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2008 List of Most Endangered Places PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
In May 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named California's 278-unit state park system to its 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list highlights important examples of the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk for destruction or irreparable damage.

California's state park system, the largest state park system in the U.S., encompasses a vast array of historic and cultural resources that chronicle the state's rich and storied heritage.  Unfortunately, the park system has suffered greatly from years of chronic underfunding and deferred maintenance.  The magnitude of the problem became even more acute earlier this year when Governor Schwarzenegger, prompted by the state budget crisis, required 10 percent across-the-board budget reductions that would have led to closure of 48 state parks and reduce lifeguard staffing at 16 state beaches.

On May 14, the governor's revised budget restored $11.8 million of the $13.3 million in cuts he had previously proposed, with the remaining $1.5 million gap to be covered by increasing some user fees.  The new budget proposal staves off the threat of park closures for now, but the underlying problem remains and irreplaceable historic and cultural resources are still at risk.  The budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation is woefully inadequate to support day-to-day parks operations, much less to address the $1.2 billion deferred maintenance bill that has accumulated through years of chronic underinvestment.

The system includes 278 parks, including 51 designated State Historic Parks, covers 1.5 million acres and protects 295 miles of ocean front.  Among its many gems are the 1820's era Franciscan La Purisima Mission complex near Lompoc, completely restored during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); the 1853 Benicia Capitol, the only state capitol building predating today's capitol in Sacramento still standing; and, the historic mission plaza at San Juan Bautista, a rural community recently named a Dozen Distinctive Destination of 2008.

Funding for the state parks has suffered a precipitous decline.  The 1990-91 state budget provided $4.16 per visitor; by the FY06-07 budget, it was down to $3.19 per visitor.  Current general fund appropriations cover only 40% of actual maintenance and operations needs, despite the fact that public dollars invested in state parks reap real economic return.  In general, for every $1 spent supporting the state park system, $2.35 is returned to the state's General Fund in the form of economic activity from park visitors, through purchases in local economies and in the state parks themselves.

"In California, and across the country, state park systems lack adequate funding for even basic maintenance.  Without proper care, historic buildings and landscapes will deteriorate to a point where restoration may no longer be feasible," says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  "We must work together to ensure stable and sustainable funding for all state parks so that these threats can be avoided in the future and the parks can continue to be an educational and recreational resource for millions of visitors."

The severity of the proposed budget cuts galvanized tens of thousands of Californians to take action.  The California State Parks Foundation, in partnership with organizations, businesses, local governments and individuals throughout the state, led the Save Our State Parks (SOS) Campaign, mobilizing supporters to press the Legislature to reject the budget proposals.  Additionally, new tools such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites were used to increase awareness among all Californians regarding the Governor's proposed actions.  The campaign has also launched a website (http://www.savestateparks.org/) to direct individuals and organizations to effective actions they can take to express their opposition to the budget proposal.

 

The 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order): 

Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia, Pa. - Philadelphia's last surviving downtown movie palace-a masterpiece of Art Deco design-faces an uncertain future as it sits vacant and remains vulnerable to demolition. It awaits a preservation-minded buyer to return the vintage venue to its original grandeur. 

California's State Parks - California's state park system, the largest park system in the U.S., encompasses a vast array of historic and cultural resources that chronicle the state's rich and storied heritage.  It also has suffered greatly from years of chronic underfunding and has $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance.  Proposed budget cuts, which would have led to the closure of 48 state parks, have been staved off.  The underlying problem remains.  Current funds only cover 40% of actual maintenance and operations needs, which means irreplaceable historic and cultural resources remain endangered. 

Charity Hospital and the adjacent neighborhood, New Orleans, La. - While Charity Hospital sits abandoned, plans call for the demolition of nearly 200 homes in the adjacent Mid-City neighborhood to accommodate construction of two new hospitals. Alternate locations for the new hospitals are available, and Charity Hospital, a National Register-eligible building that closed after Hurricane Katrina, could be rehabilitated to once again serve the community.  

Great Falls Portage, Great Falls, Mont. - This National Historic Landmark, one of the best preserved landscapes along the Lewis and Clark Trail, is slated to get a massive coal-fired power plant in its front yard.  Development abutting the Great Falls Portage, an undeveloped rural area under panoramic blue Montana skies, will irreparably harm the cultural and visual landscape.  

Hangar One, Moffett Field, Santa Clara County, Calif. - The hangar, a local icon built in 1932 to house U.S. Navy dirigibles, is a cavernous, 200 foot tall dome-shaped structure covering more than 8 acres of land. A 2003 inspection revealed PCBs leaking from the hangar's metallic exterior. Although the Navy transferred Hangar One to NASA in 1992, the Navy is responsible for environmental remediation, but has no mandate to replace the exterior and preserve the building.  

The Lower East Side, New York City - The Lower East Side embodies the history of immigration, one of the central themes of American history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, yet development threatens to erase the surviving historic structures.  This includes houses of worship, historic theaters, schools and the tenement, a unique architectural type which, by the sheer numbers who lived in such a building, had an impact on more Americans than any other form of urban housing. A New York City landmark designation and contextual zone changes within the neighborhood would preserve the physical character of the neighborhood.

Michigan Avenue Streetwall, Chicago, Ill. - This 12-block stretch of historic buildings-dating back to the 1880s-is a virtual encyclopedia of the work of the city's best architects, including Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan.  Although this "streetwall" was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002, its historic character is now being threatened by the inappropriate addition of large-scale towers that retain only small portions of the original buildings or their facades.

Peace Bridge Neighborhood, Buffalo, N.Y. - The neighborhood and the site, with homes and buildings dating to the 1850s on two National Register Olmsted parks, is an iconic section of the City of Buffalo.  The  Public Bridge Authority (PBA) proposes to expand Peace Bridge and include a 45 acre plaza that will eliminate over 100 homes and businesses (dozens of which are eligible to the National Register) and diminish the Olmsted parks.  Suitable alternate sites exist, but PBA refuses to properly consider them. 

The Statler Hilton Hotel, Dallas, Texas - When the Statler Hilton opened in downtown Dallas in 1956, it was hailed as the most modern hotel in the country. Today, the building sits vacant. Located on an increasingly attractive piece of real estate, the Statler Hilton faces an uncertain future as encroaching development pressure heightens the threat of demolition.  Current regulations restrict alternate uses, so a sympathetic developer is needed to restore and reopen the Statler as a hotel.

Sumner Elementary School, Topeka, Kan. - The school, a National Historic Landmark, helped launch the nation's Civil Rights Movement as the centerpiece of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.  Currently vacant, the school suffers from deferred maintenance and has sustained significant damage from water infiltration and vandalism.  Though the city of Topeka owns the school and is required to maintain and protect it, the City Council has authorized its demolition.  A sympathetic developer is needed to save and restore this icon.

Vizcaya and the Bonnet House, Fla. -  Pending development of out-of-scale buildings and corresponding zoning changes will permanently ruin the vistas surrounding Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (Miami) and Bonnet House Museum & Gardens (Ft. Lauderdale) and threatens to set a precedent for future high-rise structures.  

America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has identified 200 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures since 1988.  While a listing does not ensure the protection of a site or guarantee funding, the designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country.  Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.  At times, that attention has garnered public support to quickly rescue a treasured landmark, while in other instances, it has been the impetus of a long battle to save an important piece of our history.

 
To download high resolution images of this year's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, please visit http://press.nationaltrust.org.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a non-profit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them. By saving the places where great moments from history - and the important moments of everyday life - took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation helps revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability. With headquarters in Washington, DC, 9 regional and field offices, 29 historic sites, and partner organizations in all 50 states, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to a national network of people, organizations and local communities committed to saving places, connecting us to our history and collectively shaping the future of America's stories. For more information, visit www.PreservationNation.org.

 

Source:

Press Release, National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Trust For Historic Preservation Names California's State Parks To Its 2008 List of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
20 May 2008

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 May 2008 )
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