American history, history and travel, Lost Battlefields, Myths and Legends, Nationa Memorials, Remember the Alamo, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, Texas history, The Alamo, Travel, Uncategorized

The History of the Alamo, Part III: From Forgotten to Army Depot

 

The three ruined Alamo buildings

Drawing by John A. Beckmann of the three ruined Alamo buildings stated as being in 1845, before reconstruction. However, please note that the church has the two upper windows in this drawing , which weren’t added until the roof was in 1849.   

I love history shot

Ron Current

In this post I’ll continue the story on how the almost forgotten Alamo battlefield was slowly erased by the City of San Antonio as it grew and expanded. Sadly, one of the main contributors to this urban sprawl was a man who had a direct connection with the Alamo and its fallen defenders.

I’ll also tell how the Alamo’s main buildings survived, and how the ruined Alamo church became how it looks today.

First, I’ll start with the Alamo defender who, for his personal gain, almost single handed destroyed the hollowed grounds. 

Samuel A. Maverick (July 23, 1803- September 2, 1870)
In Texas history Samuel Maverick is best known as a mayor, land speculator and developer of San Antonio in the mid-1800’s, and its also said that his name was the source for the term, “being a maverick, “ a person of independent thinking. But beyond this Samuel Maverick also had a direct connection to the Texas Revolution, the Battle of the Alamo, and was a major influence on what became of the Alamo battlefield.

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Samuel A. Maverick 

Samuel A. Maverick came to San Antonio from South Carolina in 1835, at the very start of the Texas Revolution. He took part in the Siege of Bexar and afterwards became a member of the Texan garrison at the Alamo. During the Alamo’s siege Maverick left the fort on March 2, as a courier for Travis and also as a representative for the garrison at the convention for Texas Independence, thus escaping the final battle.

In 1838, Maverick began buying up land grants around San Antonio, believing that the city would explode with new settlers from the United States now that Texas was a republic. That same year he moved his family into one of the remaining houses that had been part the forts west wall. While living there he continued purchasing the remaining lands on and around the Alamo compound, including the rest of the old west wall. In his development of that area he demolished what traces of the west wall that remained.

Maverick claimed a deep attachment to the Alamo, and wanted to live close to where his friends had fallen. He built himself a grand two-story home which sat where the Alamo’s west and north walls had met. This area would have been the location of one of the Alamo’s cannon platforms, and most likely where Travis had met his death.

Ten years later Maverick subdivided the lands on the west, north and northeast sides of the Alamo battlefield, including where the main body of the Mexican army had attacked the north wall. Maverick’s “Alamo Village” would cover the north wall battlefield completely.

Maverick laid out all the lots, streets and the Alamo Plaza itself, giving it the look we see today. Maverick may have felt close to his fallen hero friends, but his developments were one of the main contributors the demise of  the Alamo battlefield.

Thanks to Maverick what had been the Alamo’s west wall was now a row of commercial buildings, and its north wall would be taken over by a massive Federal building. By the 1840’s all that remained of the Alamo fort was its three large buildings: the Long Barracks (the old Convento), the Low Barracks (what had been the forts main gate), and its Church.

These historic buildings where in an advance stage of deterioration: the roofs of the Long Barracks and Low Barracks had collapsed, weeds were growing out of the building’s walls, and animals, bats, and birds made their homes there. What remained of the Alamo sat vandalized, slowly decaying, and mostly forgotten.

The Alamo under the Army (1847-1878)

In 1847, during the Mexican-American War, a 29 year old American soldier named Edward Everett, who was unable to join his command in Mexico because of an injury, was assigned by his commander, Col. John Hardin, to collect information on the local history and customs of San Antonio. Everett, who was also an accomplished artist, began sketching the different sites and missions around the town, including the Alamo ruins. Many of the images we have today of the Alamo during this period comes from Everett’s work.

alamo-storage in the 1860's

Wagons delivering supplies to the reconstructed Alamo church, now a warehouse for the U.S. Army depot, circa 1860

In 1849 the U.S. Army leased the church and Long Barracks from the Catholic Church to be used as a quartermaster depot. To save cost Captain James Ralston proposed using the Alamo’s buildings as foundations. However, Everett, who had become the Captain’s clerk, convinced Ralston to use only the Long Barracks and Low Barracks, leaving the church as a historic relic. It’s interesting to note that Everett considered the Alamo’s church as a historic relic, but not its other two buildings. It could have been a lack of the locals not knowing the true history of the Alamo battle, or was it again the allure of the church’s façade that drew Everett away from the historical fact that it was in the Long Barracks where so many defenders and Mexican soldiers had fought to the death, and the Low Barracks where Jim Bowie had died.

Ralston put Everett in charge of turning the Alamo’s two buildings into offices, living quarters, workshops, and storage rooms. Under Everett’s direction the Low Barracks was re-plastered and a new roof added. However his reconstruction of the Long Barracks was the most drastic to the original building. Most of the Long Barrack’s interior and some of its walls were removed. The second floor was in bad shape, but Everett used what he could, and even extended the length of the second floor by adding new walls. Further changes were made by cutting additional windows and doors into the buildings thick stone walls.

Although Everett left the ruined church intact he did order for the rubble that littered its interior be cleaned out. It was reported that during this a few skeletons and artifacts attributed to the 1836 battle were found.

Although Everett and Ralston wished to keep the church as it was the new assistant quartermaster had a different idea, not only for the Alamo’s church but its other two buildings as well.

Major Edwin Babbitt was placed in charge of making the site ready as an Army depot. Babbitt wanted to tear down all of the Alamo’s buildings; even those that had been rebuilt by Everett, and construct all new structures on the site. If Babbitt had gotten his way it would have been the complete loss of the Alamo.

But General Thomas Jesup strongly disagreed with Babbitt. Gen. Jesup saw that the reconstructed Long and Low barracks were more than adequate, and that the church’s thick, high walls would make a strong foundation for a third building. Although Gen. Jesup over ruled Babbitt he also had over ruled Everett’s vision of keeping the Alamo church as it was. Jesup’s order would bring about the way Alamo church looks today.

The reconstruction of the Alamo church was a major undertaking. The first thing that the engineers needed to do to make it useable was to add a roof. But before they could do that they needed to raise the walls of the church with new stone and make it even. Once that was done they were able to add a wooden gabled roof that ran from the front to the back of the building, using a hip design on its eastern end. However the roofs western peak couldn’t be finished that same way, it would made it look unsightly. That problem was solved by architect and stonemason John Fries.

It was Fries who came up with the design for the Alamo’s now famous “hump.” Where Fries actually got this idea is lost to time. Although we can’t picture the Alamo today without its hump it wasn’t much appreciated at the time.

Originally the church only had windows on each side of its main door and one over it, but when the army added the roof they also added a second floor. To help get sunlight into this room they needed to add more windows. Those two windows you now see near  the top on both sides are what were cut into the building by the army; and if you look closely you’ll see they don’t line up.

The Alamo

The Alamo Church as it looked in the late 1800’s 

The United States Army continued to use of the Alamo buildings up until the Civil War. After Texas seceded from the Union the Confederate Army used the buildings from 1861 until the wars end. After the Civil War the U.S. Army again occupied the Alamo until its depot was moved to Fort Sam Houston in 1878. After the Army left the three Alamo buildings once again came under the control of the Catholic Church.

By that time the Catholic Church had little use or need for the buildings. It was then that a local merchant approached the Church, making them an offer they couldn’t refuse. An offer that would once again change the look, and history, of the Alamo, and not for the better.

Some of the resources used:

Thompson, Frank. “From Army Headquarters to Department Store.” The Alamo, A Cultural History, Taylor Publishing , 2001.
Nelson, George. The Alamo, An Illustrated History. Cenveo Printing, 2009.
“Samuel Maverick .” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, May 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Maverick.
“Alamo Mission in San Antonio.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, 2 July 2018, en.m.wikipedia/wiki/Alamo_Mission_in_San_Antonio.
Selcraig, Bruce. “Remembering the Alamo.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian.com, 1 Apr. 2004, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/remembering_the_alamo-101880149/.

 

 

 

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American history, James Madison, Still Current, The Articles of Confederation, The Bill of Rights, The United States Constitution, Uncategorized

We the People: A brief history of the United States Constitution and its first ten amendments Part three: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against any government on earth,” -Thomas Jefferson.

First Congress of the United States

The 1st Congress of the United States of America, 1789

I love history shot

Ron Current

We’ve been on the incredible journey toward the birth of a nation. Its beginnings were in the words of the Declaration of Independence, words that projected a vision of a nation for its people. This vision however wasn’t reflected in the first two documents of governance, the Articles of Confederation and the Federal Constitution that followed.
This is best described by B.J. Lossing in his 1848 book, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, when comparing the differences, “The former (the Declaration of Independence) was based upon declared right; the foundation of the latter (Articles of Confederation) was asserted power.” Lossing goes on to explain, “The former was based upon a superintending Providence, and the inalienable rights of man; the latter rested upon…,” Lossing then uses this 1839 writing by John Quincy Adams, “… sovereignty of declared power – one ascending for the foundation of human government, to the laws of nature and of nature’s God, written upon the hearts of man – the other resting upon the basis of human institutions, and prescriptive law, and colonial charters.”
What Lossing and Adams were saying was that in their quests to form a new government the framers lost that grand vision laid out in the Declaration of Independence, and instead focused too much on the rules of order and the laws of governess.
Thankfully this was about to change, as the 1st. Congress of the United States began their work on crafting a Bill of Rights.

 

 

The 1st. Congress of the United States of America begins fulfilling its promise
With the Constitution finally ratified on June 21st 1788, the 1st Congress of the United States came together for the first time in New York City, then the capital of the country, at Federal Hall on March 4th 1789.
The Federalist had faired pretty well with representation in the new congress, having gained the majority of the seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But now they needed to begin working with the Anti-Federalist to fulfill the promise made to gain ratification, and that was to amend the new Constitution to include a bill of rights.
As the 1st. Congress came together to begin the bill of rights debate the big question was, how do you go about amending the document? Articles V gave the Congress the ability to amend, make changes, to the Constitution, but not the form it should be done in.
Enter, again, James Madison

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James Madison (1751-1836)

As I presented in Part I, James Madison had been one of the most vocal at the constitutional convention in not seeing a need for a bill of rights in the Constitution, but as the debate went on during the convention, and after Washington and Jefferson had written to him, he began to see the concerns that the Anti-Federalist and States had. He was now willing to work on amending the Constitution with a bill of rights.
Madison, now a congressman, feared that a contentious argument on what form the amendments should take, and what those amendments should be, could drive Congress into calling for a second constitutional convention, and in doing so bring the entire Constitution into question. Still a Federalist he was determined to preserve what he had worked so hard on, and the only way he saw to avoid a Constitution/bill of rights issue was to take the lead in writing those amendments himself.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights
In writing his proposed amendments James Madison again turned to the sources he’d used with the Constitution: the Magna Carta (Great Charter) of 1215, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, as well as other existing state constitutions. But mostly he turned to his own state’s Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, that pre-dated the Declaration of Independence by almost a month.

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George Mason (1725-1792)

The Virginia Declaration of Rights is one of the most pivotal documents in the early forming of our government and our national vision. Initially drafted by George Mason, who had also proposed adding a bill of rights to the Constitution at the constitutional convention, the Virginia Declaration of Rights was use as seed material not only by Madison, in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but also Thomas Jefferson when writing the Declaration of Independence.
Here’s an example of what I mean: in Article I of the Virginia Declaration of Rights it states, “That all men are by nature equally free and have certain inherent rights… they cannot, by any compact, derive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty…and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” What Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence was, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The influences of the Virginia Declaration of Rights is found throughout the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but it’s most obvious usage is by Madison in the Bill of Rights. This is very obvious in the Virginia Declaration of Rights’ Articles 12 and 16, which would become part of the first amendment, and its Article 13 that’s in the second amendment, and also Article 9 in the eighth amendment. I’ll be reviewing this in my upcoming posts on the individual ten amendments.

 

Madison’s first proposed amendments 
On June 8, 1789, James Madison presented his nine proposed amendments to the House of Representatives. Two of these proposals read as follows:
“First. That there be a prefixed to the constitution a declaration that all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from the people.”
And another was his fourth proposed change:
“Fourthly. That article 2nd, section 9, between clauses 3 and 4, be inserted these clauses, to wit, ”The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall an national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience by in any manner, or in any pretext be infringed…”
As you can see from these two examples that Madison’s original idea was to make the amended changes directly onto the main body of the exciting Constitution itself, in fact rewriting articles and sections themselves.  But both the House and the Senate where concerned with amending the Constitution by that method.
Congress’s fear was from the public perception of the amendment process. Although the Senate was closed to the public the House wasn’t, and their concern was that the citizens watching, as Congressman Fisher Ames of Massachusetts put it, “dissection of the constitution” so soon after its implementation could be seen as a sign of instability among the citizenry watching, causing them to lose confidence in the new Constitution, and its government.

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Roger Sherman (1721-1793)

It was Congressman Roger Sherman of Connecticut who proposed to the House that the amendments not be made to the existing ratified document, as Madison had proposed, but rather placed separately at the bottom, keeping the original document to, “remain inviolate.” The House also voted to have a preamble added to the beginning of the list of amendments. This preamble was added to explained why these changes were being made, and to what end. Again in hopes of keeping the public’s confidence in their new government (please read my Part Two post on the preamble).
The House debated Madison’s nine amendments for eleven days, in which time they took his original nine, rewriting them into twenty, one sentence paragraphs. They continued to revise and combine those amendments until they finally agreeing on seventeen. Also, the House removed most of Madison’s preamble, feeling that it was to close to the wording of the Declaration of Independence, and added the phases: “freedom of speech, and of the press,” which would finally be incorporated into the first amendment.

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Original copy of the Senate’s markup to the proposed amendments

On August 24, 1789 the House sent their seventeen proposed amendment to the Senate for their review and revision. The Senate then made twenty-six additional changes of their own, which included the elimination of the rest of Madison’s preamble, and removing the extension of parts of the Bill of Rights to the states as well as to the Federal government. In their process they condensed the House’s seventeen amendments to twelve. These changes were approved by the Senate on September 9, 1789.
On September 21, 1789 the two versions were taken up by the House-Senate Conference Committee that resolved the differences between the two versions. What they presented to Congress were twelve Constitutional Amendments that were then approved in a joint resolution of Congress to be sent to the States for ratification on September 28, 1789.

 

The Process of ratifying the Bill of Rights
For the twelve articles approved by Congress, under Article V, to become part of the Constitution they had to be ratified by each State’s legislature, according to Article VII of the Constitution. Each one of the twelve had to be separately voted on and ratified by at least three-fourths of the 14 States (Vermont had been added to the Union during the ratification).

Of the twelve amendments that were sent only ten gained the needed states. It was Articles Three through Twelve that received the needed 11 state minim for ratification. These became the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.
One of the interesting facts about the Constitution is that it doesn’t set a time limit for ratification to be accomplished, and the 1st. Congress also failed to set a time limit. So, the original Article’s One and Two, that didn’t make the original state ratification, were still considered pending, and open for ratification. So what has happened to those two amendments?

Article Two, which dealt with Senators and Representative’s pay, originally only received seven states approval when first presented. However when there was a national protest over Congressional pay raises in the 1970’s it was again revived. This article then picked up the additional states needed for ratification becoming the Twenty-seventh Amendment, eighty seven years after it was first presented.
As for the original Article One, which deals with the number of Representative in the House, it missed ratification by only one vote, and is still pending, needing only an additional 27 states approval to become another amendment to the Constitution.

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The Bill of Rights, in the National Archives

Madison’s legacy

James Madison fathered the two documents that created our United States government, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But he was more influential with one than the other. It’s been stated that without Madison there would have been a Constitution, but without him there wouldn’t have been a Bill of Rights.

With the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution the full vision set forth in the Declaration of Independence was now realized. The government of the United States of America was now more than just laws and procedures, but with guarantees of personal freedoms for its people.

Upcoming Posts on this subject

What other influences may have guided Madison and the others to choose those particular guarantees? What was the original wording presented by Madison, then  changed by the House of Representatives, and then the Senate?  And did that effect the intent then, or now. The late Justice to the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia stated that the Constitution, “Says what it says;” but does it really?

Please read my other posts on We the People:

Part One: “…In order to form a more perfect Union.”

Part Two: “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers…”

Some of the resources used:

Bill of Rights Institute . “James Madison.” Bill of Rights Institute, Bill of Rights Institute, billofrightsinstitue.org.
Wikipedia. “United States Bill of Rights.” United States Bill of Rights, Wikipedia , 2 July 2018, en.m.wikidia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights.
“The Bill of Rights becomes law.” This Day in History, History, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-bill-of-rights-becomes-law.
National Archives. “Why a Bill of Rights?” National Archives, Archives.gov, 15 Aug. 2016, http://www.archives.gov/amending-america/explore/why-bill-of-rights-transcript.html.
Greenslade, Bob. “A Re-Write of the Bill of Rights through the Preamble.” Tenth Amendment Center, Tenth Amendment Center, 14 Dec. 2010, tenthamendmentcenter.com/2010/12/14/a-rewrite-of-the-bill-of rights-through-the-preamble.
“Virginia Declaration of Rights.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Declaration_of_Rights.
“Anti-Federalism.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Federalism.
“Bill of Rights.” Bill of Rights Institute, Bill of Rights Institute, http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/.

Lossing, B. J. Lives of the Signers of the Declartion of Independence. WallBuilder Press, 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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American history, Detroit, Detroit history, Famous Train Stations, history and travel, History in Time, History of American Businesses, Lost and Found, Michigan Central Train Station, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, Train Travel, Travel, Uncategorized, What to see in Detroit, What to see in Michigan

Detroit’s Michigan Central Train Station: a rising phoenix on the city’s skyline.

5 X 7 Old Train Station

Michigan Central Train Station as it was in 2015

I love history shot

Ron Current

One of the first things you see when driving into Detroit on I-75 is the large, and looming, Michigan Central Train Station. To me, standing tall and alone, it looks like a tombstone; a tombstone for a city that seemed to have given up on itself.
For too many years the Michigan Central Station has stood in ruin, its windows broken out and the building surrounded by a chain link fence that tries to protect an already ravaged grand lady.

However, this is not a post of gloom, but rather one of hope and vision.
I’ll begin with a little history of the train station and then I’ll go into what we hope is its new, and exciting, future under its new owners.

A magnificent expression to 20th century progress

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The back of Michigan Central Station, with the train gate at the bottom. June 22, 2018

Michigan Central Station’s story began in 1914, right after the former stationed burned down in 1913, when Michigan Central Railroad decided to build a world class train station on its main rail line. They hired the firms of Warren and Wetmore and Reed and Stem, who had also built New York’s Grand Central Terminal, to do the design and construction.

The architects chose the Beaux-Arts Classical style for the station’s design, and to handle the rail company’s workers a 18-story office tower was added, making Michigan Central the tallest train station in the world at that time.

When it opened thousands of travelers would embark or disembark from one of the more than 200 trains that arrived or departed daily. These passengers could then take one of the many street or interurban railcars that converged there to get to their final destinations. Such notables that came through Michigan Central were Presidents Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and Truman, as well as Charlie Chaplin and Thomas Edison. Over 3,000 employees occupied the many offices in the station’s tower. In those pre-automobile days public mass transportation was how you got around, and Detroit’s Michigan Central Station was one of the crown jewels in the country.

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the ruined Michigan Central Station grand lobby during the open house June 22, 2018

Henry Ford’s development vision

But the station had a major downfall; it was built on the south west side of the city, far from Detroit’s downtown. This was done because the station was to be an important part of a master plan to develop that area of the city. Henry Ford, even though he didn’t own the station, was a major contributor in these plans. Ford had bought up land around the station in preparation for this new development; however the Great Depression put an end to those plans.

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The station’s concourse taken during the open house on June 22, 2018

The station continued to thrive through the Second World War, after which it began a slow decline as cars and airplanes took over as the public’s mode of transportation. In 1971 Amtrak took over operation of the station, they made some repairs to the building and reopened the main lobby. But in 1988, with passenger rail traffic almost nonexistent, the last Amtrak train left Michigan Central on January 6th.

The now vacant and abandoned station became a target for scavengers and defacers: stripping the building of its fixtures, marble, wiring, and plumbing. Graffiti now covered its once elegant walls.

The Moroun years

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The hall way that travelers took to catch a streetcar to the city. It also where the stations shops were located. Taken on June 22, 2018.

Eight years later, in 1996, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge that links Detroit with Winsor Canada, took possession of the station. Moroun didn’t do much with the building until 2000, when he demolished its train shed to help convert the property to a freight depot for the Canadian Pacific Railway. But this usage didn’t last long, four years later Moroun closed the station permanently in 2004.

The relationship between Moroun and the City of Detroit, in regards to the train station, is interesting. In 2006, the city named the station as a “Priority Cultural Site.” But in 2009, even though Moroun owned the building, the City Council voted to demolish it. The station’s demolition was only stopped when Stanley Christmas, a Detroit resident, sued the city under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Little was done to renovate the old station until 2011 when Moroun, with the city’s help with funding, replaced the tower’s roof, removed some of the asbestos, and drained some of the water from the basement.

In 2015 electricity was restored to the building, and for the first time in years the main lobby was illuminated. In addition Moroun acquired a permit to install a new freight elevator. Also in 2015, after a land swap with the city, the Moroun family agreed to install windows throughout the building.

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This was the station’s restaurant. Taken on June 22, 2018.

A very special occurrence happened during the “Detroit Homecoming” celebration in September of 2017. The station was opened for an event for the first time in twenty-nine years.

There was excitement for the future of the old building when on March 20, 2018 the Detroit News reported that the Ford Motor Company was in talks with the Moroun family on purchasing the station. And on June 11, 2018 the Moroun family confirmed that the Ford Motor Company was now indeed the new owners of the Michigan Central Station.

With Ford, it comes full circle

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The front of the Michigan Central Station, June 22, 2018

William Clay Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, spoke on what the future prospects were for the Michigan Central Station under Ford Motor Company. They plan on doing a total restoration and renovation of the historic site. Not only the station is to be renovated but also the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository building next door is included in their plans. These two buildings, as well as the surrounding land, will become a campus for Ford’s futuristic autonomous vehicle division. The projected target date for completion of this project is 2022.

One of the big question asked of Ford is: will there be trains in Michigan Central’s future? And although Ford can’t answer that question for sure, they did say that they’re leaving the passenger tracks in place, just in case.

With Bill Ford’s commitment he picks up right where his grandfather left off in the 1920’s, reviving a neighborhood centered on a magnificent and grand building.

Taking a look inside the station

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After the announcement on June 19th Ford opened the train station to the public to tour on the weekend of June 22-25. My wife and I were among those who patiently stood in line for an hour and a half to enter, and experience this historic event.
As we walked in the expansive waiting area, along the halls where shops had been, stood looking up at the skeletal remains of the concourse’s roof that held the glass skylight and the

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The line of those that wanting to experience history

dark cavernous room that was the station’s restaurant, we weren’t depressed by the acts of destruction and neglect that was before us. No, we were encouraged by the possibilities to come.

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The colonnade that connects the station’s main lobby and to its concourse. Taken June 22, 2018

The rising of this Detroit phoenix says a lot about a community. A community that’s tired of the decay, and wanting to build to a new and positive future. From Ford’s commitment, to the over 20,000 people that came to see what was and learn of what will come, this is what will redefine Detroit.

There was one selfless act that I’d like to mention, and it may seem small to some, but is really meaningful to the stations history and of one person’s desire to help; as I had stated, the interior of the station had been stripped of everything that might be of value. One of those items was the brass clock face that was on the station’s gateway.

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The returned clock face

Right after the announcement was made by Ford the company got a phone call; it was from the person who had taken the clock. Without giving his name, or asking for any form of payment, he told them where they could find the clock. This important part of Michigan Central’s history will once again be back home, after restoration by the Henry Ford Museum.

In closing, I look forward to the day when I drive into Detroit on I-75 and not see a tombstone, but rather a beacon to what can be accomplished when you have a vision.

Because with a vision, there is always hope!

The photos in this post were taken by me, and the following website was used for background information in my story.

Wikipedia. “Michigan Central Station.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia , 20 June 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Central_Station.

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American history, history and travel, History in Time, Still Current, Texas history, The Alamo, Travel, Uncategorized

The History of the Alamo, Part II: From Fort to forgotten

 

The Alamo Church in ruin 1848

1847, the Alamo church in ruin by Edward Everett

 

 

 

I love history shot

“Remember the Alamo,” was the battle cry at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, were the forces of Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna’s army ending the Texas Revolution. Yes, Texans remembered the battle, and what Santa Anna had done to the defenders in that battle, but they soon forgot the Alamo battlefield and its buildings. On May 29, 2017 I published the article “The History of the Alamo: Mission to Fort,” in this post I’ll continue the story, taking the Alamo as a fort through the Mexican and Texas Revolutions, how the Alamo was almost lost before the 1836 battle, and the neglect it suffered after the fighting ended.

 

The Alamo under the Spanish
At the beginning of the 19th Century the Spanish increased the numbers of troops stationed at the old Alamo mission to help combat the intrusions by Anglo-American from Louisiana. This brought the need for a military hospital to be set-up within the mission; this would be the first hospital in Texas. The hospital was most likely in the Convento building (today’s Long Barracks). The Alamo’s unfinished and rubble filled church was mostly unusable.
Even though Spanish Mexico was afraid of wholesale attacks by Anglo Americans they were still open to immigration by American’s. In 1806 one of those Americans that petitioned for settlement in Texas near the Alamo was the blacksmith Daniel Boone, a relative of the famous frontiersmen.

During the war of Mexican Independence (1810-1821) the Alamo was occupied back and forth by both Spanish Royalists and Mexican Rebels. Other than being used as a military post, hospital and prison the Alamo saw little action during this war.

The Alamo under Mexican control
After Mexico won its independence the Mexican army continued to be stationed in the old mission. However the first threat to the Alamo came in 1825, when the need for funds caused the local political chief Saucedo to ask the Governor of the Mexican State of Coahulia y Tejas to sell the stones of the Alamo to raise cash. In 1827, the Coahulia y Tejas State Legislature approved of the selling of the stone.

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Anastacio Bustamante

Before the sale could begin Anastacipo Bustamante, the new commandant of the Eastern Provinces, demanded that the order be suspended. Bustamante saw the need for the Alamo to be a permanent post for the Mexican army because of the increase of illegal immigration by Americans into Texas. Bustamante would be the first to save the Alamo from destruction, nine years before the famous battle.

 

The Alamo during the Texas Revolution
In 1835, as the rebellion in Texas began to unfold Mexican President Santa Anna sent his brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto de Cos, with 500 soldiers to Bexar (San Antonio) to strengthen that post . Cos ordered 330px-Martin_perfecto_de_cosimprovements made to the Alamo’s defenses: digging trenches, building platforms and ramps for cannon, a wooden palisade was built across the open gap between the church and the Low Barracks, strengthening the crumbing north wall, and building a gun platform at the rear of the church from the rubble inside. On this platform were placed three cannon that could fire over the walls of the roofless church.
After the Battle of Gonzales on October 2, 1835, which officially began the Texas Revolution, Gen. Cos found himself constantly on the defensive: losing at Goliad, Concepcion, and finally surrounded in Bexar itself by the Texan rebels. The Battle of Bexar began as a fifty-six day siege and ended in a bloody house to house fight. The battle ended with Gen. Cos surrendering after being promised that he and his men would be paroled. Here’s an interesting twist of history, at the Battle of Bexar the Mexicans were inside the Alamo and the Texans attacked from the outside. Also, the Alamo’s defenses used in the Battle of the Alamo were those built by Cos.

Cos and his men did not honor the terms of their parole, meeting Santa Anna and his army heading north they returned and helped to retake the Alamo in the 13 day siege and battle.

Santa Anna

General Santa Anna

After Santa Anna retook the Alamo in the predawn of March 6, 1836 he prepared to pursue Sam Huston and the Texan army. Not wanting to leave his rear open for a counter attack he ordered Gen. Andrade, his commander in San Antonio, to rebuild the defenses of the Alamo. As Santa Anna and his army marched off to the northeast work began instantly on rebuilding the walls damaged in the battle. Most of this work of rebuilding was done by those Mexican soldiers wounded in the battle.
After losing at the Battle of San Jacinto Santa Anna sent counter orders back to Gen. Andrade to now destroy all of the Alamo’s defenses: its walls torn down, the gun platforms ripped up, and the canons spiked and disabled, making them unusable. This would be the first destruction of the Alamo compound.

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This 1849 daguerreotype is thought to be the first photo of the Alamo church

 

The Alamo becomes a source for building materials 

Soon locals were using the stones and wood from the Alamo for building materials. By 1842, just six years after the battle, all that remained of the Alamo were a few of the buildings that were on west wall, these being rebuilt as homes. The missions major buildings: the Church, Long Barracks, and Low Barracks laid in ruin. For most Texans the Alamo sat forgotten, with only a few tourists visiting the ruins.

But this was only the beginning of what was to befall the battle site that Houston called to remember. I will continue my narrative of how the Alamo continued to survive, and of the changes that are predicted to come.

Resources:

Nelson, George. The Alamo: An Illustrated History. Third Revised Edition, Aldine Press, 2009.
Thompson, Frank. The Alamo: A Cultural History. Taylor Publishing Company, 2001.
Wikipedia. “Timeline of the Texas Revolution .” Wikipedia, Wikipedia , 27 Mar. 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:History/Timeline_of_the_Texas_Revolution.

Also read my post: The History of the Alamo: Mission to Fort 

 

 

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American history, history and travel, History in Time, Still Current, The Articles of Confederation, The Bill of Rights, The United States Constitution, Uncategorized, World history

We the People: A brief history of the United States Constitution and its first ten amendments Part one: …In order to form a more perfect Union

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I love history shotThe Constitution of the United States of America is not just the governing foundation of our nation, but the very essence of us as a people. However, when most Americans think of the U.S. Constitution they’re usually referring to one or more of its first ten amendments. A while ago I was talking to a friend about the political state of our country and he said, “We need to go back to the original constitution as it was written,” I said to him, “You mean before freedom of speech, religion, and the press, or the right to bear arms?” “Oh,” he answered, “that’s right, they’re amendments.”
My original plan for these posts was to just write about the history and background around the first ten amendments, and only using the formation of the constitution as background. But as I researched I came to realize that I too only saw the constitution through those amendments, and was missing the amazing journey our founding fathers took in creating this nation of ours.
What were the needs and desires that took us from thirteen separate colonies and turned us into thirteen United States. And what were the fears and concerns that guided those framers to “form a more perfect union,” one that could adapt and grow with the better understanding that comes over time.
So I begin before a nation was born, as we struggled to gain freedom during our Revisionary War.

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Copy of the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States.

The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789), the first constitution of the United States
As the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) intensified the Continental Congress saw the urgency to form a stronger union between the states for the purposes of securing loans and other aid from foreign nations.
The first unification proposal was presented by Benjamin Franklin in July of 1775, this was never formally considered. There would be a total of six proposals submitted and rejected. In June of 1776 Pennsylvanian John Dickinson’s proposed Articles were passed on to committee for revisions. The revised Articles were debated by the full Congress, and after a long deliberation were approved and submitted to the thirteen states for ratification on November 15, 1777. On March

John_Hanson_Portrait_17701, 1781 John Hanson, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Articles of Confederation into law, creating the new nation of the United States of America. Since Hanson was the President of the first governing congress of the new nation, technically he would be the first President of the United States.
The relationship between the states was described in Article III of the Articles of Confederation as, “a firm league of friendship… for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.” The biggest fear from the states was that a strong central government would take away states’ rights, but under these new Articles the states remained sovereign. The new government would: have one house of Congress with its members elected by the state’s legislation, the authority to form international alliances and treaties, make war, maintain an army and navy, coin money, establish a postal service, and manage Indian affairs. What it couldn’t do was to regulate foreign commerce or raise taxes; revenue would come from each state based on the value of its privately own lands. Also there would be no restrictions of trade between states, and each state would honor all judicial rulings of other states.
One major issue addressed in the Articles was western expansion. Under original colonial charters coastal states as Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island were confined to a few hundred miles of Atlantic coast while other state’s charters allowed them to expand westward. Thomas Jefferson led the way with Virginia, that set limits to states expanding their boarder westward; this allowed the new lands to the west to become new states. It’s this article that set the guidelines for us to become our 50 States.
However it soon became evident that giving the states so much authority was a major weakness with the Articles of Confederation, as well as the inability of taxation, forced Congress to take another look at the document.
The 1787 Constitution of the United State of America (1889-present)

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The Constitution of the United States of America

With most of the powers of governance in the hands of the states the Articles of Confederation gave the federal government very little authority. This led to much confusion, infighting, and the eventual strain on relationships between the “firm league of friendship” of the states. Also foreign governments were still reluctant to deal with a United States that didn’t seem very united. To try and fix those issues the Continental Congress called a constitutional convention to meet in Philadelphia in May of 1787 with the purpose of revising the Articles.
Convention delegates were sent by each state, and consisted of all sectors of society. So knowledgeable and versed in issues of self-government were these delegates that Thomas Jefferson referred to them as, “an assembly of demigods.”
The delegates’ instructions were to only work on revising the exciting Articles, but as they discussed different options for revision they found it very difficult. After much debate the delegation, led by the 36 year old James Madison from Virginia, decided to scrap the entire Articles of Confederation for a completely new Constitution.

JamesMadisonThose delegates with Madison were generally convinced that an effective central government with a wide range of powers was needed over the weaker Articles of Confederation. Madison, along with fellow Virginians Edmund Randolph and George Mason, presented to the delegation as a whole an outline for a new governmental constitution we now call “the Virginia Plan.” This document would become the bedrock for what would finally be the Constitution of the United States of America that we have today.
It took almost a year for the convention’s delegates to work out the new constitution. When finished it consisted of only seven articles that would give the new federal government limited powers while still protecting states’ rights. With the new constitution: articles I-III laid out the three branches of the government, with their authority and powers: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. This balance of powers Madison believed would keep the republic from becoming a dictatorship.
Article IV addressed the relationship between the states, jumping ahead, article VI declared that this Constitution was the supreme law of the nation, and article VII described the ratification process. Now back to article V, this article gave the guidelines for amending the Constitution; this article would be used even as the Constitution was undergoing ratification by the states.
However there were still many delegates, members of the continental congress, and state legislatures that feared that a strong and powerful central government would infringe on states’ and individuals rights. They had just finished a long and terrible revolutionary war where a strong powerful nation had taken away their basic rights as Englishmen. What the British had done to them during the war was crystal clear in their minds (I’ll be addressing those atrocities in my posts on the first ten amendments). They didn’t want to trade one oppressive government for another.
Soon two groups formed: the Federalists, who supported a new stronger central government, and the Anti-Federalists, that were opposed. James Madison, along with fellow Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Jay published what is known as the Federalist Papers that defended the proposed constitution as what would be best for the country. They saw that their constitution still protected the states as well as individual citizens. The Anti-Federalists, with such revolutionary heroes as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and Richard Henry Lee, didn’t see it that way and began demanding that a “Bill of Rights” be added. They feared that without a guarantee of individuals’ rights that the strong national government could suppress the people, leading to the president to become a king.
At first James Madison still believed that his “balance of power” concept would protect the people, and a Bill of Rights wasn’t needed. But after Thomas Jefferson and George Washington wrote to him that some form of a bill of individuals’ rights be included, and that some of the states would refuse ratification without it, Madison and his Federalist finally vowed to create and include a Bill of Rights.
As Madison and the other delegates began deliberating on the addition of individual rights to the constitution the Continental Congress decided to begin the state ratification process without it. But they promised the states that the new Congress, under the new Constitution, would make changes under its Article V.
On September 13, 1788 in New York the Continental Congress, with the required minimum of eleven state ratification under Article VII, began transferring to the new Constitutional government. On March 4, 1889 the new government began operation under the new Constitution of the United States of American, and on April 30 George Washington was inaugurated as the first President under this Constitution.
As promised the new Congress began debate on amending the Constitution with a Bill of Rights.

My upcoming posts
I’ll be exploring what could have been the reasoning for, what resources used, and what caused James Madison and the other framers to select those individual rights to protect in the first ten amendments. I’ll also give the history of how those amendments are looked at today.
Resources:
Wikipedia. “United States Constitution.” Wikipedia, 24 May 2018, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Consitiution.
Researchers. “Primary Documents in American History.” The Articles of Confederation, Library of Congress, 25 Apr. 2017, http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/articles.html.
“James Madison.” Bill of Rights Institute , Bill of Rights Institute, 2018, http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org.
“Bill of Rights Institute.” Bill of Rights, Bill of Rights Institute, 2018, http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org.

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Ancient Roman, Greek history, history and travel, History in Time, In the footsteps of the Ceasers, Italy, Lost and Found, Palaces, Roman History, Sites to see in the world, Still Current, The Caesars, The Isle of Capri, Travel, Uncategorized, World history

The Isle of Capri: Resort of the Caesars

 

A view of the harbor

Marina Grande, the main harbor of the Isle of Capri

 

 

Ron Current

Ron Current

Part of our tour was a daytrip to the magical and romantic Isle of Capri, which is only a short forty minute ferry ride from Sorrento. Capri is one of three islands located just outside the Bay of Naples: the others are Ischia and Procida. But the most famous of them all is Capri. As we cruise there I’ll give you a brief history of the Isle of Capri.

Although it’s known that Capri was settled by Bronze Age Greeks it is now thought that the island was inhabited at a much earlier time. The first record of this comes from when the Emperor Augustus was excavating for his villa where large bones and stone weapons were unearthed. Modern archaeologists now believe that the island was indeed inhabited during the Neolithic period, from 10,200 BC till around 2,500 BC.
However the most famous settlers of the island were the Romans, and two of their emperors. As I mentioned above the first emperor to build a villa on Capri was Augustus. Augustus needed a place to get away from the heat and crowds of Rome, he chose Capri for its mild climate, remoteness and its rocky cliffs that offered him protection from would be assassins. But it would be his successor Tiberius that would out do him in the scale, grandeur and numbers of villas built on the island. Tiberius constructed twelve palaces on Capri, the largest being Villa Jovis.

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Bust of Tiberius Caesar, the Romisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne

During his rule Tiberius began spending more and more time at Villa Jovis than he did in Rome. Fear of assassination became such a paranoia for him that he self-exiled himself to Capri were his personal security was much better than in Rome. It was at Jovis that he spent the rest of his life until his death in 37 AD.
Villa Jovis sits atop Monte Tiberio, the islands second highest peak. The palace covers almost 1.7 acres and was built at different levels. Water was an issue for such a large complex, with all the servants and solders serving and protecting the emperor. To solve that problem four huge barrel roofed cisterns were built to collect and store water, providing more than enough even for hot baths.

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The ruins of Villa Jovis

Today only eight levels remain of the Villa Jovis complex, but it does give visitors a feeling of what it must have looked like when Tiberius Caesar ruled from there. Sadly, since this was just a day trip there wasn’t time to visit the site.

Our ferry docked at the port of Marina Grande on the island’s north side. As you disembark you’ll notice that the harbor is a mixture of small colorful fishing boats, day cruisers and multi-million dollar yachts. Unlike many other island ports Marina Grande isn’t the main town, it’s Capri sitting 800 feet above the harbor.

The port of Marina Grande

The harbor of Marina Grande

To get to the town of Capri you can: walk, take a bike, take a taxi, or the funicular. We decided on the funicular. Capri’s funicular is a cable car that holds 70 passengers and pulls itself up a steep incline to the town. As you’re riding up you get a great view of the harbor and its surrounding cliffs with white washed houses clinging to their sides.
The funicular station lets you off on the Piazzetta, the center of town. If you are a people watcher Capri is the place to be, for this is the place where the who’s who of Europe come to stay and shop, and if you’re a shopper Capri has the largest selection of exclusive brand name shops in one location.

 

 

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Street in Capri

 

Our next stop was a little higher up the mountain, the town of Anacapri. We choose one of the island’s buses to get us there. The buses on Capri are not like the buses we think of, they’re more like minivans. I have been on many thrill rides but nothing compared to this bus ride. The road up to Anacapri is very, very narrow and full of traffic going up and down. Add to that they all drive at Italian speed. Our seat was near the front and all we could see were cars, motor scooters and buses coming right at us. It was surprising that we weren’t involved in a head-on collision. Finally arriving at Anacapri we quickly got off, and I found a shop where I could sample another Limoncello.

Narrow road

close call on the road to Anacapri

Anacapri is a little less fancy and more laidback that Capri, and the shops are not as high end as in Capri. Things to see in Anacapri: the small church of Chiesa di San Michele with its eighteenth-century majolica floor, which is a form of painted ceramic. Also there’s the Villa San Michele built by the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe. If you like antiques this is the place to visit.
Just a little past the Villa San Michele is what is known as the La Scala Fenicia or Phoenician Steps. This steep rock stairway was the only way to get from Marina Grande, Capri and Anacapri for centuries. Although called the Phoenician Steps they were most likely constructed by the ancient Greek colonist.

The ancient stairs

the top of the Phoenician Steps

Another popular thing to do while in Anacapri is go to the top of Mount Solaro, the island’s highest peak. From up there they say the view is spectacular. However there’s only two ways to get to the top: walk or take the chair left. And when I say a chair lift, I mean a chair. It’s a single seat chair that hangs on a cable with your legs dangling in the air.

the Chairlift to the top

The chair lift to Mount Solaro

 

I wish that we had time to see the other sites that Capri had to offer, especially the world famous Grotta Azzurra or Blue Grotto. But it gives us something to go back for.

 

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Ancient Roman, Greece, Greek history, history and travel, Homer, In the footsteps of the Ceasers, Italy, Mount Vesuvius, Myths and Legends, Roman History, Sites to see in the world, Sorrento, Still Current, The Odyssey, Travel, Uncategorized, What to see in Rome

The Sorrento Coast, Italy: the song of the Sirens

 

Ron Current

Ron Current

Leaving the ancient ruins of Pompeii we journeyed down the northern side of the rugged peninsula that frames the south side of the Bay of Naples to the beautiful town of Sorrento. Our hotel was just north of the town on the water, where across the bay Mount Vesuvius commanded our view.
Sorrento is part of what is commonly known as the Sorrento Coast, the region near the tip of the peninsula that is dominated by high and sheer cliffs that plunge down into the blue Mediterranean. It, along with its sister region the Amalfi Coast on the opposite side of the peninsular, are famous destinations for those seeking fantastic panoramic views and a mild climate.

Vesuvius seen from Sorrento

Vesuvius as seen from Sorrento

 

So exotic and enchanting is this coastal area that it’s said to be the site of an legendary place in one of the oldest works of Western literature, Homer’s the Odyssey.
The Odyssey is the Greek poet Homer’s sequel to his the Iliad  about the Trojan War. The Odyssey tells of the Greek King of Ithaca Odysseus’ (Ulysses in Roman) ten year quest to get home after the war. One of his trials was an encounter with the beautiful and hypnotic Sirens, whose songs would cause sailors to run their ships onto the rocks. It is believed that it was the Greeks who colonized the Sorrento region that attached the area to Odyssey’s sirens.
After the Greeks came the Romans who would make these shores one of their favorite playgrounds. Still today it continues the have the reputation as being an exclusive resort area, not only for the Italians but all of Europe as well. Sorrento 4
Besides the town of Sorrento the area is dotted with small hamlets that stretch along the coast and into the surrounding hills. The Sorrento region is noted for its fresh seafood, olives, grapes, oranges, and lemons; it’s from these lemons that they make their famed liqueur, Limoncello. Shops offer free tasting, and when I sampled one the fumes burned the inside of my nose by just bringing the glass to my mouth. In other words it’s a little too potent for me.
The actively on the streets of Sorrento doesn’t slow down with the setting Sun. The buildings are lighted and music fills the still crowded streets. Even with the scores of tourists and locals you never feel closed in. The crowds move freely from shop to shop, and restaurant to restaurant.

Plaza in Sorrento

The Plaza at the center of Sorrento

If Sorrento is where you’re staying during your visit there’s easy transportation to other points of interest along the peninsula and the bay: Naples and Pompeii are a quick train ride away, buses can carry you other picturesque villages along the Sorrento and Amalfi Coasts, and a ferry can whisk you away to the romantic Isle of Capri, our next destination.

Street in Sorrento at night

Sorrento in the evening 

Sorrento, and its coastal area, may be the most idyllic place to visit with its seaside splendor, mild climate, colorful villages, great food, friendly people, and the most amazing and gorgeous rugged cliff lined shores. In Homer’s story Odyssus had himself tied to his ships mast and his crew’s ears plugged to avoid the siren’s song, but perhaps in reality it was the overwhelming and the awesome beauty of the cliffs that caused the ancient sailor to venture to close and crashed on its rocks.

 
Next: The Isle of Capri, resort of the Caesars.

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