Córdoba’s Natural History Museum

As my young nephews and I walked down Poeta Lugones Avenue, skirting the lush Sarmiento Park, their excitement mounted. The boys, aged 5 and 7, live in a medium-sized town, so taking the bus sans parents to the big city to see a glyptodon for the first time was a great adventure.

The entrance. The museums is located in the north section of the beautiful Parque Sarmiento
The entrance. The museums is located in the north section of the beautiful Parque Sarmiento

Our final destination was the Natural Science Museum of Córdoba (Argentina.) The current building was opened in 2007 and is located in the tony neighbourhood of Nueva Córdoba. The circular interior was designed in the shape of a spiral in which three levels are joined by a continuous ramp. The handrail is quite wide and even has backlit displays along the top.

The interior
The interior

The collections include rocks and minerals from around the world, which alas failed to create excitement among our party. However, the local flora and fauna displays did. The absolute stars were the fossil reproductions of local Pleistocene megafauna: sabre tooth tigers, smilodons, mastodons, glyptodonts, and the like. Actually, one glyptodon shell is the real McCoy and was discovered during the construction of a dam.

Hello Mr Glyptodon!
Hello Mr Glyptodon!

On the third floor is the newest exhibition, called ‘The Rebirth of the Giants” (El renacer de los gigantes). It consists of displays of fossils found in the area and studied by the Museum’s paleontologists, as well as photos and videos of the paleontological site and the scientists’ field work. The boys and I watched the videos; then they asked questions which I tried to answer to the best of my scant knowledge and made comments about what they saw. It was lovely to see them engaged.

I love taking my nieces and nephews to museums. My mother says it is my signature outing! I firmly believe that it is never too early to acquire all kinds of knowledge. Beside, creating lasting memories is so much fun.

 

Mr Glyptodon and friends
Mr Glyptodon and friends

Museo Provincial de Ciencias Naturales Dr. Arturo Umberto Illia

Av. Poeta Lugones 395, Barrio Nueva Córdoba, Argentina

Tuesdays through Sundays 10:oo to 5;30. Summer opening hours vary

Admission $15. Free for pensioners, students and children under 18. 

A short guide to historical sites of interest in Dallas

The history of Dallas may not be long, but it certainly is interesting.

It all began when, in the mid-1800s, John Neely Bryan purchased some land from the Caddo Indians and opened a trading post along the Trinity River. He later founded a permanent settlement in the area now known as the West End Historic District. A replica of his one-room cabin can be found at the Dallas County Historical Plaza (junction of Main, Market, Elm, and Record Streets).

Replica Of John Neely Brian's cabin at Founders' Plaza
Replica Of John Neely Brian’s cabin at Founders’ Plaza

Nowadays a premier entertainment district, the West End is located in northwest downtown Dallas, north of Commerce, east of I-35E, west of Lamar and south of Woodall Rodgers Freeway. After the Texas Pacific Railroad intersected with the Texas Central Railroad in the areas, Dallas became a major distribution center. The historically preserved redbrick buildings in the West End were used as warehouses.

A short walk from the West End is the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture. It is housed in the Old Red Courthouse built in 1892 and it is a symbol of the city’s heritage. The Museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. General admission is $8, children 3-16 are $5 and seniors, age 65+, and students with a valid student ID, are $6. It is located on 100 S. Houston St. and is close to the Union DART Station.

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The Old Red

Uptown is one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods. It boasts the best preserved collection of Victorian houses in Dallas, all built in the late nineteenth century. These elegant mansions were commissioned by wealthy businessmen and built along Maple, McKinney, Routh and Fairmont streets. The McKinney Avenue Trolley (M line) operates around Uptown and the Arts District. Some of its stops include Uptown’s four historical cemeteries.

Uptown’s contiguous historic cemeteries are Greenwood Cemetery (Protestant) opened in 1874, Cavalry Cemetery (Catholic), Temple Emanu-El Cemetery (Jewish) and Freedmen’s Memorial. Freedmen’s, with historical ties to slavery, contains the unmarked graves of thousands of African Americans.

Uptown’s limits are US 75 (Central Expressway), Blackburn Street, Turtle Creek Boulevard, Harry Hines Boulevard and Woodall Rogers Freeway.

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The Traveling Man Sculpture welcomes you to Deep Ellum

The Deep Ellum area is nowadays a hotspot for arts and entertainment near downtown Dallas. It is circumscribed by the Central Expressway, Pacific, Elm, Main, Commerce and Canton Streets. The history of the area can be traced back to 1884, when Robert S. Munger built a cotton gin factory and later others followed his example. The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias was built in Deep Ellum in 1916. It was used as as the state headquarters for the Knights and it also contained the offices of Black doctors, dentists, and lawyers. It was the first commercial building for and by African Americans in Dallas.

Located on Swiss Avenue, the Swiss Avenue Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was designated Dallas’ first historic district in 1973. It is also recognized as a Texas Historical Site. Originally developed between 1905 and the 1920s, the area has about two hundred carefully preserved and restored homes built in diverse architectural styles ranging from Prairie and Spanish to Craftsman and Georgian.

Estate sale 5 Swiss Ave

Last but not least is the site where events occurred that changed the course of US History: Dealy Plaza (with its grassy knoll), where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 as his motorcade was going past the former Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. An X marks the spot where he was shot. The building now houses the Sixth Floor Museum, where films, photographs, artifacts and interpretive displays document the events that took place on November 22, 1963, the findings of the official investigations that followed, the historical legacy of the tragedy and the spot from which Harvey Lee Oswald allegedly fired his gun.

Dallas is a comparatively young city that honors its history and that of the nation.

Sources

www.oldred.org

www.dallaswestend.org

www.uptowndallas.net

www.dallasnews.com

www.sahd.org

Dallas for history buffs

Dallas doesn’t have a long history: its first settler was a young lawyer from Tennessee called John Neely Bryan, who came to Texas looking for a place for his trading post and attracted by the advertisements of the Peters Colony, later known as the Texas Emigration and Land Co.

The area where John Neely Bryan is thought to have built his first log cabin in 1841 is now known as the West End Historic District and that’s where history buffs should begin their tour. A replica of his one-room cedar cabin is located at the Founders’ Plaza, bordered by Elm, South Market, Main and South Houston streets.

John Neely Bryan’ cabin at Founders’ Plaza

Across the street, on Main and Market, is the Kennedy Memorial Plaza. The square cenotaph is 30 feet high and 50 by 50 feet wide and is supposed to symbolize the freedom of Kennedy’s spirit. Next to the memorial is the Old Red Museum.

The redbrick building dates from 1892 and was the old courthouse. Today the museum celebrates the history and culture of Dallas County. The collection that I found shocking was that related to the Ku Klux Klan and the segregation era. I learned that in the early 1920s, Dallas Klavern No. 66 boasted the largest membership per capita in the nation! My favourite exhibition is the pioneers’ one, it provides a glimpse into the lives of the early settlers. Don’t miss JR Ewing’s custom-made beaver cowboy hat made by Stetson. Larry Hagman donated it after the first Dallas series ended. He may want it back now!

Scary
Old Red Museum

 

Across the street, Dealey Plaza marks the actual birthplace of Dallas. To the right of Dealey Plaza, on Elm Street, is the world famous Texas School Book Repository from where Harvey Lee Oswald shot President Kennedy. The sixth and seventh floors became the Sixth Floor Museum dedicated to the life, death and legacy of JFK. The collection consists of photos, videos and audio interviews of people who played a role on that fateful day, like the police officer who runs to protect the president and first lady. It didn’t really grip my attention but what I found interesting is that they recreated the corner where Oswald was hidden. Although it’s roped off, you can look out of the next window towards the X painted on the floor and which marks the spot where JFK died.

The exact spot

On Elm and Record streets, next to the Sixth Floor Museum, is the Dallas Holocaust Museum – Center for Education and Tolerance. According to their website, “Holocaust Survivors or Liberators may be available to give their testimonies to groups Sunday through Friday (not appropriate for students under 7th grade)” It sounds incredibly interesting, don’t you think? I have to admit that I’ve never been able to visit any Holocaust museum yet, I think I’d burst into tears as soon as I step inside. Maybe I’m a coward and cannot face so much suffering, pain and loss.

On a lighter note, those interested in pioneer history should definitely head to the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park, near the Dallas Farmers Market. Please note that it closes during August. 19th century life, both in towns and the frontier, is recreated through original Victorian homes, log cabins, a train depot, commercial buildings like a saloon or a general store, a mill, a schoolhouse, a doctor’s office (I’m so glad I live in the 21st century!), to name a few. It’s a fun place to visit with children, the gardens are beautiful and docents in period dress are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have.

A pioneer teacher… or maybe not
Main Street
Dallas Holocaust Museum
211 North Record Street, Suite 100
Dallas, Texas 75202.For information call 214-741-7500 or email info@dallasholocaustmuseum.org
 
Dallas Heritage Village
1515 South Harwood Street
 
 

Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes (aka the toilet museum)

I must have walked or driven past this magnificent building a few dozen times but it never crossed my mind to go inside. As it so often happens with the attractions of one’s hometown, I never really paid much attention to what was inside the building and when it was built and what for. Now that I’m a tourist in Buenos Aires, I learned that there is a museum inside the Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes, owned by the water company, AySA.

View of the north-east corner (Riobamba St – Cordoba Ave)

A potted history first

Back in 1871, the city government decided to build a water treatment plant and reservoir as the prevailing sanitary conditions were poor. Although a small plant had been built in 1869, the majority of the population depended on water from wells and the river. Also, the lack of sewers and sanitation made Buenos Aires highly vulnerable to yellow fever and cholera epidemics.

So in 1886 plans for a big reservoir and treatment plant were approved. The idea was to build a monument to public sanitation as well, so the building should be grand and in keeping with the posh surroundings. An English engineering firm, John F. Bateman, was hired to design the facade, and a Belgian conglomerate was in charge of the iron structure inside. The construction was carried out by two Argentinean companies.

Blueprint for a terracotta ornament

The building is square, with each side measuring 90 metres. The design was inspired by the architecture of the French Second Empire and some Central European buildings, like the Palais de Justice of Antwerp. The 300,000 multicolour terracotta pieces that adorn the facade were made by Royal Doulton & Co from London then shipped to Argentina and the puzzle was assembled on site. The building was opened in 1894 and declared historic landmark in 1987.

Detail of a terracotta ornament

Museo del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria – Sanitation Museum

This small museum is located on the first floor: go past a desk and turn right, go up one flight of stairs and the entrance is on the right. The entrance is free of charge, just walk in.

The collection consists of terracotta ornaments, pipes, meters, taps, historic documents like a bill dating from 1915 for emptying a cart with sewage and … ta dah… toilets!  You can trace the history of the loo in this place!

Loos for every taste
Riobamba 750
Buenos Aires
Open Monday through Friday from 9 to 1.