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Missouri historical preservation group takes on ‘places in peril’

An organization advocating for the upkeep of Missouri’s historical landmarks is now accepting nominations for its annual list of endangered locations.

The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation (Missouri Preservation) is a grassroots organization dedicated to safeguarding at-risk landmarks across the state. The group compiles research materials and resources and hosts multiple events to promote and support the upkeep of historic properties.   

Missouri Preservation began in 1976 as the Missouri Heritage Trust and has since expanded into a network of organizations, commissions, and individuals. The group holds the Statewide Preservation Honor Awards each year at the Capitol, honoring contributors to historic preservation efforts. It also coordinates the annual Missouri Statewide Preservation Conference, which includes technical workshops and networking opportunities.  

Missouri Preservation is involved in advocacy for Missouri’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit program, which faces the constant threat of budget cuts despite being one of the top preservation tax credit programs in the country, according to the group’s website. This advocacy includes the annual Preservation Day at the Capitol to address funding concerns with legislators. 

The group also holds workshops on the basics of preservation tax credits and an annual fundraising gala as well as promotes tours of historic sites. 

Despite the postponement of its annual Statewide Preservation conference this year due to COVID-19, the organization is continuing its outreach through its annual Places in Peril list.

Places in Peril

Places in Peril began as a media campaign in 2000 to bring attention to endangered historic landmarks. The project allows for Missourians to nominate locations in danger of deterioration, fire, neglect, lack of funds and maintenance, or other threats to preservation. The yearly list of at-risk locations is then publicized in an effort to build support for renovations and protection of the property.

“The Places in Peril Program at Missouri Preservation was designed to help citizens everywhere in Missouri call attention to historic resources that are in danger of being lost,” Missouri Preservation Executive Director Bill Hart told The Missouri Times in an email. “These properties do not have to be recognized as historic or important by way of any official designation, such as a local landmark or being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We are striving to save the local places that are important to the citizens of Missouri.” 

Places in Peril has also compiled a yearly list of “watched properties” since 2010. These are sites that have gotten some attention but remain at risk of further deterioration. 

Endangered sites highlighted by the project include former prisons, train depots, churches, restaurants, schools, churches, homes of public figures, and various other historical landmarks. 

Landmarks that have made the list

The St. Louis house built for James Clemens Jr., a Missouri businessman and the uncle of author Samuel Clemens (known as Mark Twain), made the list numerous times over the years, often cited as having been poorly maintained as it has moved from owner to owner. The house suffered a fire in 2018 and was fully demolished the next year, having never seen the upkeep Missouri Preservation supported. 

The Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City has made the list numerous years as well, with 2011’s listing stating that the former prison was suffering from lack of maintenance and funding. The site has since seen renovations and additional safety measures, and now offers historical tours of the facility along with other events.

The George Washington Carver School in Fulton, featured on numerous years’ lists, was last highlighted in 2008 as a watched property. It was once a prominent Black school and had seen difficulty in funding over the years as it served as a museum, according to Missouri Preservation. Fulton community members announced plans to renovate and convert the former school building into the George Washington Carver Cultural Center in 2018.

Missouri Preservation is accepting nominations for this year’s Places in Peril list through July 31. 

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