The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its 2020 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. In this annual roster’s 30+ year history, over 300 historic sites throughout the country have been classified as being under imminent threat of destruction, and 95 percent of those were saved.
“It is in times like these, when it is difficult to find our way, that the monuments of the past have the power to reveal the possibilities of our future,” said National Trust president Paul Edmondson in a statement. “I am particularly proud,” Edmonston continued, “of this year’s 11 Most Endangered List because it so ably demonstrates the trust’s commitment to tell the full American story. We believe that diversity in preservation can help change the narrative of inherent entitlement and abject disenfranchisement that has led to so much division and misunderstanding in recent days. This year’s list underscores the true meaning of our democracy and demonstrates that many peoples and cultural perspectives have helped define what it means to be American.”
The full 2020 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places includes:
Alazan-Apache Courts, San Antonio
The Alazan-Apache Courts, also called “Los Courts,” opened in 1940 and is the oldest and largest public housing complex in San Antonio. Demolishing Los Courts, which the city is planning to do, would shatter a nearly 90-year-old community with few affordable housing alternatives.
Hall of Waters, Excelsior Springs, Missouri
The Hall of Waters outside of Kansas City was built in 1938 as a mineral water health resort with assistance from the Public Works Administration. Today, the building requires more than $16 million in upkeep and repairs.
Harada House, Riverside, California
The Alien Land Law of 1913 barred Japanese immigrants like Jukichi and Ken Harada from owning property, causing them to transfer their home into the names of their American-born children. Threatened by neighbors and the local government, the Harada family successfully defended their right to homeownership before the U.S. Supreme Court and won. In recent years, the house has become structurally unsound and needs heavy repairs. Local advocates launched a campaign to rehabilitate the house and open it to the public with the Museum of Riverside.
National Negro Opera Company House, Pittsburgh
This residential property, built in 1894, served as headquarters for the nation’s first Black opera company, which was later established in 1941. Today, the house is severely deteriorated, but local advocates are working with community partners to create a plan for stabilize and restore it.
Ponce Historic Zone, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Located in southern Puerto Rico, Ponce’s downtown is one of the island’s largest Designated Historic Zones. Recent earthquakes and tremors have caused extensive structural damage to Ponce’s historic architecture, compounding the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Local and government organizations are working on a recovery plan for the Ponce Historic Zone pending funding and support.
Rassawek, Columbia, Virginia
Rassawek was once the historical capital of the Monacan Indian Nation. Today the area contains at least six National Register-eligible archaeological sites as well as Monacan burial grounds. The owner of the land plans to build a water pump and short pipeline on the site, though testing in the 1980s revealed that human remains were present. Today, the Monacans are fighting to protect a place with major community significance that they do not own.
Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, Chicago
From September 3-6, 1955, the funeral and extended visitation for Emmett Till was held at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, which many regard as the spark that began the Civil rights movement of the 1960s. Though listed as a Chicago landmark, the church today faces severe structural issues and can only be rarely used. To ensure its long-term viability, the building needs rehabilitation funding and partnership investments.
Sun-n-Sand Motor Hotel, Jackson, Mississippi
This Midcentury Modern building near the state capitol was once known for lodging legislators and as a gathering place for civil rights activists—most notably “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” an interfaith and interracial gathering of women, despite the strict social structures of Mississippi society. The women collaborated on the Freedom Summer voter-registration drive and the Freedom Schools education initiatives. The hotel was purchased by the state in 2019 and is now meant to be demolished and replaced by a parking lot. Preservationists are advocating to adapt and save the building.
Terrace Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati
The Terrace Plaza Hotel (1948) was the first hotel designed and built by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), and Natalie De Blois, the firm’s pioneering female architect, led the team in the development of the hotel’s Modernist architecture and interiors. Mostly vacant since 2008, the city has deemed the hotel “dangerous and unsafe.” Local advocates are calling for rehabilitating the Terrace Plaza on the grounds that it will preserve the landmark and help revitalize downtown Cincinnati.
West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site, Berkeley, California
This site is significant to the Ohlone Native American people as it was once a burial and ceremonial ground. The remnants of the historic village (dating back 5,700 years) included shells, human remains, ritual objects, and artifacts, which archaeologists removed before the shellmound was leveled in the 1950s. Today, it is an active place of Ohlone prayer and ceremony, and unexcavated burials still remain throughout the area, though paved over by a parking lot. Plans to build a multifamily housing complex on the site are currently on hold, but the future of the privately-owned land remains uncertain.
Yates Memorial Hospital, Ketchikan, Alaska
Built in 1905 as a house for the clergy of an Episcopal Mission, this structure was re-purposed in 1909 as a 12-bed hospital during the Gold Rush. The building has been vacant for 15 years and is suffering from a failing roof, unstable foundations, and interior deterioration. Local supporters are raising funds to restore the building to include a museum featuring the first nurses’ stories, although the future financial impacts the pandemic will have on Ketchikan’s tourism-based economy are still unknown.