Past decades have dealt several windfalls to historic preservation. Thanks to the broadening of the movement to include places with social historical relevance, as opposed to a focus on mansions and political-history sites, “We’re seeing more diverse faces,” says Valecia Crisafulli, acting vice president of programs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), “and certainly the Modernist thread is bringing in younger people.” More recently, the Great Recession has provided another jumpstart, as frugal Americans are visiting nearby historic state parks and other sites more frequently.
Yet the economic downturn has put those very travel destinations in jeopardy. Budget cuts are forcing closure of myriad state-owned properties, particularly in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. For that reason, this year NTHP listed all state parks and state-owned historic sites as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The others include:
- Black Mountain, Kentucky
- Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson, New Jersey
- Industrial Arts Building, Lincoln, Nebraska
- Juana Briones House, Palo Alto, California
- Merritt Parkway, Connecticut
- Metropolitan AME Church, Washington, D.C.
- Pågat, Guam
- Saugatuck Dunes, Michigan
- Threefoot Building, Meridian, Mississippi
- Wilderness Battlefield, Orange and Spotsylvania Counties, Virginia
Last week’s announcement of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places marks the 23rd time NTHP has released its annual list, launched in 1987. “It is a wonderfully thoughtful process,” Crisafulli says of the review of nominations, which are winnowed according to criteria that include urgency of threat and geographic representation.
Crisafulli also notes that NTHP jurors considered a historic place’s “national significance,” or iconic potential, for inclusion, adding that both Metropolitan AME Church and Black Mountain represent that point particularly well. The Washington, D.C.–based Metropolitan AME Church, the national cathedral of African Methodism and an important venue in the civil-rights movement, is severely compromised structurally due to vibration from adjacent construction and extensive water infiltration; the damage has even impeded worship. Kentucky’s tallest peak Black Mountain—and particularly its towns Lynch and Benham—is threatened by efforts to introduce strip and deep mining nearby, even though residents have made considerable effort to establish a post-coal economy.
Other examples of NTHP’s wider embrace of social history include Hinchliffe, one of only three remaining Negro League stadiums in the U.S.; the home of Juana Briones, one of California’s first female landowners; and Pågat, a Guamanian cultural landscape that dates to 700 A.D. Missing, though, are works of Modernism, which have made strong showings in recent lists. Crisafulli points to the ongoing “Modernism + The Recent Past” initiative, launched in 2009, as proof of its expansive view of preservation.
Visit the Trust’s Web site to learn more about this year’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, and to check their evolving protection status. Over the next few weeks, too, NTHP’s regional offices will upload action plans targeted to each place. The success of those plans may be imminent: Crisafulli calls popular awareness of the list “remarkable” and says that of the 222 historic places highlighted heretofore, “We’ve only lost a handful.”