Best & Worst 2009

Highs and Lows for Historic Places

At year's end, we look back on the most crushing losses and uplifting restorations of historic buildings throughout the country. 



Return of Johnie's Broiler

It's a Hollywood ending in Southern California. A beloved Googie-style diner in Downey, Calif., was illegally demolished in 2007, but it was rebuilt and reopened this year, its original sign intact.

Comeback in Baltimore

A nonprofit took on the restoration of a long-abandoned brewery that neighbors called "Darth Vader's Castle," and this year it reopened as Humanim's headquarters and a cornerstone of the East Baltimore neighborhood. Read more

Not-So Impossible Mission

After a devastating earthquake, it's hard to believe that California's Mission San Miguel Arcangel has been restored. The building, named one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places just three years ago, reopened this fall. Read more

Inspired by Sandra Day O'Connor

The Arizona house where Sandra Day O'Connor hosted thought-provoking dinner parties from 1958 until 1981 has been saved and moved, and it's in the process of being restored and rebuilt. The goal is to restore the "spirit" of the house. Read more

High Times in New York

You've heard about it, but have you walked the High Line yet? The once-abandoned elevated railroad tracks are the coolest new trail in New York City. Read about the team that saved the High Line or take a virtual tour


Gropius Gone

Most countries celebrate works by masters of architecture, but in Chicago, despite losing the bid for the next Olympics and a need for an Olympic Village site, city officials began clearing buildings on the campus of Michael Reese Hospital, designed by Walter Gropius. The city has not announced its plans for the land.

Rudolph Lost

Another blow to fans of midcentury modern architecture: Sarasota, Fla., tore down Paul Rudolph's Sarasota High School for a parking lot this year. A similar school in New York could be torn down, too.

Disaster in Montana

A freak explosion in downtown Bozeman, Mont., in March destroyed several historic buildings. Still recovering from the loss, the town is planning a new development to fill the gap in the street wall.

What's your vote for Best & Worst events in the world of historic preservation this year? Leave your comments below or send us an e-mail.

Best & Worst 2008

Best & Worst 2007

Best & Worst 2006

Best & Worst 2005

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Submitted by middletown at: January 14, 2010
In our rural community near Omaha, billboards obscure the view and cause light pollution. Our public power company has raised our rates while flooding us with advertising to homeowners to conserve energy by changing to CFLs. We loose power when the weight of snow and Ice break antiquated power lines but the billboards never loose power since they are equipped with the newest LED displays and underground electrical lines. We pay high property taxes they get tax and permitting breaks. Billboards clutter the landscape with flashing digital giant advertising with important information like "Drink More Beer" It defies logic and resource conservation efforts. Our children will never know what our quaint little town used to look like before billboards lined our roads. No new billboards should be allowed to be built unless they can generate their own wind or solar power and give power back to the public through improving the grid as a way of mitigating the damage they do in the community.

Submitted by Justin at: January 14, 2010
I'm glad they got rid of the Modern buildings, their useless and ugly.

Submitted by STARCHY at: January 13, 2010
no surprise that Chicago is well represented on the LOST list- the little man mayor with the huge ego LOVES to tear down old buildings D emolish A rchitectural L andmarks E very Y ear

Submitted by Fishkill Supply Depot at: January 12, 2010
The best of 2009 was archaeologists identifying the largest Continental Army Burial Complex ever identified in United States history on New York land that was slated for commercial development. This historic land belongs to the Revolutionary War Fishkill Supply Depot. Next step: protecting these open spaces acres for ever more. Read about it on:

Submitted by gen at: January 9, 2010
The link to read more about S D O'Connor's house links to a story about Palo Alto!! Annoying!

Submitted by Eric at: January 4, 2010
google the Forest Service site for "Mexican Canyon Trestle"

Submitted by PokMon at: December 31, 2009
Best: Walkway Over the Hudson - opened officially in October as the "longest pedestrian bridge in the world" connecting Poughkeepsie, New York across the Hudson River to Highland. Private effort to get the $35 million necessary. You've included the High Line in NYC; well, this one is longer, higher, and most important has had over 400,000 walk, push baby carriages, or ride bicycles in just 3 months!

Submitted by Trying to be optimistic at: December 30, 2009
Worst: demolition of La Rhonda, Bryn Mawr, PA. How often is a remarkably significant landmark in excellent condition with a ready-and-willing savior in place and lost just because of ill will?! This equation had everything that we preservation advocates are normally scrounging for: significance, stability, funds, caring and active advocates, AND people ready and willing to do the work required. And STILL, it's now a pile of rubble in a landfill somewhere in Pennsylvania. DISGUSTING.