Powerful Places
May 19, 2010 1:39 PM   Subscribe

A mining town in Kentucky hoping to build a different kind of future. One of the last three Negro League stadiums. A 34-acre ranch owned and run one of California's earliest entreprenuers and rare early female landowners. The "cathedral of African Methodism" which saw the funerals of Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks. Otherwordly sand dunes in Michigan, mysterious freshwater caves in Guam, the Wilderness Battlefield...and the Merritt Parkway. These and more sites are on the (US) NAtional Trust's 2010 roster of the 11 Most Endangered Places.
posted by Miko (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, please do save the Merritt. They've been hacking down big beautiful trees in the median for a while now. If they are removing those bridges too that is awful news.

If you find yourself on the Merritt when traffic is very light, and you are in no big hurry, you can catch a lot of the beauty. You can tell it was designed back when traffic was slower and people could see detail.
posted by drowsy at 1:55 PM on May 19, 2010

Good intentions aside, that website is a great big pile of fail.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:17 PM on May 19, 2010

Lynch has worse problems than mining permits, recently.
posted by dilettante at 3:11 PM on May 19, 2010

I see this got mentioned by Brian Williams tonight. Or at least the Merritt did. Again, I'm bristling that the strategy surrounding this was conceived on the piss-poor level. A wasted opportunity all around.
posted by jsavimbi at 4:08 PM on May 19, 2010

I haven't been on the Merritt Parkway in years. The slideshow was beautiful.

Thanks, Miko.
posted by swerve at 5:04 PM on May 19, 2010

the strategy surrounding this was conceived on the piss-poor level.

The program's been around a while and is really pretty effective.
posted by Miko at 8:19 PM on May 19, 2010

Yeah, it doesn't necessarily help that Grandma in Podunk, FL now knows, thanks to NBC News, that the Industrial Arts building in Nebraska is endangered. But it helps tremendously when local advocates can go before a board and say, "This was one of the most endangered places in 2010, and if you don't act now, it might be lost forever." Really, the last does little, as so much is lost forever without even the courtesy of someone noticing, but locals do take notice that their local pile of bricks could become a permanent embarrassment.

Note that many state preservation boards issue their own statewide lists.
posted by dhartung at 11:05 PM on May 19, 2010

I was once very familiar with Saugatuck Dunes, in Michigan. Back in the day, it was a gay and nude beach that drew crowds from Chicago and Detroit (and insignificant numbers from places like Flint). I never paid much attention to the town, but I was a gay teenager, and had to keep my head down to avoid hassles (I'm sure the city fathers would have been upset to know I was accustomed to sleeping rough in the dunes).

It is indeed a beautiful place. The beach is spectacular. The dunes are beautiful, but in themselves nothing especially grand. Sleeping Bear is vastly more impressive. But there is charm there in Saugatuck that you won't find so quickly up north, but it's from the human-built stuff, not the natural beauty.

The article mentions various buildings and places in the area, then the slide show doesn't show them. I found that completely lame. There is 1 house on the dunes, in the area between the public beach and the river. I had the pleasant surprise of sleeping there one night, a guest of a bunch of teenagers I met. It was very weird, since this was at a point when I was much more used to being amongst adults.
posted by Goofyy at 4:59 AM on May 20, 2010

I can certainly see that improvements to the website would be a great idea. For instance, I found myself wishing for a short video tour led by a local who's really familar with the site. That would be illuminating.
posted by Miko at 6:04 AM on May 20, 2010

I used to drive from Boston to Princeton semi-regularly, and discovering Merritt Parkway made the long drive almost enjoyable. There are some more bridge photos on this pages, but I can't seem to find a comprehensive collection.
posted by of strange foe at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2010

The National Trust is under severe budget pressure, this year more than usual. Most of their funding is earmarked for specific programs.

The idea that a few improvements to the website will magically save historic properties from demolition is, alas, absurd. If you personally have any stake in any individual site being saved, I urge you to take local action, instead of imagining that the Trust is just going to do all the work by hiring some better web developers.
posted by dhartung at 1:14 PM on May 20, 2010

I don't imagine that, dhartung (I do agree that doing something to support sites you care about is a great idea - that's why I post the list every year). The cost of shooting a few minutes' digital video is pretty minimal, even with the good editing and production they'd want to apply. Federal budget cuts, while serious, are not a profound threat to the Trust because federal contributions comprise only a small amount of the Trust's budget in 2009, about $2.7 million of a $72 million budget. The bulk of the organization's budget is from private donations, investment, and earned revenue (their annual report is online).

It's not that they can't afford a better web developer; I think it's just that they, like a lot of nonprofit historical organizations, are kind of late to the web party and not always completely savvy about the latest thinking in info design. I'm actually proud of them for being this far along - an annual project with immediate "Take-action" links, clickthroughs to useful information, photos. It's not the best it could possibly be, but compared to many historical organizations, it's quite good.
posted by Miko at 4:36 PM on May 20, 2010

True, Miko. I guess I'm more taking issue with the idea that this effort was substandard -- navigation wasn't the greatest, but it's certainly on par with a lot of the commercial web -- as well as the idea that the web effort or even the national media effort is as intrinsic to the survival of these structures as imagined. I remember when pretty much the only place you would see this list was the National Trust magazine, so to be on NBC News at all is incredibly impressive. But you don't get there by hiring a bunch of smart marketing droids and web designers and throwing money at the problem, you get there by building up an effort, as they have, for 25 to 30 years, by building up stakeholder participation, by getting year after year print coverage. Finally, making an individual site viable takes lots of effort in the trenches of the dullest and most diligent kind -- attending every meeting where the topic is tabled again for two years running, say.

jsavimbi, then, you and I may come from different points, but I just don't get your criticism here. I've been in the trenches since I was a teenager and I only see something like this making that work a little bit easier. It certainly doesn't shoulder the entire burden by itself nor could it be expected to.

I would welcome a smart social media twist on this, but I don't see it really fundamentally changing things. That only happens incrementally.
posted by dhartung at 6:00 PM on May 20, 2010

Yeah, I don't think it was substandard really either. I would just selfishly love short videos (and the "social media twist" you mention. Actually, last year, a major bridge in my hometown made the list. It had a huge impact, and the social-media aspect (and mainstream media aspect) took off because of the nomination to the list. So it's kind of a leveraging opportunity.

Anyway, I love this list every year because I learn about unique American places I never would have known much of.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on May 20, 2010

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