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Chester H. Liebs Papers

Identifier: MSS-843-BC

Scope and Content

The major component of boxes 1-11 of this collection is research material that Chester H. Liebs used to write his 1985 book, Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture. There are reports, handbooks, booklets, student papers, clippings, notebooks, course description, brochures, correspondence, documentation for state historic sites surveys, photocopies of articles and excerpts from books. This research material is organized by subject and the seven commercial building types used as chapter titles in the book. The chapter titles are auto showroom, gas stations, supermarkets, miniature golf courses, drive-in theaters, motels and restaurants. There is information on subcategories such as diners, coffee shops and drive-ins under restaurants. Boxes also include all book reviews of Main Street to Miracle Mile as well as both publisher and public correspondence about the publication.

Boxes 12-19 cover a range of materials pertaining to Liebs’ lifelong professional and personal work in historic preservation in the United States. There are documents that cover an extensive range of topics regarding the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Vermont founded by Liebs including: starting proposals, course materials, grant applications, flyers, documentation of community outreach projects, and photographs. Preservation course materials from other universities including Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and the University of New Mexico are also included. Boxes also contain newspaper clippings, journal articles, VHS and cassette recordings, case studies, awards, and conference materials documenting Liebs’ involvement in historic preservation in the United States.

Box 20 contains images used for his book Main Street to Miracle Mile, published in 1985. Folders contain black and white reproductions of photographs and illustrations Liebs obtained from various archives in the United States to use in his book Main Street to Miracle Mile. The copyright for the photographs belong to each institution they came from. Box 21 contains over 300 slides Liebs’ decades of photographic documentation of historic buildings and cultural landscapes between 1971 and 1993. The boxes contain both black and white and color slides documenting roadside structures and architecture such as motels, theaters, shopping complexes, main streets, and neon signs. Images are primarily from the United States. Digital images can also be viewed on New Mexico Digital.

Boxes 22-31 contain state-specific and country-specific materials, pamphlets, brochures, notes, and leaflets. The materials are subdivided by regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, West, and International)

Boxes 32-35 contain materials, pamphlets, brochures, notes and leaflets, arranged topically.


  • 1869-2006
  • Majority of material found within 1960-2006

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material allowed for research purposes. Audio materials may not be duplicated. Permission from the donor is required for publication or distribution. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws.

Biographical Information

Chester Liebs, landscape historian, and prolific photo-documentarian of cultural landscapes, received his M.S. in Historic Preservation from Columbia University School of Architecture in 1977. He was instrumental in the founding of the Society for Industrial Archeology in 1971 and the Society for Commercial Archeology in 1977. He was the founding director (from 1975-1994) of the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program. In 1996 Chester H. Liebs received the James Marston Fitch Preservation Education Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Preservation Education. From 2004-2014, Chester H. Liebs served as Adjunct Professor of Preservation and Regionalism at the University of New Mexico and was also awarded a George Pearl Fellowship. In addition to teaching courses in historic preservation and regionalism and cultural landscapes in the 2004 and 2005 academic year, he helped found the UNM Southwest Summer Institute for Preservation and Regionalism.

From his late teens when he photographed the demolition of New York’s Pennsylvania Station, throughout his teaching career up to the present, Liebs had been a dedicated photo documentarian of the American cultural landscape and the world beyond, resulting in many thousands of 35 millimeter transparencies, black and white photographs in 35 millimeter and medium format, and, post 2001 digital format.

His book, Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture (1985) documented the history of roadside architecture and was praised by J.B. Jackson as the first book that "treats our contemporary American roadside architecture with the serious attention it deserves." During and after two Fulbright Fellowships to Japan, Liebs taught as a visiting professor at both Tōdai (University of Tokyo), and Geidai (Tokyo University for the Arts). His popular polemic, 世界 が 称 賛 し た 日本の町の秘密 (Secrets of Japanese Cities the World Admires: Sustainable-Infrastructure Lessons from Japan, 2011), applies an American cultural landscape sensibility to Tokyo’s integrated subway and transit bike system.


35 boxes (36.5 cu. ft.)


The three major components to this collection are the research materials Chester H. Liebs used to write his 1985 book, Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture, materials focused on Liebs’ lifelong professional and personal work in historic preservation, both nationally and internationally, as well as images from his personal slide collection.

Related Material

John Brinckerhoff Jackson Papers, Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico John Brinckerhoff Jackson Pictorial Collection, Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico William J. Lucas Route 66 Photograph Collection, Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico David Kammer Professional Papers Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Collection of J. B. Jackson textual materials from various sources Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Archival master CD stored in B3.

Material sent to University Libraries book collection: Dominguez, Henry L., The Ford Agency: A Pictorial History, Motorbooks International, Osceola, Wisconsin, 1981 Restaurant Industry Operations Report for the United States, 1981

Processing Information

Original audio cassette was reformatted to CD in August 2009.
Finding Aid of the Chester H. Liebs Papers, 1869-2006
Edited Full Draft
T.S. Reinig
© 2009; © 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131