These Are America's Most Endangered Historic Places
Here's how you can help save them.
Traveling around America should mean, among many things, engaging with its history, culture, and landscape in responsible ways. That’s what makes the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of the country’s most endangered historic places so important — it highlights the buildings, neighborhoods, and destinations that could use a helping hand.
For the past 32 years, the Trust has called attention to America’s most vulnerable historic sites with the goal of galvanizing Americans to help save them. And it’s worked. According to the Trust, fewer than five percent of the sites that have appeared on the list — more than 300 of them — have been lost.
This year’s list of America’s 11 most endangered historic places extends to almost every part of the country. Nashville’s Music Row is in danger of losing its storied homes and businesses, while Providence’s tallest tower, the Art Deco Industrial Trust Company Building, has sat vacant for six years. One of Chicago’s leading examples of Postmodernism could be sold by the governor of Illinois, and in Buffalo, New York’s first housing project built specifically for African Americans risks demolition. Several of the rare buildings on the list, like North Carolina’s Excelsior Club, preserve the history of black Americans.
All of the sites are under threat from a range of factors, from climate change and policy to deterioration and demolition. The Trust asks for your support to save them.
“As it has over the past three decades, we know that this year’s list will inspire people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past,” said Katherine Malone-France, interim chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a statement.
On savingplaces.org/11most, you can add your name to petitions, send letters, and donate to preservation efforts. Below, find the full list of places ordered alphabetically.
1. Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah
This majestic cliffside spot is sandwiched between two national monuments, Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients, yet remains unprotected. The swath of desert contains Puebloan dwellings, ruins, and artifacts, the rarest of which date back 8,000 years. Left to the threats of oil and gas extraction — as well as increased leasing activity — it could all be lost.
2. Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge — Bismarck, ND
This 1883 rail bridge was the first one to cross the Upper Missouri River. It’s in danger of being demolished, though advocates call for preserving it as a pedestrian bridge.
3. The Excelsior Club — Charlotte, NC
Opened in 1944 as a private social club for African Americans, the Excelsior Club is now in need of major repairs. It was a popular site in the Green Book, a guidebook to services and places friendly to African-American roadtrippers published from the 1930s through the 1960s. The building risks being demolished unless new owners step forward to buy it.
4. Hacienda Los Torres — Lares, Puerto Rico
Over the years, hurricanes have battered Hacienda Los Torres, one of the last historic coffee plantation houses in Puerto Rico. In 2017, Hurricane Maria took a toll on the building, which stands among some of the oldest buildings on the island. Without support, the place that tells the history of economic development, class conflict, and political struggle in the territory could be lost.
5. Industrial Trust Company Building — Providence, RI
Rhode Island’s tallest tower, the 1928 Industrial Trust Company Building, has been vacant for six years. The Art Deco creation is referred to as the “Superman Building,” thanks to its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from Superman comics. There are no plans in the works for rehabilitation just yet.
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6. James R. Thompson Center — Chicago, IL
Built in 1985, Helmut Jahn’s Thompson Center is the youngest building to appear on the list. According to the Trust, it’s Chicago’s leading example of “grandly scaled Postmodernism,” and is threatened by a sale that could result in demolition.
7. Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital — Mount Vernon, AL
While it’s vacant now, the Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital has served many purposes over the past 200 years. Once an arsenal held by the Confederacy during the Civil War, then a prison, and later a mental hospital for African Americans, the complex closed down in 2012. The deteriorating buildings await preservation plans.
8. Nashville’s Music Row — Nashville, TN
Nashville is a hot destination for music lovers from around the globe. But the city’s booming economy and subsequent increased development have actually worked against Music Row, a district of late-1800s homes and commercial buildings that once housed more than 200 music-related businesses. There have been 50 demolitions there since 2013.
9. National Mall Tidal Basin — Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.’s National Mall is iconic — and under threat from rising sea levels. According to the Trust, unstable sea walls and outdated infrastructure could flood the land of monuments and cherry blossom trees. An estimated $500 million is needed to upgrade — and maintain — the spot
10. Tenth Street Historic District — Dallas, TX
Increased demolitions are contributing to the destruction of one of America’s last remaining Freedmen’s towns, or African-American municipalities built by freed slaves. At least 70 of the neighborhood’s 260 historic homes have been wiped out.
11. Willert Park Courts — Buffalo, NY
As New York’s first public housing project built specially for African American residents, Willert Park Courts now sit vacant, with several parts open to the elements. The building is also a famous example of early Modern design. The Trust suggests converting the complex into much-needed affordable housing for Buffalo.