America's Most Endangered Places 2009
Mount Taylor in Grants, New Mexico is among American sites most at risk
by Elizabeth Olson
Each year since 1998, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.nationaltrust.org) has released a list of 11 historic sites across the country that are in danger of being lost forever. Inclusion on the list does not guarantee a site's survival, but it does generate publicity for the locations and in many cases leads to increased conservation efforts. Here are the sites that were selected in 2009.
1. Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, California
Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who later designed the Twin Towers in New York City, this bow-shaped hotel opened in Los Angeles in 1966. The Century Plaza Hotel is in excellent condition after undergoing $36 million in renovations. According to the National Trust, the energy represented in the Century Plaza equals 167,000 barrels of oil. Those resources could be totally wasted if this landmark is razed by its new owners, who plan to replace it with two "environmentally sensitive" towers.
2. Miami Marine Stadium, Miami, Florida
Miami Marine Stadium, a landmark in southern Florida, has been an object of desire for many developers since 1992 when it closed due to damage from Hurricane Andrew. Over the past 17 years, Miami Marine Stadium has deteriorated due to vandalism and neglect. Completed in 1963, the 6,566-seat stadium, which was designed by Hilario Candela and built entirely of concrete, is an icon of modern design.
3. Dorchester Academy, Midway, Georgia
Dorchester Academy started as a one-room schoolhouse for freed slaves in 1868. It was established as one of the first African-American schools in 1871, educating students of all ages. In 1940, the school closed and became the site of African-American voter registration and an important training site for leaders of the civil rights movement. Today, the only remaining building is a former boys' dormitory built in 1934, which is deteriorating. Presently, there are not enough funds for restoration.
4. Lanai City, Hawaii
Lanai City was built by James Dole, creator of the Dole food empire, in the 1920s. It is located on Lanai island, one of the more secluded and less developed main islands of Hawaii. Lanai island is also known as "Pineapple Isle" due to its pineapple plantations. Lanai City is the only intact plantation town in Hawaii, but it is now threatened by commercial development.
5. Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois
Unity Temple was completed in 1909 for a Unitarian congregation in Oak Park, Illinois. Designed by a church member, Frank Lloyd Wright, it is an icon of modern architecture, and widely regarded as one of his greatest accomplishments. Today, Unity Temple is in danger due to structural damage caused by years of water infiltration. The estimated cost of repairs is $20 to $25 million.
6. Ames Shovel Shops, Easton, Massachusetts
Located in southeastern Massachusetts, the Ames Shovel Shops compound is a 19th century industrial village. The site is an important piece of America's industrial history; the iron shovels produced there were fundamental in events such as the California Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the Transatlantic Railroad. Numerous buildings in the historic village are now threatened by development plans to build a new affordable housing complex on site.
7. Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine
Spanning the Piscataqua River, Memorial Bridge was the first major vertical lift bridge built in the eastern United States. Connecting the two coastal towns of Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, its twin towers and wood-floored pedestrian walkway has been a national landmark for more than 85 years. However, deterioration from postponed maintenance and budget issues has endangered Memorial Bridge and may result in its removal.
8. Mount Taylor, Grants, New Mexico
Visible from 100 miles away, Mount Taylor's beautiful 12,000-foot peak is a sacred pilgrimage destination for over 30 Native American tribes. Mount Taylor was originally named by the Acoma people as Kaweshtima, or "place of snow." Mount Taylor is a significant part of Acoma culture and a National Trust Historic Site, and sits on top of large uranium reserves. Today, potential mining exploration threatens its future existence and by extension, the survival of the Acoma people.
9. Human Services Center, Yankton, South Dakota
An important collection of buildings in the history South Dakota, the Human Services Center in Yankton, is the oldest public institution in the state. Originally a hospital for the insane, it was built by Dr. Leonard Mead. Dr. Mead created an aesthetically pleasing college-like campus that was meant to be therapeutic for its patients; one of the first mental institutions of its kind. Today, the 11 historic buildings that comprise the campus are uninhabited and in danger of being demolished by the state.
10. Cast-Iron Architecture of Galveston, Texas
In Sept. 2008, the town of Galveston, Texas was hit by Hurricane Ike and the ensuing floods caused extensive damage to its cast-iron architecture. The town's 12-block center is one of the country's largest collections of historic commercial buildings in the country and a National Historic Landmark District. The buildings and storefronts were constructed in the late 19th century with elaborate Greek revival and Italianate designs. The water from Hurricane Ike destroyed many of the buildings, however, and without flood insurance many storeowners cannot complete necessary repairs.
11. The Manhattan Project's Enola Gay Hangar, Utah
Located 100 miles west of Salt Lake City, the Wendover Air Force Base played an important part in the Manhattan Project. The Wendover hangar was once home to the Enola Gay, the B-29 airplane that carried the first atomic bomb to Hiroshima, Japan. Although the Enola Gay was fully restored for the National Air and Space Museum, the Wendover hangar suffered severe deterioration after the Air Force base closed in 1969.