My American Road Trip, Part 8: Last Stop

Posted on: July 5th, 2012 by Lauren Walser 5 Comments

Two weeks and about 4,500 miles later, Blaise and I have limped across the finish line to Los Angeles, exhausted and glad to be home. But in between Portland and here, we made one final stop: Blaise’s hometown of Davis, California.


The Davis Amtrak station, built in 1913.

After two weeks of exploring brand-new places together, it felt nice to be back in familiar territory. While we spent a good deal of time recovering from our drive (there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal and a place to wash your clothes), we also spent some time downtown. And as we were walking around, Blaise, inspired by our two weeks of exploring historic sites, pointed out some of the older buildings in his own turf -- buildings I’ve walked by many times before, but never really studied. 

For example, there’s the beautiful National Register-listed train depot on the outskirts of downtown, which was built by Southern Pacific in 1913. Or the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion, a c. 1875 Italianate house built for the town’s first postmaster. Today, the National Register-listed building houses the city’s visitor’s center.


The Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion, c. 1875, is now the city's visitor center.

Two doors down, there’s the Varsity Theatre, a Streamline Moderne structure that opened its doors in 1950. It’s been through a couple rounds of renovations throughout the years, but the neon lights still lure people in to catch the latest independent films.

Then there’s the 1938 City Hall, a Spanish Colonial Revival building that has lived many lives: After it served as City Hall, it became home to the fire department, and later the police department. In 2005, it was turned into a restaurant, Bistro 33; last year, City Tavern, an airy bar, opened in the space as well.


The Streamline Moderne Varsity Theatre now shows the latest independent films.

Talking about these buildings with Blaise’s family unearthed a lot of memories, and they began telling me about other historic sites around town that I’ll be sure to check out next time I’m there. For example, there's the Lincoln Highway Marker in Central Park, designating a place where U.S. 40, the first highway connecting New York to San Francisco, passed through Davis. And there are also many older buildings on the UC Davis campus, like the 1909 Silo Union building, or Hart Hall, which was built in 1928 and housed the animal science department for 60 years.

If this trip taught me anything, it’s that history really is everywhere -- and one day in a new place is never enough to explore it all. But now that I’m back in Los Angeles, I’m excited to dig a little deeper into the historic sites we have here on the West Coast. Stay tuned!

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.

General, Reflections, Travel

5 Responses

  1. Lauren

    July 6, 2012

    Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures on the West Coast! Cute photo of the Varsity :0

  2. Lina

    July 6, 2012

    What a great adventure !

    I am planning a historic road trip across the country, and would love to share more of your experience!

    Thanks!

    Dr. Lina
    Preserving the World’ Great Cities

  3. John Mattson

    July 6, 2012

    Welcome to Los Angeles. I hope this reflects an increase in interest at the National Trust for things West of the Mississippi. Please come visit our struggling little historic district “Vinegar Hill” in San Pedro. Our written history goes back to 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first visited. We would be delighted to show you around.

  4. Alexander Krach

    July 9, 2012

    Don’t forget to join the Los Angeles Conservancy, NTHP’s largest local partner-and one of the finest preservation advocacy groups in the nation. They have wonderful walking tours.

    Many thanks for sharing your adventure with us. Good luck in your new role!

  5. Jan Corey Arnett

    July 10, 2012

    Hi —

    Would absolutely love to know what your observations and assessments were of our nation’s barns on this marvelous (but understandably exhausting) journey!

    The Barn Lady