In Texas, it takes up to 10-12 hours to get out of state, so it’s nice to be in New England, where you can go through 2-3 states in a single day. Thus it was we left Connecticut in the morning, spent most of the day in Rhode Island, and ended up in Massachusetts.
Rhode Island State Capitol – Francisco Peña
Our first goal of the day was to get to Providence, Rhode Island, where we had planned 2-3 stops. Almost immediately after arriving in Providence, we were welcomed by the Rhode Island State House, a building we agreed looked similar to our own Texas State Capitol. (Well, in Texas, Canadian geese don’t roam the front lawn and there’s no snow for throwing snowballs.)
The building was designed and constructed by New Yorkers between 1895 and 1904 in the capital city of Providence. A statue guards the top of the dome, which we later learned is referred to as the Independent Man (originally named “Hope”).
Our enthusiastic and well-informed tour guide, Liam, began with an explanation of the interior of the capitol’s dome. On the ceiling is a mural (sometimes called the “justice blue”) of Roger Williams’ arrival as the founder of Rhode Island and his relationship with the American Indians.
Just beneath the mural are large medallions at the four corners which support the dome’s structure, along with four female figures that depict Education, Justice, Literature, and Commerce.
Liam shared with us that the Rhode Island State House’s rotunda is the fourth largest self-supporting dome in the world; right under St. Peter’s Basilica, Minnesota’s State Capitol, and the Taj Mahal. It was impressive.
We visited the Rhode Island Senate chamber which accommodates 38 members; interestingly, there are 39 state senatorial seats, relating to each city in Rhode Island, but with two cities being so small, they’ve combined their representation. (That is unlike anything we experience in Texas government.)
Directly opposite the senate chamber is the House of Representatives, which seats 75 members. Each chamber is distinctive in its own way. In the Senate chamber above the rostrum are the seals of the original thirteen states, with a public gallery underneath the seals.
The House chamber holds two public galleries, and each representative has a small but solid oak desk.
Covering two walls are silk tapestries of ancient Rome and Greece, with some Rhode Island references added. This room is also where the Governor gives the State of the State Address.
The State Room, an entrance to the Governor’s office, includes several portraits of Rhode Islanders who were a major influence in the state. We took the opportunity to take pictures at the Governor’s podium.
Who would have imagined that we would get to see a cannon with a cannonball still lodged in the barrel?
The cannon was damaged during the Battle of Gettysburg. Along the walls where the cannon is staged were battle flags carried by Rhode Island regiments dating from the Revolutionary War through World War I.
Our last stop was the Charter Museum. The museum displayed priceless documents and artifacts.
We were fascinated to see the Royal Charter of 1663 granted by King Charles II of England, even if we couldn’t decipher the elaborate Old-English calligraphy.
This was probably our favorite Capitol tour, and although we had many good tour guides, Liam was tops.
Rhode Island School of Design (“RISD”) Museum – Sawyer Massie
Tucked away in the urban district of Providence is the Rhode Island School of Design, a university founded in 1877 (two years before Sam Houston State University). The exterior of the building was unique in that it was a modern style of architecture while adjacent edifices were more Colonial.
Combined with the actual school, the museum did not encompass the entire building. We found a good starting point, a gallery with modern and contemporary art mixed in with new media and paintings. New media, as we soon found out, translates to fashion, textile art, and carpentry. Therefore, when the elevator doors opened, we were greeted with a furniture set designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a familiar name for the LEAP Ambassadors by now, and an original painting by Picasso.
We stopped and marveled at a piece done by Fernand Léger, who taught Huntsville’s famous sculptor, David Adickes.
Other most notable pieces were done by Marsden Hartley…
and Alexander Calder…
…one of the most frequently seen by LEAP this trip.
Unfortunately, one floor was closed for renovations, so we could not take the elevator, but this led to us most serendipitously finding a hidden gem. Hanging above the landing of the stairs we used was an elegant glass sculpture created by none other than Dale Chihuly. The chandelier, entitled “Gilded Frost and Jet,” was my favorite piece in the Museum.
In the modern gallery, we were hardly surprised when we saw paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Cassatt – some of the most well-known in the world. What did astonish us, however, was the room dedicated solely to French impressionists. This room contained a large selection from artists we had not seen as often in our recent art museum excursions. Among these people were Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, and Claude Monet.
We breezed through the rest of the galleries, as contemporary art of the 19th century in the forms of furniture and bedroom sets was not as appealing as lunch at this point in the day.
Providence Oyster Bar (or locally known as “POB”) – Sawyer Massie
The rule for all LEAP events (as possible) is that we eat at restaurants that reflect the location or events that we are attending. In Rhode Island, this led us to the Providence Oyster Bar, a fresh food eatery located just across town from the RISD Museum. We were told that all fish and shellfish is brought in daily from the harbor so, naturally, we ordered an entire platter of raw clams and oysters. Already, this was a new experience for two Ambassadors since they had never eaten either before. When the order was delivered to our table, they were first to try them. Surprisingly, both enjoyed them! After our entrees arrived, the table was cluttered with lobster bisque, clam chowder, and the most delicious (and only) lobster roll I have ever tasted. We couldn’t have asked for a better Rhode Island dining experience.
Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and Museum – Victoria McClendon-Leggett
Perhaps eating, even a great meal, before visiting the scene of a historically gruesome crime was not the best idea. A couple of us already knew the story of one of America’s most infamous murder cases, but others didn’t, and this gave them the opportunity to learn about Lizzie Borden, a homely townswoman accused of brutally murdering her mother and father. With an axe. We were taken through the events of that fateful day in the order they occurred, starting with breakfast that morning. Our tour guide was adamant that Lizzie did not commit the heinous crime, and we became convinced, too, as he gave us more history on Lizzie and the rest of her family. Or, perhaps we just wanted to be agreeable because he carried an axe.
We started in the front room, then were led through the dining room and several upstairs bedrooms as our tour guide explained how the day transpired. We learned that Abby Borden died first while she was cleaning the upstairs guest room…
…and, a few moments later, Andrew Borden was attacked on the couch in the first floor living room.
Lizzie was at home at the time of the murder but claimed to have been in the basement. Lizzie was the original suspect, but women were not allowed to serve on juries at the time. This worked to her favor because the men on the jury (like most men at that time) viewed women as fragile and could not imagine a lady committing such horrible acts.
Lizzie was found not guilty after ten minutes of deliberation, seven of which were spent waiting out of respect for the murdered victims.
The tour ended in the kitchen in the back of the house, where we learned about how Lizzie Borden lived out her days after she was acquitted.
She bought a new house to try and start over after the tragedy, and she was a model citizen until her death in 1927. We left the house shivering a bit, mostly from the cold, and headed to our next destination.
The Adams House – Sawyer Massie
On our way to Boston, we stopped at the house that two presidents lived in: John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Although it was closed, we certainly enjoyed seeing such a beautiful and historically-significant American landmark.
Plymouth Rock – Sawyer Massie
We detoured to the place at which the Plymouth Colony was first founded: Plymouth Rock. It is said that this is the exact rock at which the Mayflower docked.
Upon arriving, we were greeted with a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean with lighthouses on tiny islands dotting the horizon.
The Plymouth Rock, ensconced beneath a granite canopy, left us awestruck. Although it is solely a boulder with the engraved year “1620,” we couldn’t believe we were in the presence of a relic that we had previously only read about in textbooks.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts – Makayla Mason
Founded in 1870, the original Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was built in Copley Square and opened to the public on July 4, 1876, during the Nation’s Centennial celebrations. In 1909, the museum moved to its current location on Huntington Avenue. Now, the MFA is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world with more than 450,000 works of art.
It did not take us long before we found the 42.5 foot tall glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly titled “Lime Green Icicle Tower” installed in the spacious café and sitting area. In fact, it’s hard to miss!
Including the ground floor, we had four floors to explore. We started with the Art of the Americas section across multiple floors and included many portraits, furniture, and hand-made items such as chinaware and lamps. We found several portraits by Gilbert Stuart, known for his portraiture. Most notably, Stuart is known for the portrait of George Washington that we see every day on the $1 bill.
For the rest of our time at the museum we split up and explored different exhibits including the Art of Asia, Oceania, Africa, Art of the Ancient World, and Contemporary Art. We saw some of our favorites, including Edward Hopper…
…and John Singleton Copley, and his famous painting “Watson and the Shark.”
We also found a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln sculpted by Daniel Chester French, the artist who created the Lincoln Memorial.
We even stopped and took a picture at the mirrors for the rotunda.
Full of art, but empty of stomach, we called it a day after sightseeing for 14 hours and picked up a homemade pizza or two from Prince’s Pizza on Broadway, and tucked in for the night.