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Pillsbury Mill in downtown Minneapolis makes national endangered building list

The Pillsbury A Mill complex on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis has been named one of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country.

The list, prepared by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, highlights “important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.”

The group calls the Pillsbury Mill “a masterpiece of industrial architecture and the largest and most advanced facility in the world at the time of its completion in 1881,” which “helped to make Minneapolis the flour milling capital of the world from 1880 to 1930.”

It closed in 2003, and it appeared a developer was ready to integrate the building into a mixed-use complex that coupled historic rehabilitation with new construction. But the deal fell through, and a bank now owns it and new development plans are pending.

The preservation group said:

While applauding the fact that developers are interested in the property, local residents fear that the site will be broken up for piecemeal development, an outcome that could have negative consequences for the site’s historic buildings and landscape. Buildings that are more challenging to rehabilitate could sit vacant for years, deteriorating due to lack of maintenance and vandalism.

A comprehensive development strategy is needed on a project of this scale, to coordinate the interests and efforts of the private sector, government, preservation partners and other interested parties who will be critical to the project’s success.

The group describes the 10 other places on the endangered list:

  1. Bear Butte, Meade County, S.D. — Bear Butte, the 4,426-foot mountain called Mato Paha by the Lakota in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is sacred ground for as many as 17 Native American tribes. A place of prayer, meditation, and peace, this National Historic Landmark is threatened by proposed wind and oil energy development that will negatively impact the sacred site and further degrade the cultural landscape.

  2. Belmead-on-the-James, Powhatan County, Va. — A little-known landmark of African American heritage, the 2,000-acre site along Virginia’s James River was transformed by Saint Katherine Drexel from a slave-holding plantation into a pair of innovative schools for African American and Native American students. Closed in the 1970s, the historic buildings set in rolling hills and wooded glades of the riverfront campus, including a striking Gothic Revival manor house designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, are deteriorating and need emergency repairs.

  3. China Alley, Hanford, Calif. — In 1877, Chinese immigrants settled in this San Joaquin Valley town and found strength and community far from home in China Alley, a vibrant rural Chinatown. Today, most of its historic buildings are suffering from deterioration and disuse and are vulnerable to insensitive alteration as there is no local historic preservation staff or commission to enforce preservation protections.

  4. Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Ala. — A place of spectacular beauty and stirring history, Dauphin Island is home to Historic Fort Gaines, a nationally significant fortress that played a pivotal role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. Today, Fort Gaines’ shoreline is eroding as much as nine feet per year, and continued erosion threatens this significant historic treasure.

  5. Greater Chaco Landscape, N.M. — Located across a broad swath of northwestern New Mexico are hundreds of Native American archaeological and cultural sites that help unlock the mysteries of the prehistoric Chacoan people. These sacred sites, and the fragile prehistoric roads that connect them, are in jeopardy due to increased oil and gas exploration and extraction.

  6. Isaac Manchester Farm, Avella, Pa. — For more than two centuries, this 400-acre farm — with a stately brick Georgian manor house and historic outbuildings — has been home to eight generations of one family. A remarkable time capsule of colonial farm life, Manchester Farm is threatened by longwall coal mining.

  7. John Coltrane House, Dix Hills, N.Y. — One of America’s most widely acclaimed jazz artists, John Coltrane lived with his young family in a ranch house in Long Island, N.Y., until his untimely death in 1967. Today, the home where Coltrane wrote his iconic masterpiece, “A Love Supreme,” deteriorates due to lack of funds. Although a local group has taken ownership of the property and hopes to restore and interpret the site as an education center, the effort sorely needs broader attention and support.

  8. National Soldiers Home Historic District, Milwaukee, Wis. — With its bucolic setting and diverse collection of historic buildings, Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home offered welcome refuge for generations of American veterans. Today, the campus is threatened by a pattern of deferred maintenance, which has left historic buildings unused and on the verge of collapse.

  9. Prentice Women’s Hospital, Chicago, Ill. — A concrete and glass cloverleaf-shaped icon, Prentice Women’s Hospital has added drama and interest to the Chicago skyline for nearly four decades. Despite its cutting edge, progressive architecture, Prentice Hospital faces imminent demolition.

  10. Sites Imperiled by State Actions, U.S. — In state legislatures across the country, cuts to preservation funding and incentives imperil hundreds of thousands of historic places. If key sources of funding and incentives are lost across the United States, thousands of irreplaceable sites and national treasures may suffer untold consequences.

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