The Most Endangered Historic Places in the U.S.

St. Michaels Church during the day

Susanne Pommer / Shutterstock

The National Trust for Historic Preservation compiles a list each year of sites across the United States deemed "endangered." The places chosen range "from urban districts to rural landscapes," and they suffer from "neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy." The purpose of the list is to motivate change and spark preservation efforts in these struggling places, though some of them are beyond repair due to major damage, insignificant funding, and other factors.

Charleston, South Carolina, pictured here, is one of the places mentioned that is not yet considered endangered but is on the watch list. Growing cruise tourism in the area may jeopardize the historic character of the city, but the situation could still be ameliorated by taking certain measures like relocating docking sites and enforcing limits on the size, number, and frequency of ships.

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Bear Butte

Lars Plougmann/Flickr.

For thousands of years, Native American tribes have journeyed to this sacred prayer site in South Dakota that is believed to be the physical location where the creator communicates with his people. The 4,426-foot mountain is threatened by possible energy development in the area, which would degrade the sacred site and cultural landscape.

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John Coltrane Home


Hugely influential and well-known jazz saxophonist John Coltrane moved into a humble ranch home in the Dix Hills, N.Y., with his wife Alice in 1964. He spent a great deal of time at home here, where his first son was born and he composed his masterpiece, "A Love Supreme," in his personal recording studio. More than 30 years later, after Coltrane's death in 1967 and his family's relocation, a local man and jazz enthusiast named Steve Fulgoni worked to save the residence when demolition and redevelopment were imminent. The house eventually came to be owned by an organization founded by Fulgoni and the Coltrane family, and the vacant house has been partially stabilized. It still requires significant repairs.

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Pillsbury 'A' Mill Complex


Before the icon of Pillsbury was the Doughboy, the company was well-known for its state-of-the-art flour mill complex in Minneapolis. Upon completion in 1881, the Pillsbury "A" Mill Complex set a new standard in building design as it was considered the most advanced (and largest) facility in the world. The mill closed in 2003, and a developer acquired it with the intention to create "a mixed-use complex that would couple historic rehabilitation with new construction." In 2010, it was foreclosed upon and now faces possible piecemeal development that could threaten the unique historic qualities of the buildings and the landscape.

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Fort Gaines


This massive brick military fort on the Gulf of Mexico in southern Alabama was completed in 1861, just in time to play a pivotal role in the American Civil War. The facility looks almost exactly as it did in the 1860s, with original canons used in combat, kitchens, a tunnel system and a restored blacksmith shop — though it now suffers from relentless erosion by Gulf waves, at a rate of about nine feet per year.

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Greater Chaco Landscape


The Chacoan people inhabited a large part of northwestern New Mexico more than 1,000 years ago. Using impressive architectural and engineering techniques for their time, they constructed massive stone buildings, many of which contain hundreds of rooms, suggesting a sophisticated and developed culture. Although some sites are in ruins, many others are remarkably intact, and tourists may visit various sites within the area. The national parks within the greater Chaco area are protected by law, but Chacoan land outside the national parks does not enjoy the same protection and faces threats from human activities such as energy development.

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Isaac Manchester Farm


For a young country like the United States, the Isaac Manchester Farm is a historical gem. Its namesake, his wife Phebe and their five children moved to Avella in western Pennsylvania in 1797 to establish a home. Perhaps one of the greenest sites on this list, the manor was built using trees from the property and the bricks were made on site. Eight generations of the Manchester family have lived in the house since, meticulously preserving original objects like clothing, tools, letters and more. The home now faces the possibility of nearby development. The land around the house and the house's water supply are jeopardized by longwall mining, a practice that can cause the surface above a mine to drop several inches.

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Prentice Women's Hospital


This unique architectural icon, designed by famed Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg, opened in 1974 to international acclaim. Bertrand believed imaginative and bold hospital planning could improve patient experience, staff performance and lead to a higher standard of care. The Prentice Women's Hospital relocated in 2007, and the building's only current tenant will leave in 2011. Northwestern University owns the building and plans to demolish it before the end of 2011. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks may fight to keep the building intact, but there is no formal protection from demolition in place.

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China Alley


In 1877, a group of Chinese immigrants settled in the central California town of Hanford. The Chinese population quickly grew, and to provide some comforting reminders of home within the bustling community, a vibrant Chinatown developed. One short, packed street served as a hub where people gathered, shopped, ate and socialized: China Alley. The area peaked just before World War II and declined over the next several years. Now, the area suffers from deterioration as most businesses have been deserted for years, and it has suffered at the hands of weather damage and vandalism.

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Katharine Drexel, one of only two Americans to become a Roman Catholic saint, purchased this Gothic-style, slave-built manor in Virginia's Powhatan County in the 1890s and turned it into an education center for Black and Native American people. Belmead, a former place of enslavement, became an icon in the civil rights movement with its impressive feats in education and social progress for minorities. The two private schools located here — a boys' (pictured here) and a girls' — educated some very distinguished graduates including several Tuskegee Airmen and important civil rights leaders.

The schools were shut down in the 1970s and many of the 40 campus buildings were demolished. Only three major historic structures survive, and they are in major disrepair. In March 2010, a four-story bell tower collapsed, leaving the interior open to the elements. The manor needs emergency roof work and all structures are deteriorating rapidly without the proper care.

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National Soldiers Home Historic District

Wikimedia Commons.

One of the last pieces of legislation President Abraham Lincoln signed before his death in 1865 started the establishment of a National Soldiers Homes system. The 90-acre Milwaukee Soldiers Home campus in Wisconsin is one of the most intact examples of these early soldiers' homes, including the "Old Main" building (pictured here). It was used as a veterans' residence until the 1970s, and the peaceful, park-like site is now used frequently as an education center, hosting school groups and even re-enactors from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. The place now faces threat of demolition, or collapse from extensive roof and water damage.