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

Read More  

Topeka, Kansas – South Kansas Avenue

Main Streets 2016: Kansas

As the capital of its state, Topeka is a center for civic and cultural life, and South Kansas Avenue is where a whole lot of it happens. This thoroughfare stretches from the Kansas Turnpike to the Kansas River, and in the city’s downtown, it’s home to a lively arts and dining scene, interspersed with local nonprofits and businesses.

With the capitol building just steps away, South Kansas Avenue is close to a number of government agencies and landmarks, including the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Site, which commemorates the landmark Supreme Court decision that ended legal public-school segregation in 1954. In 2016, adrenaline enthusiasts can look forward to the opening of the Evel Knievel Museum, one block over on SW Topeka Avenue, which will boast the world’s largest collection of the legendary daredevil’s stunt bikes and memorabilia.

South Kansas Avenue also stands out for its vibrant, eclectic arts scene. On the first Friday of each month, more than a dozen local galleries and studios open their doors to residents and tourists for a night of art crawling. The Topeka Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit organization, puts on a wide variety of musical and theatrical productions each year. Nearby, guests can enjoy dinner and a performance at local dinner theater, The Break Room.

Like most art-rich neighborhoods, South Kansas Avenue is also known for its diverse and delicious dining options. Locals catch up over a cup of joe at Classic Bean, Topeka’s first espresso coffee house and deli, and indulge at HHB BBQ, a smokehouse specializing in brisket and pulled pork. South Kansas Avenue also hosts a weekly farmers’ market offering the region’s best produce.

Several of Topeka’s favorite festivals take place on South Kansas Avenue. At Tap That, locals and visitors spend the weekend tasting craft beers, learning about the art of brewing and kicking back with other beer enthusiasts. In November, The Miracle on Kansas Avenue Lighted Parade brings the town together for a day of shopping, dining and music, topped off by a light parade of floats, marching bands, military vehicles and antique and classic cars.

Street photo courtesy of Chris Neal –  The Capital-Journal
All other photos courtesy of Stephen Smith – Downtown Topeka Inc.

Read More  

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

Read More  

Rockland, ME

Rockland, Maine – Main Street

Main Streets 2016: Maine

Like many other coastal towns in Maine, Rockland identifies itself with the sea as much as it does with its downtown — and Main Street embodies that connection. Just a block from the waterfront, you’ll find distinctive seacoast shops and eateries here. Behind the scenes is Rockland Main Street, an active community organization whose efforts to preserve and promote the downtown have been guided by its affiliation with the Maine Downtown Center and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

It’s technically on a side street, but the world-famous Farnsworth Museum anchors the Main Street district. Some of the best known artists who have called or still call Maine home are represented in the museum’s collection, including the three generations of Wyeth painters, whose work captured so much of quintessential America. The acclaimed painters, especially James and N.C. Wyeth, are featured in the museum’s Wyeth Center. An addition to the original museum has a memorable collection of paintings and drawings by Andrew Wyeth.

Museums in Rockland aren’t just dedicated to fine art. The Maine Lighthouse Museum maintains a collection of artifacts from lighthouses and the lifesaving service they once helped support. Back on Main Street, the Island Institute is a working link between Midcoast Maine and the state’s famed network of coastal islands. Rockland Ferry Services, whose dock is accessed from Main Street, connects the city with Vinalhaven and North Haven islands.

There’s also plenty of good Maine fun to be had along Main Street. Galleries display new and emerging artists, while restaurants and cafes are gathering spots for both local residents and visitors. Popular annual festivals include the two-day North Atlantic Blues Festival in July and the multi-day Maine Lobster Festival, featuring food, crafts and the Great Lobster Crate Race in August. Not to be missed in December is the Festival of Lights, with the lighting of the Lobster Trap Tree and the a parade of lighted floats down Main Street.

While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to wander off Main Street and see some of this old shipbuilding and railroading center’s neighborhoods. You’ll see why Rockland was recognized in 2012 among the Best Old House Neighborhoods, by the TV show of the same name.

Nighttime photo courtesy of Dave Clough Photography

Read More  

What makes a great Main Street?

How did we choose our Main Streets Across America? Here are the criteria we used when we studied classic main streets from around the country.

  1. Strong local business presence
  • Are there independent and/or owner-operated businesses that have been present on the street for more than 25 years? 50 years? 100 years?
  • Do businesses strongly support the community and “do good” for others?
  • Is the street historically significant to the development of a particular product, company or industry?
    • First store location for a large well-known retailer
    • Place where a product was invented or first sold
    • Key role in the industrial revolution
  • Key attributes of commerce and economic development (current or historical)
    • Railroad or trolley tracks; served as an old stagecoach or pony express route
    • Waterway (canal, river, shipping port)
    • Strong local business association; chamber of commerce
  1. Community Gathering Spots / scenic vistas
  • Does the street have one or more of the following:
    • A favorite local coffee shop, barber shop or other spot (even a sidewalk or street corner) where people greet one another or gather to chat about the news of the day
    • Town hall; local or state government buildings
    • Town common; Band shell
    • Meeting halls for social or fraternal organizations
    • School campuses
    • Boardwalk; walking path or bike path
    • Parks, playgrounds or recreation area; community gardens; sitting/viewing area
    • Public art (sculptures, murals, unique architectural designs)
  1. Celebrations of history and traditions/Reflections of civic pride
    1. Parades; community events; festivals
    2. Farmers markets; craft fairs
    3. Monuments; statues; historical markers; flags or street banners on display
    4. Evokes a sense of nostalgia
    5. Street, buildings or landmarks named after noteworthy citizens or listed on the national register of historic places
    6. Is the street the location of a significant historic event? (political, social, cultural)
  2. Diverse social and cultural events and activities
    1. Ethnic, Multi-cultural, multi-generational organizations and activities
    2. Several different denominations of churches or places of worship
    3. Diverse businesses and business owners
    4. Theatres; museums; summer concerts; public performance
    5. Organizations and activities that create a strong sense of community and “do good” for others


Read More