Time and the elements eat away at Fort Hunter, New York's Schoharie Creek Aqueduct, a circa-1840 engineering marvel of the Erie Canal. The aqueduct represents U.S. state parks and state-owned historic sites, listed as a single entry on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2010 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
"Perhaps more than at any other time in recent history," state-owned historic sites face ruin, because U.S. states, burdened with heavy deficits, are reducing funding for historic preservation, according to a prepared statement from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit trust.
The National Trust's annual list highlights examples of U.S. architectural, cultural, and natural heritage at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.
"These places range from single buildings to entire communities that make up the historic fabric of our country," National Trust spokesperson Caroline Barker told National Geographic News. "Together they tell our collective history, and that’s why they are important to every American."
Photograph courtesy New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
A.M.E. Church, Washington, D.C.
The doors of Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church have opened to legendary figures in African-American history.
But today the 1886 church's walls are seeing some openings of their own, as structural cracks and water damage degrade the building where both Frederick Douglass, in 1895, and Rosa Parks, a century later, had their funerals.
Historically funded by donations from A.M.E. congregations across the United States, including contributions from freed slaves, the "national cathedral" of African Methodism is more than a place of worship. Close to the White House and U.S. Capitol, the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church has long been a center of African-American cultural, civic, and intellectual life.
Photograph by Luis M. Alvarez, AP
Saugatuck Dunes, Michigan
The waters of Lake Michigan wash over the century-old pilings of a fishing village in the Saugatuck Dunes region.
The 2,500-acre (1,000-hectare) stretch of beaches, dunes, wetlands, and woods is a rare natural haven on the lakeshore. It's also home to numerous historic and archaeological sites, including "Michigan's Pompeii"—the buried remains of Singapore, an early 19th-century port town.
Saugatuck Township is the focus of plans to build a 400-acre (160-hectare) development that would include homes, a marina, a hotel, a restaurant, and shops. Though legally protected against such construction, the town faces an expensive battle with developers over zoning laws, the National Trust for Historic Preservation says.
Photograph courtesy MaryLou Graham
Juana Briones House, California
Once the vibrant center of a sprawling ranch, the Juana Briones House now sits deserted and dilapidated on a 1.5-acre (0.6-hectare) lot in Palo Alto, California.
After separating from her husband, the home's namesake bought the property from Native Americans in 1844, when California was still Mexican territory. Briones went on to become a successful farmer and rancher. Her house, constructed with a very rare framed adobe technique, provides a glimpse of early California ranch life and a tangible link to the state's Hispanic past.
Once open to the public, the Briones House now belongs to private owners, who intend to replace it with a new building.
Photograph courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
Hinchliffe Stadium, New Jersey
Only echoes still stir in Hinchliffe Stadium, where spectators once thrilled to the exploits of Negro League ballplayers, including the legendary Larry Doby.
Now owned by Paterson Public Schools, the crumbling complex has become a haven for gang and drug activity, the National Trust for Historic Preservation says. The school system hopes to restore Hinchliffe for public use as part of a larger sports and entertainment facility.
Photograph by Mike Derer, AP
Black Mountain, Kentucky
Coal helped build the historic communities beneath Kentucky's Black Mountain, pictured behind a local church. But future surface-mining and deep-mining operations on the mountain may hinder the towns' efforts to forge a new economic future.
Benham, founded by the International Harvester farm-machinery company in 1911, and Lynch, estabished by the U.S. Coal and Coke Company in 1917, are classic company towns, which thrived in the mid-20th century.
In recent years their residents have worked to reinvent the area as a center for heritage tourism and natural beauty—but they now see preservation efforts threatened by the possibility of destructive mines on and under Black Mountain itself, the National Trust says.
One of Guam's most valuable cultural sites, the coastal Pågat archaeological site was a home to the indigenous Chamorro people beginning around A.D. 700. For the Chamorro, who have inhabited Guam (map) for millennia, Pågat remains a locus for ceremonial activities on the island.
The U.S. military, as part of a massive buildup on the United States' westernmost Pacific territory, plans to construct five Marine Corps firing ranges within a few hundred feet of the site, which would be fenced for limited access. Opponents fear that Pågat's prehistoric stone foundations, tools, and pottery may be threatened by the plan.
Meridian, Mississippi's skyline would be unrecognizable without the Threefoot Building, a 16-story art deco masterpiece dedicated in 1930. Despite its status as a local legend, the Threefoot's high vacancies and mounting maintenance problems resulted in shuttering of the city-owned building in 2000.
The building's interiors are deteriorating and its decorative edifice crumbling. Unless a suitable use can be found for this landmark, the historic structure may soon be reduced to rubble, the National Trust says.
Photograph by George Clark, Meridian Star/AP
Wilderness Battlefield, Virginia
A weathered catalpa tree bears silent witness on Virginia's Wilderness Battlefield, where 28,000 soldiers died, were wounded, or went missing during the two-day Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864.
"It was one of the most significant and bloodiest engagements of the war, where Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant faced off for the very first time," the National Trust's Barker said.
Today a new fight rages over Walmart's plans to build a 240,000-square-foot (22,300-square-meter) store on the battlefield in Orange County. The store, and the commercial sprawl it's likely to spawn, would greet visitors just outside the gates of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Barker stressed.
Orange County officials have approved the plan, but the nonprofit Friends of Wilderness Battlefield aims to block the development with a lawsuit. Opponents, including heritage groups, the National Park Service, and Virginia's governor, hope Walmart will choose another Orange County site.
Photograph by Rex Stucky, National Geographic
Industrial Arts Building, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska's massive brick Industrial Arts Building was built as an exposition hall in 1913 to showcase agricultural products at the Nebraska state fairgrounds.
In the post-World War I era (pictured), the Lincoln Standard Aircraft Company used the building to assemble airplanes—including the one in which a young Charles Lindbergh trained to become a pilot.
Shuttered in 2004, the iconic building is now scheduled to meet the wrecking ball. The current owner, the University of Nebraska, plans to redevelop the former fairground site.
Photograph courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society
Merritt Parkway, Connecticut
The Merritt Parkway begins in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the New York State border and runs for 37.5 miles (60 kilometers) along a route laid out 70 years ago to blend the natural landscape with a median strip and bucolic embankments.
The elegant design created one of the United States' iconic stretches of scenic highway, dotted with sculpted bridges and free of advertisements and trucks.
But the road's steward, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, is under pressure from growing traffic demands and inadequate funding. Neglected maintenance means many architectural and landscape features are falling apart.
The National Trust's Barker warns that traffic demands are moving the state to "realign roads, replace bridges, and redesign intersections—all at the cost of the parkway's unique character."