Written 10/17 in Columbus Ohio for Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 13-15 in Pennsylvania
We left Ivoryton CT around noon on Monday to drive to Philadelphia to begin our trip back to MN. This section of our trip to return to MN is 1600 miles but we will take 11 days to complete it.
The drive down from Ivoryton to Philly should take three and a half hours in ideal traffic. We expected Monday to bring a combination of rain, and holiday and rush hour traffic; we chose a slightly longer route to possibly avoid the problem areas. The trip took five and a half hours.
Fall colors are continuing with varying results. Generally we are slightly past peak colors. We drive through some areas that are still quite beautiful. Then 50 miles away we come across scenes of brown trees, if the leaves are still on the trees. We enjoy what is provided and marvel that we are experiencing about a five week period of fantastic fall foliage.
Kathy came with us to Philly and we dropped her off at a friend’s house. She will fly home later in the week. Our lodging for two nights will be an AirBnB apartment in Old City Philadelphia, just a few blocks from Independence Hall. Our only hassle is that the key to the building works sporadically. Our several minutes of frustration are solved when a resident of the building comes along and manages to open the door with her key-but even she has hassles.
One of the original goals for Philly was to visit the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial operated by the National Park Service. It is the smallest unit run by the National Park Service. (Note: their spelling of his name differs from that used at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga.) He was the Polish military engineer who designed the defenses at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga. But, we found out a few days ago that the site is only open on Saturday and Sunday due to budget cuts.
We went anyway. But first we re-visited Independence Hall. Generally we are visiting places that are new to us. Independence Hall has been a frequent spot for us, but it has been over 10 years since our last time here. It is a moving place to visit and this trip was no exception. The National Park Service offers a 25 minute introduction to Independence Hall, bringing you into the rooms where the founders of our country debated and risked their lives and property for the cause. The ranger reminded us that the names of the signers were not published for 6 months to give them time to place their family and possessions out of reach of the British.
After Independence Hall we wandered around Old City on our way to the Kosciuszko National Memorial. This section of Philly is narrow streets (well, that describes a lot of Philly) with brick homes and buildings on tree-lined streets with little traffic. Very pleasant but not immune to issues. We passed old St. Mary’s Catholic Church that has closed its doors to visitors during the week due to vandalism. Placards in the area told of the tolerant history of PA due to the Quaker influence. In the 1730s, Philadelphia was the only major city in the British Empire where a Roman Catholic Mass could be celebrated in public.
The Thaddeus Kosciuszko Memorial is located at the site where he lived during 1797-1798. He had returned to Philadelphia for a while after his efforts to free Poland from Russian control were defeated. At his death, Thomas Jefferson called him: “as pure a Son of Liberty as I have ever known”. We walked to it, figuring even if it was closed to visitors, we had come this far, we might as well view the outside of the building. A ranger at the Independence Hall Visitor Center had informed us that due to budget cuts, they could not keep it open more frequently.
Lunch/dinner was at a small restaurant, Farmicia, near our lodging that specialized in farm to restaurant food. Our last major activity was a 90 minute docent tour at the Barnes Foundation. It was a 40 minute walk each way from our place, we left the car in one paid parking lot the entire time in Philly.
If you are not aware of the Barnes, it is a remarkable place. It has over 800 art objects. We were primarily interested in the paintings, although other objects are in its collection. The paintings alone were valued at $25 Billion in 2010. The collection has a concentration on works by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso.
To understand the Barnes, you must understand its history. It was founded by a medical doctor, born poor but highly intelligent in Philadelphia in 1872. He spent more time in pharmaceuticals than doctoring. He and a partner, whom he later bought out, developed and marketed one of the first antibiotics in the 20th century. It was used heavily in the prevention and cure of eye infections and venereal disease. The drug made him extremely rich and he fortuitously sold out his stake in 1928 before the stock market crash.
We remembered the Barnes from our previous years living in PA. Dr. Barnes set up the collection to help educate people in understanding art. He arranged the items in each of the 23 galleries to show the progression in an artist’s work, using predecessor artists who were influential in certain techniques. The hangings on the wall are usually symmetrical; if one side has an oval shaped painting, so does the other side. His arrangements have not, and can not, be changed. Every object you see in one of the galleries is exactly as it was when he died in 1951.
Due to parking and zoning restrictions, the Barnes’ previous home in Merion PA limited the number of people who could view this remarkable collection. In addition, its funding for operations was limited. The trustees brought legal action to change its restrictions. A big fight ensued and all we know now is that an expensive, much larger facility is now open in Philadelphia. Most of the larger space is used for education, outreach, etc. The galleries in the new facility replicate the size and layout of the previous galleries and, as indicated above, the artwork is arranged exactly the same as before.
The Barnes is closed to visitors on Tuesdays, the day we were in town. However, there is an option for a 90 minute tour from 4 to 5:30 which we jumped at. This docent led tour takes place while the galleries are closed so you have a great opportunity to view the art. Our tour was to focus on works by Renoir. The Barnes has 181 of his paintings, more than any other institution in the world. In fact, it has more Renoirs than are in all of France.
The docent led the eight of us through half of the galleries, discussing the paintings, the arrangements, and the artists. The arrangement should help anyone understand art by understanding the color, light, line and space used as building blocks to make the composition. Frankly, I was quite glad to have the docent’s guidance. All of the docents at the Barnes are volunteers who must have an art background and have three years of preparation before leading tours. Ours certainly seemed knowledgeable.
Wednesday was a longer driving day, going from Philadelphia to Cambridge Ohio. More importantly, though, we stopped in Harrisburg to visit with Ed’s former colleagues at Mette, Evans & Woodside. It has been 11 years since I left but many of the people are still there. Changes have obviously occurred. Some people have retired or moved on. The firm is a little smaller now than when I left and this has resulted in changes to the floor plan to accommodate the change.
Chris and I spent two hours greeting people, getting a tour of the revised layout, and having lunch with some colleagues. Two hours was wonderful but certainly not enough to greet people in depth, to learn their current life situation, and to discuss old friends no longer with the firm. But we enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity and the time people took to chat with us.
We reached Cambridge in early evening after periods of rain, some torrential but brief. The fall colors through the Allegheny Mountains on the PA Turnpike were near peak.
Ed and Chris 10/17 9:45 pm