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Archive for downtowns

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 1]

Beautiful, quirky Asheville. There are places that grab you, that you immediately want to claim as your own. That’s how I felt about this vibrant, Southern mountain town. I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Asheville for a few days last month while attending a public relations conference, and I think it took my heart.

From Tuesday to Friday, I spent as much free time as possible wandering the downtown area, stopping in shops, poking my head down alleyways, and sampling the local cuisine. I found historic and colorful views, a love and commitment to all things Asheville-local, a penchant to spontaneous self expression, and an overwhelming sense of energy — really a “vibe.” Yes, there’s an unmistakable vibe, like something inspiring could happen at any moment. The jacket of a book I bought about the city described Asheville as “everywhere an easy gaiety.” That sums it up perfectly. The joy was so very easy.

The book, 27 Views of Asheville, came from Malaprop’s Bookstore on Haywood, along with the funky Only in Asheville tome. They were both on the recommended shelf of regional work, and kudos from the Malaprop’s staff carries good weight in indy bookstore circles. An iconic Asheville book seller and literary cafe since 1982, the store has a revolving door of events and author readings along with a stellar collection of bestsellers and unusual finds. After the public art, street musicians, and traffic bustle outside the door, the bookstore had its own buzz of book talk, event prep, and literary energy.

In Asheville wanderings, like in so many of the South’s urban centers, I found an inspiring mix of art deco ornament, historic structures, cobbled streets, sacred spaces, public parks, and the region’s overlapping colors of fall. What was even more inspiring was the obvious creative energy – community gardens outfitted with hand-made sculpture, outdoor artisan market areas, colorful facades, doors open with music outpouring, goods and wares pulled out into the sidewalks, and many shops proudly displaying not only a commitment to inclusion, but a list of wares available from fellow shops and artisans around the region. I walked back to my hotel each evening believing that each shop or restaurant or artisan I encountered knew they had something unique and wonderful to add to the world around them. Somehow Asheville seems to have created a place where those gifts are overwhelmingly welcomed and set on display for anyone to partake in the vibe.

On the last morning of my trip, I stopped by another Asheville shopping icon, the L.O.F.T., offering “lost objects and found treasures” since 1996. Squeezed into a vibrant street level and basement walk-down, I found quite a few treasures, indeed. Unusual books, ethnic memorabilia, gypsy-esque fabrics and decor, Asheville products, unique wall hangings, outdoor art and more. The color alone, displayed in every inch of the place, was enough to set my eyes in wonder.

Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing some glimpses and thoughts from my morning visit to the beautiful Basilica of St. Lawrence, also on Haywood, the spectacular Grove Arcade on Page and Battery Park, a few favorite local restaurants, and some of the vibrance of the Flatiron area on Wall Street. So many memories that will stick with me! I think I love you, Asheville.

 

photo essay . Merry Christmas Main Street

We’ve been visiting my parents in Macon, Mississippi for the holidays. The place is full of holiday memories for me! As a child, I spent every two-week Christmas vacation at my grandparent’s house on the farm at Busy Bee. One of our Christmas Eve traditions was driving the ten minutes to “town” to see the Christmas lights. We would tour the small neighborhoods and recall who lived in each house and ooh and aah over the holiday decorations.

Now, my children and I also spend much of our holiday vacation in Macon as well, and I’ve tried to revive that practice of checking out the lights. We usually wander through downtown and Main Street to see the stars, angels and Christmas trees in white lights. We notice the white lights lining the tops of the Main Street buildings even though some are sagging now and it’s not hard to find a missing bulb or two. We drive to the end of Main Street to see the “Peace on Earth” lighted letters that serve as sort of a last call for the sentiments of the season as you leave town. There are not quite as many neighborhood lights as there once were. The town’s citizenry is getting older, and many of the antebellum homes stand empty. Like so many small Mississippi towns, the heart of Macon is changing with fewer businesses, fewer activity, and more people traveling out of town for what they would normally find at home. Still, it’s neat to share these sights with my little ones, and enjoy the peace of quiet lights. Here’s a glimpse…

go . Starting Christmas Vacation in Memphis

Merry Christmas! I hope you have all had as wonderful a Christmas celebration as we have. We are visiting with family and enjoying some down time — and for me, some time away from project work. I’m spending son little time thinking through ideas for 2017 and making plans for where I want to put my focus in the coming year.

This December, we were very excited to visit Memphis again to kick off our Christmas vacation! We spent the first few days of our holiday back in the 901 to catch a production of “Annie” at The Orpheum theater. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to Memphis during the holiday season, and it was fun to be there again this year. Weather for the trip was kind of typical for the South in that the first two days were warm, humid and rainy, and the last two were frigid! So, we were not able to visit some of our old favorite spots. However, we still did at least a little walking downtown, taking in the Christmas lights, enjoying the historic Orpheum, and visiting the Memphis Zoo for the annual Zoo Lights celebration. That zoo visit assure me that the fisherprice code a pillar I purchased will be a hit with the kids. We always love breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe next to Court Square. It’s just a couple of blocks from our hotel in the historic William Len building. They serve breakfast all day, so my favorite french toast is always available. Also, the rain did not stop the hide-and-seek game in Court Square the kids play each time we stay downtown.

This trip, we also discovered a new little cupcakery next to Court Square, Cupcake Cutie, Etc, where you can build your own cupcake — choose your cake type, icing flavor and toppings! It’s been open about four months, and we’re definitely adding it to our list of favorite spots for our next visit. Here’s a glimpse at some of our views from this trip. Enjoy!

go . Memphis in June

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Memphis has become one of “our” places. It feels like we’ve visited it enough that we don’t feel like tourists, but more like friends coming to town again. It’s only a couple of hours from Starkville, and I love seeing productions in the Broadway Series at The Orpheum. So, over the last couple of years, we’ve visited the city a couple of times each year, and my children have begun to call it their own. They’re starting to know their way around Downtown, and they each have their own experiences they look forward to — restaurants, stores, museums, the park. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy their excitement about their own experiences of a place!

Earlier this month, we went to Memphis again to see The Wizard of Oz (amazing!), and it was our first time to visit during the summer months. Our last trip was in January, so it was a real treat to see flowering trees and so much green on Main Street where we like to stay. The weather was that Southern summertime mix of sweltering heat and billowing clouds that brought a couple of quick thunderstorms in between plenty of sunshine.

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We enjoyed walking to dinner at the kids’ favorites, Aldo’s Pizza Pies with its plates of dough, and Huey’s with the challenge of shooting your toothpick into the ceiling tiles. We also tried Bayou Bar & Grill in midtown in Overton Square on our way out of town, and it did not disappoint! This trip, we had time for our first visit to the Fire Museum of Memphis, which is located in the old Fire Station No. 1 Downtown. It has a fun mix of Fire Department artifacts, photos, trucks and equipment, as well as some neat interactive exhibits the kids really enjoyed — especially the rescue simulation driving the fire truck through Downtown streets!

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We usually stay at the Marriott Residence Inn, which is located in the old William Len Hotel, built in 1927. In addition to some great Art Deco details, the hotel includes a nice rooftop space for views of Downtown landmarks (and the occasional game of hide-n-seek). For some reason, my children always request one evening just to play in our hotel suite with delivery from Aldo’s and Westy’s, and an evening thunderstorm provided the perfect opportunity this trip.

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So much of these experiences with my kids inspire me. All the shapes and colors of a more metropolitan downtown. And mostly their reactions to everything – when they make me laugh out loud, when they embrace each moment and make the little things fun. I’ve been going through lots of photos from our Memphis adventures, and I want to share a few more posts of some of the themes that are popping out – our latest views of Beale and The Orpheum, the amazing public art that’s everywhere, the architectural details from the era of early high-rises, a couple of other unique experiences I’m just now remembering. Stay tuned!

 

go . Sightseeing Beale

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Last weekend, we visited Memphis to see the amazing Broadway musical, Matilda! I would highly recommend this award-winning production if you have a chance to see it. While we were in town, we had a lot of fun in our favorite downtown activities, and this visit, we also did a little sightseeing on Beale Street — soaking up the sights and colors of one of Memphis’ iconic destinations. Baby Girl got her air guitar on, and we took in the cacophony of signs, neon, letters and curiosities. A new favorite Memphis activity was definitely added to the list for future trips! Enjoy a few of the sights…

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go . Dinner in Restored Gulf Port

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I’ve been organizing some photographs lately, and it’s been a nice little inspirational escape in what has been a pretty busy Fall season. Between photos from our trip through the Gulf Coast this summer and the crazy number I took during our visit to Memphis last weekend, I am awash in some of the semi-local sights! I’m planning to share several posts over the next couple of weeks with some of my favorite memories, places to see, and happy accidents, so I hope you’ll stay tuned. And, let me know your favorite spots in some of these Southern towns!

While we were in Gulf Port, Mississippi this summer, it was very nice to get to walk around some of their restored downtown for dinner one evening. The area won several 2015 Mississippi Main Street awards, and of course, I enjoyed snapping a few of the details. Many of the old buildings remained vacant after the devastation of Katrina, and it was really neat to see the area coming back to life. As I’ve written, this was our first trip to the Coast since Katrina, and the resilience of Mississippians there is so, so evident in all the rebuilding that’s been accomplished. As difficult as it was to see so much changed, I suppose that change and the new things happening were also the most encouraging as well.

We were in Gulf Port in July and had dinner at the Half Shell Oyster House, located in the historic Kremer Building. We happened to be there on the Fourth, and we were able to watch fireworks being launched from the beach while we waited for our table and explored the corner of 13th and Highway 49. We got to see a few of the building details, revitalized street lighting, tree plantings and brick work, and the awesome corner neon sign — a wonderful vintage throwback. Inside, the restaurant had a great French Quarter look with brick walls, two levels, wrought iron and a colorful mural. The kids enjoyed drawing the wrought iron patterns on our table covering, and everyone found a favorite to eat. My favorite was the Bacon and Pecan Crusted Redfish topped with orange beurre blanc — the best meal of the 10-day trip! Enjoy a few glimpses, and be sure to try it out when you’re in the Gulf Port area…

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favorite colors 101415 . Alley

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We’re heading to Memphis for a long weekend and some Cinderella fun on Friday, and I was digging through a few photos from past trips. Aside from the ones with my three cuties, I think this may be my favorite Memphis shot! I love the slices of light taller buildings provide on downtown streets — the colors, the shadows, the patterns formed by overlapping window grids. Does every mid-size urban downtown in America have Deco details? This one is so warm, even though I kind of remember the day being cold.  It inspired today’s favorite colors — a mix of warm and cool, blacks and browns, the blend of neutral tones.

go . A Drive Through the Pass

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I’ve been organizing some photographs this week, and looking back through what I captured during our summer adventures. As I wrote a few weeks ago, we tacked a few days onto the beginning of our annual beach trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama to explore the Mississippi Gulf Coast again for the first time in quite a few years. It was fun to go driving through the area again, and I think we must have hit about every downtown area along Highway 98 from Bay St. Louis over to Ocean Springs. I do a lot of design work for the Main Street development organization in Starkville, and it’s always neat to see what other towns are doing to preserve their core areas. Downtown districts often have a lot of history and character — sometimes some blight, but they are areas where I think we can see some of the personality of a place. I thought I would share some of the sights from our trek over a few different posts.

On the Fourth of July, we spent the afternoon taking in Long Beach pier where my husband spent so much time during his younger years, and we also enjoyed a little driving and shopping in Bay St Louis. In between those two coastal towns, we took a much-needed snack break in Pass Christian! We didn’t spend much time there, but it only took a short turn off the beachfront highway to find some neat sights.

Our favorite stops included a quick photo op at the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” shrine at St. Paul’s Catholic Church — a sculpture created by Harry Reeks. I love the vibrant colors and the ruff-hewn look of the piece.

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We also found one of our new favorite cool-down places — the Pink Octopus, a decidedly “mod” little froyo shop on Davis Avenue. Coastal art, 60s-ish sphere seats, hot pink yogurt cups, metallic silver and turquoise, and of course, the yogurt! Can you tell we were excited? I know we’ll stop there again on our next trip to the Coast, and I hope we can explore a little more of what The Pass has to offer!

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signs . Memphis, TN No. 3

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I love noticing signs. How letters in two dimension or three dimension interact with the built environment. How they intersect our views of our surroundings. How they communicate in digital or molded or hand-drawn ways, I love the ones made at signsofreilly.com. When we visit places, I usually snap lots of photos of signage — it’s just a quirk my children have come to accept about their Mommy! Yes, I suppose it’s been the source of a few eye-rolls from the kiddos on our sidewalk and back road adventures.

This weekend, we are visiting Memphis, Tennessee again to see The Lion King — big excitement! In anticipation, I’ve been looking through photos from our last two trips there, and thought I would share a few letters and numbers!

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go . Post Office on Jefferson Street

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Hundreds of little metal doors with tiny windows marked with hand-painted numbers in red and gold. I have to admit it’s why I love to walk in the post office in Macon, MS. I wander in there every now and then when I’m visiting my parents hometown because it’s filled with interesting shapes and textures. And those little decorative, but time-worn doors.  They are so fascinating to me for some reason.

The lobby is a tiny L-shaped space where folks still come to check their mail. I’m not sure when the structure was built, but it has the tall, chicken-wire laced windows and warm woodwork you don’t often see in more modern public buildings. Plus, the north wall contains a painting created by Douglass Crockwell through the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, dated 1944.

Mr. Crockwell became a fairly popular artist in the 1940s-50s creating advertisements and cover art for some notable companies as well as the Saturday Evening Post. The work was created more specifically under the jurisdiction of the US Treasury Department in its Treasury Section of Fine Arts designed to offer artists commission work to create paintings and sculptures for public spaces in the 30s and 40s. The painting depicts the “Signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.”

I imagine walking into the Post Office would be a lot like it was in the 1950s if it weren’t for the glossy posters touting first class mail and “forever” stamps. It still has hand-painted signs for the “office” part of the Post Office and the now-dissolved “Civil Service Commission”. The stained wood is still polished and pock-marked next to newer, more modern metal stands and the metal sliding door covering the postal counter.

Every time I wander in, I always wish for a tiny key to slip into box number 534 or some other sacred address to turn the lock and retrieve some treasured bit of correspondence.

[Macon Post Office, 201 Jefferson Street; Macon, MS]

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