News

South Street Seaport Added to List of Most Endangered Sites in the US

South Street Seaport, listed on the National Trust's 11 Most Endangered Places (photo by Jim Henderson, all images courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)
South Street Seaport, listed on the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (photo by Jim Henderson, all images courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its 11 Most Endangered Historic Places today, including sites across the United States threatened by development, demolition, or decay. Since 1988, the list has been a tool of awareness, bringing local preservation plights into a national spotlight.

The 2015 list includes several places of overlooked history in danger of disappearing. Significantly, Lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, which may be radically altered by a high-rise building project from the Howard Hughes Corporation, is New York’s oldest intact neighborhood. In the shadow of the Financial District, its 11 blocks by the East River are often forgotten by residents and considered a destination mainly for tourists, one that’s still recovering after heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a statement regarding the proposed tower from Howard Hughes: “If it were constructed on a pier jutting over the water, the tower would alter the character of the waterfront and block views of the Brooklyn Bridge to and from the historic Seaport. With this 11 Most Endangered listing, we are hopeful that the developers and the City of New York will consider relocating the tower away from this beloved historic district.”

Pier 17-18 of the South Street Seaport in a historic photograph
Pier 17-18 of the South Street Seaport in a historic photograph

As the list is one of advocacy, inclusion doesn’t necessarily mean preservation; for example the Pan Am Worldport at JFK on the 2013 list was demolished that same year. Nevertheless it can be a rallying point. The natural vista of the Palisades in New Jersey that had an imminent danger from construction of a new headquarters for LG Electronics that would cut over the tree line, was on last year’s listThis week it was announced the company had reached an agreement with concerned groups to design their building lower.

Many of the 2015 sites are connected to greater preservation issues, like gentrification, industrial activity, and the vanishing of marginalized history. Little Havana in Miami, a longtime Cuban American community with both residential and commercial life, may be encroached on by upzoning to allow less affordable development. The currently boarded up 19th-century Old US Mint in San Francisco, which survived the 1906 earthquake, similarly has a fragile future in the city’s continued construction. Other sites like East Point Historic Civic Block in East Point, Georgia, and A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama, are both significant places of African-American history in the South, yet could succumb to demolition by neglect if not preserved. And while the Stonewall Inn got New York City Landmark status this week, other sites of LGBTQ activism remain at risk of disappearing, such as The Factory in West Hollywood, California, which may be demolished. As a 1970s gay disco, it was later host to one of the country’s first major AIDS fundraisers in the 1980s.

Below are photos of all the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, with the most eye raising perhaps being the Grand Canyon. Yes, even one of the most visited National Parks can be altered by its own popularity, with luxury tourist accommodations on its land, as well as uranium mining underground.

Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama (courtesy City of Birmingham Archives)
Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama (courtesy City of Birmingham Archives)
The Grand Canyon in Arizona (photo by Alan English)
The Grand Canyon in Arizona (photo by Alan English)
Chautauqua Amphitheater, in Chautauqua, New York (photo by Stephen Davies)
Chautauqua Amphitheater, in Chautauqua, New York (photo by Stephen Davies)
East Point Civic Center in East Point, Georgia (photo by Halston Pitman)
East Point Civic Center in East Point, Georgia (photo by Halston Pitman)
Little Havana in Miami, Florida (© Steven Brooke Studios)
Little Havana in Miami, Florida (© Steven Brooke Studios)
Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas (photo by John Roberts)
Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas (photo by John Roberts)
Oak Flats in Arizona (photo by Kevin Cassadore)
Oak Flats in Arizona (photo by Kevin Cassadore)
The Old U.S. Mint in San Francisco (photo by Sanfranman59)
The Old U.S. Mint in San Francisco (photo by Sanfranman59)
Carrolton Courthouse in New Orleans (courtesy Louisiana Landmarks)
Carrolton Courthouse in New Orleans (courtesy Louisiana Landmarks)
The Factory in West Hollywood, California (photo by Hunter Kerhart)
The Factory in West Hollywood, California (photo by Hunter Kerhart)
Tall ships at the South Street Seaport on Manhattan (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless indicated)
Tall ships at the South Street Seaport on Manhattan (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless indicated)

View all of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2015 at the National Trust for Historic Preservation

comments (0)