If you are a writer, are you dependent on real places?
If you are a reader, do you enjoy visiting the places you read about?
When I was in college my father was a circuit rider in Maine. He served three Universalist churches, Livermore Falls, Livermore, and North Jay. There was a fourth church, a little building on the property of the Washburn estate, The Norlands. It was open only in the summer. Preachers on vacation could pick up a small stipend, for a sermon, probably recycled from the winter at their own churches. I think my father preached there once a year.
While we were living in the Falls, the steeple of the Norlands church was felled by a hurricane. The last bit of knowledge I had about it was there was no money to replace it.
Fast forward years. I can't remember who told me, maybe my mother, that the site had been opened as a living history museum, and that one of the girls I had known when I was in college was associated with it. The staff of the museum offered a course to U. Maine students who were prospective history teachers. It was an immersion weekend of daily life activities from the 1870s.
Check it out here: http://www.norlands.org/
In 1999 I scraped together enough money to pay for the weekend and rent a car to drive up from Boston. I brought with me the dress I made and mentioned in the first blog in the series.
We cooked, cleaned, cared for the animals, and did other farm chores.
The staff had photo copies of the town records for the time, so we spent afternoons looking into our characters. I was the wife of a saddle maker. Imagine my surprise when I found out she died several years before the 1870's date of the weekend.
Sunday was church followed by dinner, to which the minister had been invited.
I am usually pretty much in control of my emotions but I found it impossible to enter the church for the Sunday service. I stood in the vestibule for some time after having sent my "children" in to the service.
I had recovered enough by dinner to question the minister about his sermon. I finally got to use the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" in the dinner conversation. That was a first and a last.
There is an island in the Delaware River just south of Wilmington called Pea Patch Island, a corruption of Pip Ash Island. The location is important since it restricts river traffic to Philadelphia and Trenton. The island is marshy and building on it was iffy, since anything of any weight sank into the slime.
Try this: http://www.destateparks.com/park/fort-delaware/
A bit before the civil war, the army was successful in building a fort of granite, brick and earthworks. It was meant to be an artillery strong point, but ended up being a prison camp for Confederate soldiers and Delaware Residents who favored the rebel cause. Delaware was one of a few slave states that remained loyal to the Union. Northern Delaware favored the North in the war while Southern Delaware favored the South. While the state as whole remained loyal to Lincoln, there was an active reverse underground railroad.
Fort Delaware is now a state park. Once a year they have a weekend of living history called Garrison Weekend. Re-enactors come from everywhere, North and South.
It was at a Garrison Weekend when I crossed to the island in the ferry with a woman trying to keep control of her clothing that I decided I was never going to wear a hoop skirt. Glad I missed that fashion trend.
Of course there are other sites that are important to me and my writing, but these are the ones that I think were essential to my development.