Trust: Ancestral places of SE Utah on endangered list of historic places

Cliffside dwellings are among the many sites in Southeast Utah. Many are remarkably intact, while others are threatened by the stress of excessive visitation. Requiring permits to visit limits the number of people exploring the sites at a given time, helps to curb the damage, and keep the sites intact for future research and enjoyment.
Photo courtesy of Donald J. Rommes/National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently unveiled its 2019 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, an annual list that spotlights important examples of our nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. As of this year, more than 300 places have been on the list over its 32-year history, and in that time fewer than five percent of listed sites have been lost.

The National Trust’s 32nd annual list includes a diverse mix of historic places across America facing a range of challenges and threats, from deferred maintenance to insensitive public policies to devastation wrought by natural disasters, according to a press release from the organization.

“For over 30 years, our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list has called attention to threatened one-of-a-kind treasures throughout the nation and galvanized Americans to help save them,” said Katherine Malone-France, interim chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “From the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. to one of Chicago’s best examples of post-modern architecture to the vast, largely unprotected cultural artifacts in the ancestral places of southeast Utah, this year’s list reflects both the diversity of America’s historic places and the variety of threats they face. As it has over the past three decades, we know that this year’s list will inspire people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past.”

Members of the public are invited to learn more about what they can do to support these 11 historic places, and hundreds of other endangered sites, at www.SavingPlaces.org/11Most

The 2019 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order):

  1. Ancestral places of southeast Utah. Located between two national monuments – Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients – this area of southeastern Utah is one of the most culturally rich but imperiled landscapes in America. If left unprotected, thousands of irreplaceable artifacts, some dating back 8,000 years, would remain threatened by the damaging impacts of oil and gas extraction, the organization stated in a press release.
  2. Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge. Bismarck, North Dakota. Built in 1883 using state-of-the-art construction methods, the majestic rail bridge was the first to span the Upper Missouri River. Rather than demolish the bridge as proposed, advocates believe this treasured landmark could be retained and reused as a pedestrian bridge.
  3. The Excelsior Club. Charlotte, North Carolina. A leading private social club for African Americans in the Southeast and a noted Green Book site since it opened in 1944, the club once hosted luminaries like Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong, but now needs significant repairs and could be lost unless new owners are found.
  4. Hacienda Los Torres. Lares, Puerto Rico. Built in 1846 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hacienda Los Torres helps tell the history of economic development, class conflict, and political struggle in Puerto Rico. Built at the height of Puerto Rico’s flourishing coffee industry, the structure embodies architectural characteristics, materials and craftsmanship of Puerto Rico’s 19th century coffee haciendas.
  5. Industrial Trust Company Building. Providence, Rhode Island. Dubbed the “Superman Building” due to its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from Superman comics, the iconic Art Deco tower is Rhode Island’s tallest and has been vacant for six years and has no current rehabilitation plans.
  6. James R. Thompson Center. Chicago. Chicago’s foremost example of grandly scaled post-modernism, the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center is the ‘youngest’ building ever to appear on this list and it is threatened by a sale that could lead to its demolition.
  7. Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital. Mount Vernon, Alabama. Continually occupied and in use for over 200 years as an arsenal, a prison and later a mental hospital for African Americans, this complex closed in 2012 and currently sits vacant and awaiting preservation and re-use plans.
  8. Nashville’s Music Row. Nashville. This district of late-19th century homes and small-scale commercial buildings contains more than 200 music-related businesses that have produced chart-topping recordings in multiple genres for generations. Nashville’s booming economy and Music Row’s proximity to downtown have made it a hot market for new development, resulting in 50 demolitions since 2013 and threatening the sustainability and survival of the heart and soul of Music City.
  9. National Mall Tidal Basin. Washington, D.C. The millions of tourists who throng to “America’s Front Yard” every year might not realize that it’s threatened by rising sea levels, unstable sea walls, and outdated infrastructure. It’s estimated that as much as $500 million is needed to upgrade and maintain one of the most popular and visited sites in the National Park System.
  10. Tenth Street Historic District. Dallas. One of the rare remaining Freedmen’s towns in America, this vital piece of Lone Star State history is being eroded by large numbers of demolitions.
  11. Willert Park Courts. Buffalo, New York. The first public housing project in New York State made available to African American residents and a notable example of Modern design, the historic complex is currently vacant and deteriorating but could be revitalized as much-needed affordable housing.