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11 preservation success stories from the National Trust

The annual endangered list has spurred action and helped threatened historic properties thrive

Governors Island
Once the nation’s oldest continuously used military post, Governors Island has been transformed from an underused historic property into an active and engaging park.
Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation

Historic preservation, which can seem like its standing astride history and working against the forces of development, can be a challenging endeavor. Even the most historic or architecturally significant spaces still need a champion, Perhaps that’s why, for the 30th anniversary of its endangered places program, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has decided to celebrate three decades of victories.

While big losses for preservation reverberate loudly, the program has had a remarkable run, chalking up a long list of victories and saving dozens of key buildings, cultural sites, and public spaces. Of the more than 300 places the Trust has decided to shine a spotlight on since 1988, less than five percent have been lost. The added attention from the Trust has galvanized local, state, and even national officials to protect and preserve these sites, as well as the important history attached.

Here are 11 examples showing how this program has served as a rallying cry, bringing widespread public attention to important historical structures.

Angel Island Immigration Station Andy Rusch

Angel Island Immigration Station ( San Francisco, California)

A point of entry to the U.S. for immigrants from eighty countries across the Pacific Rim between 1910 and 1940, but abandoned since World War II, the remaining buildings of the Immigration Station were scheduled to be torn down until park ranger Alexander Weiss re-discovered writings on the walls, carved by Chinese detainees, inaugurating a long-term grassroots preservation effort. It was listed in 1999.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Antietam National Battlefield (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

One of the most significant events in American military history, the Battle of Antietam influenced the outcome of the Civil War and immediately led President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The site was first listed in 1988 in response to a flawed proposal to construct a shopping center and other buildings on battlefield land, which helped to galvanize support and action by local, state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Cathedral of St. Vibiana (Los Angeles, California)

Opened in 1876 following five years of construction, the Cathedral endured until 1995, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles began to move ahead with plans to demolish it. Listed in 1997, the successful fight to save the then-Cathedral of St. Vibiana was an important moment for Los Angeles preservationists.

Governors Island Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp.

Governors Island (New York City, New York)

Once the nation’s oldest continuously used military post, Governors Island played roles in several eras of American history until 1995, when the military left and the Island faced an uncertain future. Listed in 1998, Governors Island has been transformed from an underused historic property into an active park boasting an exciting, engineered landscape.

Boston Theaters National Trust for Historic Preservation

Historic Boston Theaters (Boston, Massachusetts)

Once lavish palaces, the Boston Opera House, Paramount Theatre and Modern Theater had fallen into disrepair when they were listed in 1995. The listing led to the late Mayor Thomas Menino and city agencies to develop a network of partnerships to rehabilitate the theaters and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.

Little Rock Central High School Carol Highsmith

Little Rock Central High School (Little Rock, Arkansas)

When listed in 1996, the school that had been at the center of the nation’s school desegregation debate was suffering from deterioration. Still in operation as a public high school, it has also been established by Congress as the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site that teaches visitors about our nation’s ongoing struggle to achieve civil rights for all.

Nine Mile Canyon National Trust for Historic Preservation

Nine Mile Canyon (Utah)

The ‘world’s longest art gallery’ contains thousands of ancient Native American cultural resources. When listed in 2004, truck-traffic, dust and chemical dust-suppressant were damaging these irreplaceable treasures. Paving the Canyon road has alleviated this threat, and also made its vast cultural resources more accessible to visitors.

Penn School Bill Fitzpatrick

Penn School (Frogmore, South Carolina)

Founded in 1862, the Penn School was one of the first schools in the South for freed slaves, operating until the post-World War II years when many students left and the school eventually closed and was deteriorating. After being named to the 11 Most list in 1990, several campus buildings have been restored and the renamed Penn Center has become a leader in cultural preservation. President Obama recognized the site in 2017, including it as part of the Reconstruction Era National Monument

President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home Erica Abbey

President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home (Washington, D.C.)

Since being named to the List in 2000, President Lincoln’s Cottage has transformed from a threatened site to one of the most visited places in Washington, which serves as a gathering place for discussion and education.

Statler Hilton Hotel Michael Cagle

Statler Hilton Hotel (Dallas, Texas)

A Modernist crown jewel designed by architect RIchard Tabler, and a center of community life in Dallas for decades, when listed in 2008 the Statler had fallen into disrepair and faced calls for its demolition. Now set to reopen, the Statler Hilton is a poster child for the power of the historic tax credit and the ways that older and historic buildings can contribute to the vibrancy of their communities.

Travelers’ Rest Travelers’ Rest State Park

Travelers’ Rest (Travelers’ Rest, Montana)

The only place where archaeological evidence of a Lewis and Clark encampment can be found, this historic site was threatened by development. The 1999 11 Most listing helped spur action to protect the landscape as a state park.