Travel

 

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.

Baltimore and Me: New Experiences in a Familiar Place

Posted on: April 4th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya

 

Staff for the National Main Streets Conference arrived into Charm City with the familiar refrains of Hairspray’s “Good Morning Baltimore” running through our heads. Obvious reference, maybe, but an apt one seeing as many of us had been waking up at dawn to prepare for the day's activities and sessions.


Baltimore's Washington Monument. (Photo: Gavin St. Ours on Flickr)

I grew up in the Washington, DC metro area, so taking a quick jaunt up to Baltimore from time to time has never been out of the ordinary. This time, though, I’m actually spending the night. It’s like I’m twelve again, with that giddy feeling you get from staying over in a new place.

And while sitting in on and tweeting about sessions has been great, I’ve had a few highlights of my own:

  • Seeing the original Washington Monument, a setting I know well from reading Laura Lippman’s mystery novels.
  • Visiting a co-worker's house in an Olmsted Brothers Homeland neighborhood, complete with the old estate ponds that were once used to harvest ice.
  • Being treated every morning with a magnificent dawn overlooking Camden Yards.

Speaking of Camden Yards … one thing you must know: I’m a tennis girl through and through -- although not totally ignorant about baseball. I've heard of Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, but I never thought I would actually feel the awe of a baseball stadium.


Camden Yards at dawn. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

That is, until I took a tour of Camden Yards. I know it's a relatively new stadium (they're celebrating twenty years this Saturday at opening day), but when you walk around the underbelly you can see the historic features from the adjacent warehouse that was rehabbed for use as team offices, and how the stadium architects were determined to have the actual stadium merge with the building and landscape. We walked on the field, learned about the people, and saw the beams that connect warehouse with baseball field.

Totally awe-some.

I also learned about how every year on Edgar Allen Poe's birthday someone leaves a rose and wine for him on his gravestone, and how the church where he's buried is built partially on top of (literally platformed over) the graveyard. Why? Because when it was built during the city's expansion in the 1840s and 50s, city officials didn't want graveyard land taken by buildings.


The roundhouse at Baltimore's B&O Railroad Museum. (Photo: Orbital Joe on Flickr)

Last night, the final party was inside the historic B&O Railroad Museum -- a roundhouse building built originally to showcase the promise of the American railroad. My twelve-year-old self reared its head and I stared up at the ceiling twirling around and around.

Baltimore was good to me. Although I have, on other trips, seen many other parts of the city, it was nice to see a familiar place in a different light.

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 Byway to Gettysburg: A Vista that Inspires

Posted on: February 9th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment

 

My earliest historical memories as a child involve a road trip up to Gettysburg National Military Park. At the time it felt like an epic journey (field trips rule!) with a group of friends. I must have been in elementary school at the time because my impressions of that first trip are mostly of being somewhere away from school, and not much about the battlefield itself.


The battlefield. (Photo: fauxto_digit on Flickr)

Fast forward a few years later. I was a senior in high school and we were back over the Maryland border in Pennsylvania. What’s different about this time is context. We had spent weeks talking about the battle and its role in the Civil War. We watched Gettysburg, read The Killer Angels to see how the battle was interpreted, and recognized the love for a fictional Buster Kilraine. I knew more about what I was looking at, and where I was standing. Together the group - like many before us - reenacted Pickett’s Charge, posed in Devil’s Den like a Matthew Brady photograph, and tried to charge up Little Round Top - getting a clearer idea for tactics. It was a great trip. Public history at its finest.


The hills and woods of Gettysburg are covered in boulders. (Photo: macwagen on Flickr)

Although I've been to Gettysburg a few times since then, a day trip this past weekend made me think about the journey in a different way. For those of you not from this city, Gettysburg is about an hour and forty-five minutes from Washington, DC. It’s a straight shot up Interstate 270 and Route 15 just over the Maryland border into Pennsylvania. It is a beautiful drive with the Blue Ridge Mountains rising past you into a brilliant blue sky (in my case this was a surprisingly clear sky following a gentle snowfall). It is also a drive that includes the Catoctin Mountain Maryland Scenic Byway.


Scenic byway through Gettysburg. (Photo: fauxto_digit on Flickr)

I think the best definition of what a byway is from the New York Department of Transportation website which states “A scenic byway is a road, but not just a road. It's a road with a story to tell.” These roads push travelers off the beaten path and links together history, transportation and culture. In the case of the Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway, you learn about the soldiers who marched to Gettysburg, Maryland’s Native American history, and Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born saint.

Above all else, what pulled me in and made me grateful for the opportunity was how the byway linked the natural beauty of our country with our past, providing me with a vista that inspires.

The National Scenic Byways Program is just one of many preservation programs threatened in the new American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (HR 7). Learn more about the bill and its effect on historic preservation.

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.

I Brake for Brown Highway Signs (And Other Road Trip Thoughts)

Posted on: February 3rd, 2012 by David Garber 1 Comment

 

Although I formally count train travel as my favorite mode of long-distance transportation (something about gliding through countryside and cities, admiring the backs of buildings and never getting stuck in traffic), my far more prevalent travel mode is the road trip.

No boarding calls to miss. No need for real luggage (a laundry basket or bundle of reusable grocery bags will do). The chance to split travel costs with friends. Frantic fast food roulette (will the next exit have better options??). That backseat jumble of pillows, outstretched legs, and stray french fries. Beef jerky. Nighttime belting of 80s and 90s classics as a caffeine substitute during exit-less and therefore often creepy and winding stretches. And the total (read: schedule-dependent) freedom to detour and explore.


Something about these brown signs always draws me in. (Photo: Jun Belen)

The beauty of road trips is that they aren't just about the destination. Those stops at seedy, half-lit gas stations tend to make up roughly/statistically 50 percent of the stories and memories of the trip itself. Or so it seems.

And if I'm in the driver's seat (with no apologies to history-hating and/or sleeping passengers), some exploration is hard to escape. I'm a sucker for brown highway signs - you know, the ones advertising so-and-so's birthplace and this-or-that historic district, for ramshackle and seemingly abandoned buildings (keyword: seemingly; see: Memorial Day 2011 road trip to the beach with pit stop at awesomely-ruined-looking house that, upon further inspection, appeared to be an active meth lab), and any food or pitstop option that has more of an air of local-ness about it than just another Chick-fil-A (*ducks*).


Gotta stop for the local (and good for you, too!) stuff. (Photo: Flickr user futurowoman)

A few weeks ago I took such a trip down to Lowgap, North Carolina with a car-full of friends. If you've ever been, you'll remember it as the place with more farm fields and random highway-side patches of English Boxwoods than, anecdotally and without any real information, anywhere else in the country. At one point during the trip we found ourselves on a riverside road in Lexington, Virginia, in search of a gas station - one of those "gas arrow is already below E" moments where everyone's got their eyes peeled.

We were rolling along when all of a sudden we whooshed past (then quickly circled back for a better look) a little silver-colored building shaped like a coffee pot - which turned out to be an actual quasi-historic roadside attraction that we had absolutely no intention of seeing... but saw. And googled. And now love.


The abandoned ones. They beckon me. (Photo: Flickr user kristina k. dymond)

Sometimes it feels like historic preservation is this very formal and staid task. And, sometimes, it is. We talk about it as a responsibility, which it certainly is. But our interest and engagement with old and historic places can be as casual as slowing down to admire a building shaped like a pot. Or running screaming from a creepy old house. Or easing the gas pedal while passing through an old main street. Our appreciation and interaction with these places, whether accidental, intentional, planned, or spontaneous, is one of the most crucial elements of their eventual memory and sustainability.

I think I'll probably keep braking for brown highway signs. And sneaking up to scary houses for a closer look. And detouring and exploring and finding and remembering. Join me?

David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Although he tends to prefer a more mellow playlist, he can say only somewhat ashamedly that, thanks to his latest female-heavy road trip, he now knows most of the lyrics to Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." At final edit, it appears the song will be stuck in his head for the remainder of the workday.

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.

Climbers Inspect the Washington Monument for Earthquake Damage

Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Sarah Campbell

An inspector rappels down the pyramid atop the Washington Monument. (Photo: Sarah Campbell)

An inspector rappels down the pyramid atop the Washington Monument. (Photo: Sarah Campbell)

Under a cloud-riddled sky, more than five hundred feet above tourists, Park Rangers, and news crews, an engineer secures ropes and cables to the apex of the Washington Monument. It’s not a sight seen every day, but is one, weather-permitting, we’ll be seeing over the next week.

The engineering firm of Wiss, Janney, Estner Associates, Inc . will send four members of its Difficult Access Team to rappel down each side of the monument and inspect its exterior stones, which suffered damage in the August 23rd earthquake. The structure was built between 1848 and 1884.

“WJE has hired the best. The rated climbers are also architects and engineers; they know what they’re looking at,” said Carol Bradley Johnson, communications officer for the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

The Washington Monument has been closed to the public since the 5.8 magnitude earthquake. The timetable for reopening hinges upon assessments made by the firm, hired by the National Park Service to access structural damage left by the natural disaster. Though the monument already has been determined to be fundamentally sound, cracks in its marble exterior, loss of joint mortar, and other concerns must be examined before the tourist favorite can reopen.

Yesterday, representatives of the National Park Service - the federal agency responsible for the monument - along with National Trust for Historic Preservation President Stephanie Meeks, were interviewed by PBS NewsHour about the inspection process and the importance of maintaining our national icons. Meeks said:

I would hope that what comes out of this is just sort of a re-awareness on behalf of all Americans about these significant structures that we all sort of take for granted -- they're in our backyards here in Washington, D.C. -- the really important national monuments across the country, and remember that they are vulnerable to natural occurrences like this and that they need our very best care and support.

WJE anticipates releasing a report outlining costs and next steps in mid-October.

View additional photos of the inspection process on Flickr, and video on You Tube.

Sarah Campbell is an intern at Preservation magazine.

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.