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2020 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options

12.22.2019

Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute Complex: World Class Art and Natural History Museums, Library, Music Hall, & More



“I spent the first half of my life making money and the second half of my life giving it away to do the most good and the least harm.”
-Andrew Carnegie
Carnegie has a checkered history when it comes to the growth of this nation. He was a Gilded Age titan whose industry shaped the outcome of the nation and the world, but the success of his businesses came from the low wage and dangerous exploitation of largely immigrant populations, namely my Eastern European ancestors. The sickness and accident rate was morbidly high, more than twice that of workers in other industries. He even forced his employees to work on holidays, including Christmas and New Years. He would pit immigrant groups against each other so that they would not demand better working conditions, and instead focus their anger upon other downtrodden immigrant groups. The mortality rate of his workers was through the roof. Uprisings and strikes were met with violent force by Carnegie's goons, resulting in death and serious injury for those who simply spoke up. The Pinkerton Guards, a group of these goons, opened fire on strikers in the Homestead Strike of 1892 and killed seven workers.

Carnegie spent the latter half of his life giving away his huge fortune of money back into the community, through the creation of community centers throughout the country. He built extravagant libraries, theaters, pools, museums, and more for the betterment of community life. The central palace of this philanthropy can be seen at the Carnegie Institute and Library in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. This enormous building was built in 1895 and houses the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, Carnegie Music Hall, and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Oakland Branch.
 
 A view from a snowy day on the steps of the Carnegie Library portion of the complex.
 In the halls of the majestic Library.
Some of the beautifully extravagant decor in the library area. The library serves as a community gathering spot, where people from all walks of life in the city of Pittsburgh gather to socialize and better themselves through academic study. 2,509 libraries were built with funds contributed by Carnegie throughout the world, between 1883 and 1929. At the time of his last grant in 1919, nearly half of the libraries in the United States had a connection to Carnegie. 
 Some fossils at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
 Specimens exist of all sorts of ancient organisms at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. This world class museum is one of the jewels of Pittsburgh.

 
Some of the precious rock collections at the museum
 Perhaps the most famous part of the collection at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is the dinosaur collection. It is the world's largest collection of Jurassic Dinosaurs. 

 The Stegosaurus has always been my favorite Dino. 

The museum's Tyrannosaurus Rex is the first complete specimen ever collected. It was found in a Montana hillside in 1902. It was assembled in New York soon after, but out of concern for it possibly being bombed during World War II, it was sold to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for protection and display. 
 
 Using scientific evidence, they have recreated the types of environments in which these dinosaurs lived, thus leading the display to be known as Dinosaurs in their Time

 Cultural remnants are also displayed, including Native American craft work...
 And Egyptian mummies
Taxidermed animals from far off lands are also included, giving people a glimpse into the many different species that inhabit planet earth, and a look into their habitats. 
The Carnegie Museum of Art has prohibitions upon the use of cameras within its beautiful halls, filled with spectacular art work. The museum was one of the first to feature lots of modern art. The Carnegie International is the oldest North American exhibition of global contemporary art. It was started upon the opening of the building at the request of Carnegie himself. The competition was created as a means to display modern art, and scope out some for permanent housing in the museum's collection. 

The most notable collection in the possession of the museum is the entire Charles "Teenie" Harris archive. This African-American photographer hailed from Pittsburgh and captured photo essays of daily life in segregated and Civil Rights era Pittsburgh. He also captured photos of famous individuals, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Sam Cooke, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art
My personal favorite part of the Carnegie Museum of Art is the collection of Impressionist works, especially the Monet, Manet, and Pissaro works. Other impressionist work includes examples by Degas, Cassatt, C├ęzanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Matisse,

Not pictured, but well worth checking out, is the Carnegie Music Hall. This is perhaps the most stunning room within the complex. It is extravagantly decorated and stunning to see. The acoustics are just about perfect. While they do not host a ton of shows anymore, it is a highly recommended treat to check out this place. It is more often used for seminars and lectures than for shows these days. Upcoming in 2020, there will be a seminar with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

It is important that you get to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History at least once if you are into those two fields, and/or into beautiful architecture. Located within a short walk of the complex is the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh's Schenley Park, in addition to the rest of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University Campuses. Oakland is the cultural heart of Pittsburgh and well worth exploring.

For more information on visiting the complex, check out the Museums website at https://carnegiemuseums.org and the Library website at  https://www.carnegielibrary.org/clp_location/main-oakland/

12.16.2019

Buttermilk Falls/Homewood Falls, Beaver Falls, PA, Beaver County

Buttermilk/Homewood Falls is an extremely pretty and accessible waterfall in a small park area that was created for the appreciation of this nice waterfall, one of the tallest in Western Pennsylvania at 35 feet. Here is an article from when we visited in a previous winter. This is located just off of Route 18 and the PA Turnpike in Beaver Falls.
Buttermilk Falls, also known as Homewood Falls, is beautiful. The park is the result of the community coming together and cleaning up an old industrial site. Quarrying and trash dumping were once prevalent at this site. With a community effort, the land has been rehabilitated into a popular little recreation area. 
There is a nice little hike along the small gorge that goes through an area that was once a rock quarry.
Here is the bottom of the gorge, right before this creek's waters enter the Beaver River, near where there was once Morado Park, a former trolley park amusement park. 
The smaller and often overlooked mini waterfall just downstream from Buttermilk Falls.
Just downstream!
Here is Buttermilk Falls! Above on the left you can see busy rail right-of-way. Some of it is used, and some of it sits in abandonment. That side of the falls in obviously inaccessible.
If you are in the Beaver area, be sure to check out this nice little spot. Buttermilk Falls Natural Area is located right off of Route 18 and the Beaver exit of the PA Turnpike. 

12.09.2019

Stookey's Famous Bar-B-Que: Fantastic BBQ in Nanticoke, Luzerne County

We recently had the chance to eat at one of our favorite barbecue places, Stookey's Famous Bar-B-Que. After recently visiting some family in the region, we stopped off at Stookey's. It had always been a staple for us when we visited our family in the Nanticoke Area. It has easily been about ten years since we last went, and I have had a craving for one of their fantastic pork barbecue sandwiches for a very long time. Unfortunate circumstances brought us back and Stookey's brought us a little familiar comfort as we hit the road.
Stookey's started off as a roadside stand on Route 11 in West Nanticoke, way back in 1926. Three generations of the Stookey family have served barbecue from this humble abode. 
When my Polish and Slovak immigrant families landed in the Nanticoke area to be sent down into the coal mines, they immediately took to the fantastic sandwiches that Stookey's makes. Some of my earliest memories of heading up to the Nanticoke region to see the rest of the family that remained in the region always involved getting fantastic meals from Stookey's.  
With one bite of that barbecue sandwich, those memories came right back. The sandwiches taste exactly as awesome as I remembered them. I have never run into another barbecue sandwich with their style. Instead of drenching the meat in sauce, they smoke and use a perfect mix of spices and a barely noticeable sauce. They let their meat and seasonings shine on their own, with deliciously tender meat, topped with their yummy relish. Stookey's is one-of-a-kind, and a Nanticoke/Wilkes Barre institution. It has played a special part in the lives of our family and is well worth checking out for its fantastic and affordable food. 

For more information about this wonderful local business, check out their website at http://stookeysbarbeque.com


11.24.2019

The Stunning Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge Across the Susquehanna River

The Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge/Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Susquehanna River is a historic part of the old Lincoln Highway. The first major transcontinental highway route, leading from New York City to San Francisco, crossed the mighty Susquehanna in this location. Upon initial construction, it carried the main routing of the Lincoln Highway/Route 30 in Pennsylvania. When the routing changed, the bridge was given PA Route 462 and is still designated as being a part of the old Lincoln Highway. It was dedicated as the Veterans Memorial Bridge when it was opened to the public on Armistice Day in 1930.
The size and scope of this bridge is thoroughly impressive. Measuring in at over a mile, at a whopping 6,657 feet with 48 different swooping concrete arch spans, this bridge is both functional and graceful. The longest span is 185 feet, and the bridge is 48 feet wide. It was designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a World Engineering Landmark, saying that it is  "a splendid example of the graceful multiple-span, reinforced-concrete arched form popular in early 20th Century highway bridges in the United States."

After 90 years of service, this bridge is still considered to be the world's longest multi-span reinforced concrete arch bridge. The Wiley-Maxon Construction company designed and built the bridge in 1930 at a cost of $2,484,000, which in pure dollar inflation cost would be over 38 million today. Inflation cost though is not necessarily a good window into what the bridge would cost to build today for a river crossing up in Lewisburg on Route 15 is in the middle of construction and expected to cost 156 million, granted that modern bridge is set up to have much more clearance over the river and expected to handle more lanes of traffic.
The sheer elegance of this bridge makes it both noteworthy and historically significant. They paid great attention to making this bridge aesthetically pleasing with embellished concrete details in every way. 

Note the adjacent bridge piers. They were used for three other different bridges. The second bridge crossing here was a covered bridge that was completed in 1834. In June of 1863, the Confederate Army had captured the city of York and planned to advance to Lancaster, Harrisburg, and further free points in the Northeast. Heroic Pennsylvania Militia Men attempted to blow up the covered bridge, but ended up being unsuccessful.
Painting by Bradley Schmehl
They then soaked the bridge in oil and lit it on fire. This heroic action kept the Confederates from advancing any further, setting them up for the Battle of Gettysburg and their retreat and ultimate defeat. 
This Susquehanna River crossing is historically significant in so many ways, with perhaps the largest of which being the expansion of freedom and viability of our nation. The current ornate and beautiful bridge is a wonderful monument to this that will hopefully remain for all time.

It is easy to check out this bridge, with tremendous views at the Columbia River Park. We highly recommend checking out this stunning bridge along the historic Lincoln Highway Corridor. 


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