America's Most Endangered Places
Shockoe Bottom, Virginia is among American sites most at risk
America's Most Endangered Places
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 is the 2014 list, in alphabetical order.
1. Battle Mountain Sanitarium, South Dakota
Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota has provided medical care to veterans in the region for more than a century. It is one of more than 2,000 historic properties managed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and one of a few designated a National Historic Landmark. It was also named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2012.
Today, the VA is moving forward with a proposal to abandon the facility and relocate medical services 60 miles away, in Rapid City. If the VA moves ahead with its plan, it will remove the largest employer in the self-described “Veterans Town,” as well as leave behind dozens of vacant, historic buildings to an uncertain fate.
2. Bay Harbor's East Island, Florida
Bay Harbor’s East Island is one of the largest concentrated collections of mid-century Miami Modern (MiMo) style architecture in the country. MiMo is Miami’s unique interpretation of the Modernist movement—adapted to suit the local climate and embodying the mid-century ideals of forward progress.
Several of the island’s historic buildings were designed by renowned architects including, Morris Lapidus, Henry Hohauser, and Charles McKirahan. These architects helped transition the definitive Miami architectural style from Art Deco in the 1930s into the MiMo style that emerged in the mid-20th century.
Today, Bay Harbor’s East Island stands threatened with redevelopment as large-scale construction moves throughout the area.
3.Chattanooga State Office Building, Tennessee
The Chattanooga State Office Building was constructed in 1950 in the Art Moderne style to serve as headquarters for the Interstate Life Insurance company. Its exterior features ruby granite and grayish-white limestone and a bronze frieze that is said to represent the sturdy mountain character of southeast Tennesseans. Its interior once featured a penthouse lounge, auditorium and basement bowling alley for employees’ recreation.
Today, the building is a showpiece in Chattanooga’s downtown that represents the past strength of the insurance industry in the city, as well the innovations that were taking place in the workplace in the 1950s. The state of Tennessee acquired the building in 1981 and transferred it to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) in December 2013. Rather than making building repairs and upgrades, UTC plans to demolish it.
4. Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring House, Florida
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and constructed in 1954, Spring House is the only built private residence designed by Wright in the state of Florida. The novel hemicycle form of Spring House represents a late, and little known, stage in Wright’s long, prolific career. Although there are approximately 400 intact houses attributed to Wright throughout the country, only a fraction were from his hemicycle series. Spring House was recognized as a significant structure and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, when it was only 25 years old.
Despite its unique design and its association with America’s most famous architect, the house is deteriorating and urgently in need of repairs. Exposure to hurricanes and wind storms has led to water intrusion, and the damage is visible throughout the interior of the house. In addition, tall cypress columns have deteriorated at their bases, and insect and woodpecker damage is apparent on the cypress siding.
Spring House Institute is planning to launch a capital campaign to purchase and restore the house to its original grandeur.
5. Historic Wintersburg, California
Wintersburg documents three generations of the Japanese American experience in the United States, from immigration in the late 19th century to the return from incarceration in internment camps following World War II. The site contains six extant pioneer structures and open farmland, and is one of the only surviving Japanese-owned properties acquired prior to California’s anti-Japanese "alien" land laws of 1913 and 1920. In contrast to Japanese American confinement sites from the World War II era, Historic Wintersburg captures the daily community life and spiritual institutions of Japanese settlers as they established a new life in America.
The property is currently owned by Rainbow Environmental Services (Rainbow), a waste transfer company. In November 2013, the Huntington Beach City Council voted to rezone the property from residential to commercial/industrial. The Council also approved a Statement of Overriding Consideration—an action which allows demolition of all six structures. Although Rainbow agreed to provide preservationists until mid 2015 to find solutions to save the historic property, demolition of the site remains a possibility.
6. Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii
Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii’s first Christian Church, is a large stone building located in the center of Historic Kailua Village in Kona, Hawaii. Its iconic steeple stands out conspicuously among the low rise village and has become a landmark for nearly 200 years from both land and sea.
Completed in 1837 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, Mokuaikaua Church represents the new, western-influenced architecture of early 19th century Hawaii. This stone and mortar building is believed to be built out of stones taken from a nearby heiau (Hawaiian temple) with mortar made of burned coral. Construction beams are made from Hawaiian ohia wood joined with ohia pins.
The building has suffered from earthquake damage, as well as dysfunctional and faulty electrical wiring, termite damage, and dry-rot damage to beams in the steeple and wooden window frames. A Hawaiian landmark for nearly 200 years, Mokuaikaua Church now needs immediate attention if it is to be saved.
7. Music Hall, Ohio
Music Hall, designed by Samuel Hannaford, was built in 1878 with private money raised from what is believed to be the nation’s first matching-grant fund drive. Music Hall is located in Over-the-Rhine, a nationally significant neighborhood that has undergone significant revitalization since its inclusion on the 11 Most Endangered list in 2006. The red brick High Victorian Gothic structure features a large auditorium, ornate foyer, offices, carpentry shop, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and a ballroom.
Despite its grandeur, Music Hall is suffering from deterioration and water damage. The building is facing a critical point in its existence, and is in need of extensive repairs.
Music Hall is owned by the City of Cincinnati and is home to the Cincinnati Arts Association, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, and the May Festival.
8. Palladium Building, Missouri
Advertised as the largest club of its kind in St. Louis in the 1940s, the venue featured three floor shows each night featuring African American jazz musicians and orchestras. Over the years, many well-known national artists performed there including Nat King Cole, Jimmie Lunceford, the Mills Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Carter. St. Louis’ contributions to American music reveal a legacy greater and more significant than previously understood, and the Palladium is a central part of this story.
The Palladium is one of St. Louis’s last remaining buildings with a link to the city’s significant music history. Palladium faces an uncertain future because it is not protected by local or national historic designations and, because of its location, is not covered by the City’s demolition review ordinance. Vacant for many years, increased awareness of the Palladium’s plight would add momentum to the work already underway by Landmarks Association of St. Louis and Friends of the Palladium Building to formally recognize the building’s historic significance and identify a path forward for this important cultural landmark.
9. Shockoe Bottom, Virginia
Shockoe Bottom was a center of the African slave trade between 1830 and 1865 -- over 350,000 slaves were traded there. The area held slave jails, auction houses and businesses participating in the enslavement of thousands of men, women and children. Among the most notorious places in Shockoe Bottom was Goodwin’s Jail, where Solomon Northup, whose life was chronicled in the movie, "12 Years a Slave," was held after being kidnapped.
Shockoe Bottom is threatened by potential development of a minor league baseball stadium. Shockoe Bottom’s invaluable resources cannot be seen – none of the buildings from the slave trade remain visible in these eight-blocks, and the artifacts of antebellum Richmond are now below the surface, out of sight. Shockoe Bottom should be protected as a site of conscience, a place that offers the public a chance to experience, and learn from, this dark chapter in American history. A path forward for Shockoe Bottom should include meaningful public involvement and expert archeological analysis so that the historical remnants of the slave trade now buried there can be seen and properly interpreted.
10. The Palisades, New Jersey
The Palisades has been cherished by the nation and residents of New York and New Jersey for generations.
The historic landscape not only provides stellar views but also tells a culturally significant Native American story, as multiple tribes, including the Sanhikan, Hackensack, Raritan, and Tappan nations used the cliffs as shelter from adverse weather for centuries. When new quarries and other development atop the cliffs threatened to degrade the landscape in the late 19th century, the Palisades became the focus of some of the country’s earliest conservation and protection efforts.
LG Electronics has proposed building an eight story, 143 foot high office tower next to the Palisades that would spoil the scenic view of the New Jersey cliffs along the Hudson River. Litigation and state legislation in New Jersey to protect the Palisades arose after the town of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., granted a variance to LG to build the office tower that would visually mar the historic Palisades landscape. If construction of the LG tower goes forward, it would represent the first breach of the viewshed in the 100-year history of protecting the Palisades north of the George Washington Bridge.
11. Union Terminal, Ohio
Union Terminal, an iconic symbol of Cincinnati and one of the most significant Art Deco structures in the country, was designed by the firm of Alfred Fellheimer and Steward Wagner, with Paul Cret, in 1933. Union Terminal is a National Historic Landmark and one of the country’s last remaining grand-scale Art Deco railroad terminals. The massive 180 foot wide and 106 foot tall rotunda, today the second largest half dome in the world, features glass mosaic murals by Winold Reiss depicting the history of Cincinnati and the United States. Today, Union Terminal is suffering from deterioration and water damage. The building is facing a critical point in its existence, and is in need of extensive repairs.
Union Terminal is owned by the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. As the Cincinnati Museum Center, the largest cultural institution in the city, Union Terminal receives more than 1.4 million visitors a year and houses the Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater.