Chosen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which since 1988 has designated more than 230 places in danger of extinction, the latest list encompasses not only individual buildings, but also bridges, villages, a ranch, a hospital, an island, and even a battlefield.
“We’ve chosen places of national significance that are facing an urgent threat, but also that aren’t so far gone that there isn’t a possible solution,” says Stephanie Meeks, president of the nonprofit group.
Scattered throughout the country, some of the places are scenic, like the rustic bridges of California’s Yosemite Valley and Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in the North Dakota Badlands. Some commemorate significant events, like the island in Los Angeles where 3,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly removed from their homes after Pearl Harbor, and the Princeton, N.J., field where a decisive battle was fought during the American Revolution. Others mark the birthplaces of civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
But not all of the choices are pretty or historic in the conventional sense, such as the Philadelphia gym where prizefighter Joe Frazier prepared to square off against Muhammad Ali. Nor do all require a tankful of gasoline to visit.
Meeks says that the point of the eclectic list is to show “the full breadth of the American story.” But it’s also meant to motivate people to look at treasures in their own back yards and see what can be done to save them.
Bridges of Yosemite Valley, Calif.
A proposed National Park Service management plan for the Merced River, which flows through the heart of Yosemite National Park, could remove three rustic-style arched stone bridges. The bridges were built between 1921 and 1933.