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Are These US Treasures about to be Destroyed?

2019-6-16

Many old buildings and aging neighborhoods across the United States look like they are ready to be torn down and replaced. But the National Trust for Historic Preservation believes that such areas and structures are actually important links to America's past.

The National Trust is a private, nonprofit group that works to save America’s historic places. Katherine Malone-France works with the group. She told VOA, “All old places, they have incredible power to bring people together and to provide us with continuity in the stories of who we are and where we want to go.”

Willert Park Courts in Buffalo, an example of modern design, was the first public housing project in New York State to have African American residents. (Joe Cascio)
Willert Park Courts in Buffalo, an example of modern design, was the first public housing project in New York State to have African American residents. (Joe Cascio)

The National Trust is concerned about an old, unused public housing development in Buffalo, New York. It is called Willert Park Courts. It was the first housing project in the state built specifically for African Americans.

The group says another reason to save Willert Park Courts is that many buildings provide an example of early modernism. That kind of building design often shows events from everyday life.

An example of an aging neighborhood is the Tenth Street Historic District of Dallas, Texas. Its old buildings date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were mostly settled by former slaves after the U.S. Civil War. At least 70 of the area's 260 homes have already been destroyed.

The National Trust also has expressed concern about what has been called the “Superman” building in the eastern state of Rhode Island. Built in 1928, the high-rise building once housed the Industrial Trust Company, one of the largest and most powerful banks in the northeastern U.S. The Industrial Trust Company later became part of the Bank of America. The building has been empty since Bank of America moved out six years ago.

All three areas are among the places on the National Trust’s list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2019.

Other places on the list include one of Puerto Rico’s last historic coffee plantation houses, ancestral places in Utah, a railroad bridge in North Dakota and Nashville’s Music Row.

A place like Music Row is not just about saving individual buildings. It is also about protecting the community to which they are connected. The goal of the National Trust is to make sure that places like Music Row remain unharmed. However, the group also seeks to find a way to keep the places in active use, serving the surrounding community.

Malone-France says losing such places would leave Americans without a real connection to the past and to places where American history happened.

She adds, “They're important to individuals, and they're important to their local communities, but also they are…representative of stories that are important parts of our larger American story and places help tell those stories.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Dora Mekouar reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

incredible – adj. extremely good, great, or large

plantation – n. a large area of land especially in a hot part of the world where crops such as cotton are grown