On Wednesday, January 11, the US Department of the Interior announced 24 new National Historic Landmarks. They include an indigenous burial ground in Kansas City, a church in San Jose that was a hub for the Mexican American civil rights movement, and women’s and civil rights activist Pauli Murray’s family home in Durham, North Carolina.
National Historic Landmarks are designated as nationally significant heritage locales by the US Secretary of the Interior, which is currently Sally Jewell. President-elect Trump’s pick for the position is Ryan Zinke, a US Representative for Montana who has a concerning anti-environmentalist record. His confirmation hearing is January 17. As for these landmarks at the end of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jewell stated they represent “different threads of the American story that have been told through activism, architecture, music, and religious observance.”
Among these designations are several influential art and culture sites. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City was cited for its “revolutionizing model for studying the history and culture of people of African descent that used a global, transnational perspective.” Part of the New York Public Library, the Center includes an integral archive of photographs, prints, moving images, sound, and art and artifacts. Also included, the Neutra Studio and Residences (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles was once the home of architect Richard Neutra. The property was donated by his widow Dione Neutra to Cal Poly Pomona, and is cared for by their College of Environmental Design. The Interior Department noted it is “the only property where one can see the progression of his style over a period of years,” as he influenced the distinct character of California’s mid-century architecture.
Elsewhere in California, Chicano Park in San Diego was designated. The park was formed following a 1970 community occupation that protested “the construction of a California Highway Patrol substation on land where the City of San Diego had promised the neighborhood a community park.” Continuing to act as a vibrant gathering place, it features the Chicano Park Monumental Murals on the freeway bridge supports. The large-scale murals, which respond to Chicano culture and history, date to the 1970s, and were restored in 2013.
If they were not already listed, these designations add National Historic Landmarks to the National Register of Historic Places. In a precarious time when myopically nostalgic “greatness” of the country is fueling the incoming administration, offering this boost to preservation for grassroots art destinations, African diaspora archives, and civil rights sites is important.
The full list of 24 new National Historic Landmarks is online at the U.S. Department of the Interior.