Travel

A Double Dose of Southern Comfort

Posted on: August 27th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments

 

By Susannah Ware

“Darlin, have you ever been here before?” the Bristol Campground manager asked in his sweet country drawl.

“No sir, I haven’t,” I replied, smiling through the phone and instinctually reverting to the Southern politeness I had grown up with.

“Well, we’ve got 1,300 acres and y’all are welcome to sleep wherever you like when you get here.”

This was our first introduction to Bristol’s laidback charm as I planned the trip for my boyfriend Jacob and me to attend Mumford & Sons’s Gentlemen of the Road (GOTR) concert. I had been particularly concerned that the campground, usually used for NASCAR races, would kick us off our site if we hadn’t filled out the online form properly. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

The campground and what seemed like the whole Bristol community were expecting us, as well as the other visitors from across the map. We were outsiders, but welcome to join in and poke our heads around to see if we liked what we saw.

What we saw were streets lined with flags, storefronts welcoming fans with mustachioed signs, and restaurants serving up local burgers, bar-b-q, and brews. We took an instant liking to it, much like Mumford and Sons had the year before.

When the band originally visited Bristol, they were passing through from Nashville to New York between shows. They spoke with a few locals about the possibility of the town as a concert venue and visited their hoped-for site. Even then, they envisioned the concert on the lot in front of the illuminated historic train station, which was renovated to become an event/meeting facility after passenger service ended. Recounting the visit to the audience during the concert, they had met with what they felt were kindred spirits in a place rich with music history. (Congress’ HR 214 named Bristol the “Birthplace of Country Music,” as it was home to the first recordings of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.) The historic site added great ambiance to already great music.

But music was only part of the experience—most of the morning and for a few afternoon strolls, we were drawn down Bristol’s central artery. State Street, which is bisected by the Virginia/Tennessee state line, offers two doses of Southern hospitality. (Jacob and I had started our relationship long-distance, so we found this walk-able dividing line a novelty for the day.)

We had four main takeaways from Bristol’s Main Street community, which undoubtedly contributed to Jacob’s frequent announcements of, “I like this place. I’d live here.”

- Happy Hosts: Regardless of long lines at restaurants with expanded storefronts spilling into the street, servers were courteous, kind, and curious towards the concertgoers. No doubt businesses were getting quite a boost from the event, but they were taking on the strain in stride. While waiting at one local watering hole, we even got to partake in a new Bristol cocktail -- homemade lemonade with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey, which Jacob dubbed “lemonade with confidence.” (I hope the lemonade was made in Virginia for a true VA/TN Bristol combo).

- “Come On In” Community: Finding a solid community seems like a given in such a small town but we city folk, who interact with neighbors at best with a smile and a nod, were impressed by the closeness. At one restaurant, a younger woman headed to the concert stopped to speak with the manager, who was swiftly emptying overloading trash bags and refilling drinks. We overheard him ask her to work at the next event from 10 a.m. – 1 a.m. As our eyes widened at the shift length, her chipper response was instead, “Sure, sounds great! How many more will you need me to bring? My sister might want to help.” Seemed like everyone was ready to jump in to show off Bristol.

- Local Lovers: While this was a massive event with people pouring in from all over the South and Mid-Atlantic, Bristol took advantage of showcasing their local beer, local grass-fed beef, and local music. (Our favorite brew was the Honey Cream Ale from Wolf Hills Brewery.)


The historic Burger Bar (rumored to be the place of Hank Williams' last meal) slings grass-fed beef burgers in their iconic 1940s-era building.

- Music Metropolis: To close out the concert, Mumford and Sons pulled the other GOTR artists on stage for “Wagon Wheel,” a rousing cover that left the place echoing with one last love song to the South. But the show didn’t end there—after-parties thumped into nearby venues and local musicians dotted State Street serenading fans on their retreat. For those eager for more al fresco entertainment, Americana band The Black Lillies jammed with Bristol's Country Music Mural as their backdrop.

As State Street finally grew quiet, we begrudgingly headed back to our temporary camp, but we were left wanting more. More music. More local food and drink. More welcoming folks. More Bristol.

So now, the next time we're meandering along the state line, and someone asks me, “Darlin', have you ever been here before?” I can say, “Well, yes, I have. And I can't wait to get 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Pacifico Preservation Adventure: Portland, OR

Posted on: August 22nd, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

The National Trust is participating in the 2012 Pacifico Beer summer promotion, Make Adventure Happen, in which we are competing for a portion of $100,000 based on the number of votes we receive (voting instructions at the end of the post).

To raise awareness for the contest, we've partnered with five preservation fans to highlight "Preservation Adventures" in cities and states across America. This week's guest blogger is John Chilson from Portland, Oregon. John blogs about Oregon history at Lost Oregon and is currently writing a book on downtown Portland in the 1950s.

Despite the urban renewal projects during the post-WWII years -- when whole neighborhoods met their demise from misguided planners, and perfectly functional housing succumbed to the wrecking ball -- many of downtown Portland’s early architecture still remains intact. True, much has been lost (Portland once boasted the largest collection of cast iron buildings in the Western U.S.), but there are still many gems still standing and ready to explore.

Getting Here: Arriving at Union Station

Downtown Portland is easily accessible by car, public transportation, walking or by bike. But if you’re coming to downtown Portland directly from out of town, start your trip by arriving by train at the wonderful Union Station. Opened in 1896, the structure was built in the Italian Renaissance style using brick, stucco and sandstone, and still deservedly garners attention. The clock tower is one of Portland’s most recognizable structures and the interior is well preserved. The station even boasts a small section dedicated to the station’s history.

Check In: The Heathman Hotel

Once here, hop in a cab to your hotel: The Heathman -- located right next to the old Portland Publix Theater (now the Schnitzer Concert Hall). Built in 1927 and located in the heart of downtown Portland, this 150-room luxury hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Like many grand hotels in downtown areas, the hotel saw some rough times and seedy tenants in the 1970s before it was lovingly restored in the 1980s to its original glory. It’s also known to be haunted -- so be sure to ask your concierge about the ghostly goings-on.

Portland’s Living Room: Pioneer Square

Once you’ve checked in, take a short walk to Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known as Portland’s Living Room. The square, named after Pioneer Courthouse, a federal building built in 1875 across the street from the square, was also the original site of the Portland Hotel. Demolished in the early 1950s, a textbook parking lot was built on the former site. An even larger parking structure was proposed in the late 1960s to the Portland Planning Commission, but thankfully they rejected the idea and wanted a public plaza. From that, the Square was built.

Nowadays, the square is the site of the annual Holiday Tree lighting, summer events such as movies and music, and the Holiday Ale Festival. The square also offers a fantastic sweep of some of Portland’s finest buildings. Stand in the middle and you can see the Pioneer Courthouse, the Jackson Tower (formerly The Oregon Journal Building, built in 1912), and the former Meier and Frank building (now Macy’s) designed by one of Portland’s most famous architects, A.E. Doyle.

Be sure to check out the original Portland Hotel’s original iron gates that greet visitors from the SW 6th Avenue entrance.

Get Smart: Central Library

Feeling bookish? Walk east from Pioneer Square and stop by downtown Portland’s Central Library. Originally built in 1913 and designed by A.E. Doyle (there’s that name again) and extensively renovated in the mid-1990s, the structure is a wonderful example of Doyle’s work in Portland and also how older buildings can be retrofitted while keeping their historical integrity.

Lunchtime at Dan and Louis

After all this walking and exploring you might be getting hungry. If so, Dan and Louis Oyster Bar is the place to go. Yes, it's a haul from the core downtown area -- but totally worth it. In business since 1907 and located in Portland's original downtown (the Skidmore District, where many buildings didn't make the cut during the 1950s urban renewal-o-rama), the decor is part sea fare, part kitsch, and definitely worth a view.

Enjoy fresh oysters, the ambiance, a cold beverage -- and soak up the history. And as a side note, around the corner is Voodoo Donuts. If you don’t mind waiting in the Disneyland-in-summer-like lines, it’s a Portland experience.

Downtown Bridges

A walk through Portland wouldn’t be complete without a stroll across our many bridges. Each offer a unique history, easy walks and nice views of downtown. One suggested route is a walk across the Willamette via the Morrison (the original bridge was wooden and constructed in the late 1880s and replaced in the 1950s).

Once you reach the east side of Portland, stroll through the buzzing Central Eastside, or Produce Row, then back across the Hawthorne Bridge. Built in the early 1900s, the truss bridge with a vertical lift also carries many of Portland’s commuter bicyclists every day and its looks define the downtown waterfront. It also stops traffic when it rises and lets ships through. But remember, it’s all about the journey.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Once you make it back over the Willamette into downtown Portland, enjoy the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Home of the massively popular Oregon Brewers Festival and other fests throughout the year, including Cinco de Mayo and a Bite of Oregon, it’s named after former governor Tom McCall.

However, it wasn’t always a park. Before preservation became a part of the fabric of planning and building, the park was once a highway (Harbor Drive) that cut through the city (as you can see from the postcard). During the 1970s, the highway was ripped out and the park was constructed. McCall was instrumental in many of Oregon’s environmental issues, such as Oregon’s Bottle Bill and public ownership of beaches, so it was appropriate the park was eventually named after him.

After a stroll through the park, the rest is up to you. Downtown offers many dining options, including blocks of food carts, the world’s best bookstore, and other entertainment options. If you still want to get your history fix, a visit to the Oregon Historical Society should be on the list.

This is by no means a complete tour, but it should give visitors a good sense of Portland’s past and its architectural legacy, and offer some great exercise while exploring a very walkable city.

You can support our preservation work by voting daily at www.PacificoAdventure.com. A contest code is required to vote -- codes are available on specially marked packages of Pacifico beer, in bars and restaurants, by texting 23000, or by clicking “GET CODE" online.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Searching for San Francisco’s History, Part Two

Posted on: August 17th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom 7 Comments

 

After a second day visiting with friends and working out our quads on San Francisco’s notoriously hilly streets and our credit cards in its charming neighborhood boutiques, day three of my recent visit to the City by the Bay was filled with more heritage tourist must-sees. We hopped a cable car (okay, hopped may be a generous description, we waited in an hour-long line to squeeze onto a cable car), an enduring symbol of the city and one of the only moving National Historic Landmarks in the country, and made our way to the popular Fisherman’s Wharf. There, we filled our cameras’ memory cards with shots of the adorable pack of lounging sea lions that has made Pier 39 its home before boarding a boat to tour the bay.

Captain Jim led us under the breathtaking 4,200 foot span of the Golden Gate Bridge, constructed over four years between 1933 and 1937. The icon, glowing in International Orange paint even on our foggy day, was the longest span in the world for many years. With the bridge at our backs, the boat brought us close enough to Alcatraz Island to read the faded sign warning of severe penalties for aiding prisoners at the once-infamous prison. “The Rock” has inspired imaginations and movie scripts for its years as a federal penitentiary, but as historian Erwin N. Thompson reported in his Historic Resource Study of Alcatraz Island in the early 1970s after the land was transferred to Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Alcatraz also served as a Civil War fortress, the first lighthouse on the West Coast, and the site of pivotal Native American occupation and protest in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

A hearty helping of soup from a signature sourdough bread bowl at the wharf’s storied Boudin Bakery is a satisfying way to wrap up an afternoon of history as the French shop has been serving up fresh-baked loaves of sourdough since it fed gold seekers when it opened in another section of the territory in 1849. On our way back to the hotel, we can’t resist a stroll through the crowded Ghirardelli Square, considered one of the earliest successful adaptive use projects in the country. When the original chocolate factory established by Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli shuttered in the 1960s, shops and restaurants popped up within the old factory walls, officially opening in 1964. Sea salted milk chocolate Ghirardelli square in hand, I took in the beautiful city around me. Gabby Douglas and Michael Phelps can hold onto their medals, after a trip like this, I was the one feeling victorious.

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.

Searching for San Francisco's History, Part One

Posted on: August 16th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom 3 Comments

 

Amidst the heart-pounding coverage of Team USA’s race to the top of the Olympic podium in London a few weeks ago, I vaulted across the country myself for a close friend’s California nuptials, spending three fabulous days in the culturally and historically-rich City by the Bay. Even on my short visit it was easy to see: When it comes to championing their diverse heritage and collection of historic places, San Franciscans prove why theirs is rightfully the Golden State.

The day we arrived in the city, a friend who lives in the area drove us around town, taking us first through the colorful streets of the Castro District. Once a collection of dairy farms and dirt roads that drew Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants looking for cheap land on the city’s outskirts, the neighborhood then known as Eureka Valley filled with spacious Victorian houses after the Market Street Cable Railway linked the area to the rest of the city in 1887. Fast forward to the 1960s and 70s and gay men began buying the charming historic homes at relatively low prices and restoring them. With the addition of iconic spots like the Twin Peaks bar and an activist atmosphere surrounding the 1978 assassination of city Supervisor Harvey Milk and the AIDS epidemic, the Castro became and remains a vibrant hub of the gay community.

Our drive took us past more of the city’s beautiful Victorian architecture by way of the postcard-perfect Painted Ladies of Alamo Square park. This row of six candy-colored houses built between 1892 and 1896 is especially noteworthy as the properties were able to survive San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake and fire intact. Personally, I was eager to check out the real estate as a diehard Full House fan, curious to get a look at the buildings that served as the backdrop to the idyllic Tanner family picnic in the opening sequence of my favorite cheesy 90s sitcom. And what drive through the hilly streets of San Fran would be complete without a (very slow) trip down the eight sharp curves of Lombard Street? Touted as the crookedest street in the world for years, the stunningly steep one-way stretch between Hyde and Leavenworth streets was paved with bricks in 1922 and started drawing tourists after a photograph and postcard of the hydrangeas of the block’s landscaping were published in the 1950s and 60s. The city’s Board of Supervisors has received petitions to close the unique street to all but its residents in 1970, 1977, and 1987, but lucky for tourists like us, the closure never passed.

Check back tomorrow for more on my search for San Francisco history on a recent visit.

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.

Pacifico Preservation Adventure: Montpelier, VT

Posted on: August 15th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

The National Trust is participating in the 2012 Pacifico Beer summer promotion, Make Adventure Happen, in which we are competing for a portion of $100,000 based on the number of votes we receive (voting instructions at the end of the post).

To raise awareness for the contest, we've partnered with five preservation fans to highlight "Preservation Adventures" in cities and states across America -- the second of which is from Kaitlin O'Shea of Montpelier, Vermont.

Kaitlin writes the blog Preservation in Pink, which is one of the Trust staff's favorite preservation-related blogs out there! According to her bio, she "loves a good preservation conversation complemented with a strong cup of coffee and accented by flamingos." Who doesn't?

First things first: how many of you know the capital of Vermont thanks to that 1990s Cheerios commercial?

Nestled in central Vermont’s Green Mountains along the Winooski River and the historic Central Vermont Railway, Montpelier is beautiful year-round. An entire day’s itinerary can be within walking distance in this city filled with Vermont character, locally-owned businesses and eateries and architecturally picturesque and historic streetscapes; Montpelier is the perfect place for a traveling preservationist. Though more bustling during the work week or when the legislature is in session, the weekends show no shortage of residents and visitors.

1. Eat, Stroll, and Shop on State and Main

Begin on State and Main Streets -- the heart of Montpelier’s historic commercial district, where you'll find restaurants, cafes, retail shops, and professional offices housed in the colorful historic building blocks.

Grab breakfast and a cup of coffee at the Coffee Corner diner or at Capitol Grounds Café & Roastery (free wifi!), or enjoy a more leisurely breakfast at Kismet. Once you’re caffeinated and fueled, you’ll be ready to browse the practical and quirky stores nearby. Whether you’re looking for used books, new books, stationery, antiques, toys, new clothes, vintage clothes, outdoor gear, house wares, jewelry, candy, pet toys, groceries, hardware, pharmacies – you can find it all in downtown Montpelier.

As you’re browsing the stores, do yourself a preservation favor and look up: turn your eyes to the ceilings of the building interiors as well as beyond the first story of the exterior. There's always something interesting to see above your line of sight.

2. Lunch & a tour of the Vermont State House

Grab lunch from one of the many options on State and Main (try Pinky’s for a good sandwich). If you’re visiting during the week, there are likely to be many street vendors near State and Elm Streets.

On a Saturday, swing by the farmers’ market. If the weather is nice, get lunch to go and head down State Street to the 1859 Vermont State House. Montpelier has been the capital since 1805, but this Greek Revival building is actually the third state house -- the first two were lost to fires. The granite steps or the green lawn are both perfect places to pause for lunch on a warm day.

After lunch, head inside the State House for a tour, guided or self-guided. With its granite columns and steps, interior marble floors and plasterwork, the State House is a breathtaking. The house and senate chambers -- the oldest in the country -- are remarkably intact.

3. Bridges, Houses, and Parks

After lunch, a tour, and maybe resting again on the State House lawn, take to exploring. However you like to enjoy the scenery and outdoors, you have options. If you prefer walking neighborhoods for the architectural entertainment, you’re in luck. Montpelier’s neighborhoods can keep you entertained for hours. Research some walking tours to get you started.

The recreation path along the river brings you across and adjacent to the many truss bridges of Montpelier, including the 1929 Taylor Street Bridge, a steel parker through truss, which was recently rehabilitated. The path on Stone Cutters Way will take you along the rail line, through the industrial section of town, with signage along the route about Montpelier’s rail and granite industry history. Visit the historic 1907 rail turntable, a small park on Stone Cutters Way. Further down the street are the Hunger Mountain Coop and the Granite Street truss bridge.

Or, if you seek some peace, quiet, and nature, walk (though you might prefer to bike or drive) to Hubbard Park for miles of trails through the forested park, recreation fields and a stone observation tower. Hubbard Park is about 194 acres, 125 of which were gifted to the City of Montpelier in 1899.

4. Take in Dinner and a Show

After all that sightseeing and walking, you'll be ready for some evening entertainment. You can catch a live show at the Lost Nation Theater in the 1909 City Hall or a movie at the Capitol Theater (which has a great neon sign).

You have your choice of many nearby restaurants -- a short walk and you’re sure to find something you like. Try Sarducci’s in a former grain storage building, Positive Pie, or Julio’s Cantina, both in the historic building blocks on State Street. Following the show, grab a drink at one of the local establishments, where you’re sure to find locally brewed Vermont beer or a good glass of wine.

Historic buildings, excellent natural scenery, local coffee and food, shopping, good entertainment -- all in a city that is livable and walkable? Preservationists, come visit Montpelier. You’ll love it!

You can support our preservation work by voting daily at www.PacificoAdventure.com. A contest code is required to vote -- codes are available on specially marked packages of Pacifico beer, in bars and restaurants, by texting 23000, or by clicking “GET CODE" online.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.