Posts tagged “preservation

History on Hilton Head’s Heel

Posted on May 23, 2012

In John Sayles’s film Sunshine State (2002), one of the key story lines explores the conflict between the longstanding but threatened African American community of Lincoln Beach and a development company intent on building a new resort community called Exley Plantation. The film is patterned loosely on Amelia Island in northern Florida, where American Beach, a historically black beach town, has clung to its property despite some three decades of encroaching resort development, notably by Amelia Island Plantation. The story could have been set on any number of the so-called Sea Islands that stretch some 200 miles northward from Amelia into Georgia and South Carolina. On some islands, small communities of Gullah-speaking residents are descendants of enslaved people who worked rice, cotton, and indigo…

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…

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…

Neighborhood or Hospitality Zone?

Posted on May 9, 2012

The Third Battle of New Orleans* is raging, as reported in yesterday’s Times-Picayune. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans tourism interests are concerned that the city’s French Quarter and its immediate surrounding neighborhoods and downtown as tourist destinations have failed to rebound as completely as hoped after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The inflow of tourists, 8.75 million last year, is less than the 11 million before Katrina and a far cry from the city’s ambitious goal of 13 million by 2018, which marks the tricentennial of the city’s founding. Landrieu’s father, Moon Landrieu, was mayor forty years ago and was instrumental in creating a much tighter partnership between the municipal government and the tourism industry, but today’s pro-tourism effort builds upon a much more powerful…

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…