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National Trust Releases List of 11 Most Endangered Places


Finca Vigía: Ernest Hemingway's House

Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis Brown House
Images Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation in early June released its annual list of the nation’s 11 most endangered historic places. Along with a variety of historic buildings, this year's selection includes national conservation lands, historic battlefields, and farmland. The endangered list, first issued in 1988, serves as a preservationists' call to arms on behalf of sites deemed to be threatened by "neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy," according to the Trust's Web site.

Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigía, or “Lookout Farm,” located near Havana, Cuba , is a in serious need of preservation, and is the trust’s first-ever extra-territorial listing. The house was built in 1886 and author lived here from 1939 to 1960. The Hemingway Preservation Foundation alerted the trust to the building's deterioration, and that there were many bureaucratic roadblocks to restoring it. “The organizations now have U.S. permission to send a survey team, which they plan to do this summer,” says Brink.

This year's list also includes historic buildings in downtown Detroit, some of which stand in the way of the city’s plans for hosting the 2006 Super Bowl. Such a wide-reaching designation is also a rare instance for the Trust which previously flagged the historic buildings of Lower Manhattan and the state of Vermont for its list. Detroit's preservation community lacks the muscle of a Boston or New York, so the city's penchant for the wrecking ball is harder to counter, according to Brink. Prominent recent losses include the Statler Hilton Hotel and the Madison-Lenox.

"Detroit's a rough game," says Brink. "Preservation involves a good deal of adaptive reuse and rehab, but in this downtown area, the emphasis is on demolition."

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Also highlighted are properties of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, which is selling off churches and other buildings in the more than 80 of its 357 parishes that it is in the process of closing. Development plans threaten many of the structures. In Los Angeles, Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1924 Ennis-Brown House, the last of his “textile block” designs, is crumbling, its steel reinforcing bars rusting and concrete blocks falling apart as a result of water damage, according to Trust officials. Mudslides and the 1994 Northridge earthquake have also caused extensive damage.

Elsewhere, the lone building of Indiana’s first college, Eleutherian, which was founded in 1848 and admitted students regardless of race or gender, has suffered vandalism and extensive water damage; the 1897 Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Bellair, Florida faces demolition; the Inupiat Eskimo village on Alaska's King Island is mostly deserted and collapsing; and the 141-acre Daniel Webster farm in Franklin New Hampshire is slated to become a subdivision .

Ted Smalley Bowen

 

The National Trust’s 2005 List of Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places:

  • Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Belleair, Fla.
  • Camp Security, York County, Pa.
  • Daniel Webster Farm, Franklin, N.H.
  • Eleutherian College, Madison, Ind.
  • Ennis-Brown House, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Finca Vigía: Ernest Hemingway House, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba
  • Historic Buildings of Downtown Detroit, Detroit, Mich.
  • Historic Catholic Churches of Greater Boston, Mass.
  • King Island, Alaska
  • National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), Western States
  • “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground” Corridor, VA, MD, PA

 

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