Who Knew?

A Discerning Tourist’s Guidebook to Lesser Known Attractions

For 25 years beginning in 1738, Spanish ruled Florida gave sanctuary to Africans fleeing slavery in the English colonies. Fort Mose Historic State Park in Saint Augustine commemorates the site of the first chartered settlement of free Africans in America known then as Garcia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose.

At the turn of the last century, the U.S. Congress appropriated funds to build a modern fleet of steel war ships capable of the "highest practicable speed and the greatest radius of action". With their hulls painted white--the Navy's color scheme during peacetime-- the armada gained the nickname, the "Great White Fleet" as it circumnavigated the globe. The ostentatious voyage was intended to demonstrate global power through naval dominance. Justifiable considering the Japanese just a few years prior had annihilated two thirds of Romanov's fleet in the Tsushima Strait. Brawny Roosevelt didn't hesitate to send a very clear message to Japan that the US would, and now damn well could, protect its newly gained acquisitions in the Pacific, including the Philippines and Guam. Besides, he figured it would take the American public's attention off the plunging depression. Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in Oyster Bay, New York is Roosevelt’s home, now a museum. Hourly tours are provided seven days a week during the summer and from Wednesday through Sunday between Labor Day and Memorial Day between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.  

At the thought of cranberry bogs, most folks think of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. However, it's is the country's second producer. Wisconsin leads the nation in production of the tart autumn berry and New Jersey, interestingly, lands slot number three. Cranberries, and blueberries, are harvested in the largest tract of open space between Boston, MA and Richmond, VA, in New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve (PNR). The first federal nature reserve to be designated by Congress, the PNR occupies more than one million acres (22% of the state's land base). The Chatsworth Cranberry Festival is held every October. 

There is a monument in Montpelier, Vermont's Green Mount Cemetery that is said to be one of the most haunted sites in the state. It is the tomb of the founder of the Capital city, who was generally considered to be a crook by most of the original townies. But, when he bequest his substantial fortune to them upon his demise, they changed their minds and typically dedicated public buildings to him. His gravestone made of copper rather than granite, for which the State is known, is clearly an artistic rendition of a cloaked muscled male— a wonderfully sculpted and gruesomely patinated gut clenching cancerous version of Death—has, for whatever reason, earned the name of Black Agnes. A self-guided tour map is available and visitors may also like to make a drive through of nearby Hope Cemetery famous for its historic artisan carved monuments whose stone was quarried from the world famous Rock of Ages Quarry in Barre, Vermont. 

New Orleans' Great River Road is actually two roads spanning either side of the Mississippi River. Because early visitors, as well as supply deliveries, generally arrived by water, the large plantation homes face the River, not the parallel roads by which most modern tourists now arrive. This little known tidbit hardly diminishes the grandeur of these historic sites, many of which have been restored and are publically accessible. Most of the homes no longer have water views, regrettably, since after a horrible hurricane struck in the ‘30’s a 20' high dike was built to ward off future destruction. Antebellum mansions, some of which are inns and/or restaurants—one of which is also a campground, extend for seventy miles beyond New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

Always a man of forethought, prominent Paris Expo and Tallahassee’s Old Clock Tower architect Calvin C. Phillips built his mausoleum well in advance of his death. He even hired a carpenter to build a cherry coffin, which Phillips had placed in the center of the massive vault. Nothing novel in any of this except that once his tomb was completed he crawled into the coffin and died. His buddy, to whom he had given the key, promptly sealed him in for prosperity. Phillips lays in rest at Oakland Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida.

After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Dr. Charles Bressler-Pettis sent a letter to every governor asking them to send him local rocks wanting to create a symbol of the unity of the States. The monument, that interestingly includes an embedded human skull, stands 50' tall and weighs 30 tons. Perhaps even more interestingly, it now sports rocks sent from 21 other countries. The monument is quite conveniently situated in a round-about on Monument Avenue in Kissimmee, Florida.

Unfortunately, human smuggling is still as big a business as it ever was; in fact, it’s the trafficking of involuntary victims that’s got 42,000 Customs Border Patrol officers armed against the $30 billion/year wretched racket. And every day, thousands of people walk right on past, or rather above, a site in San Diego that was once used by pirates smuggling human cargo.  The Transcontinental Railroad race had lured tens of thousands Chinese to California who then competed against the surly, hard-drinking, fast-fisted Irish swinging hammers for the Central Pacific Railroad.  Rising prejudice led to the adoption of the oh-so-embarrassing exclusionary acts. These bans spawned the first commercial smuggling of contraband human cargo in the U.S. and the seven "sister" caves in La Jolla provided shelter for turn of the century profiteering pirates. Today, only one cave is accessible by land. Sunny Jim’s Cave, named after a 1920 British cereal box character and military mascot, can be accessed through a tunneled stairway in the historic La Jolla Cave and Curio Shop

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