Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ

This scary bigger-than-lifesize sculpture by Seward Johnson is as yet unnamed, but if you have
 an idea, Grounds for Sculpture wants to hear it. Note the contents of the steaming cauldron!

If anyone asks you to go to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, you should
  1. Go.
  2. Don't wear sandals.
Go because it is a quirky, remarkable, one-of-a-kind place that will look different every time you go because of changing exhibits and changing nature. Don't wear sandals because many of the paths are gravel and larger stones and this becomes a challenge of grace and dexterity. Do bring the camera because besides the art itself there are vistas, flowers, trees, buildings, and peacocks to photograph.
A unique peacock perspective
Grounds for Sculpture is the creation of renowned sculptor Seward Johnson who acquired the old New Jersey Fairgrounds for his atelier and his clever park in the 1980s. The park has grown over the years since it opened in 1992 and its landscapes have changed dramatically. We old-timers who remember when the State Fair was in Trenton (actually Hamilton) until the 1970s would never recognize the place except that some of the original buildings have been re-purposed for indoor galleries and have kept their original State-Fair names.

Margie and Fred having some fun with Autin Wright's Lunar Brilliance (1979) in front of the
 Domestic Arts Building (1920s).
Most of the sites are outside along paths or hidden in little compartments formed by a variety of unusual trees. One could spend all day meandering, and sitting on benches contemplating, or imagining how to replicate a Chamber of Internal Dialogue in your yard. According to GFS's "Park Etiquette" document, photography is permitted, even encouraged, as long as it is for personal use only. I interpret this to include a humble non-monetized blog such as this, especially when citations are supplied. Here are more samples:

The Nine Muses (1990-7) by Carlos Dorrien, a nice place to sit and chill
Detail of Seated Figure from Womaen in the Sun (1988) by Leonda Finke (near The Nine Muses above)
On Poppied Hill (1999) by Seward Johnson (she's bigger than lifesize; the poppies are real)
Dana Stewart's What Was That? (1997)
So if someone suggests a ride over to Hamilton Township's Grounds for Sculpture, you're going, right?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fort Miles at Cape Henlopen, Delaware

Delaware's restored Fort Miles as seen from the Observation Tower with the Atlantic Ocean beyond

During World War II, it became apparent that we Americans should protect our factories and other industries from enemy attack. The Delaware Valley was home to many of these, including some vitally important to the war effort. Fort Miles was built on either side of the mouth of the bay in order to guard the Delaware River and Bay from enemy vessels that could blockade or sink our own. Cape Henlopen on the Delaware side had the bulk of the fort, but Cape May on the New Jersey side had some observation towers, a bunker, and personnel of its own.

Barracks Building A

The area became Cape Henlopen State Park after the war, and more recently the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation has endeavored to preserve the surviving buildings of Fort Miles.The fort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2005.

The entrance to Fort Miles on Sandy Lane with the Observation Tower in the background

Fort Miles also has a large collection of "big guns" perched as they were in the 1940s ready to eliminate threats from enemy vessels.

Fred checks out one of the big guns at Fort Miles

Soldiers stationed inside the various
Inside the tower
Observation or Fire Towers kept watch on the Atlantic waters for enemy vessels. It is true that some German U-boats came very close to shore. (U-858 and its very young German crew were captured just off the coast at the end of the war and processed at Fort Miles.) The soldiers in the towers would communicate bearings to gunmen who used triangulation to figure how to aim those guns.

Visitors can climb the tower near the historic Fort Miles section for a stunning view of the park, ocean, beach, a couple of lighthouses, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, and many ocean-going vessels.

One of the most remarkable things about Fort Miles and today's Cape Henlopen State Park is that it sits on top of a giant sand dune. It's labeled The Great Dune on my map and takes up 543 acres of the present-day park. The sandy soil and sparse vegetation create a desert ambiance charming for campers and beach-minded visitors, but how must this environment been for the soldiers of World War II?

The dune between Fort Miles and the Atlantic Ocean beach
Drive or bike along Cape Henlopen Drive, past the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, and bear to the right once inside the park to get to the restored Fort Miles area. Cape Henlopen also features swimming, camping, fishing, birding, and a nature center.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sayen Gardens in Hamilton Square, New Jersey

I don't know if you are tired of flower pictures or if the blogosphere is too saturated with flower photo essays, but this blogpost began writing itself so I let it go on. This morning I dragged all of my camera gear to Sayen Gardens in Hamilton Square. (Sayen rhymes with lion.) This used to be the home and garden of Frederick and Anna Sayen whose family had a rubber plant nearby. The Sayens bought the thirty acres in 1912 and built the Arts & Crafts Style bungalow house there.
The 1912 Sayen House
The Sayen house features a "TB room." These rooms with windows on three sides, were commonly built a hundred years ago for convalescing tuberculosis patients. There's no record of anyone in the Sayen family suffering from this disease, however.

A sign of the time: the "Tuberculosis Room" at the Sayen House
Hamilton Township bought the estate in 1981 and turned it into a park. The house is used for weddings and other special occasions.each weekend in the nicer weather. I planned my photo shoot for a Saturday morning before the bridal invasion began. That is a better time for flower photography, anyway.

The gardens are maintained by the township and volunteers and are open to the public from dawn to dusk. On Mother's Day every year, Sayen Gardens plays host to a popular Azalea Festival, and every other weekend year 'round, the grounds are crawling with bridal parties posing for pretty pictures. Fifteen to twenty brides find their way here every weekend in the nicer weather.

Frederick and Anna Sayen were travelers and brought plant specimens home from all over the world. These days the park is known for its azaleas in all possible colors, some so tall they form archways over your head.

Kids, brides, and photographers seem to flock to the pond where the quaint footbridge and fountain pose for photos daily.

Superstorm Sandy came through here in the fall, and groundskeepers are still chopping up fallen tree trunks. I'm glad that is not my job. That root ball is as tall as I am.

And of course there are flowers everywhere.

Don't forget to look up!
Sayen Gardens is located at the corner of Mercer Street and Hughes Drive in Hamilton Square, NJ.