Take a Stroll Down Main Street
Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the 2010 winners of the Great American Main Street Awards during the National Main Street Conference in Oklahoma City. The winners were recognized for demonstrating major achievements in economic and historic revitalization. These are “places that create jobs and are hubs of civic engagement, authentic American culture, and strong local economies,” said Doug Loescher, director of the National Trust Main Street Center. The 2010 winners are a mix of rural and urban neighborhoods. Together they show that American main streets are not only thriving but also worth a visit.
Main Street Columbus is a thriving downtown district that draws nearly 40,000 visitors each year to its Market Street Festival. Columbus was recognized for its distinct architecture, strong preservation ethic and the rehabilitation of 98 mix-use buildings that are helping to bolster the local economy. A 2008 National Trust Dozen Distinctive Destination, Columbus is home to the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center. Named for the playwright who was born here, the welcome center arranges daily tours of historic homes.
In 1980, Ferndale’s Downtown Development Authority was started by local residents. Since then, more than 160 building improvements and the addition of new streetscape amenities have helped to lower the downtown vacancy rate from 30 to six percent. Ferndale now plays host to the region’s largest LGBT festival as well as dog-friendly shopping events, and a DIY Street Fair (May 27-31).
Fairmont, West Virginia
Dubbed the “Friendly City,” Fairmont has reason to cheer with the reopening of its 1920s “Million Dollar Bridge”
over the Monongahela River, which helped reunite the east and west sides of the city and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 159 building rehabilitations, including developments in Veterans and Traction Squares, have contributed to the downtown’s success and sustainability. Visitors to Fairmont are drawn to its miles of hiking trails, and the Feast of Seven Fishes Festival, held every December, drives tourism while celebrating the community’s Italian-American heritage.
Downtown Lee’s Summit was recognized for harnessing the power of community involvement to transform the deteriorating downtown landscape. Public investment spurred major private spending, resulting 55 new businesses that provide local students part-time jobs and internships. A local historic preservation commission worked to establish a downtown historic district in Lee’s Summit, contributing to 53 building rehabilitations. It’s now a preservationist’s gem.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Paducha’s Historic Downtown and LowerTown Arts District were together recognized among this year’s winners, most notably for the re-energized art scene now flourishing in the area. A ten-year-old artists relocation program, streetscape projects, and downtown revitalization efforts have transformed Paducah into a vibrant arts district. Visitors now flock to the LowerTown Art and Music Festival (May 21-23), as well as local galleries, museums, and workshops.
Photo: (Top) Columbus apartment balcony; (Below) Fairmont’s restored Million Dollar Bridge; photos courtesy of NTHP