By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | November/December 2008
I have a confession to make—well, three actually. I tear up at parades, continue to look hopefully for Checker cabs on the streets of Manhattan (it's the jump seats), and have a special place in my heart for historic hotels. These passions may seem unrelated, but stay with me for a moment and you'll understand the connection.
When I was growing up, my parents always took my sisters and me downtown to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with our cousins. We made the trip to an office building at 1776 Broadway in a Checker cab, squeezing into the back bench and both jump seats. After viewing the parade through an office window, we celebrated with a family dinner at The Pierre, one of the city's grandest historic hotels. Show me a huge balloon floating down an avenue, and I immediately think of hotel silver and curls of butter.
In the past few years I've skipped the parade and adjusted to the absence of Checkers, while welcoming the presence of hybrids in New York. But historic hotels draw me in wherever I travel. A quick glimpse of the lobby and a whiff of fresh butter reassure me that much remains right with the world.
Our dilemma with this issue of Preservation wasn't finding hotels to cover—there are more than 220 Historic Hotels of America. (HHA is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.) It was the requirement that we trim our list. That may sound like an easy task for a staff of editors, but when the roster of hotels includes so many beloved and architecturally significant buildings, trimming is tough. We finally decided to focus on two recent HHA restorations, because each tells a distinct and compelling preservation tale.
Reporter Jonathan Eig's fascinating story on Chicago's Palmer House addresses the challenge of restoring a landmark building inside and out, and the significance of protecting its historic facade. The accompanying pieces look at how hoteliers can reuse historic buildings, rebuild crumbling resorts while respecting their pasts, and incorporate new construction.
I hope you'll agree that all of these stories make for absorbing reading. Let me know what you think by writing to me at Preservation_editor@nthp.org.
And the next time you visit an interesting destination, send me a note. If you stay at a historic hotel, I want to hear about the butter.
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