Route 66 and 10 Other Sites That Made the 2018 “Most Endangered Historic Places” List

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list is out

Route 66
Wikimedia Commons

Since 1988, the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation has published an annual list of endangered historic places. Today, it released its 11 selections for 2018. The 31st-annual list puts the spotlight on sites of all sorts across the nation threatened by development projects, neglect, deferred maintenance, and the aftermath of natural disasters.

“[T]his year’s list reflects both the diversity of America’s historic places and the variety of threats they face,” Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says in a press release.

Perhaps the most sprawling designation is the 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 organization writes.

Other threats are more specific. The Ship in the Desert, a modernist home in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is deteriorating due to deferred maintenance. A proposed gas compressor across from Piscataway National Park and Mount Vernon threatens to spoil the historic view. A proposed rezoning of part of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District could lead to redevelopment of the some of the historic docks areas. Rezoning also threatens to change the character of the Ashley River Historic District in Charleston, South Carolina, and it earned the towns in Vermont’s Upper Valley a special “Watch Status” designation since their rural charm is threatened by a proposal to build new planned community.

Other threatened sites include overlooked buildings that hold significance to American history. The vacant Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital on the Omaha Reservation is named for the first Native American licensed to practice medicine; the hospital may also be the first built without federal funding on reservation land. The Isaiah T. Montgomery House in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, which was established by the formerly enslaved Montgomery, needs urgent rehabilitation as do the Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the oldest homes built by African Americans in that state. Five high schools in Los Angeles, which played an important part in the 1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts, which helped launch the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, may soon be slated for demolition, earning them a spot on the list.

Iconic Route 66 is also in need of attention. As Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas at the Chicago Tribune reports, the road, established in 1926, was one of the United States’ first national highways, extending 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. It was a cultural touchstone and emblem of America’s auto obsession. The highway was decommissioned in 1985, replaced by the Federal Interstate Highway System, but historians and travelers have kept its memory as well as its culture of roadside diners, neon lights and tourist traps alive.

The reason the entire route is on the list this year, reports Rosenberg-Douglas, is that the ten-year National Park Services’ Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is set to expire in 2019 and is not eligible for renewal. A bill that passed in the House last year would designate the route a National Historic Trail, but it has yet to pass in the Senate.

Denver’s Larimer Square’s designation rounds out the list. According to Joe Rubino at The Denver Post, a redevelopment proposal unveiled earlier this year would tear down several buildings in Denver’s first commercial block and build two new towers. But LoDo’s future might already be secured. Jeff Hermanson, who owns Latimer Square, tells Rubino that the towers, which would house a hotel, bar, restaurant and apartments would be a pathway to fund the necessary preservation work. “While we agree that the block is endangered, it’s not as a result of development plans, but rather of time,” Hermanson wrote in an email. “While we initially shared a proposed vision for the block with some of the city’s leaders, we tabled all development talk soon thereafter in favor of a community-driven dialogue to explore solutions.”

According to NTHP, about 95 percent of the sites that have appeared on its annual list in the last three decades have so far survived.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.