History on Hiatus

Sunday, April 15, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

On the History Highway, Day 32

PHOENIXVILLE, Pennsylvania— As we discovered, only one Revolutionary War battle was fought in Delaware, at Cooch's Bridge near Newark, where we stayed last night.  We drove to the site yesterday and saw a little roadside parkette with a flood of historic markers and interpretive signs all lined up.


Having completed that chapter, we decided to visit the lone Civil War site in the state.  Constructed for the purpose of protecting the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia, Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River never came under attack.  Rather than protector, the fort was pressed into service as a Confederate POW camp, housing more than 33,000 soldiers by the war's end.  Our plan to visit the fort, which is now a state park, was aborted when we discovered that transport to the island is by ferry only, and the park and ferry service will not be open until May 5.


As home to the 150-acre DuPont Experimental Station, Delaware has certainly played an active role in the industrial history of America.  Established in 1903 as one of the world's first industrial research laboratories, the center was the birthplace of such familiar products as nylon, neoprene, Tyvek, Kevlar, and environmentally-friendly herbicides and refrigerants.

With no opportunities to visit with the chemists on a Sunday afternoon, we found a couple of letterboxes, planted a letterbox in Wilmington, and pointed our car toward Pennsylvania without experiencing too much history in the First State to ratify the Constitution.

When we stopped in Westtown to look for a pair of boxes on a nature trail, we were met with an unexpected treat.  In the middle of Oakburne Park sits a fanciful Victorian summerhouse that looks as if it were built on a Hollywood backlot for some fantasy film.

Oakburne Mansion
Built by a Philadelphia industrialist, the house was willed to a local mission to be used as a retreat for sick and convalescent women.  After more than 70 years in that service, the mission was unable to afford maintenance on the large estate and sold it to the township to be used as a park.

Near the mansion is a tower, whose whimsical design camouflages its pragmatic function of storing water to be used in case of a fire in the house.  Featuring two cast iron tanks elevated to take full advantage of gravity's pull, the tower, like the house it served, incorporates a variety of materials and colors.


While scrutinizing the trailside for poison ivy and stinging nettles, I unfortunately did not see this garter snake, who was sunning himself in the middle of the path.  Fortunately, my hiking boot caught just the very tip of his tail as I inadvertently stepped on the poor fellow.  Wakened from his solar-induced reverie, he scooted off the trail, pausing just long enough to stick his tongue out at me and give me a chance for a photo op.

We ended the day in Phoenixville, PA, about an hour from Philly and five miles from Valley Forge National Historical Park, which we'll visit tomorrow.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
 "Uh, you just stepped on a snake."
Ken

More Photos from Today

Make up your mind!
Ken retrieves a letterbox from under a dinosaur's foot.