Idlewild Michigan Historical Markers Dedication, Yates Township, Lake County. Credit: MI SHPO, Flickr
Idlewild Michigan Historical Markers Dedication, Yates Township, Lake County.

It was known as the Black Eden, and at its height in the 1950s and ‘60s, more than 25,000 African-Americans would travel from Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Indianapolis each summer to visit its 2,700 acres of lakes and western Michigan wilderness for intellectual stimulation, partying, and a sense of community. This was Idlewild.

“If you were a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, an educator, and you had the income to travel either by train or auto, [Idlewild] was a place that you wanted to be,” says Dr. Ronald Stephens, a professor of 20th-century African-American history and culture at Ohio University and author of the forthcoming book, Idlewild: The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of a Unique African-American Resort Town. “The idea of having that sense of community, independence, and ownership was a really big deal in black America.”... 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.

David Weible

David Weible

David Weible is a content specialist for the National Trust, previously with Preservation magazine. He came to D.C. from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

Putting the Puzzle Together: Reflections on Travel in Seattle

Posted on: November 21st, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment


Seen on the Seattle Underground tour.

A metaphor I often use when talking about the past is that of a puzzle. Getting to know the whole picture of place means fitting together a number of disparate pieces that when snapped together give you a single picture -- a snapshot in time that is one in a series that make up the past.

I also approach visiting new cities through this lens. A few weeks ago as a prelude to my visit to Spokane for the National Preservation Conference, I went to Seattle to visit with some friends and family. What I ended up doing was not just visiting to a popular tourist destination but also getting a sense of the place itself.

I started, in a sense, with the history. On the recommendation of many people, I took the Seattle Underground tour where I gained a sense of a city that changed after a disastrous fire. Following the fire, the city was raised about 15 feet, creating subterranean passages with skylights that filtered in light from the sidewalk above. Piece 1.

Exhibit at the Chihuly Gardens and Glass Exhibition.

Pushing forward in time, I spent a few hours at Seattle Center, home of the 1962 World's Fair. I took the obligatory ride up the Space Needle where, like at any high point in a city, I gained a visual sense of the city’s geography -- water and land, ships and sky. Piece 2.

The cool thing about Seattle Center is that it is also a mecca of museums. Science. Art. Music. Pop culture. There is something here to feed all matter of interests. Luckily, for a few extra bucks, my ticket up the Space Needle also came with entry into the Chihuly Gardens and Glass exhibition next door. Now for those of you who aren't familiar with Dale Chihuly's work, it’s … phenomenal. His work with glass is indescribable -- the shapes, the colors -- and you can tell that he takes some of his inspiration from Washington state itself, from sea life to Native American baskets. Piece 3.

Seattle EMP Museum.

After a tour of the Icons of Science Fiction exhibition at the EMP Museum (designed by Frank Gehry) I stepped into even more recent history -- a narrative about the band Nirvana. Amidst their story is a broader examination of the DIY music movement. Using its extensive collection of sound samples, the exhibition talks about the role of Seattle and Washington State in the alternative music scene -- letting visitors listen to a wide array of predecessors to Nirvana, other bands that were contemporary to the band, and those that Nirvana influenced. Piece 4.

I took a walk around the neighborhood wandering through Pike Place Market, the Seattle Public Library, and Pioneer Square. The library alone intimated a city filled with creativity; the Market and Pioneer Square were fixtures of a community. Piece 5.

And finally, by staying in the suburbs I got an idea of the role Microsoft and Boeing play in the region’s economy. Seeing the planes being put together -- wing, engine, tail, body -- provided one more example about how pieces come together into a cohesive whole. Piece 6.

As I rode the train to Spokane, I thought about the city I experienced and saw each of these six pieces came together into a single snapshot. As visitors to a city, our visions of what that place is and what's important in that space depends on the connections we forge. Being able to see the magic of Chihuly next to the vibrations of Smells Like Teen Spirit while smelling the fish and eating doughnuts in the market gave me a picture of a place that I won't forget. This was my Seattle.

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.

Spokane by Candlelight

Posted on: November 14th, 2012 by Sarah Heffern


The Leuthold House, built in 1925. (Photo courtesy Sarah M. Heffern)

If there's one thing I have learned over the years, it's that I am not alone when I say I like having a chance to peek into other people's homes. Not in the creepy, hiding-in-the-bushes sort of way, of course, but in the much more socially acceptable manner of dropping in at open houses and taking home tours.

I think this impulse to look behind closed doors is what makes the Candlelight House Tour at the National Preservation Conference a success year after year -- and never more so  than in Spokane a couple of weeks back, when preservationists and city residents alike wandered through homes in the ritzy Cliff Park neighborhood.

Cliff Park  -- according to the brochure we received -- dates back to the early 20th century, and features custom-built homes that rejected "tall, linear Queen Anne designs in favor of European-inspired Tudors, French and Spanish eclectics as well as American Colonials, Story Book, and Craftsman styles..." and "even a few homes... that represent mid-20th century modernism."

A family heirloom dress on display at the Richard & Jessie Nuzum House. (Photo courtesy Sarah M. Heffern)

Each of the homes I visited on the tour had its own unique appeal, but I'll admit I was most charmed by the Senator Dill Mansion, known as Cliff Aerie. "Charm" and "mansion" rarely go together as far as houses are concerned (charming is Realtor code for "really, really tiny" in my experience) but for all its imposing size, Cliff Aerie was laid out in such a way that all of the spaces seemed intimate and cozy, rather than impossibly grand. The views it commands, however -- including one from an observation tower used in World War II -- are as grand as can be.

Cliff Aerie - the Senator Dill Mansion - sports panoramic views of the city of Spokane. (Photo courtesy Sarah M. Heffern)

Though no other home on the tour could match the views at Cliff Aerie, and though the homes represented a wide range of architectural styles, they all did share one thing in common -- amazing stewardship. It was readily apparent that each house was beloved and well-preserved by its owners, who all seemed to take great pride in sharing their work with conference attendees and their fellow Spokanites alike.

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.

[GALLERY] Spokane in Pictures: @PresNation Edition

Posted on: November 7th, 2012 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment


Last week, members of the preservation community from across the nation converged on Spokane, Washington for the 2012 National Preservation Conference. From signs in storefronts telling preservation stories to our name in lights on theater marquees, the city pulled out all the stops to show us some love.

And I think I speak for most everyone when I say that the feeling was mutual. During the conference, you could hardly take a step in Spokane without seeing a preservationist shutterbug snapping photos left and right of their new favorite places.

So we thought we'd bring a few of those cool places to you with a quick gallery from the @PresNation Instagram account. (Follow us!) We'll showcase some of the other photographers in coming weeks, but we figured we'd whet your appetite in the meantime ... enjoy!

Did you take photos in Spokane during the National Preservation Conference? Share them in our Flickr group!

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.

Searching for San Francisco’s History: Hidden Gems Edition

Posted on: October 4th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


Compiled by Amy Webb, Anthony Veerkamp, Brian Turner, and Maria DeRyke, San Francisco Field Office

Preservation magazine’s associate editor, Gwendolyn Purdom, chronicled her visit to some of San Francisco’s more tourist-friendly historic sites back in August (see part 1 and part 2).

Now we're going off the beaten path and sharing some of the city's hidden gems with you, courtesy of the National Trust's San Francisco office. Following these top picks will soon have you rubbing elbows with locals for a true San Francisco experience. Let's get started ...

1. Start your San Francisco visit at the Haas-Lilienthal House (built in 1886 and one of our National Treasures) at 2007 Franklin Street. Alamo Square’s painted ladies on “Postcard Row” may be the best known Victorian icons in San Francisco, but Haas-Lilienthal is the place to go if you want to visit an authentic Victorian with its original interior furnishings and paint color. (After all, San Francisco was traditionally known as a “cool, gray city of love” both for its fog and its favorite house color.) This Queen Anne style home was built for a prominent Jewish family and was occupied by three generations of the same family before it was gifted to San Francisco Architectural Heritage in 1973. Plan your visit for a Wednesday or Saturday between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., or Sunday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when tours are offered.

2. From Haas-Lilienthal, it’s just a few blocks to the Van Ness Street terminus of the California Street Cable Car line. In addition to offering vertiginous views down California Street towards the Bay Bridge, boarding at Van Ness is like slipping behind the velvet rope at a popular club -- there is rarely a wait, in stark contrast to the Market Street terminus of the Powell line. The California Street line was first financed by Leland Stanford in 1878 to reach his mansion on Nob Hill (and was said to add years of life to his prize horses).

3. From the Market Street end of the California line, stroll a few blocks to the iconic 1898 Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street. Come any day and you can enjoy this temple of gourmet food in relative peace, but it’s most fun to join the hoards on Saturday morning when you may spot a celebrity chef shopping at what many claim is the best farmer's market in the country. After nourishment, you can hop a ferry to the low-key destinations of Oakland's Jack London Square, Alameda, or Tiburon for a different perspective on the city.

4. You’ve already ridden San Francisco’s justifiably famous cable cars, but SF MUNI’s Museums in Motion also include dozens of restored vintage streetcars from around the world that ply a route along Market Street and the Embarcadero. Learn more at the San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building before hopping the F-line up to the Castro. If you’re lucky, you might score a ride on the biggest head-turner -- the open-air No. 228 from the Victorian seaside resort of Blackpool, England.

5. Once in the Castro, you can’t miss the enormous rainbow flag at the corner of Market and Castro. If you’re up for a drink, stop by the Twin Peaks Tavern, the self-described "gay Cheers" that has been recommended for landmark status as "the first known gay bar to feature full-length open plate glass windows," as well as "a living symbol of the liberties and rights gained by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered community."

6. From Castro Street, stroll down 18th Street to the Mission District’s beloved Mission Dolores Park, the epicenter of hipster cool in the neighborhood recently named by Forbes as America’s second hippest neighborhood.  Turn left on Dolores and visit the place where it all started, the 1776 Mission San Francisco de Asís (better known as "Mission Dolores").  Enjoy a quiet moment in the small graveyard, then continue down 18th Street to check out the showstopper MaestraPeace mural on the historic Women’s Building.  If that mural piques your interest, consider an in-depth tour of the Mission’s renowned collection of street murals, with the well-regarded Precita Eyes.

7. Valencia Street in the Mission offers a culinary embarrassment of riches, but if you are yearning for authentic Asian cuisine without gourmet prices, head across town to San Francisco’s “Other Chinatown” on Clement Street in the inner Richmond where you’ll find a startling amount of restaurants specializing in Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Burmese, Schezuan, and other Asian cuisines.  Follow your meal with free tea tastings at Aroma Tea Shop, which is just cattycorner from the city’s famed Green Apple Books at 6th and Clement.  Note: If it was sunny in the Mission, it will probably be foggy in the Richmond; never doubt the reality of San Francisco’s micro-climates.

8. The Richmond District is sandwiched between San Francisco’s two expanses of green -- Golden Gate Park to the south, and the National Historic Landmark Presidio of San Francisco to the north. For a quintessential San Francisco experience, join the legions of joggers, strollers, birdwatchers, and dog walkers at Crissy Field, a former airfield along the bayfront.  If the weather’s chilly (hint: the weather is always chilly), stop at the well-named Warming Hut before continuing on to the massive 1861 fortification at Fort Point, where you can get an astonishing perspective on the Golden Gate Bridge.

9. If your legs are up for it, double back along the Marina Green through historic Fort Mason, home to myriad arts organizations and a frequent haunt for San Francisco’s legions of gourmet food trucks. You are now in striking range of one of the most hidden of San Francisco’s hidden treasures:  the 1931 The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City mural on display at the San Francisco Art Institute (a school, not a museum). The Making of a Fresco is actually one of four murals in the Bay Area painted by famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957).

10. If all this seems too daunting, put yourself in the trustworthy hands of San Francisco City Guides, which offers at least a half dozen local volunteer-led tours every day. Best of all, they’re free!  Check out their schedule to see what’s available during your visit.

What’s your favorite undiscovered spot in San Francisco?  Share your insider tips in the comments.

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.

A Stylish Stay in New York City's Historic Jane Hotel

Posted on: September 19th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments


Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern

The 1908 red brick Georgian-style Jane Hotel was built by William Alciphron Boring.

September is my favorite month for myriad reasons. Washington weather typically drops a good 15 degrees after August, Starbucks begins serving its tasty Pumpkin Spice latte, and the social media world is abuzz with the latest glittery news from New York fashion week.

This year, September was all the more exciting as I was attending the NYC fashion shows in person for the first time, which gave me the perfect excuse to check out the historic Jane Hotel, home away from home to everyone from sailors to Titanic survivors to bohemian cultural icons over the decades.

After a four-hour post-work bus ride and harrowing cab ride that put me in New York well after midnight, I decided exploring the hotel would have to wait until morning. I went for a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-like meal, sampling a buttery croissant and crisp Cafe Americano from the downstairs Cafe Gitane. I could almost pretend I was Kate Winslet in Titanic (lifelong dream accomplished) sans the cumbersome corset dress as I wandered the narrow corridors reminiscent of ship berths.

The doormen and bell hops will all greet you as if you have been friends for years, perhaps because they still have some resident sailors who have lived there for years.

The 1908 Georgian-style building was originally used as lodging for sailors as part of the American Seamen’s Friend Society’s attempts to civilize sailors passing through the port of New York, according to the New York Times. The architect, William Alciphron Boring, was well-known for his design of Ellis Island’s immigration station, including the Main Hospital Building (one of our National Treasures, as well as an 11 Most Endangered List entry for 2012).

Boring designed a red brick building with an octagonal tower on the corner of Jane and West streets opposite the Hudson. The facade, tiled lobby flooring, and a stunning fountain in the lobby remain from the original structure and many of the decor elements give a nod to the hotel’s nautical past, including the portholes in seemingly every door. Even the bathrooms are shared hall-style, just as the sailors experienced.

The cozy 50 sq. ft cabin is exactly the same as what the Titanic survivors who stayed at the Jane experienced, save for the added flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations.

The Jane has grown slightly from its original 156 rooms to today’s 171, but the interiors of the rooms remain true to the past. The 100 standard single cabins and 41 bunk bed cabins all measure roughly seven by seven feet with barely enough space to turn around.

More than 100 Titanic survivors stayed in these very rooms in 1912 and held a memorial service for those they had lost. Guests are said to have stayed for 25 cents a night. The higher-ups on the ships -- officers, engineers, cooks -- stayed in the Captain’s Cabins, which look more like typical hotel rooms.

The restored  -- and roomier -- Captain's Cabins. 

In 1944, the YMCA bought the building and used it as a residence for transients. The hotel became a beacon of New York’s bohemian culture in the '80s and '90s, and played host to many rock parties such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the Million Dollar Club. The Jane proudly proclaims that it has “continued to house guests with more dash than cash” ever since.

In 2008, its centennial, new owners Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode gave the building a few cosmetic changes to restore the building’s character, and they began offering the berth-like rooms at $99 a night to pay tribute to the hotel’s past as accommodations for those looking for a bargain.

The hotel bar, the Jane Ballroom, sits where the original 400-person auditorium once was and is decorated with an eclectic décor including tufted couches, zebra-print chairs, stuffed animals, and a sequined disco ball.

After my long day of running from fashion show to fashion show at Lincoln Center, I was happy to return to my cozy cabin and more than eager to try a cocktail from the hotel’s bar, the Jane Ballroom. I made my way through the glamazons clamoring to get in the bar, opened the brass-studded leather doors, ordered a white wine, and found a seat on one of the tufted burgundy couches in the very crowded ballroom located where the Jane Street Theater once was.

The room has an eclectic vibe from the zebra chair to the stuffed bighorn sheep residing above the fireplace mantle and the paneled ceilings. MacPherson says he “wanted the public rooms to look as if one family has owned [the hotel] a long time,” according to the New York Times.

I checked out the next morning, ready to head back to my last shows at Lincoln Center, and loving the juxtaposition of experiencing the ever-changing world of fashion in a beautiful, historic hotel dedicated to staying the same.

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.