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National Trust Names “The 11 Most Endangered Historic Places”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation on June 2 released its annual list of “The 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” to “spotlight parts of the country’s heritage that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy.” Through public awareness gained by being on the list, the projects this year—which range from a Victorian hotel in Florida to an island off the coast of Alaska to millions of acres of wilderness in the American West—nurture a hope of joining the Trust’s “Saved” list in the future.

Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Belleair, Fla. One of West Florida’s most beloved landmarks, the Belleview Biltmore, has welcomed presidents, business tycoons, and other luminaries since 1897. Today, the Belleview Biltmore remains a favorite to Floridians and visitors, but, as with many historic hotels, its prime location is attractive to developers who wish to cash in on the real estate values by converting the hotels or the land they occupy into residences. Protection under local law is very limited for the Belleview Biltmore, and unless someone comes to the “White Queen’s” rescue soon, this icon of Victorian charm and Southern hospitality will be destroyed.

Camp Security, York County, Pa. The sole remaining site of a Revolutionary War prison camp may soon give way to new development with no plans to preserve, interpret, or save any of its elements. Unless someone steps in to acquire the property and protect it, suburban houses will soon sprout on the land where Redcoats once languished in captivity.

Daniel Webster Farm, Franklin, N.H. This farm was home and family farm of Daniel Webster (1782-1852), one of America’s pre-eminent orators and statesmen. In 1871, the farm became the site of a home and school for children orphaned in the Civil War—one of the first such institutions to be located in a healthful rural environment. Today, Webster’s home and farm buildings, along with surviving orphanage buildings and the surrounding 140 acres of rich alluvial farmland, may be lost to a subdivision development unless a new plan is developed to save the historic buildings and retain the land in agricultural use.

Eleutherian College, Madison, Ind. The first college in Indiana—and one of the first anywhere in pre-Civil War America—to admit students regardless of race or gender was founded in 1848 and served as a busy stop on the Underground Railroad with many college leaders and students active in the movement to shelter and shepherd fugitive slaves. Today, the building shows the effects of prolonged neglect and vandalism. The National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, formed to assist Underground Railroad sites, provided some money for restoration, but now congressional support for that important program is decreasing. Significant funding is needed to return Eleutherian College and other landmarks of freedom to the historic spotlight they deserve.

Ennis-Brown House, Los Angeles. The grandest of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile-block houses, the Ennis-Brown House, was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake and further ruined by recent rains. Today, the house is unsafe and off-limits to visitors until critical repairs are made. Estimates of stabilization cost run as high as $5 million, an amount that far exceeds the resources of the nonprofit organization that owns the property.

Finca Vigía: Ernest Hemingway House, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Finca Vigía was Ernest Hemingway’s home from 1939–1960. Structural instability and damage by the elements have caused the site to deteriorate so severely that experts now call it a “preservation emergency.” The National Trust and the Hemingway Preservation Foundation have assembled a team of architects and engineers who recently received permission to go to Cuba to prepare an emergency stabilization and preservation plan. But, unless significant restoration funding can be raised and used to restore the property, these preliminary efforts will come to nothing.

Historic Buildings of Downtown Detroit. Downtown Detroit boasts a rich array of architectural treasures reflecting its role as a major station on the Underground Railroad, an industrial powerhouse, the world-famous “Motor City,” and the home of Motown. But, today, many of these treasures are threatened by neglect and lack of vision. A “hit list” was recently issued by the city calling for the demolition of more than 100 buildings, and, just last month, the Madison-Lenox Hotel, a 2004 “11 Most” site, was demolished. Detroit’s leaders need to work with developers and preservationists to breathe new life into old buildings and save the history of one of America’s great cities.

Historic Catholic Churches of Greater Boston. A record number of historic Catholic churches in Boston have been slated for sale, redevelopment, and possible demolition. To avoid the loss of these treasures, it is essential that local governments, preservationists, developers, architects, realtors, and the Archdiocese work together to find viable and appropriate new uses for these buildings.

King Island, Alaska. Located 95 miles west of Nome, King Island is in imminent danger of being washed into the Bering Sea. For centuries, King Island was occupied by the Inupiat Eskimos, known as “King Islanders” or “Ugiuvangmiut.” In 1959, the Bureau of Indian Affairs closed the Island’s school, forcing King Islanders to relocate with their children to Nome. Today, the last surviving Inupiat families are seeking to seasonally return to the island. The King Island Native Corporation, which owns the land, is working to protect and rebuild the remaining structures.

National Landscape Conservation System, Western States. Encompassing 26 million acres in 12 Western states, the system includes dozens of national monuments, conservation and wilderness areas, historic trails, and wild and scenic rivers. Established by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with the purpose of protecting entire landscapes of cultural and natural values, the system—threatened in part by theft and vandalism—and BLM’s ability to provide protection of these sites is seriously hampered by chronic understaffing and underfunding.

“The Journey Through Hallowed Ground” Corridor, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania. Encompassing hundreds of historic sites including six homes of U.S. presidents, the largest collection of Civil War battlefields, Native American and African American historic sites, and numerous scenic rivers, roads and landscapes, the land is imminently threatened by suburban sprawl. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground initiative, a tri-state collaboration, is a public-private effort seeking 21st-century solutions to balance growth and historic preservation in ways that celebrate and protect the region’s heritage. If this initiative fails, 400 years of American heritage may be lost.

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