This interview was recorded at the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions Symposium, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma
What drew you to this symposium?
I think what really drew Amy and I in initially was the connection with Route 66, but also kind of putting Route 66 in context with all these other road related projects in some way. I think what really stood out to me was listening to Michael Wallis and hearing him talk about the Lincoln Highway and the Jefferson Highway and kind of all these other named highways. There was a question at one point of kind of what’s the next Route 66, and I loved hearing him answer that question, as well.
What are some of the things you hope to do with the Route 66 project?
Sure, I think one of the main connections is of course, just the people and hearing more about their connections to Route 66. I think it’s helped us think a little bit more about kind of the messaging and how we’re going to talk about that as well. It’s been helpful, as well, kind of thinking through some of those underrepresented stories and some of the underrepresented resources along 66, as well. Hearing about more of the neon sign work and the historic markers and kind of the idea that so many of those sites are ephemeral and how do we tell that story, as well. I think that’s left us with a lot of really good questions at the end.
What draws you to roadside architecture?
I grew up in a tiny little town in Iowa, and it was the black dirt capital of the world, and we had kind of this small town celebration every year. I think what I love about roadside architecture is when it really embraces that small town, whether it’s whatever the claim to fame is of that small town slogan, or whatnot. I think we’ve seen so many great signs and quirky attractions, and I think that that’s the part that has stood out the most to me.
What should be the topic of our next symposium?
I would love to see a little bit more about both the marketing piece, but then how do you do more with fundraising and keeping those people involved long term? Once you have saved a place, how do you build a kind of constituency that is excited to come back year and year again, and people that are passionate about it. I think Dillon was talking about this earlier in his presentation of the difference of having 100 people that are all in on something or 10,000 people that kind of have a causal relationship, and you really want to build up that 100 a lot more.
I think one of the exciting things about Route 66 and the National Historic Trail Program is that if Route 66 becomes the 20th National Historic Trail, it’ll be the first one that is all about automobile transport, too, so I think that’s kind of a whole new story for the National Historic Trail Program. It’s been fascinating talking with the staff at the Park Service to hear how Route 66 and all these other trails intersect in space and time. There’s the physical intersections, but then there’s the intersections of the stories as well, and I think that’s been fascinating to hear about.
Grant Stevens is a senior marketing manager in the Denver Field Office of National Trust for Historic Preservation. His work focuses on creating compelling and engaging campaigns that combine in-person activities and online engagement to save places, while inspiring others to do the same. His wide-ranging work has taken him from coast to coast, working on ballot initiatives in Houston and Cincinnati; efforts to save mid-century modern masterpieces in Miami, Portland, and Milwaukee; and awareness campaigns in El Paso, Chicago, and Nashville, among many others. You can most often find him out on the road saving places, exploring the West’s public lands, or getting distracted by a vintage sign