Author Archive


"The future belongs to Main Streets. Let's get ready for it."

Edward McMahon of Urban Land Institute delivered this rousing call to arms to the 1200+ crowd of devoted Main Streeters at this morning's Opening Plenary, and the day kept going up from there. Here are some of the preservation-related highlights and hits from this productive first day.

Opening Plenary

Live video by Ustream

According to Ed McMahon, strip centers and urban sprawl are becoming "retail for the last century." Shifting demographics, evolving technology, economic pressures, and new social mores are leading to greater focus on mixed-use development, city centers, and -- of course -- Main Streets.

McMahon shared a number of interesting concepts during his presentation. Some of my favorite quotes-slash-"new phrases to trot out at preservation dinner parties" include:

  • We're at a bright line moment in history. The sustainability revolution is the new industrial revolution.
  • Historic preservation & Main Street are at the heart of sustainability.
  • Sense of place makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.
  • The biggest development opportunity of the next 50 years will be converting dead strip commercial centers into walkable mixed use centers.
  • The 'placemaking dividend' is about creating a place where people want to stay, spend money, and come back.

Watch the full plenary recording and enjoy McMahon's energetic and hopeful outlook for the next era of placemaking.

Main Street flair in downtown Des Moines.

2011 State of Main Street Report

Main Street director Doug Loescher shared the the six key takeaways from the 2011 State of Main Street Report. Read Andrea Dono's overview, or check out the high-level synopsis:

  1. Main St. communities are holding steady. Despite lower investment, they enjoy good economic health.
  2. Mom & pop shops are still struggling. Business development helps bottom lines, but not necessarily job growth.
  3. A lot of the entrepreneurs are from out of town (and even pop up overnight).
  4. Think "Hot Green." Sustainability/smart growth/green issues continue to mature.
  5. Government funding changes/cuts are affecting Main Streets all around the country.
  6. The public has a growing interest in the Main Street cause, in large part due to higher visibility in news & communities.

2011 Great American Main Street Awards

Congratulations to our five Great American Main Street Award winners for 2011! Read Erica Stewart's introduction of the winning communities and their terrific work.

Session Notes

Stephanie Redman discusses Main Street PR at her afternoon session.

The conference social media brigade covered several sessions today. We won't repeat all our live tweets here, but we encourage you to check them out on our respective feeds. To wit:

  • "Grow Your Support by Telling Main Street's Story." Presenter: Stephanie Redman, ReSurge. (on @presconf)
  • "Public Participation That Does Your Project Good." Presenter: Della Rucker, AICP, CEcD, Wise Economy Workshop. (on @MainStreetsConf)
  • "Understanding Downtown Consumer Spending in the 'New Normal.'" Presenter: Tom Moriarty, The Eisen Group. (on @presconf)
  • "From Zero to Hero: A Main Street Manager's Story." Presenter: Kristina Trevarrow, Rochester Downtown Development Authority, Rochester, Mich. (on @MainStreetsConf)
  • Tour of Historic East Village. (field reports from Trust staffer @estewartdc)

If you're a Main Street in-person attendee who tweeted your session, please share your handle in the comments so others can take advantage of your diligence and brilliance!

Top Tweets & Posts

We enjoyed lively participation from the social media-verse, with a VIP mention going to Main Street staffer (and first-time tweeter @tomasmramirez) Tomas Ramirez for his excellent Exhibit Hall coverage.

Here's a sampling of our favorite comments:

@PresConf: McMahon: Tear up parking lots, rebuild paradise. Turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs. A parking lot is a terrible thing to waste.

@natalieburg: Wow. The fact that there are now 400 vacant Wal-Mart stores in the US just got a hilariously large uproar of applause.

@DSP_PresNation: Recommended reading: The Great Reset. It answers how the crash will reshape America. // by Richard Florida (Fun aside: Richard Florida himself retweeted and said thanks for this one!)

The Michigan delegation struts its stuff with "cow"-boy hats and cowbells.

@LaFeinman: 88% of young adults would choose neighborhood over size of house. "That's revolutionary" #edmcmahon

Robin Wasielewski Brekke:  As a past attendee of several NMSCs, it's been great to join virtually when I couldn't be there in person. It's nice seeing familiar faces and keeping up with conference/event happenings.

Closing Thought ...

Valecia Crisafulli, the National Trust's Senior Director of Partnerships, put it this way at the plenary: "They don't tell you in the brochure how addictive this conference is!" And now I see why.

Main Street attendees have tremendous energy and enthusiasm. They personify team spirit with their sincere support for other programs and the movement as a whole. I feel privileged to help deliver this spirit out over the interwebz, and hope you can all come experience it in person one day!

Julia Rocchi is representing the National Trust's Digital + New Media Team at the Main Streets Conference. She is grateful to Tweetchat for supplying hashtags and to Iowa for supplying pie.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Austin In One Word

Posted on: November 24th, 2010 by Julia Rocchi


Home. Comfortable. Outside. "Mom." Confused.

These are just a few of the terms Austinites picked to capture their hometown when we put them on the spot during Austin Unscripted interviews and asked, "If you could describe Austin in one word, what would it be?"

Some people had their word right away. Others pondered it for a few minutes. Still more couldn't pick just one. But they were all able to pinpoint what they loved about their city -- and the responses were as varied as the people themselves (if you don't count 'eclectic').

See for yourself!

What's your one word for Austin?

Full Austin Unscripted videos now available! Check out the incredible stories on the PreservationNation YouTube channel.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Go Behind The Scenes With Austin Unscripted

Posted on: November 4th, 2010 by Julia Rocchi


Jason, Caroline, and I (Julia) made it back alive from Austin Unscripted. Sick. Exhausted. Taco-deprived. But definitely alive.

We can't believe it was only two weeks ago today that we arrived in Austin armed with handheld cameras, a roll of duct tape, and a dream no clue how it was all going to turn out. Well, now we know: 95 interviews, 13 stops, and 2 pounds of guacamole later, we've learned that most Austinites are preservationists -- some intentional, others accidental -- and all of them love their city.

But in the immortal words of "Reading Rainbow," you don't have to take my word for it. Watch the interviews for yourself and see what folks in Austin said about their home.

Also, you'll notice we don't have 95 interviews posted yet. That's because we on the Austin Unscripted team -- now that we've moved past our colds and food cart withdrawal -- are still banging out the finished versions. Keep an eye on the PreservationNation YouTube channel to see the complete batch over the next week or so.

In the meantime, come behind-the-scenes with the Austin Unscripted team for some of our favorite moments. (You can watch the full slideshow here.) If you ever wanted to know what extreme weather patterns we faced, or why we sounded so giggly in our tweets, or how in the world we could put away so much food, well ... here are your answers.

The back of our rental car. It was like the Jenga of equipment transport. Next year we're hoping the Container Store will sponsor us for more efficient carrying cases ... hint hint ...

Who said responsible, wage-earning adults can't indulge in the occasional toy store visitation? We worked out our nervous energy pre-meetup #1 at Toy Joy, an awesome shop that dazzled us with all its colors and games. Jason snapped this shot right after our 'funny sunglasses modeling session.'

We love publicity. We also love highlighters. And when the two combined at Wheatsville Co-op? Priceless.

One of many interviews over the course of the weekend. This terrific chat happened outside the historic Victory Grill in Austin's East End. If you've never stopped by, by all means go! You'll feast your eyes on the murals outside and commune with Janis Joplin's spirit inside.

The life of an Austin Unscripted team member wasn't all fun and games, you know. We also had to do things like organize release forms, check audio levels, and keep equipment dry in the midst of freak rainstorms at the Austin Farmers' Market.

Can you believe this photo was taken the same day at the previous one? Obviously, the sun came out once we reached the Hey Cupcake and Frigid Frog food truck lot in South Congress. Because if there's one thing that will bring sunshine to your life, it's sugar.

Just looking at this picture of Caroline's lunch makes me hungry. Torchy's Tacos is where we may or may not have consumed two pounds of guacamole while talking to friendly folks from around town. Also, Jessica Alba reportedly showed up there too that day. Sadly, our paths did not cross. I would love to know if she considers herself a preservationist.

There's more where these came from! Check out our complete behind-the-scenes set on Flickr.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

How We Spent Our Summer Vacations

Posted on: September 2nd, 2010 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment


For National Trust staffers, summer means playtime -- a chance to visit all the historic places we love studying and sharing. What follows is a sample of our colleagues' adventures. But it's not all about us -- please share your travels in the comments!

Citizenship Ceremony at Mt. Vernon

Charlotte's husband poses with George and Martha Washington at his swearing-in ceremony at Mt. Vernon.

Charlotte Bonini, Senior Education Planner

July 4th, 2010 – it was a glorious day! My husband Driss became an American citizen on July 4th at Mt. Vernon. Yes, that’s right, Mt. Vernon!

Driss has been in the US for 12 years. Becoming a citizen was always something that he talked about doing and that day was finally here. Even with temperatures soaring toward 100, I still had goose bumps.

One hundred and one new citizens were to be sworn in; Driss was #100. Families, friends, and regular visitors to Mt. Vernon were there to witness our little piece of history. George Washington spoke, and we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by a Marine who’d served in Iraq and was also being sworn in as a new citizen. Finally they all took their oath -- 101 of our newest citizens from the four corners of the Earth.

It was official. Driss had realized his dream of becoming a citizen. I can't say it enough -- it was truly a glorious day, exciting, thrilling, and downright moving. We have always enjoyed and celebrated the 4th of July; now we will do it as a proud American family.

David Brown, Executive Vice President

On this year's vacation/college tour with my kids, I paid my first visit to the Vassar campus. I must admit I’m a sucker for great libraries and the Thompson Memorial Library there didn’t disappoint.  The outside is fine early 20th century Gothic, but the inside is terrific.  I could study here all day!  As a friend of mine said, these really are cathedrals for learning.

Erica Stewart, Outreach Coordinator, Community Revitalization

Diamond Cove

The author visited the abandoned fort in the early '80s -- a preservationist in the making!

This summer I had the opportunity to return to a place I hadn’t been in almost 30 years but, as a favorite childhood destination, I had re-visited many times in my mind and in pictures.

When I was a young girl living in Maine, my grandparents would take me sailing along the coast and islands. If the winds and seas were favorable, they would give in to my pleadings to visit Great Diamond, a largely uninhabited Casco Bay island near Portland. We would quietly slip into a deserted cove, beach our rowboat on the shore, and then wander among the ruins of Fort McKinley.

Built at the turn of the century, the fort guarded Portland Harbor during the Spanish-American War and through World War II. During that time as many as 1,000 soldiers lived among its brick barracks and Queen Anne-style officers’ quarters which framed a grassy parade ground. Before that, the island was an artist retreat and vacation colony, attracting the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The fort was abandoned in 1945 and was totally deserted when we visited in the early 80s—the grounds overgrown and its artillery eerily silent.  My seven year-old imagination found the remains peaceful, mysterious, and a little bit scary.

Diamond Cove (restored)

The author returned to the island to see the graceful restoration of Diamond Cove, nearly 30 years later.

After forty years of vacancy, a private developer stepped in and restored the barracks and officers’ quarters into Diamond Cove, a community of condos and townhouses marked by original slate roofs, wooden porches, grand staircases, and fireplaces. The former Quartermaster's storehouse is now a high-end restaurant, the wagon shed is an art gallery, and the PX houses are a restored duckpin bowling alley, exercise room, and gymnasium.

Greater Portland Landmarks gave me the opportunity to visit the island on a daylong home and garden tour, where I could see firsthand the tasteful revival of this private community. The island is just as serene as I remembered, but any scariness I once felt as has been replaced by another feeling: envy.

James Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief, Preservation

We were visiting friends in New Hampshire earlier this year, and drove a few miles north of Concord to see Canterbury Shaker Village -- a remarkable historic site that can turn anyone into an instant admirer of Shaker architecture. Hundreds of Shakers (members of the religious group formally known as the United Society of Believers) lived here in the 19th century, and the buildings and gardens they left behind exemplify elegance and simplicity.

Walking around the 1792 meeting house, with its gambrel roof and 12-over-12 windows, reminded me that beautiful architecture has the capacity to inspire—even centuries after it was conceived. Next on my list? Two other U.S. Shaker villages:  Sabbathday Lake in Maine and Pleasant Hill in Kentucky.  I can’t wait.

Sarah Heffern, Content Manager

Having blown through a large portion of my travel budget for 2010 before the end of January, the theme of my summer was staycation. I vowed to myself that I’d find a way to be touristy even if I wasn’t traveling, and as part of that goal I decided to finally visit Mount Vernon.

Yes… I’m a life-long history geek who has lived in Washington, D.C. a dozen years and worked at the National Trust for more than a decade, but I had never gotten around to visiting the George Washington’s home, which is also mothership of the American historic preservation movement. It was a gaping – and embarrassing – hole in my preservationist street cred.

Ann Pamela Cunningham exhibit at Mt. Vernon

This Mt. Vernon exhibit features Ann Pamela Cunningham, the mother of the preservation movement in the U.S.

Though I don’t what on earth took me so long, I have to say that visiting toward the end of August turned out to be a great choice, as it wasn’t crowded and I could wander around at a leisurely pace taking pictures without being in anyone’s way.

And though I know the site is the home of the father of our country, I kept my eyes peeled the whole time looking for signs of the mother of our movement, Ann Pamela Cunningham, who was responsible for saving the site more than a century ago.

At last I found her – and the preservation story of Mount Vernon – on the way out of the museum, just before I left. Had there been a statue of her, I would have posed with it.


If we've inspired you to travel over Labor Day for one last summer hurrah, check out Gozaic for last-minute ideas on Labor Day festivities and events:

Summer's Last Gasp: Labor Day Events at Gozaic (Part 1)

More Ideas for Labor Day Events and Activities! (Part 2)

Have stories from your own summer travels? Please share them with us!

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

9 Funky Facts About the Lone Star State

Posted on: August 31st, 2010 by Julia Rocchi 4 Comments


This Texas Tuesday, we're channeling Joe Friday and giving you just the facts, ma'am (and sir) -- nine "did you know" items, "whooda thunk" moments, and other tidbits about the Lone Star State.

  1. Texas comes from the Hasinai Indian word tejas meaning friends or allies.
  2. The Texas State Capitol houses the chambers of the Texas Legislature and the office of the governor of Texas. Originally designed in 1881 by architect Elijah E. Myers, civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker oversaw its construction from 1882–88. It is the largest, but not the tallest, state capitol building in the United States (though it is seven feet higher than the nation's Capitol in DC). And no, your eyes do not deceive you ... the building is made of Texas pink granite. (See our Flickr slideshow of the Texas State Capitol.)
  3. The Hertzberg Circus Museum in San Antonio contains one of the largest assortments of circusana in the world.
  4. Though it's now established as the capital city of Texas, Austin was once the capital city of the Republic of Texas from 1840 to 1842. This makes it one of the few cities in the country to be both a country capital and a city capital.
  5. The armadillo is the official state mammal. The lightning whelk is the official state shell.
  6. Be warned: Texas will drive you batty. That's because more species of bats live in Texas than in any other part of the U.S. Check out the Mexican free-tail variety up close in Austin, where 1.5 million of them live under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Each night, from March through October, these winged Austinites take flight across the city to grab their grub. (When you come for the National Preservation Conference, snag a spot on the bridge and watch the excitement!)
  7. Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885. The Dublin Dr Pepper, 85 miles west of Waco, still uses pure imperial cane sugar in its product.
  8. The highest point in Austin is Mount Bonnell at 785 feet -- a delightful break from Texas's usual flatness. Remember when our colleague Jason climbed to the top? Check out his views.
  9. Our apologies to anyone from Rhode Island, but the King Ranch in Texas is bigger than your entire state.

What fun facts do you know about Texas? Share them here!

* Thanks to Texas Facts and Trivia, 20 Fun and Interesting Facts about Austin, Texas, and Tripcart for supplying today's factoids.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.