March 25, 2024

Forward Momentum: Updates for 8 Previously Listed 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Since 1988, the National Trust has used its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the nation's greatest treasures. The list, which has identified more than 350 sites to date, has been so successful in galvanizing preservation efforts that only a handful of sites have been lost.

Every now and then we check in on previously listed sites to see how they are doing. This update includes forward momentum towards preservation for a number of sites that have been featured on the list over the years.

West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site, Berkeley, California (listed 2020)

Provided by National Trust for Historic Preservation Staff

A large painted sign in red with a black bird on the pavement with the words "Save the West Berkeley Shellmound." This is surrounded by a group of people who are advocating for the protection of this site.

photo by: Brooke Anderson

Photo of call to action at West Berkeley Shellmound.

On March 12, 2024, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the purchase of land containing the West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site. The City has purchased the property with funds raised by the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an Indigenous-led land trust based in Oakland, and will transfer the property to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. This will make Berkeley, California, among the first cities in the country to return land to Indigenous people.

This site is one of the most important and earliest known Ohlone settlements on the shores of San Francisco Bay, with a village dating back 5,700 years. Today the Shellmound site is still an active place of Ohlone prayer and ceremony and is considered sacred by the Ohlone people, though it has been covered by a parking lot for decades. The West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site was included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2020 after a condo development was proposed in that location by the long-time private owner of the Shellmound site. Read the full update about this recent development.

Saugatuck Dunes, Saugatuck Dunes, Michigan (Listed 2010)

Provided by the National Trust Law Department

2009 photo of Saugatuck Dunes

photo by: pippawilson via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

Saugatuck Dunes in 2009.

After 14 years of advocacy, on February 9, 2024, the State of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy denied a permit for a 2017 proposal to develop a 50-boat marina and homes in the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Area, a 2,500-acre stretch of freshwater wetlands and dunes located along the shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.  This was followed shortly thereafter by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also denying the federal permit for the proposed development.    

While the permit denial may be appealed, this victory highlights the need to be stalwart in the face of challenges and the importance of steady partnerships and collaboration. For example, in 2020, the Mouth of the Kalamazoo River was determined eligible for the National Register as a 23-square-mile Traditional Cultural Property, because of its cultural significance to several Potawatomi tribes, reversing an earlier determination by the Army Corps that the district was not eligible. Partners included the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, and several bands of the Potawatomi. The Environmental Law & Policy Center also collaborated with the Trust on two successful amicus briefs to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2020-2022 confirming the standing of the Coastal Alliance to challenge the local land use approval of the development. 

China Alley, Hanford, California (Listed 2011)

Provided by Steve Banister and Ariane Wing

photo by: Evelyn Hang Yin for the China Alley Preservation Society

Interior of the Taoist Temple Museum before the fire.

In 2021, ten years after China Alley (a member of Main Street America) was listed on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered list, the Taoist Temple Museum was heavily damaged by fire. While the building did not have structural damage it did result in severe heat and smoke damage to the temple room and artifacts on the second floor.

In the three years since our last update, significant strides have been made to catalog and separate items that would remain in Hanford, and other items that were moved to climate-controlled conservation facilities in San Francisco (coupletsforms of literature and poetry often placed on the front of temples), Los Angeles (objects) and Northern California (paper items). Conservators are working on the conservation of many items. Several lanterns and the main Altar are currently being conserved with remarkable success.

In addition to object conservation an architect specializing in historic buildings has been working with a structural engineer to draw up reconstruction plans. Contractors have shored up the first and the second stories. The burned stairway and the bearing wall the stairs were attached to was removed, while the tongue and groove first floor ceiling was removed in the burned area to assess the floor joists of the second floor. While more funds will be needed to fully restore the site, progress is slow and steady.

Yates Memorial Hospital, Ketchikan, Alaska (2020)

Provided by Stephen Reeve, executive director of Historic Ketchikan

Thanks to the late 2023 purchase by Historic Ketchikan of the Yates Memorial Hospital from its owners of 120 years, St. John’s Episcopal Church, the long-held dream of restoration is moving forward. Since its naming to the 11 Most Endangered list in 2020, Historic Ketchikan has continued to sustain the building and has undertaken significant foundation stabilization work in the past several months. This summer, work will continue with exterior restoration as well as roof and electrical/mechanical system improvements. Pending fundraising success, Historic Ketchikan plans a complete restoration within 3 years.

Upon completion of restoration, a heritage tourism destination is planned to tell the story of early Ketchikan and its first hospital and to honor the determination of its nurses. Revenues from the restored building will support historic preservation and heritage tourism far into the future.

Yates Memorial Hospital

photo by: Yates Memorial Hospital/Historic Ketchikan

Historical photo of Yates Memorial Hospital.

The Brooks-Park Home and Studios in East Hampton, New York (Listed 2022)

Provided by Scott Bluedorn, board member, Brooks-Park Art and Nature Center, Inc

Interior Studio at the Brooks-Park Home & Studios, East Hampton, New York

photo by: Gary Mamay

Interior of the Brooks-Park Home & Studios

The Brooks-Park Art and Nature Center, Inc. is focused on the historic significance of the home and studios of American artists James Brooks and Charlotte Park, who lived and worked in Long Island’s Springs community of East Hampton, New York. Working closely with the Town of East Hampton, the Brooks-Park Arts and Nature Center is currently negotiating a licensing agreement for the usage and revitalization of the property. Our goal is to restore and/or reinterpret the existing structures for habitable use that will include diverse programming and a natural environment open to the public for quiet enjoyment.

A building conditions report developed in 2023 by the historic preservationists Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc. was submitted to the Town Board of East Hampton. The report provides a summary of recommended interventions and outlines an estimated budget for the restoration of the house and studios. We anticipate the stabilization of the buildings as well as all necessary repairs and redesign to go forward with funding from multiple sources, both public and private. Once the licensing agreement is finalized, we will embark on a robust fundraising plan.

The L.V. Hull Home & Studio, Kosciusko, Mississippi (Listed 2023)

Provided by Yaphet Smith, Keysmith Foundation

View of a group standing with a banner in front of the home of the L.V. Hull Home.

photo by: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Photo of supporters at the L.V. Hull Home and Studio when it was designated as an 11 Most Endangered Site.

The L.V. Hull Home & Studio’s inclusion on the11 Most Endangered list super-charged our efforts to preserve Hull’s creative legacy. Shortly after the announcement, the Keysmith Foundation, the steward of Hull’s home, received a $50,000 grant from the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund for the home’s stabilization. This critical funding was followed by a $25,000 grant from the National Park Service’s Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative. The highly regarded Mississippi firm Belinda Stewart Architects will lead site stabilization. Work will begin very soon!

While more support is needed to fully preserve Hull’s home, the goal is for the structure to be publicly accessible by late fall 2024 to coincide with both the partial opening of the L.V. Hull Legacy Center’s main campus (just steps away from Hull’s home) and the exhibition L.V. Hull: Love is a Sensation at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi. The Legacy Center renovation is supported by a recent, transformative grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Building Fund for the Arts. Finally, we are thrilled to share that Hull’s home is under consideration for the National Register of Historic Places.

Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church (aka Perseverance Benevolent and Mutual Aid Society Hall), New Orleans, Louisiana (Listed 2023)

Provided by the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans

View of the facade and the rear of the Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church during reconstruction.

photo by: Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans

Exterior of the Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church of Eternal life.

The Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans (PRC) continues to work closely with the Rev. Harold Lewis on the full reconstruction of the Holy Aid and Comfort Spiritual Church of Eternal Life (formerly known as the Perseverance Benevolent Society Hall) in the 7th Ward neighborhood of the city. The Albert Architecture firm is creating architectural drawings for the church, which suffered severe damage in Hurricane Ida, when the building partially collapsed from the storm’s strong winds. Once the drawings are complete, the PRC will seek a general contractor for the reconstruction through a competitive process. The project received generous funding through the Preserving Black Churches grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as an appropriation from the Louisiana Legislature, and fundraising efforts by the church's congregation. Rev. Lewis is excited to rebuild the church, which once again can serve as a thriving community space.

West Bank of St. John, Baptist Parish, Louisiana (Listed 2023)

Provided by the National Trust Law Department

A view of a town on the edge of a river bank.

photo by: Brian M. Davis/Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation

View of the West Bank St. John the Baptist Parish.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ high-profile and contentious permit review for the proposed Greenfield Terminal in Wallace, Louisiana, continues to move forward. On August 4, 2023, the Louisiana District Court invalidated the industrial zoning of the project site because it had been improperly zoned in the 1990s. The St. John the Baptist Parish Council subsequently attempted to rezone the property back to industrial, but the District Court issued a temporary restraining order on August 21 to block that action. The Parish Council defied the District Court and voted on August 22 to rezone the property despite the restraining order, leading the District Court to charge the Parish President with contempt of court.

Additionally, on September 21, 2023 the Army Corps of Engineers issued its finding of effect for the project, opining that the project would have adverse effects on historic properties. However, the project applicant continues to maintain that the proposed project will not cause meaningful adverse effects and has refused to propose mitigation measures.

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While her day job is the associate director of content at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Priya spends other waking moments musing, writing, and learning about how the public engages and embraces history.

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