Travel

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.

My American Road Trip, Part 1: Leaving Town

Posted on: June 1st, 2012 by Lauren Walser 17 Comments

 

Two years ago, almost to the day, I drove my little hatchback from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, with nothing more than a couple boxes of kitchen items, some books, and my boyfriend, Blaise. I had said goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and headed out to become an assistant editor with Preservation magazine. (Writing about old buildings and the people who save them? Definitely worth the 2,500-plus mile drive.)

Other than a few brutal battles with humidity (I lost), I have loved every second of my time here. What’s not to like about a city that’s immanently walkable, with traces of history around every corner? And from my little perch in a 1909 row house, I’ve watched my neighborhood of Columbia Heights change, grow, and welcome new residents who have restored their own old houses or started businesses in empty storefronts.

But now Blaise and I are packing up the car again and pointing her west, back to Los Angeles, where, I’m happy to say, I’ll be continuing my work with Preservation. In my new location, I’ll be bringing you all the latest news from the West Coast -- and, for the next two weeks, from many of the places I’ll pass on my way there.

After all, the best part about driving between coasts is being able to investigate all the nooks and crannies that you miss when you fly over them.

I leave DC today (gulp). From there, I’ll be driving to Nashville to check out the historic sites, then on to do the same in Columbia, Missouri; Boulder, Colorado; Jackson, Wyoming; Butte, Montana; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Davis, California; and finally, Los Angeles. That’s a lot of ground to cover in such a short time, but if there is something in any of those cities -- or on the roads in between -- that I absolutely must not miss, I am all ears.

Rest assured, my laptop and my camera are fully charged, ready to document those places that make the United States such an exciting place to explore.

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.

 

I've guessed at the British folk rock band Mumford & Sons' affection for old and interesting places since seeing their "Sigh No More" album cover showing the band standing in an old London shop window. The music video for their popular song "Little Lion Man," which was filmed at London's historic Wilton's Music Hall, furthered that theory.

But it wasn't until I heard about their upcoming summer "Gentlemen of the Road" tour -- which stops to perform at and give back to four small main streets and downtowns across the country this August -- that I realized they were really serious about these places.

According to the band: "We want to stop off in towns where bands don't usually tour, and celebrate the people, food, and music that make them special. We’re keen to promote the town’s local businesses, and we’ll be using the local bars and venues for after-show parties, whilst working closely with the local people to get everyone involved in making these shows spectacular."

Another reason we love this idea? Two of the selected towns are National Trust Main Street communities: Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee (considered to be the birthplace of country music) and Dixon, Illinois. And get this: the tour producers are generously giving one percent of ticket sales to the local Main Street programs to help with their revitalization efforts, and have worked out agreements to bring in additional revenue from the shows and after parties.

Check out the full "Gentlemen of the Road" tour website for more information on ticket sales, interesting tidbits about the towns, and where to eat, drink, and visit while you're there.

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.

 

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.

 

Written by David Alpert

I recently visited an American city with many downtown buildings from a long-departed industry. The city's downtown is now experiencing new life, and many of the historic buildings are finding new uses after sitting vacant for many years.

 
This is a complex of old warehouses which have now become retail and offices. The developer added a really amazing water feature, a long river which cascades down waterfalls at various intervals. There are small footbridges across the river and even stepping stones to cross in one place.

The old chutes for the products remain and now serve as decorative flourishes. In the center is an old railcar, like those that once transported goods to and from the facility.

 
At another location nearby, people have turned several old garages into bars and music halls. They've also become a popular spot for food trucks, and two were sitting outside as we passed by on a Saturday.

 
Both of these [examples] demonstrate the preservation concept of "adaptive reuse." Old, historic buildings can become a valued part of a changing community by taking on different functions that residents need today. The distinct architecture of the structures and the small details that nobody would build today adds character and interest.

Can you guess the city?

[Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington]

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington. He has had a lifelong interest in great cities and great communities.

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.

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Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.