We’re here

Saturday was our first full day in Kenya. We’ve just finished lunch; stopping in an internet cafe that is owned by Sarah Senewa, one of our Maasai friends. This is one example of how the women are creating their own destiny.

I’m sorry for not adding a picture; just wanted to let all of you know that we arrived safely after an 18 hour flight in the air.

Already I’m making notes on future posts which won’t be on The Bucks Underground Railroad until I return next week.

By the way, if you’re ever in Ngong Hills, and need to email home, go to the Osotua Cafe.

Since then, we attended a Maasai church service on Sunday. We showed QUENCH to the congregation. Many young people there were too young to even know or understand the challenge of walking up to seven miles for water.

Today we visited Member of Parliament Moses ole Sakuda, a Maasai who is doing wonderful things for the Maasai community. We gifted him with two Obama T-shirts and absolutely loves them.

The weather is like summer. We don’t miss the cold at all; everybody asks us how cold it is back home.

Have taken over a hundred digi pics and am on my third roll of film. I filmed the church service (it was 4 hrs long). Exceptional.

Probably won’t have an opportunity to post again. No wi-fi at the village.

Tomorrow we visit the schools and wells; On Wednesday the beaders will gather at Susan’s home (she is the wife of Francis ole Sakuda, Exec Director of SIMOO). We’ll be buying stuff!

Sorry for no pictures as unable to download from my camera at the cyber cafe./

So much more to come.


Return to the Motherland

?????????????????Today, February 19 I travel to Kenya, East Africa—the Cradle of Civilization. This is my fourth Sojourn to the Motherland and my second to Kenya. In my other two Sojourns, 1999 carried my soul to Ghana where I walked inside the dungeons that imprisoned my African ancestors. In 2000 I rubbed  my hands across finely carved blocks of stone that created the Egyptian Pyramids.

I will travel with Phyllis Eckelmeyer and Alice Sparks. We form the volunteer triage for the Maasai Cultural Exchange Project (MCEP). For eight days we will live in the Maasai village of Olosho oibor–a village that is thriving because of the generous financial support from thousands of adults and school children in Bucks County and beyond.

When MCEP was founded in 2005 the goal was to raise funds for the drilling of a well that would bring potable water to the Maasai. Seen below at left is the first well–Christy’s Well— named so for its generous benefactor. This well was drilled in December 2005. It continues to bring potable water to the 5,000 Maasai living in Olosho oibor. A film crew accompanied MCEP Co-founders Phyllis Eckelmeyer and Jennifer Ellsworth to this drilling. A half hour documentary, QUENCH is completed and will be distributed to schools and other supporters of MCEP.

Ten years on–

7-2005 *There are now seven wells sited across Maasailand.

*One hundred Maasai children are benefitting from education sponsorships.

*The Maasai have installed pipelines and cisterns that carry water from the wells to schools, greenhouses and infirmaries.

*Maasai women have established a beading co-op that brings additional income into their households.

I’ll journal while in Kenya as blogging might be impossible with our busy itinerary. We’ll tour the wells, the schools, the greenhouses and meet with Maasai who have been instrumental in many of these improvements. We are also excited about the prospect of filming elder Maasai women while they retell ancient and indigenous folktales that have been carried down from previous generations. The Maasai language is not written down; and from these oral stories we will print children’s coloring books, similar to one we printed in 2011 titled The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel.

What’s on My Bucket List for Kenya? 1) Inhale the scent of Africa as soon as I walk outside of the Nairobi Air Terminal; 2) Rise early one morning to milk a cow; 3) Feel the burden of carrying a jerry can on my back filled with water; 4) Visit the Market in Ngong Hills; 5) Walk the earth in the Rift Valley; 6) Attend the Maasai Sunday church service; 7) And everything else to absorb this last half of Black History Month 2015 while I Sojourn in Kenya, East Africa.



Graffiti on East Court Street (a teaser)

In the late 1950s, as teenagers we always joked how Doylestown was a ‘hick town’, especially 9:00 at night when you could lay down on the middle of Main Street between Oakland Avenue and State Street—and not get run over by a car. I never tried it. Maybe some did.

This incident of graffiti as noted in the title occurred when the 1877 Court House was in the midst of demolition to make way for the current County Administration Building and Court Rotunda.

One actor has been interviewed but there is another (and possibly more) who took part in this episode where they painted a message across the construction fence that surrounded the demolition site. Another CH construction picMy search continues for the photograph showing that message of indignant sorrow for the loss of our beautiful old Court House. It’s an integral part of Graffiti on East Court Street. The image at left was also taken in 1958. The clock tower with the spirals on the four sides was a signature feature seen in many of the structures designed by Addison Hutton.

Preservation Zero. Progress One.

The recent ribbon cutting of the completed Bucks County Justice Center recalls a time nearly 60 years ago, a drama that also caused citizens to question the cost, the location and the construction of a tall building in downtown Doylestown. It also recalled to me, an incident that happened in 1958.

Back in 1958 the demolition to tear down the 1877 County Courthouse caused many Doylestown residents to plead saving the 19th Century Courthouse: Their was “Leave it there and build someplace else!”. Jump to 2011 when citizens again raised their voices insisting the Justice Center should be built on a property at North Main Street (Mrs. Paul’s Kitchen, vacant since 1988). The People’s voices were ignored and the County government to this day continues at “… the top of the hill.”

Plug your search engines to The History of Bucks County by W.W.H.Davis (b.1820—d.1910). First published in 1876  it is an online book that devotes an entire chapter to Bucks County heritage. Davis wrote several books but thisFirst Doylestown CH “History …” details our Bucks’ heritage beginning with a Chapter about our County government when the “… first court house…was probably in Falls Township.” Chapter XLVII, Our Courts: County Seat; Division of County; Building of Almshouse, records the progressive changes of our County seat beginning at Middletown then to Langhorne then to Bristol then to Newtown and finally in 1812 to Doylestown. (Picture above).

By 1877 the new Courthouse was necessary when the business of the County had outgrown that 1812 structure. The next building also stood at the top of the hill until 1958. It was then demolished to make way for the current building–The Toilet Bowl.

Growing up in Doylestown I’m old enough to remember the 1877 Courthouse (Picture Below). My one and only time to go inside was in my early teens. I was breathless looking up and around the amphitheater that was like a cavernous coliseum.

An article in “Doylestown: 150 Years (1838-1988)” 1877 ch picturewrote in their Living Spaces website–

“By the late 1860’s, Bucks County was rapidly outgrowing its courthouse. On October 3, 1877, State Attorney General George Lear turned the first spadeful of earth for a new courthouse on the same site. The completed building was highlighted by a clock tower that rose high above the rest of 1878 Doylestown.

“In addition to the clock tower and the surrounding park, another memorable feature of this second courthouse was its dramatic courtrooms. One was a high-ceilinged amphitheater which could hold as many as 500 spectators in tiered seats. It was in this amphitheater that the first grand jury was convened in the newly finished courthouse.”

Like many long-time residents there remains a place in my heart for that structure. I’m sad that it was destroyed.

I recently discovered that the 1877 courthouse was designed by Philadelphia architect Addison Hutton. His granddaughter, Elizabeth Biddle Yarnall wrote about her grandfather in her book, Addison Hutton—Quaker Architect, 1834-1916.

Born into a Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania Quaker family, Addison was the 2nd of 5 siblings with 2 sisters and 2 brothers. When he was old enough Addison joined his father building houses, work he enjoyed and was instrumental in shaping his life as an architect.  An avid reader since the age of four, Addison’s schooling alternated with carpentry and soon he was teaching at the Fairview Schoolhouse which he had helped build with his father.

He left Pennsylvania for a short time to live in Ohio with relatives where he honed his skills as a carpenter. One of his co-workers taught him the rudiments ofAddison Hutton architectural drawing which Addison much enjoyed. Soon after returning to Westmoreland County his life changed when a leading Philadelphia architect, Samuel Sloan came to Greensburg to oversee the courthouse Sloan had designed. During Sloan’s stay he asked for recommendations about young man who would be interested in coming to Philadelphia to study architecture.

There was no formal school for architecture in Philadelphia. Instead it was a profession learned at architectural firms. Addison began his employment at Sloan’s firm as a draftsman. Within the pages of Yarnall’s book she writes how architects gained their experience by studying buildings and structures often by traveling to Europe. In his later years, after he gained success with his designs Addison did just that. Buildings in Doylestown still standing include the Lenape Building, the Intelligencer Building, the Presbyterian Church, and Bucks County Prison (now Michener Museum). Structures he designed beyond Doylestown can be discovered at Lehigh University, Swarthmore College, George School, Philadelphia, Lincoln University and dozens of stately homes throughout the Delaware Valley and along eastern United States.

Addison kept his Quaker roots and was described by his granddaughter as a “Nonconforming Quaker”. He attended Meetings but also enjoyed outings, traveling, the theater, art, and the fiddle which he learned to play as a youngster. He doted on his children and kept in close touch with the extended families of his sisters and brothers.

Probably one of Addison Hutton’s biggest disappointments was losing the 1901 design competition for Harrisburg’s new state capitol. In her book Yarnall writes the details including how and why this event caused her grandfather to be expelled from the Philadelphia AIA.

Yarnall’s book is not in the Bucks County Free Library system. Gratitude to the staff at the Doylestown Branch for a loan of this book from Kutztown State College. Readers…you can purchase this book through Amazon.

Next time on The Bucks Underground Railroad: In 1958 Doylestown, the high school students who succeeded in painting a protest message across a five-foot wooden fence that surrounded the Courthouse triangle construction site in Doylestown.