Chester H. Liebs

Historic Preservationist

Chester H. Liebs: Landscape Historian

Chester H. LiebsChester Liebs, landscape historian, and prolific photo-documentarian of cultural landscapes, was the founding director of the historic preservation program at the University of Vermont, and adjunct professor of preservation and regionalism at the University of New Mexico.

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.

In 2015 Liebs donated to the UNM Center for Southwest over two-hundred transparencies and scans from this collection, which along with much of his professional archives, as expanded the Center’s cultural landscape collection.

Library Guide

This library guide and online history was curated by Katelyn Bladel, Digital Archivist at the Center for Southwest Research and MFA candidate with an emphasis in Printmaking at the University of New Mexico, under the direction of Audra Bellmore, Associate Professor in the Center for Southwest Research, and Curator of the John Gaw Meem Archives of Southwestern Architecture at the University of New Mexico from 2015-16.  It includes a small but representative sampling of some of Liebs photographs and documents that are now part of the Cultural Landscape Collections of the University of New Mexico's Center for Southwest Research.