As I reflect over the two weeks I spent in New York and think about what was most important to me, I feel the need to write about some of the many things I experienced while there. I really enjoyed learning about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park. It helped to go to the site and I gained a better understanding of not only the relationship between Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor; I also learned about Roosevelt’s relationship with his mother, but that was not the only lesson I learned there. I gained a better understanding of the politics of the day. It was significant to hear about how Roosevelt would greet his guests coming to see him at his home. He would be seated somewhere when these visitors came and the guests would be none the wiser to the fact that Roosevelt could not walk. I had wondered how he had kept his disability a secret. At the same time, I knew the press just had the class at that time not to photograph him when he was moving from one place to another, using his wheelchair or crunches. They waited until he was in place and ready to be photographed. Times sure have changed in that regard. The press loves to catch people unprepared.
I also enjoyed the Museum of the City of New York and the Gallery Tour: Cars, Culture, and the City. What I took away from that exhibit may not have been what they had planned, but I enjoyed looking at the car ads and thinking about how they had used propaganda to sell the cars. I love teaching my students about how propaganda is used to get people, including them, to purchase items, and I think this exhibit is a great example that I will be able to use that will also be of interest to them.
The tours with Ed O’Donnell were very informative and I favorite day was when we went over the Brooklyn Bridge and then to Central Park. After having read McCullough’s The Great Bridge, Ed was able to answer questions about where the Rollins’ lived and explain some of the details from the book that were a little unclear; going into Central Park was such a surprise. After looking down at the park from the Empire State building, I knew it was a large area, but once we got in there I had a better understanding of how vast this park really was. I think the park would be one of my favorite places to hang out if I lived in New York. It was very cool!
Ellis Island was also a must see on my list of places. I enjoyed seeing places that others are not allowed to visit as of yet, but even without that, just the Ellis Island experience in itself was important to me. I have taught about Ellis Island and I just came away with a much better understanding of what an immigrant might go through. It was called “The Island of Hope and the Island of Tears” for very good reasons; yet after going there I feel that the inspectors did the best they could to get the immigrants into the country. They really did not want to turn people away and send them home. That was refreshing information to find out.
Another site I am so glad we went to was the William Seward home. I did not know he helped run-away slaves and his house was part of the Underground Railroad until we visited. After this visit I feel like there is so much more I need to learn about him, and I plan to do that.
Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga National Historic Park were also important; for I have taught about these sites many times when covering the seven years war and the Revolution. It is just easier to explain sites if you have experienced it yourself, and I now have photos to back up what I will be explaining to my students. Saratoga reminded me of Gettysburg; I did not know that the battles took place in a nine mile area in a landscape that rolled somewhat like that of Gettysburg. I am really glad I got to experience these locations, because seeing something just helps one make more sense of it.
However, the place I enjoyed the most actually surprised me and that place would be the Bowling Green. By accident, we found it one evening, and I explained in my blog that this site was the subject of a DBQ I had worked on myself and also assigned to my students. I find the history of this site fascinating. I know this site has been the location of controversy and protest at different times, and I found the fact that it was still there amazing. I think Ed said that the Sons of Liberty set up liberty poles there, and this was also the site where the statue of King George III was torn down by the Sons of Liberty after the Declaration of Independence was read. I just find the Bowling Green very exciting.