A Call to Arms Transforming the Face of the Preservation Movement
Washington, D.C. (June 1, 2007) - Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has used its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places as a powerful alarm to raise awareness of the serious threats facing the nation’s greatest treasures. This year, the Trust celebrates the 20th America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list as one of the most effective tools in the fight to save the country's irreplaceable architectural, cultural and natural heritage. The list, which has identified 189 sites through 2007, has been so successful in galvanizing preservation efforts across the country and rallying resources to save one-of-a-kind landmarks that in just two decades, an astounding 52 percent of the sites have been saved and rehabilitated. While the fight is not over for many of these historic places, only 6 sites have been lost since the Trust launched the 11 Most Endangered program.
Although the 11 Most Endangered list continues to nurture its original objective of preserving iconic landmarks, the scope of the list has significantly shifted in recent years to reflect the full range of the American experience. From saving the Oldest Surviving McDonald’s® and Little Rock’s Central High School to a staircase used by survivors before the collapse of the World Trade Center and the Prairie Churches of North Dakota, the 11 Most Endangered list has expanded its scope to fight for the buildings, neighborhoods, downtowns and landscapes that link us with our past and continue to define us as Americans.
"The America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list is one of the most significant efforts of its kind and has made enormous strides in rescuing vital pieces of American history," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "But past successes are not enough. Even though we celebrate these victories, important historic sites are still in danger. We must continue to protect these treasures as they are the symbols of our collective national spirit. Without them, critical chapters in our national story will be permanently erased."
Issued annually, the 11 Most Endangered list has identified to date 189 buildings, sites and landscapes across the country at critical risk from neglect, deterioration, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. Whether urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list has focused a spotlight on the vast richness of the nation's historic resources and the issues that continue to threaten them. At times, such attention has garnered public support to quickly rescue a treasured landmark; while in other instances, it has been the impetus of a long battle to save an important piece of American history. The enduring success of the 11 Most Endangered list has provided an effective roadmap for advocacy, bolstering local efforts to revitalize neighborhoods, spark economic development and save sites that illustrate the nation’s history. Many states now publish their own lists of endangered historic places.
Some previous 11 Most Endangered listings have been named because of their undisputed national significance, while others have been included for their role in a distinctive cultural tradition, their rare architectural design, or as the last surviving example of a style or building type. Although listing does not guarantee financial support from the National Trust increased public awareness aids fundraising and frequently generates important technical and institutional support. If the 11 Most Endangered list succeeds in its purpose, a listed site's "endangered" status will be temporary.
Examples of significant saves, losses and sites still-endangered places include:
Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel, New Castle, N.H. (Listed in 1996): Since 1874, Wentworth-by-the Sea has stood as a landmark hotel, commanding post-card perfect views of the Atlantic Ocean. For more than a century, it hosted everyone from vacationing movie stars to middle-class families and even foreign diplomats negotiating world-peace. By the 1980s however, after the hotel had been in the hands of multiple owners, it was forced to close its doors. It sat vacant for years and twice faced demolition. After appearing on the 11 Most list in 1996, the Friends of Wentworth succeeded in finding a preservation-minded developer to purchase the Victorian seaside hotel for renovation. The National Trust's Northeast Office helped the developer, Ocean Properties, secure key financial assistance from several state agencies. In mid-May 2003, the Wentworth by the Sea - restored to its glamorous Victorian style décor - reopened. Today, it is a premier Marriott destination hotel and spa and a member of National Trust Historic Hotels of America.
Virginia City, Mont. (Listed in 1992, 1993, 1994): The western frontier boomtown where Montana's first newspaper was founded, Virginia City declined when the gold rush ended, and its population dropped from 2,500 residents to 150. The town’s small Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and Italianate buildings remained largely intact due to the preservation efforts of a Montana family - Charles and Sue Bovey - but the National Historic Landmark structures were still at risk because of limited financial and technical resources. After working for seven years to find a long term steward to protect the historic buildings and artifacts in Virginia City, the National Trust partnered with the Montana Preservation Alliance to convince the Montana Legislature to purchase these properties from the Bovey family. Today, Virginia City is managed by the Montana Heritage Commission, which has raised private and public funds to restore 248 historic structures and provide curatorial facilities for more than one million artifacts.
Cathedral of St. Vibiana, Los Angeles, Calif. (Listed in 1997): St. Vibiana's Catholic Cathedral is one of Los Angeles' most important 19th century structures. Completed in 1876, the Baroque-inspired Italianate structure was a stunning piece of architecture for a city still emerging from its pueblo origins. The cathedral is one of the last buildings from the late 19th century still standing in Los Angeles. In the early 1990s, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced plans to demolish St. Vibiana and construct a new cathedral on the same site. Matters worsened when the building suffered damage in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, and in 1996 the Archdiocese began demolishing St. Vibiana without permits.
After two successful lawsuits to stop demolition of St. Vibiana by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Cathedral property was purchased by a developer with plans to reuse the Cathedral as a performing arts center. The purchase was made possible by a land swap agreement worked out between the City of Los Angeles and the Archdiocese which gave the church an alternate site for construction of a new cathedral. Adaptive reuse design work commenced on the site in 2003. The former St. Vibiana Cathedral is now open and operating as Vibiana, a venue for performing arts, art installations, weddings, and other public events.
Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii (Listed in 2001): Ford Island is the centerpiece of the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark District. Remnants of bomb craters and signs of the Japanese aircraft's strafing runs are still visible on the island. The original airfield, air tower, World War II hangars, a collection of bungalows, officers' housing, and landscaping with mature Banyan trees remain on the site. In 1999 the National Trust and the Historic Hawaii Foundation learned that the Navy planned to construct a major housing complex, a festival market place, and recreational marina on Ford Island. Despite the concerns raised by preservation organizations, the Navy decided early in 2001 to solicit proposals for several major development initiatives for Ford Island - proposals that could dramatically change the historic face of the island. The National Trust's Western Office, in partnership with Historic Hawai'i Foundation, assembled a Heritage Advisory Team to advise the Navy in prioritizing preservation sites on Ford Island. In April 2002, the Navy struck a compromise in its plan to consolidate facilities by redeveloping Ford Island and adding new housing, office space, and visitor attractions to the historic World War II property. However, the historic character of large portions of Ford Island is still threatened by insensitive development, including radical re-grading, removal of large expanses of concrete from historic aviation and other work areas, as well as partial or total destruction of features such as compass roses and newly-discovered gun emplacements. The National Trust is continuing to work with the Navy to maximize preservation on Ford Island and reduce impacts from new development.
Nine Mile Canyon, Utah (Listed in 2004): Located in a remote part of Utah, Nine Mile Canyon is often called "the world's longest art gallery" as it contains more than 10,000 images carved onto canyon walls by Native Americans. The canyon also contains many historic sites - including stagecoach stations, settlers' cabins, ranches, and iron telegraph poles installed by the famed 19th-century Buffalo Soldiers. This historic canyon is under increasing pressure from tourism, recreation, and energy development that threaten its significant prehistoric and historic resources. In addition, lack of funding still inhibits effective law enforcement in the area where a single ranger is responsible for patrolling more than a million acres.
Teardowns in Historic Neighborhoods (Listed in 2002): Across the nation a teardown epidemic is wiping out historic neighborhoods one house at a time. As older homes are demolished and replaced with dramatically larger, out-of-scale new structures, the historic character of the existing neighborhood is lost. Neighborhood livability is diminished as trees are removed, backyards are eliminated, and sunlight is blocked by towering new structures built up to the property lines. Community economic and social diversity is reduced as new mansions replace affordable homes. House by house, neighborhoods are losing a part of their historic fabric and much of their character. To help, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched the online Teardowns Resource Guide in 2006 at www.nationaltrust.org/teardowns/.
Kenilworth, Ill. was recognized by the National Trust in 2006 as one of the more than 300 communities in 33 states the National Trust has documented as struggling to retain their historic community character when threatened by teardowns.
Mapes Hotel, Reno, Nev. (Listed in 1998): When the Mapes Hotel and Casino opened for business on December 17, 1947, it was the first establishment in the nation to offer luxurious accommodations, fine dining, gambling, and entertainment under one roof. The Art Deco high-rise was a show-biz hangout - celebrities including Tony Bennett, Marilyn Monroe and Sammy Davis, Jr. all played there while local residents clamored to book the hotel for weddings and proms. The hotel was forced to close its doors in 1982, falling victim to changing times and taste. In 1996, the Reno Redevelopment Agency acquired the property and began seeking developers to refurbish and save the Mapes. However, a developer, who could make the project financially viable, was never secured. After a long battle, Reno’s city council voted to destroy the Mapes Hotel. On Super Bowl Sunday, January 30, 2000, the Reno landmark was imploded, becoming the first-ever 11 Most site to be demolished. The loss of the Mapes galvanized a heightened interest in historic preservation in Reno and throughout the state. The central riverfront site where the Mapes once stood now hosts a civic plaza with an outdoor ice rink and theater stage. The history of the site is interpreted through a permanent historic display on the plaza.
For more information on the current status of all the 11 Most sites, please visit http://www.nationaltrust.org/11Most/list.asp.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the irreplaceable. Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Trust was founded in 1949 and provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize communities. Its Washington, DC headquarters staff, six regional offices and 28 historic sites work with the Trust’s 270,000 members and thousands of local community groups in all 50 states. For more information, visit the Trust’s web site at www.nationaltrust.org.