From well-known monuments to iconic landmarks, each year, tourists, from around the world, flock to notable American destinations, to see themselves reflected at the spot where real history happened.
Most of these sites are easy to find because they are illustrated in our history books or because they have national park signs out front or brass plaques on the wall.
Other sites that reflect the American story are more obscure and require some digging. And even though they have rich cultural and historic significance, they may be threatened by natural disaster, neglect, or lack of funding.
In a world where so many landmarks and historical remnants have been torn down or replaced, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the nation's largest private preservation group, has worked for the last 26 years on a listing of places that mirror the ethnic medley of the American identity, by issuing an annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The 11 Most list highlights threatened examples of the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage. The program has become a powerful tool for spotlighting both well-known and hidden national gems in trouble and rallying efforts to save them. Only a few of the more than 240 sites that have been listed have been lost.
The trust partners with local preservationists from across the country to help protect and maintain the nation’s historic sites. Despite the trust’s success in preserving national sites, national historic landmarks that exemplify the contributions of minorities and women to this country are still few with only three percent of 86,000 protected historic buildings in the U.S. representing the history of the country’s minority population.
Thanks to the trust’s initiative, last year’s annual list included sites representative of America’s African-American history, like the boyhood home of Malcolm X in Boston and Atlanta's Sweet Auburn Historic District, the once-thriving African-American commercial district where Martin Luther King Jr. was born and later preached.
This year, the trust is recognizing the importance of preserving the history of minorities in the U.S. by calling for nominations of endangered Latino sites for its 26th annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
In the past, sites like El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro - one of the largest and most valuable artifacts of the Spanish Colonial era in the U.S. - have gained more national exposure. Other sites like Boxing legend “Smokin’” Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia, are already on the path to preservation.
“From the Adobe Churches of New Mexico to the vibrant El Sereno and South Pasadena neighborhoods of California, this list has been used to help preserve America’s Latino heritage,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “By focusing national attention on these diverse historic places, we seek to weave our multi-cultural nation together.”
Historic places bring alive the stories of people from all over the world who have come together to create and shape the history of the United States of America, the most culturally diverse nation on earth.
Whether these sites are Latino, African-American or Native American markers, entire communities or single buildings, the trust counts on nominations from the public to help them highlight and protect diverse historic places across America that are facing a range of threats including insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensible public policy.
The places on the list need not be famous, but should be significant within their own cultural context, and have a need for immediate action to stop or reverse serious threats. Nominations--due on March 1, 2013—are open to the public.
Is there a threatened Latino or cultural treasure in your community?
You can help to raise national awareness for a one-of-a-kind place in your area – and generate local support for protecting it – by nominating it for the 2013 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.