Publication Date

December 1, 1997

In June, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued its annual list of the United States's "11 Most Endangered Historic Places." This year's listing includes such noteworthy sites as Ellis Island, point of entry into the United States for 12 million immigrants; Congressional Cemetery, the final resting place of J. Edgar Hoover and John Philip Sousa; and the Vicksburg Campaign Trail in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The sites were chosen by the trust to illustrate highly significant symbols of American heritage currently threatened by neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy.

"This list is a wake-up call to Americans," said National Trust President Richard Moe. 'We cannot take our past for granted. Once these links are gone, they cannot be replaced. It is up to us as individuals and as a nation to identify the places that make our communities special and preserve them for future generations."

The trust first issued the list in 1988. Among the sites which have been included in past lists are Thomas Edison's Invention Factory, Independence Hall, and Little Rock's Central High School.

"Every community has landmarks that represent an important part of their experience and need to be saved," said Moe. "The list is issued each year as a call to action to save the 11 listed sites and the hundreds of other historic places around the country that also face uncertain futures."

The 11 sites on the 1997 list are:

  • Ellis Island National Monument, New York Harbor. Despite the recent renovation of the Main Hall, many buildings on the island, including the hospital wards where thousands of immigrants were confined for medical treatment or quarantine, are threatened by neglect and water damage.
  • Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. The final resting place of over 60,000 persons, from Revolutionary War heroes and Indian tribal chiefs to early leaders of the Gay Rights Movement, this cemetery only blocks away from the Capitol-suffers from insufficient maintenance funds, vandalism and the rampant theft of bronze, marble, and limestone graveside sculptures.
  • Flathead Indian Reservation, Mont. A proposed superhighway threatens to divide this 1.2-million-acre homeland to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, which also includes historic sites such as Fort Connah (1847) and St. Ignatius Mission (1890).
  • Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine, Fla. Described as “the South’s most handsome span,” this 1927 Mediterranean Revival landmark greets travelers crossing its l,500-foot span with graceful arches, tile-roofed towers, and a pair of marble lions created by F. Romanelli. Increased auto and boating traffic have led many to seek a new, wider bridge, instead of making upgrades and alterations to the existing structure.
  • Cranston Street Armory, Providence R.I. Built in 1907, Providence’s 165,000-square-foot. “castle for the people” was vacated by the Rhode Island National Guard in October 1996. Boasting two six-story brick towers and a central drill hall the size of two football fields, in its 90 years of existence this National Register site has hosted college and high school graduations, circuses, and gubernatorial inaugural balls. Now vacant and the victim of delayed repairs, the armory stands vulnerable to vandalism or arson.
  • Montezuma Castle, Montezuma, N.M. Built by Chicago architects Burnham and Root in 1885 near hot springs in the eastern foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this 90,000-square-foot fantasy resort is now part of the American campus of United World College. Deferred maintenance and vandalism have reduced the castle to a vacant shell that is imposing a serious financial burden on the college.
  • Stillwater Bridge, Stillwater, Minn. One of three surviving vertical lift bridges built before World War II, this 140-foot span connects historic Stillwater, Minnesota, to Houlton, Wisconsin, and is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Growth and increased traffic across the St. Croix have led to calls for a new bridge.
  • Vicksburg Campaign Trail, Louisiana and Mississippi. Linked by a network of historic roadways in Mississippi and Louisiana, this collection of architectural, archaeological, and historical sites is associated with General U.S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign and the city’s resistance. Neglect and development, including a posed casino project, threaten the Big Black River battlefield and other structures along the trail.
  • Historic buildings infested with Formosan termites, Gulf Coast states. Numerous historic structures and ancient live oak trees in Gulf Coast locales, including New Orleans’ French Quarter, face a grave threat from Formosan termites. These insects, introduced into the United States from Asia in the 1940s, are estimated to cause $217 million in annual damage in New Orleans alone.
  • The Cathedral of St. Vibiana, Los Angeles, Calif. Located on the eastern edge of the business district, this 1871-76 Baroque-inspired Italianate structure is one of only two remaining historic churches in downtown Los Angeles. The archdiocese, which is breaking ground on a new cathedral, intends to demolish the church and sell the property.
  • Wa'ahila Ridge, Honolulu, Hawaii. Visible from Waikiki, this ridge in the Koolau Mountain Range serves as the backdrop for the historic neighborhoods of Palolo, St. Louis Heights, and Manoa. The Hawaiian Electric Company plans to construct 100-foot-tall steel towers and install high-voltage power lines along the ridge and through these neighborhoods.

For more information, contact the National Trust for Historic Preservation at (202) 588-6141. Fax (202) 588-6299.

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