Every year around this time the National Trust for Historic Preservation releases a list of eleven historic sites around the U.S. that are threatened by decay, developers or natural disasters. The Trust will issue this year’s list at a press conference Tuesday in Los Angeles with Diane Keaton, a trustee of the group who is also a prime mover in the ongoing campaign to save Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House in L.A., well known even to people who don’t care about architecture as the set for the original House on Haunted Hill — the good version, the one with Vincent Price — and some of the crucial scenes in Blade Runner.
To make a point, the press conference is being held at the Century Plaza Hotel. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the World Trade Center, the 1966 hotel happens to be one of the endangered sites. In recent years the Trust has been pushing people to recognize that mid-20th century Modernism is another kind of historic heritage, and we’re gonna miss it, or at least the good parts, when it’s gone.
The most sobering inclusion is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill., one of the pivotal moments in Wright’s career, which is another way of saying a milestone in American civilization. We can’t save that?
Here’s the full list, with descriptions by the Trust of each site:
Ames Shovel Shops, Easton, Mass. — The complex, an intact 19th-century industrial village that resembles a New England college campus, is threatened by a plan to demolish several of the site’s historic buildings and radically alter others to pave the way for new mixed-use development.
Cast-Iron Architecture of Galveston, Texas — The assemblage of late 19th-century Greek Revival and Italianate buildings with elaborate cast-iron storefronts in Galveston’s 12-block Strand/Mechanic National Historic Landmark District is one of the largest collections of historic commercial buildings in the country. Widespread flooding caused by Hurricane Ike in September 2008 caused extensive damage.
Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif. — Opened in 1966, the 19-story curved hotel was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of New York’s World Trade Center twin towers. Despite a $36 million facelift just over a year ago, the hotel’s new owners now intend to raze the building and replace it with two 600-foot towers.
Dorchester Academy, Midway, Ga. — Founded in 1868 as a school for freed slaves, Dorchester Academy started humbly in a one-room schoolhouse and later gained prominence as a center for voter registration drives during the civil rights movement. The academy’s last remaining building, a 1934 Greek Revival dormitory, is deteriorating and structurally compromised.
Human Services Center, Yankton, S.D. — Founded in 1879 as the South Dakota Hospital for the Insane and once regarded as a model institution of its kind, this campus comprises a collection of neoclassical, Art Deco and Italianate buildings that have stood vacant for years. Despite the site’s potential for innovative reuse and appropriate redevelopment, the State is moving forward with plans to demolish 11 historic buildings on the Yankton campus.
Lana‘i City, Hawai‘i — One of Hawaii’s eight main islands, Lana‘i has one attraction none of the other islands can claim: an intact plantation town. Lana‘i City, built by pineapple baron James Dole in the 1920s, features plantation-style homes, a laundromat, jail, courthouse and police station. It’s now threatened by a large-scale commercial development calling for the destruction or significant alteration of 15-20 historic buildings.
The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar, Wendover Airfield, Utah — The hangar that housed the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, is, along with other Manhattan Project sites, in a critical state of disrepair.
Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth, N.H. to Kittery, Me. — For more than 85 years, Memorial Bridge, the first major lift bridge in the eastern U.S., has been a sturdy landmark, spanning the Piscataqua River and connecting two coastal towns. But the bridge has suffered from tight budgets and postponed maintenance. Maine and New Hampshire are now considering their options, including its removal.
Miami Marine Stadium, Virginia Key, Fla. — Completed in 1963, Miami Marine Stadium is both a South Florida landmark and an icon of modern design. Built entirely of poured concrete and featuring a dramatically cantilevered folded-plate roof, the stadium is a sentimental favorite of many Miami residents. After sustaining damage during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the stadium, a prime target for developers, closed and has since suffered from years of deterioration, vandalism and neglect.
Mount Taylor, near Grants, N.M. — Located in the southwestern corner of New Mexico’s San Mateo Mountains, Mount Taylor, with an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet, is a sacred place for as many as 30 Native American tribes. Currently, the mountain is under threat from exploration and proposals for uranium mining.
Unity Temple, Oak Park, Ill. — Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, designed for a Unitarian congregation, is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. Completed in 1908, the cubist, flat-roofed structure is also one of the earliest public buildings to feature exposed concrete, one of Wright’s signature design elements. Years of water infiltration have compromised the structure, prompting a multi-million-dollar rescue effort that the current congregation cannot afford.