Lehigh Valley’s Historic Covered Bridges

Covered bridges originated in Germany and Switzerland and date back to the 13th century, German immigrants brought the covered bridge to America. At one time there were 12,000 covered bridges in the U.S. Most were built in the mid-19th century. There are more than 200 covered bridges that still exist in Pennsylvania, more than in any other state. Seven of those are in the Lehigh Valley. All but one are still used for vehicular traffic. Here’s a look at some of the Lehigh Valley’s historic covered bridges.

 Bogert’s Bridge, Allentown

The longest of the Lehigh Valley’s covered bridges at 145 feet, Bogert’s Bridge was built in 1841. No longer open to vehicular traffic, it serves pedestrians as an entrance to a city park. The bridge, which crosses the Little Lehigh Creek, was named after a family who lived near the site. It was made entirely of wood.

 

Manasses Guth Bridge, South Whitehall Township

The bridge is named after a descendent of Lorenz Guth who originally purchased land in the area and settled there in 1745. It was built in 1858, was later destroyed by fire and was rebuilt in 1882. The 108-foot long bridge, which crosses the Jordan Creek, is located on the edge of Covered Bridge Park.

 

Wehr’s Covered Bridge, South Whitehall Township

On the opposite end of Covered Bridge Park is Wehr’s Covered Bridge, built in 1841. This bridge also crosses the Jordan Creek and was originally named Sieger’s Covered Bridge after the owner of an adjacent grist mill Ephraim Sieger. After several owners, the mill was eventually purchased by William Wehr and the name of the bridge was changed accordingly.

 

Rex’s Covered Bridge, Onefield

Like most of the other covered bridges, Rex’s took its name from prominent landowners in the immediate vicinity. It was built in 1858 and is 115 feet long. It is one of five covered bridges that cross the Jordan Creek in Lehigh Valley.

 

All of the above bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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America’s Car Culture

The first gas powered cars appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were literally motorized carriages. Carriages like the 1890 Studebaker below were the predecessors of cars. The Brockway looks a lot like the carriage, but it has a motor.

Ford produced its first car in 1903. The Model A Runabout shown below listed for $750.

Ford's first car

1903 Ford Model A Runabout

Much of the growth of car ownership in the early part of the 20th century is attributed to Henry Ford and the Model T. Ford’s signature car was the first to be mass produced and the first to go to market at a rate that was affordable to a larger class of Americans.

1924 Ford Model T Coupe

1924 Ford Model T Coupe

The growth of cars created a whole new segment of the transportation industry. Whether it was taxis, limos or car services, automobiles provided a new and more personal form of public transportation.

The 1920’s were a time of prosperity for America. And what better way to tell the world about your participation in that prosperity than to drive a luxury automobile.  While the prosperous 20’s came to an abrupt end, luxury models like the ones below continued to be a status symbol for their owners.

As more Americans owned cars it gave rise to a new type of vacation, the camping vacation. With the more affordable cars, this represented a more affordable vacation as travelers could bring their own food and set up camp roadside. Below is a 1930 Model A Ford hooked up with a trailer.

Camping in a Ford

1930 Model A Ford

The 1940s and 50s were the golden age of road trips for American families. They headed west, maybe visiting the national parks. They camped. They visited relatives. They headed to the shores and beaches. And they headed south in the winter. Roadsters like this one were ideal for mid-century road trips.

1946 Pontiac Torpedo

1946 Pontiac Torpedo 8 Sedan Coupe Model 2507

By the late 1940’s a new medium was taking over the living rooms of American homes, the television. Many thought that spelled the end for radio. But what the doomsayers of radio failed to take into consideration was that at this time and for several decades into the future you couldn’t take your TV with you. There were 5 million cars sold in the U.S. in 1951. By 1971, that number of 10 million. And almost all of them had a radio embedded in their dashboard.

in car radio

The emergence of a distinct teen culture in the 1950’s is often associated with the birth and growth of rock and roll and the fashions and lifestyles it accompanied. The automobile also played an important part. Not only was it the means for socializing, whether it be at the car hop or the drive in, but it also gave teens a private space to do any number of things their parents would probably not have approved of. There was another wave of prosperity after World War II and another wave of growth in car ownership. There probably weren’t many teens fortunate enough to cruise in a 1954 Corvette like the two below, but this car was a product of the youth-inspired style of the 50’s.

 

Few Americans gave much thought to gas mileage and economy prior to the oil embargo in 1973. So throughout the sixties car manufacturers made their pitch to buyers based on muscle and comfort. Wide-bodied low riders like this 1960 Chrysler likely didn’t break double digits in miles per gallon, but at the time nobody was counting (and we weren’t wearing seat belts either).

1960 Chrysler 300F Convertible

1960 Chrysler 300F Convertible

 (All photos are from the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown, Pa.)

America On Wheels Museum

 

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The Man Who Made American Gothic

American Gothic

Grant Wood exhibit

Whitney Museum of American Art, Winter, 2018

Grant Wood painting

The American Golfer, 1940

Grant Wood painting

Woman With Plants, 1929

Grant Wood

Lilies of the Alley, 1925

Grant Wood chandelier

Corn chandelier

Grankt Wood's soldier

Soldier in the War of 1812, 1927

Grant Wood painting

Appraisal, 1931

Grant Wood painting

Shrine Quartet, 1939

Grant Wood Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Grant Wood Lounge Chair and Ottoman

Grant Wood painting

Van Antwerp Place, 1922-23

Grant Wood window

Grant Wood designed window

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Sculpture with a View

from the terraces of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Rashid Johnson sculpture

Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos, Rashid Johnson

Caldor sculpture at the Whitney

The Cock’s Comb, Alexander Caldor

Number 1, Ruth Asawa

Number 1, Ruth Asawa

David Smith sculpture at the Whitney

Lectern Sentinel, David Smith

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The Art of Protest

Reagan

Whitney Museum exhibit

Whitney Museum of American Art, Winter, 2018

Gary Simmons chalk drawing

Green Chalkboard, Gary Simmons

War protest painting

Kill for Peace, Carol Summers

Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

On the wall at the Whitney

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In the National Parks: The Poetry of Yosemite

Yosemite National Park, California

Pulmano image

(photo by Jordan Pulmano)

Homer Yosemite image

(Photo by Casey Homer)

Waiting to-night for the moon to rise

O’er the cliffs that narrow Yosemite’s skies;

Waiting for darkness to melt away

In the silver light of a midnight day;

Waiting, like one in a waking dream,

I stand alone by the rushing stream.

Alone, in a temple vast and grand,

With spire and turret on every hand;

A world’s cathedral, with walls sublime,

Chiselled and carved by the hand of Time;

And over all heaven’s crowning dome,

Whence gleam the beacon-lights of home.

(Excerpt from The Yosemite by Wallace Bruce)

Yosemite image by Homer

(photo by Casey Homer)

Vernal Falls

Yosemite National Park

(photo by Cam Adams)

Down from the Heavens

I come

tumbling

a galaxy of falling stars

a million white-winged doves

love weaves a daisy chain

rainbows of melting snows

ice to mist

winging

singing to the craggy steep

leaping to my emerald deep

pool

cool in granite fold

I am the song of the world

a moment old.

(Lyn Littlefield Hoopes)

Pirrkle image of Yosemite

(Photo by Nathan Pirkle)

Piche Yosemite image

(photo by Claude Piche)

 

A scene sublime is here disclos’d

Mountain and vale, with streams between;

A verdurous garden, far outspread,

With drooping woods of living green;

And the Sierras snow-clad crest

With all their plumy pine-trees drest.

The tourist, lost in wonder, looks

O’er mountain ranges white and vast,

Crown’d with the everlasting snows,

Swept by the fierce, tempestuous blast.

(excerpt from The Yosemite Valley by Isaac McClellan)

 

Homer Yosemite image

(Image by Casey Homer)

 

Beat! beat! beat!

We advance, but would retreat

From this restless, broken breast

Of the earth in a convulsion.

We would rest, but dare not rest,

For the angel of expulsion

From this Paradise below

Waves run onward and . . . we go.

(Excerpt from Yosemite by Joaquin Miller)

 

 

 

Joudrey Yosemite image

(Image by Christian Joudrey)

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The Mayor of London Comes to Texas

London Mayor Sadiq Khan arrived this week in a place he called “the hipster capital of world” to talk about the promise and pitfalls of the fourth industrial revolution.

Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, gave a keynote address at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Tex. Speaking to an audience of techies, marketers and entrepreneurs of all types, Khan called upon tech companies to ensure that the advancement of technology is used for the advancement of everyone.

What Khan referred to as the fourth industrial revolution is what others might call the tech or digital revolution. He drew parallels with earlier industrial disruption comparing the wave of nativist populism in the U.S., U.K., and Europe with the Luddites of England who responded to the first industrial revolution by smashing the machines that they viewed as taking their factory jobs and disrupting the skills they had spent a lifetime obtaining.

He commented that the Brexit vote in the U.K. and the rise of nativism in the U.S. and Europe is a result of a sizeable portion of society feeling left behind by the changes that technology is bringing and the disruption it is causing. One result is that some leaders and politicians have preyed on the fears of those that are left behind and directed their frustration at others.

Khan singled out the social networks and the gig economy. The social networks, for all the good they are doing, have also been used to create divisions within society through online abuse, misogyny and religious hatred. To make his point, Khan read some of the tweets that have been directed at him. One referred to him as a “gay, Muzzy terrorist” while another suggested that all Muslims be deported to “make London white again.”

Khan called on the major technology platforms to “live up to their promise to be a place where everyone feels welcomed and valued.”

Khan is mayor of a city which banned Uber. He discussed the gig economy and how in some cases it has driven down pay, bypassed hard-fought workers’ rights and eluded safety standards. He urged that “greater responsibility be taken by tech companies for the impact they are having on the world,’ adding, ”they can’t feel good about the negative consequences of their technology.”

Politicians also deserve a share of the blame, according to Khan. He criticized governments that have been passive while the tech revolution happened around them, something he described as “dereliction of duty.” (He did not comment on the fact that our government in the U.S. has not only failed to keep pace with technology but is now run by folks who seem to want to turn the clock back to 1950.)

Khan, who has in the past had some exchanges with Trump, did not mention the current Washington administration until asked about it after his speech. He said only, “It demeans your great country when your President tweets the stuff he does.”

The oft-repeated theme of Khan’s keynote was the need to “shape the future relationship between tech and society for the benefit of everyone.” That means becoming more inclusive and breaking down barriers for women and minorities. It also means training people for the jobs of tomorrow and embracing technology, using it to improve the lives of all communities. The alternative, according to Khan, is an “age of unprecedented inequality and division.”

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In the National Parks: The Enemies of Canyonlands

Canyonlands sign

(photo by dassel)

Canyonlands National Park

(Photo by beccarobison)

Canyonlands National Park is a breathtaking sight. The photos accompanying this blog post are an indication of the unique geologic formations and natural beauty of the park. Yet it has its detractors. As a relatively new national park, founded in 1964, it was created only after a long fight. Canyonlands is a prime example of the conflict that has always been a part of the creation of the national parks system. That conflict involves, on the one hand, the naturalists and conservationists who want to preserve these lands in their natural state and make them available for all Americans to enjoy. On the other hand are the commercial interests who want access to the territory in order to make a profit by exploiting the available natural resources, generally fossil fuels.

Utah is home to five national parks. That is a fact that is proudly touted by those who promote tourism to the state. But not so much by the Republican dominated state house and legislature. And they now have a like-minded administration in Washington.

Canyonlands National Park

Attempts in Washington to preserve the canyons area near the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers date back to 1936 when Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes proposed the creation of Escalante National Monument in the area. The proposal went nowhere, due to a combination of opposition by commercial interests and ultimately the distraction of war.

Another Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, took up the cause in the early 1960’s. He ran into the opposition of Utah’s Republican Governor George Dewey Clyde. Clyde saw the inevitability of what would become Canyonlands but he sought to minimize its impact by working with Utah’s Republican Senator Wallace F. Bennett to try to shrink the amount of land that would be included and to make it a “mixed-use park” meaning it would be available for hunting, mining and ranching. The National Park Act of 1916 proscribed all of those activities.

Between 1961 and 1964, a number of bills were introduced by Utah’s other senator, Frank Moss, a Democrat, to create Canyonlands. He compromised on the size of the park, the activities that would be allowed there and changed the boundaries of the proposed park to exclude mineral-rich land and replace it with territory with no perceived commercial value. After several failures, Moss eventually had a compromise bill passed by the Senate in 1963. But when it went to the Democrat-controlled House, the mixed-use provisions were struck down. With some minor compromises, it was the House version of the bill that was finally approved in 1964 and signed into law by Lyndon Johnson.

The Needles

(Photo by skeeze)

More recently, the National Park Service and supporting conservationist organizations found themselves in a protracted legal battle with the State of Utah and San Juan County over the use of a pathway in the park by motor vehicles. The area is question is the Salt Creek, which is the only perennial waterway in Canyonlands other than the Green and Colorado rivers. It had been used by some recreational vehicles as a pathway to the Angel Arch, one of Canyonlands iconic geologic formations.

Citing environmental damage and threats to area wildlife the Park Service at first limited vehicular use of this pathway and then in 2004 closed it entirely to motorized vehicles. The county and the state sued the park service under an 1866 law that was enacted to allow settlers to build roads across public lands. That law, RS 2477, had been repealed by Congress, but it grandfathered established rights of way. A Utah District Court ruled that there was not sufficient evidence of 10 years of continuous use as a roadway, which is what Utah law requires. for an RS 2477 claim. The decision was appealed and it was ten years later, in 2014 that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court ruling and thus kept the Salt Creek closed to vehicular traffic.

A Road Less Traveled

Canyonlands National Park

(Photo by Rauschenberger)

During the creation of Canyonlands, supporters of the national parks in Washington offset the local and state politicians who were often beholden to commercial interests in their state in order to first establish and then support Canyonlands National Park. The current administration in Washington is far different than its predecessors, No one will even confuse Ryan Zinke with Harold Ickes or Stewart Udall.

Zinke was a Republican congressman from Montana who, in running for that office, once referred to Hilary Clinton as the anti-Christ. On his first day in office as Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior he rescinded a rule banning the use of lead bullets in National Wildlife Refuges that had been adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent lead contamination of plants and animals. He then set out on a study to see which national monuments could be reduced in size. That resulted in recommendations to diminish Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah, Cascade-Siskiyou in southern Oregon and northwestern California and Gold Butt in Nevada.

By executive order, Trump shrunk the two Utah properties, Bears Ears by 85% and Grand Staircase by 46%. Interior Department documents recently obtained by the New York Times show that the primary motivation for shrinking these national monuments was the potential for extracting coal and oil. (Oil and coal drove Trump’s call to Shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase)

The documents also show the role Utah’s Republican Senator Orin Hatch played in bringing about this reduction in public lands. He had provided Zinke a proposed redraw of the national monuments’ boundaries that was largely adopted by Trump in his executive offer. So the Utah GOP, which has consistently fought against the creation of national parks in Utah and has sought to shrink them, now has some allies in the White House and the Interior Department.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands arch

(Photo by Alan Rither)

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In the National Parks: Living Under the Stars at Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park, California

the stars at Joshua Tree

Photo by Austin Human

Officially Dark

In Tucson, Ariz., there is an organization called the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). One of their duties is to establish and maintain a list of “International Dark Sky Parks.” Joshua Tree National Park received that designation in the summer of 2017. Why do we want to know where to find the darkest skies? Because that’s where you see the stars. The IDA describes an International Dark Sky Park as “a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, education, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” Other national parks with this designation include the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands and Death Valley National Parks.

While the west end of Joshua Tree suffers from some light pollution from Palm Springs and other nearby towns, the east side is the place to go for darkness. Situated in the desert of southeastern California, this is one national park where a night hike might be preferred, not only because of the magnificent dark sky but also because daytime temperatures in the spring and summer often surpass 100.

Once a year in November Joshua Tree is home to the Night Sky Festival. The park’s campgrounds generally fill up for that event. There are guest speakers during the day and telescope viewing posts at night. And you’ll likely get a little advice about how not to be a light polluter.

Joshua Tree National Park

photo by skeeze

Pod Living

cactus

Photo by Jesse Echevarria

An alternative way to enjoy the night sky at Joshua Tree is to view it from your very own pod at the Wagon Station Encampment just outside the park’s boundaries. A complex of 12 sleeping pods, the Wagon Station Encampment is part of A-Z West which, according to its Web site, is “an evolving testing grounds for living  — a place in which spaces, objects and acts of living all intertwine into a single ongoing investigation into what it means to exist and participate in our culture today.” That’s the kind of stuff you want to ponder while you stargaze. In addition to the Wagon Station Encampment, A-Z West features a shipping container compound, a weaving studio and ‘satellite cabins.”

The whole thing was founded by Andrea Zittel, a Bay Area artist who moved to Joshua Tree some 15 years ago. Zittel makes sculptures and installations for galleries and uses the money to fund her social experiment in the desert. There are two months a year during which you can rent a wagon station, but you have to apply with autobiographical info and be accepted. Zittel suggests it’s appropriate for those “who are engaged in cultural or personal research.”

The encampment includes a communal outdoor kitchen as well as showers and toilets. The pods themselves look like metal and wood containers that are raised off the ground. They lift open from the front and inside there is a mattress and hooks for clothing. Up top there is a transparent strip, perfect for lying in bed and stargazing.

 

Joshua Tree National Park

Photo by Andreas Selter

Homesteading in the Desert

Stargazing was the last thing that Bill Keys had in mind when he settled on a mining property in 1910 in what would later become part of Joshua Tree National Park. Keys was from Nebraska and his background included a stint training with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. He worked at the mine for about five years and when the absentee owner died he filed a claim for back wages which resulted in his gaining ownership of the property. He then added to his holding by filing a homesteading claim for adjacent land.

Keys was something of a whirlwind on his new property. He continued running the mine, did some farming and started a cattle ranch. He built five dams on the property and roads running through it. He even created the area’s first elementary school, originally for his own kids, of which there were seven. In the forties, Keys had a gunfight with a local sheriff’s deputy that resulted in a murder conviction. He did five years in prison before being released and was later fully pardoned.

The Keys Ranch is now part of Joshua Tree National Park and has been designated a National Historic Register Site. The ranch house, the school, a store and a workshop are still standing and there are various tools and mining equipment on the site. Ranger-guided walking tours are available to visitors to the park.

Joshua Tree National Park

Photo by sspiehs3

 

 

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In the National Parks: Fire and Fury in the Rockies

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National ParkFire

Rocky Mountain National ParkOn Jan. 7, 2013, the Fern Lake Fire in the Forest Canyon area of Rocky Mountain National Park was declared extinguished. The fire had burned for nearly three months and had covered 3,500 acres. What had started as an illegal campfire was reasonably contained until a period of high winds after Thanksgiving that year caused the fire to spread some three miles in 35 minutes. Some homes in nearby Estes Park were evacuated, but firefighters were able to keep the fire within the park’s boundaries. A snowstorm in December helped get it under control.

One of the reasons the fire spread was that the region had suffered a long-term drought. The National Park Service also reported that mountain pine beetles had killed half the trees in the canyon leaving the remains dry and susceptible. To have a fire at that elevation in the winter is considered unusual and the Park Service believes that the area had not seen a fire in over 800 years.

By May of 2013, the Denver Post reported that the forest and meadows in the area where the fire had burned were actually revitalized. It reported “green shoots of native grass sprouting, and frogs, hummingbirds and yellow flowers emerging amid charred willows and pines.”

Five years later 9News.com reporter Will Swope observed, “..this area is anything but barren. I found flowers growing around the charred logs that lay on the forest floor. Small trees are starting to grow back. It will take time, lots of time, but Rocky’s history is long and the area is resilient.”

Fern Lake Fire

Rocky Mountain National Park

Floods

Rocky Mountain National ParkIn 2012 drought conditions led to the fire in Fern Lake. One year later there was water. Way too much of it. Four days of storms included one 24-hour period in which a foot of rain fell. Roads and bridges became unpassable and there were mudslides. Nearby Estes Park was cut off as the two main roads leading into town were shut down. Park rangers emptied the campsites and closed the park.

National Parks Traveler described the damage: “…some of the most obvious storm damage was on the northern end of Horseshoe Park near Endovalley, In paces the road into Endovalley was washed out and washed over with mud, rocks and other debris. The road into Aspenglen Campground also was damaged, and the bridge over the Fall River deemed unsafe for even foot traffic. In Moraine Park, the Big Thompson River ran bankful, as did the Fall River as it surged through Horseshoe Park.”

The park was closed although Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the U.S., remained open. After five days areas of the park began reopening incrementally as roads and trails became passable.

 As Storms Ease, Damage to Rocky Mountain National Park is Revealed, Length Rehab on Tap

Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Snow

While April showers may indeed brings May flowers in many parts of the U.S., at Rocky Mountain National Park those spring months have often surprised with something else. Snow. And lots of it.

In 2009 winter at  RMNC extended well into April. Three feet of snow fell within 24 hours at the park on on April 17. Both entrances were shut down as plows worked on getting Trail Ridge Road between the two  in passable condition.

In May of 2011 came a snowstorm of nearly four feet. Park officials measured the snowfall in the Bear Lake region at 44 inches. Avalanches were reported, some naturally and some caused by humans. And a rock slide closed the main highway from Estes Park into the park.

Just last May some 42 inches of snow fell on the park in mid-May. The storm closed roads throughout the park and park officials warned of a very high avalanche possibility; Park rangers warned those looking to ski, snowshoe or hike that they should have specialized gear and training.

Rocky Mountain National Park

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