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.



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.



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.


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 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.


Historic San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town Albuquerque.

This summer I've been writing a lot about travel: dreaming about the perfect summer, living along a river, imagining what a life of leisure would be like (if only, right?).

Now, in two weeks, I'm heading off on my last vacation for the season -- this time to Albuquerque, NM, where for one week I'll be enjoying the beauty of the Southwest in the days leading up to a high school friend's wedding.

I've been to the Albuquerque area before. I've ogled the view from Sandia Peak and meandered through the streets of Sante Fe, all the while eating some of the best food in the country.

This time though ... I've got a whole week. And while some of that time will be spent doing typical wedding tasks, the rest of it is begging to be spent on exploration. Plus, I'll be celebrating my 30th birthday that week, so what better way for a historian to mark the occasion then by spending time in a city as culturally rich and beautiful as Albuquerque?

So this is one of the posts where I turn to you for advice. What are the places, restaurants, hikes, and museums that I should check out? What makes Albuquerque special? Let me know in the comments and I'll report back when I return!

[Ed. note: Nobody knows places better than the people who live there, and Priya's post has inspired us to gather recommendations from all over the country. Want to brag about your town (and convince people to visit it)? Email us at and tell us what sets your town apart -- buildings, activities, restaurants, cultural events, itineraries, etc. We just might feature you in an upcoming post!]

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.


Feisty oil heiress and theater star Aline Barnsdall would have been pleased to see the scene that unfolded on her lawn at Hollyhock House last Friday: throngs of people sprawled out on picnic blankets, sipping wine, catching up with friends, and watching the sun set over Los Angeles.

I know I was enjoying the revelries. When I received an email earlier this summer announcing the start of this year’s Friday Night Wine Tastings at Barnsdall Art Park, they had me at “wine tasting.” Imagine sitting with a glass of pinot in the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright’s c. 1921 Hollyhock House, built for Barnsdall, who had bohemian tendencies and an affinity for supporting radical causes.

But throw in the opportunity to tour the iconic house, and I was sold. So last Friday, I drove to East Hollywood and hiked up the hill where Hollyhock House stands, overlooking the city.

Before we began sampling the libations, my friend and I lined up for our 7 p.m. tour.  It was quite a treat to be touring the house that night: It has been closed to tour groups since July 20, save for tours given during the Friday Night Wine Tastings, on account of ongoing restoration work at the site. (It is scheduled to reopen to the public in September.)

We were led through a side door and into a small room where we were instructed to put protective booties over our shoes to spare the flawless hardwood floors. Thanks to Wright’s open floor plan, I was able to survey a good portion of the house while waiting for the tour to begin. Sheets of plastic covering the various construction zones blocked some views, but the visible parts were breathtaking. I was excited to begin exploring. ... 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.

A Historic Hotel Proves a Respite from a Historic Heatwave

Posted on: July 20th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Elizabeth McNamara, Preservation Magazine assistant editor

While Washington, D.C. continued to make extreme heat milestones, my husband and I dashed north to Maine, seeking relief from the Beltway’s record-breaking weather. And relief we did get, for two nights at the Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, which was settled in the 1600s as a trading town. Later, the town was well known for its shipyard.

We arrived at the hotel after dark, following a day spent with friends in Boston. The historic hotel is located on Ocean Avenue, where the Kennebunk River opens to the Atlantic Ocean. We couldn’t see the ocean, but we could feel its salty breezes.

Opened in 1914, the Colony Hotel is a family-run hotel that welcomes guests from mid-May through October. It was illuminated by spotlights in the early evening, and the white wooden structure capped with a cupola was a welcoming sight following the hour-and-a-half drive up I-95. Today, the hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A bellhop greeted us at the door to the lobby, which was furnished with clusters of deep leather armchairs, decorated with nautical paintings, and anchored by a large-patterned floral carpet. We took our keys—not key cards!—from the concierge and a guest and her leashed dog trotted by.

“Next time we are bringing the dog,” I told my husband.

Our accommodations were small, but cozy and clean. There was no air-conditioning unit in our room, so we opened the windows, and no television—a welcome reprieve from our iPad-, iPhone-, iEverything-infused lives.

The next morning we skipped the Colony’s complimentary breakfast and hit the road to explore the village of Kennebunkport. The hotel is less than one mile from Dock Square, the town center, so it wasn’t long before we were eating blueberry crepes and drinking freshly brewed coffee. After breakfast, we explored the quaint, historic downtown, peering in the windows of its many storefronts. Then we drove north on Ocean Avenue, bordering the coastline. From the rocky shores we spotted President George H. W. Bush’s summer residence, Walker’s Point, which is less than a mile from The Colony, and then took a long hike near the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

In the late afternoon we headed back to the hotel to sit by the saltwater swimming pool. A waitress from the hotel’s Marine Bar took drink orders and we enjoyed the warm sun and sea views. A group of children putted on the 18-hole putting green while their families looked on from the hotel’s wide, wrap-around porch, which spans 300 feet.

We let the day slip quietly away before enjoying lobsters for dinner. It was the perfect ending to a perfect stay.

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.