Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Exploring the Urban Landscape of Vicksburg, Mississippi

City Hall, Vicksburg, MississippiAround this time of year 155 years ago, the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was under siege in a pivotal Civil War moment. A Union victory here, the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, spelled the beginning of the end for the South. The city survived, however, growing into a major trading center that relied on steamboat traffic and erecting impressive structures that reflected its boom and that still survive today. Read more about the top five buildings in Vicksburg, Mississippi >

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A Century of Style and Grace: New York’s Woolworth Building

Woolworth Building, New York, New YorkOnce the tallest building on the planet — a title it retained for 17 years in the early 1900s — it now ranks at #63 in the United States and doesn’t crack the world’s top 100. Despite surrendering its lofty crown, the Woolworth Building retains its elegance and style that have been hallmarks of the New York City skyline since 1913. Although it’s getting increasingly harder to see as taller, less interesting neighbors sprout up around it, the Woolworth Building still puts other skyscrapers to shame, and once you take your first glance at it, you’ll understand why my favorite building in New York earned the moniker the “Cathedral of Commerce” only three days after it opened. Read more >


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Montreal Churchgoers Are Particularly Blessed

Mountainside United Church, Montreal, QuebecI fully expected to see plenty of Catholic churches in Montreal, founded as a Roman Catholic colony by France. But once the British won the Seven Years’ War and English immigrants arrived, Protestant churches were soon rising among their neighbors. Nicknamed “la ville aux cent clochers” (the city of a hundred bell towers), Montreal, Quebec, teems with beautiful houses of worship of various denominations, including Canada’s largest church, the third-largest dome in the world, and a scaled-down replica of the Vatican City’s Basilica of St. Peter. Read more about the top five churches in Montreal >


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Delightful Domes That Grace City Skylines

Salta Cathedral, Salta, ArgentinaDomes. They’re one of the world’s most versatile architectural elements. Whether they’re topping iconic buildings like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, or they’re the buildings themselves, ranging from Eskimo igloos to Central Asian yurts to the geodesic dome in Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, domes add that final splash of panache to our built environments. Found throughout the world, they seem to be appreciated by just about everyone as the perfect way to top off a building in a graceful, elegant style. Read more about the world’s top five domes >


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The Deceptive Beauty of Oslo’s City Hall

City Hall, Oslo, NorwayEvery now and then, you will find a reason to visit a city hall other than to, say, pick up a marriage license or attend a meeting about your local school system. On such occasions, you may very well be delightfully surprised by what’s in store. The City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for instance, is a gorgeous building where I had the good fortune to meet the city’s mayor during my visit; Stockholm’s City Hall boasts gorgeous golden mosaics and an unbeatable view of the city from atop its tower. And while the austere exterior of the city hall in Oslo, Norway, may not attract you at first, this city hall is particularly chock full of history, stories, art, and superlatives, which became increasingly apparent to me the closer I got to it. Read more >


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Savannah’s Best Buildings in America’s Best Historic District

Savannah Cotton Exchange, Savannah, GeorgiaWith hundreds of buildings in Savannah’s five historic districts, it’s virtually impossible to select some favorites, particularly in the Savannah Historic District, one of the largest such districts in the United States. Within its confines, I came across the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, one of the South’s first public museums, the oldest African American Baptist congregation in the United States, the house that launched the city’s preservation movement, and the third-oldest synagogue and the oldest standing pre–Civil War rail facility in America. Impressive as they are, even these beauties didn’t emerge as my favorites. Read more about the top five buildings in Savannah, Georgia >


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Coursing Through the Heart of Belfast: Donegall Square

Scottish Provident Building, Belfast, IrelandWith “the Troubles” apparently — and hopefully — relegated to the history books, a day trip to Belfast now seemed necessary during my three-week jaunt around Ireland. Just a two-hour train ride north from Dublin, the capital of Northern Ireland has settled into a peaceful, bustling center of activity. The heart of the city beats in and around Donegall Square, a concentration of fantastic buildings, monuments, and green space, and a wonderful place to wander around when the clouds part. Read more >