Elk…in the Park?

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In other blogs, we’ve talked about the goals of the Park as they pertained to planting. However, one of the main goals for Anna Hyatt Huntington (renowned sculptor and wife of Archer Huntington) was to have a wildlife sanctuary. She sculpted live animals, when she could, to give life and realism to her work. For several years, we had a permitted wildlife sanctuary in the Park! Of the projects from the early years of the Park, our wildlife endeavor was the longest, lasting until almost 1950.

Work on securing wildlife for the Park didn’t begin until a year after the start of a majority of the construction. The Lake was a big component of the wildlife sanctuary and accordingly, its completion was necessary before animals could come in. The first permit we applied for was with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a waterfowl enclosure in August of 1931. In that first application, we asked for 35 Canada geese to put in a goose range in the Lake. Dr. Albert K. Fisher, ornithologist and President of the American Ornithologists’ Union, served as our wildlife consultant. In August of 1932, he wrote that the goose range, “will be one of the finest, if not the finest, in the United States.”   Read more

Great Plants Create a Great Park

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What is a great park without some beautiful landscaping? In the last blog, I laid out early plans for the Park. Today, we’ll focus on the plants. The early work moved at a remarkable pace. Within one month of our incorporation, we were already planning landscapes around the Park. As we’ve mentioned before, it was Archer Huntington’s early goal to see a representative of every tree and shrub in Virginia in the Park. Accordingly, that goal was a huge focus in the early stages.

In early documents from William Gatewood, Museum Project Manager, to Homer Ferguson, President of the Shipyard, he described the point of the flora in the Park. The plantings were to,   Read more

From Waters to Mariners’, The Making of a Lake

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Did you know Virginia has only two natural lakes? The rest are man-made, including our very own Mariners’ Lake! It holds the title as the first, and the oldest, project started on the grounds of The Mariners’ Museum Park. Before the purchase of the land surrounding it, The Mariners’ Lake was a salt marsh creek called Waters Creek, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Watts Creek. You can learn more about that, here! Apart from the vision of creating a maritime museum, Archer Huntington (our founder and owner of the Newport News Shipyard) and his wife Anna Hyatt (renowned sculptor), wanted to create a wildlife sanctuary. They also wanted a place to display several of Anna’s sculptures. The rural setting and proximity to the Shipyard helped to make this spot the ideal location. You can read more about why this area was chosen, here.

Although our official birthday is June 2nd, planning for the Lake and Park began months prior. In December of 1929, internal memos show that land acquisition was already being discussed and negotiations had started. In a memo from Homer Ferguson, President of the Newport News Shipyard, to Archer Huntington:   Read more

A Great Plan Creates Great Plants

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The Mariners’ Museum Park was meticulously planned out. Early goals of the Park included a wildlife sanctuary and a tree of each species found in Virginia. Land purchases began in March of 1930 and lasted for three years until 44 parcels had been purchased, ultimately equalling over 820 acres, to make these dreams a reality. Our original Park extended from the James River shoreline to modern-day Jefferson Avenue. 

As the land purchases were completed, work began on the roads to access the Park. As you can see from the map above, all roads were on the edges of the Park except for Warwick Boulevard, then named only Route 60. Both Archer Huntington, the founder of our Museum and owner of the Newport News Shipyard, and his wife Anna Hyatt, renowned sculptor, thought to keep all roads on the exterior of the Park enhanced its beauty and created a true wildlife sanctuary.   Read more

Science in the Field – Measuring Your Soil Acidity

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Forester of The Mariners’ Museum and Park employed 1930-1935

One of the coolest things about working at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is seeing how science has been, well, a thing, since the very beginning.  The fact that we were doing soil pH measurement as early as the 1930’s is something that deserves a little more discussion.

A Little History

Early in the creation of the Park, our forester George Mason (shown below) and consultant Ralph Hayes, a professor at North Carolina State University, conducted a pH (acidity) soil survey of the grounds at the direction of the Museum’s Garden Committee. Mason and Hayes performed tests to ensure the success of 3,920 azaleas and rhododendrons on Lake promontories. Over time, the plantings disappeared through natural forest succession. However, that early soil testing was vital in the planting of the entire Park.   Read more