Travel

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.

Thoughts from the Summit at Green Mountain Lookout

Posted on: August 10th, 2012 by Brian Turner 5 Comments

 

Upon first gaping at the precarious perch of the historic fire lookout on the summit of Green Mountain, my backpacking companion captured the sentiment exactly:

“Yep, those old timers were crazy.”


The precarious perch of the lookout above a steep ledge.

The Green Mountain lookout stands on the crest of a volcanic ridgeline more than seven grueling miles and 5,000 feet higher than its nearest trailhead in the Cascades of Washington State. It was built in 1933 by a hardy work crew from the Civilian Conservation Corps who first carted its heavy wood windows, planks, and support beams on the steep climb up the mountain. Today, it remains a marvel of human ingenuity and backcountry engineering.

Since a federal court ordered the lookout removed from the mountaintop last April (background on the situation here), its future has been in limbo. Legislation was recently introduced to save it from demolition, but its passage is far from certain. So I decided to set out to see the site in its original setting, to see if the debate -- whether all traces of human influence should be removed from designated wilderness areas -- held up.

I began in Darrington, an old logging town two hours northeast of Seattle. Scott Morris, a volunteer with the local Darrington Historical Society, graciously offered to accompany me. It was not an easy hike. Road closures have made what was once a popular day trip to the lookout now require at least one night of camping on the journey.

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We began on an old, unmaintained path at the confluence of the Suiattle River and Downey Creek and scrambled for three hours with our backpacks over downed logs, frequently losing and re-finding the trail. By early afternoon we reached the maintained trail that leads to the summit of the mountain with another 4+ miles of uphill ahead.

As we climbed higher, the rewards were tremendous. Near the wilderness boundary we spotted a black bear foraging on young huckleberries. A golden eagle sailed the ridge, hunting for unsuspecting marmots sun-bathing on the rocks. Fields of brilliant wildflowers greeted us in the high country, freshly emerged from the melting snow drifts.

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At the summit of Green Mountain, we were in a cloud, the surrounding world barely visible. We found the lookout in its winter dormancy; the heavy wooden shutters that protected its paned glass windows were strapped down with an oversized belt. We opened them to the elements -- a seasonal ritual -- propping up the shutters with iron bars and inspecting damage to the catwalk caused by heavy snow loads. After setting up camp inside, we ate a warm meal and tried to forget about how terrifyingly close to the ledge we actually were.


Tufts of wildflowers and Glacier Peak visible from the lookout entrance.

By dawn the clouds had sunk below us and the tops of the high peaks of the Cascades appeared as islands in the sky. By the time we closed the lookout, the clouds had dispersed entirely, revealing expansive forests in every direction. During the entire trip we saw not another soul. I found it no wonder that some of America’s most influential environmental thinkers were inspired by their solitary summers in the lookouts of the Northwest: Ed Abbey, Gary Snyder, and Jack Kerouac, to name a few.

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In some cases, a competing public policy may offer a compelling reason against keeping a historic place in wilderness -- when a historic dam threatens a rare species, for example. But the only thing at risk with the Green Mountain Lookout is an ideology, the mistaken notion the land must be clear cut of any tangible remain of human influence, regardless of how small of an impact it has on natural values.

In contrast, the relatively small amount of historic sites in our America’s wilderness are irreplaceable assets with potential to foster even greater environmental awareness -- to appreciate how land was used (and misused) over time. While some may see these places as an expression of ego, others are likely to be humbled by how small mankind really is in comparison to the vastness of the wilderness beyond.

In a mere flash of geologic time, natural forces will erode the Green Mountain Lookout from its perch, as they have already for many of its kind. Until then, it is a great privilege (for those who can bear the hike) to see those forces in action. In my view, keeping the lookout intact and accessible not only honors the hardy individuals who labored for it, but sustains a popular part of the American identity that takes pride in the careful stewardship of the spectacular land we inherit.

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.

Brian Turner

Brian Turner

Brian Turner is an attorney in the National Trust's San Francisco Field Office. He is an enthusiastic advocate for the protection of the nation's cultural and natural heritage.

Twitter Chat Recap: Historic Travel

Posted on: August 9th, 2012 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

We've been doing the #builtheritage Twitter chat for about a year and a half now, but this month's was the first time I've seen the whole vibe of the chat -- and in many ways, the lifestyle of a working preservationist -- summed up in a single tweet:

@jonaskayla When you work in a field you love, it's hard not to do on vacation. #builtheritage
— Molly Goldsmith (@callmebutton) August 1, 2012

The chat made it clear that no one on it looks at preservation as just a day job -- we're all up in it on our vacations, too. From visiting heritage sites while traveling to learning to re-point brick, we all take our inner building-hugger on the road with us. Here are some highlights:

View the story "Twitter Chat Recap: Historic Travel" on StorifyAnd don't forget to save the date for our next chat: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. EDT. We'll announce the topic about a week in advance.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Pacifico Preservation Adventure: Dallas, TX

Posted on: August 8th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

As we announced late last week, 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 first of which is from Emily Courtney of Dallas, Texas.

Emily was born and raised in Dallas, and makes frequent trips back home to visit her family and experience new adventures. She has a deep love for all things historic and Southern, and previously worked as the communications liaison for the Trust's Gulf Coast Recovery project formed after Hurricane Katrina. Check out her Dallas preservation adventure below!

1. Start Off Shopping

Grab a coffee and head over to the original Neiman Marcus, located along the historic Main Street District in the center of downtown Dallas. This flagship store opened its doors in 1914 and is the last of the original department stores of its kind downtown. The Renaissance Revival architecture is a great backdrop as you wander through the racks or dine at the exquisite Zodiac Room on the sixth floor.

2. Take a Walk or a Bike Ride on Old Railroad Tracks

For nearly 100 years, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad carried both people and goods through the Uptown and Oak Lawn areas of Dallas before the tracks were eventually abandoned. In 1997, members of the community and city officials decided to preserve the right-of-way and restore it for as a 3.5-mile pedestrian and bike path called the Katy Trail. It's a safe and fun way to see another part of Dallas -- so grab your sneakers and go!

3. Check Out the Art Deco Architecture at Fair Park

This amazing area of Dallas is definitely worth a visit. You could spend an entire afternoon there -- but since it's the home of one of the largest collections of 1930s Art Deco architecture in America, I would suggest checking out the buildings. Fun fact: The State Fair of Texas has been housed inside Fair Park since 1886. That’s a lot of funnel cakes.

4. Visit the Dallas Arboretum

Listed as one of the top three arboretums in the country, this is a Dallas must-see. The arboretum has over 500,000 visitors a year, and hosts weekly events inside the garden gates. The original vision for gardens was cast in the early 1930s, and since then has become a wonderful addition to the city of Dallas. The 66 acres of property house the botanical gardens and the historic DeGolyer and the Camp Estates. It's a lovely way to spend a lazy afternoon, so be sure and check their website for an up-to-date calendar of events and live music performances.

5. Head Over to the Bishop Arts District via the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava recently designed an awesome steel bridge that connects downtown to West Dallas. This bridge is world-class! This exciting and new feature of the cityscape will hopefully get you (and others) over to a bustling and independent neighborhood called the Bishop Arts District. With over sixty unique shops, you are sure to stay busy. In fact, a great place to grab a pie is called Eno’s Pizza Tavern. I recommend the Meyer Lemon salad (with fresh jalapenos and pork belly) and any of the pies. You'll leave the Bishop Arts District -- and your day of preservation adventuring -- full and happy, I promise.

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.