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Posts Tagged ‘Pinchot Institute’

By Dan Dwyer, Port Jervis Union-Gazette¹

MILFORD, Penn., Sept. 24—

The helicopter landed exactly on time. It was 1 p.m.

The door opened and became a ramp and this man came out.

It was the start of a hectic 70-minute visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy to Grey Towers in Milford yesterday afternoon.

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President Kennedy is greeted by Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff.

Mr. Kennedy, dressed in a neat blue suit with a faint pin stripe, white shirt and matching tie, moved towards a waiting convertible with the inevitable secret service men providing a way through the press of the crowd. The familiar shock of brown hair looked lighter than it does in most pictures and the white teeth shone in a constant smile. He is deeply tanned.

President John F. Kennedy

The president entered the third car in the six car entourage that moved slowly through a field to the road leading to Grey Towers. The road was lined with state police, foresters and Milford fire police. The landing field was some 200 yards from the amphitheater where a crowd estimated at over 12,000 waited. Some had been there since early morning, coming to get a good place to stand in front of the 20-foot stage where the ceremonies were scheduled to be held….

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But as the hour neared 1 p.m., the expectation grew and then the great mass of people suddenly knew the president had arrived for the audible noise of the copter blades sounded across the valley even though the Delaware Valley high school band was providing musical entertainment. There was a tingle of anticipation that rolled through the sea of humanity even though it would be another 15 minutes before the president would be seen by most of them.

It was a perfect day. Pennsylvania’s Gov. Scranton said later in his speech that it was typical weather for the state and who could dispute it. It was warm. A heavy frost had covered the area in the morning but the sun warmed the earth and by noon it was anything but cool. There was not a cloud in the blueness of the sky….

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The president stopped off at Grey Towers and for some ten minutes was greeted by area officials and conservation men from all over the country. He met with them on the terrace and the crowd was enlarged by the stream of reporters and camera men who surged in for information and the hundreds and hundreds of photos that were being taken along almost every stop of the way.

The president went up onto the platform and the band began to play the traditional “Hail To The Chief.” There was a feeling that swept across the great masses. I could sense it sitting near the front. It was a feeling of proudness and a feeling of drama and a feeling that this was a great moment in many lives … lives that could go through an entire lifetime and never again be in the presence of a president of the United States.

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The president gets a warm reception from the crowd and from those on the stage with him: (l to r) Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, Chief Cliff, President Kennedy, Samuel H. Ordway, and Penn. Governor William Scranton.

It was 70 minutes that would be hard to account for if you had to list every minute but it was, for most of the people, a highlight in their lives that grandchildren not yet born are destined to hear about.

That’s how it was.

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This breathless article was written by a newspaper columnist from the town located across the river from Milford, PA. It was one of many that appeared in the Port Jervis Union-Gazette the day after President Kennedy paid a brief visit to Grey Towers to dedicate Gifford Pinchot’s home and the establishment of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies on September 24, 1963. This issue, as well as a special commemorative souvenir edition of the Union-Gazette published the day before Kennedy’s visit, can be found in the U.S. Forest Service History Collection here at FHS.

The trip to Grey Towers was the start of a grueling 4-day, 11-state tour for the president that the New York Times said was “dedicated to conservation but tinged with politics.” But on that cloudless day in Milford, the last thing on the minds of the overflow crowd was politics. They were there to see the president dedicate the estate of Gifford Pinchot, the hometown hero, to the cause of conservation. On September 21, 2013, another crowd will watch as dignitaries gather to commemorate that great event and rededicate the home and the institute that bears Pinchot’s name.

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In addition to Dwyer’s article excerpted above (“The Day JFK Was Here“), the September 25th Union-Gazette also included an account by Norman Lehde, “JFK’s Visit Thrills Thousands,” and a look at the special preparations made for the president’s visit to Milford (3 miles of telephone cable!) in “Behind the Scenes for the JFK Visit.”

The collection also contains the original event program from the day, which lists the speakers and guests of honor, along with the transcripts of the remarks given by President Kennedy, Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, and Samuel H. Ordway, president of the Conservation Foundation.

View more photos from the September 24, 1963, dedication event at Grey Towers in the Pinchot Institute Dedication photo gallery.

1. Dan Dwyer was a longtime columnist with the Port Jervis (NY) Union-Gazette and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. He interviewed Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, each time nabbing the interview simply by writing them a letter and asking for an interview. His interview with LBJ took place in the Oval Office and lasted 40 minutes.

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We’ve asked Leila Pinchot, a Research Fellow at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation (PIC) and a descendant of Gifford Pinchot, to share her thoughts as the premiere date of a new film about Gifford Pinchot approaches. 

Starting in March, keep your eyes peeled for Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot on your local PBS affiliate (check your local listings here). Seeking the Greatest Good is a documentary produced by the public television station WVIA that links Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation’s (PIC) efforts to address contemporary environmental issues.

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I was involved with the film early in its development, as a Pinchot family member, and later became involved with the project as a PIC staff member. As a new member of the PIC staff, the film introduced me to my colleagues’ efforts to preserve water quality in the Delaware River by investing in forest management in the river’s headwaters; their innovative project to link sustainable family forests and affordable healthcare; and community-building through sustainable forestry in Ecuador. In the hour it took me to watch the film, I was able to really grasp how PIC is building on Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy of “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run” to develop innovative on-the-ground conservation programs. And I learned a thing or two about my great–grandfather during the biography portion that opens the film.

I’m very happy to be able to share that experience with middle school and high school students by developing a Seeking the Greatest Good curriculum guide with WVIA. The guide shows teachers how to use the documentary as part of interactive lesson plans to teach their students about conservation, its history, and current applications. To purchase the DVD or to learn more about the curriculum guide visit: http://www.seekinggreatestgood.org/. To read more about Grey Towersits residents, and the Pinchot Institute, please visit the FHS website. You can view the film trailer below.

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I’ve just returned from Connecticut, where I spent time at Yale University conducting research in the Yale Forest School papers and also visited Simsbury, birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, to see the world premiere of the new film, Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot. Produced for PBS, Seeking the Greatest Good effectively weds together two different films—a biography of conservationist Gifford Pinchot with an overview of the Pinchot Institute, the organization created to not only preserve but expand upon his legacy, and its outstanding conservation projects. It’s expected to air next year on PBS stations around the country in part to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Institute. Like the film Green Fire, which is about Aldo Leopold and his conservation legacy, Seeking the Greatest Good speaks to a national audience by looking at local environmental projects; these projects serve as reminders that the conservation work begun by Pinchot, Leopold, and others remains vital and help protect what’s at stake for all of us, regardless of where we live. Be sure to look for Seeking the Greatest Good, and if you don’t see it listed, call your local PBS station and demand they air it. Also keep an eye out for local screenings or try to organize one once the film is available.

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With the trip coming just after Labor Day and the traditional end of summer, discussion turned to a forest history vacation bucket list—places to visit and things to do relating to forest history before going to that great forest in the sky. With this trip I was visiting two places I’d already checked off. The Eno home in Simsbury where Pinchot was born is now a B&B, so you can go inside, though when I did a few years ago the clerk was unaware of its connection to greatness. No matter. It’s quite lovely, as you can see.

The Eno house, birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, belonged to his mother’s family. It’s now the Simsbury 1820 House, and you can stay there. (Courtesy of the author)

The Eno house, now known as the Simsbury 1820 House. (Courtesy of the author)

The other box already checked was Yale, home to the oldest continuously operating forestry school in North America. The school was founded by the Pinchot family, and the original school building (Marsh Hall) still stands, as do the other subsequent homes to the school, including Sage Hall. Other Pinchot-related places on the list include Grey Towers NHS in Milford, PA, Pinchot’s estate and home to the Yale Forest School’s first summer camp site, now operated by the U.S. Forest Service, and of course the Cradle of Forestry in America historical site and Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, where Pinchot started his forestry career. (Be sure to read the book by the same name before going!)

But the bucket list is about more than GP or the Forest Service, though many places on that list are certainly tied to Forest Service history. As we tossed around places to visit, the homes of other great conservationists and related sites quickly came up: Aldo Leopold’s Shack in Baraboo, WI, and his boyhood home in Burlington, Iowa; John Muir’s home in Martinez, California, and his boyhood home in Wisconsin (as well as Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods); and Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island (along with his North Dakota ranch and his Manhattan birthplace.) Some bucket list sites we’ve already blogged about—like the Pulaski Tunnel and Mann Gulch—others, like the site of the New York State College of Forestry’s experimental forest near Tupper Lake, NY, we haven’t yet. And of course I work at one of these—Peeling Back the Bark Worldwide Headquarters in Durham, NC. These are all places I’ve been. But I’ve not yet been to the World Forestry Center in Portland, OR, and its outstanding Discovery Museum; or Smokey Bear Historical Park in New Mexico, where they found the bear cub that became the living embodiment of Smokey Bear in the 1950s; or the Sawmill Museum in Clinton, Iowa, for the museum and Lumberjack Festival. I think them worthy of a place on the list. I’ve been to a TimberSports competition, which is also on the list for things to do, but haven’t been to a forest festival or visited any of these Paul Bunyan statues to celebrate the contributions of the forest and wood products industries to forest history.

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Paul Bunyan statue, Bemidji, Minnesota. Fear the ‘stache.

We have lots of other places and events on the list. But I want to hear from you. What sites might be found on your forest history vacation bucket list? Please share them in the Reply section and tell us why we should go there—why is it so significant that those interested in forest history would want to see it before taking that great spiritual log drive to the great beyond? Perhaps if it’s intriguing enough, like driving on Cleveland’s woodblock-paved road, your idea may become a “History on the Road” column!

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