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National Trust Announces 11 Most Endangered Sites

May 21, 2008

By David Sokol

On Tuesday the National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled its 2008 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The private, nonprofit organization has released the list annually since 1988 to galvanize preservationists and community members to save threatened buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes. The effort has been mostly successful: only six of the 200 total identified sites have been lost so far.

This year’s sites are a diverse collection, ranging from Art Deco treasures to a Modernist hotel. They are as follows:

  • The Boyd Theatre; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • California’s State Parks
  • Charity Hospital and surrounding neighborhood; New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Great Falls Portage; Great Falls, Montana
  • Hangar One, Moffett Field (former Naval Air Station); Santa Clara County, California
  • The Lower East Side; New York, New York
  • Michigan Avenue Streetwall; Chicago, Illinois
  • Front Park, Prospect Hill, and Columbus Park neighborhoods; Buffalo, New York
  • Statler Hilton Hotel; Dallas, Texas
  • Sumner Elementary School; Topeka, Kansas
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and Bonnet House Museum and Gardens; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Statler Hilton Hotel

Photo © Jason Grant

The interior of the Statler Hilton Hotel in Dallas, Texas, is falling into disrepair.

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These endangered places face a range of threats. The Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia’s last Art Deco movie palace, suffers from neglect, for example. The building, which has no preservation easement or landmark status, has been vacant since 2002, and adaptive reuse plans were halted when ownership of the property changed hands. Several parties are looking for a buyer. Similarly, Sumner Elementary School, the centerpiece of the landmark 1954 civil rights court case Brown v. Board of Education, has suffered from water infiltration, neglect, and vandalism since its closing in 1996. And Charity Hospital was shuttered after incurring water damage from Hurricane Katrina, and may be abandoned for good by the Louisiana State University Medical System.

Other sites on the 2008 list are victims of preservation’s success. While the rich architectural and cultural fabric of Manhattan’s Lower East Side has attracted a new wave of residents, the phenomenon is accompanied by large-scale speculative developments that are disjunctive with the neighborhood’s historic character. High-rises also threaten to overshadow two historic house museums, Vizcaya and Bonnet House, in southern Florida. And in Chicago, out-of-scale expansion and redevelopment along 12 blocks of Michigan Avenue make a mockery of historic buildings and their preserved facades—and the local landmark ordinance intended to protect them, claims the Trust.

There’s one site that can be filed under both categories of threat: the Statler Hilton Hotel, the only mid-century Modernist building on the list. Designed by William Tabler and completed in 1956, the 1,000-room hotel featured state-of-the-art technologies when it opened, such as a rooftop swimming pool, a glass-and-porcelain-coated steel curtain wall, and 21-inch televisions in every room. But encroaching development suggests that the Statler, vacated five years ago, could be torn down. “The Statler Hilton Hotel is a reminder that landmarks of Modernism and the recent past play an important role in telling the story of the 20th century,” explains the Trust’s president Richard Moe. “It would be tragic to lose places that were designed and built during our own lifetime just as we’re beginning to acknowledge their importance as part of our history.”

To learn more about the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and efforts to save them, go to http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/11-most-endangered/.

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