Thursday, August 13, 2009

Glen Echo Park, the Clara Barton House, Clemyjontri Playground and Claude Moore Farm

I know - this is a lot of adventures in one post, but there you go:

Back when I was recovering from my surgery I stumbled upon a little jewel on the interweb - during the summer at the Clara Barton House they put on a free 2-day camp for kids! A FREE camp?? How could I resist? So I immediately called and got Sheely in the final session (Xavey was too young).

I arrived super early on Tuesday because, surprise - there was NO traffic. I forgot that Congress is having vacation. Better early than late, I guess. I hit enough traffic later on to make up for it :) ANYWAY.

The Clara Barton House is the home that darling Clara lived in during her later life, and for a long time it was actually the warehouse and headquarters for the Red Cross of America. I dropped Sheely off in the tender care of a park ranger and then the boys and I were on our own. I went to the GPS and looked for historical sites nearby and WAHOO! I found a multitude of choices. I opted for The Claude Moore Farm - just a short jaunt across the Potomac into Virginia (seriously, a 10 minute drive away). We arrived and things looked a little quiet. Turns out, it's not open on Monday or Tuesday. That figures :) Luckily, on the way (like, across the street) I noticed a playground I've been meaning to go to for ages: Clemyjontri Park!! I may have made a squeal of joy at my luck - I've never been sure of how to spell it so I could never find directions, I just had heard about it from friends. It is a fantastically huge all-abilities playground.

ANYWAY. We went to the playground in the very sweaty stickiness! The kids had such a blast. We ran around a maze and scared each other, I spun them on the tireswing (I've got a special move called "the tornado") and I took them for a ride on the merry-go-round. Xavey made some friends and played all kinds of running and climbing games while Preston stuck close to me and did his own thing on the huge climber. I realized I had a friend that lived nearby that I hadn't seen for ages, so I called her and sweet Michelle dragged her children to the playground for some funtimes and chatting.When it was time to be out of the sun and in the car we drove back over to Clara Barton which happens to share a parking lot with Glen Echo Park. I've been hearing about Glen Echo for ages also but have never made my way over there. I didn't know anything about it, though, so Xavey and I learned together as we did his own Junior Ranger Booklet. There was a sticker-bingo game (a scavenger hunt), he designed his own ride and we learned a lot about the history of the park. First it was a Chautauqua Center, then for a long time it was an amusement park (the first bumper cars in the world were build there!) and now it's like a giant artist colony/historic site/place to hang out. There's a playground where the sandy beach/swimming pool was back in the day. The bumper cars pavilion now hosts outdoor dances and shows. While we were there playing (both days) there was an Irish Dance school practicing on that floor and so Irish music floated throughout the grounds the entire time. There's a puppet theater and a children's theater as well as every kind of cultural arts class you could possibly imagine.

PLUS there is a giant carousel, the original from the time the park began to be an amusement park. We took a ride on Wednesday and I kept thinking about all the generations of people who had sat on those horses - it was built in 1921 or something. If you're a history nerd like me and want to know more, here's the lowdown. The ranger even took the camp kids on it!After our first day of hanging out there we went back to the Clara Barton House in time to catch the last tour through the house before camp was over for the day. Yes, I took my two sons. No, it was not the best idea on the planet but I had no idea of when I'd get the chance to go through it again and since there was only one other guy and his daughter that were going to do the tour, it seemed like as good a time as any.

Plus, the boys did great! They asked all kinds of questions (some relevant, others not so...) and were genuinely interested in the house and Clara herself. We watched a neat video about her life that actually made me a little misty-eyed at one point. What an AMAZING WOMAN. I never knew what an interesting life she led or even how famous she was while she was alive. I'm overflowing with information about her that for some reason feels really important. I hope I can come away from this earth doing for others even a tiny portion of what she did.The house itself is massive and we did a scavenger hunt in there also. The boys got a bandage put on their legs and they pretended to be wounded soldiers. We saw the giant red cross windows and learned about how even visitors to the Clara Barton House had to work during their stay (she had sewing machines in the guest rooms!) To save time and money, Clara nailed bandages to the walls instead of covering them with plaster :)

After camp that day the kids and I went up to my moms to spend an evening together and had a sleepover in the basement (first watching two episodes of Psych with my mom, of course).

Next day, more fun! Sheely's first day at camp was all about Clara Barton - they did behind the scenes stuff, some archeology, took a crack at plastering walls, had crazy obstacle course type games and generally got Sheely wanting to be a park ranger when she grows up. The second day for her was all about Glen Echo. The ranger booklet here is cool - it's actually both in one - one side is Clara Barton and if you turn it over and upside down, it's Glen Echo! How fabulous.

While Sheely did her thing, the boys and I went BACK to Claude Moore Farm, since it was open on Wednesday :) The farm is set up as a poor tenant farm circa 1771. What I think of this place:

*easy to find and inexpensive ($7 for all three of us)
*woodsy and peaceful
*friendly costumed interpreters - when there was a two-handed saw Xavier wanted to try (a no-no), they led us over to a field where a tree had fallen down and demonstrated it for us*small, so not too much walking, it was just enough - but probably not big enough to drive down there just for that
*lots of animals walking around, entertaining Xavier and TERRIFYING Preston if they got close*some things to touch for the kids - a few old time toys, corn to grind*fun paths to walk (one takes you to a "spring" where there's fresh water and a tiny stream), sticks everywhere, a pasture with no cows that we could find but a glorious fence that entertained my kids for 20 minutes while they pretended to be soldiers*picnic tables in the shade, perfect for a snack and some work on the Junior Ranger book

Really, it was a great outing. Xavier probably took 60 pictures of random things and had a ball. We were probably there for an hour and fifteen minutes and we were all happy the entire time (except for Preston and his geese fear).

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Glen Echo, watching the Irish dancers, playing on the playground, watching my sons wrestle on a stage while other parents (or, really, I'm thinking nannies) watched them also, assuming I would stop them soon. Nope. I bought a cup of ice and was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was for my boys to eat big pieces of ice.When we got back to Clara's, the kids were presented with their Junior Ranger badges and I felt like it was two days worth of effort well spent. We learned a lot, we played hard, I had some quality time with my boys, Sheely got to be a VIP at a National Park site, I got a better appreciation for the history of that part of Maryland, I got four new NP passport stamps and marked four new outings off my list.


hdknowles said...

You bring back such memories for me. I spent many a day at Glen Echo Park - it was like an adventure, traveling from Arlington over the bridge to DC and Glen Echo. The carousel - how we loved to ride on that for hours and hours. And they had this tremendously large pool we used to swim in. Glad you are discovering the little hidden treasures of the DC area.

Melissa said...

I don't know if they still have it, but when we lived there (eons ago), there was a storytelling festival in late-summer/early-fall at Glen Echo Park. We went a couple of times, and had a blast. It is a fun place to be. :)