America's Most Endangered Places 2004

Eleven historic sites in danger of being lost forever

In a report released in late May 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.nationaltrust.org ) listed 11 historic sites across America that are in danger of being lost forever. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.

Although the listing does not mean that a site will automatically receive protection or funding, it does draw attention to the problem and helps garner support for preservation efforts. Just two months after the Zuni Salt Lake and Sanctuary Zone appeared on the 2003 list, the Board of Salt River Project voted to abandon its plans for strip mining coal from within it.

The National Trust has identified more than 160 endangered historic places since 1988. Here are the sites that were chosen for the 2004 list.

1. 2 Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y.: If a new owner carries out planned renovations, this 1964 building, designed by Edward Durell Stone, will lose the distinctive features that have made it an icon of Modernist design.

2. Ridgewood Ranch, Home of Seabiscuit, Willits, Calif.: The final home and resting place of one of America’s most famous horses, this ranch is now owned by a church association that lacks the resources to maintain it.

3. Bethlehem Steel Plant, Bethlehem, Pa.: This complex was the site of many technological advances and provided steel for some of the nation’s best-known structures, but now it lies dormant and threatened with demolition.

4. Elkmont Historic District, Great Smoky Mountains NP, Tenn.: This collection of modest wooden structures suffers from abandonment, inadequate maintenance and vandalism. Some park advocates favor demolishing the buildings—which are listed in the National Register—in order to return the land to its “natural” state.

5. Gullah/Geechee Coast, S.C. and Ga.: Long protected by its relative isolation, the area, with its distinctive culture, traditions and language, is now being overrun by sprawling new resorts, subdivisions and strip malls.

6. Tobacco Barns of Southern Maryland: A state-sponsored buyout has encouraged many farmers to abandon tobacco farming, and many historic barns have been abandoned or are being demolished.

7. Madison-Lenox Hotel, Detroit, Mich.: This 3-building complex could be rehabbed as the centerpiece of a burgeoning inner-city area, but its owner wants to demolish it for a parking lot.

8. Historic Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Ill.: The setting or inspiration for numerous films and TV shows, this historic hospital could be converted to housing and help bring vitality to its neighborhood, but it is slated for demolition at a cost to taxpayers of $30 million.

9. George Kraigher House, Brownsville, Tex.: This 1937 house by famed architect Richard Neutra has stood vacant for several years and is gradually being destroyed by weather, neglect and vandalism.

10. Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon and Duchesne counties, Utah: Sometimes called “the world’s longest art gallery” because it encompasses an estimated 10,000 petroglyphs and pictographs, this site is threatened by extensive recently approved oil and gas exploration plans.

11. The State of Vermont: 7 planned new super-stores are likely to spur additional development, sprawl, disinvestment in downtowns, the loss of locally owned businesses, and the erosion of the state’s unique sense of place.


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