May 9, 2023

Discover America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023

Now in its 36th year, the National Trust’s annual list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places continues to be a powerful, galvanizing tool for historic preservation, with over 350 sites listed and only a handful lost.

The diversity of sites on this year’s list mirrors the diversity of the American experience and reflects the National Trust’s continued commitment to saving the places that tell the full American story. What’s more, the layered stories behind these places illustrate the complexities and challenges that have always been part of what it means to be American, but that have not always received the attention they deserve.

One significant theme of the 2023 list is how multicultural communities that grew in parallel with a specific place now face cultural erasure—the gradual disappearance of community landmarks that help tell the story of those who’ve called a place home, along with the loss of treasured local businesses, restaurants, customs, and traditions. By rallying around the places that symbolize their history and stories, many neighborhoods and communities are leading the charge to protect what makes them special in the face of overdevelopment, displacement, and gentrification.

Take Chinatowns, for example. Historically, residents and supporters of Chinatowns have fought—and continue to fight—large-scale development projects that demand they and other communities of color accept disproportionate harm in the name of progress for all. This year we highlight two such communities—Seattle Chinatown-International District and Philadelphia Chinatown—where residents, businesses, and other supporters are demanding that decision-makers center their voices, illuminating more equitable paths forward for these irreplaceable neighborhoods.

Similarly, for many of the other listed sites, descendants and activists have stepped up to interpret and protect their ancestors’ legacies, while also combatting erasure and supporting community-centered economic development. What unites these locally led efforts is that they empower communities to use their unique pasts to shape their own futures.

All told, this year’s 11 Most Endangered list spotlights the inextricable connections between people, place, and history. Read more about these significant sites and learn how you can support them.

Osterman Gas Station, Peach Springs, Arizona

Built in 1929, the Osterman Gas Station has been more than a place to sell gas and service vehicles along the legendary Route 66—it’s been a focal point of the Hualapai Tribal community for almost a century. Constructed by hand using a concrete block kit from the Sears-Roebuck catalog, the building sits at the center of Peach Springs, the site of many memories for Hualapai elders who used to work or hang out at the gas station in their youth.

However, once the interstate system was built, economic development began to bypass Route 66—and Peach Springs. The Hualapai Tribe bought the building after the gas station closed in an effort to preserve it. A master planning process for downtown Peach Springs that included community outreach to identify potential desired uses for the Osterman Gas Station was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. Since then, extreme weather continues to threaten the deteriorated building, including an intense microburst in 2021 that tore off the building’s roof and left it vulnerable to the elements, and a February 2023 windstorm that collapsed one of the concrete walls.

Today, the Hualapai Tribe's Planning Department is working on plans to revitalize the Osterman as well as reactivating the downtown Peach Springs master planning process. Community members have expressed interest in a variety of potential future uses for the Osterman Gas Station, including a museum, welcome center, auto repair, artist guild, gift or coffee shop, a gas station, or even an EV charging station.

Little Santo Domingo, Miami, Florida

Little Santo Domingo, the cultural heart of Allapattah, is a key commercial corridor in one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods. Built on Seminole land and later populated by white residents, Allapattah has been home to many different groups over the years. African Americans displaced by Interstate 95’s construction in nearby Overtown moved there in the 1950s. In the 1960s and ‘70s, following the Cuban Revolution, many Cuban immigrants settled in Allapattah, as did immigrants from other Caribbean and Central American countries escaping political turmoil, making Allapattah 75 percent Hispanic by 1975. Civil unrest following the police killing of a Black motorist in the early 1980s heavily impacted the 17th Avenue commercial corridor, an area then revitalized by Dominican immigrants and renamed “Little Santo Domingo” by the City of Miami.

The historic neighborhood’s proximity to other attractive areas of Miami threatens Little Santo Domingo with overdevelopment, displacement, and cultural erasure. Not only could hundreds of family-owned, neighborhood-serving small businesses be impacted, but the community is concerned it could lose its predominantly Dominican cultural identity.

The Allapattah Collaborative (TAC), a Main Street community, is leading efforts to protect and celebrate the neighborhood, including potentially acquiring properties in Little Santo Domingo through a community land trust model to support permanent affordability in the neighborhood, and developing a community-driven neighborhood master plan that includes preservation strategies. TAC hopes to encourage a more balanced approach to development and preservation while protecting Little Santo Domingo’s heritage and culture.

Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, Midland, Georgia

Pierce Chapel African Cemetery, established circa 1828, is one of the oldest burial grounds for Africans enslaved at several plantations in Harris County, Georgia, and their descendants. Estimated to contain up to 500 burials in two acres of land, the cemetery is a landscape of tribute and memory, with archaeological evidence of cultural traditions that trace back to West Africa.

The Hamilton Hood Foundation, started by a descendant of those interred at Pierce Chapel African Cemetery and led by a descendant leadership council and advisory board, has been leading efforts to protect the burial ground. However, the Foundation attributes recent damage to burial sites, markers, and artifacts to utility companies’ use of heavy equipment, even leaving some remains exposed. Tree removal and road grading have further disrupted the gravesites and impacted the cemetery’s drainage system, adding to its ongoing deterioration.

The Foundation has been working in cooperation with the landowner to preserve and commemorate this sacred place, including volunteering to haul away trash and debris, instating regular mowing, paying for archaeology studies, and working with utility companies Georgia Power and Mediacom to remove power and broadband cable lines that ran through the site. Now that the utility lines have been removed, the Foundation is asking Georgia Power and Mediacom to address the harm done to the cemetery and the history that was erased.

Century and Consumers Buildings, Chicago, Illinois

As two iconic early skyscrapers along Chicago’s historic State Street, the Century and Consumers Buildings contribute to the architectural significance of the area known as “the Loop.” Architecture firms Jenney, Mundie & Jensen designed the Consumers Building in 1913, and Holabird & Roche designed the Century Building in 1915.

The Century and Consumers Buildings have been vacant since the General Services Administration (GSA) bought them for potential federal office space in 2005, but GSA has determined they are no longer needed for that purpose, and both buildings are now severely deteriorated. GSA is considering demolishing both historic buildings to address security concerns with the adjacent Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

First, however, the GSA has formally begun federally mandated reviews to weigh options for the Century and Consumers Buildings, with several organizations—including the National Trust, Landmarks Illinois, and other concerned parties—participating in the process. Supporters of saving the buildings continue to advocate for preservation-based reuse that also meets security needs and avoids the wasteful demolition of these two significant early skyscrapers, especially in the city where the skyscraper was invented.

West Bank of St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana

The 11-mile corridor along the Mississippi River known as “the West Bank” in St. John the Baptist Parish is an intact cultural landscape in an area otherwise oversaturated with heavy industry and is currently being considered for National Historic Landmark designation by the National Park Service. The West Bank includes historic villages such as Lucy, Edgard, and Wallace, which was founded after the Civil War by Black soldiers who fought in the Union Army. Many descendants of people enslaved at nearby Whitney Plantation and Evergreen Plantation—sites nationally renowned for their interpretation of enslaved people’s experiences—still call the West Bank home and help maintain this unique culture and community.

Now, however, port facility Greenfield Louisiana LLC has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to build one of the largest grain elevators in the world directly within this historic cultural landscape. If constructed, the proposed Greenfield Terminal would be 275 feet tall, as tall as the Louisiana Superdome, and could tower over historic communities and buildings, disturb archaeological remains, and dramatically harm the St. John Parish community with negative visual and environmental impacts. The permitting of Greenfield Terminal could also encourage further heavy industrial development within this nationally significant historic area.

A coalition of local and national advocates, including many descendants of people enslaved in the area, have been engaged in public advocacy against Greenfield Terminal’s construction for more than a year. In concert with the National Trust, they are seeking either to convince the Army Corps to deny the permit or to persuade the developer not to build the terminal. Advocates hope that public support will increase pressure and draw national attention to this area’s undeniable history, culture, and significance.

Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church, New Orleans, Louisiana
(aka Perseverance Benevolent and Mutual Aid Society Hall)

Constructed in New Orleans’ 7th Ward around 1880 for the Perseverance Benevolent and Mutual Aid Society, this humble wooden building has a long and storied history. As one of the first places where jazz was heard, it hosted performances by early jazz pioneers such as Sidney Bechet, Isidore Barbarin, Joe “King” Oliver, and Buddy Bolden. And for members of the Black benevolent society, it was the hub for an essential network of mutual aid that provided everything from entertainment to life insurance, as well as a safe space during the era of segregation.

The Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church of Eternal Life purchased the building in 1949 and used it for nearly 70 years to host worship services. But it was heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina, and as restoration work was still underway in 2021, Hurricane Ida’s high winds collapsed the rear section of the building. The failure of temporary wall bracing and scavengers' theft of building materials caused further damage. Though the building is listed on the National Register and protected as a local landmark, without intervention, its remaining parts are likely to collapse as well. The situation exemplifies many of the challenges that lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color can face when rebuilding after disasters strike.

Rev. Harold Lewis, pastor of Holy Aid and Comfort, has been partnering with the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans to seek funding and support for preserving the building. A recent capital grant from the National Trust African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Preserving Black Churches project provides some of the necessary funding for rebuilding, but the site needs additional resources to fully reconstruct the building so that the congregation and broader community may use it once again.

L.V. Hull Home and Studio, Kosciusko, Mississippi

Artist L.V. Hull, who described herself as “The Unusual Artist,” merged artmaking and the Southern art of “visiting” to transform her entire Kosciusko, Mississippi, home and yard into a wonderland of public art and evolving installations that attracted visitors from around the world. Having purchased the house in 1974 with her wages from domestic work, Hull immediately converted her personal space into her primary canvas, curating it with a dense collection of found, purchased, and gifted objects. She also used her home as the studio for her own creative practice, which included painting, assemblage, installation, and a vibrant, evolving outdoor art environment.

Though her artwork was relocated after her death in 2008 and recently conserved by the Kohler Foundation, her unoccupied house today suffers from neglect, vandalism, and weather exposure. These threats put at risk other artistic imprints that are part of the home itself—for example, a painted porch and bathroom sink. Hull’s home and studio cannot be separated from her artwork, and preserving these spaces sends a message that the place and the neighborhood where she lived and practiced are just as meaningful as the artwork she made.

Efforts to preserve Hull’s home are being led by a coalition that includes filmmaker Yaphet Smith, a personal friend of L.V.’s, who credits her with inspiring his creative career. Advocates are preparing a National Register nomination and, in conjunction with the Arts Foundation of Kosciusko, planning to create the L.V. Hull Legacy Center comprised of both Hull’s home and four repurposed structures at a large corner lot on her street. This new neighborhood creative campus will include exhibition space and visitor services to explore her art. Partnerships and funding are needed to realize this vision of restoring and reopening L.V. Hull’s home for the people of Kosciusko, visitors, and artists so that it can tell a unique, overlooked story of a Black woman in the South who claimed a space to pursue her full artistic vision.

Henry Ossawa Tanner House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Built in 1871, this North Philadelphia rowhouse was home to Henry Ossawa Tanner, an internationally recognized painter the Smithsonian American Art Museum has described as "the most distinguished African American artist of the 19th century." From 1871 to 1950, this National Historic Landmark was also home to many of Tanner’s family members who were esteemed in their own rights, including his mother Sarah Elizabeth Tanner, who self-emancipated from enslavement as a child, along with her siblings, with the support of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society; his father Benjamin Tucker Tanner, minister at Mother Bethel AME and later Bishop in the AME church and editor of the largest Black-owned periodical in the U.S.; his sister Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson, the first woman of any race to be a licensed physician in Alabama; and his niece Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, the first Black person in the United States to earn a PH.D. in Economics from an American university, and also the first National President of historic Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

In the years since the Tanner family lived in the house, the majority-Black Strawberry Mansion neighborhood has experienced disinvestment and discrimination due in part to redlining, segregation, and systemic racism. Today, ongoing gentrification threatens to erase the area’s Black cultural legacy and heritage landmarks such as the Tanner House, which is already seriously deteriorated and in danger of collapsing.

The Friends of the Tanner House—a Black-led, multi-generational coalition of community advocates formed in 2021 to champion the site’s preservation and reuse—is currently working to acquire the property and reimagine the house’s future. Together with the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites, and other community partners, the Friends will create a long-term stewardship plan that honors the legacy of this a place and reflects the powerful impact of Black heritage, innovation, and achievement.

Philadelphia Chinatown, Pennsylvania

As one of the oldest remaining active Chinatowns in the United States, Philadelphia Chinatown has been a gateway and sanctuary for working class Asian immigrants since 1871. With its streetscapes of 19th- and 20th-century buildings, more than 40 locally designated landmarks, and a district listed on the state and national registers, Chinatown remains a vibrant community of Asian American businesses, community organizations, and residents. In addition, the neighborhood welcomes thousands of visitors annually to its institutions, shops, restaurants, and cultural events. Many families who reside in Chinatown have called Chinatown home for several generations.

The resilience of Philadelphia Chinatown belies the many threats the community has had to defend against over the last half century. A long history of inequitable land-use planning decisions has scarred Philadelphia Chinatown and resulted in large-scale developments that have already claimed more than a quarter of its land. In 2022, the 76ers basketball team announced plans to build an 18,500-seat arena abutting Chinatown. Residents and neighborhood leaders are concerned that the community has not been adequately included in the planning process and fear the arena could further jeopardize the future of Chinatown by exacerbating decades-long trends of gentrification and displacement, impacting family-owned businesses, worsening traffic and parking congestion, and increasing costs of living.

To protect the neighborhood, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and other neighborhood groups are organizing against the arena, talking with local officials, hosting community meetings, collecting community survey data, and developing an impact study of the arena on Chinatown to make sure their voices are heard. Chinatown advocates including residents, business owners, visitors, and property owners hope that public attention on this issue will help prevent yet another land-use planning decision that could lead to the continued erasure and demise of one of Philadelphia’s oldest cultural hubs.

Charleston’s Historic Neighborhoods, South Carolina

Union Pier, a 65-acre waterfront site along the Cooper River adjacent to downtown Charleston, is former marshland that has been used for maritime shipping and port operations since the early 18th century. As a place where merchants traded goods such as rice, indigo, and cotton, the pier was also a significant point of first arrival for thousands of enslaved people. Later, Union Pier’s docks served as home base for the African American-led fleet of fishing boats known as the Charleston Mosquito Fleet, which caught and sold fresh fish to homes and markets starting before the Civil War and lasting until 1989.

Today the South Carolina Ports Authority (SC Ports) owns Union Pier, which serves as a cruise terminal and supports other maritime operations. In partnership with a private development firm, SC Ports is proposing a new 65-acre mixed-use district on the Union Pier site. The proposed densities and building heights outlined in the plan could adversely affect critical elements of the historic city’s fine-grained urban character and block views between the nationally significant historic district and the Cooper River waterfront. In addition, the proposed development is planned to be constructed on a 16-foot-high elevated platform, which could negatively impact climate resilience for adjacent neighborhoods and the city.

A coalition led by the Preservation Society of Charleston, Historic Charleston Foundation, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League is encouraging the City and SC Ports to follow a deliberative review process that serves the public’s needs, beginning with a community-led vision, especially given the scale of this proposed development. As Charleston faces increasing pressures from development and climate change, advocates believe that a more robust, inclusive community visioning process is critical to help create a plan for Union Pier that respects Charleston’s significant history, diverse population, and architectural character, while improving the city’s climate resilience.

Seattle Chinatown-International District, Washington

The Seattle Chinatown-International District (CID) is one of the oldest Asian American neighborhoods on the West Coast and has been a center of the region’s Asian American life for more than a century. According to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, it is the only area in the continental United States where Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and African Americans settled together and built one neighborhood. Recognized as a local historic district and listed on the state and national registers, the CID remains a vibrant hub for Asian American businesses, community organizations, and residents.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, the construction of highways, parking lots, and two major sports stadiums divided the neighborhood and demolished businesses, homes, and churches. Community members rallied to preserve the area’s heritage, and it was designated a City of Seattle special review district in 1973 and placed on the Washington Heritage Register and National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Today, however, Sound Transit (Seattle metro area’s regional transit agency) is considering several transit expansion options that could impact the community’s transportation access and the CID’s cultural preservation. Transit Equity for All, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Wing Luke Museum are part of a coalition advocating for a more transparent, equitable process that reflects careful decision-making and centers the voices of the CID. The coalition, which includes community organizations, businesses, residents, and supporters, wants to ensure that Sound Transit mitigates construction impacts to the neighborhood, keeps the community connected to regional transit improvements, and minimizes displacement from the CID. Advocates hope that public attention to this planning decision will result in intentional investments that protect the neighborhood and its people, while making certain that the Seattle CID thrives for generations to come.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. Savingplaces.org

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