Arkansas School Of “Little Rock Nine” Named To List Of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” Success Stories
Today, to mark the 30th anniversary of the America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list and how it has been a catalyst for the preservation of threatened historic sites around the country, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is issuing a retrospective list culled from the nearly 300 sites named to the program since its inception. The 2017 list highlights 11 once-endangered sites, including Little Rock Central High School, that are now thriving and contributing to their communities—while also focusing attention on the extraordinary efforts undertaken to bring them back from the brink. Little Rock Central High School appeared on the 11 Most Endangered list in 1996.
“The Little Rock Central High School first made headlines when it opened in 1927 as the largest high school in the country, and then again thirty years later as the focal point of America’s school desegregation controversy,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Now, sixty years after the ‘Little Rock Nine’ bravely overcame bigotry and violence to pursue their education, the building serves as both an active school and a national historic site that encourages Americans to explore the often painful truths of our past to achieve a brighter future.”
Built in 1927, Little Rock Central High School (LRCHS) was at that time the most expensive and largest high school in the nation. Its opening earned national publicity and drew nearly 20,000 people to the dedication ceremony. In 1957, the school was the scene of forced school desegregation that gained international attention. Nine African American students—“the Little Rock Nine”— were denied entrance to the school by one thousand angry protestors in defiance of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering integration of public schools. The first test of the federal government’s public school integration policy, the events at the Little Rock Central High School had lasting implications on civil rights and education in our country.
The school suffered severe deterioration, including peeling paint, crumbling plaster, leaking plumbing, broken windows, termites, leaking roof and outer walls. The building needed $6.5 million in repairs, money the school district did not have, at the time it was named to the 11 Most Endangered Historic Place in 1996. The listing helped to generate support and funding for extensive internal and external renovations. On November 6, 1998, Congress established the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. The National Historic Site is administered in partnership with the National Park Service, Little Rock Public Schools, the City of Little Rock, and others.
“The preservation of Little Rock's Central High School is a testament to the effectiveness of the National Trust's list for raising awareness of threatened historic properties,” said Patricia Blick, executive director of Quapaw Quarter Association in Little Rock. “Schools are anchor institutions for their communities. We will continue to advocate for their preservation as a component of neighborhood revitalization. We are proud that the Trust has selected Central High School as a 'Most Endangered' success story.”
About America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places Program
Over the past 30 years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has used its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places to spotlight important examples of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that were at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. Of the sites that appeared on the list since 1988, fewer than five percent have been lost.
Members of the public are invited to learn more about this year’s 11 Most list and what they can do to support hundreds of sites that remain endangered at SavingPlaces.org/11Most
The 2017 list of America's 11 Most Success Stories (in alphabetical order):
- Angel Island Immigration Station – San Francisco, Calif. A point of entry to the U.S. for immigrants from eighty countries across the Pacific Rim between 1910 and 1940, but abandoned since World War II, the remaining buildings of the Immigration Station were scheduled to be torn down until park ranger Alexander Weiss re-discovered writings on the walls, inaugurating a long-term grassroots preservation effort. Listed in 1999, the now restored poems carved into its walls by Chinese detainees illustrate these immigrants’ stories and serve as a stirring reminder of the challenges they overcame.
- Antietam National Battlefield – Sharpsburg, Md. One of the most significant events in American history, the Battle of Antietam influenced the outcome of the Civil War and immediately led President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. First listed in 1988 in response to a flawed proposal to construct a shopping center and other buildings on battlefield land, the listing helped to galvanize support and action by local, state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations, resulting in a true preservation success story.
- Cathedral of St. Vibiana – Los Angeles, Calif. Opened in 1876 following five years of construction, the Cathedral endured until 1995, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles began to move ahead with plans to demolish it. Listed in 1997, the ultimately successful fight to save the then-Cathedral of St. Vibiana was a defining moment for Los Angeles preservationists.
- Governors Island – New York, NY. Once the nation’s oldest continuously used military post, Governors Island played roles in several eras of American history until 1995, when the military left and the Island faced an uncertain future. Listed in 1998, Governors Island has been transformed from an underused historic property into an active and indelible community resource that is loved by native New Yorkers and visitors alike.
- Historic Boston Theaters – Boston, Mass. Once lavish palaces, the Boston Opera House, Paramount Theatre and Modern Theater had fallen into disrepair when they were listed in 1995. The listing led to the late Mayor Thomas Menino and city agencies to develop a network of partnerships to rehabilitate the theaters and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood, resulting in a key preservation success story for the city
- Little Rock Central High School – Little Rock, Ark. When listed in 1996, the school that had been at the center of the nation’s school desegregation debate was suffering from deterioration. Still in operation as a public high school, it has also been established by Congress as the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site that teaches visitors about our nation’s ongoing struggle to achieve civil rights for all.
- Nine Mile Canyon – Utah. The ‘world’s longest art gallery’ contains thousands of ancient Native American cultural resources. When listed in 2004, truck-traffic, dust and chemical dust-suppressant were damaging these irreplaceable treasures. Paving the Canyon road has alleviated this threat, and also made its vast cultural resources more accessible to visitors.
- Penn School – Frogmore, S.C. Founded in 1862, the Penn School was one of the first schools in the South for freed slaves, operating until the post-World War II years when many students left and the school eventually closed and was deteriorating. After being named to the 11 Most list in 1990, several campus buildings have been restored and the renamed Penn Center has become a leader in cultural preservation that President Obama recognized in 2017 as part of the Reconstruction Era National Monument
- President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home – Washington, D.C. Since being named to the List in 2000, President Lincoln’s Cottage has transformed from a threatened site to one of the most visited, revered and vibrant places in Washington that serves as a gathering place for discussion, education and reconciliation.
- Statler Hilton Hotel – Dallas, Texas. A Modernist crown jewel and center of community life in Dallas for decades, when listed in 2008 the Statler had fallen into disrepair and faced calls for its demolition. Now set to reopen, the stunning transformation of the Statler Hilton is a poster child for the power of the historic tax credit and a significant example of the ways that older and historic buildings can contribute to the vibrancy of their communities
- Travelers’ Rest – Travelers’ Rest, Mont. The only place where archaeological evidence of a Lewis and Clark encampment can be found, the site’s integrity was threatened by development. The 1999 11 Most listing helped spur action to protect the landscape as a state park.
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