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

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

Living the Wild Life

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Loblolly pine tree in the Park.
Loblolly pine tree in The Mariners’ Museum Park. Photographed by Amanda Shields.

When you take a walk along the Noland Trail or picnic at Lions Bridge, have you ever thought about the different plants and animals that call The Mariners’ Museum Park home? To date, we have discovered 523 different species live in the Park. This incredible number includes birds, insects, plants and trees, reptiles, and many more. Below are just a few highlights.

Trees   Read more

The White Oak Tree with a Hidden Past

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Image describing how to treat a tree from A Shade Tree Guide in 1918.
Image from A Shade Tree Guide by the New Jersey Department of Conservation and Development, 1918.

On the morning of August 27, 2011, Hurricane Irene blew through Newport News with high winds and rain. The Mariners’ Museum Park fared quite well with only 40 trees down, compared to 3,000 downed trees from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. However, once the storm had passed and the damage assessed, we discovered that the oldest known tree in the Park was one of the 40. A 355-year-old white oak tree in Williams Field. To say that Park staff was devastated is an understatement!

Luckily, the story doesn’t stop there! Upon closer inspection, we discovered a hidden history beyond its impressive age! There was concrete running through a majority of the tree, stabilized with what appeared to be handmade nails. Who put it there? How long ago was it put in? WHY was it put in? It was obvious that it had been there for a while. And we assumed that an injury of some sort had occurred to the tree and it was “fixed” with concrete. But for years, that’s all we had.   Read more