Beloved American landmarks in danger of disappearing



Slide 1 of 31: Some of America’s landmarks are already gone, including Art Deco theaters, buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and New York City’s original Pennsylvania Station. And there’s still a surprising number of existing spots that are neglected, unprotected and at risk – many of which are included on an annual list compiled by the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation. Some are surprising, others you might never have heard of – but all are places that could be lost forever.
Slide 2 of 31: Designed by Milwaukee architect Donald L. Grieb, the trio of domes in Mitchell Park are both a fine example of Mid-century Modern architecture and a beloved local landmark. Built between 1959 and 1967, the domes also house a heady array of tropical, desert and rainforest plants and blooms.
Slide 3 of 31: The otherworldly structures have been under threat of demolition, however, and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and Save Our Domes are campaigning to stop that from happening. The domes have reopened so you can see the intricate structures (and sniff the flowers) up close while they still remain. 
Slide 4 of 31: Music Row is a top reason people visit Nashville, or "Music City" as it's proudly nicknamed. The area is home to many important pieces of the city's musical heritage, including the Historic RCA Studio B (studios pictured), the Quonset Hut Studio and the famed Music Row Roundabout, centered on "Musica", a bronze statue depicting dancers. Yet, the street isn’t immune to the threat of development.

Slide 5 of 31: Though some are protected, around 50 buildings, many of which were related to music, have been demolished since 2013, raising concern for the future of the area. It was named on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2019.
Slide 6 of 31: Actor Benicio del Toro is among those to appeal for support and funds to save San José Church, or Iglesia de San José. The Spanish Gothic structure, built in 1532, is thought to be the second-oldest church in the Western Hemisphere – yet severe deterioration and structural damage have left it in need of urgent restoration.
Slide 7 of 31: Chicago is famed as one of America’s – and the world’s – most architecturally rich cities, home of the first skyscraper (demolished in 1931) and intricate Art Deco towers. So it’s surprising that one of its landmark buildings, the James R. Thompson Center, could disappear from the cityscape.
Slide 8 of 31: Preservation Chicago has long been campaigning for this landmark of Chicago’s Loop, or downtown area. Considered a gleaming example of Post-modern architecture, the government building is under threat since legislation was signed allowing for its sale – the body fears that should the sale go ahead, the history and integrity of the building could be lost in new developments.
Slide 9 of 31: Who wouldn’t want to save the Daily Planet? OK, so Clark Kent and Lois Lane didn’t really work in this Art Deco tower (even on TV), but it’s known as the “Superman Building” thanks to its resemblance to the fictional newsroom’s offices. The 1928 structure – Providence’s tallest – has been vacant and neglected since 2013 and thus stands in danger of demolition.

Slide 10 of 31: Bears Ears Monument and Canyons of the Ancients have both been designated national monuments, meaning they should be protected from development and drilling for oil and gas (though Bears Ears came under threat recently). But these culturally important places are bookends for a vast swathe of desert containing many other sites of great importance to the Navajo, Hopi, Ute and Zuni peoples.
Slide 11 of 31: The area, covering around 8,000 square miles (20,720sq km), is rich in artifacts and the remains of dramatic and intricate, millennia-old cliffside dwellings built by Ancestral Puebloans (pictured here are the Butler Wash Ruins). These monuments are currently protected under the historic Antiquities Act of 1906, but that doesn't mean they're not under threat. 
Slide 12 of 31: It predates the state of North Dakota and was the first rail bridge to cross the Upper Missouri River when it was completed in 1883 to connect Bismarck and Mandan. But its distinctive three humps may not be around for much longer. Railway company BNSF wants it demolished to make way for a new crossing, though a local group is fighting to save it.
Slide 13 of 31: It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Big Apple Inn diner (pictured) – known for its pig-ear sandwiches – has borne witness to a whole lot of history, and it's one of the most important places in historic Farish Street. Mississippi Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, assassinated outside his Jackson home in 1963, rented the diner's upstairs apartment as an office and held strategy meetings in the small restaurant.
Slide 14 of 31: Farish Street, once nicknamed “Little Harlem”, was a thriving African-American neighborhood up until the 1960s, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. However, most of the buildings are rundown and empty, with Big Apple Inn one of few still occupied and open for business. 

Slide 15 of 31: Historical markers tell the history of this area, which is one of few remaining Freedmen’s towns – neighborhoods built by formerly enslaved people. The area is also on the National Register of Historic Places, yet a tweak to local ordinance has allowed the demolition of around 70 of the 19th and 20th century homes, putting it on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s most endangered list for 2019.
Slide 16 of 31: Historic Wintersburg’s handful of buildings are among few Japanese-American properties remaining that predate California passing anti-immigrant land laws in 1913 and 1920. It’s also a stark reminder of a shameful period in history. The Furuta family, who lived here and ran a flower farm with goldfish ponds, were interned during the Second World War along with around 120,000 Japanese Americans.
Slide 17 of 31: The six surviving Wintersburg structures include family homes, a 1910 mission, the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church buildings, and the area’s last pioneer barn. It’s been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation yet remains under threat of demolition – in 2018, the current owner announced plans to sell it as a storage facility. A city taskforce dedicated to the preservation of the site has also recently been disbanded. 
Slide 18 of 31: Campaign groups have long been pushing for this swathe of forest, which sprawls over 3.2 million acres, to be designated a National Park. If that happened, the park would be bigger than Yosemite and Yellowstone combined. Its hardwood and evergreen forest provide habitat for endangered species including the Canada lynx, and the area also encompasses Moosehead Lake, Maine’s largest. Now take a look at America's most stunning natural wonders.
Slide 19 of 31: Previously known as the “House of Tomorrow”, this Modernist dream of a property got its new moniker thanks to a certain Mr Presley leasing it for a year in the 1960s with his new bride Priscilla. It's thought that the couple actually planned to marry here, but fled to Vegas when the press caught wind.
Slide 20 of 31: While it’s no Graceland, its significance for Elvis fans – and architecture fans – is undeniable. Spread over 5,000 square feet (465sqm), but with not one single square room, the three-storied home was originally designed by architect William Krisel for Palm Springs developer Robert Alexander. Tours of the futuristic, curved interior have resumed but be quick, as it's currently for sale. Go further back in time with the world's eeriest abandoned hotels and airports.
Slide 21 of 31: The modest exterior of this brown clapboard house belies its historical significance. Malcolm X shared the 1874 building with his half-sister, Ella Little-Collins, and it’s the African-American leader’s last known surviving boyhood home. Historic Boston wants to raise $1.4 million to rehabilitate the home and help Rodnell Collins, Ella’s son, transform it into housing for students of African American history and Civil Rights.
Slide 22 of 31: Who wouldn’t want to stay in a Doo Wop motel? Especially ones with names like Gondolier, Bel Air, Lollipop and Pink Champagne. That’s what you’ll find at The Wildwoods, a stretch of the New Jersey coast that’s famed for its Mid-century Modern motels – in fact, it has a higher concentration of these landmark properties than anywhere else in the world. At least for now, as there’s concern the 1950s and 1960s lodgings, dubbed Doo Wop motels, could be lost.
Slide 23 of 31: Only two – the Caribbean and Chateau Bleu – of the 200-odd motels are on the National Register of Historic Places, leaving the majority vulnerable to development and demolition. The Doo Wop Preservation League, launched by local business owners and fans of the playful motels, is working to raise awareness and preserve the buildings and their quirky fixtures, from fake palm trees to soda fountains.
Slide 24 of 31: Many buildings by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, are protected. And though Lewis Spring House, the only private residence designed by Wright in Florida, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979, it is subject to a preservation campaign due to its deterioration and severe weather damage.
Slide 25 of 31: It was built in 1954 for the Lewis family and resembles a ship, albeit in an incongruous woodland setting. Preservationists argue it’s particularly significant since it's one of a few remaining buildings from Wright’s later hemicycle series, which saw structures designed in semicircular or horseshoe shapes. If left in its current state, it risks being lost forever.
Slide 26 of 31: A golf course might not sound like something to get nostalgic about, but “Muny” – as it’s affectionately known – has been a key Austin landmark since 1924, as both the city’s oldest public course and the first in the South to become racially integrated. This Civil Rights history and the course's role as a community space has fueled the Save Muny campaign to protect the site from developers. Despite its spot on the National Register of Historic Places, Muny remains at risk.
Slide 27 of 31: The “Mother Road” was commissioned in 1926, linking together a network of smaller highways and routes between Illinois and California. It was decommissioned in 1985, overtaken by larger, faster interstates. But its place in the hearts of road trippers and Americana fans lives on, and the 1999 Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program protected it for 20 years. Inspired to hit the road? Check out our three-day guide.
Slide 28 of 31: That protection expired in 2019, however, putting the route and its many quirky art installations, abandoned (and still open) diners, and retro motels at risk. Several groups, including the Road Ahead Partnership, are working to have Route 66 designated a National Historic Trail to ensure it’s preserved for many road trips to come.
Slide 29 of 31: Virginia’s largest river flows from Cowpasture and Jackson Rivers, meandering through the state up to Chesapeake Bay. Civil War battles have been fought on its banks and it was used to transport enslaved people into Virginia. It was also a key route during the Revolutionary War.
Slide 30 of 31: While its historical and cultural significance isn’t in doubt, the future of its landscape has been since energy company Dominion began constructing a transmission line across the waterway. Preservation Virginia and other groups are petitioning for the towers to be torn down, fearing they do – and will further – threaten the preservation of the river and its landmarks. The outcome remains uncertain. Now discover America's abandoned places
Slide 31 of 31: Both a dedication to those who served in the First World War and a public saltwater swimming pool, the Waikiki War Memorial, with its distinctive Beaux-Arts arch, was closed to the public in 1979 after falling into disrepair (despite its spot on the National Register of Historic Places). Groups including Friends of the Natatorium and the Historic Hawaii Foundation want it restored to honor its history and its architectural significance.

Disappearing icons

Some of America’s landmarks are already gone, including Art Deco theaters, buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and New York City’s original Pennsylvania Station. And there’s still a surprising number of existing spots that are neglected, unprotected and at risk – many of which are included on an annual list compiled by the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation. Some are surprising, others you might never have heard of – but all are places that could be lost forever.

Mitchell Park Domes, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Mitchell Park Domes, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The otherworldly structures have been under threat of demolition, however, and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and Save Our Domes are campaigning to stop that from happening. The domes have reopened so you can see the intricate structures (and sniff the flowers) up close while they still remain. 

Music Row, Nashville, Tennessee

Music Row is a top reason people visit Nashville, or “Music City” as it’s proudly nicknamed. The area is home to many important pieces of the city’s musical heritage, including the Historic RCA Studio B (studios pictured), the Quonset Hut Studio and the famed Music Row Roundabout, centered on “Musica”, a bronze statue depicting dancers. Yet, the street isn’t immune to the threat of development.

Music Row, Nashville, Tennessee

Though some are protected, around 50 buildings, many of which were related to music, have been demolished since 2013, raising concern for the future of the area. It was named on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2019.

San José Church, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Actor Benicio del Toro is among those to appeal for support and funds to save San José Church, or Iglesia de San José. The Spanish Gothic structure, built in 1532, is thought to be the second-oldest church in the Western Hemisphere – yet severe deterioration and structural damage have left it in need of urgent restoration.

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is famed as one of America’s – and the world’s – most architecturally rich cities, home of the first skyscraper (demolished in 1931) and intricate Art Deco towers. So it’s surprising that one of its landmark buildings, the James R. Thompson Center, could disappear from the cityscape.

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, Illinois

Preservation Chicago has long been campaigning for this landmark of Chicago’s Loop, or downtown area. Considered a gleaming example of Post-modern architecture, the government building is under threat since legislation was signed allowing for its sale – the body fears that should the sale go ahead, the history and integrity of the building could be lost in new developments.

Industrial National Bank Building, Providence, Rhode Island

Who wouldn’t want to save the Daily Planet? OK, so Clark Kent and Lois Lane didn’t really work in this Art Deco tower (even on TV), but it’s known as the “Superman Building” thanks to its resemblance to the fictional newsroom’s offices. The 1928 structure – Providence’s tallest – has been vacant and neglected since 2013 and thus stands in danger of demolition.

Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah

Bears Ears Monument and Canyons of the Ancients have both been designated national monuments, meaning they should be protected from development and drilling for oil and gas (though Bears Ears came under threat recently). But these culturally important places are bookends for a vast swathe of desert containing many other sites of great importance to the Navajo, Hopi, Ute and Zuni peoples.

Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah

The area, covering around 8,000 square miles (20,720sq km), is rich in artifacts and the remains of dramatic and intricate, millennia-old cliffside dwellings built by Ancestral Puebloans (pictured here are the Butler Wash Ruins). These monuments are currently protected under the historic Antiquities Act of 1906, but that doesn’t mean they’re not under threat. 

Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge, Bismarck, North Dakota

It predates the state of North Dakota and was the first rail bridge to cross the Upper Missouri River when it was completed in 1883 to connect Bismarck and Mandan. But its distinctive three humps may not be around for much longer. Railway company BNSF wants it demolished to make way for a new crossing, though a local group is fighting to save it.

Farish Street, Jackson, Mississippi

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Big Apple Inn diner (pictured) – known for its pig-ear sandwiches – has borne witness to a whole lot of history, and it’s one of the most important places in historic Farish Street. Mississippi Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, assassinated outside his Jackson home in 1963, rented the diner’s upstairs apartment as an office and held strategy meetings in the small restaurant.

Farish Street, Jackson, Mississippi

Farish Street, once nicknamed “Little Harlem”, was a thriving African-American neighborhood up until the 1960s, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. However, most of the buildings are rundown and empty, with Big Apple Inn one of few still occupied and open for business. 

Tenth Street Historic District, Dallas, Texas

Historical markers tell the history of this area, which is one of few remaining Freedmen’s towns – neighborhoods built by formerly enslaved people. The area is also on the National Register of Historic Places, yet a tweak to local ordinance has allowed the demolition of around 70 of the 19th and 20th century homes, putting it on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s most endangered list for 2019.

Historic Wintersburg, Huntington Beach, California

Historic Wintersburg, Huntington Beach, California

The six surviving Wintersburg structures include family homes, a 1910 mission, the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church buildings, and the area’s last pioneer barn. It’s been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation yet remains under threat of demolition – in 2018, the current owner announced plans to sell it as a storage facility. A city taskforce dedicated to the preservation of the site has also recently been disbanded. 

North Woods, Maine

Campaign groups have long been pushing for this swathe of forest, which sprawls over 3.2 million acres, to be designated a National Park. If that happened, the park would be bigger than Yosemite and Yellowstone combined. Its hardwood and evergreen forest provide habitat for endangered species including the Canada lynx, and the area also encompasses Moosehead Lake, Maine’s largest. Now take a look at America’s most stunning natural wonders.

Elvis Presley’s Honeymoon Hideaway, Palm Springs, California

Elvis Presley’s Honeymoon Hideaway, Palm Springs, California

While it’s no Graceland, its significance for Elvis fans – and architecture fans – is undeniable. Spread over 5,000 square feet (465sqm), but with not one single square room, the three-storied home was originally designed by architect William Krisel for Palm Springs developer Robert Alexander. Tours of the futuristic, curved interior have resumed but be quick, as it’s currently for sale. Go further back in time with the world’s eeriest abandoned hotels and airports.

Malcolm X House, Boston, Massachusetts

The modest exterior of this brown clapboard house belies its historical significance. Malcolm X shared the 1874 building with his half-sister, Ella Little-Collins, and it’s the African-American leader’s last known surviving boyhood home. Historic Boston wants to raise $1.4 million to rehabilitate the home and help Rodnell Collins, Ella’s son, transform it into housing for students of African American history and Civil Rights.

Wildwood Motels, New Jersey

Wildwood Motels, New Jersey

Only two – the Caribbean and Chateau Bleu – of the 200-odd motels are on the National Register of Historic Places, leaving the majority vulnerable to development and demolition. The Doo Wop Preservation League, launched by local business owners and fans of the playful motels, is working to raise awareness and preserve the buildings and their quirky fixtures, from fake palm trees to soda fountains.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spring House, Tallahassee, Florida

Many buildings by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, are protected. And though Lewis Spring House, the only private residence designed by Wright in Florida, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979, it is subject to a preservation campaign due to its deterioration and severe weather damage.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spring House, Tallahassee, Florida

Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin, Texas

A golf course might not sound like something to get nostalgic about, but “Muny” – as it’s affectionately known – has been a key Austin landmark since 1924, as both the city’s oldest public course and the first in the South to become racially integrated. This Civil Rights history and the course’s role as a community space has fueled the Save Muny campaign to protect the site from developers. Despite its spot on the National Register of Historic Places, Muny remains at risk.

Route 66

The “Mother Road” was commissioned in 1926, linking together a network of smaller highways and routes between Illinois and California. It was decommissioned in 1985, overtaken by larger, faster interstates. But its place in the hearts of road trippers and Americana fans lives on, and the 1999 Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program protected it for 20 years. Inspired to hit the road? Check out our three-day guide.

Route 66

That protection expired in 2019, however, putting the route and its many quirky art installations, abandoned (and still open) diners, and retro motels at risk. Several groups, including the Road Ahead Partnership, are working to have Route 66 designated a National Historic Trail to ensure it’s preserved for many road trips to come.

James River, Virginia

James River, Virginia

While its historical and cultural significance isn’t in doubt, the future of its landscape has been since energy company Dominion began constructing a transmission line across the waterway. Preservation Virginia and other groups are petitioning for the towers to be torn down, fearing they do – and will further – threaten the preservation of the river and its landmarks. The outcome remains uncertain.

Now discover America’s abandoned places

Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, Honolulu, Hawaii

Both a dedication to those who served in the First World War and a public saltwater swimming pool, the Waikiki War Memorial, with its distinctive Beaux-Arts arch, was closed to the public in 1979 after falling into disrepair (despite its spot on the National Register of Historic Places). Groups including Friends of the Natatorium and the Historic Hawaii Foundation want it restored to honor its history and its architectural significance.

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