America's Most Endangered Places 2010
Metropolitan AME Church in Washington D.C. is among American sites most at risk
by Dana J. Quigley
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 2010.
1. America's State Parks and State-Owned Historic Sites, Nationwide
All of America's parks and state-owned historic sites are at risk of neglect and will likely deteriorate over the coming years. Due to the tight economy, countrywide budget cuts have reduced the available funds to maintain state parks and historic sites. The national system of sites and parks see about 725 million visitors per year; it is estimated that around 400 parks may be forced to shut down, which will inevitably affect millions of Americans. In the end, states will have to spend more money to re-open parks because of neglect, which may permanently result in their closures.
2. Black Mountain, Lynch & Benham, Kentucky
Originally settled by coal companies in the early 20th-century, the towns of Lynch and Benham have tried to break away from their coal-mining past for several decades. Currently, Black Mountain faces a resurgence of mining expenditures that threaten both the physical and financial well-being of the towns due to pollution. It is believed that mining Black Mountain will threaten the area's delicate ecosystem and possibly disrupt the black bear population and over 50 species of rare plants.
3. Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson, New Jersey
Known as the site where Hall of Famer Larry Dobby tried out to become the first African American to play for the American League, Hinchliffe Stadium has become a site of squalor and neglect. Hinchliffe is one of three remaining Negro League stadiums and has been closed since 1997. Owned by the Paterson Public Schools, there are currently no funds available to maintain the 10,000-seat stadium, never mind reopen it. Aside from the damage caused by nature, vandals, vagrants, and other malefactors have also sullied the stadium's structure and reputation.
4. Industrial Arts Building, Lincoln, Nebraska
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2010, this 98-year-old building faces imminent demolition earlier in the year. For nearly a century, the building has hosted a number of important occupants and operations. This red brick trapezoidal building once housed the Lincoln Stand Aircraft Company, which assembled the first plane flown by Charles Lindbergh.
5. Juana Briones House, Palo Alto, California
Threatened by demolition, the house used to be the center of a 4,400-acre ranch owned by Juana Briones, a successful businesswoman from the mid-nineteenth century. Home to one of the earliest female landowners in California's history, the building is believed to contain remnants from the original 1844 structure. An ongoing battle between the current owners and preservationists continues and will ultimately with the buildings restoration or destruction.
6. Merritt Parkway, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Any one of the 66 intricately designed bridges along the 37.5-mile parkway would be worth individually saving, but "The Gateway to New England" is threatened by lack of preservation and maintenance. In addition to this, the Connecticut State Department of Transportation plans to alter the parkway in order to accommodate a growing population. The redesign and bridge replacement will significantly change the parkway's surroundings and destroy what was once a gem of the City Beautiful Movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
7. Metropolitan AME Church, Washington, District of Columbia
Home to a congregation formed by enslaved and free African Americans in 1821, Metropolitan AME Church has remained a symbol of religious, intellectual, cultural, and civic power since its completion in 1866. The stain glass structure has been home to a plethora of events, such as the funeral of Frederick Douglass in 1895 and was the first African American institution to host a presidential inauguration; President William Clinton was inaugurated at the Metropolitan AME Church for both of his terms. Approximately $11 million dollars is needed to renovate the large redbrick building and make important structural repairs to damage caused by water and general deterioration.
8. Pågat, Yigo, Guam
As one of the best Chamorro settlements remaining in Guam, Pågat is both culturally and historically significant. Thousand-year-old traditions are still practiced by natives at Pågat and the site is renowned for its underwater caves and natural beauty. Pågat is most threatened by the U.S. Department of Defense's plan to build a military complex in the area. The military base would likely destroy the ecosystem of Pågat and jeopardize thousands of years of Chamorro history. Aside from the damage to Pågat itself, the expected construction of a deep-draft wharf will likely kill a 71-acre coral reef near Pågat's shore. Advocates for Pågat's preservation are leading a lengthy and costly battle to halt any development by the Department of Defense.
9. Saugatuck Dunes, Saugatuck Dunes, Michigan
The beautiful Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Area remains partially developed and is home to several endangered species, archeological and historic sites, and astonishing landscapes. Saugatuck has previously been named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of twelve distinct destinations. The 2,500 acre is threatened by the proposed construction of a 400-acre residential development. Said development is currently illegal under Saugatuck's zoning laws and would possibly destroy the local economy and atmosphere. Townspeople have led a costly battle against Singapore Dunes LLC, the company that acquired the land from a private owner, to preserve the picturesque beauty of the dunes.
10. Threefoot Building, Meridian, Mississippi
Once the tallest building in Mississippi, this 16-story skyscraper faces demolition due to extreme deterioration and neglect. Built during the roaring 20s and opened at the onset of the Great Depression, the granite and polychrome terra cotta-clad Threefoot Building was in use for nearly 70 years until it closed in 2000. Though the handsome interior is comprised of marble flooring, bronze elevator doors, and other ordinate features, most of the building is simply falling apart and borders on complete disrepair. If a developer does not step forward to renovate this iconic landmark, it will be lost to the landfill.
11. Wilderness Battlefield, Orange & Spotsylvania Counties, Virginia
Remembered as the spot of the first clash between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, Wilderness Battlefield may become a casualty to development. Though acknowledged for its historical importance, only 14% of the battlefield is protected, the rest of the battlefield may become part of a 51-acre, Walmart-owned development site. The Battle of the Wilderness is recognized as a significant turning point in the Civil War and the entirety of the battlefield should be preserved, especially since it lies next to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Though it has faced many lawsuits and pressure from national advocacy groups, Walmart refuses to consider other possible locations for its development.