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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

U.S. Navy Memorial, Washington, D.C.

The United States Navy Memorial at 7th between Pennsylvania Avenue and Indiana Avenue honors those who served or are currently serving in the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marine. Admiral Arleigh Burke brought a group together in 1977 to being work on a Navy Memorial. Congress authorized the Memorial in 1980, requiring funding come solely from private contributions. By December 1985 enough money had been raised for the Secretary of the Interior to give a go-ahead on construction. The Memorial was dedicated October 13, 1987. From late 1987 to the mid-1990's, two buildings were built on the northern perimeter of the memorial.

The eastern of these was selected to house the Naval Heritage Center. This houses the Arleigh and Roberta Burke Theater, several rotating exhibits about the sea services, Navy Log kiosks for registration on the Naval Log. The Heritage Center opened in June 1991 and was formally dedicated on October 12, 1991.

Detail from raised relief bronze plaque of "The Great White Fleet - 1907" by Sculptor Gilbert A. Franklin, featuring then President Theodore Roosevelt reviewing the Great White Fleet. Note "The Lone Sailor" sculpture by Stanley Bleifeld in the upper left corner of the photo above.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square Map and Signs, Williamsburg, Virginia

Merchants Square, first conceived in 1927, is one of the earliest if not the first planned shopping district in the U.S. When the Colonial Williamsburg restoration was being envisioned, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin realized businesses in Williamsburg would need to be given their own dedicated space. Thus this new dedicated shopping space was created, to harmonize in with the character of the restoration. Buildings were set back from the street to allow easy pedestrian access. Power and telephone lines were buried underground. And modern elements like air conditioning ducts and garage equipment were placed behind plantings and shrubs. Today more than forty unique shops and restaurants are located in Merchants Square.

The district boasts of a logo of an architectural quatrefoil combined with a square. The Colonial Williamsburg graphic identity is used and "Merchants Square" is given strong emphasis in the logo. A website for Merchants Square was created by G3 Creative based in Richmond, Virginia. The firm described the site as such: "We created a website with lots of local color and architecture, using photos of the specialty shops in the Square."

Merchants Square has a gift card program with denominations from $20 to $250. Shop hours are fixed from 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday and noon-5pm on Sunday. Restaurants are open until 9pm or later. Williamsburg WiFi is installed throughout the district, providing yet another visitor amenity.

There are way-finding signs to direct visitors to businesses in Merchants Square. The sign is reproduced on a district map and available here. Businesses are broken out into the following categories: Gifts and Accessories, Specialty Shops, Dining, Specialty Foods, Bookstores, Apparel, and Services.

Way-finding sign in the Merchants Square district.

Detail of hand-drawn map.

Detail of key from map and sign.

Detail of directory showing shops and businesses, December 2008.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Heritage tourism efforts in Easton, Maryland

Easton, Maryland, is located on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, 90 minutes by car from Washington, D.C. The Easton Main Street program in recent years appears to have been at the forefront of promoting Easton. According to their website, approximately 75,000 people are attracted to the Easton area each year through "producing and sponsoring high quality, family oriented arts and educational events".

The "Arts in Easton Banner Program" places original artwork from area artists on banners located throughout the downtown. These are then sold in an auction to raise funds for future projects.

A handsome wayfinding map has also been created and may be seen in display boxes downtown. Buildings in a 21 block area are presented, with businesses by category listed to the right. The map touts Easton as "One of America's Best Small Towns."

Easton also hosts the Waterfowl Festival each fall. About 1,500 volunteer welcome 13,000 visitors and 300 of the nation's finest wildlife artists, craftsmen, and vendors each year. This event which has been going on for nearly four decades now, has resulted in over $5 million being raised and donated to projects throughout the Atlantic Flyway, and particularly in the Chesapeake Bay area.

The Historic Tidewater Inn is on a site that has been an inn for almost 200 years. When Easton was chosen as home of Talbot County's first courthouse in 1711, several inns were established to cater to the role of the town as a center of trade and government. The large wooden-frame Avon Hotel was built in 1891 on the site of the present Tidewater Inn. This was sadly destroyed by fire in 1944 and replaced by the present red-brick structure in 1949. The Tidewater Inn is part of the Historic Hotels of America program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The "Historic Easton Inc. Site and Building Survey" has resulted in the placement of several handsome bronze plaques throughout the community. The present status of this organization is unclear with no website to show for their efforts. According to Guidestar.org this organization was founded in 1973, though has not filed their 990 form with the IRS for the past several years.

This promotion activity of Easton Main Street is notable and no doubt worthwhile, though typically Main Street programs are also engaged in activities including Design, Organization, and Economic Restructuring. The lack of a comprehensive approach limits the ability of Easton to be fully successful in its revitalization efforts at this time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fell's Point Neighborhood and the Preservation Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Ann Street showing the Robert Long House (left), garden, and Preservation Society (right)

The Preservation Society of Baltimore is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is "to preserve and renew Fell's Point and Federal Hill as areas of historical and architectural significance for the benefit of local residents and businesses and the education and enjoyment of visitors and the public at large."

The society was founded in 1967 to stop the extension of Interstate 95 across the Inner Harbor. A ten year advocacy effort followed, preventing highway expansion from destroying the Fell's Point and Federal Hill neighborhoods. To accomplish this the society led the effort to have both communities listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fell's Point became a National Register Historic District in 1969, making it only the second historic district in the United States. Federal Hill received that designation a year later in 1970.

The Preservation Society has continues this work through present day. Among their programs include operating a design review program for the City of Baltimore, without any cost to the City. The Society has a newsletter, and is involved in organizing several events throughout the year including walking tours, an Authentic Ghostwalk, and the Annual Fell's Point Festival.

One of their properties, The Robert Long House, was originally built around 1765 by an area merchant. Slated for demolition in 1969, members of the Preservation Society fought the city and federal government to keep the building standing. The Society acquired the property in 1975 and led a painstaking restoration. Following a devastating fire in 1999, the house was once again restored to its colonial splendor. The Robert Long House and the nearby garden are an ongoing reminder of the power of community activism and courage in the face of challenge.

In 2000 the Preservation Society built a modern Conference and Visitor Center next to the Robert Long House. With 25 foot timbered ceilings and skylights, this remained the home of the Society until January 2009 when the Steven Scott Gallery opened in this space.

Garden adjacent to the Robert Long House

One last organization of some relevance to the work of the Preservation Society is the Fell's Point Main Street program. This program established in 2003 was created to assist with revitalization of the Fell's Point district. This organization appears to have gotten several promotional events started including Privateer Day, the 2nd Annual Swashbuckler Soiree, and the 6th Annual Pyrate Invasion. A review of website would seem to indicate that other areas of the Main Street Approach such as Organization, Economic Restructuring, and Design are not as of yet being fully embraced.

One of the charming businesses in the Fell's Point neighborhood is the Maryland Bay Company. This store features folk art, furniture, and regional merchandise.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning, New York

The Rockwell Museum of Western Art promotes itself as having "the finest American Western and Native American art collection this side of the Mississippi." Corning business owners Bob and Hertha Rockwell amassed an impressive collection of Western art and artifacts, Carder Steuben glass, firearms, and antique toys. They displayed this in their family department store today known as the Rockwell Center. As their collection grew they decided to donate this to a future museum. In 1974 executives from Corning Glass Works embraced the vision of a new museum in Corning. A temporary home opened in the Baron Steuben Hotel in November 1976 while a permanent home was being secured in the Old City Hall building. The City Hall building had been vacated in 1972 following a devastating flood caused by Hurricane Agnes.

The Old City Hall building was designed by architect A.J. Warner and built by Thomas Bradley in 1893 for less than $29,000. A capital campaign launched in 1980 generated $2.5 million to restore the exterior of the building and redesign the interior for exhibition space. Architect John D. Milner created plans to guide the rehabilitation. Original features such as tin ceilings in the Fire Station Gallery and the Art Room were retained, as was the iron door to the women's jail.

First Fridays is an event that helps raise exposure for the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. Admission and activities are free of charge. Atwater Estate Vineyards from the Finger Lakes provides a wine tasting, and other refreshments are provided. Patrons are encouraged to visit restaurants and shops in Corning's Gaffer District.

Salamanca Rail Museum, Salamanca, New York

Salamanca, located in the "Enchanted Mountains of Cattaragus County" promotes its historic and cultural atmosphere, and also entertainment and night life provided by area casinos. Seneca Gaming and Entertainment in Salamanca is something of a regional draw. This is the only nation that has a U.S. city within its boundaries.

A critical mass of cultural attractions appears to have emerged with the Allegany State Park, the Seneca Iroquois National Museum, the Salamanca Rail Museum, and the Salamanca Historical Society.

The 1912 depot for the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, today houses an impressive collection of railroad artifacts. The building was acquired in 1980 and was a vandalized vacant shell that had stood empty for 20 years. Provide donations, government grants, and volunteer labor helped to bring the station back. Features in the building display are either a restored original or an exact duplicate based on the original architectural plans.

A museum within the railroad station showcases artifacts from the three railroads that served the region: the Erie, the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Pennsylvania Railroads.

The Salamanca Historical Society was founded in 1995 to help preserve the city's history. They had several temporary homes before signing a lease with the City of Salamanca for the historic bank building at 125 Main St. A Small Cities Grant program from the State of New York helped to provide funds to restore the building. The Society moved into their new permanent home on May 14, 2004.

While the Salamanca Rail Museum and Salamanca Historical Society are in close proximity to one another, there does not appear to be a strong programmatic connection between the two. These two attractions are further constrained by being separated by raised railroad tracks that pedestrians or cars must pass under.