Redevelopment of urban areas that puts historic architecture at risk is the focus of the 2016 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places. An annual initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the rankings released this week are intended to raise awareness of sites that have local preservation crises and give them a national platform. The midcentury buildings of Tuscon’s Sunshine Mile, modernist glass-dome conservatories in Milwaukee, and the first golf course to desegregate in the South are included in cultural and architectural heritage in peril.
Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust, stated in a release that this year’s list “elevates important threatened historic places in our nation’s cities at a time when more than 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas.” Last year’s list highlighted Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, the Grand Canyon, and the Factory, a 1970s gay disco in Hollywood. The 2014 list featured Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1954 Spring House in Florida, and the Palisades in New Jersey.
In 2016, several of the retro commercial buildings along the Sunshine Mile of Tucson, with their distinct Southwest modernism in geometric, glassy façades, and postwar details, are endangered due to a road expansion project.
Meanwhile the 1924 Lions Municipal Golf Course in the increasingly developed Austin, Texas, the first in the South to admit black players, is likewise under pressure from commercial encroachments when its lease runs out in 2019.
Environmental concerns are also highlighted, such as the earthquakes and rising sea levels menacing San Francisco’s popular waterfront Embarcadero. As are the funding limits of restoration. The midcentury Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee were closed this year after some concrete crumbled off the conservatories, leading to concerns about stability. There are now calls for their demolition, even while they stand as pioneering structures in engineering, the first conoidal (cone-shaped) glass domes in the world.
Inclusion on the list doesn’t mean a site gets any added preservation protection aside from the wider attention. For instance, the Pan Am Worldport at JFK airport in New York City was on the 2013 list, and torn down later that year. The Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, on the 2007 list, was demolished in 2014. Yet the National Trust states that of over 270 sites in the 29-year history of the list, only “five percent of listed sites have been lost.”
Below are the 11 sites on the 2016 list of America’s Most Endangered Places, with links in the captions for more details on each: