What is: George and Polly Gilmore’s farm, Montpelier, Virginia.

What was: This was George and Polly Gilmore’s farm in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Both George and Polly were born into slavery at James Madison’s Montpelier. The Gilmore family lived here until the 1930’s.  The cabin is representative of not just the Gilmore family’s early years of freedom, but countless other newly freed African Americans in the Piedmont region of Virginia during Reconstruction.

President Madison died in 1836. When Dolley Madison sold Montpelier in 1844, George Gilmore and his future wife Polly conveyed with the property. They were married in 1850 and were freed in 1865 when Federal troops occupied Orange County.  Excavation units in the yard allowed historians to uncover what appears to be the remains of a Confederate encampment.

Like millions of African Americans throughout the South, many emancipated slaves worked on the same plantations where they once labored. After emancipation, Gilmore stayed at Montpelier, and is listed in census records as having worked as a saddle maker and as a tenant farmer. In 1873 the Gilmores built this cabin, and in 1901 purchased the 16 acres of land from Dr. James A. Madison, the great-nephew of President Madison. Members of the family lived on the farm until the early 1930s.

What is: Abandoned House in the fields on the way to Nat Turner’s Cave. Southampton County, Virginia

What was: In 1831, a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner.  The slaves went from farm to farm in Southampton County killing the white slave owners.  Scores of blacks were murdered in reprisals throughout the South.

The legacy of the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history still hangs over the sandy soil, blackwater cypress swamps and abandoned homes of the county. Kids grow up in rural Southampton County hearing that the mist creeping across the fields might be something unearthly. Old folks warn them not to sneak into abandoned houses, where rotting floors and walls are said to be stained with blood. This is a haunted landscape. (Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/the-haunted-houses-legacy-of-nat-turners-slave-rebellion-lingers-but-reminders-are-disappearing/2019/04/29/d267d814-5d68-11e9-842d-7d3ed7eb3957_story.html

Attacking farmhouses in the darkness and picking up supporters along the way, Turner and his rebels killed some 55 white men, women, and children over two days. They were eventually scattered by militia infantry, and some were rounded up and killed or put on trial. Turner escaped and hid out for two months mostly in a crude “cave” — a hole dug under a pile of wood — before surrendering on Oct. 30, 1831.

Lonnie Bunch, then director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said, “The Nat Turner rebellion is probably the most significant uprising in American history.”

What is: The parish house of Grace Episcopal Church, Bremo Bluff, Virginia

What was: The Bremo Plantation estate covers more than 1,500 acres in Fluvanna County, Virginia. Overlooking the James River, it is a rare property of its era, still owned by the family that built it in 1745.   The chapel was built in 1835 for the slaves as part of the vast plantation of General John Hartwell Cocke.

It is the state’s only known slave chapel and represents Cocke’s deep concern for the religious and moral edification of slaves. He had his slaves taught to read and decided that it was his Christian duty to provide them with religious instruction. Cocke was determined that his slaves should have their own house of worship and thus had the board-and-batten structure built on what became know as Chapel Field.

In total 246 people were enslaved here from 1781 – the earliest date on record – until 1865.  However, enslaved men also cleared the land and built a structure (which still stands) to claim the land grant in 1725. Bremo Plantation required numerous hands to keep the plantation running, and nearly all of this work fell onto the enslaved.

Despite the Cocke’s interest in education and religion for the slaves, according to Fluvanna Historical Society Representative Tricia Johnson, “The last few years before his death, Cocke wrote that enslavement was the natural order of things and it wouldn’t be possible to end the practice.”

Cocke’s need to make Bremo Plantation as self-supporting as possible forced his slaves to do almost all of the work in keeping Cocke’s idea of self-supporting. When the enslaved failed to do so they had to endure physical punishments such as whippings and starvation. He had no qualms against separating families if it meant his plantation was more efficient.

 

What is: a Texaco gas station with a white Pontiac out front, the ghost town of Glenrio, TX

What was: The Texaco station was built by Joseph (Joe) Brownlee in 1950 on Route 66 at a time when Glenrio, TX was often bumper to bumper with traffic. Interstate 40 opened in 1973 and by 1975, Glenrio was on its way to becoming a ghost town as everything closed up.

Roxann Bownlee, daughter of Joe, grew up helping her father at the gas station.  It was a family enterprise.  In 1970, Roxann married Larry Lee Travis.  With the decline of business in Glenrio, Larry rented the Standard Service Station near Adrian, Texas and each day drove the 25 miles to Adrian in his white Pontiac.

At the time, a group of gas, shop and service station owners had banded together as a vigilante force to patrol the streets of Vega and Adrian.  On March 7th a 23-year-old Texan called Lewis Steven Powell entered the Standard Service Station. No-one knows what happened in those few minutes, whether Larry – proud of his hard work – refused to hand over his takings, but Powell made him kneel down and shot him in the back of the head before robbing the till.

Larry never came home, but his Pontiac Catalina did, and it keeps silent sentinel in Glenrio. Roxann still lives in the house behind with family and dogs, one of the few remaining resident of Glenrio.

What is: Tobacco Farm Barns near Simsbury, CT

What was: In June 1944, trains carrying 185 students from Morehouse College in Atlanta arrived in a northern Connecticut town of Simsbury.  The students had arrived to work in the tobacco fields and harvest shade tobacco, then one of Connecticut’s biggest cash crops. These fields and barns are where Martin Luther King spent time working as a 15-year-old.  He would spend 2 summers working in the fields around Simsbury.

More than just a job, this was his first exposure to the Northeast and to a society that was not formally segregated.  He attended Simsbury churches, sang with the choir, enjoyed drugstore milkshakes and attended movies at Eno Hall. He made weekend visits to the “big city” of Hartford. In a letter to his mother in June 1944 he remarked that he had eaten in “one of the finest restaurants in Hartford” and that he had “never thought” that people of different races “could eat anywhere” together.

He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too.  “I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings,” he wrote.  MLK later credited that time with helping him decide to enter the clergy, which, in turn, led him to join the civil rights movement. Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/martin-luther-king-in-connecticut-closer-to-a-promised-land.html

https://www.mlkinct.com/

Probably the most significant uprising (after Jan 6? ) in American history. Lots of legends and stories here…

What is: Corner of Bride Street and High Street, Courtland, Virginia, Population 1295

What was: In 1831, a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner. The slaves went from farm to farm in Southhampton County killing the white slave owners. Scores of blacks were murdered in reprisals throughout the South. The legacy of the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history still hangs over the sandy soil, blackwater cypress swamps and abandoned homes of the county. Kids grow up in rural Southampton County hearing that the mist creeping across the fields might be something unearthly. Old folks warn them not to sneak into abandoned houses, where rotting floors and walls are said to be stained with blood. This is a haunted landscape. (Source for some of this and a great story here.

Attacking farmhouses in the darkness and picking up supporters along the way, Turner and his rebels killed some 55-65 white men, women, and children over two days. They were eventually scattered by militia infantry, and some were rounded up and killed or put on trial. Turner escaped and hid out for two months mostly in a crude “cave” — a hole dug under a pile of wood — before surrendering on Oct. 30, 1831.

Turner was hung from a tree on Bride Street in what is now Courtland, VA. A short distance away, around the corner on High Street, is the ditch where Turner’s torso was said to have been tossed after he was decapitated (pictured here). Human remains have been found here. At some point, the county hopes to excavate. In the meantime, the spot is marked by tiny wire flags stuck in the weeds, the sort that might designate a property line or a cable route.

Many Black people who had not participated were also persecuted in the frenzy. Months after the insurrection, the Virginia legislature narrowly rejected a measure for gradual emancipation that would have followed the lead of the North. Instead, pointing to Turner’s intelligence and education as a major cause of the revolt, measures were passed in Virginia and other states in the South that made it unlawful to teach enslaved people and free African Americans how to read or write.

Lonnie Bunch, previously director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said, “The Nat Turner rebellion is probably the most significant uprising in American history.”

Among one of the most important sacred sites to Native Americans. The tribal village would have been along the shore, with the community leaders, temples and civic buildings further at the back of the site.
What is: Werowocomoco. It is today United States Government Property. No Trespassing. In 2016, Werowocomoco was permanently protected by the National Park Service and is administered by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
What was: Werowocomoco (wayr-uh-wah-koh-muh-koh) is believed to have been a place of leadership and spiritual importance to American Indians as early as circa AD 1200.  The village served as the headquarters of Chief Powhatan, a Virginia Algonquian political and spiritual leader when the English founded Jamestown in 1607. The name Werowocomoco comes from the Powhatan werowans, meaning “leader” in English; and komakah, “settlement”.
When Englishman Captain John Smith explored the Bay in 1608, he documented hundreds of American Indian communities. Today, sites on his map are archeological treasures and sacred sites for tribal citizens. At Werowocomoco, Powhatan, the leader of many Algonquian tribes, lived and subsequently met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English. On one visit in 1609, the English forced Powhatan to bow so they could crown him as a ruler in Virginia.
The Native Americans were increasingly unwilling to trade and wary of English intentions. Attempts at cooperation steadily led to conflict, and Powhatan moved his headquarters farther inland. Werowocomoco soon fell silent. The land at Werowocomoco was cultivated for crops and timber from the early days of colonial Virginia, either by a single family or small cluster of neighbors. There is no indication that they maintained any direct association of the land with Werowocomoco or its importance to native and colonial history.
Nothing above ground remains of the Indian community that lived here. The rural landscape is largely intact. However, clues to the past still lie in the earth. Fields and forests at the site surround a private, single-family home, situated at the end of a long gravel road with a view of Purtan Bay and the York River beyond. Indians moved away from Werowocomoco in 1609. In the centuries that followed, Indian heritage was both neglected and suppressed. Source: National Parks Service.

 

 

 

 

What is: the original signage at the Lorraine hotel before it became the motel. During the creation of the National Civil Rights Museum in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the original hotel building was renovated to include reminders of what the hotel looked like before being transformed into the the motor court in the 1950s/60s.

What was: The signage on the Mulberry Street-Huling Avenue side promises steaks, shrimp and fish. It still entices some visitors who don’t realize at first that it’s part of the museum, not a restaurant.

Walter and Loree Bailey bought what had been the Marquette Hotel in 1945. The Baileys renamed the hotel the Lorraine for Loree Bailey and the Nat King Cole song “Sweet Lorraine.”

In the era of racial segregation, an African-American traveling for any reason had few hotels to stay at and couldn’t go to just any restaurant in the immediate vicinity. So the Bailey’s added a restaurant. The kitchen is where Loree Bailey prepared food for the motel’s guests.

Figures like Cab Calloway and Count Basie, along with Stax Records musicians used the Lorraine as a creative oasis of sorts. The Lorraine hosted doctors, lawyers, salesmen, businessmen, families on vacation, and those traveling America after World War II who were determined to change the segregated society they returned to after fighting for their country.

Isaac Hayes reminisced, “We’d go down to the Lorraine Motel and we’d lay by the pool and Mr. Bailey would bring us fried chicken and we’d eat ice cream. . . . We’d just frolic until the sun goes down and [then] we’d go back to work.”

Two famous songs, “In the Midnight Hour” and “Knock on Wood,” were written at the motel.

More here

 

What is: all that is left were the signs at the side of the road.

What was: Opened in 1935, as the Santa Rosa stretch of Route 66 was completed, The Club Café was a staple of the early Route 66.

It had a blue-tiled frontage and smiling ‘Fat Man’ logo, a happy gent wearing a polka dot tie and looking delighted after, presumably, dining on the Club Café’s home cooking–including the more than two million sourdough biscuits sold as it advertised. In its heyday, the parking lot was filled…with cars and buses.

Along came I-40 and the changing consumer demand for fast foods at big chains. The club closed for good in 1992. New owners thought of bringing it back to life, but the building required $750,000.00 of work so it was demolished. The signs remained until a couple years ago… tattered by wind, sunlight and rust they were removed and sold to a collector.

There is now significant alarm and concern within the Route 66 community over the continued removal of these priceless roadside attractions.

What is: “Self serve Diesel” but no pumps…the lights are still there and so is the sign. The garage remains too…but not the diner.

What was: The truck terminal dated back to the heyday of Route 66 in the early 1960s, maybe as early as 1955. The neon wheels, the cowboy truck driver, and his animated hand waved during its hey day.

It was one of seven truck stops and five cafes originally built and operated by Bessie (Rogers) Boren and husband Ira Lionel Boren of the Fort Sumner-based Rio Pecos Oil Company.“We had it from 1963 to 1969,” Martinez said. “We were doing a hell of a business at that truck stop.”The business declined from other truck-stop competition and the coming of Interstate 40.  It closed by the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Since then, it has become a growing eyesore to the city because it drew vandals and homeless squatters. The city tried to buy the sign…the owner wanted too much for it.