If you were old enough to remember September 11th, 2001, you know exactly where you were when you heard the news of the terrorist attacks that day. Joe Torrillo was driving to midtown Manhattan that day. He only knew there was as fire at one of the trade center towers, when he turned his car toward his old fire station that sat adjacent to that site. Soon he found himself in the middle of one of the most significant events in the nation’s history.
Phyllis Hall was a nurse at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, and she was on duty on November 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated. Her account of that day is riveting, and at times disturbing, and she sat down with Andrew McCrea to talk about it on our latest episode of The Scenic Route.
A lot of visitors to St. Louis may catch a Cardinals game, take in the world-class zoo, or ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch. But after Andrew took a look at the history of St. Louis in some recent programs, we decided to delve a little deeper and bring you some of the best spots for history buffs to visit in The Gateway to the West.
You’d never know it to look now, but the vast expanse of green in St. Louis was a bustling city for a while in 1904. Forest Park was home to the 1904 World’s Fair, which included 12 temporary exhibition palaces and one permanent building known collectively as the “Ivory City.” Today, you can still see that permanent structure when you visit the St. Louis Art Museum, which it houses. Park volunteers even lead visitors on a “Then and Now” tour that takes a look at some of the park’s extensive history. And Civil War buffs will find several statues and memorials of interest to them, as well.
Missouri Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden is an oasis in the city, and is one of the oldest botanical institutions in the United States. History buffs will also be interested to know that it’s a National Historic Landmark. The garden was established in 1859, and covers nearly 80 acres within St. Louis. It includes a wide variety of gardens — including a recreation of an English Woodland Garden, and a Japanese Garden with lawns and a walking path around a central lake. Its Climatron dome also houses a simulated rainforest.
Before the great city of St. Louis sprang up — even before Columbus the Americas — another great city dominated the Midwest. Today, visitors can see what’s left of that city and learn about its history at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Illinois. Archaeologists believe Cahokia was actually larger than London in 1250, and was the biggest city in the Americas north of Mexico. Today, you can learn about the impressive infrastructure that helped make such a large city possible, and find out more about the people who lived there.
St. Louis locals know Laclede’s Landing primarily as a home for the city’s nightlife. But during the day, when the area is less crowded, the brick-paved streets tell the story of St. Louis history. French merchant Pierre Laclede Leguest landed in the area as he looked for a spot to build a trading post in 1763. That trading post eventually grew into the city of St. Louis. Today, history buffs can use their smartphones to follow along with a free walking tour that points out historical and architectural highlights of the area.
The St. Louis Arch gets the glory, but what’s underneath it may be even cooler. The museum beneath the Arch, operated by the National Park Service, examines the history of St. Louis as a “Gateway to the West.” That includes a look at the westward expansion that began in earnest with the Louisiana Purchase and the expedition of Lewis and Clark. For those interested in that world-changing journey, there may be no better place to soak it all in.
Missouri Civil War Museum
One of the newest attractions in St. Louis is a Civil War historian’s dream. It’s the Missouri Civil War Museum, located in Historic Jefferson Barracks, the oldest active military installation west of the Mississippi. Both Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee trained there, making it an ideal home for a museum that examines and honors the men who fought the Civil War. The museum focuses on Missouri’s unique role in the war, as a central battleground over the political question of slavery that helped fuel the war.
In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two, Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue. And ever since, people have been building monuments to him. In fact, one Internet site has a list of nearly 600 monuments to the European explorer.
Since we’re celebrating Columbus Day this week, we thought it would be interesting to help you find a few of the best Columbus monuments and other Columbus-related sites across the American Countryside.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is one of the first places Columbus encountered, on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Puerto Rico is a great place to take a relatively inexpensive Caribbean vacation, and there’s still lots of history to see there. The sites include a huge stone fort built to withstand attack from both the sea and land. The fort is open to the public, and gives a glimpse of the world as Columbus experienced it hundreds of years ago.
Salt River Bay, St. Croix
Speaking of the world Columbus inhabited, you can get a great look at it in its natural form at Salt River Bay in St. Croix. People lived in Salt River Bay for 1,500 years before Columbus showed up, but to this day, you can see the natural ecology of the place. A national historic park preserves marine estuaries and mangrove forests. And you can also see the remains of a fort built by French explorers in the 1600s. You can also see the precise place where European explorers met and clashed with natives of St. Croix.
Columbus might never have visited Ohio, but one of the best places in the country to connect with his voyages is in the Ohio city named for him. For the 500th anniversary of the explorer’s first visit, Columbus, Ohio, built a 98-foot-long replica of the Santa Maria, one of his ships. Today, tourists can walk through the ship, and even book events there. The real Santa Maria never made it back to Spain, crashing off the coast of Haiti before the return trip.
Columbus Circle, New York City
One of the busiest spots in the world features one of the most well-known monuments to Columbus. “Columbus Circle” is a traffic circle with a marble statue of Christopher Columbus set atop a massive column. It was erected in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his voyage. Tourists in New York City almost always stumble across the monument, even when they’re not looking for it, because it’s right in the heart of New York City at the edge of Central Park and just north of the Theater District.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor
Another of the largest monuments to Columbus is at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Carved out of Italian marble, the monument was dedicated in 1984. It includes intricate scenes of Columbus’s voyage and arrival in the New World, carved into the side. The statue is set in the middle of a larger area known as Columbus Piazza, dedicated to the memory of the explorer’s voyages.
Pierce Allman was working as a young man at a Dallas radio station in November 1963. He was only feet away from President Kennedy when the first shot was fired. He not only witnessed the assassination — but he also talked to the assassin a short time later. He told his story to Andrew McCrea on this edition of The American Countryside.
Today’s Dallas is a busy, growing city. But 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it remains inextricably linked to a tragic piece of American history. History buffs, conspiracy theorists, and others visit the area in remembrance of that day. Here are some of the locations in an around Dallas that still draw visitors a half-century later.
The Hotel Texas
The Hotel Texas in nearby Fort Worth — now owned by Hilton — is where President and Mrs. Kennedy spent their last night before the assassination. Their suite, number 850, is no longer there because of renovations to the building. But visitors often ask for room 808, in approximately the same location.
President Kennedy delivered a speech outside the Texas Hotel during his trip, and attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast before departing for Dallas and that fateful motorcade.
The Texas School Book Depository Building
The brick building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his fatal shots is home today to The Sixth Floor Museum. The museum is dedicated to chronicling the assassination of JFK, interpreting the events and locations of that day, and putting modern Dallas in the context of those historical events. The museum should be one of the first stops of any serious student of history interested in information about the JFK assassination.
The museum is home to more than 40,000 items related to JFK and the assassination. They include photos, documentary films, and interactive exhibits. Visitors can also see the corner window from which Oswald fired his gun.
There was a time when Dealey Plaza was just an ordinary city park. That changed forever when President Kennedy was shot as his motorcade passed in front of it. The entire area was named a National Historic Landmark in 1993. That designation allows the protection of the area from further development. Even many of the street signs and street lights in the area are the ones that were being used in 1963, setting the plaza apart as a sort of time capsule that captures the time and place of the assassination. Even the spot on the street where JFK was first hit is marked for visitors.
The Grassy Knoll
Actually a part of Dealey Plaza, The Grassy Knoll has taken on an identity of its own. Based on the fact that many witnesses claimed to hear shots fired from that direction — instead of the Texas Book Depository — the area has been fertile ground for conspiracy theories that pin the blame for JFK’s assassination on someone other than Oswald.
Nearby, visitors can see a plaque marking the location where onlooker Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination, creating the footage that provided much of the information for investigators about the events that day.
The Texas Theatre
Not long after the assassination, police officers learned that a man had slipped into The Texas Theatre without paying. More than a dozen officers stormed into the building and found Lee Harvey Oswald inside. The movie playing at the time? War Is Hell.
Despite the threat of fire and foreclosures over the years, visitors can still see The Texas Theatre, and even catch a movie there, and see the place where Oswald was sitting when the police rushed in on him. Historians and movie buffs are still working to raise the money to renovate the theater to its 1963 state.
On this edition of The Scenic Route, Andrew talks to Paula Neuman Gris, who was just three years old when her family was broken up at the beginning of the Holocaust. She tells her story of survival in a half-hour interview. Thanks to the Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum in Atlanta for arranging the interview.
We’ve spent a lot of time in historic St. Joseph, Missouri, over the past week. If any of our shows piqued your interested and have you planning a visit, we have some resources that can help out.
Your first stop should probably be the St. Joe Travel and Tourism Site. From there, you can find information on museums, hotels, restaurants, and anything else you need.
And of course you can find more information on Andrew’s article, The St. Joe Seven: Great Experiences In One of the Midwest’s Most Historic Towns.
Most of us would do good just to know the name of our great, great grandfather. Joe Houts not only knows his name, but could write a few books about what the man accomplished. In fact, it’s the subject of an entire exhibit at a St. Joseph, Missouri, museum. We go there on today’s edition of The American Countryside.
Imagine building a grand, castle-like home for your wife, only to have her grow tired of it just a few years after moving in. No worries–this husband turned a profit on its sale and then built her another dream home for less. The intriguing story of a merchant that struck it rich on those heading west is today’s edition of The American Countryside.
The latest American Countryside video features St. Joseph, Missouri, and one of its early entrepreneurs. William Wyeth helped outfit settlers as they headed west from Missouri — and even helped them stock up along the trail.
The video was produced with the help of Freedoms Frontier National Heritage Area. Freedoms Frontier is dedicated to preserving stories from along the Missouri-Kansas border, where the fight over slavery played a big part in the start of the Civil War.
Today we begin a series from St. Joseph, MO…the city many know as the place the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended. When the Pony Express began operations, another entrepreneur was just beginning his business as well and he fared far better financially. His story is today’s edition of The American Countryside.
Zachary Taylor died in office in 1850, yet his body was exhumed over a century later to determine if his death was really due to natural causes. Today, we head to a cemetery in Louisville to find the truth about what caused his death, on this edition of The American Countryside.
James Tague holds an interesting distinction in the assassination of President John F Kenney. Other than the president and Governor Connelly, Tague was the only other person hit by the shots fired that day. Our full interview can be hard on the Scenic Route at American Countryside.com and today’s feature is next on this edition of The American Countryside.
We continue our story with James Tague, a man who witnessed the assassination of president Kenney and was wounded by a piece of shrapnel. Remember, you can hear our full length interviews for free on the Scenic Route at AmericanCountryside.com. You can also go there for more info about Tague and his research on what happened that day. Today’s American Countryside after this.
The city of Dallas was abuzz with excitement on November 22, 1963 as President Kennedy made a visit to the city and rode in a motorcade through downtown. But James Tague had forgotten the president was in town. He was simply on his way to see his girlfriend for lunch. What happened next would change his life forever. It’s today’s edition of The American Countryside.
James Tague was not only an unexpected eyewitness to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he also has become a dedicated historical researcher. Tague’s latest book is called LBJ and the Kennedy Killing by Eyewitness James T. Tague. It’s due in bookstores by August, but you can also pre-order a signed copy from James Tague by emailing him. The book is $29.95.
You can read more about Tague at Wikipedia, or read an article by William M. Goggins about Tague’s experience here. And here’s a link to Tague’s first book on the assassination, Truth Withheld: A Survivor’s Story.