Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Auld Urbanism

Whitefish, Montana. A surviving relic. What remains today is an odd combination of tourist-catering shops, businesses serving locals (Ace Hardware has an amazingly friendly and knowledgeable staff), as well as restaurants and bars (Buffalo Cafe has an outstanding breakfast and Montana Coffee Traders is a superb Java stop) catering both clientèles.

It is a reminder of what Main Street once was across America. A central gathering space and a public commons. Not a privately run shopping mall or quasi-arcade where free speech may be subdued and photographers arrested. Structures, streets and setbacks are built on a human scale, not that of the automobile.

Walking the streets it feels instantly comfortable. Building livable communities doesn't require New Urbanism or gated communities. The answers are right in front of us, in our past, in what feels natural.

Downtown Whitefish, MT

Whitefish remains a livable (albeit expensive) working community. Will the strip malls spreading north from Kalispell ruin her before we appreciate her beauty?