Coltrane house, Chicago hospital called endangered

Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jazz musician John Coltrane’s home on Long Island, N.Y., a cloverleaf-shaped Chicago hospital building and a Pillsbury plant in Minneapolis that once was the world’s most advanced flour mill are among America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation on Wednesday also made the unusual move of listing an entire city — Charleston, S.C. — on “watch status.” The group says expanding cruise ship tourism could harm the city’s historic character.

Specific sites in Alabama, California, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin also made the list, including a historic Chinatown called China Alley in California’s San Joaquin Valley that began when immigrants arrived in 1877. There are no local historic preservation officials to enforce laws protecting such sites, according to the National Trust.

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The final listing this year is devoted to historic sites imperiled by state actions as legislatures across the country consider cuts to preservation funding. Michigan eliminated historic preservation tax credits, and Texas has considered deep cuts with one proposal to eliminate its state historic preservation agency.

Funding is the biggest threat affecting all 50 states because so many are facing budget deficits and a sputtering economy, said National Trust President Stephanie Meeks. Congress was among the first to cut historic preservation funding by eliminating the Save America’s Treasures grant program in the 2011 budget.

“I think it does send a message that preservation is something that’s nice to have, not something that’s essential to have,” Meeks told The Associated Press. “Of course, we take a different view.”

In Charleston on Monday, residents and environmental groups sued Carnival Cruise Lines, alleging that the company’s vessels are a public nuisance. They said cruises mean more noise, pollution and congestion, among other complaints.

Charleston’s issues are “complex and somewhat unique,” Meeks said, though the national group does not have plans to join the lawsuit. She said Charleston was nominated for the list by a local group.

The National Trust wanted to “strike a balanced note between recognizing the great work that Charleston has done in preservation over the last several decades, while also signaling our concern about the growing impacts of the cruise ship industry in that port,” Meeks said.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. called the designation unfortunate.

“What we have here with the cruise business is very modest and in perfect scale. We manage tourism carefully in Charleston, and the cruise industry amounts to less than 4 percent of our tourism,” he said.

Cruises have about 200,000 passengers a year among the city’s 4.5 million visitors, he said.

The mayor said he felt the trust was getting pressure from “the same tiny, radical fringe” in Charleston that has sued over the cruise industry.

The cruise controversy over the impact of cruises has been brewing for months, ever since Carnival last year permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston creating a year-round cruise industry.

In Chicago, the uniquely shaped Prentice Women’s Hospital is perhaps the list’s most endangered site, Meeks said. Northwestern University, which owns the building, has said it plans to raze the building later this year. Preservationists argue the building is a prime candidate for reuse and is one of Chicago’s most distinctive designs from the 1970s.

“What we hope for through the ‘11 Most’ listing … is to engender a dialogue locally about what’s important about this place,” Meeks said. “Sometimes that place is a building, like Prentice Women’s Hospital, and sometimes that place is a state or a city.”

In Minneapolis, the Pillsbury “A” Mill Complex stands vacant. The trust said the National Historic Landmark is in danger of piecemeal development that could strip it of its potential for reuse and rehabilitation.

Coltrane’s home in Dix Hills, N.Y., where he wrote “A Love Supreme,” has deteriorated due to a lack of funds, the trust said. A local group hopes to restore the site as an education center but needs additional support.

Other endangered sites on the National Trust list are:

— Bear Butte, Meade County, S.D. — This 4,426-foot mountain is sacred ground for many Native American tribes but is threatened by proposed wind and oil energy development.

— Belmead-on-the-James, Powhatan County, Va. — This little-known landmark of African-American heritage was once a slave plantation that was transformed into schools for black and Native American students. The buildings closed in the 1970s and now need emergency repairs.

— Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Ala. — This fortress that played a pivotal role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay is threatened as the shoreline erodes as much as 50 feet per year.

— Greater Chaco Landscape, N.M. — The site includes hundreds of Native American archaeological and cultural sites across 1,000 miles but is in jeopardy due to increased oil and gas exploration.

— Isaac Manchester Farm, Avella, Pa. — Coal mining threatens this colonial-era farm that has been home to eight generations of one family.

— National Soldiers Home Historic District, Milwaukee, Wis. — Deferred maintenance has left some historic buildings on this campus on in danger of collapse.