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Adolf Cluss with the de Millas family 1898 in Heidelberg Germany

Family Stories - Cluss's Travels

Travel to new and distant locations characterized Adolf Cluss's life. In his youth, Cluss witnessed the first steamboats on the Neckar River and the first railroad constructed in southwestern Germany. Cluss's father probably inspired young Adolf's interest in the wider world. Heinrich Cluss traveled to France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and other German states. By the age of 23 when he emigrated to the United States, Adolf, himself, had traveled to France and Belgium as well as neighboring German states.

Cluss's first trip across the Atlantic from Le Havre to New York was on the Zürich, a small sailing ship. Cluss's other known trans-Atlantic voyages include trips in 1858 and 1859 (his wedding trip) and in 1898. On one of these trips to Europe, he visited Italy, where he copied drawings of beautiful designs found in Pompeii and Naples.

In his first year in America, Cluss traveled to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington looking for a job. As an employee of the US Coast Survey in the summer of 1849, he lived on board a naval vessel charting the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. In the early 1850s he traveled to the cities of the northeast for meetings with Communist League colleagues and Turner groups. He also journeyed to the mid-west as far as Milwaukee.

In 1853, Cluss embarked on a tour of New York, Ontario, Quebec and the New England states. He noted the abrupt changes in the landscape in western New York. "In one place you may see woods being burned down to provide space for the crude log cabins of the first settlers; in another place the magnificent mansion of the large land owner ... its well cultivated surroundings adjoin[ing] dark and extensive forest areas." He realized that "No sooner has the romantic passenger been rocked into wild dreams in the middle of the spectacular scenery, than he is brought back into somber reality when the forests of pine trees change over into corn fields and the wild forest roses are replaced by potato bushes." He found the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River "really enchanting ... only a few of them accessible by culture." In Quebec, he thought the people backward, simple, slow and concluded that they speak "a bad version" of French. Quebec City, though, was an "expensive jewel ... a detail in the beautiful landscape, in a luxuriously prepared ring when you see it from the citadel of the city. I would give a glass of the finest beer for this view." Cluss sailed down Lake Champlain and traveled widely through Vermont, where he found mostly " impoverished single floor houses," but a rich landscape. "For lovers of natural beauty, it is one of the most interesting in the whole United States." In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Cluss ascended Mount Washington on horseback.

Cluss may have traveled less during his most productive years as an architect, but he missed few meetings of the American Institute of Architects- at least in eastern cities. In 1887 though, Cluss embarked for Mexico to prepare and submit drawings for a competition for the Independence Monument in Mexico City. Cluss reported that he tried to immerse himself in the culture. "I eat chili (red pepper) con carne and drink pulque like a native, and if I cannot speak much Castilian, I speak at least a little." He admitted though, "I have seen as many fine horses killed and lidiatores wounded by "toros arrrogantes" as I wished." He visited museums and traveled beyond the city to Aztec ruins. Cluss found the Mexican countryside "immensely interesting to anyone with eyes and ears open for the beauties of nature!"

In his late sixties, Cluss traveled in his job as Inspector of Buildings for the federal government. Cluss said he "went from one end of the United States to the other." In 1890, for example, he visited federal government building sites in 83 cities, from Portland, Maine, to New Orleans, Louisiana, from Atlanta, Georgia, to Carson City, Nevada.

Later in the 1890s, Cluss apparently visited Oakland, California, to visit Henry Schulze, whose father, Paul Schulze, Cluss's former architectural firm partner, died in 1897. Cluss wrote of the beautiful cemetery where Schulze was buried in Oakland.

In his last years, Cluss contented himself with trips to Harper's Ferry and Niagara Falls with his daughters, but in 1904 at the age of 79, he planned to attend the St Louis World's Fair, although his declining health prevented that trip.




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