Photo: NetCredit

The Most Endangered Building in Every State

Maps + Infographics Art + Architecture
by Matthew Meltzer Mar 30, 2020

Progress always comes with a cost. In a perpetually changing country, often that cost comes in the form of beloved buildings with important places in history. Who hasn’t seen a favorite bar demolished for a shopping mall, or watched a centuries-old school house decay past the point of repair? Though many land on the National Register of Historic Places — and some are even deemed monuments — maintenance costs can be too high, and the upside of tearing down too great.

NetCredit perused registers of endangered buildings, finding one in each state it believed to be the most endangered. In one case, it was a little too right, and by the time the map was published the Tyler County Poor Farm in West Virginia had already been torn down. Nonetheless, in those states we found ones still standing that can use some help, as we present the most endangered building in every state.

Alabama: Ada Hanna School in Hamilton


Photo: NetCredit

A relic from the segregation-era “equalizations schools,” this short brick structure is the last African-American school building left in Marion County. It has been abandoned since 1985, and though current owners had plans to develop it into a community center, those plans never materialized. It’s been a frequent target of arson and faces imminent demolition if not improved.

Alaska: Eldred Rock Lighthouse in Haines


Photo: NetCredit

First built in 1906 in the treacherous Lynn Canal, this octagonal lighthouse was constructed in response to the canal’s slew of shipwrecks during the 1898 gold rush. Alaska’s oldest lighthouse is the last of its kind in the state, and one of the United States’ most picturesque set against green hills and snow-capped mountains. The Eldred Rock Preservation Association is currently trying to lease the land from the federal government to create a visitors center and maritime museum.

Arizona: Buckhorn Baths in Mesa


Photo: NetCredit

This roadside motel in Mesa plays a little-known role in baseball history, as its natural hot springs were used to lure New York Giants owner Horace Stoneman here in 1947. Stoneman and his players enjoyed the place so much that they eventually moved their spring training west from Florida, and the Cactus League was born. Since then, its glory has faded and the Buckhorn Baths shut its doors in 1999. New ownership took over in 2017 with some plans to develop it into retail space. But it donated what was once the largest collection of taxidermied animals to Arizona State University, and its interior still sits frozen in time.

Arkansas: Scipio A. Jones House in Little Rock


Photo: NetCredit

At a time when African Americans had little advocates for justice in Arkansas, Scipio A. Jones was one of their greatest champions. The son of a slave was Arkansas’ most prominent black attorney of his era, most famously reversing the death sentences of 12 men convicted after the Elaine Race Riot of 1919. His home on Cross Street was once one of the grandest in the city, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Despite that designation it now sits in disrepair, with only Preserve Arkansas fighting for its rehabilitation.

California: The Old Mint in San Francisco


Photo: NetCredit

Originally constructed to help turn gold bullion into coins, the San Francisco mint quickly outgrew its original space and opened this location in 1874. The “granite lady” survived both the great San Francisco fire and earthquakes of the early 20th century before it was decommissioned in 1937. Though plans existed to create a historical museum here, none have come to fruition. The space is currently only used for events, and with land in the city at an all-time premium, it may not last long.

Colorado: R&R Market in San Luis


Photo: NetCredit

One might think the oldest continually operating business in Colorado wouldn’t be in much danger of demolition. But this store founded by San Luis pioneer Dario Gallegos has been handed down through the generations, and the current generation is in their 70s, struggling to keep the place afloat. Though the historic adobe structure remains open, the economics of running it may change that soon.

Connecticut: Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses in Bridgeport


Photo: NetCredit

In the mid-19th century, a number of small communities of free African Americans sprung up around the US, Canada, and Mexico called “Little Liberias.” The only one still remaining is in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Mary and Eliza Freeman were some of the city’s largest landowners. The sisters’ homes are still standing, mostly through the work of the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community, which is tasked with preserving and restoring the buildings.

Delaware: Jester Farmhouse in New Castle County


Photo: NetCredit

This historic old farmhouse is the rare pre-Civil War homestead still standing in Delaware, and has been operating as a sort of architectural commune where residential caretakers preserve the space. A non-profit organization is looking to turn it into an artspace, but funds are still being raised.

Florida: Marine Stadium in Miami


Photo: NetCredit

Marine Stadium used to hold epic concerts and boat races on Biscayne Bay, but it hasn’t seen much use since Hurricane Andrew blew through town in 1992. Though it’s now covered in murals and street art, Marine Stadium’s main purpose now is being home to the Miami International Boat Show in February. The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium — with significant support from Gloria Estefan — have raised a good amount of money to return it to its former glory, but as of now no timeline exists for its restoration.

Georgia: The Cedars in Washington


Photo: NetCredit

In a state full of grand, old homes, this 18th century Victorian is among the most impressive, a rambling 18-room palace originally owned by Declaration of Independence singer George Walton. The Victorian architectural elements were added later in the 19th century, and though the home has a historic plaque out front no improvements have been made in nearly 20 years. Now it looks a bit like a creepy old haunted house, complete with rotting wood and ramshackle windows.

Hawaii: Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium in Honolulu


Photo: NetCredit

Once one of the most beautiful public swimming pools in the US, this Hawaiian Beaux-Arts structure was originally dedicated as a memorial to the 10,000 men and women from Hawaii who served in World War I. The salt and fresh water pool was initiated by Duke Kahanamoku, and was a community gathering place for nearly 50 years. Due to structural issues it’s been closed since the 1970s, though the city and county have studied making improvements in recent years.

Idaho: Idaho State Forester’s Building in Boise


Photo: NetCredit

Built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corp as part of the New Deal, this Engelmann spruce cabin served as the home of the state forester’s office for 50 years. Unlike a lot of buildings on this list, it’s still in fairly good shape, thanks mostly to its use as the Log Cabin Literary Center, after the City of Boise purchased the building in 1992. A proposed plan for expansion to the adjacent city library threatens the building’s location, though, and designs call for its relocation to Julia Davis Park.

Illinois: Booth Cottage in Glencoe


Photo: NetCredit

It’s rare that a 1,700-square-foot home could be described as a “cottage,” but when Frank Lloyd Wright was designing the famous Booth House for his attorney Sherman Booth, Booth and his wife Elizabeth lived in this Wright-designed house while they waited. The cottage has already been moved once, and when new owners purchased it last year they immediately applied for a demolition permit. Preservationists sprang into action, and the city agreed to move the house to a new site earlier this month.

Indiana: Pulaski County Courthouse in Winamac


Photo: NetCredit

Granted, the 125-year-old Pulaski County Courthouse could use some improvements, built for a different era with different judicial needs. But when city officials proposed demolishing the old Roman revival building and replacing it with a parking lot, residents weren’t so quick to write off their most iconic landmark. Indiana Landmarks — a nonprofit dedicated to preservation of historic Hoosier state buildings — has recently come forward with plans to modernize the old courthouse, keeping some of the area’s history firmly in place.

Iowa: Preston’s Station Historic District in Belle Plaine


Photo: NetCredit

At the dawn of the great American road trip, Lincoln Highway was the first road to run the length of the nation. About halfway along this road, in the middle of Iowa, motorists would encounter Preston’s Corner, where a small motel, garage, and service station sat. It became such a part of American road lore that owner George Preston was invited on The Tonight Show in 1990 to talk about the station, shortly after it closed in 1989. The station is currently owned by the great-granddaughter of the original founder, but is in need of great repair.

Kansas: Sumner Elementary School in Topeka


Photo: NetCredit

Though this brick commercial structure may not look particularly impressive, its place in US history may be greater than any other elementary school in the nation. The African-American school was the focus of the Brown v. Board of Education case, which ultimately ended race-based school segregation. It was a National Park Service Historic Site until 1996, and though a new owner purchased it in 2009, it is still frequently vandalized.

Kentucky: Barnes House in Mt. Washington


Photo: NetCredit

Strolling through the fairly nondescript streets of Mt. Washington, coming across this bright-yellow slice of Bourbon Street comes as a bit of a surprise. Though the city once had about a dozen historic homes that looked similar, nine of its National Register structures have been demolished since 1993, and this one is in danger of being torn down for a CVS.

Louisiana: General Laundry, Cleaners, and Dryers in New Orleans


Photo: NetCredit

Hard to imagine it now, but once upon a time laundromats were the social center of a neighborhood. And this Art Deco masterpiece was one of the grandest. Owner Robert Chapoit commissioned this epic structure from famed architect Samuel G. Wiener, and its opening party drew over 5,000 people. For years after, it held elegant parties and fashion shows, until the advent of the home washing machine made laundromats far less sexy. Chapoit sold it in 1945, and no owner since has done much to keep the laundry up.

Maine: Fort Gorges in Portland


Photo: NetCredit

Anything that spends 160 years battling Maine winters without shelter is bound to look a little worse for wear. And this Civil War-era fort is no exception, with deteriorating masonry and granite work now covered in overgrown vegetation. The fort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and has been a City of Portland landmark since it took over the property in 1960. Despite its significance, no real plans exist for its restoration.

Maryland: Beatty-Cramer House in Frederick


Photo: NetCredit

Not only is this 1732 home the oldest building on this list, it’s the oldest known house in Maryland, set on quaint, rolling farmland for almost 300 years. Though it’s held up well, the house currently has serious structural issues that can only be remedied by finding a new use.

Massachusetts: Attleboro Switch Tower in Attleboro


Photo: NetCredit

In a bygone era, watch towers stood above train tracks where levermen feverishly switched tracks and monitored traffic, ensuring the trains ran on time. Much of that job is now automated, and the 114-year-old tower in Attleboro stands as a symbol of changing times. The highly-dilapidated structure has seen many plans — from development as a train museum and coffee shop to physical relocation — go by the wayside. And with no plans on the horizon, its future looks grim.

Michigan: Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit


Photo: NetCredit

Though it’s hard to imagine now, back in 1840 the prospect of war with Canada was very, very real. That’s why US forces built this fort along the Detroit River, the city’s third and first built by Americans. Though it never saw any action, it did serve as an army garrison and training post for soldiers from the Civil War all the way through Vietnam. It is currently preserved by the nonprofit Historic Fort Wayne Coalition.

Minnesota: Oakland Apartments in Minneapolis


Photo: NetCredit

Proving that not all developers are the enemies of historic preservation, the group that purchased this 1889 apartment building have opted to spend millions restoring the structure as affordable housing rather than razing it for something more profitable. John Kistler and Norman Kulba have recognized the value in keeping the city’s oldest apartment building, and despite the apartments sitting vacant since a 2016 fire, the pair are hoping to return it to its early-century glory.

Mississippi: The Old Stagecoach Inn in Lexington


Photo: NetCredit

Though this one-time hotel and floral shop has been as much a part of little Lexington, Mississippi’s skyline as the Space Needle is to Seattle’s, a massive petition drive was all that saved it from a wrecking ball this past summer. The charming old white inn with wraparound porches has been spared for now, but lacking any organized effort to improve the structural issues that plague it, the owning bank will tear it down soon.

Missouri: Sara Lou Cafe in St. Louis


Photo: NetCredit

Named after the intersection it sits upon at Sara and St. Louis avenues in North City, the Sara Lou was a cultural center and meeting place for the African-American community during the early part of the 20th century. The cafe is long gone and nothing has come in to replace it, leaving the outside of this building derelict and decaying. It’s also been stripped of any valuable copper or other scrap metals, and sits on land that’s more valuable with the Sara Lou torn down.

Montana: Thompson Falls Paradise School in Paradise


Photo: NetCredit

This brick, five-classroom schoolhouse served as the educational center to booming Paradise, Montana, when the Northern Pacific Railroad based much of its operations there. But as times changed so did the face of Paradise, and by the time the school closed in 2013 it had only five students. The nearby Plains School District saw no use for the building, and it faced demolition before plans for a new visitors, arts, and community center were approved in 2016.

Nebraska: Chauncey S. Taylor House in David City


Photo: NetCredit

When Vermont jeweler Chauncey Taylor built this grand Victorian home in 1888, he probably didn’t think it would ever end up as an architecturally unique storage unit. But this has been the fate of his house at 715 North Fourth Street, despite being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The absentee landlords live in Colorado and use the home mostly for storage. Subsequently, the house was condemned in 2018, described by the condemning inspector as “one of the worst cases of hoarding I’ve ever seen.”

Nevada: Goldfield High School in Goldfield

28-Endangered-building-US-Nevada-Masonic-Lodge _h

Photo: NetCredit

Goldfield, Nevada, was one of the great, old western boomtowns of the early 1900s, and by 1906 the town realized it needed a full, 12-room schoolhouse. Though it was built in only a few months in 1907, its useful life was short but glorious as by 1947 it housed only elementary schoolers. It closed for good in 1953 and has sat vacant ever since. With a population of just over 250, it seems unlikely the city will be able to preserve it on its own.

New Hampshire: Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot


Photo: NetCredit

“Nostalgia without history is a decorative fraud,” poet Donald Hall once said. And so by inhabiting this farmhouse in rural New Hampshire, the famous writer gave the place enough history to justify its preservation, which has been in question since his death in 2018. The home is where he and his wife Jane Kenyon wrote for 20 years, and appropriately the group trying to save it is seeking to turn the house into a writing studio.

New Jersey: East Point Lighthouse in Maurice River


Photo: NetCredit

One of the great preservation stories in Garden State history is that of this 1849 two-story lighthouse, built where the Maurice River meets Delaware Bay. It was discontinued in 1941 and abandoned for decades until a group called the Maurice River Historical Society fought for its restoration in the 1970s. The Coast Guard ultimately relit the lighthouse in 1980, and in 2002 it got a full exterior restoration and a new lantern room. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, but all may be for naught if sea levels continue to rise and the shore erodes.

New Mexico: Iglesia de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Velarde


Photo: NetCredit

Despite being one of the most photographed churches in the state, this eerily abandoned adobe building doesn’t find much support from the local community. The church dates back to 1817, and its arched entryway and overgrown courtyard make it an ideal subject to capture the shrinking population in rural New Mexican villages. It’s far from the only church suffering this fate in New Mexico, and what little hope it has likely lies with the Nuevo Mexico Profundo project, which is raising money to save the buildings.

New York: Willert Park Courts in Buffalo


Photo: NetCredit

If there’s one city that knows how to take crumbling old buildings and turn them into a cultural identity, it’s Buffalo. The city that’s rehabbed everything from an old mental hospital to decommissioned grain silos is also home to one of the first garden-courtyard apartment projects in the nation, built specifically to house many in Buffalo’s black community. The brick buildings are also dotted with bas-relief sculptures depicting African-American art, and though the place has been empty for a decade, its recent recognition as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the US has spurred some interest in saving it.

North Carolina: Excelsior Club in Charlotte


Photo: NetCredit

Charlotte has been notorious for razing and paving over its history, especially when it comes to African Americans. So it came as a welcomed sign when the city and county pledged about $250,000 to help the new owners of this 1940s black social club turn the empty building into a new entertainment venue. The sale was finalized in December, and specific plans have yet to be released.

North Dakota: Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge in Bismarck


Photo: NetCredit

Though technically not a building building, it’s hard to argue with the historic significance of the first rail bridge across the Missouri River. The bridge has been open since 1883 and was a key component in expanding American western expansion. The BNSF rail company — which owns the bridge — applied to demolish it recently. In efforts to save it, the Coast Guard and other entities are looking for ways to build a new bridge while still preserving this one.

Ohio: Dayton Daily News Building in Dayton


Photo: NetCredit

The Beaux-Arts masterpiece sitting at Fourth and Ludlow streets in downtown Dayton was modeled after the Knickerbocker Trust building in New York, after the paper’s founder James M. Cox was turned down for a bank loan. It was the Daily News’ home from 1910 until it moved to a new facility in 2007. Though today it sits empty, plans were recently in the works to transform the space into student housing. Those plans have since been abandoned.

Oklahoma: Brookshire Motel in Tulsa


Photo: NetCredit

During the heyday of Route 66, the old Brookshire Motel stood like a neon Swiss chalet in the middle of the Oklahoma plains. But when Interstate 44 replaced the grand old highway, business here fell off, and it’s been abandoned for years. It suffered a major fire in 2019 and would need a complete overhaul to be a viable tourist attraction. Still, as Tulsa looks to promote Route 66 nostalgia, the Brookshire may have a glimmer of hope.

Oregon: OSU Red Barn in Union


Photo: NetCredit

Oregon State University’s Eastern Agricultural Research Center still uses this historic old barn for livestock nutrition experiments, despite its decaying infrastructure. The local stone walls, originally built in 1914 to withstand the harsh, windy winters, have held strong. But the wood is starting to fade and the original trusses are not as strong as they once were. Though no demolition is imminent, the university will need to invest serious capital to keep the barn operative.

Pennsylvania: Morton and Lenore Weiss House in East Norriton


Photo: NetCredit

Legendary architect Louis Kahn and his partner Ann Tyng won the 1950 American Institute of Architecture Gold Medal for this three-bedroom abode, designed for a couple of local business owners. Though it still boasts the movable glass panels and in-ground pool that won it its acclaim, it’s sat vacant for years as the current owner holds onto it for potential large-scale development. It’s a gamble, as the last planned tearing-down — in favor of a senior housing complex — was stopped after petitioning from neighbors.

Rhode Island: Industrial Trust Company Building in Providence


Photo: NetCredit

Rarely is the most iconic building in a state also the most endangered, but such is the case for the Art-Deco “Superman building” in downtown Providence. It gained its name for its resemblance to the Daily Planet building in Superman comics, and though it’s still structurally sound, no plans exist for a new tenant. The most recognizable piece of the Providence skyline has been vacant since Bank of America left in 2013.

South Carolina: JV Martin Junior High School in Dillon


Photo: NetCredit

The school that then-candidate Barack Obama used in 2007 to exemplify why he sought to raise education standards in poor communities was a symbol of decaying rural public education. So much so that the coal-heated junior high was ultimately replaced by a new facility. But the old building still stands as it has since 1896, and with limited resources in the area, chances for its rehabilitation aren’t great.

South Dakota: Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs


Photo: NetCredit

After the Civil War, the federal government established a series of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, essentially one-stop shops for veterans to find vocational training, medical care, and even a place to stay after they returned from war. One such home was in Hot Springs, and the solid sandstone structure still stands as the home of the VA’s Black Hills Health Care System. A proposed reorganization of the system would threaten this building — which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2011. But for now it is still serving those who served our country.

Tennessee: The Tracking Room in Nashville


Photo: NetCredit

Hard to believe the biggest recording studio in Nashville — where everyone from Chet Atkins to Donna Summer recorded hits — is somehow endangered. But the famous studio went up for sale last year for $4.1 million, and its value as a commercial or residential site far outweighs any music that might be made.

Texas: San Agustin Cathedral in Laredo


Photo: NetCredit

Fortunately for this 1872 cathedral, it sits in the relatively populated city of Laredo, and does not face the neglected fate of many of its New Mexico brethren. Though cracking has plagued its facade since a 1905 hurricane, and the bell tower has developed a pronounced list, capital campaigns and donations led to a massive restoration project beginning in 2018. And though it may not look 1870s-new, it should look pretty impressive within a few years.

Utah: Ancestral Palaces of Southeast Utah in Moab


Photo: NetCredit

Though only Alkali Ridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the cave homes, petroglyphs, and Native American holy sites of this region span nearly 8,000 square miles. It is one of the richest archaeological sites in the US, and though it sits between two national monuments at Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients, the opening of these lands for mining and other commercial use threatens its integrity.

Vermont: The Mansion House in Winooski


Photo: NetCredit

Not so long ago, this early 1800s mansion on Main and Mansion streets was listed on the Vermont State Register of Historic Places. But as a developer bought up property around the house, he asked the state to delist it, which it did in December 2018. Since then plans to demolish the mansion, which is currently a six-unit rental property, have moved forward. And its days anchoring the city’s historic corridor seem numbered.

Virginia: Carr-Greer Farmhouse in Ivy Creek


Photo: NetCredit

After being emancipated, former slave Hugh Carr amassed over 100 acres of farmland in rural Albemarle County, and built this two-story white home as its centerpiece. He raised his seven children here with his wife Texie Mae, and the home still stands as a reminder of the once-thriving post-reconstruction African American community. It’s now occupied by a caretaker, and maintained by the county.

Washington: The Showbox in Seattle


Photo: NetCredit

Ask anyone who knew Seattle for airplanes before Amazon, and they’ll tell you the city they knew is vanishing. Nowhere is that more evident than the recent plans revealed for The Showbox, an Art Deco space that’s hosted everyone from Mae West to Iggy Pop to every emerging Seattle band you can name. If developers get their way, it’ll give way to a 44-story apartment complex, erasing a critical part of the city’s music history.

West Virginia: Staats Hospital in Charleston


Photo: NetCredit

This four-story brick building in the Elk City section of Charleston was designed by the state’s first registered black architect, John C. Norman. Once, it housed a movie house, retail spaces, and a lodge for the Knights of Pythias. After serving as a hospital until 1982, it survived as office space until 2010. Though it received an upgrade to the facade in 2016, finding a tenant to fill the four floors has been challenging, and current ownership has been stalled in making improvements.

Wisconsin: Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee


Photo: NetCredit

The tropical, desert, and floral environments contained in the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory still draw over 250,000 people a year, and they’re as much a part of Milwaukee culture as beers and bratwurst. Well, almost. Still, the cone-shaped domes are painfully expensive to maintain, and even a steady flow of visitors hasn’t kept business consultants from suggesting they be torn down to make room for more profitable development.

Wyoming: Cooper House in Laramie


Photo: NetCredit

Wyoming isn’t exactly the first place one would expect to find a historic example of Mediterranean revival architecture. But tucked on the campus of the University of Wyoming you’ll find this house, allegedly inspired by one rancher Frank Cooper’s children saw on a trip to Santa Barbara. The university acquired the house in 1980 and planned to demolish it for parking, but later turned it into the home of its American Studies program. Recent reports show the university is planning new dorms and parking on its site, and preservationists are gearing up for another fight.

Discover Matador