NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION NAMES HISTORIC RURAL SCHOOLHOUSES OF MONTANA TO ITS 2013 LIST OF AMERICA’S 11 MOST ENDANGERED HISTORIC PLACES®

Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana to its 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 240 sites have been on the list over its 26-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost.

The state of Montana has long had an abundance of historic, rural schoolhouses—for decades, the state has held the distinction of having more one-and-two room schoolhouses still in operation than any other state. At least one of these iconic schoolhouses can still be found in each of Montana’s 56 counties.  Montana families that farmed the land in the 19th and 20th centuries relied on these rural schools to educate their children, as the vast distances between towns made it impractical to travel to schools in population centers.

In recent years, the state’s population has become increasingly urban, as residents have left rural areas of the state for larger population centers. As Montana’s rural areas lose population, the enrollment in rural schools has also shrunk, rendering many of these schools underused or closed altogether. Montana schools, once the centers of community life in rural Montana, now face the kind of physical threats that can afflict any building that is not being maintained or used, including neglect, vandalism, and exposure to harsh weather conditions. Despite these obstacles, Montana’s historic rural schools remain important to people across the state, and local organizations are banding together to help save them. Funding is a critical need. The Montana History Foundation’s “Preserve Montana” grant program provided $13,000 last year to repair three rural schools, and has granted another $20,210 to more schools this year. Proceeds from sales of a new book about Montana’s rural schools will also provide additional funding. 

“The proud rural heritage of Montana is reflected in its unparalleled collection of historic country schools,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “These modest buildings tell the story of the generations of farmers and ranchers who gathered, and sent their children to be educated, in these small but crucial community centers. Threatened by declining populations and dwindling resources, Montana’s historic rural schools must be preserved as a testament to the courageous women, men and children who settled this great state.”    

 

The 2013 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order):

Abyssinian Meeting House – Portland, Maine. The Meeting House was the spiritual center of life for generations of African Americans in Portland, but it needs an influx of funding to keep that story alive for generations to come.

Astrodome – Houston, Texas. As the world's first domed indoor, air conditioned stadium, the 18-story multi-purpose Houston Astrodome was once dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World" but now needs a  viable reuse plan to avoid demolition.

Chinatown House - Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Once a general store and residence for a community of approximately fifty Chinese American laborers, the house is one of last remaining tangible connections to the history of the Chinese American community that helped build modern-day Rancho Cucamonga.

Gay Head Lighthouse - Aquinnah, Mass. The first lighthouse built on Martha’s Vineyard, Gay Head Lighthouse is in immediate danger of toppling over the edge of the Gay Head Cliffs, a consequence of a century of erosion and the direct impact of climate change.

Historic Rural Schoolhouses of Montana – Statewide. Montana boasts more historic one- and two-room schoolhouses still in use than any other state, but these schools are at risk as the state’s population shifts to urban centers

James River - James City County, Va. Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement, was founded along the banks of the James River in 1607. The river and landscape are threatened by a proposed transmission line project that would compromise the scenic integrity of this historic area.

Kake Cannery - Kake, Alaska. Kake Cannery played a key role in the development of the Alaskan salmon-canning industry during the first half of the 20th century, but immediate action is needed to stabilize the structural systems of the existing buildings.

Mountain View Black Officers’ Club – Fort Huachuca, Ariz. One of the most significant examples of a military service club in the United States built specifically for African-American officers, the Mountain View Black Officer’s Club faces demolition by the U.S. Army, which has blocked efforts to list the property in the National Register of Historic Places.

San Jose Church - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Built in 1532, San Jose Church is of the few remaining Spanish Gothic architecture structures in the Western Hemisphere. Empty for 13 years, it is threatened by deterioration and structural damage

Village of Mariemont - Cincinnati, Ohio. The Village of Mariemont has been an inspiration for a generation of planners, but it is now threatened by a proposed transportation project, which would permanently scar the careful designs that make this place so unique.

Worldport Terminal at JFK Airport – Jamaica, New York. The distinctive flying-saucer-shaped Worldport Terminal at New York’s JFK Airport has been a symbol of the Jet Age since it first opened in 1960, but now sits empty and unused, waiting for a creative reuse plan.

 

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America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has identified more than 240 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures since 1988. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country. At times, that attention has garnered public support to quickly rescue a treasured landmark; while in other instances, it has been the impetus of a long battle to save an important piece of our history.

 

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
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