LaNelle’s Story

At it’s most successful, Liberia was home to around 90 slaves. Research has been done into the lineages of some of those slaves, and at least one has been traced down to the present day.  On the day I toured the house we heard a presentation by LaNelle Naylor, a direct descendent of the Nelly whose name apprears in the lower right corner of the chart in this image.

Nelly was the wife of Samuel Naylor, a bricklayer who helped build Liberia for his master, William J. Weir.  Sometime in the 1850’s Samuel was able to buy his freedom, and later freedom for Nelly and their children.  He also bought a piece of the plantation land from his former master and started his own farm.  When the Weir family fled to Richmond to escape advancing Union troops in 1862, Samuel and Nelly remained as caretakers of the property.  This story, along with some other ancedotal evidence, suggests that the Weir family treated their slaves well, more like employees than property.

See the other Liberia images here.


Liberia House Office










Back to Liberia Plantation today.  When William Weir built Liberia in 1825 there wasn’t much else around, but he had a vision of a thriving community growing up around his new home.  To attract settlers he had postal service extended to the area, serving as postmaster himself.  He also struck a deal with the Orange and Alexandria Railroad that brought train service almost literally into his backyard, thus assuring quick transport to market for the plantation’s crops and livestock.  His efforts paid off as the plantation thrived prior to the American Civil War and the community that would eventually become Manassas, VA took root and started to grow.

A man wearing so many hats needed a place to conduct business, and this hutch with fold-down writing surface might have been just the place.  It had a space for everything, and was portable enough for a quick escape from advancing Yankee troops.

See the other images in the Liberia Plantation series here.

Lockheed P-38J Lightning

Back to the Udvar-Hazy Center today with the kids.  My goal was actually to get images of two other planes, but as I was walking across the central catwalk, I saw this.  I’ve shot this plane before, but for whatever reason just never got an angle I liked until now.

The P-38 saw service in both theaters during World War II, and is credited with downing more Japanese aircraft that any other U.S. fighter.  The four Browning .50 caliber machine guns and 20mm canon mounted in the nose gave the Lightning a definite edge in combat, and it’s speed, range, and handling made it a favorite among pilots.

Three exposures culled from a single RAW, then processed in Luminance HDR, with some finishing in Topaz Adjust 5.

North American F-86 Sabre

In the early days of the Korean War, the Soviet-built MiG-15 outclassed all UN-based aircraft, ruling the skies.  When the North American F-86 Sabre arrived in December 1950, it leveled the playing field considerably.  Of the 41 American pilots who earned the ace designation during the war, 40 of them flew F-86 variants.  This specimen, an F-86A, resides at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles, VA, and wears the livery of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing.

No HDR this time, just a black and white conversion followed by a copper-and-blue split toning effect in PS7, and some detail enhancement in Topaz Adjust 5.

Liberia Plantation

I had the chance recently to tour one of the oldest houses in my town, Manassas, VA.  The house is undergoing restoration and is not generally open to the public, so this was a rare treat.
Built in 1825 by William James Weir and his wife, Harriett Bladen Mitchell Weir, the house eventually became known as Liberia Plantation and was situated on about 1600 acres of land that is now the eastern half of town.  At its completion, the house was valued at the then princely sum of $2,876.
By the early 1860s the plantation had become an extremely successful enterprise.  With the aid of some 90 slaves, the Weir family produced grain and vegetable crops that were sold in nearby Washington, DC, and also raised livestock including cattle, horses, hogs, and sheep.  After the outbreak of the Civil War, the house was used at different times as field headquarters for General P. G. T Beauregard, CSA, and General Irwin McDowell, USA.  The house also served as a field hospital and death house after the Battle of First Manassas.
Forced to flee advancing Union troops in the spring of 1862, the Weirs left their home under the supervision of trusted slaves and moved south to Richmond, VA.  Shortly after, President Abraham Lincoln visited the house to meet with General McDowell.  By war’s end, it was one of the few structures still standing in the area, but despite the Weir family’s efforts, they were not able to recover the plantation’s former prosperity, and William Weir’s son Robert sold the property in 1888.
The house was occupied on and off until the mid 1980s, when it was purchased by the City of Manassas and incorporated into the Manassas Museum System.  The structural restoration has been completed, and further work is underway to restore the house to an authentic mid-19th century state.

Fulton FA-2 Airphibian

The Fulton FA-2 Airphibian was designed in 1946 by Robert Edison Fulton.  After detatching from the wing assembly, the propeller could be removed and the passenger compartment could be driven on the road.  A limited number were built by Fulton and his collegues in Danbury, CT between 1946 and 1950.  This particular specimen, designated N74104, was licensed for flight by the CAA (forerunner of the FAA) in 1950.  It was also licensed for road use by the state of Connecticut.

Manned Maneuvering Unit

Another image from my Christmas trip to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, this is the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).  The MMU was a backpack-like device that allowed astronauts to move about in space untethered.  The MMU had two adjustable arms with thruster controls; roll, pitch, and yaw were on the on the right and directional controls were on the left.  Propulsion was provided by two tanks of gaseous nitrogen, which could produce a velocity of about 80 feet/second.

The MMU was used in 1984 to recover two communications satellites that did not make it to the proper orbit, and was retired later that year.