Author Archive

My Preservation Resolution: Build the Movement in 2013

Posted on: January 4th, 2013 by Priya Chhaya 2 Comments

 

Shutterbug series at Central Terminal, Buffalo, NY. Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Local preservationists at Buffalo's Central Terminal.

Observation: This is my fourth year putting pen to paper to map out my annual goals (see 2010, 2011, and 2012), and I’ve noticed that as the years go by, my list gets less specific.

Look at last year’s resolution, for example:

My 2012 Preservation Resolution is to not back down, to be inventive, to be engaged, and to look outside every box to find workable solutions in a challenging environment. For 2012 I vow to make connections and find tools that will allow preservationists to be all that they can be -- to turn opportunity into something tangible.

It could be that my resolutions are increasingly aspirational, and thus a little broader. But to look at it another way, my resolutions increasingly commit me to taking a stand, to changing minds and changing hearts -- not just with one action, but with a whole year of actions, one at a time.... 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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

Putting the Puzzle Together: Reflections on Travel in Seattle

Posted on: November 21st, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment

 


Seen on the Seattle Underground tour.

A metaphor I often use when talking about the past is that of a puzzle. Getting to know the whole picture of place means fitting together a number of disparate pieces that when snapped together give you a single picture -- a snapshot in time that is one in a series that make up the past.

I also approach visiting new cities through this lens. A few weeks ago as a prelude to my visit to Spokane for the National Preservation Conference, I went to Seattle to visit with some friends and family. What I ended up doing was not just visiting to a popular tourist destination but also getting a sense of the place itself.

I started, in a sense, with the history. On the recommendation of many people, I took the Seattle Underground tour where I gained a sense of a city that changed after a disastrous fire. Following the fire, the city was raised about 15 feet, creating subterranean passages with skylights that filtered in light from the sidewalk above. Piece 1.


Exhibit at the Chihuly Gardens and Glass Exhibition.

Pushing forward in time, I spent a few hours at Seattle Center, home of the 1962 World's Fair. I took the obligatory ride up the Space Needle where, like at any high point in a city, I gained a visual sense of the city’s geography -- water and land, ships and sky. Piece 2.

The cool thing about Seattle Center is that it is also a mecca of museums. Science. Art. Music. Pop culture. There is something here to feed all matter of interests. Luckily, for a few extra bucks, my ticket up the Space Needle also came with entry into the Chihuly Gardens and Glass exhibition next door. Now for those of you who aren't familiar with Dale Chihuly's work, it’s … phenomenal. His work with glass is indescribable -- the shapes, the colors -- and you can tell that he takes some of his inspiration from Washington state itself, from sea life to Native American baskets. Piece 3.


Seattle EMP Museum.

After a tour of the Icons of Science Fiction exhibition at the EMP Museum (designed by Frank Gehry) I stepped into even more recent history -- a narrative about the band Nirvana. Amidst their story is a broader examination of the DIY music movement. Using its extensive collection of sound samples, the exhibition talks about the role of Seattle and Washington State in the alternative music scene -- letting visitors listen to a wide array of predecessors to Nirvana, other bands that were contemporary to the band, and those that Nirvana influenced. Piece 4.

I took a walk around the neighborhood wandering through Pike Place Market, the Seattle Public Library, and Pioneer Square. The library alone intimated a city filled with creativity; the Market and Pioneer Square were fixtures of a community. Piece 5.

And finally, by staying in the suburbs I got an idea of the role Microsoft and Boeing play in the region’s economy. Seeing the planes being put together -- wing, engine, tail, body -- provided one more example about how pieces come together into a cohesive whole. Piece 6.

As I rode the train to Spokane, I thought about the city I experienced and saw each of these six pieces came together into a single snapshot. As visitors to a city, our visions of what that place is and what's important in that space depends on the connections we forge. Being able to see the magic of Chihuly next to the vibrations of Smells Like Teen Spirit while smelling the fish and eating doughnuts in the market gave me a picture of a place that I won't forget. This was my Seattle.

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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

Tonight: National Preservation Conference Kicks Off in Spokane!

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Priya Chhaya

 

This post is adapted from the Preservation Leadership Forum blog. Follow along there for daily recaps of all conference activities!

Happy Halloween! Most of the staff today has embraced the holiday and turned out in shades of red, orange and black. But there is an even bigger event going on today -- the kick-off of the National Preservation Conference in Spokane!... 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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

Counting Down to the National Preservation Conference in Spokane

Posted on: October 19th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya

 


Landmark from the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane.

Let’s sit down for a moment and take a breather. It’s always at this moment -- just over a week from the National Preservation Conference -- that the National Trust staff starts walking and talking over a hundred miles a minute as we finish up final preparations. But I always like to take a moment to remind myself about the place we are going.

This year it's Spokane, Washington. When someone thinks of visiting the State of Washington, Seattle always seems to be first on everyone’s mind. But no more. Spokane is a city that boasts 17 different historic districts and a variety of arts and culture venues, and I’m looking forward to experiencing as much as possible.

Take Riverfront Park, for example. In 1974 this was the home of Exposition ’74, the “World’s Fair.” Prior to its arrival this area of the city was covered by rail yards. But the city took the Expo’s arrival as an opportunity to clean up its brownfields and create what is now known as Riverfront Park -- home to a variety of attractions, including a Skyride over Spokane Falls which lie at the heart of the city.

As luck would have it, we are arriving during the short period when all of the attractions are open at once, providing an opportunity to fully recognize this great remediation and preservation project.

On top of experiencing the best that this city has to offer, I’m looking forward to my train ride into Spokane aboard the Empire Builder line (more on that when I return), and my stay at the beautiful historic Davenport Hotel. So while we may be a little harried counting down to sessions, tours, and events, we are also counting down to some great days of networking, learning about great preservation work, and exploring an impressive city.

P.S. If you’re going to be in Spokane with us, be sure to stop by the Preservation Leadership Forum booth to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

The Unexpected: A Few Words on Architecture and Imagination

Posted on: October 17th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment

 

Honeycombed, rounded edges. Craggy towers, insectile caverns, seamlessly beautiful. Straight boxed edges, clean lines, looking within from without.

Prompted, in part, by the ongoing discussions about Prentice Hospital in Chicago, I’ve been thinking about a few of my favorite buildings, trying to pinpoint exactly why I am drawn to particular structures over others.


Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  1. Creativity. I love skylines of distinction, where buildings can be so in sync with the urban rhythm, yet unique and versatile. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The Seagram Building in New York City. The Disney Concert Hall in LA. The Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY. Each of these buildings, some with longer histories than others, tells a story through their fluid lines, curves, facades, and stained glass.
  2. Imprints of lives long gone. Classical colonial plantations and vernacular architecture tells us of how people lived. Upstairs, downstairs, private and public. Stories of class struggle and enslavement. Narratives of freedom and revolution. As a historian, one of my favorite things to do is to “read” a building. What can we learn about the lives that inhabited this space? How did they live? What are the invisible boundaries that separated one group from another? What can we see and understand about the human experience at Monticello, Robie House, The Tenement Museum, slave cabins, sod houses, and igloos?
  3. Imagination. Buildings can invoke far-off lands or spark narratives of non-existing worlds on imagined planets -- where we could be in the future, far from the cookie-cutter and the monotonous. I see this vision in Prentice Hospital, or the contrast between the brutalist War Memorial Center section and newer sleek Santiago Calatrava design of the Milwaukee Art Museum. And, for a quick glimpse beyond our borders, I see it in the Taj Mahal and the ever awe-inducing Sagrada Familia. All of these buildings inspire -- both in their grandiosity and their expression.


The Santiago Calatrava-designed section of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

These buildings don’t have to be beautiful. What sets them apart is that they have their own vocabulary, their own sense of being, and their own narratives. More importantly, they are a spark for looking beyond -- outside boxes -- to encourage new heights, adventures, and innovations. And there is something galvanizing about seeing the magical and lofty in a human-made structure. They are settings for old histories and new stories. They are more than the expected.

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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

 

If I had to sum up my last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico in two words it would be this: the sky. During the day it was a brilliant shade of blue, at dusk a deep shade of pink, and there were moments this past week where I thought all I had to do was reach up and capture some of it in my hand.

It was everywhere -- along main roads, soaring forward when we drove around town completing errands;  along the Turquoise Trail on my birthday as we made stops at ghost towns on the way to Sante Fe; and at a rehearsal dinner located high on a hill where we could see all of Albuquerque spread out before us.

While the purpose of the trip was to celebrate the nuptials of an old high school friend, it was not devoid of the all-important historical wanderings. As suggested by some of our readers, I had dinner in Nob Hill, a local main street with shops and restaurants, and walked past the numerous murals that illustrate Central Avenue downtown.

But Tuesday (my birthday) was the kicker. The bride’s mother took us on a road trip to Sante Fe with stops in Golden and Madrid (pronounced with a long “A,” not like the city in Spain). In Golden we had the opportunity to shop at Henderson Store. A family-run business since 1918, it was a general store until the 1960s when a declining need transformed it into a trading post for handcrafted Native American crafts. Today, it is a great place to find amazing jewelry and cultural items from the various Native American pueblos in the area.

The best part? Getting to talk with Bill Henderson about his life’s work, something that not many visitors get to do. He’s someone you wish you could listen to all day -- filled with personal stories of the region’s history and culture.

I also learned that ghost towns are interesting places of revitalization. After all, what do you do when the industry that made it thrive no longer is supported? In Madrid, now a tourist locality, we saw the old coal veins and the small cabins for the workers that had been transformed into venues for local artists and craftspeople. It’s perfectly positioned along a scenic byway, too -- the Turquoise Trail on the way to Sante Fe.

And since we were in the neighborhood, we ended up making a second trip to the state capital later in the week to meet up with my former government teacher and historian James McGrath Morris.  Perhaps the best part of knowing someone in the area is their ability to point out attractions we may have overlooked. And while we never made it to Los Alamos, we did go to 109 East Palace, which we learned was the check-in site for Los Alamos workers back when it was a secret city.


Stopover in Madrid, NM.

Back in ABQ (as I’ve affectionately started to call it) I spotted Mt. Taylor in the distance and wished that there was more time for me to make my way to another place connected to the National Trust: Acoma Sky City

… which leads me back to the sky. After a week here I understand that the appeal and power of living in the Southwest is connected to nature. Understanding Albuquerque’s past and present means understanding the geography -- the mountains, the desert, the sky -- and understanding its connection with those who live there.

P.S.: Thanks to the group that responded to my earlier post soliciting suggestions for this trip. While I wasn’t able to make all of your suggestions they are definitely on my list for next time.

P.P.S. Traveling there soon and looking for some good places to eat? Try Scalo in Nob Hill and the Flying Star Café (multiple locations), and BBQ at The County Line. In Sante Fe I checked out the food at the La Fonda (a Historic Hotel of America), and some great Heuvos Rancheros at Tia Sophia’s.

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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.