Acclaimed historian Shelby Foote insisted that any true understanding of American history, and thus of America, must be rooted in an understanding of the Civil War.
For Foote and scores of history buffs, often it was the power of pictures that helped trigger their curiosity. Soldiers marching up against a shower of shot and shell, seeing men mowed down by the dozens. After staring at those Civil War pictures for hours, the historians just had to uncover the stories behind them.
Newell Conyers Wyeth certainly played a significant role in their fascination. Owner of a constant and grand imagination, Wyeth poured it into a flood of dynamic pictures of the Civil War.
Marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the Brandywine River Museum is exhibiting “Romance in Conflict, N. C. Wyeth’s Civil War Paintings.” Totaling 22 paintings drawn from private and public collections, visitors can step into Wyeth’s creative process through a selection of sketches, reference materials and props such as muskets, an officer’s wool cape and the distinctive kapi Civil War cap. The show is on display through March 20.
There are some things in life you just don’t see coming. Raise your hand if you envisioned the rebirth of the Columbus Inn.
When the inn was sold in 2007 the plan was to demolish part of the restaurant and put up an 11-story luxury condo. Nearby neighborhood residents howled. Then the economy crashed and in the summer of 2009 the developer threw in the towel.
Rumors of a purchase by the Capano family swirled around town before they actually bought the inn last year. By spring 2010 old customers stalked the place, stopping to peek inside during the renovation. Few were prepared for the unwrapping last June.
The venerable inn simply sparkles. Gas lanterns flicker on at dusk. An elegant black awning frames a glorious outdoor patio with chic resin and teak furniture. Stepping into the main dining room visitors find refinished oak floors, a limestone mantle that caps the fireplace and an old world stenciled ceiling above cream-colored banquettes. Diners can gaze into a glass-enclosed 1,000 bottle refrigerated wine room (formerly the coat closet. It all delivers a clean, spacious, and modern feel.
In a rolling pasture at the El Brio Ranch a trio of Gypsy Vanners trot across the Chester County countryside. Easily recognizable by their marbled white and black coloring, the horses’ long thick manes dance in the wind. Their lower legs are showered with an abundance of "feathers," typical of English draft horses. Possessing a mystical appearance, Gypsy Vanners move across a field as if they are floating.
Soon the three horses are joined in the pasture by another mare and her foal, Storybook. It’s a perfect name for the exceedingly friendly and inquisitive three-week old filly as well as for the tale of Ed Fitts and Sue Rathbone who have forged a storybook tale of their own.
Back in 2000 the couple traveled to Ocala, Florida for a close-up look at the breed imported to the United States in 1996. They returned to El Brio with a pair of weanling fillies purchased from Dennis Thompson, co-founder of the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society. Ever since, Fitts and Rathbone’s mission has been to breed and raise animals that retain the the Vanner’s purity and distinctive characteristics-- a muscular and powerful build combined with a gentle temperament and impressive athletic ability.
Midday entered the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf race as the defending champion and heavy favorite. The classy English mare was thought to be pretty much invincible. Someone forgot to tell Shared Account.
In the first-ever Breeders’ Cup race held under the lights in the history of the event, Shared Account bravely battled Midday down the deep stretch capturing the $1,818,000 turf race by a neck. Bettors had dismissed the 4-year old chestnut filly at odds of 46-1. Trainer Graham Motion, based at the Fair Hill Training Center, was having none of it.
“We did it before with a 27-1 shot so I wasn't too worried about that,”observed Motion, who won a 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf with Better Talk Now at 26-1. “This race was our goal from the end of last year. For those who wrote her off after one disappointing race (the Flower Bowl) where that day the turf was very soft, I don’t think that was fair. She is the kindest, nicest filly to be around. We’re all very fond of her.”
From our earliest schooldays we learned that the first Thanksgiving took place at Plymouth Rock. Well, Pilgrim, maybe they got it all wrong.
Forget the turkey, cranberry and all the trimmings. A growing number of folks from St. Augustine, Fla. think we should be feasting on a rich Spanish stew called “cocido” concoted with pork, garbanzo beans and onions.
Fifty six years before pilgrims shared a meal with native Americans at Plymouth, Pedro Menendez de Aviles stepped ashore in St. Augustine mesmorized by the splash of exotic wildflower colors. He invited the Timuca Indians to join his band of 800 Spanish settlers in a Thanksgiving feast in September of 1565.
The story is recounted in the 1965 book “Cross in the Sand” by retired Univeristy of Florida history professor Michael Gannon. Over the past four decades less than thrilled New Englanders have dubbed Gannon “the grinch who stole Thanksgiving.”
Jamie Wyeth lives his life and paints his pictures from the vantage point of isolated islands.
Monheghan is a small, rocky isle 10 miles from the coast of Maine. Scarcely a square mile in area, it’s accessible only by boat, and there are no cars or paved roads. Some 60 people live here year-round, mostly within shouting distance of one another. Another summerhouse and studio is set on Southern Island which can be seen in the distance from the picturesque village of Tenants Harbor.
“The ocean is so enormous, such a force,” Wyeth said. “It changes every day. I’m up there in the winter as well, and honestly, I almost prefer it. It’s so stark and the storms that roll through and the seas and winds, it’s fantastic.”
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.