Monday, June 06, 2005

On the endangered list 

On Thursday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places 2005. Since 1988, the National Trust has published each year a list that spotlights "parts of the country's heritage that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy."

This year's list includes:
Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Belleair, Florida.
Historic Catholic Churches of Greater Boston, Massachusetts.
Camp Security, York County, Pennsylvania.
Historic Buildings of Downtown Detroit, Michigan.
Eleutherian College, Madison, Indiana.
Ennis-Brown House, Los Angeles, California.
Finca Vigia: Ernest Hemingway House, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.
The 'Journey Through Hallowed Ground' Corridor, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia.
King Island, Alaska.
National Landscape Conservation System, Western States.
Daniel Webster Farm, Franklin, New Hampshire.

I was not previously familiar with most of the locations on this list. One of these places, however, I've known about for years.The Ennis-Brown House is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces. Built in 1924, the house is the last of four unusual concrete block houses designed by Wright in the Los Angeles area. In a system known as textile block, identical pre-cast concrete blocks were designed to form an interlocking system, and were stacked dry without mortar joints. The textile block system integrated structure, ornament, and inner and outer walls. The house's striking, somewhat otherwordly, Egyptian-influenced design has made it popular as a set for movies, including a particular favorite of mine (and many architects and urbanists), Blade Runner.

The house has sustained much damage over the years, from improper maintenance, earthquake, mudslides and more. Estimates of stabilization costs run as high as $5 million, and full restoration costs are well over $15 million. Today, the site is unsafe, and is closed to the public. If repairs are not begun very soon, this important house may be lost... and that would be quite sad.