With more than 200 National Parks now closed to the public, many sites are beginning to do livestream events, bringing their parks to the public during this period of of social separation. I’m going to try and keep track of a running list of these events here and encourage the use of the hashtag #NPSLive to spread the word! All times Eastern.
April 17, 2020
11am – Lowell National Historical Park – Poet Lucy Larcom (Facebook)
11am – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – Frodg Sounds (Facebook)
1pm – Grand Canyon National Park – Ask a Ranger (Facebook)
1pm – Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS (Facebook)
3pm – Santa Monica Mountains NRA – Great Horned Owls (Facebook) (3:30pm Instagram)
The new stamps for September 2017 (yes, 2017 – but we’re happy to be back) are highlighted by a plethora of stamps for the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, and a few more:
Golden Gate National Recreation Area | Rob Hill
Salem Maritime National Historic Site |
St. Joseph Hall
Yellowstone National Park | Bechler Ranger Station
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Smallwood State Park, MD
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail |
Old Jefferson, TN
Webber Falls Museum, OK
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area |
Copake Iron Works
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area |
Abraham Clark Memorial House
Battle of Connecticut Farms
Battle of Springfield
Battle of the Short Hills
Deacon Andrew Hetfield House
Dr William Robinson Plantation
Elizabeth and Gershom Frazee House
First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth
Merchants & Drovers Tavern
Osborn Cannonball House
Plainfield Meeting House
Salt Box Museum
St. John’s Parsonage
The Deserted Village
Woodruff House – Eaton Store Museum
Working in reverse order this month, the most notable addition to the Passport Program are the 27 stamps for the Crossroads of the Revolution National Heritage Area. Although this Heritage Area includes sites associated with the Revolutionary War across 14 counties in central New Jersey, all 27 of this month’s additions are located in Union County New Jersey, which is part of the greater New York City metropolitan area. Many of the historic sites in Union County have limited hours, some as little as one weekend a month, and others are even open only by appointment only. However, Union County hosts a “Four Centuries in a Weekend” event each year during the third weekend in October, when all of these sites will be open. So make your plans for this coming October accordingly!
If you aren’t up for visiting all 27 sites in Union County, a few of these sites are more strongly connected to the primary Revolutionary War mission of this National Heritage Area.
The Battle of Connecticut Farms was a three-hour engagement fought on June 7, 1780 in the town of Union, NJ. The stamp for this battle can be found at the Caldwell Parsonage in Union. The current Caldwell Parsonage was rebuilt in 1782 after the original was burned by the British following the Battle of Connecticut Farms. The historic home features a painting of the battle, as well as both stamps.
The Battle of Springfield occurred two weeks later on June 23, 1780, and is known primarily as the last Revolutionary War battle fought in the northern colonies before the fateful Battle of Yorktown in September and October 1781. This stamp can be found at the Cannon Ball House in Springfield. This historic home features a cannonball still lodged in its walls from the Battle of Springfield, as well as both stamps.
The Boxwood Hall State Historic Site preserves the the former house of Elias Boudinot in Elizabeth, NJ. Boudinot served as a President of the Continental Congress. Nearby is the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, which was burned by the British in 1780 and was rebuilt in 1790, and the St. John’s Parsonage in Elizabeth, whose earliest portions date back to the 18th Century. The Abraham Clark Memorial House in Roselle is a 1941 replica of the house of one of New Jersey’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, the original burned in 1900. The Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University in Union preserves the home of William Livingston. Livingston was New Jersey’s first Governor and a signer of the Constitution. The Carter House in Summit and the Miller-Cory House in Westfield each date back to the 1740’s. The Miller-Cory House in particular now operates as a living history museum, with frequent special events.
A number of other sites preserve the post-Revolutionary War history of Union County. The Deserted Village Visitor Center is in the Watchung Reservation County Park. The Deserted Village is a former company town created by New York businessman David Felt in 1845, and thus was known as “Feltville” in its hey day. Also dating to the 19th Century are the Littell-Lord Farmstead in Berkeley Heights, the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum in Rahway, and the Salt Box Museum in New Providence. The Salt Box Museum is so-named because the unusual way in which two historic houses were joined together in the mid-19th century left a visual impression that resembled a salt box. The Merchants and Drovers Tavern also includes the stamp for King’sHighway. The King’s Highway was a colonial-era road connecting Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina. It was built over a period of more than 80 years on the orders of Britain’s Charles II beginning in 1650. Astute Passport observers may note that there is also a Crossroads of the Revolution NHA stamp for “Maidenhead Road/King’s Highway, NJ” located at the David Brearley House in Lawrenceville, near Trenton. That stamp was discussed by Parkasaurus in June 2016.
Some of the locations have origins hundreds of years ago as well as 20th Century significance. The Woodruff House-Eaton Store of Hillside, which includes an 18th-Century House, a circa-1900 neighborhood store, and a museum devoted to former New York Yankees baseball player Phil Rizzuto. The Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside was built in 1760, and was expanded in the 19th Century, and later became the home of MacKinlay Kantor. Kantor is the author of the Civil War novel Andersonville, about the Confederate Prisoner of War Camp preserved in Georgia as Andersonville National Historic Site.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes a number of parklands in and around the city of San Francisco, California. Among the many properties included is the former military installation known as “The Presidio.” Rob Hill is the name of the group campground maintained by the Presidio Trust, one of the non-profit partners of the Golden Gate NRA, on the grounds of the The Presidio, right in the heart of the city of San Francisco.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site was actually the first National Park Service area to be dedicated a National Historic Site, back in March 1938. One of its new stamps this month commemorates this landmark status. The Park itself includes approximately 10 historic buildings, and the other two new stamps complement the five new stamps issued in July 2016.
Yellowstone National Park already has 14 Passport Cancellations. However, the new cancellation for the Bechler Ranger Station in the lightly-visited southwest corner of the Park adds a new twist the Passport itinerary for Yellowstone. There are no roads connecting the southwest corner of the Park to the Grand Loop Road that connects almost all the other destinations in the park. Reaching the Bechler Ranger Station will take a nearly two hour drive outside the park from Yellowstone’s West Entrance in Montana, and a more than three hour drive from Yellowstone’s South Entrance at the border with the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway and Grand Teton National Park.
The “Old Jefferson Site” is a section of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail that was only identified by researchers in recent years. The site is located in the East Fork Recreation Area, near Murfreesboro, TN, and is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The town of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma is named after a Cherokee Chief, Walter Webber, who established a trading post near the falls of the Arkansas River here in 1818, a dozen years before President Andrew Jackson would sign the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which officially began the “Trail of Tears.” The Webbers Falls Museum is the historical society museum for the town.
The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area adds three new stamps this month. The Copake Iron Works are located very close to the New York-Massachusetts border, about halfway between Poughkeepsie and Albany. The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is located just north of the Tappan-Zee bridge on the east side of the Hudson River. The town was made famous by author Washington Irving, who is buried there. The Woodstock Playhouse is a an outdoor arts venue in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. The famous Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 was actually held some 40 miles away for logistical reasons, but the Woodstock Playhouse has a history of its own going back to the 1930’s.
Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve | Fort Casey State Park
Joshua Tree National Park | Oasis of Mara
Yellowstone National Park | Snake River Ranger Station
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve | Slaven’s Roadhouse
Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway |
Cleveland History Center / University Circle
Hale Farm & Village
High Point of the Canal
Historic Zoar Village
Richard Howe House
California National Historic Trail | Salt Lake City, UT
The signature landmark in Dry Tortugas National Park is Fort Jefferson, which is located on Garden Key – about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. About two years ago, Dry Tortugas National Park added a second cancellation for the Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center on Key West. This new cancellation may simply be a replacement for the long-standing stamp reading “Dry Tortugas, FL” on the bottom; Garden Key being one of the largest of the Dry Tortugas and the primary visitor destination in the park.
Fort Jefferson was constructed in the years leading up to the Civil War. All of the islands in the Dry Tortugas, including Garden Key, are “dry,” meaning they lack fresh water, However, they occupy a strategic location for any ships travelling through the Florida Strait between the United States and Cuba, effectively controlling the approach to the U.S. Gulf Coast and the all-important Port of New Orleans. Nevertheless, the fort was never fully completed. It never saw action in the Civil War, and then was quickly rendered obsolete by the rapid evolution of naval technology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Joshua Tree National Park in southern California includes beautiful desert landscapes as well as many stands of the iconic joshua trees. One of the first settlers in the region, used a natural oasis to plant twenty-nine palm trees. That eventually led to the growth of the town of Twenty-Nine Palms, California. In turn, the town of Twenty-Nine Palms donated the original oasis to the National Park Service for use as the Park Headquarters and main Visitor Center. This stamp likely replaces the existing “Twenty-Nine Palms, CA” stamp found at the Park’s Oasis Visitor Center.
Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve is a partnership that preserves the agricultural landscapes of Whidbey Island, located north of Seattle in Puget Sound, and the history of European settlement in the Pacific Northwest. Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island is one of the Reserve’s partners. Fort Casey was built right around the turn of the 20th Century, and was designed to control the strategic entrance to Puget Sound and the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia.
The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in Alaska is one of nine national parks (including five that “count twice,” for a total of fourteen) in that state that are not accessible by road. Slaven’s Roadhouse is located some 45 miles down the Yukon River from the nearest road, at the junction of Coal Creek with the Yukon River. Roadhouses are an institution in Alaska, providing service to passing travelers across Alaska’s massive distances and remote wilderness. Slaven’s Roadhouse was established in the early 20th Century by Frank Slaven during the Klondike Gold Rush. The National Park Service restored the roadhouse in the early 1990’s, and ever since it has continued to serve its original purpose of providing shelter to travelers on the Yukon River. The National Park Service has a nice one-minute video about Slaven’s Roadhouse on its website. The new stamp for Slaven’s Roadhouse supplements the existing stamp for Coal Creek.
The California National Historic Trail marks the route of an earlier gold rush, the one to California in 1849. The new stamp for Salt Lake City, UT will be at the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region Trails Office in Salt Lake City, which administers many of the western trails.
Finally, for the Ohio & Erie Canalway, since I’ve been behind on these posts for a couple months, I’ve combined the new stamps for this Heritage Area from both July and September into this post. The original Ohio & Erie Canal was naturally inspired by the success of the Erie Canal, and stretched some 308 miles across central Ohio to the town of Portsmouth, where the Scioto River meets the Ohio River. Today, the Congressionally-designated National Heritage Area only includes the first 110 miles or-so of the Canal and surrounding areas in northeast Ohio, stretching from Cleveland, through Akron and Canton, to the town of New Philadelphia. The National Park Service has a comprehensive listing of Ohio & Erie Canalway sites on its website.
The stamp for the Cleveland History Center in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood was added to the list in July. Cleveland’s University Circle is named for the presence of Case Western Reserve University, which happens to be the Parkasaurus Blog’s alma maters. University Circle includes almost all of Cleveland’s premier cultural institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra. The Cleveland History Center is the museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society, which tells the story of the settlement and development of Cleveland and northeast Ohio. The name Western Reserve dates back to the days when the State of Connecticut actually laid claim to the lands that are now northeast Ohio, calling them its “Western Reserve.”
The Richard Howe House was formerly the home of the Ohio & Erie Canalway’s resident engineer. Today, it has been restored for use as a Canalway Visitor Center and moved from its original location to a location adjacent to the towpath.
Canal Fulton is one of the many historic towns located along the towpath. The Canalway Center located in town also includes canalboat rides on the replica vessel St. Helena III. Another unique historic town along the Canalway is Historic Zoar Village, which was founded by German separatists seeking religious freedom.
Finally, the Hale Farm & Village is also operated by the Western Reserve Historical Society, and had a new stamp listed in September. It is a living history farm, and is actually located within the larger boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.Share this Parkasaurus post: Follow Parkasaurus:
Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Shenandoah National Park
Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership:
Lake George Historical Association Museum
Pember Museum of Natural History
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail:
South Fork, CO
Pagosa Springs, CO
Pie Town, NM
Silver City, NM
North Country National Scenic Trail:
Crown Point State Historic Site, NY
The headliners from this group are the stamps for the newly designated Stonewall National Monument in New York City and the relatively newly designated Honouliuli National Monument outside of Honolulu, Hawaii. Despite the name, Stonewall National Monument consists of Christopher Park, located adjacent to a bar known as the Stonewall Inn – which was famously the site of riots on June 28, 1969 protesting police harrassment of gays. The stamp is being made avaialable at an information table in the Park, as well as each of the seven other national park sites located in Manhattan and nearby Mount Vernon, NY.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site is located in the town just north of Boston that is perhaps most famous today for its 17th Century “witch trials.” However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the town of Salem was famous for its maritime trading network that stretched literally around the world. Today, the National Park Service site encompasses the historic wharves and approximately 10 historic buildings.
On July 14, 2006, Eastern National celebrated the grand opening a new bookstore and gift shop for the Park, which they branded as “Waite & Peirce” after one of the most-prominent trading partnerships from the port’s heyday. Aaron Waite (1742-1830) appears to have formed his partnership with Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827) in 1778, at the height of the American Revolutionary War with Great Britain. Records indicate that they jointly owned the two-gun schooner, Greyhound, and they likely used it in privateering ventures – i.e. attempts to capture British merchant vessels. After the war, Waite & Peirce built a successful mercantile enterprise that lasted until Peirce’s death in 1827. Among their merchant vessels was the Friendship. A fully sea-worthy replica of that boat, the Friendship of Salem, is now part of the park.
The Custom House is one of the centerpieces of the park, and the largest of the park’s historical buildings. The Custom House is where government officials worked who were responsible for overseeing the trade in the port of Salem and imposing the appropriate custom duties on cargo shipments. One of those government officials was Nathaniel Hawthorne whose House with Seven Gables is not official part of the national park, but is also one of the most-significant historical sites in Salem.
The Derby House formerly belonged to the Derby family, one of Salem’s most-successful merchant families. The Friendship of Salem is docked on Derby Wharf, which is part of the park, and the Derby Light lighthouse, which dates back to 1871, is located at the end of the Derby Wharf. Finally, the Narbonne House is set back a little bit from Salem’s waterfront and is more typical of the residences for Salem’s working class and small business owner families.
In addition those stamps, I’ve also updated my master list of stamp locations to include five dated unofficial stamps featuring the trail logo offered by the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in Montana and Idaho. The Nez Perce Trail marks the route the Nez Perce Indians and their leader, Chief Joseph, took in 1877 as they fled the U.S. Army.
Compared to previous months, the list of new stamps this month is much shorter:
Acadia National Park | Schoodic Woods
Yellowstone National Park | Tower Falls Area
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area |
Jacob Blauvelt House
Rosen House at Caramoor
Senate House & Museum
Albany Institute of History & Art
Acadia National Park is somewhat unusual in offering place-specific Passport cancellations for each of the campgrounds within the park. In fact, based on my research only around a half-dozen parks can really be described as offering place-specific campground stamps. Of those, only two others are truly systematic, as Acadia is, in having a place-specific stamp for each campground in the park: Joshua Tree National Park in California and Gateway National Recreation Area in and around New York City.
To me at least, this makes sense. Although campgrounds, out of necessity almost always have a Ranger Station in some form or another where a Passport stamp could be located – creating place-specific stamps for campgrounds raises the philosophical question of whether its ethical to collect a passport stamp for a campground without actually spending the night there. On one hand, that would seem to make sense. On the other hand, on many trips it would be logistically impractical to spend a night at each campground that has a stamp – particularly if the campground itself does not represent a distinct portion of the park to explore, even without an overnight stay.
In this case, though, since Acadia National Park already had stamps for its Blackwoods Campground, located just south of the tourist destination of Bar Harbor, and also for its Seawall Campground, located on the less-visited western half of Mount Desert Island, it only made sense to order a stamp for its brand-new Schoodic Woods campground. The Schoodic Woods campground just opened in September 2015, The Schoodic Peninsula, located to the east across Frenchman’s Bay from Mount Desert Island, was originally added to the boundaries of Acadia National Park to help preserve the natural beauty and scenic views from Mount Desert Island. On the Peninsula, the U.S. Navy continued to operate a small base until 2002, when it was turned over to the National Park Service and has now become an environmental educational center. The addition of the Schoodic Woods campground will provide another place for visitors to stay while enjoying one of the quietest and least-crowded places in the park.
At Yellowstone National Park the new stamp for the Tower Falls Area is also a very logical addition. This stamp will presumably be located at the Tower-Roosevelt Ranger Station at the northeast corner of the park’s Great Loop Road. For at least two decades, this Ranger Station has been the only one of the park’s major ranger stations to not have its own passport stamp. So this addition now completes the set of a total of 15 passport locations located throughout Yellowstone National Park.
Finally, each of the four official listings for Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area this month represent replacements for existing stamps in the passport program. For example, the Jacob Blauvelt House is the location of the Rockland County Historical Society, and presumably replaces that stamp. With 71 passport locations, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area stands far and away above any other National Park Service designation with easily more passport stamps than any other.
With this month’s additions, there are now 1,973 active passport stamps, or 1,875 excluding stamps for special programs and events.
Two national parks were originally designated as national memorials, but have since been renamed. The present-day Lewis & Clark National Historical Park incorporated the area originally-designated as Fort Clatsop National Memorial in Oregon. The original designation was made because the Fort Clatsop at the center of the park was a reconstruction of the fort built by the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to spend the winter near the Pacific Ocean in 1805-1806.
It is also worth noting that a handfull of national monumentsdedicated to historical resources and one national historical park are actually described by Congress in their authorizing legislation as national memorials. However, they do not seem to be listed anywhere else as national memorials, so I am not including them in the overall count, but I will nonetheless mention them here:
Many people think of the Phoenix, Arizona metopolitan area as a place that only became habitable to human beings after the invention of air conditioning in the early 20th Century. In truth, however, there is a story of human habitation in the valley of the Salt and Gila Rivers that stretches back more than 2,000 years.
The National Park Service manages two National Monuments in this area that preserves the legacy of the first settlers here, a people that archeologists call the Hohokam. Other than that, however, that is where the similarities end, as the two national monuments could not be more different. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument showcases excavated ruins from the period just before European contact that have been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. By contrast, the ruins at Hohokam Pima National Monument ruins date from a much earlier period of settlement, have been reburied for their own protection, and the whole area remains completely closed to the public – but more on that in Part II.
The word Hohokom is actually a mistransliteration of the O’odham word Huhugam, which is generally translated as “those who are gone” or “those who have come before.” In the bookstore of Casa Grande Ruins, they helpfully sell copies of the Fall 2009 special issue of Archeology Southwest, which was dedicated to topics relating to Casa Grande Ruins. This issue contained a helpful essay by Barnaby V. Lewis, one of the tribal elders of the Gila River Indian Community. He describes the word Huhugam as more accurately meaning “those who have perished,” specifically in reference to those from whom one is descended. This speaks to the connection that the O’odhom people, of which the Gila River Indian Community is one of four Federally-recognized tribal governments, feel to the people archeologists call the Hohokam, and who lived in the prehistoric communities that are now Hohokam Pima and Casa Grande Ruins National Monuments.
In many respects, the Hohokam are part of a much broader group of American Indians called the Ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi. The legacy of the Ancestral Puebloans are preserved in prehistoric pueblos all around the southwestern United States, most famously at Mesa Verde National Park. The word Anasazi comes from the Navajo language, and is a word which can be translated as “ancestors of our enemies.” Thus, the National Park Service prefers to use the more-cumbersome phrase Ancestral Puebloans to refer to these people, although many archeologists still use the term Anasazi.
Its worth remembering that the American Indians did not live in nation-states as we know them today, but rather in individual communities connected to other communities by things like a shared language, religious beliefs, cultural traditions, trading relationships, and ways of life. Archeologists thus choose words like Hohokam or Mogollon (used for certain pueblo-dwelling prehistoric peoples in New Mexico) or Anasazi to try and describe some of the meaningful differences between peoples in different places, even though there were rarely bright-line differences separating one from the other. Thus, archeologists will often disagree about where and how to draw the lines. In fact, some scholars use the term oasisamerica to be inclusive of all of the pueblo-dwelling peoples of the arid southwestern United States, including the Ancestral Puebloans of the Four Corners area, the Hohokam of Arizona, and the Mogollon of New Mexico, among others. Although I must admit that I rarely see the term oasisamerica used by the National Park Service, it certainly is one that makes sense. As one travels through the national park sites of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah the similarities are unmistakable. These were clearly all peoples who had some sort of contact with each other, and who shared similarities in their way of life with each other, and in how they adapted to pre-European Contact life in the deserts of the American Southwest.
The pueblo at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument was just one of numerous American Indian pubelos located in the valleys of the Salt and Gila Rivers in Central Arizona. The Hohokom people who lived here constructed an extensive network of canals to grow crops in the desert, and they thrived in these valleys for hundreds of years. No doubt these canals surely also helped link together their communities with one another, and those linkages may have been what made the settlement at Casa Grande Ruins so important.
Archeologists date the “Great House” at Casa Grande Ruins to around the year 1350. The structure is four stories high, and contains 11 total rooms. According to archeologists, there may well have been other “great houses” at other pueblos in central Arizona, although this has not been proven. If so, its possible that the Great House at Casa Grande Ruins survived because it was built a little sturdier or a little more robustly than the others. On the other hand, it just may have been lucky. Or indeed, it is possible that it was unique. Whatever the reason, the helpful guidebook to Casa Grande Ruins from the Western National Parks Association contains this description of the Great House from archeologist Cosmos Mindeleff, who surveyed the well-known site for the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology in 1890: “it is found easily by anyone looking for it.” Indeed, there is no question that it rises startlingly above the nearly-flat desert landscape that surrounds it.
Of course, another important reason that Great House at Casa Grande Ruins has also survived to the present-day is thanks to the now more than 100-years worth of efforts to preserve and protect it. Just two years after the above quote from Cosmos Mindeleff, President Benjamin Harrison set aside the Great House and 480 surrounding acres as an archeological preserve. This prescient act of preservation in 1892 came nearly 25 years before the establishment of the National Park Service, and nearly 15 years before the Antiquities Act of 1906 would formally give Presidents the authority to set aside national monuments as protected areas on Federal lands.In this way, just 20 years after Yellowstone became the United States’ (and the world’s) first national park, Casa Grande Ruins became this country’ first archeological preserve.
Archeologists still debate what the ultimate purpose of the Great House at Casa Grande Ruins was. Clearly, the building was important to them. Five different kinds of wood were used in its construction, including ponderosa pine and white fir. That sort of timber could only have been obtained from mountains at least 50 miles away! Moreover, the building also contains openings that carry astronomical significance. Various openings align with the sun on the summer solstice and on the equinoxes. Perhaps most fascinating to me, however, is that there is one opening aligned with the setting moon once every 18.5 years! Considering that the Great House at Casa Grande Ruins is believed by archeologists to only have been actively used for about 50-75 years (although the surrounding pueblo was inhabited for much longer than that), such alignment strikes me as being truly remarkable.
Putting the pieces together its clear that the Great House at Casa Grande Ruins was important. It was bigger than any other structure in the village, was built with imported timbers, and was constructed with great care to align with the heavens. Its easy to imagine that it provided some sort of religious or political center, possibly connected to the system of canals that was so vital to linking together these desert communities with that most-previous of all commodoties – water. Beyond that, with now written records left to us by these people, it is hard to say.
On our visit to Casa Grande Ruins, we first spent about 30 minutes going through the exhibits in the visitor center. The visitor center includes exhibits on the history of the place, what life would have been like for the Hohokom people who lived here, and a few artificats from the archeological excavations here. A door out the back of the visitor center takes you to the Great House and the surrounding pueblo ruins.
After spending another 30-or-so minutes walking around the vicinity of the Great House, however, it is important not to overlook that another section of this park is open to the public on the far side of the visitor center parking lot. There is a very short paved trail there that takes you to what many archeologists believe was a ball court. The American Indian ball game originated among the predecessor civilizations of the Mayas and Aztecs in southern Mexico and central America. If the ball game was played here in Arizona, it would indicate a cultural connection spanning nearly a thousand miles!
Visiting the ball court at Casa Grande Ruins today requires a bit of imagination. If it was used for the mesoamerican ball game, archeologists calcualte that the court could have accomodated some 500 spectators. This would be truly remarkable when you consider that the entire settlement at Casa Grande Ruins probably only had around 1,500 residents at its peak. Its possible to imagine people coming from surrounding pueblos on the system of irrigation canals coming to what we now call Casa Grande Ruins for important ball game matches.
It should be noted, however, that not all archeologists agree with this interpretation. Moreover, the oral tradition of the Akimei O’odoham (Pima) people, is that these places were in fact used for ceremonial dances. There is also evidence from the “ball courts” at nearby pueblos that they were used for ceremonial feasting, based on the large number of hornos, or clay ovens, found near the “ball courts.”
My guess is that as with most things, the truth lies somewhere in between. I suspect that the construction of ball courts in the pueblos of the Hohokam people almost certainly resulted from cultural contact across the Mexican desert. On the other hand, it seems likely to me that across such great distances the actual ball game itself really didn’t take hold. Thus, as fun as it would be to imagine the champion of a Hohokom division playing the champion of an Aztec division in a World Series of mesoamerican ball game – that almost surely did not happen. Nevertheless, it seems quite possible that the structure itself was imported, and was then adapted into the culture of the Hohokam people. Perhaps for games, perhaps for dancing, or perhaps even both.
Interestingly, the ball court at Casa Grande Ruins was likely built around the year 1050. Its actually possible that, whatever its purpose, the ball court at Casa Grande Ruins was one of the last ball courts built by the Hohokom, as by the year 1100, no more ball courts were being constructed anywhere by the Hohokom. Something had shifted or changed in the Hohokom culture, and the use of the ball court was fading in to history. Indeed, it is worth noting that the Great House at Casa Grande Ruins would not be constructed until some 200 years later.
Thus, even though today we visit the Great House and the ball court at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, and see them almost side-by-side with each other, the two structures actually represent centuries of habitation here by the Hohokam people.
In Part II of the Valley of the Hohokam Trip Report, I’ll delve a bit further into the history and present of the Hohokom people as I write about the experience of visiting Hohokam Pima National Monument, which preserves a settlement whose significance in many ways predates that of Casa Grande Ruins.
Eastern National has released its list of new cancellations for the month of May, and the list is quite a doozy! A total of 25 new stamps are listed, although many of them are replacements for already-existant stamps. Let’s take a look….
Sequoia National Park | 125th Anniversary 1890 – 2015
Kings Canyon National Park | 75th Anniversary 1940 – 2015
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015
Its starting to look like Parks Passsport enthusiasts may well remember 2015 as being the “Year of the Anniversary Stamps.” At least one new anniversary stamp has been issued each month in 2015, and the trend shows no sign of letting up. I’m still not sure that it makes sense to be making Passport Stamps with adjustable dates that are good for seven years with a single year permanently etched in the bottom text of the circle, but they seem to be popular for the moment!
Its interesting to note the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park share more than just a a new Passport stamp this month. The two parks share a common superintendent, have a single joint brochure for both of them, and even share the same website (just click the links if you don’t believe me!) In fact, it sometimes appears that the only think keeping Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park from being listed as a single Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park that counts twice is the force of tradition. Still, until these stamps were issued, I’m not sure if I had ever realized that these two national parks were created 50 years apart, almost to the day. Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890 and Kings Canyon National Park was established fifty years and six days later on October 1, 1940. If you are in to anniversary celebrations, it sounds like a trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks the last week of September could be a lot of fun!
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area wouldn’t come along until 1965, and so celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Delaware Water Gap NRA preserves a particularly beautiful section of the Delaware River as it flows past the Pocono Mountains on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The “water gap” refers to the southern end of this park where the river literally cuts through one of the mountains, creating a “gap” in the mountain. Today, this park is within an easy day’s drive of both the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas, making it a great place for residents of those urban areas to get out into the parks.
Stamps for New National Parks
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument | Nevada
Pullman National Monument
Historic Pullman Foundation
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
National Pullman Porter Museum
First State National Historical Park
Beaver Valley – Woodlawn Tract
Fort Christina – Wilmington
Old Swede’s Church – Wilmington
The Green – Dover
John Dickinson Plantation
Ryves Holt House – Lewes
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument was one of four new parks established by Congress in December 2014. Located outside of Las Vegas, NV it preserves the desert landscape as well as fossils of mammoths and other creatures from the last ice age. Right now it doesn’t have any visitor facilities, so its passport stamp is being kept at the Alan Bible Visitor Center for Lake Mead National Recreation Area in nearby Boulder City, Nevada, just to the south of Las Vegas.
Pullman National Monument is an even newer national park than Tule Springs Fossil Beds, having been established by Presidential proclamation in February 2015. I’ve written about Pullman twice already, here and here. Similar to the way in which Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument / National Historical Park in Maryland was established by relying upon other preservation parterns in the area, it appears that Pullman National Monument is following a similar model Pullman NM actually already had its first Passport stamp, reading Chicago, IL on the bottom available at its dedication ceremony, in which President Obama signed his proclamation establishing the new national park right on site. That cancellation is available at the Historic Pullman Foundation’s Visitor Center, which will surely now also have the stamp recognizing the role the Foundation is continuing to play in preserving and interpreting this site. The Foundation is curently offering tours of the site on the first Sunday of the month, and will continue to own and manage some of the historic buildings on the site, including the Market Hall. Likewise, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will also continue to own and manage some of the historic properties at this site, including the architecturally-significant (and beautiful) Hotel Florence. Finally, until the National Park Service is able to open its own visitor center at the site, one of the best ways to learn about the history of the Pullman company town, which is now a national monument, will be a visit to the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, which is also located on-site.
First State National Monument was originally proclaimed by President Obama in March 2013 with three sub-units, Dover Green in the State Capitol, the old New Castle Courthouse in New Castle, and the Brandywine Preserve in Wilmington. In December 2014, Congress renamed this parkFirst State National Historical Park, and also authorized expanding its boundaries to include a few additional sites. In February 2015, new stamps were issued for the original three sites with the new name, First State National Historical Park, as well as for two of the new sites. This month, it appears that new stamps have been issued with new bottom text for four of those first five sites (only the New Castle Courthouse site is not listed), as well as for two new sites, both in Wilmington. One is for the Old Swedes Church, which claims to be the oldest continuously-used house of worship as originally built in the United States, with a history stretching back to 1698. The other is for nearby Fort Christina, the site of the colony of New Sweden way back in 1638. The story of Swedish settlement in the United States is not one that is often told, so these should be very interesting additions to the National Park System.
Stamps for Existing National Parks
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Helenwood, TN
Gateway National Recreation Area | Ryan VC – Floyd Bennett Field
Yellowstone National Park | Wyoming
St. Croix National Scenic River
St. Croix River
St. Croix Visitor Center
Namekagon Visitor Center
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky has recently been adding Passport cancellations for visitor facilities in its gateway communities. In addition to the long-standing three stamps for the Park’s three visitor contact stations at Oneida, TN; Stearns, KY; and Blue Heron (a historic coal mininng community near Stearns, KY) the Park added stamps for Crossville, TN and Historic Rugby, TN in August 2014. Helenwood, TN is also a gateway community, and is the latest addition to this program. You can check out a Parkasuaurs Trip Report from this Park here.
Gateway National Recreation Area includes a number sites in the immediate vicinity of New York City in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and northern New Jersey. Floyd Bennett Field was New York City’s first municipal airport, and now provides urban recreational opportunities, including campaing. The Ryan Visitor Center is the National Park Service’s main visitor facility there, and this stamp replaces a previously-existant stamp.
Its not clear what to make of a new stamp for Yellowstone National Park that simply says “Wyoming” on the bottom. Yellowstone currently offers 13 different Passport cancellations throughout the Park, and it appears that this would be the 14th.
The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway includes the St. Croix River and its main tributary, the Namekagon River. Its hard to tell what to make of the stamp that simply reads “St. Croix River,” but the “St. Croix Visitor Center” will likely replace the existing stamp at the visitor center in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border; and the the “Namekagon Visitor Center” stamp will likely replace the existing stamp at the visitor center in Trego, Wisconsin in the northern part of the state. This park also includes older stamps for the “Marshland District” and for “Minnesota-Wisconsin” that are kept under the counter at the Namekagon Visitor Center. There is also one other stamp at Prescott, WI at the Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center in Prescott, Wisconsin where the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway meets the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.
Stamps for Park Partners
Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Canyons of the Ancients NM
With these new additions, Parkasaurus now counts 1,900 active Passport cancellations currently available, or 1,818 stamps excluding anniversary stamps and other special event or special program stamps.Share this Parkasaurus post: Follow Parkasaurus:
I’m a little late in getting to this news, but congratulations are in order for Poverty Point National Monument which was recently designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This is quite an honor. I like to think of the list of U.S. national parks as the 400-or-so most significant natural, historical, and cultural places in the United States (although there are some notable exceptions). To be inscribed on the list UNESCO World Heritage Site, however, a place must be judged to be of “outstanding universal value” to all of humanity. Although Poverty Point today may not be jaw-dropping to look at it, it is nevertheless the place of a remarkable story – the location of the largest complex of preshistoric earthworks from its era in North America.
There are currently just over one thousand sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list (1,007 to be exact), although more are added each year. Of those, Poverty Point is just the 22nd site from the United States to be included. Of those 22, its not surprising that 13 of them are outright national parks. This includes two of the first twelve World Heritage Sites designated in 1978, Yellowstone National Park and Mesa Verde National Park. Others on the list include Grand Canyon National Park, Olympic National Park in Washington State, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Five more on the list, including Poverty Point, are also part of the National Park System as a national monument or national historical park.
An unusual case is Papahanaumokuokea (try pronouncing it as Papa-hana-umo-kuo-kea) Marine National Monument in Hawaii. This area consists of the unpopulated northwest Hawaiian Islands and the surrounding ocean areas all the way out to Midway Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Instead of being managed by the National Park Service, it is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
That leaves three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States that aren’t operated as Federal sites at all. One such site is Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, is operated by a non-profit foundation, and the University of Virginia, of course, is operated by the State of Virginia. The second such site is Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, a remarkable American Indian community that has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years. The last such site is Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois – which preserves the remains of the largest known American Indian city in the present day United States. At its height, Cahokia covered six square miles and had between 10,000 and 20,000 people.
Although the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is by all accounts doing a good job of preserving this extraordinary site for future generations, there nevertheless just seems to be something incongruous about a site simultaneous being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also part of a state parks system, rather than the U.S. National Park System. No question thatbeing a state historic site, rather than a national historic site in the National Park System gives Cahokia a lower national profile than you might otherwise expect, and so there is in fact a local campaign underway to try and make it a national park.
Interestingly, Cahokia’s situation bears an uncanny similarity to Poverty Point in this respect as well. It turns out that although Poverty Point is designated as a national monument, it is still operated as State Historic Site by the Louisiana State Park Service. This is due to a quirk of history and legislation. Normally, when Congress wishes to declare a site a new national park it normally first authorizes creation of the park, and then specifies that the park will be effectively created once the Federal government is able to acquire the land for the park. In this case, however, the Poverty Point National Monument Act of 1986 first established the park, and then authorized the National Park Service to acquire the land for the park either by donation or from willing sellers. Apparently, at the time the Louisiana Congressional Delegation thought that a deal had been worked out whereby the State of Louisiana would donate the Poverty Point Site to the National Park Service for management as a national park. Its not clear what happened then, but somehow there was a miscommunication, and the State of Louisiana decided that they wanted to continue to manage this important site themselves. Thus, today Poverty Point National Monument is a real anomaly in the National Park System – a national park where you won’t find any sign of the National Park Service.
Now that Poverty Point has taken its rightful place as a World Heritage Site, there’s certainly no question that it merits the national significance to be included in the U.S. National Park System. In fact, as part of the dedication ceremonies this month, the State of Louisiana has officially renamed it from Poverty Point State Historic Site to Poverty Point Point World Heritage Site, in a ceremony that included National Park Service director John Jarvis. Despite the unusual status, in my mind, the National Park System is a better place with Poverty Point included than without it. Still, it would be nice to see an agreement worked out where Poverty Point could take its place as a full-fledged national park, with the consistent management provided by the National Park Service.
In the meantime, a trip to Poverty Point is truly a trip back in time. Its a rarity in the United States to visit a place where the story is told in thousand-year time scales. For example, at nearly 3,000 years old, the settlements at Poverty Point predate the famous Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado by some two thousand years! Three thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks were developing their alphabet, David and Solomon are kings in ancient Israel, the ancient Chinese are developing mathematics ink painting, and at Poverty Point in Louisiana, American Indians are building a major center – a place whose purpose remains a mystery to this day, but which still speaks to those who came before us in this place.
A walking trail has been constructed over the remains of the major mounds at Poverty Point.Share this Parkasaurus post: Follow Parkasaurus:
The way the contest works is that there are 10 finalists in each of 8 categories. Definitely take the time to read through some of the entries (especially in the other categories, of course!), as there are some great stories in there. You can vote for one finalist in each category each day – and voting lasts through September 29th. Each time you vote, you will be entered into a drawing for a trip to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
So please, vote early and vote often!Share this Parkasaurus post: Follow Parkasaurus: