Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Cades Cove -- A "Ghost Town" in the Great Smoky Mountains

By Michelle Shocklee

When I look at this picture of Cades Cove, I immediately get a peaceful feeling deep inside. The tranquil beauty of God's handiwork is breathtaking, and I simply can't get enough of it. Unfortunately I don't live here, but I enjoy visiting as often as I can!

Have you been to Cades Cove? If you haven't, you may not know about this sweet spot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And even if you have visited this area of the park, you may not be familiar with its history. 

John Oliver cabin; built 1822 (Wikipedia)
Before settlers came to this beautiful valley in Tennessee, the Cherokee Indians camped and hunted in this area. One of their leaders, Chief Kade, is said to be the namesake. In 1819, The Treaty of Calhoun ended all Cherokee claims to the Smokies, and although they abandoned Cades Cove, they remained in the vicinity until 1838 when they were forcefully removed to Oklahoma. 

During that time, European settlers began to arrive, including John and Lurena Oliver, the first permanent white residents in the cove. John built a sturdy cabin that still stands in the cove. Their first winter was extremely difficult, and the Olivers relied on help from their neighbors, the Cherokees, to survive. 

Cades Cove Methodist church (Wikipedia)
In 1821, William "Fighting Billy" Tipton, a veteran of the American Revolution, bought up large tracts of Cades Cove which he in turn sold to his sons and relatives, and the settlement began to grow. Businesses and a post office were opened, and several churches were built. There were even quite a few moonshine stills tucked in the hollers. By 1850 the population of Cades Cove was nearly 700, with most residents living on farms. Life in Cades Cove was good.

Everything would change, however, when plans for a new national park were put into place in 1926. 

The cove residents were initially assured their land would not be incorporated into the park. In 1927, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill approving money to buy land for the national park and gave the Park Commission the power to seize properties within the proposed park boundaries by eminent domain. The residents of Cades Cove were outraged when they learned their properties were included. Death threats against the men involved in organizing the park were made. Legal battles ensued. In the end, the park won. All the residents who remained in the cove either sold their land or were evicted.

Cades Cove gristmill (Wikipedia)
Today, Cades Cove is the most popular destination in the park. A narrow one-way road runs the entire
11-mile loop with stopping points along the way at old cabins, barns, gristmill, and churches. Wildlife, including black bears and deer, are often spotted in the now-empty fields and pastures where crops and farm critters used to reside. It is said that some of the houses are haunted by residents who refuse to relinquish their homes to the government, even in death. 

I highly recommend a trip to Cades Cove if you find yourself in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's like stepping back in time. (But I don't recommend going during peak tourist seasons. Traffic can be awful!)

Your turn: Have you been to Cades Cove? Have you ever visited a ghost town? Tell me about it!

Michelle Shocklee
 is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the 2023 Christianity Today Book Award, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at www.MichelleShocklee.com


*2023 Christianity Today Book Award Winner*

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.


Monday, February 6, 2023

Mary Marvin Breckinridge: One of “Murrow’s Boys”

Library of Congress.           
Not to be confused with her famous cousin of the same name who founded the Frontier Nursing Service, Mary Marvin Breckinridge chose to go through life using her middle name Marvin. Some say she also used it to fly in the face of the prejudice against woman prevalent at the time. No matter the reason, Marvin was definitely her own person.

Born October 2, 1905, into the prestigious Kentucky Breckinridge family (her great-grandfather was Vice President of the United States under James Buchanan). No slouch herself, Marvin’s mother was the daughter of industrialist B.F. Goodrich (yes, the tire people). Another cousin would go on to become Arizona’s first congresswoman.

Marvin moved so often as a child, that she attended twelve schools before graduating from Milton Academy in Massachusetts. She enrolled at Vassar College where she majored in French and minored in history. She also made a significant impression on one Edward R. Murrow when she founded the National Student Federation of America. After Vassar, she combined her love of travel with the desire to explore photography and cinematography as a career by being a postgraduate student at the Clarence White School of Photography, University of Berlin, the Catholic University of Lima, and the American University of Cairo. She also found time to become a licensed pilot during this time.

Anxious to use her cinematography skills for the greater good, in 1930 Marvin created a silent film called
Still from 
The Forgotten Frontier
 The Forgotten Frontier that tells the story of her cousin’s Frontier Nursing Service, the midwifery health service that “provided healthcare services to rural, underserved populations” in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Marvin went back on the road and traveled from Cape Town to Cairo with her friend Olivia Stokes Hatch. Successful in selling her photographs to big-name magazines such as Vogue, National Geographic, Look, Life, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar, she began a career in photojournalism. For the next seven years she would visit countries and locations most people could only dream about: Palestine, Turkey, and France, to name a few.

In 1939, when he needed a radio broadcaster in Europe, CBS war correspondent Edward R. Murrow tapped Marvin. Her first assignment was to join him on air to discuss the changes war had brought to English villages. The next, a solo piece on female fire fighters. She was one of only four photographers to be in London the first several months of the war, and she photographed many pivotal moments including the first shots of an air raid shelter, and the evacuation of the city’s children during Operation Pied Piper. She was in Switzerland when Germany invaded Poland.

Library of Congress.       
She continued traveling the continent eventually making fifty reports from seven European countries, including Berlin, Germany. Clever with the turn of a phrase, one of her most famous broadcasts included a description of the official Nazi newspaper, Voelkische Beobachter: “The motto of this important official paper is Freedom and Bread. There is still bread.” Somehow German censors missed the subtle dig at their country, and the comment was permitted to be broadcast. Marvin quickly became known as one of Murrow’s Boys.

While in Germany, Marvin met Jefferson Patterson, first secretary of the United Stated embassy in Berlin. They married soon thereafter. With plans to resurrect her photojournalist career, she willingly gave up her job at CBS. Unfortunately, the State Department had other plans and wouldn’t waive the regulation censoring anything a diplomat’s spouse offered for publication. However, alway one to make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons, she turned her sights to her new career as a foreign service officer’s wife and created handbooks for foreign travelers: the Peruvian Way, Living in Egypt: From the American Angle, and At Home in Uruguay.

If money were no object, what country would you like to visit?



Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star-Spangled Banner fame), and has lived in historical places all her life. Linda is a volunteer docent and archivist at the Wright Museum of WWII and a former trustee of her local public library. She lives in central New Hampshire where she enjoys exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors. Visit her at Http://www.LindaShentonMatchett.com

Under Fire: 

How far would you go to find a killer?

Ruth Brown’s missing sister is declared dead. Convinced Jane is still alive, Ruth follows clues from their small New Hampshire town to war-torn London trying to find her. Discovering that Jane has been murdered results in a faith crisis for Ruth, and she vows to find Jane’s killer. Ultimately, she’ll stumble upon smugglers, resistance members, and the IRA, all of whom may want Ruth dead for what she knows.

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/

Sunday, February 5, 2023

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. - Author of the Poem "High Flight"

 By Mary Dodge Allen

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...”

Written in 1941, the poem "High Flight" is an inspirational depiction of flying:

· It is the official poem of the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force

· It has to be recited by memory by fourth year cadets at the United States Air Force Academy

· It appears on many headstones in the Arlington National Cemetery

· An abbreviated version was taken to the moon by astronaut James Irwin on the Apollo 15 mission

· The original manuscript is kept at the U.S. Library of Congress

The life and untimely death of Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr:

John was born on June 9, 1922 in Shanghai, China. His father, John Magee Sr. grew up as part of a wealthy family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but he chose a life of service as an Episcopal priest. While serving as a missionary in China, John Sr. met and married Faith Emmeline Backhouse, a British missionary. John was the oldest of their four boys.

L-R standing: David; Faith Emmeline; John 
L-R seated: John Magee Sr. holding Hugh; Christopher

John began his schooling at the American School in Nanking, China. When the family moved to England in 1931, he attended a preparatory school for four years before transferring to Rugby School in 1935. While at this school, he pursued his avid interest in writing poetry, and he won the school’s coveted Poetry Prize in 1938.

In the summer of 1939, John’s family went to visit relatives in the United States. When war broke out in September, John wasn’t able to travel back to Britain to complete his final school year at Rugby. Instead, he enrolled in the Avon Old Farms School, in Avon, Connecticut.

After graduation, John spent the summer of 1940 with his family at Martha’s Vineyard, where he learned to drive. With financial help from his wealthy relatives, John purchased a second-hand Packard convertible, a luxury car at the time. His youngest brother Hugh recalled riding with him as he drove the convertible on unpaved country roads. They often became airborne as they sped over the bumps.

Photo of a similar 1938 Packard Twelve convertible sedan (Public Domain)

John spent that summer attending beach parties and dances. When his clergyman father scolded him about his carefree lifestyle, John replied: “My generation does not expect to live long, and we want to enjoy ourselves while we may.”

Although John was offered a scholarship to attend Yale for the 1940-41 academic year, he felt a need to do something to help his friends in Britain. The Germans had begun what was termed as ‘The Blitz’ - a fierce bombing campaign against Britain, and he wanted to join the fight to defeat the Nazis.

In October 1940, after talking things over with his parents, John enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He completed his flight training in Ontario, Canada, and was awarded his wings and the rank of pilot officer. In July 1941 he was sent overseas to an operational training unit in Wales, to complete his advanced flight training. While there, one of his instructors summarized his flying skill: “Patches of brilliance, tendency to overconfidence.”

Supermarine Spitfire Fighter in flight (Public Domain)

John made his first flight in a Spitfire on August 7, 1941. Later in August, he flew a Spitfire to a height of 33,000 feet. This is considered to be the flight that inspired him to begin writing his poem, “High Flight.” 

He mailed his parents a manuscript of the poem, signed and dated September 3, 1941, three months before his death. John included a note with "High Flight" saying: "It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed. I thought it might interest you."

At the time, John Magee, Sr. was serving as curate of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. He had his son's poem printed in church publications. But "High Flight" didn't gain widespread attention until February 1942, when Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress included it in a public exhibition entitled: "Faith and Freedom."

Magee's handwritten manuscript of "High Flight" (Public Domain)

In mid-September, John was assigned to the newly-formed Number 412 RCAF Fighter Squadron, based at Digby, Lincolnshire. He flew several convoy patrols escorting bombers to occupied France. On one of those missions, he encountered severe flak and Luftwaffe fighter attacks. John was the sole survivor of his fighter section. The other three pilots in his section were shot down and killed. 

John's final flight:

On December 11, 1941, John was participating in a flight training exercise conducted during foggy, wintry weather. As he was descending at high speed through a dense cloud, his Spitfire hit another aircraft. John succeeded in pushing back the canopy and bailing out, but he was so low, his parachute didn’t have enough time to fully open.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was buried in the graveyard of Holy Cross Church in Lincolnshire. The first and last lines of his poem “High Flight” are inscribed on his headstone.

Below is the entire poem:

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Author's Note: My uncle Gordon B. Dodge flew a B-17 bomber on 35 missions during WWII. He loved this poem.


Mary Dodge Allen is the winner of a 2022 Christian Indie Award, a 2022 Angel Book Award, and two Royal Palm Literary Awards (Florida Writer's Association). She and her husband live in Central Florida, where she has served as a volunteer with the local police department. Her childhood in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, sparked her lifelong love of the outdoors. She has worked as a Teacher, Counselor and Social Worker. Her quirky sense of humor is energized by a passion for coffee and chocolate. She is a member of the Florida Writer's Association, American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers. 

Mary's novel: Hunt for a Hometown Killer won the 2022 Christian Indie Award, First Place - Mystery/Suspense; and the 2022 Angel Book Award - Mystery/Suspense.

Click the link below to buy Hunt for a Hometown Killer at Amazon.com:

Link to Mary's Spotlight Interview:  Mary Dodge Allen Author Spotlight EA Books

Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Origin of Groundhog Day


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By Pam Meyers 

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney
Source: Wikipedia

By the time you read this, Groundhog Day 2023, will have passed, as does every February 2nd. I’m not superstitious and barely pay attention to whether or not the furry meteorologist of sorts saw his shadow that morning. But, I know some do pay attention and actually track how many times his predictions regarding the beginning of spring have been correct. 

So, how did this begin in the first place? 

Long ago, midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox, people became weary of cold, snowy days and yearned for spring. To find something to celebrate themselves out of the doldrums, the Celts began celebrating a pagan festival called Imbolc as a fun way to hurry spring along. It doesn't appear that a small gopher was involved. 

As Christianity spread, the festival lost its pagan connection, and the name was changed to Candlemas, which commemorated the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem. The belief was if the day was sunny, small animals would see their shadows, and they would have another forty days of winter. The Germans added to the legend that if the day was sunny, only badgers saw their shadows. 

As Germans immigrated to America and settled in Pennsylvania, they took the tradition of Candlemas with them and chose the groundhog as the animal of choice to determine the weather forecast. 

 Most of us have heard about Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who makes his yearly appearance in Punxsutawney, PA on February 2nd,  He’s gained quite a following in recent years, thanks to the movie Groundhog Day, and many make a yearly trip to Punxsutawney to join in the fun. 

Even though the film was made in Woodstock, IL, and not Punxsutawney, the town of Woodstock, knowing a good thing when they see it, also began having a Groundhog Day festival. 

There is no scientific evidence to prove Phil knows anything about weather forecasting, and he probably has no idea what all the hoopla is about. I live a short distance from Woodstock, and regardless of whether or not Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, we almost always have at least six more weeks of cold weather. 

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day or attended a Groundhog Day festival?

Resource: Wikipedia.com 


Pam Meyers describes herself as a Wisconsin gal currently living in Illinois. Most of her books, both historical and contemporary, are set in her hometown area of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn't nosing around Wisconsin for new story ideas, you can find her at home with her two rescue cats or serving at her church in various ministries. 

Friday, February 3, 2023

Arc de Triomphe

by: Rebecca May Davie

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, is almost as synonymous with the City of Lights as is the Eiffel Tower. Movies depict daring drivers as they circle the great monument at breakneck speeds. A recent event covered the entire arch in fabric, honoring artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Daily, visitors strive to climb the stairs for the view from above. Through these arenas and more, many see the 162-foot tall and 150-foot wide Triumphal Arc from around and on top. Rather than looking within the typical scope, let's take a gander from another angle.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

Base: Underneath the Arc lies the tomb of the unknown soldier. With World War I, repatriation of fallen soldiers became difficult. The volume of lost lives caused France to bar this practice and inter soldiers in the countries where they were slain. To provide a location for French families to mourn, France repatriated and buried one unknown soldier from WWI. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1920, the Unknown Soldier was laid to rest beneath the Arc de Triomphe. This soldier represents the French service members who were not identified and those who were buried in other countries. The eternal flame burns in their memory. The inscription reads: “Ici repose un soldat Français mort pour la patrie 1914-1918.” Here lies a French soldier who died for the Fatherland.

Looking up: Peering at the underside of the arch, lists of generals' names can be seen on the arcades at the sides. The attic above features 30 shields engraved with the names of the main victories.

The Arc as a structure honors the individuals who fought for
France and died during the French Revolution as well as the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon I commissioned the arch in celebration of the victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. The first stone was placed on his birthday in 1806. The construction spanned 36 years. He did not see the completion of his project.

On the outsides of the Arc are four relief sculptures. The "Entry of Napoleon" is visible in the photo at left. The other three sides feature "The Departure of the Volunteers" or "La Marseillaise," "The Battle of Austerlitz," and "The Conquest of Alexandria."

Going up: After climbing 284 steps, a small museum is available to peruse. It contains interactive exhibits explaining the history. Climb 40 more stairs to ascend to the roof.

On top: from the observation deck there is a 365 degree panorama of the twelve streets emanating from the Arc. This location at the western end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was named Place de l’Étoile (Star Square - because of the streets meeting at the circular plaza - renamed Charles de Gaulle Étoile. The 19th century Haussmannian architecture is easily seen from this vantage point. The majority of these buildings are six stories high with similarly shaped roof structures, stone facades, and second floor balconies of wrought iron with elaborate stone around the windows. Major landmarks are visible such as the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, the Montparnasse Tower, and Sacre Coeur.


Several events transpired at this edifice over the years. Many important French figures such as Victor Hugo have lain in state at the Arc before they were buried. Soldiers marched in victory, both German and French. The last major soldier parade occurred in 1945 after the end of World War II in Europe.

Today, the Arc serves the purpose of honoring victories and the fallen. In addition, it provides people with history and a view of the city. Personally, I enjoy the sights from this location more than from atop the “Iron Lady" (Eiffel Tower). 

The next time you see an image, video, or clip in a movie of the Arc de Triomphe, perhaps you will remember the meaning behind the symbol. Men and women fought for freedom. While the victories are celebrated, we also honor their sacrifice.

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 75 Plans on the Bible.com app.

At left, Rebecca visited the top of the Arc de Triomphe for the first time in the summer of 1991. Bottom Right is the latest visit from a 2022 research trip with fellow Heroes, Heroines, and History blogger, Cindy Stewart. All photos in this post were taken by Rebecca and friends.

Rebecca lives in the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW, FHLCW, and Hope*Writers, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.

Connect with Rebecca:

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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Margaret Knight: The Most Famous 19th Century Woman Inventor

Blogger: Amber Lemus

Newspaper article about Margaret Knight
Public Domain.

Continuing from our post on shopping bags last month, today we explore the fascinating and inspiring life of female inventor, Margaret Knight. February happens to be her birth month also!

Young girl working in a cotton mill
Public Domain

"Mattie" was born to Hannah Teal and James Knight on February 14, 1838 in York, Maine. She was known as a very odd little girl, because instead of dolls she preferred woodworking tools. Her father died when she was very young, so she and her two brothers were raised by her widowed mother. Life was very hard for them, and she didn't receive much education, since she had to leave school as soon as she was old enough to start working in the cotton mill with her brothers.

Mattie's first invention was spurred by yet another traumatic event. At age twelve, she was working in the cotton mill when a nearby machine malfunctioned, and sent a steel-tipped shuttle shooting out of the machine and into a young boy. Terrorized by the event, she immediately set to work and conceived a safety device to shut off the machine if something went wrong. Her device was developed and put into use, supposedly by mills all over the country. However she would never see a dime from that invention.

Before long, Mattie developed health conditions that prevented her from continuing to work in the cotton mill. She tried many different things to earn a living, including home repair, engraving and furniture upholstery. In 1867, near age thirty, Mattie moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and began working in a paper bag factory. The bags they made were envelope style, but they had several issues that made them less functional. However, flat-bottomed bags were more expensive to produce, since they had to be made by hand. Mattie's mind set to work on that problem.

About a year later, in 1868, Mattie invented a machine that cut, folded, and glued paper to form flat-bottomed brown paper bags, much like the ones we know today. This machine would greatly increase the speed of production for these bags, allowing a mass manufacturing of the more efficient design.
Another of Knight's Patents for a rotary engine.
Public Domain

This time, Mattie knew the value of what she had, and she intended to go about it in a way that would allow her to patent the machine and reap the rewards of her labor. She made her own wooden prototype, but she needed a working iron model in order to apply for a patent. So she went to a machine shop to get it built. But when Mattie went to patent her design, she discovered that someone else had already done so.

Charles Annan was either working at the shop to build the prototype, or was near enough to see the design as it was in the making, and he stole the design and filed his own patent. During this point in history, patents hadn't been awarded to women, at least not openly. Women would disguise their names by only using initials so their names were not perceived as female. But this was something Mattie was willing to fight for. She took Annan to court, shelling out over $100/day in legal fees (something around $2,143 today) to win back her patent. Annan argued that his invention was different than Mattie's, and that she never developed a fully functional machine. He even went so far as to state that "she could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities of the machine". Most consider this comment to stem from his prejudice against women, although some debate that point. Either way, Mattie had to bring witnesses, and copious amounts of evidence to prove the invention was actually hers. After a sixteen day hearing, which would have cost her over $1600 (over $34,000 in today's market.) she won the case and her patent was awarded in 1871.

From there, Mattie was able to sustain herself from the royalties of her patents. She continued to invent and registered more than 80 patents during her lifetime. Later in life, as she reflected on her accomplishments she said, "I'm only sorry I couldn't have had as good a chance as a boy, and have been put to my trade regularly." She is one of the most saluted women in the suffrage movement, because she demonstrated women's cognitive abilities and succeeded in a predominately male field.

Some articles have claimed that she was the first woman to receive a U.S. Patent, however that doesn't seem to hold up to fact checking.

Regardless, Margaret E. Knight is an inspiring person who despite countless trials, setbacks, and even having to fight for a place in the world, rose above it all to succeed at what she loved.

Today, I'd love to know what that would be for you. If you could rise above it all and succeed in a field, what field would that be? Leave me a comment below the blog post and let me know.

Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Lemus inspires hearts through enthralling tales She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".

She lives near the Ozarks in her "casita" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a boy mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at http://www.amberlemus.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Palais Garnier (the Paris Opera House)

by Cindy Kay Stewart

Palais Garnier Opera House (Deposit Photos)

During my summer 2022 trip to Europe, I toured the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, which will play a part in one the WWII books I'm currently working on. During the German Occupation, the show went on. 

The Palais Garnier was commissioned by Napoleon III but opened in 1875 after his death. It's located in the 9th Arrondissement and sits at the intersection of several wide boulevards. The architect, Charles Garnier, utilized several different styles to create the exterior of the opera house. When Empress Eugenie asked Garnier what architectural style he was using, he replied that "he'd created a new Napoleon III style."

Garnier experienced a few setbacks during the building of the opera house. A lake was discovered under the site, and it had to be drained. A cistern was built to collect water, which is still in use today. French firefighters train to swim in the dark in this huge cistern or underground lake below the opera house. Although the ornate exterior was completed in 1869, the Franco-Prussian War brought construction to a halt.

The Grand Staircase (Deposit Photos)

The interior of the opera house is so opulent that it earned the moniker "Palais" from the beginning. The steps of the Grand Staircase are made of white marble, and the railing and its supports (balustrade) are made of red and green marble. The stairway leads to various floors and foyers of the theater.

The Grand Foyer (Deposit Photos)

Garnier designed the Grand Foyer to rival Marie Antoinette's Palace at Versailles. The foyer is absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking.

A Closer View of the Ceiling of the Grand Foyer. Courtesy of Author isogood via Wikimedia Commons 

The auditorium, which seats just under 2000, was designed in the classic Italian opera house style. The horseshoe shape allows patrons to view each other as well as those on stage. An enormous eight-ton bronze and crystal chandelier hangs below a colorful painting, and the stage curtain is painted, providing the illusion of many curtains.

Several legends about the Palais Garnier inspired The Phantom of the Opera book and later the musical. Some of these legends are based on real events which took place long ago. In 1896 during a performance of the opera Helle, one of several counterweights holding up the chandelier in the auditorium broke off and fell through the ceiling. It killed one person in the audience and injured several others. A fire on the stage of the Paris Opera's former location killed a ballerina and disfigured her fiance, a pianist. He supposedly went to live underground at the new opera house for the rest of his life. There's also the rumor that a faceless man lived in the lake.





These true, heartwarming stories portray the love and bravery shown by many individuals who risked their lives to save those in danger and help win WWII for the Allies. Some found themselves at the mercy of their conquerors but managed to escape. Others sacrificed their lives. From snow-covered Norway to Japanese-occupied China, from remote northern Russia to the flatlands of Belgium, larger than life stories give credence to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. 

You can click here to download this free e-book by subscribing to my newsletter. 


Cindy Kay Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical romance author, writes stories of hope, steeped in faith, and grounded in love. Her manuscripts have won the Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers Touched by Love Award, ACFW’s First Impressions contest, the Sandra Robbins Inspirational Writing Award, finaled in the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award of Excellence and the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Awards, and semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer's Genesis contest. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of forty-one years. Her daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren live only an hour away. Cindy’s currently writing two fiction series set in WWII Europe.