Harry K. Thaw’s Grave

Grave of Harry K. Thaw. Henry Kendall Thaw. February 12, 1871 - February 22, 1947. Allegheny Cemetery, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Harry K. Thaw’s Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. May, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

A few months ago, I blogged about the time that Harry K. Thaw shot Stanford White over White’s relationship with Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. (Thaw was from Pittsburgh, and Nesbit was born in Tarentum, PA, although the two of them met in New York City.)

I visited Thaw’s grave in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh.

I didn’t put the rosary on this grave. I don’t know who put the rosary on the headstone.

Here is the marker for the Thaw family plot:

Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA.
Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. May, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

If you want to hear a podcast or two about Evelyn Nesbit, “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,” and Thaw’s murder of White, check out these podcast episodes:

1.) Criminal (hosted by Phoebe Judge), covered this in episode 91The “It” Girl.

2.) Then, an episode of the podcast My Favorite Murder talked about this in episode 136 and heavily “cited” Criminal. (In my opinion, the bulk of the My Favorite Murder host’s “research” consisted of her listening to the Criminal episode! This is merely my personal opinion, though.)

Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA
Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. November 10, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
William Thaw Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh
William Thaw Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA. November 10, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austen

Once upon a time, I followed my husband Jonathan on his business travel to London. We rented a car. We drove to Tintern Abbey, in Wales, on the River Wye.

Well, Jonathan drove our British rental car on the left side of the road. Jonathan maneuvered the traffic circles (roundabouts). I navigated.

Here’s the first road sign that we saw after we crossed the line into Wales. Note that the first three lines of this sign are in Welsh and the final three lines are in English:







We almost didn’t tour Tintern Abbey.

The government runs this landmark as a day-use attraction, so it closes before the sun sets. The staff ends ticket sales 30 minutes before the attraction closes for the day. We got lost and then we arrived at Tintern Abbey about an hour before it closed.

But we made it!

Cistercian monks established and maintained Tintern Abbey between 1131- 1536. Tintern Abbey closed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Here are some of the things that happened:

1.) The monarchs in England used to be Roman Catholic.

2.) The Protestant Reformation began in Saxony (Germany) in 1517.

3.) Henry VIII of England wanted to end his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533 so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.

4.) Henry VIII rejected papal supremacy. Parliament passed a law establishing Henry as the head of the Church of England.

5.) In the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry closed all of the monasteries, including Tintern Abbey.

6.) Henry’s agents stripped the monastic property of anything and everything valuable, including the lead roof.

(In Anya Seton’s novel Green Darkness, one of the main characters lived as an English monk in a different Catholic monastery. Henry VIII also closed this monastery during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The novel detailed how Henry VIII’s officials plundered that monastery of its valuables and banished the monks. At least one of these monks fled to France. Many of them remained in England but hid from the Protestants during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. The King’s officials grew their own wealth by closing the monasteries. See my prior blog post about Anya Seton.)

The band Iron Maiden filmed their music video for “Can I Play with Madness” partly at Tintern Abbey.

Jane Austen shouts-out to Tintern Abbey in her novel Mansfield Park.

Wikipedia taught me that Allen Ginsburg tripped on acid here in 1967 and then wrote his poem Wales Visitation.

William Wordsworth also wrote a poem about Tintern Abbey.

The Wye Valley Railway established a station near the Abbey in 1876. Though prior tourists visited Tintern by boat, fashionable Victorians could now access it by train.

We left the Abbey and grabbed dinner at a local pub. Other patrons spoke Welsh to each other.

We drove through the rural darkness back to London.

Watch for my upcoming blog posts about my adventures in travel.

Ancient Henge and Modern Pagans

Today is May 1. May Day. The ancient festival of Beltane.

Ancient residents of Northern Europe celebrated May 1 as a spring festival. My ancient ancestors most likely celebrated on May Day.

In Anya Seton‘s historical fiction novel Katherine, the serfs living on the English protagonist’s estate snuck off and observed Beltane. A nobleman discovered them and ended the party. The powerful men in this novel forbid Beltane since it wasn’t a “Christian” holiday. They labeled Beltane as “pagan.”

In honor of May Day, I blog today about a place in England that predated Christianity in England. Modern-day Pagans (Contemporary Pagans / Neopagans) still gather at this landmark to observe their own beliefs. I blog today about Avebury.

My husband Jonathan travelled to London for business a few times. I took vacation days from my own job, purchased plane tickets, and squatted in his hotel room so that I could blog about England.

Jonathan had a weekend “off,” so we rented a British car. We drove several hours out of London and visited rural England.

My cousin R. previously lived in the United Kingdom for a year. We asked R. for sightseeing recs. Cousin R. told us about Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England.

Avebury Henge, a Neolithic henge monument, encircles a section of the village of Avebury. A ditch surrounds the henge.

UNESCO classifies this as part of its “Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites” World Heritage site.

We decided through our research that Avebury was more accessible to us than Stonehenge from our hotel “base” in London. We had limited “free” time during our trip. So, we skipped Stonehenge in favor of Avebury.

To our delight, Avebury and its attractions charged no admission. We found it uncrowded, too!

Visitors can even shop inside the henge.

Sheep graze among the Avebury Henge.

In fact, I watched a sheep rub itself against the henge stones.

Look at the below photo. Some of the henge stones show long-term wear at sheep level.

We explored the actual village of Avebury:

Here is the Parish Church of St. James in Avebury. To be clear, this IS a currently operating Christian (Anglican) church. I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

St. James dates from approximately 100o A.D. The Normans possibly altered the church after the Norman Invasion in 1066 A.D.

The residents on this land now called Avebury once celebrated such pre-Christian rites as Beltane. The status quo maintained Beltane as a festival.

Then, the (Roman Catholic) Church brought Christianity to Avebury. The status quo no longer maintained the pre-Christian beliefs and festivals. The status quo maintained Roman Catholicism.

Then, in the 1500’s, Henry VIII established the (Protestant) Church of England. Henry dissolved the Roman Catholic monasteries. His supporters prosecuted practicing Catholics. Henry VIII died. Henry’s son Edward VI maintained Protestantism as the status quo in England. Edward VI died.

Henry’s daughter, Mary I, then became Queen. She reinstated Roman Catholicism and persecuted Protestants. Mary I died.

Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I became queen. The status quo changed again, this time in favor of Protestants.

(This actually provides much of the setting for Anya Seton‘s time travel / reincarnation novel Green Darkness.)

In 1561, Elizabeth I ordered that all churches destroy their rood screens. (The rood screen separated a church’s chancel from its nave.) Unknown parties disassembled the rood screen at St. James and hid it behind a false wall. Church inhabitants discovered the rood screen in 1810. St. James parishioners restored the screen and reinstalled it by the end of the 1800’s.

Here is St. James’ churchyard:

Again, I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

The rest of this post details landmarks several miles outside of Avebury. We had to drive to these these places. They are “associated sites” included in the official Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage Site:

West Kennet Long Barrow:

This neolithic tomb contained the remains of over 40 individuals.

We parked and walked up a hill in order to view West Kennet Long Barrow. Partway up this hill we came upon a tree filled with ribbons. Unknown visitors tied various items to many of the ribbons.

Here is the inside of West Kennet Long Barrow. Earlier visitors lit candles inside the barrow before we entered it.

Silbury Hill:

This prehistoric artificial mound is the largest one in Europe.

Thank you for letting me share my adventures with you!

Check back for my upcoming blog post about Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austin.

(Note: Henry VIII closed Tintern Abbey in 1536 when he replaced Roman Catholicism with Protestantism as the status quo.)

Happy Beltane!

5 Tips to “Weather” the Longwood Gardens Rain

In June 2015, I made my pregnant sister K. take me (and our sister E.R.) to visit Longwood Gardens during a torrential rainstorm.

Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden and conservatory in suburban Philadelphia. (It’s in Chester County, PA.) It originated from Pierre S. DuPont’s estate.

That day’s weather reports for that part of PA – the eastern part – called for several inches of rain. The National Weather Service nailed that forecast! It rained so much that on our trip back from Longwood to my sister’s house, we avoided the PA Turnpike.  In fact, we stopped at a Wawa on our trip back. We were the only customers in that Wawa. The Wawa clerk asked us why we were out traveling.

In my prior blog post, I mentioned that on my one visit to Longwood, I liked Longwood’s parking options much better than the parking options at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh.

Longwood Gardens provides free on-site parking. On peak days, they also offer free off-site parking and provide transportation to their Visitors Center. My one visit to Longwood took place on a rainy day without many other visitors. So, we didn’t have to share the parking lot with many other cars.

So, here are my tips for visiting Longwood Gardens on a rainy summer day:

1.) You might see cats, and you might not see cats.

Multiple cats live at Longwood Gardens. During our visit, we read signs alerting us to the existence of the cats. The signs asked us to contact a staff member if we saw any of the cats hanging out in the parking lot. Here’s a link to the website information about Longwood’s Cats. Unfortunately, we did not see any cats during our visit.

2.) Wear a long, light raincoat and bring a golf umbrella. Resign yourself to getting wet.

Longwood Gardens includes over 1,077 acres of space to visit. We walked in the rain a lot that day, and we didn’t even see all of the outdoor gardens.

I stood in the rain and photographed the outside water lilies and water platters.

3.) Spend time indoors in the Conservatory.

The Conservatory is the name of the building that includes four acres of indoor gardens in multiple wings.

We still needed to have the umbrellas for our walk from the Visitors Center to the Conservatory.

4.) Explore your meal options ahead of time.

Longwood offers a full-service restaurant and a cafe. You can check its website for details about restaurant reservations.

However, we ate at a favorite fast-food restaurant in a local shopping center before we arrived at Longwood.

5.) Be prepared to walk a lot.

Longwood does NOT offer any shuttles around the gardens.

I need to mention that in addition to working cats, Longwood Gardens also has award-winning restrooms.

My sister K. sometimes blogs about restrooms at tourist attractions.

Check out my sister’s blog shout-out to Longwood’s restrooms.

What places do you like to visit in inclement weather? Can you name any tourist attractions that have working cats?

Peck Family Cemetery – Somerset County, PA

This is the Peck Family Cemetery. It dates back to the mid- 1800’s.

You can view this cemetery from the highway between the true high point of Mount Davis and Deer Valley YMCA Camp.

Mount Davis is the highest point in Pennsylvania. It sits in Somerset County. The true high point sits about 10 miles from the border with Maryland.  (Yes, Mount Davis belongs to the Laurel Highlands. Yes, Mount Davis is slightly north of the Mason-Dixon line.)

Deer Valley YMCA Camp actually owns the land upon which this cemetery sits. They maintain the cemetery.

If you plan to visit Mount Davis, please watch your speed. The highway leading up to the true high point passes a sizable number of Amish and non-Amish farms. Depending on the day and time of your visit, you may encounter a high volume of horse and buggy traffic. For instance, my last visit to the top of Mount Davis occurred on a Sunday. We passed several farms that had multiple buggies parked in front, and we also shared the road with buggies in both directions.

Quakertown Train Station and the Month of Turnpike Baptisms

Jonathan and I returned to Pennsylvania at the end of July. Then, in a three-week span, we witnessed the baptism of two brand-new nephews, on opposite sides of this state. (One baby belongs to Jonathan’s sister, and the other baby belongs to my sister.)

I joked to Jonathan that August was the month of turnpike baptisms.

(FYI if you’re not familiar with our family or with Pennsylvania: Jonathan and I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, in Western PA. The first baptism that we attended was also in Western PA, and thus on the western end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The second baptism that we attended was in Eastern PA, and thus on the eastern end of the turnpike.)

For this second baptism, we stayed in Quakertown.

The temperatures during each day of our trip hit the 90’s. We spent our “free” time before and after the baptism enjoying the hotel pool and air conditioning.

Thus, we only explored and photographed one thing: The Quakertown Train Station.

I linked the train station’s official website above so that you don’t have to witness me poorly regurgitate the website. To paraphrase the website, the station was built in 1902. At some point before 1989, the building stopped being used to service rail passengers. In 1989, a fire significantly damaged the building. Non-profit restoration efforts saved and repaired the building. The public can now rent the train station for private events.

The train station sits at an intersection. When we pulled into the train station parking lot, the first thing that I noticed was a classic car with a “for sale” sign at the edge of this parking lot. A mural promoting Quakertown landmarks covered the building on the other side of the intersection. The photo that I took of this car is the first photo in this blog post.

Then, I took the second photo of this blog post. Now, these are the only two photos of this blog post that I took.

Jonathan took this photo of the restored train station:

Now, Jonathan also took these photos of the non-restored freight house next door, as well as the surrounding tracks:

The freight station brought to my mind the Stephen King short story “Willa.”

See also:

Here is a hand-operated jib crane for loading freight:

Here are the photos that Jonathan took of the building that housed the Quakertown Traction Company. “Traction” is another word for “trolley.” This building sits across the tracks from the train station and the freight house:

Here is the front facade for the Quakertown Traction Company:

If you would like to see more of Jonathan’s railroad photos, leave me a comment here or on Facebook.

The Grand Hotel Charges a $10 Entry Fee. I Paid the Fee.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island charges non-guests $10 to enter its grounds. The Grand even put this on a sign in their driveway.

The fee keeps us – the unwashed looky-loos – from bothering the Grand’s paying guests. I watched a family with multiple noisy kids attempt to walk up the Grand’s driveway. A Grand employee advised said family of the $10 per-person fee. The family turned away. Mission accomplished.

One day I paid the $10 fee. Then I walked around and took photos. Here are some of the things that I saw:

1.) The Cupola Bar

Do you see the cupola in the first two Grand Hotel photos that I posted? This is a two-story bar. The Cupola Bar.

Here is what the Cupola Bar looks like from inside on the second floor:

But here’s what you REALLY wanted to see. Here’s the view from the second floor windows of the Cupola Bar:

2.) The Front Porch

I needed a rest after my trip to the top of the cupola. So, I enjoyed the (660 ft long) front porch.

I viewed the Mackinac Bridge and horse-drawn carriages from the starboard end of the porch:

Here’s the giant chess set that I saw on the port end of the porch:

Do you see the young lady pedaling the red Coca-Cola cart? She pedaled (AND peddled) that cart up and down the length of the porch, selling ice cold coke in glass bottles. I think that she also rang a little bell as she passed us.

3.) The Greenhouse

The Grand Hotel loves its red geraniums. I found the greenhouse.