Posts tagged “architecture

French Quarter Flattery Revisited

Posted on May 16, 2014

Two years ago I posted “Sincerest Flattery in Tourist Lands,” highlighting a few notable examples of places outside New Orleans that mimic the famed French Quarter. Since that time I have discovered so many more such examples of the “sincerest form of flattery” that it’s worth revisiting the subject. Ranging from careful replication of what is sometimes called the “French Quarter Revival” style in resorts and theme parks to hackneyed adornments on otherwise ordinary apartment complexes, French Quarter-style architecture dots the American landscape. Of course what we call French Quarter-style architecture is in fact far from unique to the French Quarter. Many New Orleans structures outside the Vieux Carré also have original ironwork, and many more have added it. Many cities in the South…

American Tourism Now Available!

Posted on June 15, 2012

American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition is now available to order from your favorite bookseller. American Tourism reveals the remarkable stories behind the places Americans love to visit. From Independence Hall to Las Vegas, and from Silver Springs to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the collection draws back the curtain on many of America’s most successful tourist traps to reveal the carefully hidden backstory of transforming places into destinations. Readers will discover that a powerful creative process, rather than chance, has separated the enduring attractions from the many failures that litter the highways and byways of tourism history. American Tourism‘s thirty-five lively, illustrated essays tap the expertise of the country’s leading academic and public historians, writers, and tourism professionals. The contributors illuminate the visionaries who created iconic destinations and…

Hotel Veranda as Celebrity Stage

Posted on June 13, 2012

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the sweeping verandas of America’s foremost resort hotels served as veritable stages across which the nation’s well-to-do promenaded. As historian Jon Sterngass observed in his book First Resorts, such spaces offered perfect places “to see and be seen,” even as resorts like Saratoga attracted a broader and broader swath of American society. In Saratoga, the “celebrities” of the day literally strode high above passersby on the Broadway sidewalk below as if enacting a tableau. The United States Hotel, along with Congress Hall and the Grand Union Hotel, was one of the great elite resort hotels of the Western Hemisphere in the 19th century. Originally built in 1824, the United States Hotel (like many wooden hotels) went up…

Mackinac’s West Bluff, Then and Now

Posted on June 7, 2012

When it opened 125 years ago, Grand Hotel raised the profile of Mackinac Island. Already noted as a place of refined respite from the sooty industrial cities of the Great Lakes region, this small, scenic island in Lake Huron soon drew industrialists from around the Midwest. They built fine “cottages” (really large mansions) on the high bluffs adjacent to the hotel to be near the social whirl it afforded. The cottages on West Bluff in the old photo above are finely maintained as summer homes to this day (see below).

Venice in America

Posted on June 4, 2012

Visitors to Venice Beach, California, today are more likely to think of early-’80s roller skaters from Xanadu than Venice, Italy. Three quarters of a century before, however, Abbot Kinney’s vision brought a piece of Italy to the Pacific coast in Los Angeles. Replete with gondoliers and Renaissance-style architecture, Kinney’s Venice, as American Tourism contributor J. Philip Gruen demonstrates, was a short-lived cultural experiment that nevertheless set the tone for one of L.A.’s quirkiest neighborhoods. Apart from the Venice Canal Historic District, little of the Venetian influence tempers the sun-drenched stretch of trinket shops and vendor stands. A close inspection turns up the occasional nod to the city on the Adriatic. Bits of the Colonnade have been salvaged, and St. Mark’s Hotel’s neighboring Italian Renaissance…

Making Colonial Williamsburg

Posted on May 21, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg is among the United States’ most illustrious historic tourist sites. But Williamsburg, Virginia, was like any other American town in the early 20th century with the exception of retaining a few dozen structures that dated to the colonial era. Until the world’s richest family agreed in the late 1920s to underwrite a restoration of the original colonial Virginia, Williamsburg lacked the coherent landscape necessary to envelope the tourist in a believable setting in which the story of the nation’s youth could be narrated. No few tourists today are surprised to learn that most of the town’s “historic” buildings were, in fact, painstakingly re-created, sparing no attention to detail, as explained in Anders Greenspan’s essay in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition. Although most…

Marketing Marketing

Posted on May 19, 2012

Public markets are all the rage these days. After largely disappearing in most communities in the second half of the 20th century amid the rush to supermarkets and processed foods, only a small number of markets remained. Some of the oldest markets that were housed in large, historic buildings in tourist-favored cities phased out their original functions and began to cater to out-of-towners with colorful shops and restaurants. The most notable successful conversion story was in Boston where, as American Tourism co-editor Nicholas Dagen Bloom writes, visionary mall developer James Rouse managed to use the trappings of an old market to reinvent the worn-down Quincy Market into Faneuil Hall Marketplace. For the next two decades other cities rushed to copy Rouse’s brash confidence in…

A Pre-Preservation, Anti–French Quarter Monument

Posted on May 15, 2012

This ca. 1908 postcard is just one of some 30,000 vintage postcards from the Curt Teich Postcard Archives at Lake County Discovery Museum in Lake County, Illinois, that are available for online viewing. It is a rich resource for documenting the places tourists visited a century ago. This card shows the view one would have beheld when standing at Royal and St. Louis Streets and looking southwest (upriver) toward the Monteleone Hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter. On the right side of Royal Street is the architecture for which the world knows New Orleans. The Court House shown at left was a new addition to the Vieux Carré. Built in the Beaux-Arts style that was popular for civic buildings around the turn of the century (thanks…

From Grand to Grand

Posted on May 14, 2012

Today I had an exciting opportunity to present alongside Dan Musser III, owner of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, who was in town for a power networking workshop at Berea High School in Berea, Ohio, followed by “From Grand to Grand,” a tea luncheon at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Olmsted Falls. Following my presentation on Mackinac Island tourism, Mr. Musser told the story of Grand Hotel and how his family has been associated with the summer resort since 1919. Grand Hotel, which opened in 1887, elevated the stature of Mackinac Island, making it the preeminent Great Lakes summer resort. Built in an astounding 93 days by crews working three shifts around the clock, the white-pine hotel became distinguished for its 626-foot-long…

Cleveland: Tourist City?

Posted on May 10, 2012

Today I depart from my usual commentary on tourist destinations featured in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition. Two days ago, I led my annual downtown Cleveland walking tour for a small group of interested students in my History of U.S. Tourism course at Cleveland State University. We were tourists in our own town for two short hours. This time we came armed with smartphones loaded with the Cleveland Historical app. The students spent their semester creating new content for the app while studying the history of how promoters packaged and tourists consumed American attractions, cities, towns, and regions. Now it was their chance to re-imagine their own city through a hybrid of direct and mediated experience. I’m still learning how to meld the…

Skyscrapers: Selling Themselves, Selling the City

Posted on May 8, 2012

In recent weeks and months, American skyscrapers have been much in the news. For the time being, the United States does not appear poised to retake the title for tallest skyscraper (a distinction that has belonged to cities in Malaysia, Taiwan, and United Arab Emirates for more than a decade). With superlative height no longer the most viable way to generate excitement and visibility, we are seeing aesthetics move squarely into the arena of skyscraper competition. Just over a week ago, 1 World Trade Center topped the Empire State Building on its way to a symbolic 1,776-foot height (when the antenna is included), returning the distinction of tallest New York skyscraper downtown after an eleven-year absence. Not to be outdone, the Empire State Building’s owners, according…

Stretching the Storyline in Charleston

Posted on May 2, 2012

Historic preservation has been the handmaiden of heritage tourism in countless places for more than a century. Originally confined to sites of particularly illustrious historical events and so-called “Great Men,” it emerged in the 19th century as an elite pastime. In the midst of rapid industrialization, urbanization, and immigration in the United States, native-born Americans turned to projects to bolster their own interest in preindustrial America. Places associated with the colonial era, Revolutionary War, and early national period found most favor into the 20th century. Charleston, South Carolina, continues to trade on its trove of architectural gems from the colonial period. Prior to the American Revolution, Charleston was among the preeminent seaport cities in British North America. Fearing the loss of a landscape that…

Stateside Sevilles

Posted on May 1, 2012

Architectural mimicry is tightly interwoven with the history of tourism. Few styles proved as inspirational in tourism placemaking efforts as those that evoked old Spain. Spanish-influenced styles became staples in the creation of regional architecture in California and Florida and occasionally in less expected places. Perhaps no structure excited so many replicas and emulations as the Giralda in Seville. Today we’ll explore two of them. The Giralda was originally constructed as the minaret for a Moorish mosque patterned after the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. Both were completed in the late 12th century. Following the 13th-century Reconquista, the 343-foot-tall structure became a tower for the Cathedral of Seville. It is among the most recognizable buildings to tourists in Spain. Spanish architecture or, more properly,…

Tourist Fantasies Loom Large in AIA Florida Top 100

Posted on April 20, 2012

Innovative developers have long made dramatic use of architectural expression to appeal to travelers’ search for extraordinary pleasure grounds. Walt Disney’s theme parks, for example, trade on their embodiment of childlike whimsy.  Whole towns from Pueblo-inspired Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the 18th-century fantasy of Colonial Williamsburg offer coherent landscapes for tourists.  Likewise, Florida has a long history of creating iconic structures that set the tone in many of its resort areas. The Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, a massive, 1950s modern resort, recently garnered the #1 vote among a list of the top 100 buildings in Florida identified by the Florida division of the American Institute of Architects.  The Fontainebleau launched an entire style called “Miami Modern” that proved highly influential in both…