USVI, Puerto Rico, on List of Most Endangered Historic Places

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Emmaus Moravian Church in Coral Bay on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands after the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The list, announced Tuesday, is an annual compilation spotlighting important examples of our nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.

The USVI and the neighboring territory of Puerto Rico made the this year’s list because of the catastrophic damages caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September. In its news release issued Tuesday, the trust said:

– “Historic Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Along with terrible loss of human life and natural ecosystems, the 2017 hurricanes damaged thousands of historic and cultural resources throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With another hurricane season already here, recovery efforts for these historic properties continue to face significant challenges due to limited materials, financing, and preservation expertise.”

The National Trust’s 31st annual list includes a diverse mix of historic places across America facing a range of challenges and threats, from deferred maintenance to inappropriate development proposals to the island’s devastation by natural disasters.

While making the list is an obvious indicator of a distressed area, the group pointed out that it can bring hope. As it pointed in its release, almost 300 places have been on the list over its 31-year history, and in that time, fewer than five percent of listed sites have been lost.

“For over 30 years, our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list has called attention to threatened one-of-a-kind treasures throughout the nation and galvanized Americans to help local communities save them,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “From the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkout schools to Route 66, America’s Mother Road, to historic resources in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands severely damaged by last year’s hurricanes, this year’s list reflects both the diversity of America’s historic places and the variety of threats they face.”

“As it has over the past three decades, we hope this list inspires people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past,” Meeks said.

For just the third time in the history of the list, the 2018 11 Most includes a 12th site, placed on “Watch Status.” That means a specific threat to a historic site appears to be growing, but can be avoided or controlled through collaboration and innovation, the group said in its news release.

The remaining sites on the 2018 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, in alphabetical order, are:

– Annapolis’ City Dock Area: Annapolis, Maryland. Among the most historic urban spaces in America, a current proposal to re-zone portions of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District– undermining local laws and policies that have protected the historic district for over 45 years – threatens to damage the area’s quality of life and heritage tourism economy, as well as permanently diminish its charm and unparalleled views.

– Ashley River Historic District: Charleston County, South Carolina One of the most iconic areas in the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Ashley River Historic District exemplifies the Palmetto State’s layered cultural heritage. But it is currently threatened by an annexation proposal that could lead to zoning changes and intensive development that could irreparably damage the historic landscape.

– Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital: Walthill, Nebraska. Named after the first Native American licensed to practice medicine in the United States and believed to be the first hospital constructed for any Indian reservation without federal funding, the Memorial Hospital is currently unoccupied and facing an uncertain future.

– Isaiah T. Montgomery House: Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Established by former slave Isaiah T. Montgomery, Mound Bayou was one of the earliest all-black municipalities, located in the Mississippi Delta following the Civil War. Today, Montgomery’s home is in urgent need of stabilization and rehabilitation.

– Larimer Square: Denver, Colorado. Both Denver’s first commercial block and first historic district, Larimer Square has for decades been a pioneering national model for revitalizing neighborhoods through preservation. But now it is threatened by an inappropriate development proposal that calls for partial demolition of several buildings, the potential construction of two towers, and weakening the groundbreaking ordinance that has long protected the famous square.

– Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses: Bridgeport, Connecticut. Widely considered the oldest houses built by African Americans in Connecticut, the Freeman Houses help to tell the unique story of the free black community in the North prior to the Civil War. The houses have been vacant for many years and are badly deteriorating.

– Mount Vernon & Piscataway National Park: Mount Vernon, Virginia, and Accokeek, Maryland. Dominion Energy has proposed constructing a gas compressor station across the Potomac River from Mt. Vernon and directly adjacent to Piscataway National Park. This project has the potential to negatively impact the historic view shed of Mt. Vernon and natural beauty of Piscataway National Park.

– Route 66: Multiple States. Known as America’s “Mother Road,” Route 66 is an internationally significant symbol of our nation’s romance with the open road. While Congress has taken important steps to designate Route 66 a permanent National Historic Trail, which would bring national recognition and economic development to the route’s historic sites, legislation must be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by the president before the end of 2018. Otherwise, a vital preservation opportunity may be lost.

– Ship on the Desert: Salt Flat, Texas. Located within Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the high desert landscape of West Texas, this striking early Modernist house has suffered from deferred maintenance and is not currently open to the public.

– Walkout Schools of Los Angeles: Los Angeles, California. The Walkout Schools are five historic campuses that played a key role in the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts, which helped catalyze the national Chicano Civil Rights Movement. These tangible representations of the power of student activism are now threatened, as some of the buildings face calls for demolition by the school district. The schools include: James A. Garfield High School; Theodore Roosevelt High School; Abraham Lincoln High School; Belmont High School; and El Sereno Middle School (formerly Woodrow Wilson High School).

Watch Status Site

– Four Towns of Vermont’s Upper Valley: Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge, Vermont. The charming village centers and idyllic surrounding farms and forests in four historic towns would be permanently altered by a development proposal calling for construction of a new planned community in this rural part of Vermont.

Members of the public can learn more about supporting these and other endangered historic places online at www.SavingPlaces.org/11Most.