Sunday, August 28, 2011

Culpeppers--Setting Sail in My Imagination

A pirate stands guard at Culpeppers
Have you ever had a spot you wanted to visit--but somehow it never worked out? For months now, I've wanted to visit Culpepper Nautical. Once I arrived at 4:15, and they close at 4. Another time, I showed up on Monday. They're closed on Sundays and Mondays. Finally, this week I made the trip--and WOW. I think it's just the coolest place I've seen in a long, long time.

I asked the gentleman there, "What's the coolest thing you have?"

The brass cannon
He told me it was probably the brass cannon. Or it could be the collection of ivory handle walking sticks. Or the pulleys made of lignum vitae, the densiest wood there is. In fact, the first ball bearings were made from lignum vitae.

Notice the skeleton!
I walked around and stared at the lights salvaged from container ships. We installed similar brass lights on the landward side of our house. The old lights of copper crumpled in your hands. On the seaward side, we added turtle friendly lights. Hatchlings head for the bright light of the horizon, which takes them into the ocean. But if they see the lights on houses, they head for those instead. So turtle-friendly lights shine straight down.

The pulley of lignum vitae
 Everywhere you look in Culpeppers, there are remnants of a different time, a time when men went to sea without the aid of modern navigational devices or communications equipment. I think it's a wonderland, a living museum, and I kept thinking that if I closed my eyes I could imagine sailing the high seas.

Is there a place like Culpeppers near you? A shop full of cool stuff that ignites your imagination?


Monica Ferris said...

I like Murphy's Landing, a settlement on the Minnesota River that recreates life at the end of the nineteenth century. Old houses and stores, dirt streets, people in period clothing doing things that old-fashioned way. A giant step back in time, fascinating.

Ellen said...

The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices was good for the imagination, but it closed down.

If pressed to list the most interesting small museum I've visited, The Museum of Jurassic Technology would win hands down. It's nowhere near where I live, but if you're in LA it's a fine place to go.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow, great suggestions! I heard someone on Rick Steve's show talking about the value of small local museums. He was right; they offer a more intimate look into the past.

Julie said...

The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. The quilts are wonderful. Website is, and it's beautiful, too.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm intrigued, Joanna! No special place comes to mind right now, but I'll have to do some research. Of course the Los Angeles Zoo always lures me. I was even considering a visit yesterday when the temperature around here was over 100!

Rochelle Staab said...

How wonderful, Joanna! I can't think of an inspiring shop in Los Angeles, but I've taken a few tours of downtown LA, especially the Art Deco buildings of the 20s and 30s that take my breath away each time I walk into them. The designs are stunning!

You inspired me to explore.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Rochelle, I once walked with S.J. Rozan through streets in St. Louis while she provided commentary on the architecture. (She's an architect as well as a fantastic author.) It was one of the coolest things ever.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Julie, I need to see that museum. I've been to Paducah--crossed that huge bridge, but didn't get to the museum. You've inspired me!

And Linda, I love zoos. If you are coming to Bouchercon, you need to go to the St. Louis Zoo, folks. That was where Marlin Perkins worked with the retile collection in 1926 and came back to serve as director in 1962.


Anonymous said...

I'm trying to write this on my BlackBerry. Not easy typing with my thumbs. I lovE old fashioned street at the museum. Of science and industry in Chicago. Particulary the store fronts with period clothes.

Betty Hechtman said...

Anonymous was me. I'm not sure why, but my BlackBerry seemed to want me to be incognito.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Betty, I guess your Blackberry wanted you to be incognito. I haven't visited the Museum of Science and Industry in a long time.