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National Trust Announces America’s 11 Most Endangered Sites

June 6, 2012

This year marks the 25th anniversary for the organization’s list, which draws attention to historic buildings, landscapes, and communities that are under threat.

By David Sokol

Ellis Island Hospital Complex
Photo courtesy Clara Daly/ward9.com/NTHP

Ellis Island Hospital Complex. Click to view more images. slide show

 

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Today the National Trust for Historic Preservation released its 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. NTHP, a private nonprofit organization, has produced the annual list for 25 years, drawing attention to more than 230 sites—including buildings, landscapes, and entire communities—that risk destruction or significant damage.

The 2012 sites are:

  • Bridges of Yosemite Valley, California
  • Ellis Island hospital complex; New York Harbor, New York and New Jersey
  • Historic U.S. post office buildings
  • Joe Frazier’s Gym; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Malcolm X — Ella Little-Collins House; Boston, Massachusetts
  • Princeton Battlefield; Princeton, New Jersey
  • Sweet Auburn Historic District; Atlanta, Georgia
  • Terminal Island; Port of Los Angeles, California
  • Texas courthouses
  • Elkhorn Ranch; Billings County, North Dakota
  • Village of Zoar, Ohio

An internal NTHP committee selected the sites based on nominations submitted mostly by local and regional preservation groups. This year’s list boasts timely choices. Inclusion of U.S. post office buildings responds to the July 2011 announcement that as many as 3,700 post offices may close. NTHP president Stephanie Meeks said the Postal Service has lacked transparency in the disposition process, which could discourage private redevelopment.

The list also includes the facility where boxer Joe Frazier—who died on November 7, 2011—trained for his fight against Muhammad Ali. Frazier. The Philadelphia building is currently for sale without any historic protection.

Ethnic and racial history figures into this year’s selections. In Los Angeles, Terminal Island, the site of 3,000 Japanese-American residents’ deportation in 1942, is threatened by a plan that proposes demolishing or limiting reuse of long-vacant historic buildings. In Atlanta, disinvestment and inappropriate commercial development could disfigure Sweet Auburn, an exemplar of African-American neighborhoods in the Jim Crow–era South and the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The diverse list reflects the many kinds of threats that preservationists face. In California, a proposed National Park Service management plan for the Merced River could force the removal of three historic bridges in Yosemite Valley. In Ohio, removal of a levee puts the 195-year-old Village of Zoar at risk of irreparable flooding.

Some endangered sites will likely fare better than others. The childhood home of Malcolm X is already being rehabilitated by the nonprofit group, Historic Boston; the 138-year-old dwelling will be converted into graduate housing.

And although the State of Texas currently lacks funding to remediate 244 deteriorating courthouses, their reappearance on the list could provide “the extra boost to complete the restoration of these Texas treasures,” said Laura Bush, former First Lady and NTHP trustee, in a prepared statement. After the judicial facilities were included in the organization’s 1998 list, then-Governor George W. Bush launched the Texas Courthouse Preservation Initiative with a $50 million allocation. By 2011, restorations were complete or under way on more than 60 of the properties.

In reference to the Texas facilities, along with Ellis Island and Sweet Auburn, where preservationists have also made strides (both sites landed on the NTHP’s 1992 list), Meeks notes: “We wanted to use this anniversary year to say these are important places, good things have happened, and let’s keep the momentum going.”

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