America's Most Endangered Places 2007
Brooklyn's Industrial Waterfront among American sites most at risk
by Mark Zurlo
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 2007.
1. Brooklyn's Industrial Waterfront, New York, N.Y.
No city has defined America's blue-collar work ethic quite like Brooklyn, New York. The Borough, once the manufacturing heart of the city, has seen industrial activity on its once bustling waterfront steadily decline over the past 50 years. This has left thousands of abandoned factories and warehouses in an area that is experiencing unprecedented residential growth. While historic buildings in other parts of the city have been converted into living space, the waterfront area has been rezoned in a way that makes it easier and more lucrative for developers to demolish these landmarks and construct new high-rise buildings.
2. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, Northern New Mexico
This historic trail, which begins in El Paso, Texas, and continues well into New Mexico, remains largely unaffected by human development and serves as a valuable artifact of the Colonial Spanish period in the Southwest. However, plans to build a $225 million commercial Spaceport, an area extremely large area from which rockets be sent into space, endanger this seemingly perfect nature preserve. While it is unlikely the site can remain in its current pristine state forever, responsible development that respects the trail must be stressed to developers who wish to build on the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail.
3. H.H. Richardson House, Brookline, Massachusetts
Located in the Green Hill National Historic District just outside Boston, the home of famed American architect H.H. Richardson could become the victim of tear-down efforts if a preservation-minded buyer is not found in the near future. Richardson, who is the only American to have an architectural style named after him ("Richardsonian Romaneque"), applied many of his inventive styles to his own home. The house has not been well maintained, leading to some damage, which could easily be repaired should a new owner wish to preserve the house.
4. Hialeah Park Race Course, Hialeah, Florida
Once a popular destination for the country's top thoroughbreds, as well as dignitaries including Winston Churchill and Harry Truman, Hialeah Park Race Course now faces destruction at the hands of a giant apartment and retail complex. The course is known for its distinct beauty and the large flock of flamingoes that call it home. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, but was closed to the public in 2001. The current owner has proposed building 3,700 apartment units, a mall, and office space on the site. The course has the potential to serve as a beautiful public park that could preserve the track's history, but this is unlikely to happen without a large amount of public support for such a plan.
5. Historic Places in Transmission Line Corridors
A 2005 provision of the Energy Policy Act allowed the U.S. Department of Energy to designate select areas as National Interest Energy Transmission Corridors. Within these areas, high voltage transmission lines can be constructed without the local or environmental approval that is normally required. The mid-Atlantic region is most affected by this piece of legislation, with areas of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware designated as transmission corridors. The National Park Service reports that 55 national parks and 14 heritage areas could be affected by unsightly power lines within this region. The problem highlights the need for development of more sustainable forms of energy, such as solar power, which does not require such transmission techniques.
6. Historic Route 66 Motels, Illinois to California
In recent years, Route 66 has enjoyed increased interest from both tourists and historians alike. The road, which stretches from Lake Michigan to Santa Monica, served as the main artery for cross-country transportation prior to the creation of the interstate system and still symbolizes the freedom of the open road to many. Hundreds of the motels that sprung up along the route following the 1920s, however, have been long abandoned and neglected. In some areas, many of these motels are being torn down to make way for new developments, while other areas, are simply being left to deteriorate. Updating these structures could help preserve the historic image of Route 66 for years to come.
7. Historic Structures in Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri
Located in southern Missouri, the 1.5-million-acre Mark Twain National Forest is home to hundreds of New Deal-era buildings, as well as remnants of early architecture that display the area's frontier heritage. The forest's infrastructure, which helps visitors access the park's breathtaking views and the Ozark Trail, was constructed mainly by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The Forest's Facilities Master Plan, which was created in 2005 without involvement from the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, marked 70 different structures within the forest for destruction to make way for new developments. Many of these buildings could easily be preserved as lodging for the many visitors to the park, an idea the public and environmental groups have presented to park management.
8. Minidoka Internment National Monument, Hunt, Idaho
This Idaho site was once home to 600 different buildings and as many as 10,000 Japanese-American internees during World War II. The American government maintained such camps out of fear that these immigrants may still be loyal to the Japanese government, then a dangerous foe. Today, only a National Monument with no visitor services stands as a reminder to the suffering these citizens faced at the hands of the government. While the site could be a valuable tool to educate the public about these camps, construction of a large dairy heifer replacement facility has been proposed just a mile away. Such a facility would house a feeding operation that would be home to 13,000 different farm animals and would most certainly reduce the positive impact the Minidoka Internment National Monument site could have.
9. Philip Simmons Workshop and Home, Charleston, South Carolina
For the past 80 years, Philip Simmons has served as Charleston's best known blacksmith, creating thousands of pieces of ornamental ironwork that can now be found at homes across the city. His workshop, however, has begun to decay, and it is likely that in order to preserve the site, it must be purchased from the 95-year-old Simmons and protected from the elements.
10. Piñon Canyon, Colorado
Beginning in 1821, the Santa Fe Trail became one of the country's most traveled routes, aiding in trade as well as in western exploration and expansion for more than 60 years. The trail stretches from Missouri to New Mexico and today is surrounded by millions of acres of agricultural land. The land, especially the portions in Colorado, has come under attack from developers. The latest major threat comes from a proposed 408,000 acre expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, a military base originally constructed in 1983. While the majority of Colorado residents are strongly opposed to the expansion, political action will be required to ensure that Piñon Canyon amd the Santa Fe Trail does not fall victim to further development.
11. Stewart's Point Rancheria, Sonoma County, California
In 1996, the Uniteds States government began providing tribal governments across the country with annual appropriations of $80,000. That year, 12 tribes were allocated such funds. By 2008, there will be 66 tribes eligible for funding, and the appropriation per tribe will have shrunk to $45,000. One tribe that has been especially hard hit by such reductions is the Kashia Pomo Tribe of Northern California. Unable to maintain many of its important buildings, theft has become a serious problem, and many important artifacts, some of which are centuries old, have been stolen. Greater funding is required if these tribes hope to preserve their rich past and share their heritage with future generations.