Travel reinforces benefits of historic preservation
I'm counting down the days to Aug. 17 when the German Village Society welcomes Rhonda Sincavage to town to be part of a weekend dedicated to celebrating, exploring and supporting historic preservation.
Ms. Sincavage is employed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
She is a recent TED lecturer. When she leads a conversation at the Meeting Haus at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17 (be there, it's open to the public with a suggested donation of $20), her topic will be "Happiness Is ... Historic Preservation."
I've been reflecting on exactly what this might mean.
How can old buildings and historic fabric improve your quality of life? Really?
Then it struck me -- I've been living it as fact for the past four months.
I have visited no fewer than a dozen historic sites since April, and my travel plans for summer haven't even kicked into full gear yet.
The sense of place that historic fabric imbues on a location makes them destinations; places on bucket lists; generators of full-blown happiness.
My visits to historically preserved places began in April when my sister, my mom and I took our first trip to Milwaukee.
Downtown is overloaded with beautiful, historic churches with steeples competing for attention and air time at every corner.
We stayed amongst them at the Astor Hotel, completed in 1920 and still offering all of the charm built to house both travelers and residents at its opening.
We visited all of the neighborhoods (Marquette University, Historic Third Ward, Bay View) that in 2006 made Milwaukee one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Now THERE'S a designation German Village should shoot for!
Next up: Memorial Day and a motorcycle trip into the hills of West Virginia and Virginia.
We had reservations at The Preston County Inn -- a Civil-War-era structure.
The owner confessed that he was only in the process of renovations -- his work isn't done, and there was evidence of that in the guest rooms.
So why reserve? The simple answer: historic fabric equals charm.
Knowing before we left that Kingwood, W.Va., was our destination we searched hotels online.
We saw photos of a half-dozen generic, chain hotels -- and the inn.
That was the end of the search -- we booked at Preston.
The moment we were settled into its colonnaded front porch rocking chairs, we didn't care that the room's beautiful paned windows were partially obstructed by window air conditioning.
The next night, we chose to overnight in Staunton, Va.
The decision -- again -- was made upon spying its idyllic, historically preserved downtown.
It was too cute to keep riding. Staunton has its own German Village Society equivalent -- the Historic Staunton Foundation -- that seeks to educate and advocate for preservation.
From all outward appearances, the effort is working.
One night in Staunton and I can't plan a trip back soon enough.
In June, I spent a weekend in Colorado. The happiness quotient of historically preserved towns couldn't have been starker.
I spent Saturday in Vail -- a city just invented in the 1960s -- and a Sunday in Aspen (founded 1879).
The difference between gazing at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House, which is just 10 years younger than the city, and visiting Vail's vast pseudo-Alpine kitsch -- well ... .
And, leaving Aspen via Independence Pass gave us an excuse to stumble across Twin Lakes, with its roadside general store and hotel -- by sight it appears they've been there since the town boomed in 1880.
That makes a memory. It feels like a discovery. It makes you happy.
I spent Independence Day in Eureka Springs, Ark.
I was so consumed by its history as one of America's "get healed by the springs" communities, that I had to take TWO guided history tours to better understand what brought people here, how they carved their homes and business out of limestone at the river and then hoisted that stone up the cliffs to make the structures that still stand in beautiful, curvy rows that follow the contours of the cliffs.
I learned, on one of the tours, about why dry stacking really works in architecture.
I learned how proud residents rebuilt their town twice after fires and they kept insisting on mimicking the original designs for their buildings.
So, does historic preservation play a role in health, happiness, and overall quality of life?
I think each of us knows the answer, and we only need to look out our front doors to find it.
German Village Society Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column to the ThisWeek German Village Gazette.