These Are the Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States

The annual list from the National Trust for Historic Preservation includes a mix of places under threat from factors like climate change and neglect.

These Are the Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States

Some national monuments in southeast Utah, like Mule Canyon, are being threatened by gas and oil extraction, which is why they appear on the list.

Photo by Nina B/Shutterstock

These days, there’s a list for practically everything, and many of them are inspiring: The Best Places to Travel in 2019. The Top New Hotels in the World. The Best Restaurants in Florence.

Yet one of the most recent lists, released by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is sobering—a reminder of the culturally and geographically significant places that are most at risk, from North Dakota to Puerto Rico.

One of the most well-known places on the list is Washington, D.C’s National Mall Tidal Basin, home to the Jefferson Memorial and every spring, those Instagram-worthy cherry trees. The area is at risk of increased flooding because of rising sea levels, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation estimates that roughly $500 million is needed to maintain the popular site in the National Park System. Already, high tide each day means that water flows onto the surrounding sidewalks, eroding the site’s structure and threatening the roots of the cherry trees. Because of this, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has launched a three-year campaign to help save the Tidal Basin.


The Excelsior Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, opened in 1944.

Courtesy of Historic Landmarks Commission

Another iconic stretch also made the list: Nashville’s Music Row, which has more than 200 music-related businesses around 16th and 17th avenues south and has been considered integral to the city’s music and recording industries for more than 60 years. But the area is under threat from development and has seen 50 buildings demolished since 2013. Without protections in place, advocates say, the area could look completely different in 50 years.

“This designation is the happiest we’ve ever been receiving bad news,” said Elizabeth Elkins, vice president of the board of Historic Nashville, Inc., reported in the Tennessean. “We are glad that the rapid rate of destruction of Music Row will now be in the national spotlight.”


The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago may be sold and demolished.

Photo by Shutterstock

Elkins isn’t entirely off in her approach. Although the places on the list are there for serious reasons, some advocates believe that the designation helps push the sites into the public consciousness and inspires action. Thus far, it seems to have worked: Since the privately funded nonprofit began listing endangered places 32 years ago, fewer than 5 percent of listed sites have been lost.

One such example is Georgia’s Ocmulgee, a corridor of wildland with cultural significance to American Indians. After it was placed on the list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2011, Ocmulgee saw a surge of local support, with a new law protecting sites within its borders that were previously at risk and unprotected, plus expanded property boundaries thanks to local landowners willing to sell their land for the park’s growth.

Those interested in helping save at-risk places can learn more by clicking into each site’s page on the list, which details some things travelers can do, including signing local petitions and writing letters to the Department of the Interior.


The Tenth Street Historic District in Dallas, Texas, is shrinking.

Courtesy of Inclusive Communities Project

Here is this year’s full list (in no particular order):

  1. Tenth Street Historic District, Dallas, Texas
  2. Nashville’s Music Row, Tennessee
  3. James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, Illinois
  4. Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge, North Dakota
  5. Industrial Trust Building Company, Providence, Rhode Island
  6. Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah
  7. The Excelsior Club, Charlotte, North Carolina
  8. National Mall Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.
  9. Hacienda Los Torres, Lares, Puerto Rico
  10. Willert Park Courts, Buffalo, New York
  11. Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital, Alabama

>> Next: Historical Sites Around the World That Are Worth Visiting

Katherine LaGrave is a Deputy Editor at AFAR focused on features and essays.
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