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Guam, U.S. Parks, Civil War Field Counted as Endangered Sites

The cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean of Pagat, Guam
The cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean of Pagat, Guam. The ancient village of Pagat, home of the Chamorro people, has been named among "America's 11 Most Endangered Historical Places of 2010" by the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation. Photographer: Kie Susuico via Bloomberg

A prehistoric site in Guam, a rare Hispanic adobe house and the battlefield where generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee squared off for the first time during the U.S. Civil War were among “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historical Places of 2010.”

The construction of a U.S. military firing range on Guam will threaten ancient artifacts in the Chamorro village of Pagat, Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a phone interview. Tracing their roots to Indonesia and the Philippines, the Chamorros have occupied the Mariana Islands, which include Guam, for thousands of years.

“We’re concerned about the site’s prehistoric stone foundation and stone mortar, so we’re eager that the location of the firing range be changed,” Moe said. “The site is culturally and spiritually significant to the Chamorro people.”

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants to build a 240,000-square-foot commercial development within the boundaries of the Wilderness Battlefield and, according to the National Trust, “trample on American heritage.” Next to the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in central Virginia, this site saw one of the bloodiest and most important battles of the Civil War.

Since 1988, the Washington-based nonprofit has chosen 222 sites for preservation, including buildings, cultural resources and neighborhoods considered historic treasures. Anyone can nominate a site to the endangered list.

The trust’s 23rd annual list of endangered places included the Merritt Parkway, a 38-mile area in Fairfield County, Connecticut, with decorative bridges and natural landscaping. The cash-strapped state is not performing necessary maintenance and is also planning to redesign interchanges.

A rarity in Silicon Valley is also in danger. Rancher, traditional healer and entrepreneur Juana Briones was one of the original Hispanic residents of San Francisco. A California State Historic Landmark, her 1844 adobe home is abandoned and facing demolition.

“She was one of only 34 women in California history at that time who had been documented as a landowner,” Moe said. “It’s the oldest house in Palo Alto, and we’re afraid it’s going to be lost.”

The 78-year-old Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey, home to the New York Black Yankees, also made the list. The 10,000-seat Art Deco arena, one of the Negro League’s last surviving ball parks, has been closed since 1997.

The budgets of about 30 state parks and state-owned historic sites have suffered budget cuts and as many as 400 state parks could close, the trust said, even though they get 725 million visits every year.

Other natural sites the trust is concerned about are mining towns near Eastern Kentucky’s Black Mountain, now under threat from invasive new projects, and the Saugatuck Dunes, an ecological paradise located along the shores of Lake Michigan, which may fall to a proposed 400-acre residential development.

Structures on the trust’s watch list include Threefoot Building, a 16-story Art Deco skyscraper in Meridian, Mississippi, which hosts an annual art festival; the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, a red-brick Victorian Gothic-style structure considered a landmark for African-American worship; and the Industrial Arts Building in Lincoln, Nebraska. The trapezoid-shaped exhibition space will “meet the wrecking ball unless a developer steps forward to rescue and reuse the building,” the trust said.

Moe, 73, is stepping down from the job later this month after 18 years of selecting endangered sites. He said the annual lists have brought a lot of “public attention and financial resources” to historically important landmarks.

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