Author Archive

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.

Learning Spokane’s History One Field Trip at a Time

Posted on: August 15th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment

 


The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington's Columbia River.

Field trips might have been my number one favorite thing growing up. It was school, but not school. Learning without a blackboard and desk. Travel without parents -- unless you were the kid who ended up with a parent as a chaperone.

Sometimes it was a science museum, other times trips to Lexington and Concord, or Colonial Williamsburg -- but always it involved learning through place.

As adults we still experience that thrill, it’s a little less structured (after all, we are our own chaperones), but there is still that sense of experiencing a place by exploring.

Somehow this has become the year of travel for me -- and once I come back from New Mexico next week it’ll be full steam ahead for the Pacific Northwest where I will be attending the National Preservation Conference  at the end of October, probably my last “field trip” for the year.

Here are a few of my preconceptions:

  1. Spokane is going to be beautiful.
  2. The area has an incredibly rich and varied Native American history.
  3. Washington is one of the states on the forefront of energy development and sustainability

For a preservationist this leads naturally to some exciting field trip possibilities. For example, I know that one field session (called “Hot Dam!”) will take attendees to the Grand Coulee Dam. One of the largest electric power-producing facilities, the tour will go behind the scenes of this industrial site, offering a glimpse of water power in the Northwest.  I didn’t know I would love industrial heritage until I stepped onto the site of an abandoned mill and experienced what some call "the technological sublime" (so massive it's awe-inspiring). Having never been to the Hoover Dam, this trip feels like a great opportunity.

Or, if I want a personalized tour of the American Indian Archives at the Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) I’m going to hop on the bus for “A Coyote in the Henhouse.”  This isn’t the only opportunity to learn about native culture at the conference (we’re having a Pow Wow on Thursday night), but I’m excited at the possibility of seeing so many objects not on public display.

And then for those of us who love green building, multiple field trips that will let you see “Sustainability in Action," with unparalleled access to award-winning preservation and LEED certified buildings.

What can we learn about Spokane through field trips such as these? On one hand there's a multi-faceted view of the city: a sense of the industrial past and present, the Native American heritage, and the commitment of the preservation community to preserving green. In melding all of these trips together we’ll experience more than just a conference center, rather we'll get a broader sense of place for the Pacific and Inland Northwest.

Are you attending the National Preservation Conference? Learn more about great field sessions on our Staff Picks page!

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.

 


Historic San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town Albuquerque.

This summer I've been writing a lot about travel: dreaming about the perfect summer, living along a river, imagining what a life of leisure would be like (if only, right?).

Now, in two weeks, I'm heading off on my last vacation for the season -- this time to Albuquerque, NM, where for one week I'll be enjoying the beauty of the Southwest in the days leading up to a high school friend's wedding.

I've been to the Albuquerque area before. I've ogled the view from Sandia Peak and meandered through the streets of Sante Fe, all the while eating some of the best food in the country.

This time though ... I've got a whole week. And while some of that time will be spent doing typical wedding tasks, the rest of it is begging to be spent on exploration. Plus, I'll be celebrating my 30th birthday that week, so what better way for a historian to mark the occasion then by spending time in a city as culturally rich and beautiful as Albuquerque?

So this is one of the posts where I turn to you for advice. What are the places, restaurants, hikes, and museums that I should check out? What makes Albuquerque special? Let me know in the comments and I'll report back when I return!

[Ed. note: Nobody knows places better than the people who live there, and Priya's post has inspired us to gather recommendations from all over the country. Want to brag about your town (and convince people to visit it)? Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org and tell us what sets your town apart -- buildings, activities, restaurants, cultural events, itineraries, etc. We just might feature you in an upcoming post!]

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.