Black Historic Sites Top Most Endangered Places List

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 30, 2019

Black architectural and cultural heritage sites are in grave danger of disappearing or being beyond repair, unless members of the public mobilize to save them, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today.

Four of the sites on its 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list are significant to Black culture and history. The Excelsior Club in Charlotte once hosted musicians Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole, and has been a Green Book site since it opened in 1944. It needs significant repairs. Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital in Mount Vernon, Alabama, was occupied for 200 years as an arsenal, a prison and then as a mental health facility for Black people. It closed in 2012 and currently sits vacant. Tenth Street Historic District in Dallas, one of the few remaining Freedmen’s towns in the country, is being eroded by demolition. Willert Park Courts in Buffalo, New York, was the first public housing project in the state made available to Black residents; it is currently vacant and deteriorating.

“For over 30 years, our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list has called attention to threatened one-of-a-kind treasures throughout the nation and galvanized Americans to help save them,” Katherine Malone-France, interim chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in an emailed statement. “As it has over the past three decades, we know that this year’s list will inspire people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past.”

As of this year, more than 300 historic sites have been on the list since the organization started tracking them 32 years ago, with fewer than 5 percent completely disappearing, according to the statement. This year’s list also highlights a mix of places facing structural challenges as a result of no maintenance, damaging public policies and natural disasters.