America’s most endangered historic places
More than 1,000 square miles of archeological and cultural sites in northwestern New Mexico were once home to the prehistoric Chacoan people. (Jonathan Poston)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled its 2011 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on 15 June.
The annual list, now in its 24th year, spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.
This year’s sights range from a severely deteriorated 1950s ranch house in Long Island, New York, where acclaimed jazz musician John Coltrane wrote the classic album A Love Supreme, to the now vacant Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a former flour mill that the National Trust calls “a masterpiece of industrial architecture”.
Locations are chosen based on architectural or cultural significance, the urgency of the problem and the potential for a solution, said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust. She also noted that several new themes emerged this year.
Two places considered sacred ground for Native Americans -- a 4,426-foot mountain in Bear Butte, South Dakota, and more than 1,000 square miles of archeological and cultural sites in northwestern New Mexico that were once home to the prehistoric Chacoan people -- were chosen because they are threatned by energy development.
Several nominees this year reflected the impact of climate change, though only one, a fortress on Dauphin Island, Alabama, made the list. Fort Gaines, “a place of spectacular beauty and stirring history”, according to the National Trust, played a pivotal role in the Civil War battle for Mobile Bay. Today its shoreline is experiencing serious erosion.
For the first time, a site was given “Watch Status”, a designation for a place believed to face a growing threat that could be avoided or controlled. The historic character of Charleston, South Carolina and its surrounding neighborhoods are in jeopardy due to expanding cruise ship tourism.
Since 1988, 233 places have been cited on the annnual lists. Sadly, eight have been lost, including the Juana Briones house in Palo Alto, California, “which is being torn down as we speak”, Meeks said. The property, featured on last year’s list, was thought to contain the remains of the 1844 adobe home built by Juana Briones, one of only 34 women in early California history documented as a landowner.