Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day

Irish soda bread is one of my favorite baked goods and one of my favorite traditions in baking. Just as Christmas cookies belong to Christmas, Irish soda bread belongs to St. Patrick’s Day. I bake it once per year. If you work with me, you’ll probably get a slice of bread every year. My mom would bake one or two loaves per year and we girls would gobble it up with breakfast, or as a snack, or as dessert. I recall having a hard time getting the batter to stick entirely. It took quite a few years of practice before mixing the ingredients wasn’t an entire arm workout. Practice makes perfect.

What is the origin of Irish soda bread? Soda bread is a traditional bread baked in poorer countries, and was very common during the Irish potato famine. The Irish didn’t invent it, but they’re known for it. The traditional recipe calls for basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk, and salt. The baking soda took the place of yeast. Loaves were baked on the griddle of an open hearth. The traditional cross in the loaf made before baking was to ward off the devil and protect the household. (Read more here.)

The recipe that my mother and grandmother passed on to us girls is not exactly traditional. Our recipe calls for sour cream, baking powder, sugar, and raisins. However, it’s tradition to me.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  

Finding History in NJ on the D&R Canal

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Griggstown, NJ on the D&R Canal. 

As recent photographs indicate, I was in New Jersey a few weeks ago. I’m a native Long Islander (forever a Vermont flatlander) who grew up with jokes about New Jersey. Sorry, NJ, though I know you grew up with Long Island jokes. Fair is fair. My experience with New Jersey was limited to long trips that traversed the New Jersey Turnpike (traffic!) and getting lost on the Garden State Parkway (teenagers + navigation = trouble) and the Jersey Shore (great beaches, not to be confused with the TV show). Imagine my surprise while visiting friends in Princeton and we discovered the gorgeous architecture of Princeton and the unexpected discovery of the D & R Canal State Park.

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The Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park is a 77 mile linear park that transformed the former canal towpath into a recreational resource for walking, running, biking, horseback riding and kayaking. The canal opened in the 1830s, constructed (hand dug) by mostly Irish immigrants. Originally the canal connected the Delaware River to the Raritan River, the Philadelphia and New York City markets. The canal opened in 1834 and continued in operation until 1932. The land became a park in 1974. The heyday of the canal existed prior to the railroads. Mules towed canal boats, yachts, and vessels along the towpath, in the middle of or alongside the canal. The canals operated with locks and spillways to account for the elevation changes.

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Today you can see all of these elements on the D&R Canal on foot, on bike, on horse, or even driving from lock house to lock house.

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At the edge of Princeton, NJ in the village of Kingston. 

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View of the lock at Kingston. 

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Lock tender’s house, bridge, and the lock at Kingston. 

Further down the canal you’ll come to Griggstown.

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Historic Village of Griggstown, NJ. 

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The view of the canal from the bridge in Griggstown. 

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Wood deck bridge. 

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Griggstown, NJ. The building appears abandoned from the exterior, though a peak through the windows shows that it’s not. NJ State Parks have an ongoing restoration project. 

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The Long House, formerly a store and post office and grain storage. Currently under restoration for an interpretive center. 

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The bridge tender’s station. 

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The 1834 bridge tender’s house, built for the bridge tender and his family. Historically, the bridge tender had to raise the bridge for the boats and mules to pass along the canal. 

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A perfect, tiny front door on the bridge tender’s house. 

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An abandoned state park property in Griggstown, due to flooding damage. 

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More flood damage. Keep out! 

The canal continues on, and whether you travel by foot or bike or car, I’d recommend a visit!  Read more of the D&R Canal’s history here and plan your trip.  Have you been here? Or other canals? The C&O Canal is on my list, too.

Abandoned Vermont: St. Albans Drive-in Theater (R.I.P)

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St. Albans Drive-in Movie Theater, as seen in May 2012. 

As of the 2012 photograph of the St. Albans Drive-in Theater, it was not abandoned. It was still open and operating, one of Vermont’s four remaining drive-in movie theaters.  As of 2014, the drive-in closed after 66 years of business, partially due to costs required to upgrade to the mandated digital projection from film reels. As of 2014, the land was for sale, and still is. Such is the fate of many drive-in theaters, especially on valuable land.

Because I’m a sentimental nostalgic fool for roadside America and Vermont, I wanted to photograph the St. Albans Drive-in Theater one more time, before it disappeared. On a cold, windy, February day, I said my goodbyes to this bit of roadside America.

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View from across US Route 7. Not as cheery as the 2012 view. February 2016. 


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Entrance & ticket booth to the drive-in. Still lined with lights. February 2016. 


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The speakers at the St. Ablans Drive-in theater were removed years ago. Instead, viewers tuned into the radio station. February 2016. 


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Ticket booth. February 2016. 


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No admission charge today. February 2016. 


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The screen is in disrepair and new traffic lights are in place for the development across the road. February 2016. 


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Stepping back you can vaguely see the remaining mounds in the earth for the cars to park. February 2016. 


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The snack bar (right) and the movie projection room (left). Note the chain protecting the projection. Windows are all broken. February 2016. 


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View of the playground and the dilapidated screen. February 2016. 


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The playground (swingset) remains intact, if not jumping out of the ground with its concrete foundation. Slide, two swings, rings, trapeze, bar, and see-saw. February 2016. 


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Beneath the screen looking into the drive-in. February 2016. 


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Pieces of the screen have fallen to the ground. February 2016. 


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Possibly from up there. February 2016. 


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The back of the screen. February 2016. 


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Some drive-in screens have their structures concealed. This one is out in the open, nothing too fancy. With high winds, the structure has to be sturdy. February 2016. 


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From the entrance road. February 2016. the marquee is barely visible, but you can see it to the right of the screen supports. February 2016. 

I can’t say for certain, but I would bet that one factor in the closure of the St. Albans drive-in is the construction and opening of this across the street:

As seen from the Walmart entrance road. February 2016.

With its October 2013 opening, I shared my lament.

Here is a great article from the St. Albans Messenger that highlights history and memories of the drive-in.

RIP St. Albans Drive-in. You’ll be missed by many.

What is Commercial Archeology?

Today’s post is a guest post from Raina Regan (also a repost from her blog). Raina is on the board of the Society for Commercial Archeology and often finds herself answering the question: “What is Commercial Archeology?”  Short answer: it’s not just archeology! Read on, and Raina will answer all of your questions and share how she got involved with the SCA. 

Starlite Drive In sign credit Raina Regan

Starlite Drive-in Theater, Bloomington, IN. Photo by Raina Regan. 

by Raina Regan

When I mention I’m currently on the board of directors for the Society for Commercial Archeology, I often get a lot of blank stares or questioning glances. “What exactly is Commercial Archeology?” they might ask.

A formal definition from the Dictionary of Building Preservation (1996) defines commercial archaeology as:

The study of artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the American commercial process; includes both mass-produced and vernacular forms of the machine age: transportation facilities, such as highways and bus stations; roadside development, such as diners, strip retail, and neon signs; business district buildings, such as movie theaters and department stores; and recreation facilities, such as amusement parks.

What do I define as commercial archeology? In short, structures and objects of the commercial landscape. We traditionally look at items starting in the 20th century, including neon signs, diners, theaters, and more.

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Oasis Diner, Plainfield, IN. Photo by Raina Regan. 

I’m not really sure how my passion for commercial archeology developed. I’ve always thought I should’ve lived during the 1950s because of my love of diners, seeing movies at drive-in theaters, and ranch houses. Since high school, architecture and history from the 20th century appealed to me the most and my interest in commercial archeology is a natural outreach of this.

My real beginnings with commercial archeology in my preservation career started in 2008. When I attended the National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, OK, I participated in a day-long field session on Route 66. We traveled a section of the historic road, with drive bys of former filling stations and repair shops. We stopped at several icons along the way, but two structures specifically inspired me as a preservationist and historian of commercial archeology.

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The Rock Cafe, Stroud, OK, undergoing rehabilitation following the fire. Photo by Raina Regan. 

The Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK was recovering from a devastating fire at the time of our visit. But meeting with the cafe’s owner, Dawn Welch, was particularly inspiring. She told us stories about the Cafe and her passion for the road was evident. She was the basis for the animated character Sally Carrera in Cars, one of my favorite preservation-related movies. I know they reopened in 2009 and would love to go back for a visit.

Route 66 - Bridge #18 at Rock Creek, Sapulpa

Bridge 18, Rock Creek, Sapulpa, OK. Photo by Raina Regan. 

One of our first stops was at Bridge #18 at Rock Creek, Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Constructed in 1924 on the original Route 66 alignment, it is a Parker through truss and is still open to traffic on the historic Route 66. Seeing the original brick road was inspiring as a historian, allowing me to connect with all the travelers that had once traversed this bridge.

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Wishing Well Motel, Franklin, IN, off US 31. Photo by Raina Regan. 

What makes commercial archeology special? From a preservation point of view, I see commercial archeology as accessible to everyone. The nostalgia factor of commercial archeology means everyone can connect to these resources in some way. These are places in our every day life that we grow to love, and as they age and gain historic significance, they become a cultural icon. Many spots are located on highways or other roads, which means they become well-known and idolized within our communities.

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Ski-Hi Drive-in, Muncie, IN. Photo by Raina Regan. 

Structures such as diners, motels, gas stations, and theaters are ideal for continued use or adaptive reuse. However, commercial archeology mainstays including drive-in theaters, amusement parks, and neon signs may present more difficult challenges for preservation. For example, the Ski-Hi Drive In outside Muncie, Indiana is slated for demolition. Although the 1952 drive-in theater is a local icon and has strong local support for its preservation, it is located at the crossroads of IN-3 and SR 28 in rural Delaware County. Raising the money needed to return the site back to a drive-in is difficult, while there are not many adaptive use options for such a site. I attribute the strong local support for its preservation because of nostalgia and strong personal connection many have to the site.

As a board member of the Society for Commercial Archeology, I try to advocate for the preservation of these resources whenever possible. As preservationists, we should use these resources as ways to connect preservation to a broader audience.

Abandoned Vermont: Addison Town Hall (Alternatively: What about Rural Preservation?)

An upfront disclaimer: The Addison Town Hall is owned by the Town of Addison. Technically, it’s vacant, not abandoned. Due to its condition and the attention it requires, I categorize it as abandoned. 

The Addison Town Hall sits at the center of the village of Addison Four Corners in Addison, Vermont, at the junction of VT Route 22A and VT Route 17. Addison is a rural agricultural community in Addison County, with some remaining working dairy farms. The shores of Lake Champlain make up the western edge of the county.

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The Addison Town Hall and the Baptist Church are at the center of Addison Four Corners. Photo: January 2016.

The Addison Town Hall holds a place in my heart, because I studied the building during graduate school, and completed a building conditions assessment in 2010. And I passed through Addison Four Corners on my way to work at the Lake Champlain Bridge site for years. Since 2010, I’ve been visually monitoring the condition of the building.

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The Addison Town Hall, as seen in January 2016.

The Town Hall was built in 1872 and has served as a school, a town hall, town offices, and grange hall. As community needs changed, the interior was adapted, including  the second floor stage addition and partitions on the first floor. (See a few interior shots here.) School has not been in session since the 1950s. Today the town hall serves only as storage for the historical society and the neighboring Baptist church.

If memory serves, since October 2010 there have been a few frightening exterior developments.

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There is a clear separation of the foundation stones, northeast corner. January 2016.

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The northeast corner of the foundation is slipping, probably due to water damage. January 2016.

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The same issues on the southeast corner of the building. January 2016.

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The banks of windows would have been added when the standard school requirements of the 1930s were instated. January 2016. You can see all sorts of damage in this photo: collapsing back shed, weathering clapboards in need of a proper paint job, broken windows.

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View from the southwest shows the larger picture of deterioration, including the cupola. January 2016.

The deterioration of the Addison Town Hall brings up a more important conversation in preservation than one building.

The Addison Town Hall is an example of building located in a still active community, but a community that is rural and without all of the financial resources to rehabilitate this structure. What happens to a building that is a visual and physical landmark in a town, when there is not an obvious use for it?

A community’s needs change, and those changes often affect the buildings. Historic buildings with outdated purposes or those that are not up to code are left by the wayside with no plans and money.  What will happen to them? Imagine if a town center lost one of its prominent buildings. Rural communities have small village centers, with only a few buildings to represent the entire village. Loss of a town hall or a church or a school is devastating.

Urban preservation is a great conversation and a fun topic. But, frankly, it’s easier than rural preservation. There are more people, more opportunities for catalysts and funding. We should be talking more about alternative, creative uses for buildings in rural areas, where a one building win/loss can have much more of an impact than in an urban environment.

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Addison Four Corners, January 2016.

The John Roberts Houses of Burlington, VT

You might be wondering what the John Roberts houses are, as I’ve recently posted a few shots from around Burlington, VT. Good question, and it’s about time I gave you some additional information.

Peering over the picket fence at a John Roberts house in the Old North End of Burlington. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

John Roberts was a builder in Burlington, VT who constructed many Queen Anne style cottages throughout the city in the 1880s/90s. They are recognizable by their similar characteristics: 1.5 story, gable end facing the street, two narrow second story windows above the first floor bay window, a side porch, and decorative millwork on the upper story in the gable. This millwork is diamond cut shingles and criss-crossing patterns of applied stickwork. Many of these houses were built for about $900. There are about 50 of these houses throughout Burlington. (For reference: see the “Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, Vol. III).

A John Roberts house on North Winooski Avenue in the Old North End of Burlington, VT. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

 

A slightly less noticeable John Roberts house in the Old North End of Burlington, VT. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

The houses have been altered over the years as you can see in the examples I’ve shared. The bay windows are replaced or the two windows on the upper story are replaced with one window. The porches have been enclosed. The details is painted to match the rest of the house, rendering the tell-tale gable details more difficult to spot.

The same, but different. Can you spot it? #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

Looking at the above photo, some of you noticed that these three houses are very similar. Correct! In fact, because  of the alterations, I had to step back from the sidewalk to notice that all three are John Roberts houses. The far left has been covered in vinyl (see photo below). The middle retains the most integrity. the house on the right has replaced the gable window, and converted the porch window to a door, allowing for an additional entrance.

It’s an interesting (albeit sometimes sad) game of comparison and contrast. And it makes you wonder why owners choose to remove some details and not others, why particular windows were replaced. Observing these John Roberts houses truly shows what can happen to buildings over time if craftsmanship is not maintained and respected. Thankfully many of the John Roberts houses are mostly intact. 

Wondering about those John Roberts houses all over Burlington? I've posted about them on PiP today (link in profile). Enjoy!

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

And there are 50! Guess I’ll be out there searching for others – some good running entertainment. Do you know of any? If you leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to go take a look!

Revisiting an Abandoned Vermont property: Fair Haven Depot

I’ve been photographing abandoned and neglected Vermont properties since 2011. This year I’ve been revisiting some of these properties to find out if anything has changed. A few have found better fates, but the majority remain vacant and neglected.

The Fair Haven Depot is located just outside the center of Fair Haven. The train depot is on the Clarendon & Pittsford Rail line, formerly owned by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, and now owned by Vermont Rail System (VRS). Until 2010, Amtrak stopped at this depot, though the stop was not inside the building. Passengers waited in a small shelter across the street. The building was surveyed in the 1980s by the Vermont Historic Sites & Structures Survey, at which time it was vacant and not used as a passenger station. That’s 30+ years ago. From what I’ve learned, the railroad is not responsive to any town or historical society attempts inquiring about the building.

Additionally, the 1930s concrete bridge that leads to the depot has been closed for a few years. There is another way around and not much traffic, so they fate of this bridge does not look good.

Interested in a walk around the depot with me? Read on.

View from the bridge. The depot looks pleasant thanks to yellow & green plywood painted to look like doors and windows. 


Vegetation and evidence of backsplash.

  

The trackside of the building. If you look closely at the foundation you can see water damage. The water pours down the hill (to the left of this photo) and flows into the foundation. 


Foundation and damage to the bricks, from water and deferred maintenance. 

  

Closer view of the damage. 


Cracks in the bricks. Critters can easily fit under that door. 

  

More brick spalling and the stone holding the bracket, which holds the roof, is not long for this world. 


More of the same. 

  

Foundation damage. 


Vegetation next to a building foundation is not good for long-term building health. 

  

The precipitation splashes from the ground to the bricks. And, as evident by the moss, there is not much sunlight to dry the ground. 


  

The side of the building that you see from the bridge. 

Something about this building breaks my heart. It must be my fondness for railroad depots. Depots are such valuable buildings to communities: transportation hubs, meeting places, often architectural gems in the town. Railroad buildings were built to last. There are many success stories of railroad buildings throughout Vermont.

What a shame that the railroad neglects its history and its beautiful, historic buildings throughout Vermont and the rest of the United States? Restoring a railroad depot always benefits the community – socially and economically and in all realms.

Do you have a similar story from your community? What advice can you offer? I’d love to know. This depot deserves to be saved. Have some thoughts? #savethefairhavendepot

The Forgotten Village: Greenbank’s Hollow

Drive across U.S. Route 2 in eastern Vermont and you’ll pass through a small town named Danville. Turn right in Danville on Brainerd Road, which will turn into Greenbanks Hollow Road, ending at the lost village of Greenbank’s Hollow. It’s a picturesque spot in Vermont: leafy dirt roads, farms on either side, the covered bridge at the crossroads, and the rush of the water at the bottom of the hill.

Entrance to the historic site - check the map and pick up a pamphlet to guide you through the numbered sites.

Entrance to the historic site – check the map and pick up a pamphlet to guide you through the numbered sites.

It’s hard to believe now, due to the small size of Danville and the quiet, rural road, but Greenbank’s Hollow was a bustling mill village in its day. The village grew around a woolen mill. Benjamin Greenback bought an existing mill in 1849, converted to a five story woolen mill that employed 45 people in the 1850s – the largest in the area. The company village included a post office, a store, a school, residences, a gristmill, and a sawmill. Sadly, in 1885 a fire destroyed much of the village, including the mill. Slowly the village residents left, businesses closed, and the school closed in 1912. {Summarized from the Danville Historical Society’s brief history page.}

Greenbanks Mill, South Danville, probably around 1885. Photo source: Danville Historical Society. Click for link.

Greenbanks Mill, South Danville, probably around 1885. Photo source: Danville Historical Society. Click for link.

The Division for Historic Preservation marker gives you a brief history of the site.

The Division for Historic Preservation marker gives you a brief history of the site.

A covered bridge in the middle of Greenbank's Hollow.

A covered bridge in the middle of Greenbank’s Hollow.

Remains of the mill.

Remains of the mill across the river.

Looking from the covered bridge to the gristmill foundations.

Looking from the covered bridge to the gristmill foundations.

All sites are identified with a green marker. The pamphlet (grab one at the main site entrance) will give you brief descriptions of each location

All sites are identified with a green marker. The pamphlet (grab one at the main site entrance) will give you brief descriptions of each location.

The village is all foundations, and it's a peaceful walk in a quiet Vermont spot.

The village is all foundations, and it’s a peaceful walk in a quiet Vermont spot.

The trail takes you through the trees for a few sites.

The trail takes you through the trees for a few sites.

The historic site exists today thanks to the efforts of the Danville Historical Society who preserved the site as a public park. Can’t make it to Greenbank’s Hollow? Check out this virtual e-book tour.

Streets of Old Quebec City

Quebec City (Ville de Quebec, in French) is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Chock full of history, to say the least, and the architecture is spectacular. For preservationists (or heritage conservationists, as Canadians say), architectural historians and those who simply like to look at or photograph pretty buildings, every single building around every corner proved picture-worthy.

Narrow streets, stone buildings, casement windows… it was almost too much to handle. And what continued to be striking: just how neat and tidy and clean every street was. Seriously, one of the cleanest and tidiest cities I’ve seen. Rather than ramble on and on, I’ll let you ramble through these images of the streets of Old Quebec City.

View from dinner.

View from dinner.

So lovely, even without any trees.

So lovely, even without any trees.

Stone and colors!

Stone and colors!

Looking down the street to one of the many University of LaVal buildings.

Looking down the street to one of the many University of LaVal buildings.

Street after street.

Street after street.

Impeccable.

Impeccable.

Down another street.

Down another street.

See? You could take photos for days.  Left to my own devices, I’d still be there doing just that. And that’s only part of Quebec City. Stay tuned. Have you been?

Reclaim the Streets for Summer

We’ve talked about parklets previously, and you’ve probably seen them in one form or another, as they are popping up more and more. (Learn about parklets in this post, and check out Montreal examples here.) Technically, parklets are for the public – literally, mini resting areas/green spaces that borrow the street for people instead of cars and are free to the public. However,  restaurants create their own versions of parklets in the form of outdoor seating in parking spaces – usually on wood decks at curb height. On my last visit to Montreal I noticed another one, seen below.

See the parklet across the street?

And diagonally across from the restaurant seating, I found an actual parklet. This one was quite simple: benches and planters. This set up gives people a spot to sit and gaze at the architecture, allows for more pedestrian use of the sidewalk, cafe space, and creates a more park like setting on this historic street. What do you think?

A parklet in Old Montreal.

Parklets and outdoor seating areas are reclaiming* the streets for pedestrians, which make summer even more fun (especially for those of us with long, cold winters). Choosing to cater to people rather than automobiles is an important aspect of placemaking, and it can make a big difference a city’s vitality. Seen any lately? If you have, I’d love to see them. Use #presinpink on social media (Twitter, Instagram) to share!

*Reclaiming not to be confused with road construction reclamation. Just a transportation joke for you. haha.😉