2010 Dozen Distinctive Destinations
Every year the National Trust for Historic Preservation honors 12 places that not only preserve historic and cultural heritage but also provide a positive visitor experience. This year’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations showcase communities with outstanding green achievements and sustainable practices. They include a lakeside Michigan community with a walkable historic downtown, a Pennsylvania neighborhood with LEED platinum-certified duplexes, and a Colorado town striving to create the nation’s first zero-energy district.
By Elizabeth McNamara | From Preservation | March/April 2010
Fort Collins, Colo.
Fort Collins, a university town at the base of the Rocky Mountains, is attempting to become the nation’s first zero-energy district, aiming for a net annual energy consumption of zero. The town is home to the nation’s first wind-powered brewery, the New Belgium Brewing Co., and has an operating World War I-era trolley line. Fort Collins’ popular Old Town is enlivened by more than 20 historic sites.
The Colorado River runs through the heart of this town, which is 35 minutes from Austin and has more than 100 buildings that appear on the National Register of Historic Places. Though Bastrop claims only around 8,000 residents, it’s home to two farmers markets. The nearby Lost Pines Golf Club is part of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
St. Louis, Mo.
Known as the Gateway to the West, St. Louis is a veritable tapestry of housing, from historic lofts with terra-cotta friezes to Victorian mansions with stained-glass windows. Residents frequent block parties, art walks, and Tower Grove Park—one of the few remaining Victorian walking parks. Seventy-three LEED-certified projects have been completed, and more than 100 such projects are in the works.
Situated on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Marquette is a destination for summer cyclists and winter skiers alike. The town is both walkable and bikable and offers a wide array of architecture. Well-preserved sandstone structures dominate the downtown, and lakeside buildings show Italianate, Romanesque, and Gothic Revival influences.
Accessible only by sea and air, Sitka is on the coast of Baranof Island. Nearly half the public roads are cyclist-friendly, and bicycle ridership in Sitka is nine times the national average. The scenic waterfront town is in the Tongass National Forest (the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest), and the downtown includes eight National Historic Landmarks and 10 National Register-listed sites.
Cedar Falls, Iowa
Boating, camping, and a Saturday farmers market are just some of the draws in this Cedar River prairie town. Eminently walkable, the community boasts five downtown museums, including the Victorian Home and Carriage Museum. Check out the restored Blackhawk Hotel for a prime example of Midwestern hospitality, or traverse Cedar Valley’s 80-plus miles of recreational trails.
Settled in 1805 and home to the state’s largest concentration of antebellum homes, Huntsville defines Old South. The Huntsville Depot & Museum is one of the nation’s oldest operating railroad structures, and the Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is an example of restoration and adaptive use at its best. Visitors can play along the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Huntsville has 54 of the 468 holes), or explore the Tennessee Valley on one of many dramatic mountain trails.
Chestnut Hill, Pa.
Known for its cobblestone streets, Chestnut Hill is one of Philadelphia’s premier neighborhoods. Germantown Avenue and its adjoining streets have more than 125 boutique shops and restaurants, making them destinations for shoppers and architectural historians alike. (Preservation efforts began here in the 1960s.) Chestnut Hill is also home to LEED platinum-certified side-by-side duplexes, as well as Wissahickon Creek, where residents go to walk, jog, bike, picnic, fish, and horseback ride.
This coastal town is known as much for its preservation efforts as its lobster. Rockland has a working waterfront and is home to many green-certified historic inns. Don’t miss the National Register-listed Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, which stands at the end of a 7/8-mile-long granite breakwater, or the outstanding collection of American art at the Farnsworth Art Museum. The c. 1850 Farnsworth Homestead, home of the museum’s original benefactor, is part of the main campus.
The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail
Ten counties, three cities, 19 towns, five regional planning districts, and several music venues in southwestern Virginia joined together to celebrate the Appalachian region’s unique musical, cultural, and historical heritage. Stops on the 250-mile-long Crooked Road are identified by highway signs and include the 4,600-acre Breaks Interstate Park, often called the Grand Canyon of the South because it’s the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi.
Located at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has an extraordinary natural and built environment. The seaside village is the birthplace of American democracy (the Pilgrims landed here first) and features a National Register-listed historic district with more than 1,100 properties. Pedestrians take precedence over vehicles, and many restaurants feature ecoconscious dishes. Plus, there are more than 25 historic inns.
Set within the picturesque Farmington Valley, Simsbury is the birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and a leader in the American conservation movement. The town boasts horse shows, wine tastings, and a community farm. Popular diversions include the Farmington Valley Greenway—a 26-mile trail that passes historic buildings, canal locks, towpaths, iron bridges, and stone arches—and concerts by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, which summers in this capital suburb.
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