My American Road Trip, Part 1: Leaving Town

Posted on: June 1st, 2012 by Lauren Walser 17 Comments

Two years ago, almost to the day, I drove my little hatchback from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, with nothing more than a couple boxes of kitchen items, some books, and my boyfriend, Blaise. I had said goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and headed out to become an assistant editor with Preservation magazine. (Writing about old buildings and the people who save them? Definitely worth the 2,500-plus mile drive.)

Other than a few brutal battles with humidity (I lost), I have loved every second of my time here. What’s not to like about a city that’s immanently walkable, with traces of history around every corner? And from my little perch in a 1909 row house, I’ve watched my neighborhood of Columbia Heights change, grow, and welcome new residents who have restored their own old houses or started businesses in empty storefronts.

But now Blaise and I are packing up the car again and pointing her west, back to Los Angeles, where, I’m happy to say, I’ll be continuing my work with Preservation. In my new location, I’ll be bringing you all the latest news from the West Coast -- and, for the next two weeks, from many of the places I’ll pass on my way there.

After all, the best part about driving between coasts is being able to investigate all the nooks and crannies that you miss when you fly over them.

I leave DC today (gulp). From there, I’ll be driving to Nashville to check out the historic sites, then on to do the same in Columbia, Missouri; Boulder, Colorado; Jackson, Wyoming; Butte, Montana; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Davis, California; and finally, Los Angeles. That’s a lot of ground to cover in such a short time, but if there is something in any of those cities -- or on the roads in between -- that I absolutely must not miss, I am all ears.

Rest assured, my laptop and my camera are fully charged, ready to document those places that make the United States such an exciting place to explore.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

Reflections, Travel

17 Responses

  1. Will James

    June 1, 2012

    Will be following your journey with interest Lauren.

  2. Mary Adams Urashima

    June 1, 2012

    Lauren, when you get back to Los Angeles, please take a drive down to Huntington Beach—AKA Surf City—to check out a site we need to save! I’ll get you a tour.

    It is one of the oldest extant Japanese American sites in Orange County and we need your help. See http://historicwintersburg.blogspot.com/.

  3. Kate

    June 1, 2012

    Definitely make a stop in Eugene OR – there is a beautiful Victorian as well as a lot of great 1910-1930s era neighborhoods, plus Sweet Life, the best pastries one will ever consume!

  4. carol

    June 1, 2012

    Please do Highway One – stunning. Don’t miss a trip to Hearst Castle

  5. Jonie

    June 1, 2012

    Please stop by Mexico, MO!!!! I have a very uniquely old barn I need help saving!

  6. Richard Martinez

    June 1, 2012

    Will you be traveling anywhere near Toledo, Ohio? We have 17 Historic districts in this city. Would love to show you them all. We will even put you up for the night at your choice of Victorian B&B’s.
    Let us know!

  7. Susan

    June 2, 2012

    You will have to stop at Blueberry Hill in University City, Mo (first suburb west of St. Louis). Great restored loop shop and restaurant area with a St. Louis Walk of Fame. You may be able to catch Chuck Berry performing at BH!

  8. Paul Diebold

    June 2, 2012

    Take the All-American Road, the National Road! – goes right through my home neighborhood, Irvington (in Indianapolis), the FIRST Preserve America neighborhood in the U.S.! On your way east, go through the National Road pike towns in eastern Indiana, Knightstown, Centerville, all NR-listed. Of course, Ohio, WV and PA, and MD have great National Road stuff.

  9. Kevin Fitzpatrick

    June 2, 2012

    Have fun in Portland, OR… there is a lot of good preservation going on there.

  10. Ben Vess

    June 2, 2012

    I’ll be following your road trip!

    Bonnie chance!

  11. J.J. Lamb

    June 3, 2012

    In Arizona catch a glimpse of the original dirt Hwy 80 next to the only remaining pre-statehood building in Vail, Arizona.
    The local community is pulling out all of the stops in a last ditch effort to save the only building left to tell our early stories. We would love to show you the 1908 adobe Old Vail Post Office!

  12. Lisa Healey

    June 3, 2012

    Please dont forget to stop by the Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Old Bethpage New York on Long Island we are trying to save the OBVR we cant lose our history . The village is comprised of the houses that belonged to the men women and children who created our community. We cant let this piece of history befall us.

    Lisa Gonzalez Healey

  13. Stacey Wittig

    June 4, 2012

    Sorry that you’ll be missing Flagstaff, AZ. Lots of good historical (and prehistorical) sites here. We’r not far from CA, so once you’re settled in, stop on by.

    Stacey Wittig
    Historical Travel Writer

  14. Steve Banister

    June 4, 2012

    Between Davis and LA, if you make it to Hanford, CA you’ll get to visit China Alley, one of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” Stop by the L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room & Emporium, Number 1 China Alley, and a free tea will be waiting for you. Happy travels!

  15. Kim Cooper

    June 5, 2012

    Safe travels, Lauren! On your way south through California, do try to see La Purisima Mission. It’s a complete simulacrum, built by WPA workers on the ruins of a destroyed compound, but it’s very beautiful and often completely deserted, giving it a time travel quality that is quite powerful. I visit a lot of historic sites, but there aren’t very many that suddenly come back into my mind like this one does.

    La Purisima was on the list of state parks marked for closure under Gov. Schwarzeneggar, but happily seems to have survived the current round of cuts under Gov. Brown.

    Bakersfield’s restored Padre Hotel is a very pleasant place to stay in the central valley, and the immediate neighborhood has some terrific deco and modern buildings.

    And when you get to your new home, we’d love to take you on one of our Esotouric bus adventures into lost L.A.

  16. Julie

    June 7, 2012

    “From there, I’ll be driving to Nashville to check out the historic sites, then on to do the same in Columbia, Missouri; Boulder, Colorado; Jackson, Wyoming; Butte, Montana; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Davis, California; and finally, Los Angeles. That’s a lot of ground to cover in such a short time, but if there is something in any of those cities — or on the roads in between — that I absolutely must not miss, I am all ears.”

    don’t forget that there are town, houses, bridges, barns in the rural places between your “cities” — often these places are most endangered because there aren’t the local resources to protect them.

  17. My American Road Trip, Part 3: Journey Through St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri - PreservationNation

    June 14, 2012

    […] stop once in town: The Loop. Thanks to reader Susan, who recommended visiting this neighborhood in my original post, I took a detour and saw a part of the city I might have otherwise […]