Photo: Painted Desert Community Complex, Central plaza as seen from office balcony, 1962, Beinlich, courtesy of the National Park Service.
On the cusp of the second century of service to the United States, the National Parks Service is dedicating itself to telling a more inclusive story of American history. As the first step along this long path, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the designation of 24 new National Historic Landmarks on Wednesday, January 11, 2017.
“These 24 new designations depict different threads of the American story that have been told through activism, architecture, music, and religious observance,” said Secretary Jewell. “Their designation ensures future generations have the ability to learn from the past as we preserve and protect the historic value of these properties and the more than 2,500 other landmarks nationwide.”
From the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House in Jackson, MS and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City to Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site) in Kansas City, KS to Chicano Park in San Diego, CA, the newly designated landmarks reflect the rich, complex, and densely layered histories of all peoples of our nation.
The 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers in his home became one of the catalysts for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As the first major figure of he movement to be murdered for the cause, Evers’ death was a somber reminder of the thousands of men, women, and children whose names and faces we will never know, who met a similar fate for being, to quote Leonard Freed, “black in white America.”
The selection of the May 4, 1970, Kent State Shootings Site in Kent, Ohio, is where the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four Kent State University students and wounded nine during a protest on the campus is a particularly poignant gesture in an age where extrajudicial killings go unprosecuted by an large.
The National Parks Service has also recognized the history of the First Peoples of the land in the designation given to 48GO305, commonly referenced in archeological literature as “Hell Gap Paleoindian Site,” located in Goshen County, WY. This site contains evidence of nine Paleoindian cultural complexes dating back to some 13,000 years ago, reminding that the history of this land has much left to be discovered.
The Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site) is evidence of the heinous consequences of federal American Indian removal policy during the nineteenth century. Eliza Burton Conley was the first attorney to raise the legal argument that American Indian burying grounds are entitled to protection by the Federal Government and to claim that the descendants of treaty signatories have the right to sue to enforce treaty provisions.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture revolutionized the model for studying the history and culture of people of African descent by taking a global, transnational perspective, and using the public library system to make this information free and available to all the people.
Of particular interest to contemporary American art aficionados is the Neutra Studio and Residences (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles, CA. Architect Richard Neutra is beloved for his work, which introduced the mid-century “California Modern” style to the world. “I am an eyewitness to the ways in which people relate to themselves and to each other, and my work is a way of scooping and ladling that experience,” Neutra observed of his work.
Neutra was also involved in the design of a second site on the list, the Painted Desert Community Complex, which serves as the headquarters for Petrified Forest National Park in Apache County, AZ. Neutra partnered with Robert E. Alexander to the complex in service of the Mission 66 program, which provides full assistance to park visitors while limiting the impact on natural resources.
Other architectural gems include Keim Homestead in Oley, PN, an example of early German American domestic vernacular architecture dating back to 1753; Schifferstadt in Frederick, MD, a Georgian-period house influenced by German American cultural and construction traditions constructed in 1758; and Omaha Union Station in Omaha, NE, one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the country, which was built in the 1920s.
The selection is a fascinating collection of private and public works that each serve as a significant reminder of the fascinating history of the people and the land, both before and after the establishment of the nation in 1776. A full list is available at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.