Friday, March 27, 2015

Visiting Charlottesville AND historic McCormick Farm

                         Our second stop, visiting the log cabin and Grist Mill at McCormick Farm.

    I was on the street with my fellow naturalists in the unlikely place of downtown Charlottesville. Charlottesville, founded in 1762, several years before Thomas Jefferson starting building his famous Monticello, with its interesting gardens and architecture, has some interesting spots of its own, with some narrow streets (one time for horse drawn carriages) and old architecture everywhere (and perhaps Jefferson would still feel comfortable there today). And since our wetlands training was actually supposed to be two hours away in Richmond, putting us in the wrong spot we thought, what the heck, let's walk a bit downtown.
     The library where we were supposed to meet was on Market Street, with its part organic "Market Street Market," an interesting combo of coffee shop, fresh produce stand indoors, and specialty items for sale like organic packaged goods. I think I even picked up a peanut butter bar that was gluten free and pretty good overall. So we ventured away from the library and Market, and in less than two blocks took a turn, on the advice of a local, down to what is called the "Downtown Mall."
     Here, on a brick covered walkway, you can visit all kinds of historic shops. We briefly (my cohorts were impatient) looked around the Timberlake (the name makes me think of  Justin) Drugstore, a corner store with a formal white facade, that was formerly a bank and kind of looks it. Inside it's been an old timey drugstore since 1917. I say that because it still has those covered round stools and counter, the so-called soda fountain, where you can still get a limeade, milk shake or soup. But we were impatient. It had a good variety of loose candies in baskets near the register, and one wall had a lot of lotions and soap. I settled on a greenish aloe and cucumber one that would make a great face soap, and a few tiny Peppermint patties. And down from this, to the east of Main Street, we obtained some information at the visitor center, which is very close to a covered "pavilion" I assume is used for city concerts.
     Up a few short blocks in this very brick and mortar area was the oldest home in "Historic Downtown," built in 1785 and of course of a brownish brick on the outside. I wondered if it was open on Saturday, as a sign nearby said they served lunch from 11-2 from Monday to Friday. So I knocked on the door anyway, and a hostess graciously let us see some of the colorful rooms. It'd been a law office and they had actually tried to cut off one of the fireplaces in a shortened room and covered up the hardwood floors, but this "Inn at Court Square" was redone and refurbished. Interesting was the John Kelly room with the lime green walls, bright yellow ceiling and oak looking head and end boards on the spacious bed. The red door to the building also stood out.
     But it was lunch time and we decided to head down the road, off I-81, to the old McCormick Farm, now owned by Virginia Tech. It was rustic and rather cool. We picnicked in the car and walked around the log cabins and grist mill, the mill containing miniature models on display of Cyrus McCormick's famous mechanical "Virginia reaper," which in 1934 could do the work of three men or more. It would speed up the gathering and cutting of wheat and grains, and was improved upon. He was only in his twenties when he invented it-- well, necessity "is" the mother of invention, I'd suspect.
     There was a little trail we didn't get the chance to explore, and the farm buildings still standing at this National Historic Landmark were fairly close together. We don't even think about what it takes to farm anymore. Tractors and disc harrow tools are used now on farms and I suppose there are fancier reapers or "gathering" machines now (probably motorized and using too much gasoline). Maybe the mechanical way without dependence on oil is better. 

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