Ranger Doug goes to Washington

After 40 years, almost to the day, I returned to Washington DC to lobby for the Arctic Refuge. This ceremony took place at “the triangle” which is directly outside the US Capitol Building. Attending are Wilderness Society president Bill Meadows, Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO) and, of course……..Ranger Doug.

The Udalls have walked the talk–by hiking the entire Brooks Range and rafting each of the eleven river systems. Mark stated that Udalls are so thick in the SW that you can’t spit without hitting one. Tom’s definition of wilderness is when something is out there that you can’t see but is willing to eat you. Of course, I tell my bear story….

But first, let me explain the 40th anniversary of my first visit here….

I met with Richard Nixon on May 14, 1970 after the Kent State shootings–we were the only student group to access the White House and the President: (“Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain!”)

You can read more in the Newsweek May 25, 1970 edition in “Youth Wants to Know” where I’m quoted as the “clean-cut leader of….American youth” This quote appears prominently on my resume, of course.

But, Richard didn’t listen to my sage advice so I had him impeached….but I waited for him to first sign the Wilderness Act–my reason for coming back 40 years later….

About a year ago, the Sierra Club approached me about a poster design to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Arctic Refuge. And here is our design featuring Mardy and Olaus Murie who spent their lives preserving this wonderful place–a considerable effort given that Mardy lived to 101! For more information about the refuge, read Mardy’s book “Two in the Far North.”

Also see our previous post on this area here.

After our “triangle meeting,” our next stop was Joseph Lieberman’s office. Joe called me the “An Alaskan Real McCoy”….another quote I’ll have to include on my resume along with Newsweek’s:

One more stop: The Library of Congress. For years, I’ve been collaborating with the LOC and National Parks to try to rebuild an original set. Imagine my surprise to find five of the nine “Laurent Collection” safely held by the LOC; we had been bidding against each other–they bought five, I, two. Only four posters remain elusive: Yosemite which was sold by the Swann Gallery, NYC to a private buyer and three which have never been found: Wind Cave, Yellowstone Falls and Great Smoky Mountain. Here, Ranger Doug donates his contemporary collection to Brett Carnell of the Prints and Photographs Division:

After all this political stuff, Martina and I train up to NY to the Big Apple. This place is expensive!…but we have a good time visiting Greenwich Village–hear Ranger Doug’s interview here. We also do the museums, visit the WTC site, the Steinway Piano Factory and also King Tut–checking out his personal jewelry. I visited the top of the Twin Towers 25 years ago and here’s what it looks like today:

….and the Steinway Piano Factory–fascinating for anyone nuts about pianos. No cameras allowed here:

OK….one more mention: Gettysburg. We’re doing a poster on this incredible place. In less than three days, there were almost 53,000 casualties–and a large percentage died.

Gettysburg is about 90 miles north of Washington DC–the Union was clearly threatened. I once sat at the very desk upon which Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg Address–Richard Nixon had it installed directly behind the (green) curtain behind his presidential desk. I also sat at Nixon’s oval office desk–but was politely asked not to sit there–only the President could. Just trying it out for size…..OK, OK–here’s a Gettysburg canon:

ELDA is next….but we first stop by Beacon NY on the beautiful Hudson River–beautiful because of one man’s efforts to clean it up. That man is Pete Seeger. Here he’s still strumming the banjo on his 91st birthday party. We were lucky to be able to meet him and have a piece of birthday cake!

and Pete still making music:

Then we proceed to ELDA–which stands for Elizabeth, Lucy, David and Abbott–the four children of David T. Abercrombie, founder of Abercrombie & Fitch and my great uncle. In 1926-8, he built a castle just north of NYC near Ossining–home of Sing Sing Prison. Today ELDA lies open to the elements, vandalized and for sale. I hastily organize a family reunion of the remaining Abercrombies and we tour the castle.

About 5 years ago, I stumbled across original photographs of the castle taken just after it was built….in Wyoming of all places where his son ranched. Here is the “Great Room:”

….and what it looks like today.

In 1944, a paint company was experimenting with camouflage paint and blew out one wing. I don’t believe this story preferring the more exotic tale of the Manhattan Project igniting a nuclear bomb here. This place was built like a proverbial stone outhouse with steel reinforcement, only stronger. David T’s wife was from the Abbott steel family who built the steel cladding for the Monitor (that sunk the Merrimack in the Civil War) and also the steel trusses for the US Capitol Building (see first photo in this post). This wasn’t paint…. But today’s kids still are experimenting with paint; thanks Jeff, class of 2009. It’s good to see that our high schools are still turning out well educated and mature adults.

The ceiling collapsed and the front stone wall was blown out–later turned into a courtyard.

Here’s that north wing intact in another original photo. It would be nice to restore this place and turn it into a music center, library or museum. There are 53 acres with two ponds and a separate guest house (originally a stable for horses). The stone tower is four stories high and from the top you can see the Hudson River.

Hmmm…..another project…..stayed tuned.

Recent add-on alert!….for all you East-Coasters. Our first bears show up right after we return to Alaska–here’ I’m gracefully tip-toeing after our fourth sighting (a big one!) to get a better pic–OK,….not too close…..

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4 Responses to “Ranger Doug goes to Washington”

  1. Carla Carpenter Says:

    Hi Doug, I just came across your pics of Castle ELDA…I believe I was the last one to live there. I just wanted to say how beautiful it was before and thanks for posting the pics. It is too bad it has not been taken care of. I knew it must have been a mighty place in it’s day. I used to love wandering the grounds. I am going back this wk end to visit and I think I will be sad to see it gone even farther. Your Great Uncle must have been a great visionary. Groovy site, Carla

  2. Bunny Garst Says:

    Although I didn’t actually live in the castle, I did live on the grounds while we tried to restore it after my now deceased husband and I bought it back in November, 1960. Unfortunately, our ownership was a horror story that appeared in most of the Westchester newspapers in 1963. The Ossining Citizen Register printed our story, written by my husband, on February 28, 1963. I have a scrapbook full of letters, articles and photos about the years we owned it. It is very sad that the outside now looks pretty much the same as it did 50 years ago

  3. Miguel Hernandez Says:

    Am with the Ossining Historical Society and editor of its newletter. Would like to include an article on “ELDA” in a future issue. Would like to contact Ms. Bunny Garst to look at her scrapbook and other items she has.
    I can be contacted by email at miguel.hdz@verizon.net Thanks!

    Miguel Hernandez

  4. Miguel Hernandez Says:

    Am doing a story on Elda is for the Newsletter of the Ossining Historical Society. I would like permission to use some of the photos you posted and wondering if you could notify Bunny Garst that I would like to see the materials she discusses in her comments above. Thank You

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