Author Archive

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.

 

Everyone's heard of the Grammys, the Oscars, and the Emmys. But last night was an awards show of a different kind. The 2012 Webby Awards, held at Manhattan's historic Hammerstein Ballroom, celebrated people, companies, and organizations that have done something especially intriguing, impactful, and engaging online.


A screenshot of Dear Photograph, which was nominated for a Webby in the "Cultural Blog" category.

Some of the winners were a bit odd (Draw a Stickman), while others I had seen before and admired (have you played with NASA’s new site lately?).

Those of us who love history (and, cough, who work in the non-profit sector) recognize that we can’t travel everywhere, so new digital tools that create impactful online travel and  visitor experiences are valuable investments. I started thinking about the winning sites that I was drawn to and realized many of them had connections (unsurprisingly) to art, architecture and place in the digital realm. ... 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.

 

Starting in the late 16th century through to the 18th century, rich, young Europeans (and later Americans) traveled around Europe on something known as the "Grand Tour." Meant to be a capstone to formal education, the Tour involved a period of travel to some of Europe's great cities with the intention of introducing individuals to society, art, and culture.

For the last two weeks, as I made my way to two distinctive cities, I wondered what a modern Grand Tour in the United States would be like. What would be the unexpected places that would serve as a window into our culture, our architecture, and our people?


Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward neighborhood.

As I wrote about in an earlier blog post, I spent the last two weeks traveling to Wisconsin and Texas. I'll be honest -- if given a choice, I doubt that Milwaukee and Fort Worth would have been high on my list of intentional personal travel destinations -- but while I was there, each city succeeded in opening my heart in unexpected ways to what they had to offer.

I don't know what expectations I had for Milwaukee -- aside from its robust brewing past and present -- but I'll leave that alone for now and instead talk about its Historic Third Ward neighborhood, replete with converted warehouses, a fantastic Public Market, shops, and a river walk. Added to the National Register in 1984, the neighborhood is made up of enormous brick buildings that used to be centers of manufacturing. While some of the spaces are still vacant, the neighborhood is very much alive with residents, businesses, and creative public spaces.


The Mitchell Park Conservatory.

I also got a chance to visit the Mitchell Park Conservatory. Three mid-century domes replaced the old conservatory (which is probably an interesting preservation story in and of itself) in 1959. They loom high, and house three different ecosystems, each arrayed with a magical array of smells, sounds, and temperatures: tropical, desert, and a show dome for fancy flowers. I took delight in the way the arcing lines of the dome mimick the curve of the earth upon which these plants grow. ... 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.

 

Travel is almost always at least a little stressful, but it's also incredibly exhilarating -- because with it comes the chance to experience new (or familiar) places, and to make new stories both for yourself and about the places you're visiting. In my case I'm headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, followed by five days in Fort Worth, Texas.

I have about two hours before I head out on the road (well, the air really) for two weeks. As usual, a few hundred thoughts are running through my head: Did I finish all the perishables? Did I pack enough clothing that will work in both climates?


Milwaukee's vibrant riverwalk and warehouses of the Third Ward neighborhood. (Photo: anaxila on Flickr)

But packing my physical bag is not enough. Mentally, the historian in me battles with my inner foodie and urbanist. I'll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what to see, what to eat, and what makes these cities tick.

For instance, did you know that Milwaukee is where the typewriter was invented? Or that Fort Worth is where 60 percent of our money is minted? Both random, fun facts that I've encountered in my research.

The purpose of both trips is not limited to vacations in disparate parts of the United States. Rather, they already include time spent on preservation and history. My trip to Milwaukee is for the National Council on Public History/Organization of American Historians annual meeting, while my Fort Worth travel involves tours and conversations regarding issues facing preservation nonprofits across the country. But outside the meetings I want to make sure that I make the most of the time away from the office.


The historic Fort Worth Stock Yards. (Photo: samuel_belknap on Flickr)

So I'm feeling the pull -- that urge to make sure that I don't miss a minute, a site, or a story, and to walk away from both these places seeing them as more than just a meeting room space.

What do you go see when you visit a new city or town? Do you look for its history? The museums, the art, the culture? Do you look for the social scene or the main street?

And -- as I blatantly use this post for recommendations -- if you know Milwaukee or Fort Worth well, let me know what the "must see" places are. I promise to report back!

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.