photo by: Rebecca Gale

December 26, 2018

40 Places Under 40 Years Old: History

Forty of the most important, most interesting, and quirkiest American places 40 years old or less. See the list and vote for your favorites now through January 18.

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Welcome to 40 Under 40 Places—40 of the most important, most interesting, and quirkiest American places less than 40 years old, compiled by the staff of Preservation magazine. The by-no-means comprehensive list includes sites both well-known and obscure, high-end and low-budget, and urban and rural. Places typically aren’t considered historic until they’ve been around for at least 50 years, so why highlight younger sites now? Because by looking at them through a preservation lens and identifying places worthy of saving BEFORE they become truly historic, we can be proactive about their futures.

Each place on our list was built in 1978 or later, and each makes an important contribution in one of six categories: Arts, Science and Tech, Culture, History, Landscape, and Housing. We’ll be rolling out our 40 Under 40 Places stories, category by category, through the end of 2018, and a public online voting period will take place from January 7-18, 2019. Top vote-getters will be featured in the Spring 2019 issue of Preservation. Read on to see if any of your favorite places made our list—and please vote for your top choices in January!

Related Stories: Science and Tech, Arts, Culture, Landscapes, Housing.

Here are the six places on our list from the History category.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center—Church Creek, Maryland (pictured above)

Designated a national park, a Maryland state park, and a national monument, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is a testament to this freedom fighter’s towering legacy. Since few buildings exist from Tubman’s early life, a major focus of the park is the preservation of the natural landscape where she spent her childhood, learning to navigate the marshes and forest of the Eastern Shore—a skill that would later aid her in her rescue operations as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

In 2017, the National Park Service and Maryland Park Service built a Visitor Center as a gateway for guests to explore the 17 acres of state park land and 480-acre national historical park spanning three counties. The 16,000-square-foot building, designed by the architecture firm GWWO, features a movie and exhibits that walk visitors through Tubman’s trailblazing life and emphasize her enduring legacy. Its design of four pitched roof segments along a slightly diagonal line represents journeying northward, the look of separate buildings attached together serving as a nod to stations on the Underground Railroad.

Located next door to the expansive Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Visitor Center honors the landscape of Tubman’s childhood with a legacy garden, the use of native plants, and state-of-the-art eco-friendly design in the parking lot, walking paths, and the LEED Silver-rated Visitor Center.

Location: 4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, MD 21622

Hours: Daily, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (may be affected by federal government shutdown)

Interesting Fact: The Visitor Center is one of 36 Tubman-related places listed on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which spans 125 miles across two counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

photo by: Meghan Drueding

Gay Liberation Monument—New York City

In a small park in Greenwich Village, a bright white sculpture pays homage to the start of the modern LGBT rights movement. The set of four figures, two seated on one of the benches that line the brick square while the other two stand in conversation, are set up as if they were real people lingering in the park on any given day.

In 2016, Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn building next door, and the surrounding streets were declared a national monument by a presidential proclamation, creating the first national park dedicated to interpreting LGBT history. The new National Park Service site honors the 1969 riots that began after police raided the gay bar the Stonewall Inn, a set of events commonly considered the spark that ignited the national movement for LGBT civil rights.

It’s hard to imagine that this understated sculpture caused such a stir that public opposition barred it from being put up for a decade after it was originally approved for installation in 1982. The casual poses of the couples were meant to evoke the gay rights movement’s aspiration for the opportunity to be publicly open about affection in an easy, relaxed way. George Segal cast the pieces from live models, then tempered the realism with ethereal white paint. Today, they are a perfect photo op, making them a destination for both locals and tourists who wish to pay homage to a historic moment.

Location: Intersection of Christopher, Grove, and Fourth Streets, New York, NY 10014

Hours: Daily

Interesting Fact: Another cast of the sculpture sits on the campus of Stanford University.

photo by: Go For Broke National Education Center

Go For Broke Monument—Los Angeles

Over 40 years after the end of World War II, a group of Japanese-American veterans formed a group aiming to create a monument that would recognize the more than 33,000 Japanese Americans who served in the war, mostly in segregated units. Ten years of upward struggle by the foundation finally culminated in the creation of the Go For Broke monument in 1999, in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles.

The sloped wedge of black granite rises out of the ground with a monumental flagpole in the center. Los Angeles architect Robert M. Yanagita’s design was inspired by accounts of battles from Japanese-American soldiers documented in Chester Tanaka’s 1982 book Go For Broke. Many soldiers were described as charging up a “banzai hill” while trying to rescue a battalion from German forces, which inspired the monument's sloped shape.

The monument and the grass at its base form a circle meant to symbolize the world at war. The wall of the memorial formed by the granite’s upward slope is engraved with the names of 16,131 soldiers who served in World War II, with stars next to those who died in action. On the upward-facing portion of the monument, the soldiers’ signature battle cry, "Go For Broke," is engraved above quotes and the insignia of the four main Japanese-American military units.

Location: 355 East 1st Street Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Hours: Daily

Interesting Fact: The term “Go for broke” is from Hawaiian gambler’s slang meaning to go all in and risk everything, apt for describing soldiers’ sacrifice in World War II.

September 11 National Memorials—Multiple Locations

Many memorials have gone up around the country since the devastating terrorist attacks of 2001, but most well-known are the monuments at the sites associated with the attack: the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in northern Virginia, and a field in western Pennsylvania.

Occupying the site of the former World Trade Center complex, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan honors the 2,977 people who died in all three locations. Twin reflecting pools, surrounded by waterfalls, sit on the footprint of the Twin Towers. The water in each pool disappears into a central square that visitors can’t see the bottom of, signifying the permanent void left by the absence of loved ones lost. The names of all the victims are engraved on bronze parapets around the edge of the waterfalls. Nearby, the accompanying museum recalls the events of the day, with pieces of the Twin Towers and artifacts commemorating victims on display.

The Pentagon Memorial honors the 184 people killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon building. The memorial is set up as a timeline of the victims’ ages at their death, which ranged from three to 71, with stainless-steel strips marking birth years crisscrossing the ground of the 2-acre site in front of the restored building. Each victim is represented by a cantilevered bench projecting out over a small pool of water, the benches pointing either toward the Pentagon building or away from it to signify whether the victim perished on board the flight or in the building.

Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the Flight 93 National Memorial, administered by the National Park Service, commemorates the 40 passengers and crew members who sacrificed their lives preventing one of the three hijacked planes from reaching the U.S. Capitol. The plane’s crash site has been preserved as a grassy field with a granite boulder marking the point of impact. A walkway alongside the field leads to a memorial plaza with a marble Wall of Names, and the surrounding area, once a strip mine, has been reforested as a “living memorial landscape.” A Tower of Voices, a monumental 93-foot-tall edifice with 40 wind chimes meant to evoke the voice of those lost, is currently under construction.

Locations:

9/11 Memorial & Museum—180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007
The Pentagon Memorial—1 N. Rotary Road, Arlington, VA 22202
Flight 93 National Memorial—6424 Lincoln Highway 30, Stoystown, PA 15563

Hours:

9/11 Memorial & Museum—Daily, 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Pentagon Memorial—Daily
Flight 93 National Memorial—Daily, Sunrise to Sunset (hours may be affected by federal government shutdown)

Interesting fact: The twin waterfalls at the New York City 9/11 Memorial & Museum are the largest man-made waterfalls in North America.

photo by: shawncalhoun/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Memorials have long been a powerful source for communicating history to the public, which is why nonprofit group Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) felt compelled to create one for a group of people largely overlooked in historic memory: victims of lynching. The idea arose from an extensive study the EJI undertook back in 2010 to document the thousands of lynchings that occurred in the South and its effect on the African American population. As a result, the EJI realized a need for a place to address these acts of violence.

In April 2018, the EJI opened two places in Montgomery, Alabama, to tell the story of injustice towards African Americans: the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a reflective monument, and the Legacy Museum, an interactive exhibit about the history of racial injustice in America. The memorial spans six acres in downtown Montgomery, using a series of art and sculptures to communicate the pain of slavery, honor victims of lynching, commemorate activists in the Civil Rights Movement, and highlight ongoing issues of racial inequality.

The central focus of the site is a memorial square, built with MASS Design Group, composed of 800 six-foot tall monuments hanging from a larger frame, each inscribed with a county in America where lynchings took place. The EJI created similar monuments for other localities to install in their own community to acknowledge past violence. EJI hopes these monuments will begin a process of reconciliation and recovery from past trauma by honestly addressing the past.

Location: 417 Caroline Street, Montgomery, AL 36104

Hours: Daily, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (closed Tuesdays)

Interesting Fact: The museum’s opening in April was accompanied by a Concert for Peace and Justice featuring artists like Usher, Dave Matthews, and The Roots.

National Mall Places—Washington, DC

Standing in the shadow of the Washington Monument, it can feel like the National Mall has been the same since George Washington was president. In reality, the Mall has evolved over the years to commemorate significant people and events in our nation’s history, as well as our changing understanding of the past and present. The last 40 years have seen the creation of some of the most iconic places on the famous 138 acres of scenic green space in the heart of our nation’s capital.

While we weren’t able to secure participation in 40 Under 40 Places from all of the National Mall sites built since 1978, here are some that represent the exciting additions to this cultural landscape, today administered by the National Park Service, over the past 40 years.

Dedicated in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become one of the most famous memorials in “America’s Front Yard," but it was an uphill battle to get it built. Yale student Maya Lin’s now-renowned design of two 200-foot-long polished granite walls, signifying a rift in the earth, was extremely controversial because of its modern, minimalist architecture.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was created in 1995 to commemorate the 5.8 million veterans of the “forgotten war” with 19 seven-foot-tall stainless-steel statues of harrowed soldiers in billowing ponchos, each representing a different branch of the military. A nearby wall reminds visitors that “Freedom Is not Free.”

The monumental World War II Memorial was built around the Rainbow Pool, which had already existed on the Mall for years before the memorial’s 2004 dedication. Huge columns representing 56 U.S. states and territories circle the pool, with two pavilions representing the Atlantic and Pacific fronts of the war.

In the tradition of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial pay homage to two Americans who have left an indelible imprint on national history. Both sit on the Tidal Basin, but the monumental sculpture of a 28-foot-tall King is set on a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials while the FDR Memorial spans four outdoor rooms, representing the 32nd president’s unprecedented four terms in office.

Of course, the other anchor of the National Mall is its museums, the newest of which is the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), opened in 2016 as the 19th Smithsonian Museum. Its distinctive three-tiered design, by architects David Adjaye and Philip Freelon, is inspired by a traditional wooden column topped by a crown, all covered by 3,600 bronze-colored panels reminiscent of 19th-century ironwork created by enslaved craftsmen.

The National Gallery of Art is one of the Mall’s older museums, but in 1978 it opened a second building, the East Building, designed by I.M. Pei, to display modern art. The trapezoidal building’s design is centered around combinations of triangles, including triangular glass panels in the roof, and one corner of the building that is a slim 19.47-degree angle, referred to as the “knife’s edge.”

Location: National Mall, Washington, DC

Hours:

Memorials—Daily (hours may be affected by federal government shutdown)
NMAAHC—Daily, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (hours may be affected by federal government shutdown)
National Gallery of Art—Mon.-Sat., 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (hours may be affected by federal government shutdown)

Interesting Fact: The World War II Memorial contains two hidden "Kilroy Was Here" engravings, inspired by a cartoon that soldiers would draw to mark places American G.I.s had been during the war.

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Rebecca Gale is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. In her spare time, you can find her visiting local museums, photographing historic buildings, or playing guitar.

Forty of the most important, most interesting, and quirkiest American places 40 years old or less. See the list and vote for your favorites now through January 18.

Vote Now