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Thread: Vermont: One of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

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    Post Vermont: One of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

    National Trust Names the State Of Vermont One of
    America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places


    Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2004) – With historic villages and downtowns, working farms, winding back roads, forest-wrapped lakes, spectacular mountain vistas and a strong sense of community, Vermont has a special magic that led National Geographic Traveler magazine to name the state one of "the World's Greatest Destinations." Yet in recent years, this small slice of America has come under tremendous pressure from the onslaught of big-box retail development. The seriousness of this threat led the National Trust to name the state to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1993. Back then, Vermont was the only state without a Wal-Mart. Today it has four – and it now faces an invasion of behemoth stores that could destroy much of what makes Vermont Vermont.

    To highlight the threat to this vital piece of America’s heritage, the National Trust for Historic Preservation today named the state of Vermont to its 2004 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

    During the 1990s Wal-Mart located three of its four Vermont stores in existing buildings and kept them relatively modest in size. Now, however, the world’s largest company is planning to saturate the state – which has only 600,000 residents – with seven new mammoth mega-stores, each with a minimum of 150,000 square feet. Theses potential new stores may be located in St. Albans, Morrisville, Newport/Derby, St. Johnsbury, Bennington, Rutland, and Middlebury. Wal-Mart’s plans are sure to attract an influx of other big-box retailers. The likely result: degradation of the Green Mountain State’s unique sense of place, economic disinvestment in historic downtowns, loss of locally-owned businesses, and an erosion of the sense of community that seems an inevitable by-product of big-box sprawl. With deep regret, the National Trust takes the rare step of re-listing Vermont as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

    “If they are built as proposed, these seven huge new stores will change the character of their communities and the state of Vermont,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust. “We’re not saying that communities shouldn’t allow big-box stores – but if they choose to do so, they should be aware of the consequences, including the possible impact on jobs, traffic, the environment and locally-owned businesses. New stores should complement existing businesses, not devour them – but there are communities all over America whose downtowns have been devastated by the arrival of big-box retailers. Vermonters shouldn’t let that happen in their state.”

    In an upcoming "Save Our History" program, The History Channel will focus on two sites that were on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and are now being restored. The program will air on Friday, September 3 at 8 pm. Beginning on May 24, 2004, The History Channel will also run a series of public service announcements that highlight the 2004 list. These spots will air beginning May 24.

    History: Big-box development typically occurs on the outskirts of town, consuming farmland and open space, fueling sprawl and other problems associated with insensitive expansion. Communities often welcome these large stores in the hope that they will bring economic benefits. Too often, however, the stores bring hidden costs and cause significant economic and social harm.

    Threat: The distinctive characteristics that define Vermont – historic towns, villages and rural landscapes – could be lost if sprawl-type development is allowed to occur in a haphazard, out-of-scale, land-consuming manner. The one-size-fits-all big-box “template” has proven to be detrimental to communities across the United States because of its negative economic and environmental impact on historic downtowns and local businesses. The size and design of these stores often overwhelm their surroundings, and impersonal corporate identity too often trumps community character.

    Solution: The arrival of big-box sprawl often fostered by retailers such as Wal-Mart has been resisted by increasing numbers of communities that are determined to prevent or minimize the loss of their open space and the erosion of the economic vitality of their traditional business districts. People want and should have easy access to basic goods at low prices – but they also have the right to determine how their communities should grow and what they want to preserve and protect. At the very least, communities should accept big-box development with their eyes open and understand its long-term costs. Some big-box stores have adapted to local standards and worked to fit in gracefully with existing commercial districts. Some have even located in recycled vacant properties in existing downtowns. Vermonters should learn from what has happened elsewhere and persuade Wal-Mart and other large retailers to adapt the way they do business so as to enhance existing communities. Wal-Mart should change to accommodate Vermont, not the other way around.

    America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has identified more than 160 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures since 1988. While a listing does not ensure the protection of a site or guarantee funding, the designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country. 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.

    Recent 11 Most Successes: For more than 15 years, the National Trust and the City of South Pasadena led the fight against the proposed $1.4 billion Route 710 freeway extension, which would have demolished almost 1,000 homes in a six-mile area, cutting through the heart of four National Register historic districts in Pasadena, South Pasadena and the El Sereno neighborhood in Southern California. More than ten years after these corridor cities appeared on the 11 Most Endangered list, from 1989 to 1993, the Federal Highway Administration suspended its approval of the freeway in December, 2003. Just last month, the California Transportation Commission also responded by nullifying its approval of the project. St. Augustine, Florida’s Bridge of Lions was also saved last fall after a 25-year battle when the Florida Department of Transportation decided to rehabilitate the historic 1927 bridge instead of tearing it down. The Mediterranean-style bridge appeared on the National Trust’s 1997 11 Most Endangered list. Just two months after the Zuni Salt Lake and Sanctuary Zone appeared on the 2003 list, the Board of Salt River Project, an Arizona utility, voted to abandon its plans for strip mining coal from within this traditional cultural property.

    Sites on the 2004 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places are:

    2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY — Designed by famed architect Edward Durell Stone, this Manhattan building has been controversial since it was completed in 1964. If a new owner carries out its planned renovations, the building will lose the distinctive features that have made it an icon of Modernist design.
    Ridgewood Ranch, Home of Seabiscuit, Willits, CA — The final home and resting place of one of America’s most famous horses, this ranch is now owned by a church association that lacks the resources to stabilize and maintain the 20-plus historic buildings that still stand.
    Bethlehem Steel Plant, Bethlehem, PA — This complex played a major role in the development of America’s steel industry, was the site of many technological advances and provided steel for some of the nation’s best-known structures, but now it lies dormant and threatened with demolition.
    Elkmont Historic District, Great Smoky Mountains NP, Tenn. -- This collection of modest wooden structures suffers from abandonment, inadequate maintenance and vandalism. Some park advocates favor demolishing the buildings – which are listed in the National Register – in order to return the land to its “natural” state.
    Gullah/Geechee Coast, SC and GA — This stretch of coastline is the homeland of descendants of slaves who have managed to retain a distinctive culture, traditions and language. Long protected by its relative isolation, the area is now being overrun by sprawling new resorts, subdivisions and strip malls.
    Tobacco Barns of Southern Maryland — A state-sponsored buyout has encouraged many farmers to abandon tobacco farming, the longtime mainstay of the region’s agricultural economy, and many historic barns have been abandoned or are being demolished.
    Madison-Lenox Hotel, Detroit, MI — The city’s landmarks commission has refused to grant a demolition permit for this 3-building complex that could be rehabbed as the centerpiece of a burgeoning inner-city area, but the owner still wants to demolish it for a parking lot.
    Historic Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL — The setting or inspiration for numerous films and TV shows, this historic hospital could be converted to housing and help bring vitality to its neighborhood, but it is slated for demolition at a cost to taxpayers of $30 million.
    George Kraigher House, Brownsville, TX — This 1937 house by famed architect Richard Neutra has stood vacant for several years and is gradually being destroyed by weather, neglect and vandalism.
    Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon and Duchesne counties, UT — Sometimes called “the world’s longest art gallery” because it encompasses an estimated 10,000 petroglyphs and pictographs, this site is threatened by extensive oil and gas exploration plans recently approved by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
    The State of Vermont — The State of Vermont appeared on our 1993 list because it faced an onslaught of big-box retail development. Today the threat is worse than ever, with Wal-Mart planning to saturate the state with 7 new super-stores that are likely to spur additional development, sprawl, disinvestment in downtowns, the loss of locally-owned businesses, and the erosion of the state’s unique sense of place.

    [Source]

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    Post Re: Vermont: One of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

    Yep, we are in danger of losing our identity and "Wally-World" superstores surely do not help.

    None of the propsed stores are close to me as I live on the eastern side of the state very close to New Hampshire. Interestingly enough, places like Wal-Mart would likely not consider putting a store in my area because sales-tax free NH is so close and most Vermonters on this side of the state go to NH to buy their material goods to avoid the tax. I do it myself.

    I hate Wal-Mart and everything they stand for. I would never shop there. I don't care if I have to pay more for something--I go to the local, independently owned stores for my supplies. I also hate suburbs, subdivisions, cul-de-sacs, strip malls, signal-lights, four-lane roads and all other such symptoms of sprawl. It's nothing but social and cultural homogenization.

    I fear for my home but there is also reason to be optimistic. VT has some of the toughest environmental legislation in its books which makes development harder to accomplish and deters many would-be land rapers--sending them to New York, Massachusetts and to a lesser extent, New Hampshire.

    Also, the people here are very aware of our precarious postition and even the most uneduacated 'ridge-runners' and 'woodchucks' value the rural landscape here and our historical traditions.....

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    Post Re: Vermont: One of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

    I hope one never sees Vermont end up bearing any resemblence to the sort of ghastly urban sprawl one finds in southeastern New Hampshire - that would be a tragedy.

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