If you are the type of traveler who believes that visiting local historic sites offers unique and essential ways to experience and understand a place, then you will applaud this week’s announcement of the addition of twenty-four newly designated historic landmarks in the United States. The National Historic Landmarks Program recognizes historic properties of exceptional value to the nation and promotes the preservation efforts of federal, state, and local agencies and Native American tribes, as well as those of private organizations and individuals. The program is one of more than a dozen administered by the National Park Service that provide states and local communities technical assistance, recognition and funding to help preserve our nation’s shared history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only been to one of the newly designated landmarks. The George Read II House is located in the beautiful town of New Castle, Delaware. This quaint, riverside municipality is packed with handsome, well maintained 18th and 19th century homes and public buildings. Although New Castle is an easy visit while in Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C., it’s note on most tourist’s agenda.
Here’s the list of new landmark sites:
- The assassination of Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963, in the carport of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House in Jackson, Mississippi, became one of the catalysts for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His assassination also forced Myrlie Evers into a more prominent role for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Both Medgar and Myrlie were major contributors to advancing the goals of the civil rights movement on a national level. Medgar Evers was the first nationally significant civil rights leader to be murdered.
- The Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site) in Kansas City, Kansas, serves as tangible evidence of the consequences of federal American Indian removal policy to a tribal population and its identity during the nineteenth century. The property is also associated with Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley who was the first attorney to raise the legal argument that American Indian burying grounds are entitled to protection by the Federal Government and to claim that the descendants of treaty signatories have the right to sue to enforce treaty provisions.
- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City represents the idea of the African Diaspora, a revolutionizing model for studying the history and culture of people of African descent that used a global, transnational perspective. The idea and the person who promoted it, Arthur (Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938), an Afro-Latino immigrant and self-taught bibliophile, reflect the multicultural experience of America and the ideals that all Americans should have intellectual freedom and social equality.
- As one of the three New Deal greenbelt towns built by the Federal Government, the Greenhills Historic District in Greenhills, Ohio, shaped the federal response to the Great Depression and represents highly important aspects of New Deal policy, an important period in the evolution of the American suburb. The village is an outstanding representation of the American Garden City movement and a nationally significant historic residential suburb.
- On April 20, 1970, community residents occupied Chicano Park in San Diego, California, in an ultimately successful effort to prevent the construction of a California Highway Patrol substation on land where the City of San Diego had promised the neighborhood a community park. Representative of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, Chicano Park has become a cultural and recreational gathering place for the Chicano community and is the location of the Chicano Park Monumental Murals, an exceptional assemblage of master mural artwork painted on the freeway bridge supports.
- Casa José Antonio Navarro in San Antonio, Texas, was the home of Tejano statesman and historian José Antonio Navarro (1795-1871), a political leader whose prolific career as statesman and defender of Tejano rights shaped the destiny of Texas as an independent Republic and as part of the United States of America. His commitments to both American ideals and to the rights of Texan Mexican Americans make him one of the leading figures of the American Southwest under three sovereignties.
- The Neutra Studio and Residences (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles, California, is associated with Richard Neutra, a nationally and internationally seminal figure of the twentieth century Modern movement in architecture. During the 1940s, as Neutra’s work evolved, he also became the well-recognized founder of mid-century “California Modern” architecture. The VDL Research House is the only property where one can see the progression of his style over a period of years and is among the key properties to understanding the national significance of Richard Neutra.
- The Keim Homestead in Oley, Pennsylvania, is an exceptionally intact example of early German American domestic vernacular architecture. Constructed ca. 1753, the main house and the ancillary building (which served in effect as an extension of the main dwelling under a separate roof), together represent methods of construction, elements of architectural decoration, and patterns of dwelling and domestic outbuilding layout and design that were characteristic of the German American tradition of the mid-eighteenth century.
- Constructed in 1758, Schifferstadt is an outstanding example of a Georgian-period house influenced by German American cultural and construction traditions, located in Frederick, Maryland. With its exterior Georgian architectural style and many ethnically Germanic features on the interior, the house embodies how German immigrants chose to retain much of their cultural heritage within their houses while exhibiting their social and economic status on the exterior.
- This massive early-twentieth century enlargement of New York’s canal system was an embodiment of a Progressive Era emphasis on public works. The New York State Barge Canal was built explicitly to counter the growing monopoly of railroad corporations over the American economy. The spine of the canal is a direct descendant of the Erie Canal, which opened the interior of North America to settlement and commercial agriculture, transforming the Atlantic economy.
- The Kimball Village Site (13PM4) in Plymouth county, Iowa, is an exceptionally well-preserved, circa CE 1100-1250, Plains Village site. This site embodies all of the distinctive characteristics of early indigenous farmers, settlements, and material culture that typify early Plains Village sites. This was a transformative chapter in North American mid-continental history when people switched from hunting and gathering and small-scale crop production to a nucleated sedentary lifestyle based on intensive maize horticulture and compact villages of substantive timber lodges.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel (McDonnell Hall) in San Jose, California, connected the Mexican American civil rights movement, Catholic ministry to ethnic Mexicans, and ongoing efforts to organize ethnic Mexican migrant farmworkers. The chapel was the home for the Community Service Organization (CSO) whose work helped to spur the emergence of César Chávez as a community organizer, civil rights leader, and labor rights leader between 1952 and 1962. The work carried out at the chapel ultimately helped shape modern American Latino identity.
- As headquarters for Petrified Forest National Park in Apache County, Arizona, the Painted Desert Community Complex is the largest and the most fully articulated expression of the decade-long Mission 66 program which addressed postwar national park needs for up-to-date facilities and improved visitor experiences, while limiting impacts to natural resources. Designed by renowned architects Richard J. Neutra and Robert E. Alexander in the International Style, the complex contains the many park headquarter functions including a new property type—the visitor center.
- W. A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing, Pennsylvania, is an outstanding example of a small, family-owned, twentieth-century foundry and machine shop. “Job shops” like W. A. Young & Sons, which did custom jobs for a variety of clients, were an important component of the American industrial economy facilitated by the development of machine tools and line-shaft power systems in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The property includes perhaps the finest collection of machine tools found in a small job shop.
- The Davis-Ferris Organ, built for a New York City Episcopal church in 1846-1847, is an example of the technical and mechanical achievements in the pre-Civil War American organ-building industry. Forty years later, the organ was sold to the Round Lake Camp Meeting in Upstate New York to accompany the popular Methodist summer gatherings. It eventually anchored a transition to a Chautauqua-style institution of culture, education, and enlightenment. This organ is a record of American music-making covering both sacred and secular genres.
- The Pauli Murray Family Home in Durham, North Carolina, is associated with ground-breaking civil rights activist, lawyer, educator, writer, and Episcopal priest Pauli Murray. She served as a bridge figure between social movements through her advocacy for both women’s and civil rights. Her efforts were critical to retaining “sex” in Title VII, a fundamental legal protection for women against employment discrimination. After decades of work for black civil rights, her vision for a civil rights association for women became the National Organization for Women (NOW).
- Constructed in 1860 as the Allen’s Mill Bridge, Eldean Bridge in Miami County, Ohio, is an excellent example of nineteenth-century covered bridge construction and its span is a rare surviving Long truss, a highly significant nineteenth-century timber truss type. Eldean Bridge is the most structurally intact of less than a dozen surviving Long truss covered bridges in the United States.
- Constructed in 1876 by J. J. Daniels, one of the nation’s most prolific covered bridge builders, West Union Bridge in Parke County, Indiana, is an outstanding, intact example of the Burr truss, a highly-significant American timber bridge type that was widely used for a century. West Union Bridge is one of the most visually impressive and structurally intact of approximately 180 surviving Burr truss covered bridges in the United States.
- Built in the late 1920s, Omaha Union Station in Omaha Nebraska, is one of the most distinctive and complete examples of Art Deco architecture in the nation. The station outstandingly expresses the style’s innovative and diverse surface ornamentation inspired by the machine age. As one of the earliest Art Deco train stations designed by the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad, its ultra-modern appearance was a major departure from previous railroad station designs.
- The George Read II House was built for the son of a Delaware signer of both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. His was a prominent Delaware family. The house is an exceptional example of Federal style architecture in the mid-Atlantic region and is especially valuable in understanding the evolution of American architecture during the early years of the nation. It is a rare survivor that exemplifies the city of Philadelphia where the Federal style was first manifested.
- The Biesterfeldt Site in Ransom County, North Dakota, is an earth lodge village site culturally identifiable as having been occupied by the Cheyenne Indians ca. 1724-1780. As the only known representative of that relatively brief period in their history during which they pursued a horticultural way of life, the archeological site has the potential to yield critical information on the history of that tribe and various neighboring tribes. Biesterfeldt also has the potential to inform us about the development of Plains Indian culture during a period of intense and dramatic change.
- Walrus Islands Archeological District near Togiak, Alaska, is one of the few remaining places with evidence of human occupation of the Bering Sea continental shelf when sea levels were substantially lower than at present. At least 6,000 years ago, the earliest inhabitants of Round Island, one of seven islands in the district, were marine-adapted and practiced more generalized settlement and subsistence patterns, including hunting walrus on the beaches, than previously recognized by Alaska researchers.
- 48GO305, commonly referenced in archeological literature as “Hell Gap Paleoindian Site,” located in Goshen County, Wyoming, contains evidence of repeated occupations by nine Paleoindian cultural complexes in well-stratified deposits. To date, no other excavated Paleoindian site in North America contains a record that includes all of the cultural complexes known on the Plains spanning from between 13,000 and 8,500 years ago. Since its discovery and initial investigation, 48GO305 has been associated with cutting edge research in the field of Paleoindian archeology.
- The May 4, 1970, Kent State Shootings Site in Kent, Ohio, is where the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four Kent State University students and wounded nine during a protest on the campus. This event affected public opinion of the Vietnam War, increased the movement against the war, and engendered prompt changes in military policy for civil disturbances, especially for the National Guard. Later court trials resulted in a ruling by the Supreme Court that the executive branch of government does not enjoy absolute immunity for its actions, establishing a legal precedent.