Monticello archaeologists get boost in study of slavery

Historical artifacts sitting on dusty shelves tend to create a romantic picture of archaeology, bringing to mind Indiana Jones riding off into the sunset with a hard-won ancient trophy tucked into his bag. But archaeology is about much more than digging up items of historical importance — there’s tedious cataloguing, analysis and research to be done. And now, thanks to a recently announced grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, archaeologists at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will be able to expand their digital archive and help advance the study of enslaved communities. In 2000, archaeologists at Monticello established the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, or DAACS. It is a collaborative, online database where archaeologists can upload and share data about artifacts found during excavations of slavery sites at Monticello and other places in the Chesapeake region, according to Fraser Neiman, director of archaeology at Monticello. When it began, the database contained information about artifacts collected from six sites. Today, it contains information from 80 separate sites, including the Carolinas and parts of the Caribbean, Neiman said. The idea is to broaden the scope and help scholars better understand the evolution of slavery-based societies from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. The $325,000 two-year grant is going to allow Monticello to build upon that idea and improve the infrastructure of the software. “It’s going to allow us to simplify, streamline and optimize the interface that our collaborators use to enter the data,” Neiman said. “There’s a kind of inherent trade-off when you’re collecting archaeological data — how detailed do you want to record each artifact versus how many artifacts you want to record.” “If you go really detailed on each artifact, you can’t record many artifacts,” he said. “The grant is going Continue Reading

Oaklands colonial built from same brick that made Monticello

The Oaklands neighborhood in Newark sits on land that once was a working farm owned by Rathmell Wilson, president of then-Delaware College from 1859 to 1870.The estate home that Wilson built there in the first half of the 19th century went on to become a social hub under the tenancy of his three unmarried granddaughters, the “Misses Wilson,” who hosted many parties and offered dance lessons.The residence was perfectly situated for a gathering place, less than a mile from downtown Newark and the University of Delaware.  DELAWARE SPACES:Read about other eclectic homesThe last of the three sisters died in 1958, and the Oaklands mansion was demolished in 1964 to pave the way for suburban development.Now, the stately colonial that rose in its place is on the market for $550,000. According to the current owner, the bricks used in its construction hail from the same factory as Jefferson’s Monticello. Tell us about your space Got a Delaware Space you'd like to see featured? We're looking for historical, eclectic and new homes, yards or other interesting spaces to feature. Send an email with your name, address of the space and a photo, if possible, to [email protected]“It is part of the Oaklands, but it’s not the typical Oaklands home,” said listing agent Ashle Wilson Bailey of Long & Foster. “It has a dramatic, substantial feel to it, with a sweeping staircase right out of Gone with the Wind.”Leading into the home is a wide front porch with floor-to-ceiling pillars.Inside, hardwood floors stretch throughout, the windows are all double-glazed and four skylights enable the sun to stream into the family room, which features a vaulted ceiling, built-ins, and wood-burning stove. The whole interior, as well as the exterior trim, has been newly painted.The second floor offers two master suites with private baths, while the two front bedrooms share the hall bathroom. All of the bedrooms are spacious.The Continue Reading

Thomas Jefferson’s historic home Monticello recovering from ransomware attack

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Norton Antivirus. Computer and telephone systems at Thomas Jefferson's home and plantation outside Charlottesville, Va., were knocked out thanks to a cyber attack early Tuesday, June 27. Thomas Jefferson Foundation Executive Vice President Ann Taylor confirmed to NBC29 that Monticello was the victim of a ransomware attack demanding an undisclosed amount of coin from the historic home featured on the tails side of the nickel. Though a busy holiday weekend looms in the near future, officials did not say if they would pay the ransom. "Our staff is working with manual systems, but we welcomed a lot of guests yesterday. The weather is beautiful, and we're looking forward to July Fourth," said Taylor. As of Thursday morning, visitors were still unable to purchase tickets online but could buy them in person, the historic site bringing out manual credit card readers at its visitor center, cafe and gift shop. Clarifying that this cyber attack is not connected with the recent "Petya" virus that hit over 60 countries, Monticello stated that law enforcement is nonetheless involved. Unable to offer a specific timeframe, Taylor said, "We're working with IT experts at the moment to investigate and address the issue, and we're working to restore the affected services as soon as possible." Continue Reading

2 charged with trying to run down Hasidim in bakery parking lot in Monticello, N.Y.

Two dopes who tried to run down a group of Hasids outside an upstate bakery found themselves fleeing their furious would-be victims on foot after their SUV stalled, police said. Fortunately for Esai Diaz and Brandon Morales, the cops caught them first. Diaz was at the wheel of a 2003 Nissan Pathfinder and his buddy Morales was riding shotgun when they spotted the Hasids on Sunday evening standing outside a bakery in Monticello, N.Y., police said. “Go home, go back to your (expletive) Jews,” Morales yelled, the Times Herald-Record reported. Then, witnesses told police, Diaz roared the Nissan at the crowd, scattering the Hasids congregating in the bakery parking lot before driving off. A few minutes later, the dopey duo circled back and this time Morales hopped out, slugged one of the Hasids in the arm, and hopped back in the vehicle, police said. But when Diaz hit the gas, the Nissan stalled and he couldn’t start it up. That’s when Diaz, 21, and Morales, 20, took off running on foot — with about a dozen Hasidim chasing them, police said. Diaz was charged with felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor aggravated unlicensed operation. Morales was charged with felony aggravated harassment and a separate violation of harassment. Both were cooling their heels Tuesday at the Sullivan County jail, unable to post the $2,500 bail. Lt. Mark Johnstone of the Monticello police said it’s not clear what prompted the pair to target the Hasidic Jews. He said Diaz’ driving record is littered with suspensions. “Nobody was hit,” Johnstone said. “People did feel that Diaz deliberately drove at them.” [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Monticello Raceway to make history by hosting slate of races comprised entirely of amateur drivers

History will be made Sunday at Monticello Raceway. For the first time in North America, every race will be comprised entirely of amateur drivers. The program is being sponsored by the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA) in conjunction with the Edward Weiner and Edward Yarock Equine Scholarship Fund and the Donald Meyer Equine Scholarship Fund. The 10 overnight races will feature 20 amateur drivers, including NAADA vice-president Alan Schwartz, who is responsible for putting the card together. Apparently not an easy task since many of his supporters told him this was an ambitious project and he'd never get it done. Schwartz admits it would not have been possible without the support of the horsemen at Monticello, race secretary Eric Warner and most of all, Monti CEO Joe D'Amato. "D'Amato had the courage to follow the model of how they do things in Europe, where they have these amateur events from time to time. I think it was an extraordinary thing that he did," said Schwartz. The field of drivers was limited to 20 since many are traveling a long distance to compete. "We have drivers coming in from Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Maryland and Virginia among other states," said Schwartz. "So, the first 20 that responded with an event entry fee of $250 got to race." Billed as a family fun day, there will be jog cart rides from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and in between the races, Elvis' Lost Brother will perform. Track announcer Howard Oil, for only the second time in his 27-year career at Monticello, will call the races from the winner's circle. Three races from the CKG Billings Amateur Drivers will also be contested, bringing the total number of amateur races to 13. Schwartz hopes this will turn into an annual event. "A lot of that will depend upon how this event goes over. How it's bet. How it's received," he said. And Schwartz wants to challenge other driving clubs to take on the event in the future. "I think it would be great if we did it at Continue Reading

Aqueduct Racetrack and Monticello Raceway cancel Wednesday racing, multiple tracks cancel Tuesday

Due to expected rain, sleet and icy conditions, Aqueduct Racetrack will not have live racing Wednesday.A decision on whether simulcasting will be available at Aqueduct and the Belmont Café will be made Wednesday morning.Management at Monticello Raceway also decided to cancel Wednesday's program.As a result of Tuesday's inclement weather, racing was canceled at Yonkers Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Beulah Park and Parx Racing. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association plans benefit breakfast in memory of Richie Ingrassia

The Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association (MHHA) will honor the memory of horseman Richie Ingrassia on Sunday, June 20, with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY.The breakfast runs from 8 a.m. to noon and is $15 for adults and $10 for children. Serving breakfast will be many of the sport's top drivers, including Jason Bartlett, Stephane Bouchard, George Brennan, Ray Schnittker and Jordan Stratton.Proceeds will benefit the wife and children of Ingrassia, who died in March at the age of 45 after a four-month battle with cancer.For more information, contact Dale Berenson at 845-791-7747. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

President Bush hails new U.S. citizens at Monticello over protest shouts

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - President Bush welcomed more than 70 new U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Thomas Jefferson's historic Monticello home, saying, "I'll be proud to call you a fellow American." On his final Fourth of July as President, Bush told an audience at the home of the Declaration of Independence's author that he was honored to be present for the naturalization. Anti-war protesters shouted out calls for Bush's impeachment on nine occasions during his brief remarks, and the President responded by saying he agrees that "we believe in free speech in the United States of America." The last six Fourth of July holidays have taken place amid continuing violence in Iraq. Bush's addition of 28,000 U.S. troops last year in Iraq helped foster a measure of stability in what is now the sixth summer of the war. The 150 or so demonstrators, from a variety of groups opposing Bush's policies on the war in Iraq, also rallied along the path of the President's motorcade to Monticello. Bush mentioned neither the war in Iraq nor the battle against terrorism in his speech, other than to say that "we pay tribute to the brave men and women who wear the uniform." For the people from 30 nations becoming citizens on the nation's 232nd birthday, he said: "You all have one thing in common - and that is a shared love of freedom ... and this is the love that makes us all Americans." "When you raise your hand you will complete an incredible journey," Bush said in his address. "The history of the United States will become part of your heritage." He continued, "This is a fitting place to celebrate our nation's independence. Thomas Jefferson once said he'd rather celebrate the Fourth of July than his own birthday. To me, it's pretty simple - the Fourth of July weekend is my birthday weekend." Before his brief remarks, the President was given a tour of Jefferson's home, including the room where Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the same day as his predecessor as Continue Reading


AFTER ALMOST TWO YEARS of fruitless negotiating - the last six weeks of which have seen relations between race track management and its horsemen go from tepid to downright nasty - both sides in the Monticello Raceway contract dispute finally have found a way to settle their differences: Let another party decide. Horsemen and management have agreed to binding arbitration in order to get a signed contract in place. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board - made up of chairwoman Cheryl Ritchko-Buley and board member Michael Hoblock - will look at proposals and hear testimony and ultimately make a decision in an unspecified time frame. The board granted race dates at the track through June 30 and Buley said the arbitration process will be complete by then. "What precipitated the board's offer for the parties to enter into binding arbitration," Buley said, "was that there were detrimental actions being taken by both parties that were counterproductive and injurious to racing." When horsemen felt they had to do something to get management to the bargaining table, they pulled the plug on out-of-state simulcasting of the Monticello product in early January. With wagering only available within the state of New York, handle dropped 64%. Irritated by the horsemen's action, management struck back by slashing purses 58%, which turned a tasty racing product into a barely palatable one. Given how unhappy both sides have been with each other of late, harness racing in the Empire State owes the NYSRWB a huge debt of gratitude. No more negotiating. The board now will decide what each side will get. The major conditions of entering into the arbitration agreement are that purses immediately will go back to where they were at the end of 2005 - or roughly double what they are now - and horsemen will get a 7.5% share of track VGM (video gaming machine) revenue. In addition, the out-of-state signal will be back in simulcast parlors across the country. Both sides Continue Reading


MONTICELLO RACEWAY'S management and horsemen met with members of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Tuesday at the board's request in the hopes of moving along negotiations on a new horsemen's contract. The major disagreement between the two sides is how much revenue from the track's VGMs (video gaming machines) should go to the horsemen. They want 9.25%; management wants to pay 7.5%. "We can't force an agreement and we can't force a contract," said board member Michael Hoblock. "We can try to do as we are. Play the mediation role and try to get them together and impose upon them the importance of coming to an agreement in fulfulling the best interest of racing. "Monticello is playing a very important part in harness racing in the State of New York," Hoblock said. "And they have done a very good job in carving out a good harness program in terms of simulcasting. They have had a good simulcast market outside of the state and they have done very well with their purse structure." All of those things had been true for more than a year. The weekly feature went for a purse of $10,800 and total handle on Mondays and Tuesdays was in the $700,000 range. Since then, horsemen have pulled the plug on out-of-state simulcasting in an effort to get management to come to the bargaining table, which caused the total wager to drop to approximately $200,000 on New York Racing Associaton dark days. In response to the signal shutdown, management slashed purses 50%. Many of the better horses who were racing at Monti week after week now aren't and the overall product has gone from wonderful to weak. There conceivably could be some light at the end of this dark tunnel, however: The NYSRWB, in an attempt to speed up the negotiations, has assigned race dates at the track only through Feb. 16. "What happens after that date is the question being posed to management and the horsemen," Hoblock said. The two sides are to report to the board on Monday and then every Continue Reading