes later. If it lasts for longer than 2.5 minutes, the geyser may
be "exhausted" until 92 minutes later.

How hot is Old Faithful's water? In the 1980s and 1990s, scientists lowered
thermometers about 70 feet into the geyser. They measured a temperature of 244
degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, the temperature remained constant since a 1942
recording. Steam temperatures reached 265 degrees. Right before eruption, water
at the opening is about 204 degrees.

How much water is expelled? With each eruption, Old Faithful puts forth between
3,700 and 8,400 gallons. This forms a column that's between 106 and 184 feet
high. An average eruption is about 130 feet tall.

Old Faithful is not Yellowstone's largest geyser; that distinction belongs to
Steamboat Geyser. However, the landmark attracts the attention of most who
visit Yellowstone. Eru ption times are posted at the park's Visitor Center, and
growing crowds are also a clue that the time is near. Walkways and benches are
provided for viewers.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in New York City.
It's named for New York, the "Empire State". When the building opened in 1931,
it was the tallest building in the world! It was designated as a National
Historic Landmark in 1986.

The Empire State Building was erected as part of a worldwide race to build the
tallest structure. The United States previously held the record with the
555-foot Washington Monument, but then France built the 984-foot Eiffel Tower
in 1889. By the early 20th century, architects across America tried to set new

The Metropolitan Life Tower signaled a start to the race in 1909; the building
rose 700 feet and 50 stories. The 57-story Woolworth Building followed in 1913,
and the 71-story Bank of Manhattan was completed in 1929. (Of course, since this
was the Depression, there was ironically little demand for office space!)

Competition then intensified within New York State. Three skyscrapers were
underway simultaneously: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and
40 Wall Street.

The Empire State Building's rental manager, Hamilton Weber, described the
architectural contest:

   "We thought we would be the tallest at 80 stories. Then the Chrysler 
   went higher, so we lifted the Empire State to 85 stories, but only 
   four feet taller than the Chrysler. Raskob [the financer] was worried 
   that Walter Chrysler would pull a trick -- like hiding a rod in the 
   spire and then sticking it up at the last minute."

The Empire State Building architects decided to affix something to the top of
the building for even more height. This led to a dirigible (blimp) docking
station. However, the docking station did not last long. The building itself
created powerful updrafts that made docking dangerous! The mooring devices are
still in place, but the building's current height (1,453 feet) comes from a
large broadcast antennae added in 1952.

The Empire State Building houses 85 stories of commercial and office space
totaling more than two million square feet. With 1,000 businesses inside, the
building has its own zip code! The top 16 stories comprise the art deco tower,
with observatories located on the 86th and 102nd floors. (High-powered
binoculars are available for rent.) The skyscraper has 72 elevators, 70 miles
of piping, and 2.5 million feet of electrical wiring.

The entire building weighs an estimated 370,000 tons and cost $40 million to
construct. Colored floodlights were added to the building's tower in 1964.
These are used to mark seasonal events like Christmas and tragedies like the
World Trade Center attacks in 2001. Following September 11, 2001, the
floodlights were kept red, white, and blue for several months. Blue lights were
used on Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday and when he died. (This was a reference to
his nickname, Ol' Blue Eyes.) Sports events are also represented by lights; for
example, a combination of orange, blue, and white signifies a New York Knicks
home game.

The Empire State Building was bathed in a royal purple to honor the Golden
Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This was a sign of thanks from the New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the UK supported the United States in the
aftermath of September 11th. The floodlights first celebrated a Muslim holiday
in 2007 with green lights for Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.

When the Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931, it was the tallest
building in the world at 1,250 feet high. Towering over the corner of Fifth
Avenue and West 34th Street, it became an instant icon of New York City. The
building remained the world's tallest until the World Trade Center's North
Tower was erected in 1972. The Sears Tower in Chicago surpassed both in 1973.
After the September 11th attacks in New York, the Empire State Building once
again became the tallest building in the state, and the secondtallest in the
country. The United Arab Emirates set the world record in 2007 while building
the Burj Dubai skyscraper.

Although "superskyscrapers" are now being constructed worldwide, the Empire
State Building made achievements that prompted the American Society of Civil
Engineers to name it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Ellis Island

Site of Picnics, War, and Immigration Ellis Island in New York Harbor was once
the main immigration station for people entering the United States. About a
third of Americans can trace their ancestry to this entry point. Today Ellis
Island is a museum accessible by ferryboat.

The island is named for Samuel Ellis, a wealthy colonial landholder. He once
owned the land and used it as a picnic area. When selling the island, Ellis
advertised it along with several other items he had for sale, including "a few
barrels of excellent shad and herrings" and "a large Pleasure Sleigh, almost

The U.S. War Department purchased the island for $10,000 in 1808. They built
defenses there in the buildup to the War of 1812. Fort Gibson was erected to
house prisoners of that conflict. Fifty years later during the Civil War, the
Union army used the fort as a munitions arsenal.

When the Civil War ended, Ellis Island was abandoned for twenty-five years.
Then, in 1890, the government wanted a new immigration processing center. (This
would replace the Castle Garden Immigration Depot, the country's first
immigration station, which was located on the tip of Manhattan.) Ellis Island
opened in 1892 as the main processing point for ne wcomers; at the time, about
70% of all immigrants passed through the island facilities.

The first immigrant processed was Annie Moore, a teenager from Ireland who was
meeting her parents in New York. (She received a $10 gold coin!) The Ellis
Island staff continued to process immigrant steamship passengers until 1954,
when the last immigrant was the Norwegian merchant seaman Arne Peterssen. In
the more than six decades of operation, the immigration building on Ellis
Island saw more than 12 million hopeful immigrants. After 1954, the building
was not attended to for about thirty years. It was eventually refurbished in
the late 1980s and re-opened as a museum in 1990. It is now under jurisdiction
of the US National Park Service.

Immigrants' experiences on Ellis Island differed with social class. Wealthier
immigrants who traveled first or second class generally entered automatically
without delay. Thirdclass steerage passengers had medical exams and interviews.
In the end, about two percent were sent back across the ocean after these
procedures. With these people in mind, Ellis is also known as "The Island of
Tears" and or "Heartbreak Island".

Standard interviews included twenty-nine questions, including name, skills, and
amount of money available. Adults who seemed "likely to become a public charge"
would be turned away. The medical exams on Ellis Island were brief; they
usually lasted only six seconds! However, people who appeared ill received much
more attention. Chalk markings were put on their clothes to indicate suspected
medical conditions. People who didn't discreetly remove these markings were
typically sent home or to the island's hospital. About three thousand people
travelers died in Ellis Island's hospital.

The United States enacted Quota Laws in 1924. These restricted immigration and
resulted in most processing being performed at embassies and consulates instead
of freestanding immigration stations. After 1924 Ellis Island was only
sporadically used to see war refugees and displaced persons. The island was
used for Japanese internment and to house German Americans accused of being

Ellis Island was once the subject of a border dispute between New York and New
Jersey. Today the two states have divided ownership of the historic site: the
main building containing the museum is part of New York, and the old hospital
buildings are part of New Jersey. The monument has been managed and preserved
by the National Park Service since 1966.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky includes the most extensive cave system
known in the world. More than 367 miles of cave passageways have been mapped,
and there may be more miles still uncharted. The national park preserves this
cave system along with Kentucky's Green River Valley and the surrounding hills.
Since becoming a national park in 1941, the area has also been designated a
World Heritage Site and an international Biosphere Reserve.

Mammoth Cave started to develop 350 million years ago in a layer of limestone.
Over 70 million years, water slowly dissolved the stone and left the extensive
network of tunnels. Then a new lay er of rock, sandstone, formed a stable roof
for the tunnels. Different layers of tunnels were formed by the Ohio River
during the Tertiary and Quaternary Periods. Most of the caves are now dry, but
the lower level of tunnels continues to be carved by the Green River, which is
450 feet underground. It can be seen outside, where it emerges along the
eastern border of the park. When the river floods, whirlpools swell back into
the cave system; similar whirlpools formed the cave's larger rooms millions of
years ago.

Anthropologists believe that Native Americans first found the caves about four
thousand years ago. Artifacts like torches, pottery, woven cloth and
petroglyphs show that people explored the cave network for two thousand years.
They likely lived at the entrances and mined the tunnels for salt, gypsum,
mirabilite and other minerals.

Why did the natives leave the area? Nobody knows for certain, but a gruesome
20th century points clearly in one direction. In 1935, cave guides found the
mummified remains of a gypsum miner. He'd been crushed by a 5-ton boulder! Park
officials named him "Lost John". Several other ancient bodies were preserved in
Mammoth Cave, and most seem to have buried there on purpose. One mummy was sold
to P. T. Barnum. Lost John was displayed until the 1970s, when he was given a
proper burial.

White settlers first arrived in the 18th century. Miners starting taking
saltpeter (potassium or calcium nitrate crystals) in 1792; it was used to make
gunpowder. The saltpeter demand dwindled after the War of 1812, but word of the
unusually large cave system spread. Mammoth Cave quickly became a tourist
attraction. By 1816, crowds of people in formal attire chiseled their names and
the date into the cave walls. (Nowadays, people are encouraged to wear sneakers,
and the practice of leaving messages is forbidden.)

Under the direction of a slave-owner and prospector named Franklin Gorin, a
17-year-old slave named Stephen Bishop began charting much of the network in
1830. Bishop was praised for his genius in many areas, and he excelled in
geology. He explored the caves for many years and was the first to cross the
now-famous Bottomless Pit. This opened the cave to further exploration. In 1839
he found two rivers and their odd eyeless inhabitants. In 1840 he discovered
Mammoth Dome, a 192-foot tall structure draped in stalactites. Stephen's
discoveries continued until his death in 1857

Today the National Park Service makes many tours available. These range from
the hourlong Mammoth Passage Tour, which is less than a mile long, to the
6-hour Wild Cave Tour that passes through five miles of the cave network. Some
tours are pre-lit, but others require tourists to carry a paraffin lamp.
Photography and videotaping are allowed. The cave is always chilly, so visitors
are advised to bring a warm layer of clothing.

Explorers might spot some of 130 rare animal species. These include bats,
beetles, fish, and the endangered Kentucky cave shrimp. It is blind and albino;
there is little need for sight or pigment in the depths of a cave. At least
eleven other Mammoth Cave species are eyeless and unpigmented.

After the darkness of spelunking, cave visitors might enjoy catching sunlight
along Mammoth Cave National Park's 70 miles of trails. These are open to
hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

Elvis Presley and the Graceland Estate

In March of 2006, Elvis Presley's Graceland estate was raised to the level of
Washington's Mount Vernon and Jefferson's Monticello. It officially became a
National Historic Monument.

Of course, long before the Secretary of the Interior made this public
announcement, Presley fans worldwide had made his home a popular tourist
destination; Graceland already attracted more than 600,000 people every year.
The designation of his home as a national landmark celebrates his widely-known
contributions to American culture and music history.

Elvis Presley is among the most influential figures in 20th century music and
pop culture. He was most famous as a musician and was indicted into three halls
of fame: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the
GMA Gospel Hall of Fame. No other artist has been honored by all three
establishments. Presley also triumphed on television and starred in 33 movies.

Shortly after his rise to stardom, Elvis felt a need for privacy. In 1957 he
moved out of working-class East Memphis and purchased the 14-acre Graceland
estate. The price tag: $103,000 -- easily purchased with proceeds from his
first hit record, "Heartbreak Hotel". Graceland would be Elvis's primary
residence for the next 20 years. His parents lived there too, as did his
wife-to-be Priscilla Beaulieu and eventually their daughter, Lisa Marie. Elvis
Presley died in an upstairs Graceland bathroom in 1977.

The Graceland estate is located south of downtown Memphis and is just a few
miles north of the Mississippi border. The grounds were named after Grace Toot,
the daughter of the home's original owner. Grace inherited the property while it
was still farmland. She gifted the land to a niece, Ruth Moore, who had the
mansion built.

The colonial-style mansion is constructed of tan limestone with white columns.
Two stone lions seem to guard the front entrance. Elvis Presley expanded the
living space from about 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet. He is known
for his extravagance and a unique sense of design; some call it kitschy. The
home reflected Elvis well; he became so comfortable there that when he
traveled, his hotel rooms were pre-decorated with furniture sent from Graceland.

Elvis's indoor and outdoor estate expansions were considerable. For privacy, he 
constructed a fieldstone wall around the grounds. (Today it is full of visitors' 
graffiti.) He added a wrought-iron privacy gate to the outside drive; it's 
decorated with iron musical notes. He installed a swimming pool with adjacent 
jukebox in his parents' bedroom, and the famous Jungle Room has a waterfall. 
Elvis also kept several televisions in the basement and was known to watch 
three simultaneously.

Today, audio tours begin at the lion-flanked portico. Visitors then see Elvis's
living room and the adjacent music room. The tour moves to the kitchen and
dining room, and then downstairs to the basement to see side-by-side TVs, a
bar, and a billiards table. The tour continues upstairs in the Jungle Room.
Elvis memorabilia are displayed throughout, with his sequined jumpsuits being
especially prominent. Outdoors, people can see his trophy collection, horse
stables, and a shooting range. A separate building displays his car collection
and two small airplanes. Public tours show much of the mansion but avoid the
top floor where Elvis passed away.

Elvis died at Graceland in 1977. Medical reports vary; he apparently had a
drug-induced heart attack. He was buried at a public cemetery but people
attempted to rob his grave. Presley's remains were moved to his mansion's
Meditation Gardens, where the performer joined his deceased parents and
grandmother. The August 16th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death is a
particularly popular time for Graceland visits. Despite a downpour of rain
through Memphis, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death drew a procession of
40,000 people.

After Elvis's death, Priscilla Presley managed the property and greatly
increased its value by promoting tourism. Graceland opened to the public in
1982. The Presleys' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, inherited the estate when she
turned 30 years old. She kept the mansion but sold 85% of the grounds to a
private management company in 2005. The new owner, CKX, Inc., plans to make
Graceland a theme park on par with Disneyland.

The Crazy Horse Monument and Memorial

The Crazy Horse Monument is a Native American carving underway in the Black
Hills of South Dakota. Artists have been working on the monument since 1948. If
it becomes completed as planned, it will be the world's largest sculpture at 641
feet (195 meters) wide and 563 feet (172 meters) tall.

The monument commemorates Crazy Horse (circa 1840-1887), an Oglala Lakota war
leader who was well-respected by his people. He led victorious battles against
many of his tribe's enemies, including (but not limited to) the Blackfoot,
Crow, Pawnee, Shoshone, and US forces.

One famous battle involving US troops was the Battle of the Rosebud in Montana
Territory. In June of 1876, Crazy Horse led a group of 1,500 Lakota and
Cheyenne in a surprise attack against Brevet Brigadier General George Crook's
force of US footmen, cavalry, and Crow and Shoshone warriors. This particular
battle was a draw, with the sides having roughly equivalent losses. However,
the battle delayed Crook's troops from meeting Lieutenant General George
Custer's troops at the Battle of Little Big Horn. This contributed to the
subsequent "Custer's Last Stand" in which Custer was killed and the
Lakota-Cheyenne alliance emerged as victors.

After decades as a valiant warrior, Crazy Horse finally surrendered to the
United States in May of 1877. His people were weakened by hunger and a cold
Nebraska winter. Crazy Horse and his allies formally surrendered at the Red
Cloud Agency, which was a precursor to Indian reservations. After Crazy Horse
had been living on agency property for a few months, it seems th at his words
were mistranslated by a US Army scout. An ensuing argument led to Crazy Horse's
death by bayonet stabbing on September 5, 1877. His parents moved his body to an
undisclosed location.

The monument was requested by Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Oglala Sioux. In
1939 he wrote to the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who was known for chiseling
Mount Rushmore. His letter included the request, "My fellow chiefs and I would
like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too." Ziolkowski
decided upon Crazy Horse, and by 1943 the monument was underway. The site:
eight miles from Mount Rushmore, and five miles from Custer. Since the original
artist's death, the project has been overseen by his wife Ruth Zioljowski and
several of their children.

A milestone in carving was achieved in 1998 when Crazy Horse's face was
completed. The next step involves shaping the head of his horse, which is
achieved with very precise explosions of dynamite. The horse's head will
include ridges to be used as access roads for trucks hauling rock away.

Progress has been hindered by the project's non-profit status. The Crazy Horse
Memorial Foundation rejects federal funding because they have plans beyond the
monument itself. The sculpture is part of a larger vision for Crazy Horse
Memorial, which already includes an Indian Museum of North America and a Native
American Cultural center. The foundation also aims to establish and fund the
University and Medical Training Center for the North American Indian. The
foundation's many goals are supported mainly with proceeds from visitors, who
number about one million each year.

Although many people see the mountain carving as a great tribute to Native
Americans, others disapprove. They say that altering nature in this way is
contrary to what Crazy Horse would have wanted.

Remember the Alamo

The Alamo, officially named the San Antonio de Valero Mission, is a former
mission and military fort in San Antonio, Texas. It is now a museum drawing
people interested in Texas history. When people say "Remember the Alamo", they
are referring to a significant battle in Texas's Revolution against Mexico. The
entire event lasted for thirteen days in February and March of 1836. It is
famous for heavy rebel losses and illustrious participants, including the
Mexican President Santa Anna and David Crockett.

This mission was first conceived of in 1716 and a Spanish viceroy authorized
its construction. As the first in a chain of missions along the San Antonio
River, it was intended as a vocational school for Native Americans after their
conversion to Christianity. Training options included cattle-raising, weaving,
carpentry, and stone masonry. However, the church was not completed until 1757,
and mission activity was already waning by the mid-1760s! The Church abandoned
the site by the 1790s.

Spanish soldiers, noting the defensive potential of the mission's 12-foot
walls, took over in 1803. In the coming years, Spain and Mexico would battle
for control of land in North America. After the Mexican War of Independence in
1821, Texas became part of Mexican territory; it was part of a new state called
"Coahila y Tejas".

The Mexican government encouraged people from the US to settle this land.
Hundreds of families, both American and Mexican, accepted the invitation.
However, after the land became settled and colonists formed provincial
governments, the Mexican government increased centralization of power.

Settlers became uncomfortable with President Santa Anna's centralizing of
government. In their view, the 1824 Constitution of Mexico guaranteed stronger
states' rights. Meanwhile, part of the centralization plan included dividing
Coahila y Tejas into two states, one of which was Tejas.

Coahila soon seceded to become part of the short-lived Republic of the Rio
Grande. Tejas declared its independence on March 2, 1835 and named itself the
Republic of Texas. Settlers provoked the Mexican government early on by taking
over military positions in La Bahia and San Antonio. In response, Santa Anna
assembled 6,500 soldiers and led many to San Antonio's Alamo Mission. Thousands
of men may have deserted before arrival, but still, they greatly outnumbered the
rebels fortressed in the Alamo.

Although they received reinforcements, the Texan rebels were outnumbered and
could not sustain more than two weeks of attacks which inside their fortress.
Ultimately, the Mexicans penetrated the old mission and killed most of the
remaining soldiers through hand-to-hand combat. When the fighting was over, the
Mexican forces left only sixteen alive. Most of these survivors were women,
slaves, and children.

Although the revolutionaries did not win the Battle of the Alamo, their battle
benefited the rebels' cause overall. Emotionally, the battle stirred up
settlers all across Texas and increased their resolve against President Santa
Anna. Strategically, Santa Anna's troops were stalled at the Alamo for two
weeks. This allowed General Houston to assemble soldiers and supplies for a
critical upcoming battle. Houston would later defeat Mexico in the decisive
Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna would be captured while sneaking off the next
day, and the revolutionaries would go on to win their independence. From 1836 to
1845, the Republic of Texas would be a sovereign state between the US and Mexico.

An Overview of Death Valley

Describing Death Valley brings a potpourri of superlatives: hottest, driest,
lowest. In 1913, the valley hit a record 134 degrees Fahrenheit! But despite
its brutal image, Death Valley is a beloved mecca for geologists and other
nature lovers. It also has a colorful history of ghost towns!

Death Valley measures approximately 3,000 square miles. It spans the border of
California and Nevada and is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado
Deserts Biosphere Reserve, which is devoted to ecological conservation. The
diverse landscape features desert sand dunes, snow-capped mountains, and a vast
expanse of multi-hued rock. It is also home to uniquely adapted plants and
animals. Among the mammals, for example, are the black-tailed jackrabbit, the
long-tailed pocket mouse, and the chiseltoothed kangaroo rat!

Death Valley is surrounded by several mountain ranges, including the Sierra
Nevadas, the Amargosa Range, the Panamint Range, and the Sylvania and Owlshead
Mountains. Encircled by peaks, the valley has the lowest dry elevation in North
America at 282 feet below sea level. (The continent's lowest point overall can
be found at the bottom of Lake Superior, but Death Valley contains the lowest
spot on dry land.)

The valley is especially noted for its geologic splendor. The cliffs reveal
rock layers spanning from Precambrian to modern times. By studying the layers,
geologists learn about the earth's condition in the distant past. For example,
layers from the late Pleistocene reveal that the valley was once filled by a
freshwater lake, now dubbed Lake Manly. The valley was partly filled again
during flash flooding of 2004 and 2005. Still, at that time the water was only
two feet deep; before the last ice age, it measured 800 feet!

The 19th century saw many mining camps set up when rock layers revealed
valuable minerals. Men were drawn to gold and silver discoveries in the 1850s,
and they mined Borax in the 1880s. They gave their camps names like Chloride
City, Skidoo, and Panamint City. The mining camps usually became ghost towns
within a few years.

In most cases, little remains of these Death Valley mining towns besides
stories about their lively inhabitants. Skidoo, for example, is marked only by
a sign. It once had a population of 700 and is infamous for having the only
hanging in the valley. The hanged man was Hootch Simpson, a down-on-his-luck
saloon owner who tried to rob the town bank. He was foiled and later returned
to kill an employee! The townspeople hanged Hootch that night. In fact,
according to legend he was hanged twice: once for real and once again for the
benefit of photographers.

Visitors to Death Valley can ssee a few ghost town ruins, such as those of
Panamint City. Panamint was reputedly the roughest town in America! Its
founders were outlaws hiding from law enforcement. Although 2,000 people
eventually resided there, Wells Fargo refused to open a Panamint bank because
of the inhabitants' lawless reputations.

Although prospectors left the valley when mining became unprofitable, Native
Americans have lived in Death Valley for more than 1,000 years. Timbisha
families, who are part of the Shoshone tribe, still reside at Furnace Creek.
They received 7,500 acres of ancestral homeland with the Timbisha Shoshone
Homeland Act of 2000. As of 2000, only 31 people lived at Furnace Creek,
setting the record for lowest census in the nation. Death Valley National Park
is open year-round, but considering the summer heat, most people find the
valley's winter climate more comfortable.Since 1933 Death Valley National Park
has offered extensive public works for visitors' comfort. These include
developments such as campgrounds, picnic facilities, and hundreds of miles of
paved roads.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower is a natural stone formation that rises 1267 feet in the Black
Hills of northeastern Wyoming. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils
Tower the first US National Monument in 1906.

Nobody knows how this unusual rock was formed, but geologists have put forth
several theories. They agree that Devils Tower is an "igneous intrusion", which
is magma that hardened while still underground. This may have happened 60
million years ago, which is when the Rocky Mountains were forming too.
Scientists disagree about how this magma eventually came to tower so high above
its surroundings. A popular theory sets Devils Tower as the neck of an old
volcano. In this theory, the rest of the mountain eroded away.

Weather continues to erode the tower. Cracks fill with ice and expand, and
rocks then fall to the ground. Piles of broken lava columns at the base of the
tower indicate that it used to be larger.

Native Americans also have stories to explain Devils Towers. In their stories,
the tower is called Mateo Tepee, meaning Grizzly Bear Lodge. The rock's long
vertical cracks reminded people of scratches that a bear might make. In a Kiowa
story, for example, seven little girls were playing far from their village when
bears started to chase them. The girls ran to a small rock and prayed for it to
save them. The rock started to push upwards, higher and higher until the girls
were out of the bears' reach. The bears scratched at the rock and broke their
claws. The Kiowa say that these little girls were pushed upward to the sky;
they now form a seven-star constellation. Another version of the story has
little boys chased by bears, and an eagle carries them home from the tall rock.

Devils Tower appears insurmountable to many. Henry Newt, who was part of area's
first geological survey, wrote in 1875: "Its summit is so entirely inaccessible
that the energetic explorer... standing at its base could only look upward in
despair of ever planting his feet on the top." Nonetheless, a Wyoming rancher
named William Rogers ascended the tower in 1893; he climbed up with the aid of
wooden pegs that he'd drive into cracks. A more professional ascent was made in
1937 by a small party representing the American Alpine Club. The climb can be
made relatively easy or extremely challenging according to the path someone

The tower is still sacred to several Native American Plains tribes, including
the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. There have been conflicts between
tourists who want to climb the tower and indigenous people who hold ceremonies
around the monument. There is now a compromise that involves a voluntary
climbing ban in June, which is when the tribes traditionally use the tower
most. This compromise has not satisfied everyone, since climbers see the rock
as federal land and Native Americans see ascension of the monument as
desecration. About 4,000 people climb Devils Tower every year.

According to a PBS documentary called In Light of Reverence, most agree not to
climb during the month of ceremonies.

The region is also known for its colorful rock layers. The oldest visible rocks
have been dated to the Triassic period, or about 200 million years ago. These
are dark red sandstone and siltstone, colored by oxidized iron. A thin white
band of Jurassic-era gypsum follows. People can also spot gray-green shale, red
mudstone, and yellow sandstone.

The United States was probably first aware of Devils Tower after an 1859
Yellowstone expedition led by Captain W. F. Reynolds. In 1875 Colonel Richard
Dodge led a geological survey to the rock. It was Dodge who named Devils Tower;
he thought that natives called it "Bad God's Tower". Congress designated the
area a US forest reserve in 1892, and by 1906 it was the country's first
national monument. In addition to the tower, the park includes the Belle
Fourche River and 1347 acres of pine forests and grasslands, home to deer,
prairie dogs, and other animals.

Olvera Street: A Taste of Old Mexico

Olvera Street, or La Placita Olvera, is the quaint birthplace of modern Los
Angeles. This block-long street has now been restored to an old-fashioned
marketplace and plaza reminiscent of early Mexico. The street and plaza were
designated "El Pueblo Historic Monument" in 1953.

Olvera Street attracts two million tourists every year. The area is blocked to
automobiles so pedestrians can easily explore the street's 27 historic
buildings. These include a range of authentic Mexican eateries, including the
city's oldest Mexican restaurant, La Golondrina Cafe. Some of the buildings are
rented to merchants selling Mexican goods. Some stores stock inexpensive
souvenirs like finger puppets, marionettes, and tiny Mexican flags. Others
import high-quality Mexican pottery, silver, and textiles. Vendors stationed in
the middle of the street sell churros, souvenirs, and inexpensive children's

While Olvera Street is a tourist attraction, it's also the center of an
authentic Mexican-American community. Locals gather for a Las Posadas
reenactment before each Christmas, and they fill the site for celebrations like
Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos. The Olvera plaza also features cultural
performances throughout the year.

The street began as part of a town built by settlers in 1781. Spain's King
Carlos III ordered his Lieutenant Governor of California, Don Fernando de
Rivera y Moncada, to lead settlers to the Porciúncula River. The King wanted a
sub-mission, or asistencia; the Spanish soldiers and families would serve as
missionaries to a nearby native village. The group followed the King's orders,
but flooding pushed them to settle on higher ground. This was the beginning of
the town they called Los Angeles -- or, more formally, El Pueblo de Nuestra
Seora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula. (This translates to "Town
of Our Lady Queen of the Angels on the Porcincula River". Today the river is
known as the Los Angeles River). The first streets and adobe buildings of Los
Angeles were constructed during Spanish rule, which lasted until 1820.

After the Mexican Revolution of 1821, the town of Los Angeles, population 650,
became part of a newly independent Mexico. Olvera Street, which was called
Calle Vino (Wine Street) at the time, was the center of community life and a
crossroads for the agricultural and ranching economies. By 1877, the city had
grown to over 5,000 people and wanted more street space. Wine Street was
extended and renamed to honor a prominent neighborhood resident, Los Angeles
County Judge Agustin Olvera.

City growth was suddenly exponential. But as the city grew, its center
deteriorated. When new buildings were erected, their backs bordered Olvera
Street. It began to look like an unkempt alley, and then the city built a noisy
power station there for streetcars. The area was far from its glory days by the
late 1920s, when a socialite would make renovation her mission.

Christine Sterling arrived in Los Angeles in 1926. She was shocked to find the
city's historic center dilapidated and abandoned with boarded windows. Even the
historic Avila Adobe, the oldest residence in Los Angeles, was scheduled for
demolition. (Señora Avila had abandoned the home in 1847 when the United States
occupied Los Angeles.) Considering the city's steady stream of Mexican
immigration, Sterling thought Los Angeles was being short-sighted in destroying
an historic Mexican area. It seemed only natural that the area be restored.

Sterling contacted Avila's descendents, who welcomed the offer of renovation.
She raised the issue with the city's Chamber of Commerce and contacted The Los
Angeles Times. Sterling won the support of newspaper magnate Harry Chandler,
who provided positive publicity. He also formed a for-profit Olvera Street
business venture and sponsored a $1000-a-plate luncheon. Sterling raised funds
within two years, and the Los Angeles Health Department rescinded its
condemnation order for the Avila Adobe!

Next, the Sheriff's Department brought inmates to provide manual labor.
Sterling wrote in her diary, "One of the prisoners is a good carpenter, and
another an electrician. Each night I pray they will arrest a bricklayer and a

The festive new marketplace opened on Easter Sunday in 1930. It was touted as
"A Mexican Street of Yesterday in a City of Today". A cross was erected at one
end of the street amid newly-planted trees.

Olvera Street is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some restaurants and shops
have extended hours.

Golden Gate Park

In 2006, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made Golden Gate Park officially
car-free on summertime weekends. According to the city's own report,
recreational attendance at the park has doubled and tripled on these "healthy
weekends". More than twelve million people had already been visiting in a
typical year.

Golden Gate Park is a rectangular strip of land slightly larger than New York
City's Central Park; it's 3 miles long and half a mile wide. The park was
proposed in the late 1860s when San Francisco's rapid urban growth was leaving
little green space. In 1868, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved
converting the city's "Outside Lands" -sand dunes along the seashore -- into
miles of lush green space. They hoped this would provide a natural haven for
city dwellers while drawing realty investment to the mostly uninhabited western
part of the city.

However, supervisors were presented with two obstacles: 1) squatters who were
already living on the dunes, and 2) the sandy soil and harsh ocean winds. After
a long legal battle, resistant squatters relinquished 10% of their claimed
landholdings. This allowed the city enough land to proceed with park

After these homesteaders turned the land over to the city, some people insisted
that the land was too salty, sandy, and windy for vegetation. A newspaper
editorial smirked, "A blade of grass cannot be raised without four posts to
keep it from blowing away." Nevertheless, under the guidance of engineer
William "Ham" Hall and Scottish-trained gardener John McLaren, the city's
workers persisted and vegetation took root. A barricade was erected to block
wind from Ocean Beach, and by 1879 about 150,000 trees were helping to
stabilize the dunes. These trees were mostly eucalyptus, pine, and cypress.
McLaren eventually diversified the park by collecting plants from almost every
country in the world. In 1903 two windmills were installed to help water the
greenery. Holland's Queen Wilhelmina later presented the park with a flower
garden including tulips from the Netherlands; her park is adjacent to one of
the Dutch-style mills.

McLaren designed the park to look rustic, or as much like a natural woodlands
as possible. Gently winding roads allowed for carriages, pedestrians, and
bikers to comfortably enjoy the scenery. Nine lakes and ponds were scattered
about for nature lovers. There's also wildlife to be seen throughout the park,
from ducklings to a herd of buffalo.

The commitment to a natural-looking park meant that buildings would be limited.
A conservatory was erected in 1877 and a music stand was completed five years
later. A few more structures came in 1894 when the park was showcased in
California's first Midwinter Fair. This exposition and carnival was meant to
boost tourism and the general economy. Horse stables and a five-acre Japanese
Tea Garden were constructed to impress visitors.

The M. H. de Young art museum appeared by 1895; it later underwent
quakeproofing and other major renovations, and it re-opened in 2005. The top
floor of the museum offers a spectacular view of the city through all-glass
walls. On a clear day, observers can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin
headlands, Coit Tower, and surrounding residential neighborhoods.

By 1886, a typical San Francisco weekend would include tens of thousands of
people traveling to the park by streetcar. Ever since then, Golden Gate Park
has been a popular destination for picnics, playgrounds, and strolls. A parking
lot across from Sixth Avenue is traditionally claimed by roller skaters with
boom-boxes. The park also has many areas reserved for sports as diverse as
archery, fly-fishing, disc golf, and volleyball.

Golden Gate Park also has a tradition of large public gatherings, many of them
free. The 1967 Summer of Love took place mainly in the park and the nearby
Haight Ashbury neighborhood. The Speedway Meadow has long been a popular
concert venue, and nowadays a large free bluegrass festival is held in the park
every October. The San Francisco Parks Trust offers free walking tours of Golden
Gate Park year-round.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge

May 27, 1937 was Pedestrian Day in San Francisco. This kicked off a week-long
celebration of the new Golden Gate Bridge. Pedestrian Day meant that the bridge
was open to foot traffic for 25 cents per person. About 200,000 people paid the
fee and crossed the 1.7-mile span in their walking shoes or on roller skates.
For the first time, it was possible to walk across the San Francisco Bay, from
the northern tip of San Francisco to the southern end of Marin County.
Automobile traffic was permitted the next day at noon.

Before the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed, San Francisco was a relatively
isolated city. It sat at the top of a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by
water that was difficult to cross. The "Golden Gate" itself is a narrow strip
of water at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. With strong currents and a
depth of 400 feet, the Golden Gate strait is foreboding to sailors. On the
other hand, circumnavigating the whole San Francisco Bay has its drawbacks too:
the trip is hundreds of miles long and involves crossing several rivers, which
can become shallow sand traps.

For these reasons, ferry service between San Francisco and Marin County began
in 1820. First the ferry was only for railroad passengers, but later on people
could bring their automobiles in tow. This became booming business.

When bridge proposals became serious, the ferry companies, including the
Southern Pacific Railroad Company, opposed any bridge as competition. The
military also objected to spanning the San Francisco Bay; they questioned
whether the bridge would interfere with war ships. People in general wondered
about the sturdiness of a suspension bridge, which is held by cables and strung
between towers. Could such a bridge withstand the Bay's strong gusts of wind?
How would the bridge remain rooted in the ocean floor?

Nonetheless, by the 1900s it was evident that ferries alone could not handle
travel demands. The city's growth would be restricted until it overcame
obstacles to trading with Northern California. In 1916 the Chicago-based
engineer Joseph Strauss responded to San Francisco's call for bridge
submissions. Immediate local support mixed with alleged bribery helped him
secure support from the city council. Strauss personally traveled north, too,
to lobby Marin County council members and business people. He assured them that
once a bridge was built from San Francisco, their businesses and property values
would grow. He gained their support. By 1932, the founder of San Francisco-based
Bank of America agreed to finance the estimated $30 million project. Work
started in 1933.

The Golden Gate Bridge blueprints were improved upon since Strauss's original
submission. Strauss had little experience with suspension style bridges, so he
hired a team of architects who made significant contributions. Today, the
Purdue professor Charles Ellis is widely recognized as being the main architect
behind the bridge, while Strauss is regarded as its organizer and promoter. A
San Francisco architect named Irving Morrow, who was part of Strauss's team,
also made important contributions. He suggested painting the bridge a color he
called "international orange". This would complement the surrounding blues and
greens of nature, and simultaneously make the bridge visible through fog. (If
the bridge coloring had been left to the government or Strauss, it would likely
have been black.) Irving also designed the bridge's arches to play with light
throughout the day, making the bridge especially pleasing to the eye. Electric
lighting along the cables adds to the visual appeal at night.

The project was completed within four years and under budget at $27 million.
The final project was built to withstand the Bay's high winds; it can sway 27
feet and still safely hold traffic. It has only been closed a few times since
1937 when winds reached 70 miles per hour. Today, ferry service continues
between San Francisco and Marin County, but the Golden Gate Bridge carries over
40 million passengers each year.

A History of Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is a small isle with a colorful history. Located in the San
Francisco Bay, the land has filled important functions for the United States
since California's Gold Rush. Today it is best known for housing the Alcatraz
Federal Penitentiary. Alcatraz Island has been a national recreation area since

The island first became known to Europeans in 1775. That year, Spanish naval
officer Juan de Ayala discovered it while charting the San Francisco Bay. He
named the land mass "La Isla de los Alcatrices", which translates to Pelican
Island. Spain put the island under Mexico's jurisdiction. After a few sales and
legal battles, the island eventually became the property of the United States
government; explorer John Fremont purchased it on the nation's behalf for $5000
in 1846.

Two years later, when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, ships from around
the world set sail for San Francisco Bay. Sailors urgently needed a lighthouse
for navigation, and Alcatraz Island was a prime location. A lighthouse was set
atop Alcatraz in 1853. That same year, the US Army began studying the island's
potential as a defense base. The Army Corps of Engineers began a five-year
fortification project in 1853. Soldiers moved in by 1859. When the American
Civil War broke out, resident soldiers mounted more than 100 cannons around the
island's perimeter. They never fired the cannons, but they did use a guardhouse
basement to imprison west coast Confederate sympathizers, Native American
Hopis, and other persons deemed threats to the Union.

Following the war, the government transitioned Alcatraz Island from a center of
military defense to a detention center. The island's isolation amidst cold water
and powerful currents made prisoner escape highly unlikely. A brick jailhouse
was quickly constructed, and long-term military prisoners were delivered there
by 1868.

Alcatraz Island began housing civilian prisoners by the hundreds in 1906. This
was a result of the San Francisco earthquake; with jails destroyed on the
mainland, law enforcement needed a new secure location for the inmates. In 1907
the building was designated the Western US Military Prison. The original
lighthouse gave way to a threestory concrete cell block in 1909. (A second
lighthouse was constructed later that year.) As a military prison, Alcatraz
held a range of prisoners from convicted murderers to World War I conscientious
objectors. Those who behaved well might enjoy time outdoors. Some even worked as
servants for families who lived on the island! However, others experienced the
military's strict discipline; punishments included solitary confinement, severe
food and water restrictions, and hard labor.

The prison drew interesting characters as Prohibition era crime developed.
Famous mobsters like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly found Alcatraz
was their new home. The government responded to their especially ruthless
reputations by upgrading security. This included such additions as iron bars,
metal detectors to screen visitors, teargas canisters, and the cementing of old
underground tunnels. Prisoners were closely monitored with the issuing of one
guard for every three inmates. There were also twelve inmate countings per day!

According to prison records, no inmates successfully escaped during the
penitentiary's 29 years in operation. Most people who fled the island were
shot, were returned, or were found to have drowned. Some escaped convicts are
unaccounted for, but most people assume they perished in the frigid San
Francisco Bay. A $1 million recapture reward offered by a local ferry operator
remains unclaimed.

Despite the restrictions, prisoners also had recreation. By the 1920s these
prisoners had formed baseball teams, and on Fridays the Army hosted "Alcatraz
Fights", a tradition of boxing matches between inmates.

The War Department closed the famous military prison in 1934. The prison had
unusually high operational costs, and waste from island residents was polluting
the San Francisco Bay. The Department of Justice assumed management until 1963.

Today, the island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The
National Park Service provides tours. During the warmer months, tourists reach
the island via a ferry that departs San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf
neighborhood. Some Alcatraz Island attractions include the scenic bay view, the
island's flora and fauna, and tours of the famous prison.

Independence Rock: The Register of the Desert

Independence Rock, a natural landmark along the old Oregon Trail, can be found
near Casper, Wyoming. The rock was an important landmark for pioneers; it
served as a campground and watering hole, and it marked their progress
westward. Three main pioneer trails -- the Oregon, California, and Wyoming --
led past Independence Rock.

Measuring approximately 1900 feet long, 800 feet wide, and 130 feet tall, the
massive granite outcropping is hard to miss. The distance around its base
measures 5,900 feet, or more than a mile. Some say it looks like a giant whale
emerging from the plateau. The rock is now believed to have been carved by
glaciers during the last ice age.

It's believed that the first white people to pass the rock were fur trappers
working under General William Ashley. Some of these men were famous
adventurers, including Jedediah Smith. They would have passed by in 1823.
Legend says that in 1830, another group of fur traders reached the rock in time
for a Fourth of July celebration. This occasion supposedly lent Independence
Rock its current name. In a competing theory, however, it's said that people
leaving the Missouri River in early spring would use the rock as a benchmark;
if they reached it by July 4th, then they knew they were on schedule to evade
winter snowstorms in the mountains.

Once pioneers arrived at the rock, they could rest, camp, and let their animals
drink from the Sweetwater River. Arrival usually included a celebration with
gunfire, drink, and dancing. The pioneer Rachel Simmons wrote, "We heard so
much of Independence Rock long before we got there. They said we should have a
dance on top of it, as we had many a dance while on the plains." Sometimes
campground revelry got out of hand. Traveler Samuel Smith wrote in his diary,
"The evening of our arrival I went up to the top of the Rock to hear the Band
play, and also to sing several hymns; while here, one of the company's cows was
poisoned by drinking below." Other people wrote of using Independence Rock as an
area for recuperation and buffalo hunting. Some stayed to build transitory
communities nearby, but most people stayed for only a night or two and then
followed the Sweetwater westward.

Thousands of people left their names and messages on the surface of
Independence Rock. Some painted with buffalo oil or grease from their wagon
wheels' axels. Others etched their names with tools carried for wagon repair.
Professional stonecutters even stationed themselves at the rock and charged per
carving. Considering all the signatures, a Jesuit missionary dubbed the rock the
"Great Register of the Desert". Many names have eroded away or are covered with
lichen, but thousands are still visible. In order to preserve the historic
messages and signatures, further writing on the rock is prohibited.

Before white pioneers took interest in the rock, it was an important meeting
ground for Native Americans such as the Shoshone and Ute. They also carved into
the rock, and the granite outcropping appears in many traditional legends.

Today the rock is part of Independence Rock State Historic Site. It was
designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Wagon ruts left by the early
pioneers are still visible, but today tt can be accessed by Wyoming Highway 220.

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens is most famous for its catastrophic eruption in 1980. The
active volcano is located in Washington State, about 90 miles south of Seattle
and 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon. The Mount St. Helens recreational
area was re-opened in 1987. The Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980 was the
deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in United States
history. A series of small earthquakes were detected starting on May 16, 1980.
Two days later, at 8:32 on a Sunday morning, a massive earthquake measuring 5.1
on the Richter scale violently shook Mount St. Helens. The volcano violently
erupted, its north face exploded, and lava poured fourth for nine continuous
hours. Minor explosive activity would continue for six years.

More than 1,300 feet of the mountain's rocky summit were blown away, leaving a
milewide crater. The lava -- which was 1300 degrees Fahrenheit -- incinerated
the surrounding forest and campsites, killing fifty-seven people and 7,000
large wild animals. It also destroyed more than $1 billion in property. The
lava coated 185 miles of highway and 230 square miles of forest. It incinerated
250 homes, dozens of bridges, and 15 miles of railways.

In addition to the lava damage, the area surrounding Mount St. Helens suffered
a massive avalanche of mountain debris. Within fifteen seconds of the largest
explosion, ash clouds had formed fifteen miles up in the atmosphere. Ash was
carried by wind throughout eastern Washington. Two hundred and fifty miles
away, residents of Spokane said that daytime was as dark as night. After
President Jimmy Carter surveyed the damage, he commented, "Someone said this
area looked like a moonscape. But the moon looks more like a golf course
compared to what's up there."

Archaeological evidence suggests that many civilizations may have been impacted
by Mount St. Helens' eruptions. Campsites at least 6,500 years old have been
discovered in the mountain vicinity. About four thousand years ago, aboriginal
settlements were buried in pumice. People seem to have abandoned the land for
two thousand years, after which hunters and gatherers returned for seasonal
collection of food. These included members of the Upper Chinook, Cowlitz,
Klickitat, Taidnapam, and Yakama tribes. The tribes developed many legends to
explain the historic catastrophe and intermittent volcanic activity.

Europeans may have first spotted the volcano in 1792 when the British Royal
Navy Commander George Vancouver and his officers surveyed the Pacific Northwest
coast. Vancouver named the mountain St. Helens in honor of a British diplomat,
an Alleyne Fitzherbert, First Baron St. Helens. Geologists later determined
that starting in 1800, the Goat Rocks area started erupting for 57 years!

Fur traders and missionaries started to settle the area around 1840. Starting
in the wintry days of 1842, they reported a "Great Eruption". This produced ash
clouds and was followed by 15 years of small-scale steam-and-ash explosions.

By 1980, Mount St. Helens did not seem as threatening. The nearby Spirit Lake
offered recreational activities year-round, and the region was a popular
boating, camping, and skiing destination. During the 1980 eruption, the lake
was dramatically uplifted. Thousands of trees were uprooted and the lake
sloshed water 800 feet upward. Once Spirit Lake settled again, it was smaller
and much shallower than before. The lake was devoid of life, as volcanic gases
removed all its oxygen.

The Mount St. Helens area was left to naturally recover. It has gradually
changed from gray to green. Some areas are thriving with new coniferous
forests, and even the areas coated with volcanic rock have seen vegetation
emerge. By 1993, scientists reported seeing fish in the once uninhabitable
Spirit Lake. Barring another explosion, by the year 2200 the forest may look as
it did before the 1980 catastrophe.

President Ronald Reagan and the US Congress established the Mount St. Helens
National Volcanic Monument in 1982. The park was reopened in 1987 and has only
closed briefly, though seismic activity is still evident. People can access
visitor centers on the west side of the mountain via State Road 504. Mountain
climbing is permitted, and people can even dare a climb to the new crater of
Mount St. Helens.

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