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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.

The Perfect Summer Vacation

Posted on: July 20th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 3 Comments

 

We all know how the summer feels. As a child it is blissful and freeing, a removal from the constraints of arithmetic and chalkboards to a time of jaunts at the playground and road trips with the family.  When we are older summer becomes about escape from the rhythm of everyday, a time of relaxation and serenity.

Or at least that's what we aim for. As I write this, I'm on a bus in the middle of a rainstorm on my way up to New York City. My family and I are going to spend a long weekend upstate at Lake George for my mother's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!) and I wonder  what the perfect vacation would be.

For me, it would obviously have to have some element of history to it. A former colleague here at the National Trust once told me that whenever he planned a vacation he and his wife would draw up a list of books in preparation. So for instance, if you're going to Paris you would read not just history books or travel guides, but also novels set in Paris, writings about traveling to Paris, reflections about Paris.  Giving you a context and a sense of what a place, a people, have been through before you get there.

But maybe there is some element of joy in the discovery. Of visiting a place and learning from those who know it best. Maybe that is perfection -- learning as we go.  Going in blind, so to speak.

Perhaps it is not the place at all that is the attraction, but the people who surround you, the memories you capture of your own of what you saw, who you talked with, what inspired. It becomes a part of your personal history, your personal photo of album of life that 50 years from now you'll look back and say "remember when..."

Or maybe the best summer vacation is all of the above. One part character and history, folded in with the unexpected and a hint of spontaneity and discovery. Mix in friends, family, and loved ones (or maybe a dash of alone-time) and you have a recipe of possibility teetering on perfection.

Tell us, as we sift through the heat, the storms, finding ourselves almost into the swelter of August -- what is your perfect vacation spot, and why does it matter to you? What makes that place important, what makes it shine?

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.

A Holiday in New York's Thousand Islands

Posted on: July 5th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya

 

Ahh, vacation. It’s a lovely word. It is a time where you kick off your shoes and stop thinking about anything related to work. Unless, for example, you love history and you’re vacationing along the St. Lawrence River at the Thousand Islands in upstate New York -- where I was last week.

Being there reminded me of a college seminar that took me along the James River in Virginia to look at plantation houses. The houses were built in such a way that visitors coming by boat would be treated to the homes' best faces as they floated by.  At the time (and really, even now) I secretly wanted to live by a river -- not only because it seemed incredibly decadent, but also because the views epitomized inspiration.

I experienced this firsthand with my trip to Thousand Islands, where I stayed in a 1890s cottage in Thousand Islands Park just steps away from the river.  Even when the temperatures soared you could cool down by standing outside and letting the breeze off the water wash over you. Perfection may be too strong of a word, but it was definitely close. ... 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.

History and Exploration in Beaufort, SC

Posted on: June 15th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya

 

It wasn't long after my arrival in Beaufort this past Monday that I began to feel a blog post coming on. The trip down from Charleston was punctuated by views of the state's rolling green landscape of marshes, moss-draped Live Oaks, and its infamous palmetto palms. However, it wasn't a particularly nice day and the grey skies danced slowly across the sky, obliterating any sunshine I had been hoping for (yet justifying the decision I made earlier in the day to pack a sweater).


The view of Port Royal Sound is sifted by mossy Live Oaks and Palmetto Palms.

Thankfully things didn't stay that way. And while I wasn't here for a vacation, I loved how I could walk a few feet outside my hotel room and see the bay, open and welcoming. Each day we would stroll into a different neighborhood -- from Pidgeon Point to the Northwest Quadrant -- to get a new view of the city. As happens in many charming communities, it didn't take long to play "what movie was filmed here" and spot the bridge from "Forrest Gump" and the house from "The Big Chill."


Beaufort's historic Bay Street.

And then, of course, there was the history (my favorite part). During a walking tour I learned that because Beaufort and Port Royal were taken early on during the Civil War, many of the homes still stand, and were used as hospitals and homes for soldiers. The historic district is gorgeous and as you walk through the Point you feel nurtured by the dense foliage (and smile at the trees that overhang the roads, marked out with a yellow "low clearance" sign). We saw the Tabernacle African American Church and learned (in perfect timing with the 11 Most Endangered Places announcement) that Smokin' Joe Frazier was born in Beaufort.

Why was I in Beaufort, SC? This last week was the latest Preservation Leadership Training (PLT). Over the course of one week a group of preservationists from Canada to Georgia gathered to learn about development tools and financing. Like all PLT's they learned by doing, using case studies and tangible buildings and places to come up with preservation solutions.

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.

Unlocking the “I Love History” Gene

Posted on: June 4th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 17 Comments

 

I didn’t just fall into my love of history. My parents had some part, teaching me about my Indian heritage through language, music, and dance, and instilling in me an awareness that we all come from somewhere. But it wasn't until I took a course called "Applied History" in high school that I realized history was more than just a given interest -- it was something I actually love.

A few years ago I was given the opportunity to speak before a group of history teachers about that course. My talk was part of a keynote address by my history teacher, a man who inspired countless students to acknowledge the value of history in the world around us.

I chose to focus on what I learned in that course -- how learning about the tangible fabric of history impacted each of my senses and opened my eyes to real life, to a world beyond the words in a textbook.

But my speech was just as much about the teacher who chose to spend his career inspiring others, not just through the coursework, but also by his actions, attitude, and passion.

It's hard to believe that those lessons are almost fifteen years old, and that my teacher, Jim Percoco, is retiring after over thirty years in the profession. His career is an inspiration to me because considering why history is important helps me do my job every day. ... 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.