Anniversary years for Florida, Gettysburg, Grand Central


Special to The Miami Herald

In a year in which taxes are rising, few people will happily observe the 100th anniversary of income tax. Luckily, however, many other meaningful anniversaries are coming this year, most with celebratory events worth visiting.

It was 500 years ago that Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. Opera giants Richard Wagner and Guiseppe Verdi both were born 200 years ago. The most significant battle of the Civil War, at Gettysburg, Pa., was fought 150 years ago, in 1863.

That’s the same year that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves and gave the Gettysburg Address. And it was 50 years ago, in 1963, that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

A selection of anniversary events is described below.


On April 2, 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon sighted land he thought was another island in the New World and named it “La Florida.” Where he landed is a matter of dispute, but on April 2 of this year a permanent historical marker highlighted by a 15-foot-high statue of Ponce de Leon will be installed midway between St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach on a site indicated by a navigational notation in Ponce de Leon’s ship log.

The next day, costumed reenactors in downtown St. Augustine will replicate the April 3 landing of Ponce de Leon, along with other activities, including a celebratory mass conducted by Puerto Rico’s bishop at the city’s Cathedral Basilica.

St. Augustine officials are hopeful the King and Queen of Spain will come to Florida for the anniversary, but that visit has not yet been confirmed. Commemorations are also scheduled in a number of other Florida locales.

Preceding the anniversary events, a major new attraction, the Colonial Quarter, will have a grand opening March 16. Created by the University of Florida and former Philadelphia 76ers owner Pat Croce, who also owns the Pirate and Treasure Museum here, the two-acre living history museum will span centuries of history in St. Augustine. Features include blacksmith and gunsmith demonstrations, a Spanish Garrison Town and taverna, a British colony and Publick House (pub), and a climbable 17th century replica watchtower. Admission will be $10.99 adults, $5.99 children 5-12.

•  Information: www.floridashistoriccoast.com, www.vivaflorida.org, www.fla500.com.


More casualties — 51,112 — were incurred in this battle, fought 150 years ago on July 1-3, than in any other Civil War battle, and many consider it to be the turning point in the war. A series of events marking the anniversary will be held in Gettysburg, Pa., June 28 through July 7, including tributes, battle reenactments and encampments as well as tours and ranger programs.

“The reenactments will be a lot bigger than the annual ones we have. There will be perhaps 25,000 soldiers, plus women and children,” said Carl Whitehill of the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We expect 100,000 [visitors] July 4-7,” when the reenactments will be staged at sites outside the actual battle site. GettYsburg National Military Park, which preserves the battle site, will mark the anniversary with a ceremony June 30 and three days of special programs, tours and activities July 1-3. At this time, too, the new Seminary Ridge Museum, highlighting the first day’s battle, will have its grand opening.

Several other related battles also will be commemorated during the 10-day anniversary period, including the Battle of Hanover, Pa., battle skirmishes at the Lutheran Seminary, and the Battle of Hunterstown, Pa.

On Nov. 19, a reenactor will recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which he gave on that date 150 years ago at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg.

•  Information: www.gettysburgcivilwar150.com.


In Dallas, Texas, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago, plans for observing the anniversary have met some controversy. Some residents wanted no observance at all of the tragic event. City leaders, however, plan a memorial service on Nov. 22, the day of that fatal shooting, and the Sixth Floor Museum — located on the site from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots — will observe the anniversary with a year-long series of programs.

In the first designated event in Kennedy’s memory that Dallas has ever held, Mayor Mike Rawlings will lead an “understated and respectful” public memorial service at 12:25 p.m. Nov. 22. Presidential historian David McCullough will give special readings from Kennedy’s presidential speeches.

Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, in partnership with Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, will put on a yearlong series of programs focusing in part on the Kennedy presidency.

New since late last year is a downtown memorial in the neighboring city of Fort Worth, commemorating the morning Kennedy and his wife spent in that city on the day he was assassinated. Centerpiece of the JFK Tribute is an eight-foot bronze statue of JFK with memorabilia mounted on an 11-foot granite wall.

The anniversary will be marked elsewhere as well, but at this writing plans had not been finalized at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston or other venues.

•  Information: www.jfk.org, www.50thHonoringJohnFKennedy.com.


Two great opera composers, Richard Wagner and Guiseppe Verdi, were born in 1813, 200 years ago. Both will be commemorated in special concerts and presentations this year in the United States and abroad.

In America, the Metropolitan Opera in New York is devoting much of its season to the two composers’ operas. On April 30, it will present selections from Verdi and Wagner conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Both composers, of course, also will be saluted in their native countries.

In Germany, a 200th anniversary Wagner program will take place May 22 in Bayreuth, home of the music festival the composer founded. A number of Wagner’s works also will be performed in Leipzig.

In Italy, a number of Verdi operas will be performed throughout the nation, starting at the Verona Arena and ending at the famed La Scala opera house in Milan. Verdi works also will be performed at Vienna’s Staatsoper with Placido Domingo, and at the Salzburg Festival with Zubin Mehta conducting.

•  Information: www.examiner.com/article/how-and-where-to-celebrate-2013-bicentennials-of-verdi-and-wagner.


The world’s first subway opened 150 years ago in the British capital. “The Tube” has grown immensely since its 1863 debut, and now covers 250 miles of trackage, with stops at 270 stations, including almost every place a tourist would visit.

To mark the anniversary, the Underground restored some old train cars and a steam locomotive for a series of heritage rail trips; electrification did not start until 1890. Exhibits at the London Transport Museum will include poster art that has been a feature of the Underground for much of its history, and the Royal Mint is issuing two new two-pound coins to mark the anniversary.

While you’re in London, you might also want to attend the Chelsea Flower Show May 21-25, one of the world’s greatest such events, which is marking its 100th anniversary.

•  Information: ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/tube150.


It took 10 years to build this New York City train terminal, which opened 100 years ago on Feb. 2, 1913. With 67 tracks and 44 platforms, the terminal is massive in every way. A year ago, Travel + Leisure magazine ranked it as the world’s sixth most visited attraction, with 21.6 million visitors. Among its features: The world’s largest Tiffany clock, 14 feet in diameter; the station’s ceiling, 128 feet above the main concourse, decorated with a heavenly panorama of 2,500 stars; and 68 shops and 35 dining spots.

Special events will start Feb. 1 and continue throughout the year. They include a multi-media exhibition in the terminal’s historic Vanderbilt Hall Feb. 2-March 15, an exhibition of Grand Central art work March 6-July 7, and a weekend of activities May 10-11, including a parade of historic trains, performances and an exhibit of railroad memorabilia.

•  Information: www.grandcentralterminal.com.


Two milestones in the fight against racism are being celebrated this year.

Harriet Tubman, who died 100 years ago, was a runaway slave who became known as the “Moses of Her People” for her work in leading slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. At great peril to herself, she made 19 trips to Maryland, bringing 300 slaves to freedom.

Tubman’s Centennial will be celebrated on Maryland’s Eastern Shore throughout the year. Key weekends: March 8-10 in Cambridge, the Tubman Underground Railroad Conference May 31-June 1 and the Tubman Centennial Fall Weekend, Oct. 5-6. Travelers can retrace the path of slaves along the Underground Railroad Byway, which has 30 stops. In Baltimore, exhibits are planned at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park.

•  Information: www.harriettubmanbyway.org, www.baltimore.org.

Martin Luther King’s made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington 50 years ago, in August of 1963. The King Center in Atlanta is kicking off the I Have a Dream anniversary at this weekend’s commemoration of King’s birthday. Other events are planned during the year, but details have not been finalized.

Information: www.thekingcenter.org.


Home of an historic race course, this elegant upstate New York town this year marks the 150th anniversary of its thoroughbred horse racing with a five-month-long celebration from May through September.

Many events are on tap, including extensive exhibits at the National Museum of Racing and the Saratoga Springs History Museum.

•  Information: www.saratoga150.com.


Marking its 100th year, this bicycle competition will offer something new — it will start the June 29-July 21 race on the island of Corsica, which it has never visited before. Cyclists will pedal 2,088 miles in 21 stages, the first three in Corsica, the rest in continental France, including some difficult mountainous routes. Travel packages are available for those who want to witness portions of the race in person.

•  Information: www.letour.fr/le-tour/2013/us/.

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