Sunday, March 18, 2012

Visiting Parson Weems's House

A bit of a break from my normal discussions about teaching and technology:

Today, my family and I had the chance to visit a house once owned by Parson (Mason Locke) Weems, famed for writing the first biography of George Washington (and the man responsible for introducing that silly story about Washington chopping down the cherry tree as a child).  The house is for sale at auction next month and today was an open house.  My family doesn't have much chance of buying it (though I was assured that it could well sell for "under a million"), but we enjoyed touring the house and the 25 acre grounds of Bel Air (especially since after the sale, it's likely to be inaccessible again as a private residence).

Originally built in the 1740s, it was renovated in the late 19th Century and again in the mid- and late 20th Century.  It is oddly accessed by driving through a very modern neighborhood (a contrast which I tried to capture in the last group of pictures in the Flickr slideshow at the bottom of the page).  There is a great deal of land that comes with the house, but the house itself is quite close to the neighborhood and a nearby modern church building.  Still, the house is a wonderful blend of the modern and the colonial, from the formal sitting rooms on the main floor (see image below) to the wireless router and laser printer in the office, from the servant staircase that leads to a door on the second floor living room and the full hearth in the same room as the modernized kitchen appliances.  The grounds would be a wonderful place for a garden party, although they could use a little work.  There is also a small family graveyard, where Weems is apparently (though not definitively) buried.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with my family.  Now we just have to start a Kickstarter fundraiser to be able to buy the house ourselves.

Formal Sitting Room on Main Floor (captured using Photosynth)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Vote now on the UMW decade sites

The research sites on the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s that my US Women's History students have created as part of our project to re-create the Mary Washington college classroom experience are now up on the course site.

Please check the sites out, and vote for the site that you think provides the best set of resources for our class to actually re-create the classroom experience.