Reflections

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.

My American Road Trip, Part 4: Bouldering

Posted on: June 18th, 2012 by Lauren Walser 7 Comments

 

The drive from Columbia, Missouri, to Boulder, Colorado, was grueling. Twelve hours in the car is not for the faint of heart, even with a leisurely lunch stop in the charming downtown district of Salina, Kansas. But Blaise and I were rewarded handsomely as we drove into Colorado toward the sun setting over the Rocky Mountains. It just might be the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

We were rewarded even more once we pulled into Boulder. Our lodging for the next two nights was at the glamorous Hotel Boulderado downtown, another hotel in the Trust's Historic Hotels of America program.


Outside the gorgeous 103-year old Boulderado Hotel.

Our first morning there, we took a history tour of the hotel courtesy of Beverly Silva, a longtime hotel staff member and all-around expert on Boulder’s history. For every corner of the hotel, Beverly had a story -- like the one she shared about the mysterious spirits that have been felt in the very room in which I was staying. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good ghost story, so I immediately began plotting ways to catch a glimpse of my otherworldly roommate.

Ghosts aside, learning about the history of Hotel Boulderado became a great history lesson on the city. Back in the early 20th century, Boulder was a small but growing town, and city officials were determined to ensure its continued growth. The way to do that, they reasoned, was to build a world-class hotel.


Peering down historic Pearl Street, which is famous for being car-free (and still an economic generator, unlike many car-free Main Streets).

And so Hotel Boulderado was born. To finance the hotel’s construction, stock was sold to local business owners at $100 a share. The money, it seems, poured in.

So too did the guests. Hotel Boulderado opened on New Year’s Day 1909, and more than a century later, it remains a centerpiece of the town with its elegant wooden staircase, lavish Victorian furnishings, and the fantastic stained glass ceiling in the lobby. (The original was destroyed in a snow storm in 1959; the one that currently bathes the lobby in a multi-colored glow dates to the 1970s.)

Today, the hotel is filled with pieces of Boulder’s history: an old cash register from a hardware store that was once adjacent to the hotel, early menus from the hotel’s restaurant, and grainy photographs that show the city throughout the decades. ... 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 2: Nashville Bound

Posted on: June 12th, 2012 by Lauren Walser 4 Comments

 

First things first: a huge thank you to everyone who suggested places I should visit on my journey West. I’m starting to think I need to plan another road trip once I’m settled back in Southern California -- especially since the first lesson I learned on the road is that one evening, or even one day, in a new place is never enough.

Once Blaise and I waved goodbye to Washington, DC, we set sail (figuratively) toward our first destination: Nashville. After four hours on the road, we stopped in Roanoke, Virginia, hoping for lunch at the Historic Roanoke City Market -- the oldest continuously operating open-air market in the state. When we arrived, the market was quiet -- which we learned was because a big storm was rolling in and most of the farmers opted to stay home and guard their crops. Disappointing, but we were able to satiate our hunger with some sandwiches before heading toward Knoxville, Tennessee, where we planned to stop for dinner.


Inside Roanoke, Virginia's historic City Market.

We parked the car downtown, then walked past the bright theater marquees along historic Gay Street and enjoyed a street festival in Market Square. We grabbed burgers and craft-brewed beers -- made on location -- at the historic Downtown Grill & Brewery. While waiting for our table, I studied the old photographs of downtown Knoxville lining the walls and read some of the old framed newspaper articles, which is how I learned about the dreadful curse of the white mule.


The interior of Knoxville's Downtown Grill & Brewery.

I wish we had more time to explore Knoxville, but our eyes were getting heavy, and we had our sights set on Nashville. Once we made it to Music City, we checked into Union Station Hotel -- which is part of the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America program. I can’t imagine a better place to stay in Nashville. The old train station-turned-hotel is a soaring Gothic structure completed in 1900, with an incredible sunlit lobby, spacious rooms, and gorgeous architectural details.

... 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.

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.