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While American historical societies and federal programs protect many historical locations across the country, these 5 ancestral homes are in peril. While some of the “homes” listed may span back thousands of years in your family tree, some may only affect your family tree by a few decades. We’ve included links to get involved with the preservation of these historical sites when possible. For more ways to help, including a donation portal, visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website.
1. The sacred Bears Ears region of Southeast Utah
The Bears Ears Buttes. Photograph by Tim Peterson
If you have found Navajo, Pueblo, Zuni, Ute or Hopi heritage in your family tree, you are connected to the 1.9 million acres known as the Bears Ears region of Southeast Utah. These Native American tribes view this region as sacred ground. That’s why it’s so shocking that the Bears Ears is federally unprotected. Visit the Bears Ears coalition to join in the fight to protect one of America’s most important landscapes.
2. The lifesaving Naval Hospital District in Charleston, South Carolina
Official U.S. Navy Photograph of the Naval Hospital in 1948
The Charleston Naval Hospital District was built during the early 1900s, and became of great use during World War II. Thousands of wounded American Navy sailors, having served in Europe and Africa, were treated in the Charleston Naval Hospital District–each month.
Chances are likely that if your family member was wounded in the Navy during World War II, they may have been hospitalized here; Or, at the very least, held the Charleston Naval Hospital District in high regard. Now, a Palmetto Railways line threatens to demolish 32 of the now-empty buildings.
3. The home of Jamestown’s water supply
The James River in April, 1865. Photo from the Library of Congress.
Though it was the site of America’s first colony, Jamestown, the James River’s scenery is under threat. Being able to visit the practically unchanged river where early Americans lived has been a highlight for many family historians. The Captain John Smith Trail, the first congressionally designated water tail, traces the river in honor of the Chesapeake Bay exploration.
Dominion Virginia Power currently has a transmission line planned to span across the James River that would affect the scenery, recreational use and local wildlife. Sign the petition to save the James River here.
4. “The Other Ellis Island”
Segundo Barrio, (1975) by Los Muralistas Del Barrio, Arturo Avalos, Gabriel Ortega, Pablo Schaffino and Pascual Ramirez. Image from Visit El Paso.
El Segundo Barrio is one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas. Its name means Second Ward in Spanish. Most historians will know it as the “other Ellis Island”, due to the amount of Mexican immigrants who entered America through the town. El Segundo Barrio can even pinpoint its first resident: a farm worker named Santiago Alvarado, who settled a farm in the area using a Mexican land grant in 1834.
In 2010, the City of El Paso devised a plan to revitalize the neighborhood; However, the plan would demolish historical and culturally important buildings. While that plan was shot down, El Segundo Barrio has no federal or local protections for its historical buildings and sites.
5. The motel where the top leaders of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement lived and planned
The wreckage of the A. G. Gaston Motel after a bomb explosion near room 30. Photographed by Marion S. Trikosko in 1963. Accessed on the Library of Congress.
During the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed in the A. G. Gaston Motel. The room he stayed in–room 30–was known as the “war room” by the Civil Rights leaders. It was in room 30 that Dr. King submitted himself to jail, an act of solidarity with those that had been imprisoned during the movement. And it was the owner of the motel, A. G. Gaston, who bailed Dr. King out of jail after the groundbreaking Letter from Birmingham Jail was written.
On May 12th, 1963, a bomb was detonated near room 30, destroying the A. G. Gaston Motel’s facade and endangering the life of Dr. King. Now, the motel is deteriorating. Birmingham leaders hope to make the motel apart of a National Park in order to save the historic location.