America’s Most Endangered Places

March 28th, 2007

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In the late 1940s, a grassroots effort among environmental advocates and leading historians led to the formation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was officially launched when President Truman signed legislation creating the National Trust on October 26, 1949.

Its primary mission was originally the acquisition and management of historic sites. Since then, the Trust has also taken on additional goals, including financial assistance. The Preservation Services Fund was set up in 1969 to provide financial assistance to local area preservation efforts. Since the 1970′s many other programs have been established including the National Main Street Center, which emphasizes the revitalization of traditional downtown business districts; Community Partners, which focuses on historic residential neighborhoods; and other efforts for rural preservation, heritage tourism, and other programs. The Trust also administers the Preservation Honor Awards, designed to “recognize individuals, organizations and projects that represent the best in preservation.” Since 1966, the Trust has relied exclusively on the financial contributions of private individuals, corporations, and foundations. Today, membership amounts to more than 250,000 individuals and organizations.

The List

In 1988, the Trust published the first of its annual listing of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This list was created to try and create awareness for national historic places that are in the most immediate trouble from development and/or legislative efforts, and spark action to save them. Since 1988, the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list has been one of the most effective tools in the fight to save America’s irreplaceable architectural, cultural, and natural heritage.

The 11 sites chosen each year are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. Some are well-known, such as Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Others, like the Kennecott Copper Mines in Alaska or the village of East Aurora, New York, are less famous but just as important, because they too represent preservation challenges facing thousands of communities. Each site raises awareness about the dangers to specific parts of America’s heritage and about preservation generally.

The list has now brought national attention to more than 140 significant buildings, sites and landscapes. At times, that attention has galvanized public support to rescue a treasured landmark, while in others, it has been an opening salvo in a long battle to save an important piece of our history. 11 Most has been so successful at educating the public that now more than 20 states and numerous cities and towns publish their own lists of endangered places.

See the 2003 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.


Government policy profoundly affects preservation. Tax rules, zoning laws and building codes, and funding decisions can revitalize traditional downtowns, protect historic buildings, and improve America’s parks — or they can encourage sprawl, damage established neighborhoods, and allow the destruction of historic treasures. The National Trust advocates for better federal, state and local policies in the following areas:

Smart Growth & Sprawl: Not only does sprawl consume open space and demand costly infrastructure — it also drains the life from established communities.

Government Funding: Budget deficits at both the federal and state levels have endangered funding for programs that have preserved America’s heritage.

Tax Credits: Federal and state tax incentives have encouraged the rehabilitation of tens of thousands of buildings and created thousands of jobs.

Historic Schools: Fair funding formulas can keep historic schools at the heart of America’s communities and prevent mega-school sprawl.

Transportation: Federal protections have saved thousands of historic treasures from road building, and thoughtful funding rules have encouraged community-friendly transportation projects.

Housing: Revitalizing older communities is crucial for meeting the ever-increasing demands for affordable and market rate housing.

Getting Involved

Support smarter public policies by becoming a preservation advocate. Join the National Trust’s Preservation Advocate E-Mail Network and receive alerts and a newsletter, the Preservation Advocate News, that describe the latest policy developments and what actions are needed. Also find out more about current proposals in the Trust’s Legislative Action Center, which includes comprehensive information about bills before Congress and the voting records of each member.

* Note: Some of the copy on this page was taken directly from the National Trust website… there you go.

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