Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Quick Visit to Landsford Canal State Park, South Carolina

river view 01

Most South Carolinians have seen, or at least heard of, the extremely rare spider lilies that grow along the banks of the Catawba River near Landsford Canal State Park. When they bloom, mid-May to mid-June or so, Park visitors get to see a rare sight indeed. Click here for more information on Landsford Canal’s lilies.

cabin front 01However, as I discovered during a brief visit on April 13th of this year, Landsford Canal State Park offers its visitors much more than spider lilies. And offers those additional features year-round!

One thing Landsford Canal doesn’t offer, unfortunately, is RV camping. It would be an ideal spot. But with only a Park Manager and one Ranger to maintain the Park’s 450 acres – including a long stretch of Catawba River and shoreline, and all that entails -- it would be impossible to add RV camping and the additional responsibilities that would bring.

mapDon’t let that lack of RV camping discourage you, though. Landsford Canal is conveniently located between two terrific RV camping Parks: Andrew Jackson about 16 miles north, and Lake Wateree, about 30 miles south. There’s plenty of information about both Parks on the CarolinaConsidered website. Two of my favorites Parks in the whole State.

You can begin to enjoy the Landsford Canal State Park immediately upon turning off Route 21 at the State Park sign. The three miles or so of nicely paved two-lane road takes you through beautiful fields, hedge rows, and farm houses on both sides. Typical South Carolina countryside. For this part of the State, anyway.

sign 01Then, before you know it, you reach the Park’s main gate and the Iron Ranger. Don’t forget to tip the Ranger as you enter. That’s one of the few sources of “revenue” for this Park. And at $2.00 per adult, it’s a bargain.

I’ve mentioned this before, but South Carolina residents are able to buy Park passes good for a year that provide access to all State Parks for only $50. And that’s only $25 for seniors. They’re available on-line and at many Park offices. So pick yours up and save. Click here for more information.

There’s plenty of parking down toward the River, and, as you can see in the first photo on this page, a nice paved walkway that provides easy wheeled-vehicle access for folks with mobility problems. Good to see.

restroom 01Throughout this Park, or at least in the parts I was able to see, attention has been paid to access for limited mobility folks. Trails are meticulously maintained; ramps are available and well maintained. This photo of the front of one of the stone-built restrooms shows the concrete walkway nicely. And look at that stone work! Be sure to click on the photo to get a larger view.

small signI’ve yet to learn much about the history of this Park. But, according to its website, the Park began with a donation from Duke Power of 194 acres in Chester County. Subsequent additions of 44 acres in 1989 and 210 acres in 1998 combined to make up the current 448 acre total. Now the Park is located in both Chester and Lancaster Counties.

River Pan

The two-mile long Landsford Canal, for which the Park is named, played an important role in settlement of South Carolina’s upstate region between 1820 and 1840. It was designed to provide easier transport along a difficult portion of the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. I have to learn more about this site. In the meantime, here’s a link to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History that provides more information and photos.

cabin front 01I did get to see the 1790s Simpson-Wise log house that was disassembled and relocated here, piece by numbered piece, from its original site near the Town of Chester, South Carolina. You may recall our visit to an earlier [mid-18th century] log house now at Sesquicentennial State Park. [click the link to refresh your memory].

logs cornerThis log house was disassembled, moved, and then reconstructed here during 1979 and 1980 by Park personnel. Park budget at that time didn’t allow for the support of outside specialists. But the building was reconstructed here nonetheless. According to Park records, nearly all of the original logs were saved and used in the current building. Though roofing and flooring board had to be replaced.

chimney 01Stonework too, of course, was done at the time of reconstruction. Here’s an example of that work on the outside of the main chimney. Wish I could have seen the stone mason at work!

stoneworkHere’s a closer look at the chimney stonework. Every square foot that I saw, inside and out, was of this remarkable craftsmanship. Imagine being able to do work like this!

riverbankThere’s plenty more to see and learn here at Landsford Canal State Park. I’m hoping to visit again during my next trip to Lake Wateree State Park during the second week of May. Hopefully, just before the lilies bloom and the Park fills with visitors! So stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Guided Tour of Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina.

atalaya 01

Atalaya is one of those interesting places in South Carolina that demanded a visit from CarolinaConsidered. It is a remarkable structure, difficult to describe.

atalaya 02Built during the early 1930s by railroad heir, Archer Milton Huntington, and his second wife, the famous sculptor, Anna Hyatt, Atalaya covers nearly an acre of ground at what has since become Huntington Beach State Park.

I visited Atalaya a year or so ago while camping at Huntington Beach State Park, walked around, took a few photos, and didn’t think much more about it. Click the link above to see the post from that visit. The building, to my architecturally unsophisticated eye, was more whimsical than practical. “An impulsive project born of a vague idea,” is how I then described it.

atalaya 03Well! You should have read the e-mail that post inspired. Some amusing. But some that encouraged me to take another look. Next time with an informed guide. In February of this year I got that chance. During another visit to Huntington Beach State Park, made primarily to visit Brookgreen Gardens, just across the road from the Park.

This visit I was able to meet and interview Ms. Elizabeth Moses, the Interpretative Ranger responsible for Atalaya. Needless to say, Ms. Moses didn’t share my earlier opinion of Atalaya. More important, she proved to be extremely well informed. About the building, the building’s history, and about Archer and Anna Huntington. What a difference an hour or so spent listening to Elizabeth Moses meant!

Here is the first part of the interview with Elizabeth Moses, done at the Huntington Beach State Park Office. In it we learn how Ms. Moses came to her current job and the history of Atalaya.

In the second part of the sit-down interview with Elizabeth Moses, she provides more specific detail on Atalaya as it exists today at Huntington Beach State Park. Including the importance of the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park volunteers who help maintain the building and guide tours. Click the link above to access a Friends Group description of the house and a useful map.

When you visit Atalaya, try to join a docent-led tour. Those tours are available from March through November, if memory serves. Call Huntington Beach State Park [843-237-4440] for the tour schedule.

If you’re unable to join one of those tours, or if you visit Atalaya between November and February, be sure to take one of the new audio tours. They cost only $4.00 per person, and allow you to wander through Atalaya at your own pace, with informed commentary. Even including some comments of Anna Hyatt Huntington herself! Well worth the fee.

I was able to persuade Interpretive Ranger Moses to take me on a brief tour of her own during my last visit. A real treat. Listening to her informed commentary as we walked through the many corridors and rooms made all the difference in the world. I’ll never describe Atalaya again as an “impulsive project”!

The quality of the audio in these next two videos is terrible. My recording equipment just wasn’t up to the challenge of windy weather that day. But Ms. Moses’ commentary was too interesting to waste. So I’ve included it here for everyone to hear. Here’s Part One of that tour:

And here is the second part. Even with repeated editing I was unable to clean the sound of the wind from the audio tracks. Sorry about that. Don’t let the poor quality keep you from listening though. You’ll miss a lot.

So there you have it. Another, more informed, visit to Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. After listening to Elizabeth Moses’ patient explanations and description, I hope to visit Atalaya at least one more time, when I can devote several hours to the project. Thanks again, Elizabeth, for your patience and for your remarkable knowledge of this important site and of the Huntingtons who created it. You made a world of difference!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Interview with York County, SC, Museums Director, Van Shields

hb big houseWhile visiting Historic Brattonsville on February 10, 2011, I happened to meet Mr. Van Shields. He’s Director and CEO of Historic Brattonsville’s parent organization, the York County Culture and Heritage Museums.

hb bville headquartersMr. Shields was on the way to another meeting, but agreed to sit and chat for a while with CarolinaConsidered about York County’s remarkable system of museums. Here, in four parts, is the result of that chat.

cm frontAt about thirty minutes, this is longer than most CarolinaConsidered interviews. But I think you’ll agree that it’s worth the extra time.

Here in Part One Van describes his arrival in York County, and his efforts to integrate several existing institutions.

In this second segment of the interview Van explains the thinking behind the diverse offerings of York County’s museums, and some personnel considerations.

Van continues in this third interview segment to describe the remarkably diverse museum offerings here in South Carolina’s York County, and how they are presented.

In conclusion, I asked Van what the future holds for York County’s museums. Most executives shy away from that question. But listen to what Van has to say. Clearly, he’s a man of vision. Not one of those bureaucrat/clerk implementers or maintainers. Hard to find such leadership!

Well, there you have it. Thirty minutes of highly credible description of one of South Carolina’s most dynamic and interesting museum systems. I had no idea so much was available here. York County is neither the most populous nor the richest of South Carolina’s 46 counties. Yet, with some innovative thinking, leadership, and strong community support, York County has created a system of museums that would make any county in the State or country proud.

mcc ticketsThe availability of such public resources is bound to have a positive effect on York County’s economic development, as well as its cultural quality of life.

mcc frontAfter talking with Van I decided to visit not only Historic Brattonsville, but all of the other York County Museum branches. What a treat! So stay tuned for programs on each branch.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster County, South Carolina. Part 4. Other Park Features

Click here for the first post in this series and the table of contents.

statue 1Andrew Jackson State Park offers the visitor so much to see and experience that I’ve made reservations for another visit next week! Not the usual practice. Usually five days is enough. But not here. So, I’ll have more detail on the museum, the late 18th century school house exhibit, and other sources of information about President Andrew Jackson in later posts.

theater 1But before ending this visit I have to mention two more outstanding features of this Park: the statue of young Andrew Jackson by Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, and the amphitheater. Either of these alone would justify a visit to the Park. First, the statue.

statue 2Those of you who have visited Brookgreen Gardens, across the road from Huntington Beach State Park, know Anna Huntington’s work. She was, by any measure, a remarkable artist. And there’s an interesting story behind Huntington’s interpretation of young Andrew Jackson here.

lettersThe idea for the statue came from a class at Lancaster County’s Rice Elementary School. The class, undoubtedly with the encouragement of their teacher, Nancy Crockett, wrote the celebrated Huntington to ask if she would create a statue of Jackson as a young man. Probably because Jackson lived in South Carolina only as a child and teenager.

statue 4Huntington by then was in her late 80s! Still, she accepted the commission. Her last major work. With the proviso that the community would pay for the statue’s huge granite base.

ahj and statueThe statue was completed, mounted on its base, and ready for exhibition at the celebration of Andrew Jackson’s 200th birthday, March 15, 1967. Atop an enormous pink granite base paid for with the pennies, nickels, and dimes of Lancaster County schoolchildren.

statue 3Now, I’m no artist or art critic, as you well know. But I can’t imagine anyone who knew the least thing about horses not being amazed by this statue. I mean! You want to go over and pat that horse!

statue 5Jackson sits, one leg thrown over the horse, gazing out with an energy and intensity that’s magnetic. Be prepared to stay a while when you walk over to view this remarkable piece of sculpture.

amph 1It’s easy to miss Andrew Jackson State Park’s Joseph H. Croxton Amphitheater. That’s because it blends so smoothly with its natural surrounding. But be sure not to miss it. Take a walk down this path even if no program is being offered.

theater 1It’s an all-wood, or mostly wood, structure. With a stage and backstage facilities at the front.

seatingSeating rises in tiers back toward the Park Office and Museum. Not a bad seat in the house.

seating 2Janie and I tested the acoustics and found them surprisingly good for an outdoor amphitheater. Must have been planned in when constructed.

theater 3I’ve yet to see a program, but a wide variety of musical types are presented. Everything from Gospel to rock ‘n roll. Even including bluegrass.  Oh my!

Well, that’s all for now. Next week, back to Andrew Jackson State Park to learn more about the museum and hopefully do an interview or two. So stay tuned.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster County, South Carolina Part 3. Recreation Opportunities

Click here to return to the first post in this series and table of contents.

boats 1

Andrew Jackson State Park isn’t one of those Parks that offers only rustic solitude to its visitors. There’s a lot to do here. And something for every age group. Let’s look at just a few of the most obvious opportunities.

We’ve already discussed the RV campground. In addition, the Park maintains a “primitive group camping area” that seemed to me ideal for Scout and other youth groups. “Primitive” here, as usual, indicates a lack of electrical and water hook-ups at each site.

At the top of the page you see a few of the broad, stable aluminum-hulled jon boats available for rent. I didn’t see any kayaks or canoes during my visit. Jon boats are beloved of serious fisherpersons [is that a word?]. But they also serve well for the casual paddler who just wants to get out on the water for a while. I believe boaters here are allowed to attach small electric trolling motors to the boats. No gasoline engines, of course. lake 2The lake’s too small. And, according to one serious-looking fisherman casting from the shore, “These big fish need their rest!” Never heard that one before ….

play area 1More about the lake in a moment. But have a look first at the playground area. Andrew Jackson has one of those sophisticated modern play areas: interesting enough to occupy the time of today’s short-attention-span children; while still maintaining their safety.

play area 2They are very expensive, I understand. And often require outside support to build. This one, as you see above, was built with the support of the John T. Stevens Foundation.

I asked Granddaughter Janie to give the play area an experienced test run. She concluded that it would be appropriate for children aged 3 and above. I pressed for an upper limit but got no response. See some video of her test run.

trail 1Be sure not to miss the walking/hiking trail around the lake when you visit Andrew Jackson State Park. It’s a delight. Smooth, well maintained, and “Geezer-Friendly,” as Chester State Park Manager John Wells would say.

trail 2It’s only about a mile all the way around the lake. But the trail runs through all sorts of scenery during that mile. Everything from mowed grassy lawn to swampy areas that require boardwalks for comfortable navigation.

trail 3The boardwalk area was especially interesting to me. Different kinds of vegetation; different species of wildlife. All comfortably accessed.

Here are a few of the Park’s permanent residents.

There’s much more to see here at Andrew Jackson State Park. So stay tuned.

Click here for the next post in this series.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster County, South Carolina Part 2. RV Camping.

Click here for the first post in this series and table of contents.

site 15

Andrew Jackson State Park maintains a small but actively used RV campground. 25 sites in all, if memory serves.

After check-in at the office and a quick look around the museum and school house exhibits, I drove over to site # 15 to set up the Aliner.

another siteAs I mentioned in the last post, some of those 25 sites are paved; others are hard-packed earth. I selected # 15 because it is a pull-through, paved, with a nice view of the Park’s lake. More on that lake in a moment.

paved sitePull-through sites for me avoid the embarrassment of see-sawing back and forth for fifteen or twenty minutes to back the Aliner in. Small crowds sometimes gather to enjoy that spectacle. I’ve thought a time or two of offering popcorn and iced drinks ….

15 againSite # 15 required none of that. And anyway, when I arrived on Sunday afternoon, the 20th, there were few people around to watch. Only three or four of the other sites were occupied. Weekends see many more RV campers here.

bath houseSite # 15 was clean as a whistle when I arrived. As were all of the others I saw. And well maintained. Electrical and water connections both ready for hook-up. The bath house that you see above is of the early 1970s style [I think that’s when this style of bath house was built]. But well maintained outside and inside.

bath inside 1showerHere are a couple of inside shots of the men’s section for reference. All whistle-clean, including those white shower curtains that if not properly maintained can become moldy. None of that here.

surrounding woodsThe condition of the woods surrounding RV campground sites makes a difference in the overall appeal of the facility. Here at Andrew Jackson campers see either woods like those in the photo above. Or the lake.

lake from campgroundHere’s one view of the lake from near site # 15. 

lake islandThis isn’t a large lake. Only 18 acres, or so. But somehow it offers the visitor charming views. And, according to Park Manager Johnston [you’ve already been warned about Park Managers’ assessments of the fishing at their lakes … ] there are plenty of fish for the knowledgeable angler.

geesePlenty of geese and ducks here too. I was surprised not to find their droppings. Must be part of the clean-up detail. Signs at the bath house entrance ask campers not to feed them. But, judging from their behavior it’s a request often ignored. They’re great beggars.

Next, we’ll take a look at other recreation facilities here at Andrew Jackson State Park. Including the hiking trail, playground, and rental boats. So stay tuned.

Click here for the next post in this series.