Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hampton Restores A Small Piece of Americana

In the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to stay at a Hampton Inn several times.

As the elevator doors closed on that first late evening in Chicago, I began to read a story about how the Hampton Save-a-Landmark campaign had preserved the world's largest buffalo in Jamestown, North Dakota. 

Yes, you heard me right ... the world's largest buffalo.

I thought to myself, "Why would anyone want to save this large ugly statue of a buffalo?"

Okay, I'll admit it - I'm a bit of a sucker for those kitschy tourist traps, like the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, the largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas or the Field of Dreams in Dubuque, Iowa. These places are usually located in cities that are off the beaten track. Part of the fun is just getting there. Often, you look at the goofy building, statue or phenomenon for a grand total of 15 or 20 minutes and then you retrace your steps back to the highway you came from ... to go back on your merry way.

So, I was a bit intrigued as to just what Hampton Inn was up to.

I was surprised to discover that the Hampton Save-a-Landmark campaign has actually been in existence for awhile ... I just hadn't heard about it before. According to its website, Hampton has been honoring "the world's greatest roadside attractions" since April 2000. Some of the unforgettable projects they have worked on include the:
  • Odell Standard Oil & Gas Station in Odell, IL
  • Rail Depot Museum in Troutdale, OR
  • World's Largest Shoe House in Hallam, PA
  • Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH
  • Clover Belle Street Car #30 in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
  • Uncle Sam Statue in Ottawa Lake, MI
Now, granted, these sites may not be as vast as the Grand Canyon, as dazzling as Times Square or as magnificent as the Redwood Forests of California, but to small towns like Hallam, Troutdale and Derry, they are as important as any of the aforementioned national treasures.

Hampton Inn has staffed each of over 50 restorations with employees who have volunteered to bring the luster back to these sites. Plus, they have contributed to tourism to these little burbs of towns by sharing the news with people that may never have found some of these hidden or lost treasures.

While the campaign is what initially grabbed my attention in that hotel elevator a few weeks ago, I was even more captivated with Hampton's efforts once I visited their website.

Kitschy. Cool. Charming. Fun.

Words I would use to describe Hampton's campaign to restore a small piece of Americana.

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