Allison Wottawa is exactly the kind of person you want telling you about interesting places and the histories and stories that made them that way. She's energetic, smart, and glows on camera. As you'll read in our interview below and see in the below videos, Allison is the creator and host of an online travel series called Ally Quest.

Her show, which is produced to accommodate a future on television but is broken into easily digestible YouTube segments, is described on her website as "the ultimate show for anyone who has ever wanted to travel in time." Which is, for me at least, the ultimate dream. (And probably why I enjoy watching her show so much.)

I had a chance to talk with Allison about her background, her inspiration, and where the show is headed. And judging by her groundedness, passion, and quality of product, it's easy to see that Allison's star is on its way up.

Tell me a little about your background leading up to this series.

My college adviser said to me, "Allison, do you know the secret of happiness?"  Of course, I didn't.

"The secret of happiness," he continued, " is doing what you love and getting someone to pay you for it."  This is how I live my life.

I've been an actor and a producer for as long as I can remember, starting in theatre when I was six, coupled with a tremendous fascination for history.  History is, after all, a story that examines who we are, where we came from, how we got here.

I graduated from The George Washington University with a major in Political Communications and minors in Theatre and History, then followed my passion across the Atlantic and attended graduate school at Drama Studio London, receiving the English equivalent of an MFA.

What inspired you to create this series?

After graduation, I promptly moved to Los Angeles to pursue my career in acting.  Los Angeles is a great city with so much opportunity and fabulous weather.  But I felt that something was lacking.  I wasn't feeling the "passion" and my career seemed somewhat empty.  I couldn't figure out how my career in acting was helping anyone.

I thought of my college adviser.  What do I love?  Easy.  Travel, history, communicating to an audience.  That's when Ally Quest was born.

Allison filming a golf cart driving segment on Catalina Island.

I know this sounds cliche, but I have always wanted to make a difference in a positive way. Of course, I am also completely selfish and want to travel the world.  I have a yearning to learn as much as I can about places and the people that live there.  My natural gift is communication.

So, traveling the world while researching a point in history, and relaying that information through the lens of the camera -- well, that's just me.  If I can do anything in the world, I'm going to do that! My Mom always said, "You can do anything you put your mind to."  And I believe her. ... 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.

Discovering Philadelphia's Favorite Places

Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by David Garber


If you haven't heard of them already, there's a great organization called Hidden City Philadelphia. Their goal is to highlight the city's unique and under-known special places by connecting them with resources in order to activate them in new and interesting ways.

As self-described on their site, "Hidden City is about transforming that innate, childlike sense of wonder that we all have into inspiration, ideas, and social action around place, making our urban environment a more vibrant, productive, and desirable place to live, work, and play."

This idea is translatable across all cities and towns -- and as much as I could write about all sorts of great things that Hidden City is putting on and getting together (hmm ... sounds like a great idea for an interview), I wanted to call attention to a series of videos they're creating called "My Favorite Place." Check out a couple of the videos below, or click through to see the entire set.

What are your favorite places in the city, town, or countryside that you call home? Are there places out there that people don't know enough about now that could use some creative marketing? Let us know 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.

[Video] Living in Detroit's Packard Plant

Posted on: April 11th, 2012 by David Garber 3 Comments


"Oftentimes I'm out, and I might meet somebody, and we talk about where we live, and I say, 'Well, I live in the world's largest abandoned building. I live at the Packard plant.' And some people think that's really a novel, cool idea, you know. And other people they're taken back by like, 'How could anyone live in an abandoned building with no water and no facilities?' But it suits my purposes just fine." - Allen, the lone resident of Detroit's abandoned Packard Automotive Plant

The Packard Automotive Plant on Detroit's east side opened to fanfare in 1907. It was the first reinforced concrete industrial complex in Detroit, and manufactured some of America's first luxury cars: Packards and Studebakers. The plant was shut down in 1958, following the brand's lack of popularity among cheaper and smaller competitors, and is now under threat of demolition.

It's interesting to see this kind of site from the perspective of a resident. Typically, abandoned sites are just that. Seeing this makes me want the impossible/unreasonable: to move it somewhere where it has a better economic chance. What about you? How do these buildings and this story move you?

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.

44 Years Ago, DC's 14th Street NW Burned

Posted on: April 6th, 2012 by David Garber 5 Comments


44 years ago this week, in April 1968, a number of DC's major commercial corridors were under siege by rioters following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. From Wikipedia:

"As word of King's murder in Memphis, Tennessee spread on the evening of Thursday, April 4, crowds began to gather at 14th and U. Stokely Carmichael, the Trinidad and Tobago-born activist and Howard University graduate, [...] led members of the [Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee] to stores in the neighborhood demanding that they close out of respect. Although polite at first, the crowd fell out of control and began breaking windows. By 11pm, widespread looting had begun, as well as in over 30 other cities."

Check out the video below of DC's 14th Street NW -- out of control and burning -- filmed during the riots:

But don't stop there. 14th Street NW (home to our Restoration Diary building), as well as many of the other corridors affected during the riots, are well on their way to becoming healthy and vibrant places to be. Here's a slideshow of what 14th just south of U Street looks like now.


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.

[Video] A Former Green Mountain Lookout Tells His Story

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


Yesterday we published a post about a recent legal case involving the old Green Mountain lookout building - a little shack from the 1930s on a remote mountaintop in Washington State’s Glacier Peak Wilderness. Although the pictures in the post were pretty, and the story - although about a preservation loss - pretty clear, I wanted to post this video, created by High Country News, that gives a firsthand account of what it was like to be a fire lookout on top of Green Mountain.

What do you think - should places like this, in areas designated for wilderness, be preserved as traces of human imprint on and interaction with the land?

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.

Pop-Ups Bring New Life to Old Oakland, CA

Posted on: March 22nd, 2012 by David Garber 2 Comments


Pop-ups are part of the latest wave of grassroots urban innovations hitting cities now (see also: parks on railroads, cultural centers in old houses, and a thousand other cool things across the country). They are a creative way to bring - on a temporary basis, at least to begin with - energy and economy to otherwise vacant space, be it an empty building on Main Street or a windswept lot nobody's building on anytime soon.

In their pop-up location in Old Oakland, Manifesto Bicycles owners Sam Cunningham and MacKay Gibbs highlight their selection of customizable bikes. (Top left photo: Eva Kolenko. Others: popuphood)

There are any number of kinds of pop-ups, but the most common are retail and event pop-ups. Retailers can lease or be granted space to see if their concept has real legs, or people can host things like parties or even bike-powered movie nights in spaces that sit empty every other night of the week. For retailers, if the concept is successful, a longer lease can then be signed.

Owners Nicole Buffett and Jake Bagshaw, both San Francisco native artists inside their'DIY California lifestyle' boutique Piper and John General Goods. (Photo: Eva Kolenko)

In the Old Oakland neighborhood of Oakland, California, a group called popuphood is leading the charge on pop-up retail space. Old Oakland is a charming tree lined historic district with brick sidewalks, Victorian architecture evoking its past as the original heart of the city of Oakland. But although there's been a fair amount of restaurant and residential construction and conversions in the area, Old Oakland still lacks retail volume. ... 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.