This rest area stands against the desert backdrop near Abiquiu, New Mexico.
Think back to your last road trip. Where did you stop for a bite to eat? What scenery did you study when you paused to stretch your legs?
Before options like drive-thrus and commercial travel centers made road travel a little more convenient, small roadside rest areas, many of which were built as part of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, were a driver’s only option.
On a drive from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, in 2007, photographer Ryann Ford took notice of these rest shelters. “As a photographer, it’s hard not to notice them,” she says. “They’re perfect minimalist structures set on a perfect landscape. And they’re each different in their own way.”
For the last six years, Ford has traveled the country documenting rest shelters along highways and in state and national parks.
“I think they tell the story of a different time,” she says. “Now, we’re so rushed with our travel. We just want to get from point A to point B really quickly, whether it’s by plane or jumping on the fastest highway and getting there as fast as possible. If you eat, it’s through a drive-thru. [These rest shelters] tell the story of a different era in travel, when it was about the journey.”
You can explore Ford’s full collection of photographs in her book, The Last Stop: Vanishing Relics of the American Roadside, due out from powerHouse Books next spring. Until then, you can see a sampling of her photos in the Summer 2015 issue of Preservation.
We’ve also shared a few more of her images here. And we’d love to hear from you. Share your memories of roadside rest areas below.... Read More →
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Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.