Ramble On

On November 27, 2016 · 3 Comments

It’s the Thanksgiving weekend and I’m feeling a bit lazy. I think I’ll just ramble on for awhile instead of writing a real article. Those of you reading from countries without a similar holday may not understand much about Thanksgiving. In the United States it involves several days of overeating to the point of immobility, and sitting on a couch watching (American) football games all day. I’m not motivated to put the necessary research into writing something mentally stimulating. You might want to skip today and come back next time.

Turkey Trot

A slightly more athletic Thanksgiving activity formed in recent years, a "traditional" running race known as the Turkey Trot. Races tended to start early on Thanksgiving morning before culinary indulgences could sideline potential participants. They covered short distances, like maybe 5 kilometres or 5 miles. That way people could pretend they were behaving in a healthy manner when, in fact, they were simply getting ready to stuff themselves silly in a few hours.


Arlington Turkey Trot 2014
My local Turkey Trot a couple years ago. I didn’t take any photos this year.

Our local neighborhood began its Turkey Trot about a decade ago. My wife took great pride in signing me up the last couple years. I think she enjoyed tormenting me. There I stood on the start line once again this year at precisely 8:00 am, ready to hit the pavement with 3,000 of my closest friends. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I finished in first place for my age bracket. That should never happen. I’m not that fast. Then I noticed that she’d accidentally signed me up as a woman. For a few brief moments I claimed to be the fastest middle-aged woman in town. Once corrected however, I fell down to fourth place for my age bracket. That still sounded impressive although it also included participants dressed as pilgrims, or with plastic turkeys on their heads, or in full Santa Clause outfits, or walking dogs. My effort wasn’t all that notable in that context. Then I spent the rest of the day eating, as expected and customary.


Mainly Marathons



That reminded me. I’ve just started planning for the next marathon race series. Longtime readers probably remembered several previous trips. I don’t run those distances, I simply drive my favorite runner from state-to-state for each event in sequence and count counties. We’re looking at the Heartland Series for 2017. That event will arrive before I know it even though it won’t happen until late May. Races will be held in Bryan, Ohio; Niles, Michigan; Portage, Indiana; Fulton, Illinois; Clinton, Iowa; Sparta, Wisconsin and Albert Lea, Minnesota. Seven races, seven days, seven states, beginning May 28, 2017. We probably won’t do the last two races. I can only take a week off from work and it would put us too far from home to get back in time.

Anyone knowing about interesting things to see along the way can let me know in the comments. I’d also love to meet anyone who wants to race one or more races (they do have shorter options all the way down to 5K). I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be much of an intersection between the 12MC audience and this activity, though. Nobody took me up on similar offers in previous years, and that’s fine too. I’ll put it out there just in case.


Music Break



Since I’ve called this article Ramble On, feel free to take a break and listen to Ramble On.


Finish West Virginia



When last I left West Virginia, only six counties remained on my county counting list before I could finish the state. I spent a few moments sketching out what it would take. The result, above, demonstrated that I should be able to complete West Virginia during a long weekend. Inauguration Day falls on a Friday in 2017. I’m thinking that might be an ideal time to get away from the Washington, DC area if the weather cooperates. It will happen sometime in the next few months if it doesn’t happen then.


Blog Spam

Blog spam largely disappeared when Google changed its algorithms to penalize websites referenced by spam links. However, it seemed to make a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of months. That meant I could start tweeting the best examples again on the 12MC Twitter account: "I such a lot indisputably will make sure to don’t put out of your mind this website and give it a look on a relentless basis."


The Political Graveyard


Michigan Civil War Era Graves - Pic 13
Grave of US Senator Zachariah Chandler –
Elmwood Cemetery – Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Michael Noirot on Flickr (cc)

I’ve enjoyed a slightly morbid site called The Political Graveyard lately. Want to know the final resting place of practically any politician in the history of the United States? The Political Graveyard probably catalogued it. As an example, for my recent article on Winfield Scott (who ran as the Whig candidate for President in addition to his long military career), could have noted his burial at the United States Military Academy Cemetery (map). I’m not sure what that would have added although I still found it addictive.

How about somebody completely obscure. I selected Zachariah Chandler (1813-1879) somewhat randomly. He served as mayor of Detroit, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. Senator, amongst other offices. He "Died, from a brain hemorrhage, in his room at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago, Cook County, Ill., November 1, 1879 (age 65 years, 326 days). Interment at Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Mich." (map). See what I mean by addictive? It served no practical purpose. Maybe that’s why I liked it.


Stuff from Readers

Reader Joe sent a couple of interesting article links. One in particular might apply to the 12MC audience: The Sun Has Set on Barrow, Alaska for the Final Time… Ever. Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska went dark on November 18. The sun will rise again on January 22. However, its name will change to Utqiaġvik on December 1. They’ve ditched their English name for an Inupiat Eskimo name to better align with their culture. Native speakers pronounced it something like "Oot KHAH’-ghah veek." It reminded me of the recent change of the Wade Hampton Census Area to Kusilvak in another area of Alaska a few months ago.

Reader Rowland wondered what the U.S. map would look like if states were redrawn with equal populations. I’m still pondering that one. What would be the best way to do that? Would we also have to change boundaries, I wondered, after every decennial census?

Scott’s Addition

On November 20, 2016 · 0 Comments

I never mentioned my reason for being stuck on Interstate 95 the other day except for a brief reference to an overnight trip to Richmond, Virginia. My younger son participates on a travel soccer team and they played in a tournament over the Veterans Day weekend. We don’t get 3-day weekends anymore. They’re all consumed by tournaments. My older son has no interest in any of this whatsoever and sometimes he gets a reprieve. That explained why the two of us went county counting in West Virginia over the Columbus Day weekend. However, this time all four of us went to Richmond.

Anyway, let’s switch directions and talk about General Winfield Scott for awhile because he figured into this too.

Winfield Scott


Winfield Scott by Fredricks, 1862
Winfield Scott by Fredricks, 1862
Photo on Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

Scott served in the United States Army longer than just about anyone else, ever. His career stretched all the way from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, some 53 years. "Old Fuss and Feathers" — as his troops called him — spent most of that time at the rank of General including two decades as Commanding General. He achieved his greatest victories in the Mexican–American War. He also took a shot at becoming President as the Whig Party candidate in 1852. Many historians considered him the greatest American military commander of his generation.

Setting all those momentous achievements aside, one tangential factor set the stage for my weekend sojourn: Winfield Scott married Maria DeHart Mayo in 1817. Her father, Colonel John Mayo, happened to be one of the wealthiest men in Virginia as well as a former mayor of Richmond. Thus, Col. Mayo provided quite a nice dowry when Maria and Winfield married, a 600-acre estate on the northwestern edge of Richmond. It remained in the family until the early 20th Century when developers purchased it and the City of Richmond annexed it. At that time it got its name, Scott’s Addition, for the obvious reasons.

Scott’s Addition Historic District

Originally envisioned as a residential area, it flourished instead as an industrial park due to its proximity to rail lines and highways. According to the National Park Service’s description of the Scott’s Addition Historic District,

The area remained largely undeveloped until the early 1900s, when it saw the construction of modest dwellings and businesses. A second wave of development occurred between the 1930s and 1950s with the building of large industrial plants, commercial buildings, and warehouses amongst the existing dwellings. The second phase of development largely defines the types of buildings located at present in the district.

Business included a factory for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and a Chevrolet parts depot and warehouse. Smaller businesses like plumbers, auto body shops, and light industrial manufacturers also found it attractive. However, the area began to atrophy towards the end of the 20th Century. Spaces were cramped. Buildings were old and fell into disrepair. Businesses began to relocate farther out from the city.


The Turnaround



A confluence of events sparked the resurgence of Scott’s Addition in recent years. First, this emptying warehouse and industrial district sat conveniently close to downtown Richmond. Second, the government provided tax incentives. Developers could get tax credits for rehabilitating vintage structures in the historic district. The city also offered a tax abatement program on improvements for a period of up to 10 years.

Development began to explode by 2010 and never looked back. Hundreds of new apartments blossomed in Scott’s Addition. Businesses catering to younger clientele with abundant disposable income quickly followed. "Gentrification" might not be quite the right word because the area didn’t have much of an original resident population to push out, although it contained some of the same trappings. It went from a decaying warehouse district to Richmond’s hottest spot in about five years.

I went there for the breweries. They fell into a tight cluster, all within easy walking distance.


Breweries

A few Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already knew about my visit. They subscribed to my Twitter feed. Yes, I continue to maintain the world’s lamest Twitter account. I post links to new articles, occasional photos of geo-oddities, and lots of pictures from breweries. The beer pictures scare away the geo-geeks while the geography stuff scares away the beer crowd. I’ll gain a few new subscribers and then the total will drop again when I launch into a breweriana Twitter storm. Anyway I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’d behave differently, I supposed, if I cared about chasing numbers.

Isley


Isley Brewing Company
Isley Brewing Company. My own photo.

Isley Brewing became the first brewery to open for business in Scott’s Addition. That happened in ancient times, all the way back in 2013. That amazed me. Seriously, the neighborhood changed that quickly. Now, some call it Richmond’s booziest neighborhood.

The Veil


The Veil Brewing Co.
The Veil Brewing Co. My own photo.

However, the real reason I found myself in Scott’s Addition was because I wanted to visit The Veil. Its brewer spent time at two of the best breweries in the US, The Alchmeist and Hill Farmstead. He also apprenticing at Cantillon in Belgium. I’d heard the buzz and I wanted to check it out in person. Our Richmond friends suggested the walking tour of Scott’s Addition to experience some of the other breweries. We were already there so it made sense. I’m glad we did. The Veil had only two beers on tap during our visit. They were nice although I need to return and try some others before I can form an overall impression of its brewing range.

Ardent


Ardent Craft Ales
Ardent Craft Ales. My own photo.

On a beautiful, crisp Autumn day, we enjoyed a sampler at Ardent on their outdoor patio. It attracted a large crowd, as did all of the breweries. Business seemed to be booming everywhere. Also, I was amused by the "loft" apartments next door. They were only 1-story high. Who ever heard of a 1-story loft apartment building?

Three Notch’d


Three Notch'd Brewing Company
Three Notch'd Brewing Company. My own photo.

We finished at Three Notch’d. This brewery based in Charlottesville recently opened an outpost in Scott’s Addition, a place specializing in collaboration beers. 12MC readers may remember an earlier article called Three Notches. The brewery took its name from the Central Virginia road described in that article.

I’ll conclude by saying, as I often do when I talk about brewery tours, that this represented responsible behavior. We consumed only small samples at each site to better appreciate the breadth and depth of each location. I’m way too old to go on a serious pub crawl anymore.

I put Scott’s Addition on my list of places I need to see again. Certainly it will only continue to grow and improve.

King of Prussia

On November 10, 2016 · 1 Comments

I’ve been fixated on the origins of unusual town names the last few days. First I unraveled the mystery of Snowflake; now I took aim at King of Prussia. A bunch of questions came to mind. Why would someone name a place King of Prussia? Did it refer to a specific king? Why not just name it after the guy instead of referring to him so generally?

The Town


US Route 422
US Route 422. Photo by Montgomery County Planning Commission on Flickr (cc)

I found King of Prussia in Pennsylvania, in an exurb of Philadelphia (map). The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia described a dynamic place,

Twenty miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia, where the Pennsylvania Turnpike converges with the Schuylkill Expressway, a sleepy rural town clustered around a colonial-era tavern expanded massively in the twentieth century to become the region’s largest employment hub outside of Center City Philadelphia.

That could have described perhaps a thousand other places in the United States too, although only one had the strange name. King of Prussia began as an inconsequential village only to be engulfed by the sprawl of a larger city, then transformed into an economic power in its own right. That still didn’t explain its name.


The King


Friedrich Zweite Alt
Friedrich Zweite on Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.

It didn’t take long to track down the King of Prussia in question. It did refer to a specific Prussian king, Frederick II, often called Frederick the Great. Nobody seemed to know why he got the nod in Pennsylvania and various theories floated about the Intertubes. The area went by Reeseville when the original Quaker settlers moved there in the early 18th Century. The name flipped to King of Prussia sometime during or right after the Revolutionary War. Many Americans thought highly of Frederick II because he supported the Revolution from its earliest days. Also, it may have been a gesture of thanks to General von Steuben of Prussia who trained the Continental Army at nearby Valley Forge. Either way, the name probably arose from patriotic sentiments of local residents as the United States fought for and gained its independence.


The Inn



However, the town did not really get its name from the Frederick the Great. Not directly, anyway. In an odd twist, the name actually came from a local establishment, the King of Prussia Inn.

The original Inn was constructed as a cottage in 1719… The cottage was converted to an inn in 1769 and was important in colonial times as it was approximately a day’s travel by horse from Philadelphia… General George Washington first visited the tavern on Thanksgiving Day in 1777 while the Continental Army was encamped at Whitemarsh…

The Inn (map) remained a local fixture and lent its name to the surrounding area, which also came to be known as King of Prussia. Despite its historical significance, the King of Prussia Inn sat abandoned for much of the last half of the 20th Century, trapped on a traffic island on US Highway 202. The state of Pennsylvania moved it to its present location in 2000. After an extensive restoration, it became the home of the King of Prussia Chamber of Commerce.


The Mall


A cathedral to Consumerism aka King of Prussia Mall
A cathedral to Consumerism aka King of Prussia Mall.
Photo by Thomas Mathie on Flickr (cc)

Most people today, if they knew anything about King of Prussia, probably associated it with its oversized mall. This behemoth housed more than 450 stores in a footprint stretching nearly 3 million square feet. That put it in second place in the United States behind only the Mall of America in Minnesota. From humble inn, to village, to suburb and mega-mall, King of Prussia underwent crazy changes during its history.


The Prince


The View from Craig
The View from Craig. Photo by Joseph on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t discover any other "King of [wherever]" locations in the United States. However I did find a prince, the Prince of Wales in Alaska. Sure, I expected Prince of Wales to appear in the Commonwealth of Nations — and indeed the name appeared all over — although I didn’t expect it in the U.S. Nonetheless, Alaska offered the Prince of Wales–Hyder Census Area, which also included Prince of Wales Island. The island’s largest settlement at Craig (map) included 1,200 residents.

A king ranked above a prince, I supposed.

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