Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vintage Roadside: Portland to Nashville - Day 2

Today we bring you a mix of historic preservation and roadside signs so be prepared for everything from turn of the century buildings to neon pigs!

A little roadside goodness to get us started:

What started out this morning as a planned one-hour tour with Ann Mehaffy, Director of Historic Baker City, Inc., grew into two-and-a-half hours...and just barely scratched the surface of Ann's knowledge and our own interest in the amazing story behind Baker City's preservation and commitment to the National Trust's Main Street program.

We'd love to cover every preservation story we learned about in today's post, but will save those for a Baker City feature we're already planning post-road trip.

For today's post, we thought we'd whet your appetite with a few Baker City highlights.

First, a little background: Historic Baker City, Inc. (HBC) was established in 1982 as a volunteer organization modeled after the National Trust's Main Street program, a four-point approach to revitalizing older, traditional business districts through economic development led by historic preservation.

The Main Street program emphasizes how an architecturally interesting, pedestrian friendly, locally owned business district supported by the community is sound economics.

Baker City is proof that the Main Street program works. Over the past 27 years, HBC has worked to rehab over 80 buildings in the historic district, one of the first to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As you're driving or walking through Baker City's historic district, one of the most visible signs of where the monies have been put to good use is the Facade Restoration Program.

Like many small cities across the country, numerous buildings in Baker City's downtown were updated in the 1950s and '60s with sheet metal facades. The removal of those facades along with repair and restoration of the underlying brick work, awnings, and decorative caps has revitalized the city by restoring its architectural character. Through the community's preservation efforts, downtown Baker City is a great example of a livable, workable, thriving business district.

Over the course of the morning, we saw some pretty amazing studies of "before" and "after" facades and followed along with Ann as she popped into business after business to say hi to the owners and let us look (okay, gawk) at the interior architecture.

One of the people we met was Beverly Calder, owner of Bella Main Street Market. Specializing in locally grown and produced items, Beverly can also whip up a mean cup of coffee while offering suggestions from her extensive wine selection - a modern day mercantile that we wish we had next door.

In Kicks, a sportswear store owned by Ryan Chaves, we came across one of the best finds of the day: a bank vault now serving as a changing room.

We have many more great stories and photos to share from Ann Mehaffy and HBC, so stay tuned for our follow-up blog post-road trip.

Closing notes and trivia:

- Trailerite roadside trivia: we learned today that Baker City was the birthplace of Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream trailer.

- Yesterday we wrote about Barbara Sidway and the Geiser Grand Hotel. One thing we saved to mention today is the fact that Barbara worked hand in hand with Oregon's First Lady, Mary Oberst, to revive funding to Oregon's Main Street program. Through Barbara and Mary's efforts, the Main Street program was recertified in 2008 after a ten-year lapse and $650,000 in funding was secured for communities across Oregon.

- At last count, 145 of Baker City's 166 downtown businesses are mom and pops.

Now on to Parma, Idaho and the Motor Vu Drive-In! On the way, we found some great roadside sights:

At last, we arrive at the Parma Motor Vu. Owned by the same family since its opening in 1953, the Motor Vu is one well cared for drive-in. Closed for the season now, we're already planning a trip over when the drive-in reopens for the season in April 2010.

Thanks go to Sheri Freemuth, NTHP Program Officer / Western Office, now working in Boise, Idaho. In place just since March 2009, Sheri has been a great source of suggestions for roadside places and preservation projects along our road trip route. Working to build relationships with state preservation organizations like Preservation Idaho, Sheri graciously fielded questions about neon signs and sights around Boise.

Here's another one of Sheri's suggestions - a neon sign you can catch if you head out of Boise along Capitol Blvd.

Built in 1938, the neon sign was restored with the help of a grant from the Idaho Heritage Trust, an organization that has funded over $2 million in grants and technical assistance touching every county in Idaho.

Flying through Boise with just enough time for the Boulevard Motel photo, we raced to Mountain Home hoping to catch the newly opened Highway 30 Drive-In before they closed for the night. No such luck, but we have something to look forward to the next time we're through. As far as we could tell, the original 1955 building is intact and looking very smart indeed.

Missing out on a drive-in burger and fries, we consoled ourselves with this neon motel sign outside of the Towne Center Motel, a mid-century gem:

With that, we'll wrap things up for the day and look forward to exploring Twin Falls tomorrow (and the promised grain elevators)!

Want to see more roadside photos from our trip? Please join us on Vintage Roadside's Facebook page here.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside


d-figuerero said...

Loved those neon signs!!! And its great to hear about programs like the National Trust's Main Street movement.

Citroendork said...

ANother Great day with the Roadsides! Love the signs and the Moor VU drive inn. next time I will attach a rocking chair to the top of the car ala Granny Clampett so I can come along.

Dogs by Bri said...

Love your blog. Beverly turned me on to it this afternoon. Can't wait to see what else you write about Baker City. My wife and I are artists here and she makes ceramic travel trailers. www.dustydogstudio.com is her site. Stop by and see us next time you're in town and have a great trip.


Vintage Roadside said...

d-figuerero - Thanks! We love what the Main Street program can do for a downtown. There's nothing like walking around a bustling downtown!

Austin - We could just cut air holes in the Yakima case and throw you up top! We could each have a walkie talkie!

Dogs by Bri - Thanks for the kind words about our blog! We really enjoyed spending a bit of time with Beverly.

We're already planning our next trip back and look forward to saying hello. You guys have a good thing going over there!

Timothy said...

Great blog post. I’m glad you were able to include a stop in Baker City on you road trip. I had the great pleasure of being Bakers City’s first Main Street program manager in the early 90’s and worked closely with both Barbara Sidway and Beverly Calder.

Baker City has an amazing downtown thanks to great business and property owners like Beverly and Barbara and the leadership of HBC.

Vintage Roadside said...

Timothy - Thank you for the great comment. We were very impressed with Baker City and all the hard work that's been and being done there.

Anonymous said...

FYI, the old service station in Notus that you photographed has been turned into The Garage Cafe. Stop in some time for "the fuel you crave." They've done a clever job with the place!