The American Legation In Tangier

American Legation in TangierTangier has some beautiful old buildings. Being inward-looking in the Moorish style, they don’t generally seem like much from the outside. Once you enter, though, you’ll find soothing tiled courtyards with bubbling fountains; elaborate latticework windows; and bright, open rooms.

The American Legation in Tangier is one of the most accessible of these buildings and has the distinction of being the first place designated a National Historic Landmark outside the United States.

Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States in December 1777, when the 13 colonies were still fighting the War of Independence against the British Empire. The present building started being used as a legation in 1821. It’s set in a narrow alley in the heart of the old city.

It stopped being used as a legation in 1956, when the offices moved to Rabat, and is now a center for Moroccan studies. Entrance to the legation is free.

The rooms are set around a quiet courtyard that feels miles away from the hectic markets and busy alleyways of Tangier’s medina. The legation displays memorabilia from Tangier’s lively art and literary scene. You’ll find paintings by Moroccan masters and etchings from early Western travelers showing life in Tangier before the age of the Internet cafe. Old maps put the region in a larger historic context.

The most popular section is the Paul Bowles Wing, dedicated to the famous American author who lived in Tangier from 1947 until his death in 1999. Here you’ll see drafts of some of his work, magazines he edited, his correspondence, and photos of his wide circle of famous expat and Moroccan friends.

Take time to study the details of this historic building, such as the intricately carved and painted doors and the fine symmetry of the building as a whole. It makes for a peaceful respite from the medina and a place of refuge from the hot Moroccan sun during the summer.

Don’t miss my other posts on Tangier. Coming up next: Ancient Tangier!

[Photo by Almudena Alonso-Herrero]

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The 2011 National Historic Landmark Photo contest winners

Photo contest winner for the 2011 National Historic LandmarksThe National Park Service has announced the winners of their 2011 National Historic Landmark photo contest, honoring 13 amazing images from some of the most iconic historical locations in the U.S.

The winning image was shot by Eric Vondy of Phoenix, Arizona who took his photo at the Pecos National Historic Park in New Mexico. The photo, which is shown here, captures the Pecos Mission Church, which dates back to 17th century Spanish colonies that were established throughout the region. The photograph also serves as a great reminder that America’s history extends back to well before the country was officially founded. Twelve other images were awarded “Honorable Mention” status for capturing such important places as Valley Forge, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and Abraham Lincoln’s Home.

National Historic Landmarks are sites across the United States that have been designated as being particularly important to the history of the country. Roughly 2500 sites, including buildings, objects, structures, or locations, have been given this special distinction by the Secretary of the Interior for their importance on a local, state, or national level. Chances are, no matter where you are in the U.S., you’ll find one of these landmarks is not far away.

To review all of the finalists in this year’s photo contest, check out the National Park Service‘s official Flickr page. You’ll not only find some great photos, but some amazing destinations to visit yourself.

[Photo credit: Eric Vondy]

Woodlawn Cemetery named National Historic Landmark

Woodlawn Cemetery
New Yorkers have always known that Woodlawn Cemetery was someplace special. This Bronx burial ground is the final home for many of the rich and famous. It’s beautiful too, a parklike setting with 400 acres of ornate headstones and mausoleums, such as this one for Frank Winfield Woolworth. Yes, that Woolworth.

Founded in 1863 in an age when wealthy families vied with each other to have the most elaborate mausoleum, it attracts thousands of visitors a year who don’t even know anyone buried there. The public certainly knows of many of them: Harry Carey, David Farragut, Duke Ellington, Fiorello La Guardia, Frank Belknap Long, Herman Melville, Bat Masterson, and Joseph Pulitzer to name a few.

Now the cemetery has been named a national Historic Landmark, the highest honor that can be given to a U.S. historic site. Visiting Woodlawn makes a soothing and contemplative break from the high-powered vibe of New York City. If you like cemetery art, check out our picks of creepy and beautiful cemeteries around the world.

[Image courtesy Woodlawn Cemetery]