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Feisty oil heiress and theater star Aline Barnsdall would have been pleased to see the scene that unfolded on her lawn at Hollyhock House last Friday: throngs of people sprawled out on picnic blankets, sipping wine, catching up with friends, and watching the sun set over Los Angeles.

I know I was enjoying the revelries. When I received an email earlier this summer announcing the start of this year’s Friday Night Wine Tastings at Barnsdall Art Park, they had me at “wine tasting.” Imagine sitting with a glass of pinot in the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright’s c. 1921 Hollyhock House, built for Barnsdall, who had bohemian tendencies and an affinity for supporting radical causes.

But throw in the opportunity to tour the iconic house, and I was sold. So last Friday, I drove to East Hollywood and hiked up the hill where Hollyhock House stands, overlooking the city.

 
Before we began sampling the libations, my friend and I lined up for our 7 p.m. tour.  It was quite a treat to be touring the house that night: It has been closed to tour groups since July 20, save for tours given during the Friday Night Wine Tastings, on account of ongoing restoration work at the site. (It is scheduled to reopen to the public in September.)

We were led through a side door and into a small room where we were instructed to put protective booties over our shoes to spare the flawless hardwood floors. Thanks to Wright’s open floor plan, I was able to survey a good portion of the house while waiting for the tour to begin. Sheets of plastic covering the various construction zones blocked some views, but the visible parts were breathtaking. I was excited to begin exploring. ... Read More →

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.

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. ... Read More →

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.

 

After a 9-hour slog through western Montana, Idaho, and central Washington -- during which we stretched our legs and did some minor sightseeing in Spokane, home of this year's upcoming National Preservation Conference -- we arrived at the beautiful Mayflower Park Hotel, part of the Trust's Historic Hotels of America program, in downtown Seattle.

Originally called the Bergonian, the hotel's original ground floor amenities were a coffee shop, a drug store, a smoke shop, and a barbershop -- but no restaurant or bar space with alcohol service, as it was built during Prohibition.


The interior of the Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle.

The hotel changed ownership a number of times until one of its owners declared bankruptcy, and it sat deteriorating for years. It found new life in 1974, when an intrepid couple purchased the hotel and turned it into the beauty it is today, with crystal chandeliers in the lobby, stately Queen Anne furniture in the rooms, and coziness to spare.

Now on the ground level, there’s a popular Mediterranean restaurant, Andaluca, and yes, a swanky bar called Oliver’s Lounge, which was the perfect place for two weary travelers to relax after a long day of driving.
Waiting for the Monorail.

Our room had a view of the Space Needle, but we wanted to see it up close. So the next morning, Blaise and I rode the Monorail, which was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. It shuttles passengers from downtown to another world’s fair site, Seattle Center, a sprawling outdoor campus with museums, fountains, performance venues, and, of course, the Space Needle. The line to go inside was too long for us, but just standing below and looking up at it was amazing.

Seattle didn’t live up to its rainy reputation while we were there. The weather was absolutely perfect for roaming around neighborhoods like Capitol Hill -- an area I’ve been eager to explore since Preservation magazine featured an article about the revitalization of its Pike/Pine corridor.


Inside the Elliott Bay Book Company.

Once the city’s “auto row,” Pike/Pine has seen many of its old warehouses, car dealerships, and showrooms transformed into cafes, bars, boutiques, and apartments throughout the past several years. I bought a book at Elliott Bay Book Company, housed in a former Ford Truck Service Center, and was tempted by the smell of coffee wafting from Caffe Vita, tucked inside the former 1905 Anderson Tool Supply building. ... Read More →

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.

My American Road Trip, Part 6: Heavy Metal

Posted on: June 26th, 2012 by Lauren Walser

 

The drive from Jackson, Wyoming, to Butte, Montana, was an adventure that fit perfectly into our Wild West weekend. On the way out of town, Blaise and I had to stop to let two moose cross the highway. Then we drove through snow in Idaho and a torrential rainstorm near Norris, Montana, so we were all too glad to spot the mining rigs rising up from the mountains, signaling we had finally made it to Butte.


Butte, Montana's historic Hotel Finlen.

We checked into our room at the 1924 Hotel Finlen in the town’s Historic Uptown District. You could spot the towering hotel from the highway -- a testament to the original owners’ vision of building the grandest hotel in the city.

Once we settled into our room, we drove around town to check out a few of the old mining rigs, then out to the Berkeley Pit, an old copper mine that operated from 1955 until 1982. It also holds the dubious distinction of being part of the country’s largest EPA Superfund site, thanks to the toxic heavy metals and acidic water filling the pit.


The Berkeley Pit in all its glory.

Dinner that night was down the street from Hotel Finlen at the M&M Cigar Store. It was founded in 1890 by a pair of miners as a 24-hour spot to drink and gamble; 122 years later, neither its hours nor its primary activities have changed. And just a couple years ago, a local resident purchased and completely renovated the restaurant, refurbishing the sign out front and taking much of the interior back to its earlier days. ... Read More →

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.

My American Road Trip, Part 5: Jackson, Ho!

Posted on: June 21st, 2012 by Lauren Walser 1 Comment

 

The trip from Boulder, Colorado, to Jackson, Wyoming, marked the Wild West portion of my updates from the road, and the first leg of the journey took Blaise and me to Cheyenne, Wyoming. A friend who had once visited Cheyenne made us promise to stop there to eat at a little restaurant called the Luxury Diner.

We’re not ones to break a promise, so we entered the address into our GPS, and it led us -- curiously enough -- to an old railroad car. But the sign out front indicated we had made it, so we stepped inside, grabbed the only vacant seats, and had the kind of breakfast you crave when you’re hungry and away from home: huge portions of greasy spoon comfort food.


Inside Cheyenne, Wyoming's landmark Luxury Diner.

The railroad car, if you’re curious, was once part of a trolley that traveled through the city from 1896 to 1912. It became a diner in 1926.

Souvenir coffee mugs in hand, we got back in the car and drove through long stretches of rolling farmland, crossed through miles of forest, and finally entered Jackson.

While the city catered a bit more toward the tourist set than I normally enjoy, I loved every second of my stay. The shops and restaurants throughout the town’s main hub wear their history proudly, displaying plaques next to their doors explaining important moments in the city’s history. And at 6 p.m., you can head to Town Square for a reenactment of a shootout and catch a glimpse of how frontier disputes were once settled.


Views of the Lower Falls inside Yellowstone National Park.

We spent most of the next day exploring Grand Teton National Park and then Yellowstone National Park, America’s first national park. The two require much more than just a few hours, but we covered a lot of ground and made it back to Jackson in time for dinner.

Good thing, too, as Blaise and I made plans to eat at the Silver Dollar Bar inside the Wort Hotel, a cozy Tudor-style lodge that’s part of the Historic Hotels of America program.

The burgers and fries tasted extra delicious after a day in the wilderness, and the live band drew a crowd of locals and tourists alike. With our stomachs full and our ears ringing, we explored the rustic hotel, climbing its grand wooden staircase and relaxing for a moment in front of the stone fireplace on the mezzanine overlooking the lobby.


Shades Cafe, the perfect place to fuel up before another long trip.

We read about its days as a gambling destination (gambling was illegal, but those in the know could find a poker game at the Wort), and about a fire in 1980 that nearly destroyed the hotel. The roof and second floor were badly damaged, but after a year of repairs, it reopened in 1981, looking just as it did when it first opened in 1941.

On our final morning in Jackson, we had breakfast in what was once an old blacksmith shop. Today it’s Shades Café, and from our spot on the outdoor patio, it was a great place to watch the morning unfold and fuel up for part two of our Wild West adventure: Butte, Montana.

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.