Trust News

A Letter to the Governor Of West Virginia Regarding Blair Mountain

Posted on: May 5th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Following news that the State of West Virginia requested that Blair Mountain be removed from the National Register of Historic Places, several committed volunteers helped the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia gather signatures for a scholars’ letter, urging an alternative to surface mining on the site. More than 80 writers, historians, archaeologists and other experts signed on, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson and noted historian Henry Louis Gates.

The letter was delivered to Governor Manchin’s office last week:

Dear Governor Manchin:

As historians, archaeologists, and other scholars, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to investigate all avenues for preserving and interpreting the nationally significant Blair Mountain Battlefield, which was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Blair Mountain is the site of the largest civil insurrection in American history since the Civil War. The struggle that took place on the mountain pitted approximately 10,000 coal miners against an army of 5,000 who were opposed to their unionization attempts. More than one million rounds of ammunition were fired in the confrontation during the late summer of 1921.

Although the miners were defeated there, the American labor movement began slowly to gather momentum. The egregious conditions in the nation’s coal fields that were exposed by the miners’ actions drew public attention to the working conditions confronting laborers in every sector of the nation’s industry. The fight to unionize was synonymous with the fight to bring dignity, democracy, and safety to American work places.

The Blair Mountain Battlefield is a unique historic and cultural treasure that deserves recognition and protection. Archaeological research performed in preparing the National Register nomination indicates that the battlefield has tremendous integrity, as it presents a rich and well-preserved record of the details of the conflict. This preliminary research has revealed interesting and provocative information about force movements, weaponry, and strategies used by both sides in the battle. These findings are especially critical, given fallible and sometimes contradictory narratives of the battle. No doubt much remains to be discovered, and scholars must be able to continue to study this important chapter in American history.

We are concerned that the recent attempt to delist Blair Mountain from the National Register may be a first step toward strip-mining the mountain for coal production, which will destroy the historic site. The National Park Service found that the battlefield is both significant and intact, and we believe it must be preserved for future generations. If mining is necessary, we strongly encourage the state and federal agencies with oversight over mining to work with the property owners to find a solution that will allow mining on Blair Mountain without destroying the historic site.

There’s still time to sign the National Trust’s general petition! Click here to take action!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Charity Hospital: Lawsuit Filed Against Department of Veteran Affairs and FEMA

Posted on: May 1st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

Continuing our efforts to save the historic Mid-City neighborhood from needless demolition - 67 acres of homes and businesses in Mid-City are slated to be demolished to make room for sprawling new hospital campuses for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University - the National Trust for Historic Preservation today filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and FEMA (FEMA is funding part of LSU’s hospital, and therefore has a responsibility to evaluate the impacts of the project on the community in which it is located).

The lawsuit claims that during the environmental review process, VA and FEMA failed to fully evaluate the devastating effects that their plan would inflict on historic properties - factors they must consider under federal law. Despite the fact that the new hospitals would mean razing hundreds of homes and businesses and wiping a historic neighborhood off the map, the federal agencies determined that the damage to the neighborhood would be “insignificant.”

Obviously, we disagree. Many homeowners in Mid-City have painstakingly restored their homes since Katrina’s flooding devastated their neighborhood. By returning to the city after the storm, pouring thousands of dollars and untold hours of sweat-equity into fixing their homes and rebuilding their community, these homeowners have done exactly what was asked of them. To then turn around and deem it “insignificant” that their neighborhood will be demolished is just plain wrong.

Rather than delaying the return of medical care to veterans and the people of New Orleans, the intention of the lawsuit is to have the opposite effect: by encouraging the agencies to revisit their site-location decisions, the agencies could choose sites that would not only avoid delays, but allow the hospitals to open sooner than under current plans.

>> Read More About the Lawsuit

>> Read the Complaint Filed by the National Trust

>> Learn More About Our Efforts to Save Mid-City New Orleans

-Betsy Merritt

Betsy Merritt is deputy general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she has been responsible for the National Trust's legal advocacy program for the past 25 years.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

11 Most Endangered List Featured on NBC Nightly News

Posted on: April 29th, 2009 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

I'm sure there are some people who are jaded about seeing their organization on the evening news, but I am not one of them. It might be a little geeky to admit, but I always get excited that that people all over the country are getting to hear about the good work that happens here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Last night, though, I missed the story about our 11 Most Endangered list due to the NHL playoffs (the Washington Capitals advanced to the next round -- yippee!), but due to the wonders of the internet, I was able to catch the story when I got home from the game. In case you were also at the playoffs -- or doing something else that prevented you from watching the NBC Nightly News, here's the clip:



NBC wasn't the only news outlet that shared the story of the 11 Most Endangered yesterday -- the New York Times, Washington Post, and Time magazine were among a large group talking about our list.

If you missed the announcement altogether, this year's list can be found on the 11 Most Endgangered section of our website.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Announcing America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, 2009 Edition

Posted on: April 28th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

There are certain things that pretty much everyone who works here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation has on their calendar: the National Preservation Conference, Preservation Month, and, of course, today’s biggie, the announcement of our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Diane Keaton, an Academy Award-winning actress and one of our trustees, will be presenting the list in Los Angeles in a few hours, so it feels almost like we’re giving a sneak-peek here on the East Coast.

Their official designation of 2009’s sites will be made adjacent to Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel, which is included on this year’s list. Slated to be razed to accommodate two 600-foot-tall “environmentally sensitive” towers, the threat to the Century Plaza highlights sustainability -- the idea that we need to recycle existing infrastructure, rather than throw it away. The hotel, designed by Minoru Yamasaki (designer of the World Trade Center’s twin towers), also exemplifies the threat to modernist architecture nationally.

The full list of sites, with a tidbit of information on each, is below (after the jump, if you’re coming from the blog’s home page or an RSS reader). I encourage you to skip that, though, and instead head right over to the 11 Most Endangered section of PreservationNation.org. It’s where we’re keeping the good stuff: pictures, video and action items. Take a moment to check it out.

Oh, and if you happen to be a fan of Twitter, today's a great day to start following us. We're @PresNation and we're going to be tweeting about the 11 Most all day. Look for the #11Most tag to find out the latest.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

New Threats to the Minidoka National Historic Site

Posted on: April 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Elaine Stiles

Entrance to Minidoka, 1944.

Entrance to Minidoka, 1944.

The Minidoka National Historic Site (NHS) in Jerome County, Idaho is a place with a hard past, and for the past few years, a pretty challenging present, too. Now a National Park unit, Minidoka was one of ten relocation centers for persons of Japanese descent during World War II. The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Minidoka NHS as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2007 because of threats posed to the site by construction of a 13,000 head factory dairy farm less than a mile away. The farm has the potential to ruin the visitor experience at Minidoka, flooding it with foul odors, dust, and pests. After a long local permitting process and subsequent lawsuit, the county granted the permit to construct the farm, though no building has begun. Late last year, the National Trust, a consortium of advocates for the historic site, and local property owners filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the farming operation on procedural and constitutional grounds.

Now the Minidoka NHS faces a new potential threat. A portion of a planned 500-mile, 500 kilovolt electric transmission line between Idaho and Nevada is proposed to traverse or run less than one quarter of a mile away from the NHS. Conceived of more than 20 years ago, the Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP) was granted a right-of-way through what is now the Minidoka NHS by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. (The BLM managed the land that is now the NHS before the designation.) The independent power company pursuing the SWIP is also considering alternatives to the existing right-of-way, some of which would place the power line a short distance outside the main entrance of the NHS. These massive power lines would greatly impact the integrity of the historic site and potentially affect interpretive planning.

The Minidoka NHS is a fledgling National Park unit. The site is still awaiting funding to realize the interpretive plans the Park Service and its partners, including former internees and their families, crafted after its designation in 2001. Minidoka has much to teach us about the story of Japanese Americans in our country, the American homefront during World War II, and perhaps most importantly, the history of civil liberties and human rights in the U.S. Recently, Congress recognized this importance by authorizing the Park Service to expand the bounds of the NHS to include adjacent resources and partially funding a national grant program to interpret, protect, and restore Japanese American confinement sites nationwide. Much work remains to be done, however, to protect Minidoka and its story against the ill effects of industrial agriculture and our ever-growing energy needs.

Learn More:

Elaine Stiles is a Program Officer in the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.