Visiting Gerald R. Ford, Jr. Presidential Library – Grand Rapids, MI

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Gerald Ford Museum Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Ford was a bridge builder and an honest guy who could not believe the dishonesty of others in powerful positions; he felt his role, as President during the tumultuous ‘70’s was to heal the country.

After we finished inside the museum we then walked out to see the burial site of both President Ford and Betty.  We then sat out at the fountain. I think for me I was surprised at how many of the energy and economic programs that I had always attributed to Jimmy Carter era were programs that started with Ford. I was also surprised with the support of education through the establishment Special Education programs throughout the United States, and that he and Betty were supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment for women along with being pro-choice. These are things that I nowadays don’t think about being connected to the Republican Party.

The burial site of Gerald and Betty Ford. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

As we sat out at the fountain:

“What did you think about the Museum Eileen?” I asked.

“I was surprised at all I learned and didn’t know. I do wish though that the Betty Ford section was bigger.”

“Me too. I think we don’t really understand what all The First Lady does, or can do. She was the unpaid partner and many times was doing some amazing work on her own.”

“She was one to not be always behind the scenes. Did you know she was she was a proponent of equal rights and rights for women in general like abortion?”

“I had no idea, and that she had been an accomplished dancer and later work with children and kids with disabilities.”

“Then there was her openness about breast cancer and her treatment when people didn’t talk about those subjects.”

“Yeah, and then after they left the White House, she was very open about her addiction and created the Betty Ford Clinic when women or anyone for that matter didn’t talk about substance abuse.”

“They were quite the couple. A lot more liberal than I expected.”

One of the exhibits in the museum. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

President Ford had the shortest Presidency for a President that did not die in office (895 days from August 9, 1974-January 20, 1977). He became President in a very unexpected way, and at the time had been considering retiring from public service. He served Michigan in the House of Representatives for 25 years. He had moved to the position of Minority Leader and had hoped when President Nixon was running for re-election that he would become House Leader after the election. Little did he know that in a few short months after Nixon’s second inauguration that he would become Vice-President (not through election but by appointment, after Spiro Agnew resigned), and within months become President of the United States of America again not through an election but because Nixon resigned under impeachment.

Visiting the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan was on our list as we headed to Michigan this summer. When I was growing up in Michigan the Museum did not exist and did not open until 1981. I actually didn’t know Ford had a Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids until this last year when I first saw a list of all the Presidential Libraries. We had never really considered visiting the Presidential Libraries until after visiting the JFK library in Boston one summer. That was really the start of it all.

Ford’s Life Lessons. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It appears that Ford is the only President that has a Museum in one location and a library in another (Ann Arbor, Michigan). The Ford’s Museum was in downtown Grand Rapids, we went on a Saturday, the traffic was light and we found easy parking near the building that sits along the Grand River. As we approached the building there was a large shooting fountain that grabbed out attention along with a garden and statue of his wife Betty Ford.

The museum was on the second floor of the building. The first floor had restrooms, gift shop and a conference room. As we began our tour we learned of his humble beginning. We were surprised to learn that he started his life not as Gerald R. Ford but as Lesley King. His parents divorced early after is birth and his mother made her way with him from Nebraska to Grand Rapids where he grew up. In 1935 he formally took the name Gerald R. Ford in honor of his stepfather although he was know as Ford junior early on.

When we planned this trip to the library we both had thought we would just be there for a short visit. We had not realized we would become pulled in by his story and what was happening during his Presidency. As a teenager during that time I have memories of Nixon’s impeachment and of the energy crisis.

During our visit I came to understand so much more about what a true leader he was. The economy was a mess, high inflation and high unemployment rate. The war in Vietnam was coming to an end. Nixon was impeached. The populace was distrustful and angry. What a way to start a new job! He thought his job was to help the country heal and many of his decisions seem to be made with that always on his mind.

The museum starts with a section on his early years, growing up and his schooling. We learned that he had been a Boy Scout and was one of the first honor guards to spend his summer on Mackinac Island. He earned the highest honor in Boy Scouts – Eagle Scout and has been the only President to be an Eagle Scout. Now both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have the same opportunity to serve at Mackinac Island. He later went onto the University of Michigan where he studied economics, history, business and political science. He was a star football player and Captain of the team. Then it was off to Yale where he worked full time as a football and boxing coach. Later he studied law on a part time basis while coaching. When he finished law school he returned to Michigan to practice.

Eileen looking over the Oval Office. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

One of the other exhibits we saw was a replica of the oval office and of the cabinet meeting room. Both spaces were very impressive. We had been watching the television series Madam Secretary just before we went to the museum.  So seeing these rooms in the series then seeing the replicas added a whole new context for me. The rooms were impressive and thinking about what happens in these spaces was awe-inspiring.

We also watched the film called “A time to heal: Gerald Ford’s America.” It really set the context for understanding what was happening and how he felt he needed to negotiate the rocky climate in the country. As I mentioned earlier that responsibility to consider what was best for the country not what was best for President Ford to get re-elected. He pardoned Nixon because he felt that there needed to be an end to the impeachment mess. This was a hard decision and he was given a lot flack for this decision.

I also really enjoyed the exhibit area dedicated to Betty Ford. I wish actually that she had a larger exhibit. I think that we underestimate and don’t really understand the work of the First Lady.

Ford had the job to build bridges and find a way to bring the country back together again. In many ways he and President Grant both had the job of leading when the country was getting through traumatic events. Ford was awarded John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage in 2001 for his pardon of Nixon, Senator Teddy Kennedy later stated though he originally opposed he now saw the wisdom, as did history.

Ford statue out at the fountain. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Fall Equinox Photo Essay 2019

By Jelane A. Kennedy

I decided that for this photo essay I would concentrate on the sunsets and sunrises that I enjoyed this summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Most of these photos were taken at different locations on the Great Lakes around Michigan. Some were on Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan. And then there is Lake Superior. It is actually pretty amazing to think that we visited three of the Great Lakes from one land mass – the Upper Peninsula or the UP.

Starting with Lake Huron as a backdrop:

St. Ignace, Mi, Straits campground Lake Huron Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Then the point between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan – The Mackinaw Bridge!

Lake Michigan as the backdrop:

Finally Lake Superior as a backdrop:

Each morning we got up early and each night after dinner we would go for a walk or ride our bikes. As a small child I grew up in the Upper Peninsula and later we lived in the Lower Peninsula. When the sun was up, I was up and even now as an adult it was the same (drove my Mom crazy as a kid). Eileen joked that I was the engerizer bunny! Being up on Lake Superior, I enjoyed the cool breezes off the lake and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. For me there is something about the light and the smell of the air.

We also enjoyed walking in the water looking at the rocks (a bit too cold to swim!). Over the next few months I will share more of our adventures. We had a great time.  Going with the flow – we have some great summer memories as we move toward the winter months. It was great to see Eileen back on a bike, she continued to find electric biking easier than walking, but she continues to make progress. She is a trooper!

Travel on!

(c) Jelane A. Kennedy

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Hiking Heublein Tower, Simsbury, Connecticut

By Jelane A. Kennedy


Trailhead Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Heublein Tower is part of Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, Connecticut. The hike to the tower is known for it being a short hike with a great view. We arrived on a nice Sunday morning. We had packed a lunch and were ready to see what sights we might find on this 1.25-mile hike. The description on the website had said there was a steep incline to start.

I was a bit worried if it might be too much for Eileen as she was 9 months into her recovery from a hip fracture and surgery to repair the fracture. She had kept making progress with her recovery. She had begun the process of re-training her brain to walk. Over the months, walking long distances had been a challenge, leaving her sore and uncomfortable. But of late her physical therapy work had been training her again to use her core to walk and not just her thigh muscles. So this would be a test to her progress over that last couple of weeks. In our choice of this hike one of the things that was encouraging was the description that indicated the trail included multiple benches along the way to be able to stop for a rest on the steep ascent.

Eileen taking a pit stop Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The trailhead was easy to find. Luckily we arrived early and found a nearby parking space. During our drive up we saw multiple signs that said no parking, which lead us to believe that this was a popular hike and that parking could be at a premium. So we were happy to snag a spot on a nice Sunday morning.

Once on the trail the steep incline began pretty quickly into the woods. The trail was wide; it looked like it had been a road. It though was not without rocks. I don’t think it would be consider a wheelchair accessible trail by any means.

The canopy overhead offered great shade as the hike progressed. We enjoyed looking at the trees and we saw some wild flowers. There were several benches spaced along the way providing rest stops up the incline. Eileen was a trooper and when needed we made a pit stop at one of the benches. We could always turn around if it got too much. About halfway up the trail it leveled off and we found ourselves on a ridgeline that looked out over the valley below to Simsbury. We followed this up to the tower. Now this was not your typical fire tower, this was actually a house! It looked very Bavarian. Like we had stepped out of a German landscape. The tower was 165 feet tall.

It is not just a tower but a house. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

We followed the trail to the visitor center in what had been the caretaker’s quarters. There we learned about the tower and how it came to be. This was the fifth tower to be built in this general location. It appears that people from the valley below enjoyed coming up in the summers for the view and a break from the valley heat. This particular tower was built for the wife of a German entrepreneur from Hartford, Gilbert Heublein. While hiking during their courtship he had promised his wife to be, to build her a tower summer home. It was constructed of cement, steel and rock. (Earlier wooden towers in the area had succumbed to fire). There also was some history about the caretakers and life up at the tower.

During the summer months the tower is open and hikers can climb through the tower and get a feel for what it was like to live there. When it was originally build it was the first residential building in the area to have an elevator (Otis to be exact). Between the time the park took over the building and it’s last owners, the building suffered vandalism.

Restored bedroom in the tower. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Over the years the Friends of Heublein Tower  have been restoring the building. The elevator was replaced with a double staircase, which allows for separate up and down staircases that travel to the sixth floor (observation deck/old ballroom). It is 120 steps to the top (Yes we made the walk up!). On the way up you have a chance to see the private sleeping quarters of Louise and Gilbert. Along with an area set aside showcasing the family businesses and ultimately ending up in the 6th floor ballroom with panoramic views of the valley below. One of Gilbert’s claims to fame is A-1 steak sauce.

The building also has a small gift shop area. The grounds include some gardens, and picnic areas along with a famous fire pit (you’ll have to visit to learn more about the fire pit!) We enjoyed the hike a lot and want to return during the Fall foliage to see the colors. Eileen looks forward to comparing the two hikes! Even on a cloudy day the view was worth it!

View out over the valley from front door. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy

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Summer Solstice Photos Essay 2019

By Jelane A. Kennedy

The last photo essay that I published was for the Winter Solstice in 2018. It is amazing to think that time has gone by so quickly. Although this year has been different than past years with Eileen healing from a hip fracture, we have still found different things to do, less hiking and walking. The winter also was a time of more inside activities since snowshoeing was out for the time being.

One of the sad things that happened this winter was the burning of the Schroon Lake Community Church. We had just arrived in Schroon Lake and gone to the post office. We had only been at the house 15 minutes when we heard that the church on main street just across from the post office was on fire. The past few months have gone from fire investigation to demolition. This summer is the start of fund raising. It has been sad to not hear the carillon church bell concert each afternoon.

Schroon Lake Community Church, The morning after. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

As the winter moved on we decided to take a day trip up to Lake Placid. It was great fun to watch folks out on Mirror Lake, they had a dog sled team giving rides, folks were out on cross country skis and snow shoes. But the best was watching the newly renovated toboggan chute in action out onto the lake. The chute has been a part of the Lake Placid scene since the 1960’s and was a convert ski jump trestle, it has since been fully rebuilt in 2017. Maybe next year we will take a ride!

Winter day, Lake Placid, NY. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

A trip this early Spring took us to the Berkshire Mountain Museum to see the da Vinci exhibit. It was a great afternoon. You can read more about it in my post Berkshire Museum – A great rainy day adventure for all ages . It is a traveling exhibit that has been making it’s rounds across the country. You can check it out at this website Evergreenexhibitions to see where it is and where it is going.

Machines in Motion sign, Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

As spring progressed this brought us to the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, CT. Where you can again read about our adventure visiting the Dinosaur tracks.  On a walk around the grounds we saw the beginnings of spring shoots!

Yes spring is coming! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

One of my favorite things about Spring is seeing both the daffodils and tulips make their appearance. This year they seemed to be early and I was treated to new buds that made me smile each morning as I went to and from home.

Spring smile. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

In exploring Connecticut more we went to downtown Hartford and saw the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, which honors citizens who fought in the Civil war. It is quite impressive with many sculptured features. We enjoyed our visit to Bushnell Park and the carousel. We also found the sculpture garden in New Britain near the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Our final adventure this Spring as we moved into summer was to get Eileen back on a bicycle. It has been a great adventure and she bravely hoped on 9 months after her fall. It was so great to see her big smile again! We really enjoyed our first long ride on Hop River State Park Trail in Connecticut. The trail was well maintained and had good parking. The gravel was well packed and smooth. Riding through the just budding tree’s and enjoying the spring sunshine was a delight.

Our first big ride! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Travel on!

(c) 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy

Posted in Berkshires, Bicycling, Connecticut, Photo Essays, Places: State Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tracking Dinosaurs in Rocky Hill, Connecticut!

Entrance sign. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Visiting Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut was a mind-boggling experience. I guess for me over the years dinosaurs have felt very imaginary, otherworldly and probably because of the film Jurassic Park, something only seen in the movies. It seems like most Natural History Museums have some sort of skeleton of a dinosaur on display. The skeleton has been painstaking put together by Paleontologist and provided to us so we might get a sense of the size of these invisible creatures that lived long ago and that we can only imagine.

So when Eileen and I were trying to find a State Park near us in Connecticut to go visit I was uncertain what we would see at Dinosaur State Park. Most of the State Parks we have visited in New York have been places where we go for a hike, see a lake or some waterfalls. And if they have a nature center we learn something about the local fauna and flora.

Geo-dome hidden in tree’s. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Dinosaur State Park was located about 10 minutes from where we have a condo. It was probably the nearest State Park to us, in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. We were looking for a place we could go for a short walk. We wanted to have an opportunity to be outside in nature as it was one of the first warm weekends of spring.

Multiple times we had seen signs for the park over the last year and a half while visiting different places, as we were re-habbing the condo. Plus I had seen in the local free newspaper advertisements about rock sluicing where kids can buy a bag a sand filled with a variety of gems, minerals or fossils, (mining rough) and usually when I’ve seen it done there was a water sluice to help remove the sand. (This activity advertised as usually available on the weekends in the spring and in the summer months from Tuesday through Sunday.)

So we packed up our first picnic for the season. Eileen grabbed her hiking stick, as it would be our first hike since breaking her hip. The sun was out and it just felt like a good day to explore. After I hooked up the GPS on my cell phone we were off.

Dino timeline. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

When we arrived at the park we could see a big silver geodesic dome. As we walked from the parking lot to the dome we found a kiosk with some information about the park and embedded in the concrete walkway was timeline to think about when dinosaurs were here and when humans as we know came to be. As we got closer to the dome we saw the picnic area, a place where they do track casting in the summer and the trailhead to the trail system.

As you walked into the dome there was a museum shop, restrooms, an educational workspace and some large exhibit educational signs about dinosaurs. But the main attraction and biggest surprise was to see actual dinosaur tracks (called a trackway)!! I think that was when it all became surreal. Here on the ground were real tracks; just like when we hike in the winter as we might see in the snow, deer, rabbit, fox or other animal tracks or at the beach in the sand bird tracks. The exhibit explains the different ways that the tracks can be examined, there are multiple layers to tracks (who knew?). As I gazed out on to the field of tracks left in now rock it was amazing to really consider that dinosaurs walked here…here…here, 200 million year ago!

A view of the Trackway. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The tracks were found by accident in the late 1960’s when the state of Connecticut was preparing the site to build a new building. One of the contractors working on the site with a backhoe pulled up earth and in the process uncovered a set of tracks. As you can imagine, all work stopped. From that point on, work focused on uncovering the area to see what was there, how big it was and then to stabilize the area.

Currently only about a quarter of the tracks are available for visitors to see. The other tracks have been reburied and marked, with the hope that in time they can be uncovered and the geodesic dome enlarged to cover the whole site. Near the restrooms in the dome, there on the wall was an imprint/casting of a track; it was about the size of Eileen (5’2”).

What a big foot! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

After being inside and hanging around the trackway we went out for our picnic and took a walk on one of the trails. They were doing trail upgrades so we could only do a section but it was enough considering it was Eileen’s first hike. As we walked the forested area, I kept thinking, dinosaurs walked here, they really walked here doing their thing like I might think about deer roaming the forest.

We are looking forward to returning when the trail upgrades are done and spending more time at this gem of a park. This is just one of two places on the East Coast to see tracks.

The grounds of the park are open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm and the trails close at 4 pm. The exhibit center in the dome is open Tuesday thru Sunday from 9 am to 4:30 pm. (Monday closed for research.) For addition information the Friends Dinosaur Park have a website.

Where the Dinosaurs have walked. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy

Posted in Connecticut, Places: State Park | 1 Comment

Berkshire Museum – A great rainy day adventure for all ages.

Berkshire Museum Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

If you have not yet visited the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, it’s time to check it out. Pittsfield is one of those cities that at one time had a large downtown area that was probably very busy but is now marked by vacant buildings. Showing that time and industry has moved on and now it is a city working to come back to it’s former self in some way. The Berkshire Museum founder was Zenas Crane (yes the same Crane that I wrote about in a post about the Crane Papermaking Museum. He started the museum to educate and entertain those in the local area. The museum was built in 1903. There are three floors. The museum has a combination of natural science, art and history.

Angel wing. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

There is an aquarium in the basement. The first floor has a cinema where they show primarily documentaries and international films. There is also a museum shop, a section that has information about innovations from the Berkshires (Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation) and an area of taxidermy birds and small animals along with rocks and minerals. The third floor as an open gallery where they have space for school classes. There are three adjoining galleries where they bring special exhibits in throughout the year. There is also another gallery that has a permanent exhibit that showcases a variety of objects that are part of the permanent collection (bicycles, sculpture, north pole expedition items, mummies, etc.)

Dinosaur greeter at the museum entrance. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Over the years that we have been coming to the Berkshire Museum we have visited each gallery and each space. The only thing we have not done is seen any of the movies that are offered.

The first time I think we visited the museum we saw an Escher exhibit. I have always been fascinated with M. C. Escher’s work. It was a great exhibit that showed his process and many of his prints. The Times Union newspaper, which we use to subscribe to when we lived in Albany, New York, always had advertisements about the exhibits at the Berkshire Museum. After that first visit whenever we were going to be vacationing in the Berkshires I have always gone to their website to see what might be happening while we are in the area.

Last fall we went while we were in the area and saw an exhibit of National Geographic photographs. We had gone originally to see the Christmas Tree exhibit. It was not one of the best Christmas tree exhibits but it was fun. What ended up being more fun though were the photographs along with a blown glass display from a local artist.

da Vinci flying machines Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

This time when we went it was for the Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in motion exhibit. The 40 machines were from drawings in da Vinci’s journals, each of the inventions was made primarily out of wood built by crafts people in Italy. Next to each machine was information about how the concepts that da Vinci was playing with had actually been used in the centuries since. What was so neat about the exhibit was being able to manipulate each of the pieces and to see how they worked and how far advanced his ideas were. He was both an artist and an inventor. In watching the film about him we learned that he originally was recommended for his first job after his apprenticeship as a creator of armaments. Where he had been an apprentice was a place where the students not only develop skills as painting artist but also worked on other kinds of creative work, which included making weapons because of the region he was in. It was an exhibit worth stopping over to see.

So the next time you are in the Berkshire’s make an effort to check out what might be happening at the Berkshire Museum.

The museum is located at 39 South Street (Route 7), Pittsfield, MA 01201. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm and Sundays from noon to 5 pm. Check out this great museum, it is well worth your time over and over again.


© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran


Posted in Berkshires, Places: Museums | 4 Comments

Visiting President Grant’s Writing Cottage

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Historic marker to the cottage. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Grant’s cottage is a small gem in the foothills of the Adirondacks. For years I have driven by the sign on I-87 while heading north. Finally this fall on a semi-overcast day we decided to go check it out. Before going, I thought about what I had learned in history class about President Ulysses Grant. All I could remember was hearing that he was a war hero having won the Civil War because of his well-planned strategies and that he was not much of a President mainly due to having a drinking issue. This pretty much summed it up.

Well I was to learn that what I had been taught in my history class was way off target. We started our visit by driving up a long road past the now closed McGregor Prison on top of McGregor Mountain in the Wilton area of upstate New York. It was a bit eerie to drive past the closed prison in it’s large gothic like presence. (The last time I had visited the prison was on a site visit for an intern. This was a number of years before the prison closed). At one time a popular hotel was on the site when Grant and his family came. The prison it’s self had started as a TB sanitarium in the early 1900’s and was repurposed multiple times, the last as a medium-security prison.

A brief history of Grant’s legacy. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

President Grant was the 18thPresident of the United States. He lived in the cottage for almost two months in 1885. He did not own the cottage. The hotelier that owned Hotel Balmoral lent the cottage to him and his family. His doctors’ had informed Grant that he needed a place away from New York City during the heat of the summer. President Grant was much beloved by the public in general and had been a popular president. Veterans of the Civil War had a strong affinity to him. He served two terms of office and probably would have served a third had he not been slow to decide on the third term process.

During his time in office he had put in place many pieces of legislation related to early civil rights and is considered by many the 2ndgreatest president after Abraham Lincoln to be concerned about the rights of people of color. The civil rights act of 1875 was enacted during his Presidency. It was an amazing piece of legislation that affirmed the rights of people of color and prohibited the racial discrimination in all public places. (It was deemed unconstitutional in 1883.)  It has been said that he and President Lincoln were friends and spent time-sharing ideas. The night Lincoln was shot, Grant and his wife were to have attended Ford Theater with the Lincoln’s. The Grant’s had bowed out and had they not done so there was thought that Grant also would have been shot.

The cottage where Grant last lived. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The cottage was where Grant finished the second volume of his two volume memoirs about the civil war. He was a reluctant writer. The memoir probably would not have been written at all had it not been for three events. One was he had been convinced by his son to invest in a Ponzi type scheme, and had introduced another investor to invest. When he found out what was going on he used the last of his wealth to pay back the other investor. He was considered an honest and honorable man. The second event was that around this same time it was discovered he had throat cancer. Not wanting his family to be destitute he felt a need to provide for them. Earlier a magazine had approached him about writing a piece about his experiences in the Civil War.

The third event centered on his friendship with Mark Twain. Mr. Twain was just starting his publishing company and encouraged his friend to write a memoir instead of the magazine article. Twain would publish what would be a two-volume book. He marketed the book through door-to-door sales. Twain hired veterans as sales men. They offered the book to consumers with different covers so that a consumer could select a price point that fit their budget.

The view from the overlook Grant liked to visit. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Grant spent his time on the first floor of the cottage. He slept in two chairs pushed together up until his final hours where he asked to be moved into a bed in the living room area. His days he spent finishing editing the second volume of the book. Twain would visit him telling Grant the encouraging news that the first volume was selling well. When Grant could he also would visit the overlook nearby the cottage to look out over the mountains and valley below near the Saratoga Battlefield. He also spent many hours out on the porch in the fresh mountain air.

During his time at the cottage family and friends would stay up the hill at the hotel. Making it convenient to visit him. It also made it convenient for his fans to get a glimpse. His wife after a few days ended up abandoning the downstairs bedroom because she got tired of people peeking in the windows. She slept upstairs knowing he was well taken care downstairs by his doctor and valet. He must have had excellent concentration to be able to write with all the commotion going on around him. His book has never been out of print.

Visitor Center before the Grant’s Cottage. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Before arriving at the cottage there is a welcome center to purchase your admission ticket. Inside you will find several great displays about his presidency, a movie and a museum shop. As a visitor you are able to walk out to the overlook (the path is not very wheelchair accessible), and the first floor of the cottage. The docent tour of the first floor was well done and very informative. The docents demonstrate that they have done a lot of research on Grant and you can tell that they love him. The only part of the tour I found odd was the space used to hold the now dead (dried) flower wreaths from his funeral. It weirder me out a bit.

I am now more curious about Grant and plan to read a biography that was suggested by one of the docents. After learning what we did about his human rights advocacy, I want to understand more.

It is well worth the trip to visit Grant’s Cottage. It is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The days of the week they are open vary during the season but the hours are 10 am – 4 pm. The admissions fee for adults is $6.00 but you can walk the grounds for free ( Now that the prison is closed the site has seen an uptick in traffic.

This fenced in monument is the spot where he would sit. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© Jelane A. Kennedy

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