Page N1.2 . 20 July 2005                     
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    U.S. History at Risk


    A previous owner had applied a sealant to these walls, trapping water inside that had rusted the rebar and caused the blocks to crack and spall. Today, the house is off-limits to visitors until critical repairs can be made, but the estimated cost of stabilization far exceeds the resources of the nonprofit organization that owns the property.

    "Frank Lloyd Wright left us a rich legacy of buildings that are both innovative architectural creations and genuine works of art," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. "If we don't take steps immediately to halt the deterioration of this marvelous house and restore it to its original elegance, we will rob future generations of the opportunity to experience the visionary work of a true genius."

    Perhaps the renewed attention brought by the trust's listing will attract the funding needed to correct the serious problems facing the badly damaged house and site.

    Celebrating Minorities

    One of the first U.S. colleges to admit students regardless of race or gender was founded in 1848. Eleutherian College served as a busy stop on the Underground Railroad, which helped transport escaped slaves north to freedom. Located in Lancaster Village, Indiana, the building symbolizes both equality in education and the long road to racial justice.

    Today the stone building, which closed as a school soon after the Civil War, shows the effects of prolonged neglect, vandalism, and interior water damage. Exposure has damaged the plaster ceilings, rotted joists, and peeled paint. The exterior of the building suffers from moss and algae growth.

    Plans have been completed for Eleutherian College's restoration as a museum, but congressional support for the National Park Service's Network to Freedom program is declining. Fundraising is in progress to save the structure, as well as its Underground Railroad history.

    King Island, Alaska, 95 miles west of Nome, is in imminent danger of being washed into the Bering Sea. For centuries, the island was occupied by the Inupiat Eskimos, or "Ugiuvangmiut." In 1959, the Bureau of Indian Affairs closed the Island's school, forcing the Ugiuvangmiut to relocate with their children to Nome. Today, the last surviving families are seeking to return seasonally to the Island.

    The King Island Native Corporation, which owns the land, is working to protect and rebuild the island's modest homes and public ceremonial buildings — most of them made of wood with walrus skin roofs. With little or no maintenance in a half-century, the structures are collapsing. Repatriation is urgent, not only to save these threatened buildings, but also to preserve the rich culture of the Ugiuvangmiut before it, too, vanishes.

    Encroaching Suburbias

    In a far warmer climate, with a higher visibility, the famous Belleview Biltmore Hotel, in Belleair, Florida is threatened by its own success. Its prime location is attractive to developers who wish to use the land to build condominiums.

    "The White Queen of the Gulf," as the hotel is known, is an icon of Victorian charm and the largest wood-frame building in Florida. Yet the owners have applied for permits to demolish it and local law offers little protection. Only the purchase of the Belleview Biltmore (with preservation in mind) will save it from destruction.

    Moe points out that, unlike other threatened historic hotels, "this one is still doing a thriving business. That makes it doubly hard to understand why its demolition is necessary — or even sensible."

    Equally incomprehensible is the endangerment of the more modest Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, Virginia. It is one of hundreds of historic sites on the 175-mile- (280-kilometer-) long "Journey Through Hallowed Ground" corridor through Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The sites includes homes of U.S. presidents, Civil War battlefields, Native American and African American historic sites, and numerous historically significant landscapes.

    These sites are threatened by suburban sprawl, from local development plans that do not weigh the cost of losing unique historic places or the effect of sprawl on the economic engine of heritage tourism. The Journey is a tri-state collaboration of public and private concerns seeking to balance growth and historic preservation in ways that protect the region's 400-year-old heritage.

    Unconsidered Urban Renewal

    Cities as well as suburban historic buildings are under threat from developers. Downtown Detroit, Michigan boasts a rich array of architectural treasures reflecting its role in industry, music, and the Underground Railroad.

    But today, many of these treasures are threatened. Neglect, natural elements, vandalism, and looting all threaten downtown Detroit. However, the ultimate threat is a series of institutional mindsets within Detroit's political and financial hierarchy. While individual developers, property owners, and neighborhood groups have forged policies and used available tools to restore some areas, the city administration has been slow to embrace these opportunities and has failed to grasp the lesson that preservation can be a key to revitalization.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    Eleutherian College, Lancaster Village, Indiana, has been designated as one of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

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    Inside Eleutherian College.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

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    King Island, Alaska, formerly occupied by the Inupiat Eskimos, is in imminent danger of being washed into the Bering Sea.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

    ArchWeek Image

    The historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel, in Belleair, Florida, is threatened with destruction by developers.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

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    Inside the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

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    St. Augustine Church, one of many church buildings in the greater Boston area, that have been slated for sale, redevelopment, or possible demolition.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

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    The Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, Virginia is one of hundreds of historic sites on "The Journey Through Hallowed Ground" Corridor, threatened by suburban sprawl.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation

    ArchWeek Image

    The threatened Statler Building, downtown Detroit.
    Photo: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation


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