Posts tagged “visionaries

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…

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…

Little Aspen of the Blue Ridge

Posted on May 3, 2012

As leaders in tony Highlands, North Carolina, look around the southern Appalachians, they find examples aplenty of tourist destinations that have struggled to define an image to match their beautiful surroundings. As the Smoky Mountain News reported yesterday, several towns in western North Carolina have labored to find slogans to brand themselves to appeal to a wide range of potential visitors without becoming so imprecise as to lose a coherent message. Some have had to rebrand themselves as their offerings have evolved. In Cherokee on the eastern fringe of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, casino gambling as eclipsed even the town’s cultivated reputation as a place to encounter Native Americans. Highlands’ slogan “Above It All” refers to its especially lofty elevation of 4,118 feet…

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,…

The Tourism Mayors

Posted on April 30, 2012

If Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel gets his way, when visitors peer into the silvery curvature of Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate, they will see the world. The mayor recently challenged Chicago tourism officials to bring 50 million tourists a year to his city by 2020, which would represent a 25 percent increase over the current figure. More critically, as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, he wants Chicago to raise its profile by finding ways to attract a far larger share of international tourists than its current paltry 4.3 percent. With three recent additions, Chicago now maintains eight international tourism offices worldwide, still well short of several other major American cities. It even has its own official tourism theme song, although, as the Huffington Post notes,…

Invention and Imitation

Posted on April 22, 2012

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also highly lucrative. Imitation is an ironic hallmark of an industry that on one level is predicated on destinations’ ability to offer a unique experience. Tourists seek novelty for its potential to grant a sense of discovery, but it does not take long for entrepreneurs to recognize a good idea and attempt to replicate it as nearly as possible. Along with tourists’ restlessness when the extraordinary becomes mundane, imitation is a prime reason for tourist destinations to embellish their attractions or reinvent themselves. Early railroad-age travelers hoped to see “real” Indians as a way of eluding the reach of crass, market-oriented America (symbolized by the industrial cities from which many tourists hailed), but their…

Mr. Hugman’s Dream

Posted on March 24, 2012

This clip by YouTube user mamacoke gives a good sense of the tourist experience of the San Antonio River Walk. Like many urban places, the River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, owes its origins to the New Deal in the late 1930s, when Works Progress Administration workers began to fulfill architect Robert Hugman’s vision of the “Shops of Aragon and Romula.” The City of San Antonio maintains an excellent online tour guide, the R.H.H. Hugman River Walk Tour, which offers a gallery of historic photos, including some of the original plan and construction.