Washington DC

Washington, DC – 11th Street NW

Main Streets 2016: Washington DC

The nation’s capital is famed for a work-intensive lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun place to play. If you’re ready for a night out in Washington, D.C., and you’d also enjoy discovering a very interesting neighborhood, you can’t do better than 11th Street Northwest.

“Washington’s hip strip” is what the New York Times called Columbia Heights, the central D.C. neighborhood for which 11th St. NW is the main street. Once a thriving, culturally rich African-American neighborhood, this area was ravaged by the riots that followed the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. A decade ago, noted the paper’s Travel section, the area was still “best known for vacant homes and empty storefronts” — but a new Metro station that opened in 1999 sparked a surge of activity and commercial development.

A few blocks from the station in the 11th Street area, the Times says the nearby “big box stores and chain restaurants give way to indie rock dance parties and guerrilla theater peformances.” 11th Street NW offers cozy wine and beer spots — even Bloombars, a nonprofit art center that doesn’t actually serve alcohol. Instead it offers children and adults a wide diversity of programs, from music jams and family drum circles to indie film nights, folkloric dance classes and kids’ art sessions.

The nightlife options on 11th St. NW are even more diverse than this neighborhood’s population. For dinner you might choose a European-style café, a Neapolitan-style pizza place, a Mexican cantina or a barbecue joint. The Coupe is a spacious bar and coffee house that’s open pretty much all the time, and the Wonderland Ballroom, over on Kenyon Street NW, calls itself a “neighborhood hangout, meeting place and dating service” for D.C.’s droves of young professionals.

One of Columbia Heights’s most spectacular destinations, nearby on 14th Street, is the GALA Hispanic Theatre, a National Center for Latino Performing Arts. The nonprofit dates back to 1976, and in 2005, it achieved a dream of opening a permanent home when it moved into the renovated Tivoli Theatre, a landmark 1924 venue that had been vacant for three decades.

The pride you can see, feel and taste in Columbia Heights reaches a high point with October’s Columbia Heights Day Festival. Celebrating the neighborhood’s diversity and community, the big event involves churches, community clubs and organizations, art centers, businesses and neighbors from all backgrounds. It’s the culmination of what has made this part of the nation’s capital a community all its own.

Street photo courtesy of Mark Welborn – Urban Turf
Columbia Heights Day photo courtesy of Andrew Weisman – New Columbia Heights Blog

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Silver City, New Mexico – Bullard Street

Main Streets 2016: New Mexico

There’s not a lot of rain in Silver City. But when it does fall, it can be quite a deluge, especially since the town was built where water naturally drains right through. That’s how Main Street here was supplanted by Bullard Street as the main thoroughfare.

One night in 1895, a wall of water came rushing through the central business district, leaving a trail of destruction and a 55-foot-deep ditch where Main Street had been. The solution? The back doors of many Main Street businesses became their new front doors, opening onto Bullard Street, which soon grew into the heart of this mining town. Today, what was once Main Street is now known as Big Ditch Park. It’s one of many parks around town that cater to the outdoor-loving people of this small city in central New Mexico.

Silver City started life as an Apache campsite — today, it’s a bicyclists’ mecca, an archaeologist’s dream, and home to many a cowboy. All of this part of New Mexico is a haven for people seeking rugged outdoor beauty, history, arts, culture and entertainment. Silver City streets feature classic Western adobe architecture as well as some Victorian beauties, with many local buildings dating to the community’s early years as a mining town. One of the classics is the 1923 Silco Theater, whose marquee is a beacon on Bullard Street. The Silver City MainStreet Project offers a trove of information.

The Silver City Museum occupies one of the beautiful historic buildings, an 1881 Italianate red brick mansion whose exhibits give creative, thoughtful introductions to the city’s history. There’s also plenty of art to see in some of the historic buildings. The Mimbres Region Arts Council provides a map to more than 50 murals that are housed in the buildings around downtown.

Just off Bullard Street on Yankie Street, the art and crafts continue along two blocks of galleries and artisan workshops, including the Silver City Art Association. The best times to visit might be during the Silver City Fiber Arts Festival in November or the CLAY Festival in the summer.

Western New Mexico University on the west side of downtown helps pull it all together, and gives Silver City the youthful energy of a college town. And sitting at the edge of Gila National Forest as Silver City does, there are always plenty of outdoor recreation options, just an easy ride from Bullard Street.

Bash on Broadway and Clay Festival photos courtesy of SC Daily Press

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Sarasota, Florida – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Florida

Along one of America’s most appealing urban waterfronts, Sarasota’s Main Street leads from a scenic marina into a lively downtown that offers great shopping, arts and music — and one of America’s most unique and colorful festivals.

October’s annual Sarasota Chalk Festival celebrates Italian street painting, a form of art that’s both visual and theatrical, as artists use chalk and other materials to create works of art, often on a very impressive scale, while visitors look on. The festival has been recommended by the New York Times’s “Guide to Intelligent Travel,” and there’s nothing else quite like it in the United States. Each year’s festival has a theme, and pavement artists come from around the world to participate. The festival has historically been held on Burns Square, near Main Street, but in 2013 its growth and popularity has led to its extension up Pineapple Street, across Main Street in the heart of downtown.

At night, Sarasota comes to life on Main Street and its surrounding area, with nightclubs, coffee bars, restaurants that feature live music, professional and community theater, and bars that offer karaoke and trivia contests. At Main Plaza at the north end of Main, the Regal Hollywood 20 movie theater has a distinctive art-deco facade that recalls Sarasota’s first heyday in the 1920s, when John and Charles Ringling of the famed circus family helped to lead the city’s development. The Ringlings brought a passion for art and architecture that’s still visible in the downtown’s many buildings of Italian design. McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute, just a block from Main on Ringling Boulevard, hosts world-class comedy acts.

No mention of Sarasota’s Main Street would be complete without the waterfront. Main Street leads right onto Marina Plaza, which ends at Marina Jack, a popular seafood eatery whose views of Sarasota Bay are hard to beat. The Marina Jack Trail leads walkers along the waterfront and around nearby Island Park. In this peaceful green retreat, kids can splash around in the Steigerwaldt-Jockey Children’s Fountain, and you can look out across the water as the brilliant sunset illuminates this laid-back, friendly city.

Chalk Fest Photo courtesy of Chalk Fest
Bayfront Park photo courtesy of James Sweiderk

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Syracuse, New York – Armory Square

Main Streets 2016: New York

Armory Square is an example of how a city can take a declining neighborhood and turn it into a showplace where people once again want to live, play and shop. This centerpiece on the west side of Syracuse’s downtown rebounded from a post-World War II flight of businesses and residents, and today it’s thriving again.

Ranged around Armory Square are architecturally significant historic buildings, along with new construction designed to fit in with the neighborhood. Central to it all is the former Syracuse Armory. This imposing red-brick complex was once used to quarter cavalry and infantry, and it’s now is home to the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology. The “MOST” is a major downtown attraction with fascinating hands-on exhibits, the Silverman Planetarium and the 216-seat Bristol IMAX Omnitheater.

Densely built and very busy at the turn of the 20th century, this area once hosted over 20 hotels, thanks to the train station here. But after the railroad industry fell on hard times, many buildings in the Armory Square neighborhood were demolished between 1940 and 1960. The work to rebuild and revitalize the Square began in the early 70s, and in 1984, the Armory Square Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It covers much of  what is now known as Armory Square and includes well-preserved buildings such as the railroad station and the Labor Temple.

There’s perhaps no better symbol of the importance of this neighborhood to Syracuse’s identity than the Shot Clock Monument, right in the center of Armory Square. This landmark is a replica of the 24-second clock that, according to the monument plaque, saved basketball from stalling tactics, and was first used in Syracuse in 1954. Basketball is very important here; the Syracuse Orange at Syracuse Unversity are one of the nation’s most storied and competitive college teams.

Today the Square is where Syracuse residents gather for many events. During summer and into the fall, the Wednesday Walk is the time to get out and learn about the city’s history, parks, architecture and meeting spaces. Also in summer, the Candlelight Series draws people to Armory Square for music and food.

But it’s not just special events that make the square a place to visit. Some of the city’s best-known restaurants have found their way to the neighborhood. Interesting local stores abound — and when Syracuse goes out for a night on the town, Armory Square is often where folks are headed.

Candlelight Series photo courtesy of Chuck Wainwright
All other photos courtesy of Downtown Committee of Syracuse

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DBE604 min

Wallace, Idaho – Bank Street

Main Streets 2016: Idaho

Local business has always been the lifeblood of Wallace, Idaho, a tiny city — the last U.S. Census counted its population as 784 — that nonetheless has a sparkling spot in history. Sitting alongside the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, Wallace is the principal town of the Coeur d’Alene silver-mining district, where more silver has been extracted than anywhere else in the U.S. That’s why Wallace is known as the “Silver Capital of the World,” and why every building in its central historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the resource-rich mountains nearby attracted prospectors and immigrants from around the globe, who worked in the silver mines and established their own small businesses, many on Bank Street. You can still visit several of Wallace’s historic brick buildings, which were built in 1890 after a fire destroyed much of the central business district. This mining town attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year, thanks to its area’s motherlode of world-class hiking trails, bike paths and neighboring ski resorts.

Against a backdrop of stunning mountains and lush, green forests, visitors stand on Bank Street at what a local mayor once proclaimed as “The Center of the Universe.” A manhole cover at that spot now bears the legend, “Center of the Universe. Wallace, Idaho.”

Wallace has several history museums that recall its vivid past. At the west end of Bank Street, the Wallace District Mining Museum and Visitor’s Center traces the growth of the mining industry. It also has a special exhibit on Ed Pulaski, a forest ranger who rescued 38 men in 1910 during the largest wildfire in U.S. history.

Along with preserving much of its Old West charm, Wallace is home to a growing food and beverage scene, with its historic 1313 Club saloon and Wallace Brewing Company on Bank Street and Smokehouse Barbeque and Saloon across the street at the corner of 6th Street. Bank Street is dotted, as well, with microbreweries, antique stores, jewelers and other independent businesses.

Like many small towns, Wallace knows how to throw fun community events, especially in the summer. The Annual Street Fair brings together artists, entertainers and vendors each June, and every August locals take to the streets to run the Huckleberry Festival 5K.

Huckleberry Festival 5K photo courtesy of Historic Wallace Chamber of Commerce

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