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Seeking to Protect the 'Most Endangered Historic Places' in America


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VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Faith Lapidus. Our subject this week is endangered places. These are historic places threatened by age, disrepair or development.

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VOICE ONE:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, non-profit organization. An act of Congress established the National Trust in nineteen forty-nine. Two hundred seventy thousand members and thousands of community groups support its work.

Each year since nineteen eighty-eight, the National Trust has released a list. The list is called America's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. The hope is that informing the public about the risks to these sites will lead to their rescue.

This year, the list includes a small college in the Midwest that is now a museum. A system of millions of hectares of land in the West is also on the list. So is a house in Cuba. The house is where Ernest Hemingway wrote such classics as "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea."

This is the first time the National Trust has listed a place outside the United States.

VOICE TWO:

Another place on the endangered list this year is Camp Security in York County, Pennsylvania. It is described as the last remaining site of a prison camp from the Revolutionary War in the late seventeen hundreds. Camp Security held captured British soldiers and their families.

Farmers have used the land ever since. National Trust officials say they believe objects from the camp are still buried there.

Local officials in York County rejected a request by a developer to build homes on the land where Camp Security stood. But the developer brought legal action. That resulted in a court order to approve the development.

The National Trust says it hopes a group interested in preservation will buy the land and save this part of American history.

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VOICE ONE:

The National Trust lists the home and family farm of Daniel Webster as another endangered place. The property is in Franklin, New Hampshire.

Daniel Webster, born in seventeen eighty-two, was a famous statesman. He was an important speaker for the powers of the federal government. Lines from his speeches helped fuel the spirit of Union soldiers during the Civil War in the eighteen sixties.

The public can visit the Webster Farm. The government has declared it a national historic landmark. But the National Trust says that without a new plan to protect it, the land may be cleared for a development.

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The Union won the Civil War. Slavery ended in the South. But even before that, a tiny college in the Midwest was educating blacks and women. Eleutherian College in Madison, Indiana, was one of the first in the nation to offer such equality. Many of its leaders and students helped shelter runaway slaves. The school opened in eighteen forty-eight.

Today Eleutherian College is a museum. It stands as a monument to education and equality. But the National Trust for Historic Preservation says the college needs money for restoration.

VOICE ONE:

An area of land in three states also is on the endangered list this year. It is called the Journey through Hallowed Ground Corridor. It includes six homes of American presidents and a large number of Civil War battlefields. There are places of special meaning to blacks and Native Americans.

The area extends from Pennsylvania to Maryland to Virginia. The National Trust says the corridor has lost thousands of hectares to development since the nineteen eighties. Public and private agencies have launched an effort to permit balanced growth but also to protect history. The National Trust says "four hundred years of American heritage may be lost" if the effort fails.

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VOICE TWO:

The Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, is often called "the White Queen of the Gulf." The hotel opened in eighteen ninety-seven. Presidents, kings and queens, business leaders, movie stars and other important guests have stayed there. During World War Two, the Belleview Biltmore Hotel provided housing for the United States Army.

The hotel is still popular. But its owners want to destroy it. The National Trust says developers can get more money with homes on the land. The historic preservation group hopes someone will save the White Queen of the Gulf.

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In California, the National Trust notes the sad condition of the Ennis-Brown House in Los Angeles. One of America’s most imaginative architects designed the house. Frank Lloyd Wright used concrete blocks decorated with designs. He finished the home in nineteen twenty-four.

The Ennis-Brown House was popular with visitors. Today it is unsafe and needs major repairs.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation says it is also concerned about preserving the history of Detroit, Michigan. Detroit is known as the traditional capital of American car manufacturing. But for years now, the city has suffered from unemployment and poverty. Many buildings are empty and in poor condition.

The city plans to destroy more than one hundred such buildings in downtown Detroit. But the National Trust says: "Detroit’s leaders need to work with developers and preservationists to breathe new life into old buildings."

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VOICE ONE:

Greater Boston, Massachusetts, is divided into more than three hundred fifty Roman Catholic parishes. Last year, church officials began to sell properties owned by the church in some of those areas. The Catholic Church in Boston needs millions of dollars to settle cases of sexual wrongdoing by clergymen.

Some church buildings may be redeveloped. Some may be destroyed. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has urged all parties involved to cooperate to find new uses for the buildings.

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The National Trust also names King Island, Alaska, on its two thousand five list of endangered historic places. The island is in the Bering Strait west of Nome, Alaska. Inupiat Eskimos lived there for centuries. But in nineteen fifty-nine, the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs closed the school on King Island. Families moved to Nome and Anchorage.

Now the surviving Inupiats want to return to their island for the warmer seasons. But some structures are in poor condition and could be washed into the sea. The president of the National Trust, Richard Moe, says the remaining buildings must be preserved. If not, he says, the traditional homeland of the Inupiats will be lost forever.

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The National Trust also placed the National Landscape Conservation System on its endangered list this year. The system is made up of land in twelve Western states. The land includes the Missouri River and the Oregon National Historic Trail to the Pacific coast.

The Bureau of Land Management protects this huge area. But the National Trust says the federal agency does not have enough money or people to care for it.

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VOICE TWO:

The great American writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba between nineteen thirty-nine and nineteen sixty. His home, called Finca Vigia, is on a hill overlooking the village of San Francisco de Paula.

The house is in poor condition. Most visitors can see only the outside. But people who have been inside say they could easily imagine the writer welcoming them with a drink. Thousands of books remain in his library. His small typewriter looks as though he might have just used it.

Hemingway was forced to leave Finca Vigia after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in nineteen fifty-nine. The writer killed himself in July of nineteen sixty-one. His wife gave the home to the Cuban people.

VOICE ONE:

The National Trust and another group have received permission to send experts to Cuba to work on preservation plan. But the plan will need a lot of money, and Cuba is under economic restrictions by the United States.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation says it hopes the much-loved home of Ernest Hemingway can be saved.

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VOICE TWO:

Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Faith Lapidus.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Steve Ember. Our programs can be found on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. We hope you join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

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