How Are We Doing?
Tourism Changes Five American Places.
By Arnold Berke | Online Only | November/December 2008
The National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations recently rated 109 historic communities worldwide on how well they protect the cultural and environmental heritage that make them major tourist attractions. Based on review by a panel of experts, each location received a numerical score and was listed in one of five levels of performance. The results of this Historic Places Rated survey appear in the November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler, with panelist comments online at nationalgeographic.com/traveler.
Following are the scores (on a scale of 1 to 100) and levels for the 39 locations surveyed in the United States. Preservation profiles five of these communities below.
Best Rated: Columbus, Ind. (78); Charleston, S.C. (77); Ashland, Ore. (75)
Doing Well: Red Wing, Minn. (74); Port Townsend, Wash. (74); Portsmouth, N.H. (73); Monticello and Charlottesville, Va. (72); Asheville, N.C. (71); Savannah, Ga., (71); Hopi Villages, Ariz. (70); Boston Historic Areas, Mass. (70); Winter Park, Fla. (70); Natchez, Miss. (70); Portland Historic Downtown, Maine (70); Galena, Ill. (69); Old Lexington/Horse Country, Ky. (69); Alexandria, Va. (68); Sitka, Alaska (68); Harpers Ferry Area, W.Va. (67)
In the Balance: Cape May, N.J. (64); Philadelphia Historic Areas, Pa. (64); Lowell, Mass. (63); Annapolis, Md. (63); Santa Fe, N.M. (62); Mystic Seaport, Conn. (62); Newport, R.I. (62); Richmond Historic Area, Va. (61); St. Augustine, Fla. (61); Wilmington, N.C. (60); Lower Hudson Valley, N.Y. (59); Telluride Valley, Colo. (58); Salem, Mass. (56)
Destinations With Troubles: New Orleans Historic Areas (47); Atlanta Historic Areas, Ga. (46)
Worst-Rated: Deadwood, S.D. (45); Lancaster County, Pa. (45); "Hallowed Ground" US 15 Corridor, Md./Va. (45); Tombstone, Ariz. (39); Central City, Colo. (34)
How the National Trust Can Help Your Town
The National Trust for Historic Preservation links people to travel in many ways:
The Heritage Tourism Program helps communities interpret, market, and sustain their cultural and natural assets, so they can provide visitors authentic and enjoyable encounters with that heritage. The program offers assessments, training, and workshops to individual sites, communities, regions, and states; and, on the national level, tracks trends and advocates support for heritage travel.
For nearly 30 years, the National Main Street Center has been reinvigorating small-town downtowns and big-city commercial districts. Through consultation, training, conferences, publications, and other services, Main Street has worked with organizations and governments in more than 2,000 communities to rebuild commercial areas physically and economically. Main Street strengthens a town's identity and hence its suitability for tourism.
Annually since 2000, the National Trust has showcased 12 towns and cities that use their historic and scenic riches to promote tourism. These Dozen Distinctive Destinations (DDD) are recognized for protecting local character—by enacting preservation laws, for instance, encouraging downtown housing, or curbing commercial sprawl. Experience shows that a DDD designation boosts tourism, which in turn reinforces the local commitment to preservation.
Historic Hotels of America (HHA) is a collection of more than 220 landmark hotels that have maintained their architecture and ambience. Each must be at least 50 years old and recognized by listing on the National Register or through local designation. An HHA helps a community market its heritage products to leisure and business travelers. Visit historichotels.org for a list of HHAs and background on the program, now affiliated with Preferred Hotel Group.
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.