Friday, August 20, 2010

Rhinebeck, part 1

We arrived at Rhinebeck and I sent an e-mail to everyone that I had made contact with. Ms. Hammers, of course was the most important, I needed to set that appointment first so that the rest would fall into place. She couldn't see me that day or the next but we set it for that Friday. I also set up times to meet with Mr. Mann with the Rhinebeck historical society. We drove around Rhinebeck looking at various places and trying to figure out what was what and where and I was as excited as a little girl. I found the Astor Gate house, (looked like a ginger bread house.) Rhinebeck was a hive of historical places to go see and do. I will make a point of seeing more and doing more the next time I go. I went to the W. House (spelling, sorry) to pick up a letter but the curator wasn't there. He did send me the letters that he mentioned to me later. I went to the Church of the Messiah, and found the Astor window. I found a woman who used to be a lawyer who told me about a dispute with Trinity Church over valuable property it owned with the Astors. I asked her to dig up the info for me but haven't heard from her -- I gave her my business card...this is something I will look up with I can with the Trinity Church when I go to New York. I did not get a chance to meet with Mr. Fraiser. Nor did I get a chance to look at Church records. This is what I will do when I go back.

Astor Court is tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We got a motel outside of D.C. since we did not want to drive into the capital. It had to be the hottest day of the year! We took a train into the city. From there we went to the Library of Congress. We had to get an ID card before we could go to the reading room that had my material. It took longer to get the ID card than it did for me to locate my material and go through it. After that, we had an expensive snack and headed for the Smithsonian, on the subway again. When we arrived at the mall, both Richard and I were out of sorts from the heat. I just couldn't face more of the heat and having to walk who knew how far since I wasn't totally sure which museum of the Smithsonian I needed to go to. I suggested that we go back to the hotel, and Richard quickly agreed. The next day, off to Rhinebeck in New York.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home again

I cut the trip short for reasons I don't want to get into. Well, some I can share with you -- My husband was more than ready to come home, and it just felt right to do so. It was good we did.
On Thursday before, my person who was taking care of our animals called and complained that someone was in the house and was also feeding our animals - she was worried that something might be missing and we'd blame her. This got her mad and she said she wasn't going to do it anymore. I couldn't get ahold of my person (who I am not naming as she might, might, see this and also because I don't want to cause trouble in the family. ) and I called my mother to tell my person that I absolutely trusted her ...and I assumed that she would continue feeding the animals as it has been in the hundreds during the day. Water is a big issue right now.
When we arrived home, the woman that we had adopted our dogs from was here feeding and watering them, (and had been every day since the first when my person apparently quit) and instantly I knew what happened. When she came to check on the dogs, she fed them and watered them. Okay, but doing that pissed off the person we had asked and thereby quit. I wasn't happy to see the woman. She thought we'd be happy she'd been feeding and watering them -- but she caused the situation in the first place.

My husband is pissed at the person we got to take care of the animals and says he doesn't want to use her again. But I know that if I don't ask again, that this, also, will offend that person. *Sigh* How do I keep everybody happy? I am not going to be able to.

I will start filling in the posts I missed due to a hotel having horrible Internet connections, and me being bone-tired (another reason to come home.) I met a lot of people just like me, and that were willing to be of help. I didn't quite get all I wanted at Rhinebeck, but I got a heck of a lot more than I thought I would get, and this gives me a reason to go back. I have to, anyway. To look at church records and to meet another historian that is a meticulous accurate in her Astor lore. That is what I was told, anyway. Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dixie Plantation

We checked out of the hotel, and went to breakfast. Bernie called and we managed to get our 3 o'clock appointment changed to right then about 11. We met him in front of his office and after getting instructions to a laundry for Richard--(he didn't want to take the tour so got stuck doing laundry.) Bernie and I yacked the whole way there and back - about Dixie, the Astors, the Dicks, etc. I taught him some stuff about the Astors and he taught me a whole lot about Dixie.

On the driveway to the house, I found an amazing Nautilus shell in perfect condition - miles away from a beach. Bernie let me keep it. It felt like a gift from Madeleine for visiting her place.

The Plantation - which I do have photos and I will post soon, was absolutely amazing place. Full of old oaks with moss hanging down, wildlife everywhere, different types of waterways - salt, brackish, fresh, so the wildlife had plenty of choices, birds, turtles and even an 3 ft alligator. It was peaceful and would make an excellent writer's retreat. I promised if I got rich I would endow a cottage and Bernie promised I could come and stay whenever I wanted if I did so. :)

The College of Charleston has excellent plans to develop it, but is handicapped by money issues; but they are working on it -- by trying to get donations and by various projects to use the place in the way John Henry Dick intended it to be used, i.e. as a nature preserve. The property is worth 20 million dollars as it stands, it'd be worth 100 million if the conservation easement was off.

I have to keep this entry short as we drove all day to Washington and am crashing in a very cheap hotel. It's a circle 8 but on the edge of being totally safe. It's clean, but ...the bullet proof glass in the check-in area made us both nervous.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Charleston was a quick in and out. I finished about 3 hours or so. I went through about 10 boxes and since I was looking for very specific things, it was easy to find. I found lots of family pictures (well, lots considering I hadn't seen any of the Dick family at all) and a few of Madeleine with her second family. No smiles in any of them.

There was an sign-in book for the Dixie Plantation where the Dick family and friends had signed in -- after Madeleine had died, and it showed a great deal of humor, intelligence and just plain fun between the crew. I found myself wishing I could have been there in the midst of it all.

Still, everyone at the Charleston Library was helpful and friendly and made me feel right at home. The main director even showed me some children's books that Madeleine's kids had owned. The names were written inside.

Tomorrow we have the tour of the Dixie Plantation and Richard is going to do up laundry. Afterwards, we'll be heading to Washington. We won't get there tomorrow but the day after. We're about 1 day ahead of schedule.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

5 days into trip

I have a ton of pictures and I can't find them...argh! So I will post the pictures at a later time.

Friday- Ringling Museum in Sarasota Florida- huge place! This was built on the estate of Mr. Ringling and had about 6 museums all on the site where Mr. Ringling had his winter home. The place I wanted to go wasn't open until 1 so we toured the house, and then headed for the art museum where the Astor rooms were. I took more photos - I swear. The rooms were huge with carved frescos, and windows that must have been 12 feet high. I had no idea that they would have that sense of expansiveness that I had never experienced before. The guard was half-asleep and I couldn't get him interested in all the history around him.

Richard got bored and left for lunch. I couldn't find him at first but then I found him at Trevios where we had a most creative lunch (amazing presentation) and suddenly it was 1 o'clock, and I had to take off without finishing it. I went to the library where they found nothing on the Astors.
We looked through files and books and nothing. (They were most kind to me, however.) Then the Archive director came and took me to the archives where I got to see 3 paintings that I have seen in old Astor pictures. Actual pictures! Then we went to the Archive office where there was a file on Astor (which as an Honory Intern I got to copy page by fragile page.) Half way through the copying the Director took me on a field trip to see Astor Items installed on the property but not labeled. Like 2 chairs in the house, a lintel for a door in the Circus museum, and the actual front door installed on the Art Museum (Which I got to touch!!! Several times!!!) I kept saying thank-you, which I am sure that they got tired of, but I couldn't help it--it was a very good day. :) Very worth while to go.

From Sarasota, we drove to Orlando where the plan was to visit the Titanic museum but missed the last tour by 20 minutes and they would not allow me to go in which pissed off Richard, and he did not want to stay for the special dinner show. I told him that it was not that important, and I would have liked to see the museum but it was okay that I didn't. I know the story, I was just curious about the artifacts that they had.

We drove until 2 in the morning on Friday night (by the most back country roads - one was dirt, even) and checked into the Circle 8 in Aiken, South Carolina. I planned to sleep in but woke up at 9 and knew I had to get to the tour for Aiken. Rounding up Richard, we charged off to arrive in time to talk to the tour group leader - a Ms. Burgess. She agreed to talk to me when she got back from leading her tour. I went to the library and did a search on the newspaper for Aikens and found very little. Going back to the tour spot, I met up with Ms. Burgess who after hearing my spiel, i.e. I am a writer researching Madeleine Astor, blah blah,...she took me to the places that she knew was connected to the Astors. There was an Astor house, (I took pictures), the hotel that she had to have stayed at, (she did -- there was a suite named after her there.), the railway depot where I have a picture of here there, and to the historical museum. After that tour, we went to the hotel and the museum and checked them out. I was allowed to look around the Wilcox (not the Astor suite - because it was occupied but the one next to it.) hotel, and took more pictures. I was getting tired so after all that, we went back to the hotel and I camped out with Richard tending to me. The next day we loaded up and came to Charleston.

At Charleston, the first two hotels were in pretty crappy neighborhoods -- think drug dealers and prostitutes--so we passed and ended up in downtown Charleston at that Circle 8. (See the theme developing.) A bit more expensive than I would have liked but the room is nice with extra amenities. Lunch was at Toast next to the Hotel. 3 girls were chatting about the most personal topics -- think condoms and the use thereof and you'd have the favor of the conversation -- I wanted to go over to them and tell them that they were in a public place and I really didn't want to know exactly where the saran wrap went ...but I was too darn tired to bother. Next time, ladies.

Tomorrow is College of Charleston to go to see the John Henry Dick collection for photographs of the Dick family -- Madeleine married William Dick and was the mother of the famous John Henry Dick. There are some family photos and others that I am going to go see. I hope I can get copies. :)

I am getting sleep again, so I am off to bed.