Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site

This unassuming state park at the New York-Vermont border was the scene of an American military victory that contributed to the surrender of a British army and eventual American Independence.

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The Battle of Bennington was fought on August 16, 1777 between American forces commanded by Colonel John Stark and British and Hessian forces commanded by Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum west of Bennington, Vermont (in what would become New York State) during the American Revolutionary War. The battle ended in American victory when all British and Hessian forces fled the field.

In June 1777, British Maj. Gen. John Burgoyne desperately needed supplies to continue moving south in his bid to control the Hudson Valley and sever New England from the rest of the colonies. He sent Hessian Col. Friedrich Baum and 375 Hessian dragoons, 50 British infantry, and 375 Iroquois and Loyalist militia to gather supplies in nearby farming communities.

Baum learned there was a force of militiamen camped in nearby Bennington, Vermont and moved to investigate. After a brief skirmish around Sancoick Mill, Col. Baum sent for reinforcements and decided to fortify a hill and wait for their arrival.

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Mountain View Diners

Les Daniel and Henry Strys founded the Mountain View Diners Company in Singac, New Jersey in 1938. From 1938 to 1957, the company produced around 400 prefabricated restaurants. Though of simple design, many are still in operation, proving that their motto “A Mountain View Diner will last a lifetime” still holds true today. When you think of a classic 1950s diner, a Mountain View probably comes to mind.

Photo by Michael Kleen

The 29 Diner, at 10536 Fairfax Blvd in Fairfax, Virginia, is a 1947 Mountain View, and its original owners were D.T. “Bill” and Elvira “Curly” Glascock. It was known as the Tastee 29 Diner in 1992 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A former waitress and her husband, Ginger and Fredy Guevara, purchased the diner in the 1990s and restored its original name. They owned it until 2014, when it was bought by John Wood.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Route 66 Diner, at 950 Bay Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, is a 1957 Mountain View, one of the last manufactured by that Signac, New Jersey company. Originally called the Bay Diner, owner Donald A. Roy bought it in 1975 and the restaurant is managed by his brother-in-law, Charlie Allen.

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Hotel Oneida

Hotel Oneida
Hotel Oneida, at Main Street and Lenox Avenue in Oneida, New York, opened in 1927 and was a fixture of downtown Oneida for decades. It became an apartment building in 1982, sold at public auction in 2009 for a mere $25,000. By 2017, the town council received so many complaints about the decaying building, they threatened to tear it down. It was still standing when I drove by in the summer of 2018.

Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York

Forest Lawn Cemetery, at 1411 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York, is a Victorian rural cemetery established in 1849. Over 161,000 former residents of the “City of Light” are interred within its 269 acres, including U.S. President Millard Fillmore and the 49 victims of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash. True to its name, Forest Lawn is also an important arboretum, with over 3,500 trees spread over its sprawling grounds. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Blue Sky Mausoleum

Modern architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed this unique mausoleum in 1928, but it wouldn’t be until 76 years later that his apprentice Anthony Puttnam would complete the project. The Blue Sky Mausoleum, called that because its crypts face the sky rather than each other in an enclosed structure, contains 24 burial vaults. It sits on a gentle slope overlooking a small pond.

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Fort Magruder and the Battle of Williamsburg

A small monument and a few wayside markers are all that remind passersby that two Civil War armies once fought here.

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The Battle of Williamsburg was fought on May 5, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet outside Williamsburg, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was tactically a draw, with the Confederate army withdrawing toward Richmond during the night.

In the spring of 1862, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan took his massive 120,000-man Army of the Potomac by boat and landed at Fort Monroe near Hampton Roads. He planned to march up the Virginia Peninsula and capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond, bringing a swift end to the war. Standing in his way was Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder, a series of small forts and defensive works, and 11,000 men. Magruder’s elaborate showmanship and deceptive tactics delayed the Union army for nearly 30 days.

The delay bought time for Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston to arrive with reinforcements. Their combined force of 57,000 was still no match for McClellan, so Johnston decided to withdraw to the defenses around Richmond. A force of 32,000 commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet was left to defend Fort Magruder, southeast of Williamsburg, and cover the withdrawal.

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Diners of New York

New Jersey is often described as the diner capital of the United States, but in my opinion, New York out paces it by far. You won’t find such a large concentration of classic diners anywhere else. In 1895, Patrick J. Tierney, who coined the term “diner”, began a lunch wagon business that grew so fast it inspired him to begin manufacturing the mobile restaurants himself in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York. Two of his former employees went on to create the iconic diner manufacturers Fodero Dining Car Company and the Kullman Dining Car Company.

The DeRaffele Manufacturing Company took over the Tierney factory in New Rochelle in 1933 and continues to operate there to the present day. Two other New York-based diner builders were the Orleans Manufacturing Company in Albion, New York (only built three diners) and Ward & Dickinson in Silver Creek, New York. Ward & Dickinson operated from 1923 to 1940.

The Red Robin Diner, at 268 Main Street, is a classic Mountain View-style diner that originally opened in neighboring Binghamton in 1950 and moved to its present location in 1959. The 35-ton diner took two hours to move. Chris and Pat Anagnostakos ran the business for 37 years until retirement.

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D.C. Cherry Blossoms 2020

My wife and I finally made it to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., something on my to-do list since moving to this area over a year ago. Despite fears of Covid-19, official cancellation of the festival, and warnings to stay away from large groups, hundreds of people couldn’t resist the allure of the blossoms.

Tidal Basin Blossoms

A plummeting stock market and fears of pandemic were a stark contrast to this beautiful spring morning and the bright pink cherry blossoms. We did see some visitors wearing masks, but otherwise it was just a typical day.

Leo Longs for Pets

Our corgi, Leo, was upset he couldn’t get any pets from passersby.

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