America’s most endangered places

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America’s communities. Since 1949, the National Trust has done good work; providing leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and communities. Their list of America’s 11 most endangered places are the latest in a total of 233 sites identified through this year since listing began in 1988.

We became familiar with the work of the National Trust on a story about Charleston, South Carolina and an issue with cruise ships coming to town, earning it a place on the Most Endangered Places list in “watch” status.

City of Charleston-
Charleston, South Carolina
“For the first time in its history, the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places has been supplemented with a site placed on “Watch Status”: the city of Charleston. The Watch Status means that a specific threat to a historic site appears to be growing, but can be avoided or controlled through collaboration and innovation” says the Trust on it’s website. “In the case of Charleston, expanding cruise ship tourism could jeopardize the historic character of the city, historic downtown Charleston and its surrounding neighborhoods. The Watch Status designation is accompanied by an offer from the National Trust to assist with finding a balanced solution that benefits the community and its rich cultural heritage.”

Here are more of America’s Most Endangered Places.

Prentice Womens Hospital- Chicago, Illinois
A concrete and glass cloverleaf-shaped icon, Prentice Women’s Hospital has added drama and interest to the Chicago skyline for nearly four decades. Despite its cutting edge, progressive architecture, Prentice Hospital faces imminent demolition.

Bear Butte
Meade County, South Dakota
The 4,426-foot mountain called Mato Paha by the Lakota in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is sacred ground for as many as 17 American Indian tribes, threatened by proposed energy development.

-Powhatan County, Virginia
A little-known landmark of African American heritage, the 2,000-acre site along Virginia’s James River was transformed by Saint Katherine Drexel from a slave-holding plantation into a pair of innovative schools for African American and Native American students. Closed in the 1970s, the historic buildings set in rolling hills and wooded glades of the riverfront campus, including a striking Gothic Revival manor house designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, are deteriorating and need emergency repairs.

China Alley– Hanford, California
In 1877, Chinese immigrants settled in this San Joaquin Valley town and found strength and community far from home in China Alley, a vibrant rural Chinatown. Today, most of its historic buildings are suffering from deterioration and disuse and are vulnerable to insensitive alteration as there is no local historic preservation staff or commission to enforce preservation protections.

Fort Gaines– Dauphin Island, Alabama
A place of spectacular beauty and stirring history, Dauphin Island is home to Historic Fort Gaines, a nationally significant fortress that played a pivotal role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. Today, Fort Gaines’ shoreline is eroding as much as nine feet per year, and continued erosion threatens this significant historic treasure.

Greater Chaco Landscape
– New Mexico
Located across a broad swath of northwestern New Mexico are hundreds of Native American archaeological and cultural sites that help unlock the mysteries of the prehistoric Chacoan people. These sacred sites, and the fragile prehistoric roads that connect them, are in jeopardy due to increased oil and gas exploration and extraction.

Isaac Manchester Farm
-Avella, Pennsylvania
For more than two centuries, this 400-acre farm-with a stately brick Georgian manor house and historic outbuildings-has been home to eight generations of one family. A remarkable time capsule of colonial farm life, Manchester Farm is threatened by longwall coal mining.

John Coltrane Farm– Dix Hills, New York
One of America’s most widely acclaimed jazz artists, John Coltrane lived with his young family in a ranch house in Long Island, N.Y., until his untimely death in 1967. Today, the home where Coltrane wrote his iconic masterpiece, “A Love Supreme,” deteriorates due to lack of funds. Although a local group has taken ownership of the property and hopes to restore and interpret the site as an education center, the effort sorely needs broader attention and support.

National Soldiers Home Historic District
– Milwaukee, Wisconsin
With its bucolic setting and diverse collection of historic buildings, Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home offered welcome refuge for generations of American veterans. Today, the campus is threatened by a pattern of deferred maintenance, which has left historic buildings unused and on the verge of collapse.

Sites Imperiled by State Actions, U.S. – In state legislatures across the country, cuts to preservation funding and incentives imperil hundreds of thousands of historic places. If key sources of funding and incentives are lost across the United States, thousands of irreplaceable sites and national treasures may suffer untold consequences.

Members of the public are invited to learn more about what they can do to support these historic places and hundreds of other endangered sites, experience first-hand accounts of these places, and share stories and photos of their own at

Flickr photo by kwalk628

Not everybody wants a cruise ship in their back yard

When cruise ships come to town it means big business for local merchants. Just ask Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, both on the blacklist of one cruise line or another. Either city would love to have cruise ships calling regularly but concern over the safety of passengers has some lines skipping the ports. Contrast that with Charleston, South Carolina where a group of local residents along with some environmental and historical preservation groups are suing to keep them away.

Opposing forces include National Trust for Historic Preservation who warned Charleston that its growing cruise industry is threatening the city’s historic character, placing it on “watch” status.

“We believe that the past preservation work in Charleston has made this community a national treasure and we are willing to dedicate resources to address questions about the impact of cruise tourism” Stephanie Meeks, the president of the trust told the Associated Press earlier this month.

Also opposing cruise ships is environmental group the Coastal Conservation League, the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Ansonborough and Charlestowne neighborhoods. They have filed a lawsuit against Carnival Corporation, parent to Carnival Cruise Lines who operates the Carnival Fantasy year-round from Charleston.They allege cruises are a public nuisance, violate the South Carolina Pollution Control Act, amount to illegal hotel operations and that Carnival’s signature red, white and blue funnel violates city sign ordinances.

The concern is not new for the Coastal Conservation League who posted this YouTube video over a year ago in March of 2010.

The Coastal Conservation League has a laundry list of “What Charleston Deserves” on it’s website too. The list includes prohibition of waste discharge within 3 miles of port, limits on the numbers and size of ships calling annually, a code that allows only one ship to dock at a time, a per-passenger fee paid to the city and a requirement to use plug-in power when at berth among other requirements.

“The question isn’t whether the cruise ship industry will operate in Charleston; the question is how,” Blan Holman, with the Southern Environmental Law Center told “The plaintiffs are members of the community who believe the cruise industry should abide by standards just like every other business does.”

On the other side of the issue, business leaders struggling with a recovering economy disagree. They gathered on the pier at Charleston’s Waterfront Park Monday with the Carnival Fantasy as a backdrop to denounce the lawsuit and show support for Charleston’s proposed new passenger terminal. Calling the lawsuit a “frivolous attack on the free enterprise system, the region’s economy and Charleston’s ports” business leaders sounded off.

“This is just the first shot in the attempt to dismantle the Port of Charleston,” said Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bobby Pearce.

“This is ridiculous,” said Steve Carroll, speaking for the Charleston Restaurant Association. “We’re trying to survive.”

Those in support of the new terminal say it will bring much needed money and that the cruise business already adds an estimated $37 million in the region annually.

While Carnival has been silent on the issue and not responded to the lawsuit, they did release this video in May of last year when Carnival Fantasy came to make Charleston it’s home port indicating the then newly-remodeled ship was well-received by business leaders on board the inaugural visit.

Looking forward to sailing from Charleston, Senior Cruise Director John Heald noted of the newly remodeled Carnival Fantasy “This is a ship reborn and what a great place to let it be reborn: Charleston, South Carolina”

While this issue seems far from resolved, Carnival probably doesn’t have much to worry about. A number of other cities including Brownsville, Texas and Savannah, Georgia would love to have a year-round cruise ship…not to mention a number of ports in Mexico.