The annual release of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered list offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on local preservation battles. This year, it also shows the variety and fragility of the national story, and the variety of ways that these important locations and homes can be put at risk.
The 2018 list covers a multitude of sites, from iconic American treasures such as Mount Vernon and even the roadside attractions that lined Route 66 to lesser-known but still vital homes of pioneering doctors and community. From docks to downtowns, these eclectic locations help underscore the variety in our national narrative.
They also show the variety of risks that can rob us of our heritage, from encroaching development to hurricanes and storms. Some sites have been ignored and require patronage and preservation, while others—such as Route 66—just require additional government action to realize a unique preservation opportunity. Thankfully, inclusion on the list has typically been a huge asset, as only a few of the roughly 300 sites listed have been lost.
Annapolis’ City Dock Area (Annapolis, Maryland)
A proposal to re-zone portions of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District—one of the most historic coastal areas in the United States—would overturn almost half a century of preservation laws and policies, all while damaging the heritage tourism economy and incredible views.
Ashley River Historic District (Charleston County, South Carolina)
By providing a physical history of economic development in the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Ashley River Historic District, spread across five counties, showcases the state’s cultural heritage. A current annexation proposal could lead to zoning changes, intensive development, and irreparable damage to the landscape.
Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital (Walthill, Nebraska)
Named after the first Native American licensed to practice medicine in the United States—she was inspired when she watched a Native woman die as a white doctor ignored her pleas for care—Memorial Hospital is considered the first such building constructed on an Indian reservation with federal money. Its currently unoccupied and faces an uncertain future without a new owner.
Historic Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
In addition to the loss of thousands of lives, last year’s hurricanes also did extensive damage to Caribbean cultural resources and historic homes. With another hurricane season already here, recovery efforts for properties in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been severely challenged by financial constraints and a lack of trained staff and materials.
Isaiah T. Montgomery House (Mound Bayou, Mississippi)
Established by Isaiah T. Montgomery, a former slave, Mound Bayou was one of the first all-black municipalities in the Mississippi Delta following the Civil War. Today, Montgomery’s home is in urgent need of stabilization and rehabilitation.
Larimer Square (Denver, Colorado)
For decades, Denver’s first historic district has been a vital commercial area and a national model for the potential of adaptive reuse and historic preservation. Now, a development proposal that calls for partial demolition of several buildings, the potential construction of two towers, and weakening the ordinance that has long protected the famous square’s character threatens this important site.
Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
Widely considered the oldest houses built by African Americans in Connecticut, the Freeman Houses, part of the city’s Little Liberia neighborhood and built before the state abolished slavery, still stand on their original foundation. Currently vacant and badly deteriorating, they are in need of protection so they can continue to tell the story of the free black community in the North prior to the Civil War.
Mount Vernon & Piscataway National Park (Mount Vernon, Virginia and Accokeek, Maryland)
Dominion Energy has proposed constructing a gas compressor station across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon and directly adjacent to Piscataway National Park. This project has the potential to negatively impact the historic viewshed of Mount Vernon and natural beauty of Piscataway National Park.
Route 66 (Multiple States)
Known as America’s “Mother Road,” Route 66 is an internationally significant symbol of our nation’s romance with cars, neon, and the open road. While Congress has taken important steps to designate Route 66 a permanent National Historic Trail, the Senate and president must take legislation must take action on the proposal before the end of 2018.
Ship on the Desert (Salt Flat, Texas)
Built in 1945 within Guadalupe Mountains National Park, this early Modernist house has suffered from deferred maintenance and is not currently open to the public.
Walkout Schools of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
These five historic campuses played key roles in the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts, which kickstarted the national Chicano Civil Rights Movement. These symbols of student activism face calls for demolition by the LA school district. The schools include: James A. Garfield High School; Theodore Roosevelt High School; Abraham Lincoln High School; Belmont High School; and El Sereno Middle School (formerly Woodrow Wilson High School).
Watch status site: Four Towns of Vermont’s Upper Valley (Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge, Vermont)
A development proposal calling for the construction of a new planned community in this rural corner of Vermont would permanently alter these four historic towns.