Historic preservation often gets covered as a local story. But with today’s release of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, an annual designation by the National Trust for Historic Preservation designed to save threatened landmarks, the spotlight on special buildings, monuments, and civic space underscore the full scope of the nation’s architectural, cultural, and artistic history.
This year’s list offers an eclectic array of place, from ancestral Native American landscapes in Utah to postmodern architectural marvels in Chicago, as well as rare and vital buildings tracing the history of black Americans (a particular focus of the Trust). The most nationally recognized places in this year’s class—the cherry tree-lined National Mall Tidal Basin in D.C. and Nashville’s Music Row, a font of creativity and country music—underscore how two forces, increased development and climate change, will continue to put some of our most precious places at risk.
Some of these sites face more immediate risks than others, including Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center, which the Illinois Governor plans to sell later this year. Earning this designation, however, has proven to be a good omen for threatened buildings, directing national attention and resources towards preservation and adaptive reuse. In the 32-year history of the list, more than 300 places have been highlighted, and only five percent have been lost.
Here’s a look at the 11 sites highlighted by the National Trust, and the organization’s reasons for listing these particular sites.
Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah
Located between two national monuments—Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients—this area of Southeast 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.
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 re-used as a pedestrian bridge.
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.
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.
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—Rhode Island’s tallest—has been vacant for six years and has no current rehabilitation plans.
James R. Thompson Center (Chicago, Illinois)
Chicago’s foremost example of grandly scaled Post-Modernism, the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center—the ‘youngest’ building ever to appear on this list—is threatened by a sale that could lead to its demolition.
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.
Nashville’s Music Row (Nashville, Tennessee)
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.
National Mall Tidal Basin (Washington, D.C.)
The millions of tourists who throng to “America’s Front Yard” every year may 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.
Tenth Street Historic District (Dallas, Texas)
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.
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.