Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Roadside GIANT: Steel Virgin Mary New Castle, Delaware

Visitors traveling from New Jersey to Delaware are greeted as they enter the first state by a giant steel Virgin Mary. She's pretty hard to miss with her steely open arms looking to comfort every passing motorist, or intimidate them.

The steely figure has been in place since 2007 when the folks of Delaware decided they wanted their very own giant Mary. Local artist Charles C. Park had previously created two similar sculptures that were displayed prominently in the state before finding permanent homes in California and Illinois. Beginning in 1999 the faithful throughout the state began raising funds for their own. The statue was done in sections as funds were being raised.

The massive statue stands over 34 feet tall and weighs over 8,000 pounds. The work is not solid steel but instead is strips welded together. In between the steel spaces people place their prayers and memorials. The wind also howls through these strips making for a quite unique sound. The statue is done in a way that seems it could come to life at any moment. Certainly intimidating.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Roadside GIANT: Doctor's Bag Newark, Delaware

Did you know doctors used to come visit families door to door? They would even take payments such as eggs, chickens, or even a freshly baked pie. Well those days are long gone, but can be remembered...kinda!

Hidden away in a medical center in Newark, Delaware rests a medical bag, just like they used to carry door to door.  Protruding out of the top of the bag is a stethoscope. And oh yeah, it stands about 20 feet high and approximately 15 feet across, making it the Worlds largest doctor's bag. I certainly wouldn't wanna be receiving any proctology exams from the doctor carrying that!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Roadside GIANT: Quarter Everett, Pennsylvania

A drive along the historic Lincoln Highway can be quite pleasurable, as well as quite mundane. But along this historic heritage a few towns are trying to catch a bit of attention. Constructing roadside giants along the path allows travelers a chance for unique photo opportunities and for towns to get a little recognition.

In 2008 the small municipality of Everett, Pennsylvania had their roadside giant constructed. Standing 20 feet tall and weighing in at 1,600 pounds it's surely gotta be one of the largest quarters in the country. The sculpture was created in the local town of Bedford. Area students from the local technical institute helped in the creating process, as well as other local manufacturing facilities. The construction took a period of three days.

The quarter was chosen because of George Washington's ties to the county. He would often spend evenings in the county, as well as frequent local pubs and establishments. Another roadside giant accompanies the quarter in this rural county. The giant coffee pot in Bedford, Pennsylvania is located on a few miles away. Now if only there was a way to get a cup of coffee for a quarter.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Abandoned Divine Lorraine Hotel Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Situated just at the corners of Broad street and Fairmount avenue in Philadelphia rests a beautiful and majestic building. Though its been quickly falling into dilapidation. Once the home to Philadelphia's wealthiest is now a haven for the homeless, drug addicts, and aspiring graffiti artists. The luxurious living commodities are now bare skeletons of what they once were. Now many windows are plastered with plywood, and graffiti splashes colors of brightness onto the facade.

The Lorraine Apartments completed construction in 1894, and acted as luxurious apartments for many of Philadelphia's industrial magnates. At ten stories it was one of the first high-rise apartments in Philadelphia.  It's ornate style, which was designed by architect Willis Hale, was deemed outdated when it opened. Though it did offer all the amenities a wealthy person could enjoy. These included electricity, a staff to help residents, as well as a central kitchen for food delivery. Though it only allowed those of the white race. In 1900 the structure was changed to the Lorraine Hotel. But the segregation would continue until 1948.

At this time the property was purchased by Father Divine the leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. After purchase Father Divine made a few changes. First he renamed the hotel. It was now called the Divine Lorraine Hotel. He also included several strict rules upon its patrons. These rules included no smoking, no profanity, no drinking, and no intermingling of sexes. Women were required to wear modest skirts or dresses. And rested on separate floors as the men. But all these rules were in his eyes good. He believed all were equal in the eyes of God. This made the hotel the first racially integrated hotel in Philadelphia, possibly the country. He broke down the doors of class that had restricted others from entering. The top floor auditorium was converted to a place of worship. The kitchen was now used to feed low cost meals to the less fortunate.

After Father Divine's death in 1965, his significantly younger wife began to run the congregation, as well as the Divine Lorraine. The church was also falling under lots of controversy. Father Divine was not generally held in the highest esteem among the general public. Many were upset by his race, and the fact he referred to himself as God. Several publicized sex scandals, and reports of improper sexual conduct, clouded the church's image as well.

 The congregation slowly began disintegrating when he married a 21 year old, shortly after the passing of his first wife. Whom many within the church held in high esteem. Though he would later claim she was the reincarnate of his first wife, something the church didn't believe in previously. She would become known as Sweet Angel. Marriages also began to be celebrated, when earlier were held without much regard.

Shortly after Father Divine's death many came forth to proclaim his title. Jesus Emmanuel a former longtime member, and self proclaimed prophet came forth claiming he was the last of 5 naturally born children of Father Divine and his first wife, known as Mother Divine. He therefore claimed the peace mission as inheritance. He also held many other claims, including that the real Father Divine was housed in a mental institute, and the latest was an imposter. His bold claims made no impact on the close knit community.

Immediately after Father Divine's death, a church member offered protection at his compound in California, something the new Mother Divine quickly dismissed. He later came forth in 1971 claiming he was the Father Divine returned. After all he had let the peace mission members know he would take over control if Father Divine had ever passed. The two met in the 1950's and found the same concern in various social, and cultural issues. Mother Divine ordered him out of the church and was told never to return. Unfazed he quickly and quietly began to grow his congregation known as the People's Temple. Infamously this man was Jim Jones and later led 909 people to mass suicide at a compound in South America, all but two from cyanide poisoning. An event that became deemed as the "Jonestown Massacre",  and led to the popular phrase "don't drink the kool-aid."

The Lorraine Hotel is a sight to see. You can imagine the rich strolling in their carriages out front. While marble floors lined your way through ornate architecture. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural history as well as it's role in civil rights. Many believe the locals truly respected the past of the hotel and that's why it was left alone for several years after abandonment. But after being purchased by a developer in 2006 the squatters quickly moved in. Now the hotel is merely a shell of it's former self. But as long as it's standing, it's history will be remembered.

See photos from inside.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

World of Little League

The World of Little League in South Williamsport is sure to put a smile on every member of the family. Whether old or young, man or woman something is sure to catch your eye here. Generally the exhibit is a history of Little League baseball. But there's a lot more going on here.

As you enter you take a seat on the bleachers and view a brief film that explains why Little League is so important in the roles of all children. No matter race, creed, sex, economic background, or physical ailments all are welcome to grow and learn. Little League teaches morals, conduct, teamwork, and most importantly respect toward others.

But Little League wasn't always so inviting, particularly to girls. This is not something they try to cover up. Part of their unique history is the young women whom would trick teams into allowing them to play, sometimes surpassing the boys in play. It wasn't until 1974 that the league began to allow girls to play, it was a landmark case that went to the New Jersey supreme court while garnering lots of attention from the National Organization of Women. The museum gives you an interesting look into this odd time for the league.

Among the other displays surrounding the museum include some of the gadgets used to test equipment, uniforms from other countries who participate in the sport, as well as some uniforms of those who went onto big league careers.

There are various interactive exhibits in the museum to keep you active. Each giving you a unique glimpse into performing certain aspects of the game. Whether your playing catch with Mike Mussina, trying out your shortstop skills, jumping for a fly ball, or timing your run to first base. There's something sure to appeal  to every member of the family.

The museum also includes a hall of fame. On the list you'll find a who's of who's of about every career. Some went on to great Major League careers, while others settled as greats in other professional sports. A few went on to become top military men, famous actors, astronauts, and even a future President. It certainly gives you the feeling no matter what dreams you plan to accomplish, Little League seems to be a good springboard for attaining them.

Read more about Little League's past
Read about Little League in the present 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Statue of Liberty in Susquehanna River

The Statue of Liberty is mostly synonymous with New York. A figure standing for freedom, independence, and virtue. But all throughout the World there are numerous replicas, including one hiding away in the middle of the Susquehanna river.

In the Dauphin Narrows just north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania rests a 25 foot replica of Lady Liberty. But how it ended up here is more fascinating than the statue.

In 1986 the Statue of Liberty was celebrating it's 100th birthday. Lots of celebrations were held and commemorative coins were even minted for the occasion. A gentleman in Pennsylvania decided to come up with another way to honor lady liberty. In a friend's garage in Harrisburg, Gene Stilp spent numerous hours constructing a replica of the infamous statue using old venetian blinds and plywood. On July 1, 1986 Stilp and about a dozen close friends towed the 450 pound statue to the Susquehanna river. The group then occupied two rowboats and two canoes and hauled the replica a 1/2 mile downstream to an abandoned railroad pier poking out of the river. The crew, using ropes, than hoisted the massive likeness onto the old pier. After flipping on the construction light installed in the replica, the men quickly and quietly retreated from the river to enjoy some beers and pizza.

When morning came the gentlemen were in amazement at what was occurring. Traffic began backing up on highway 322 as passing motorists became fascinated and amazed. Morning commuters were pulling over to take pictures and contact radio stations. Initially it was all thought to be a hoax, but word soon traveled about the mysterious statue. The men were elated with the response the statue received. They weren't merely trying to prank everyone, just showing their love for their country.

Originally the statue was only intended to stay until Labor day of that year. But surprisingly stayed in place for 6 years until permanently damaged by a wind storm in 1992. The next several years Mr. Stilp raised money to build a new and improved statue. In 1997 a helicopter lowered the renovated statue into place. The new statue is constructed of wood, fiberglass, and metal. It weighs roughly 8000 pounds. And while Mr. Stilp and his friends initially raised their statue in the middle of night with no red tape. The brand new statue required several permits. It seems this prank to commemorate our country, will now be remembered for decades to come.