Help save local historic landmarks

Decades ago when we lived in Edmonton, Alta., a very little boy and his teddy bear in a stroller disappeared from the backyard. I quickly looked up and down the street, but he was nowhere in sight.
I knew immediately where he had gone and I was panic-stricken. He was headed to the library nine city blocks away. And just before the library, he would have to cross a busy roundabout with two lanes of non-stop traffic.
I ran toward the library and fortunately caught up with him in time.
When the little boy was four years old, we moved from Edmonton to Kansas, where my college professor husband had a new job. And once again, we found the library.
But this library was different than the generic modern building in the Edmonton mall. This was a Carnegie Library.
It was a three-story sturdy brick building built in 1903. We had to climb 15 stone steps, and when we arrived at the top, there were huge stone pillars reaching three times the height of the door.
Above the door was a beautiful stained glass window and above that an emblem.
Late in life, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie became a philanthropist. His goal was to help educate the young—and to reach this goal he built 2,507 libraries worldwide. In the U.S. alone, he constructed 1,681 community libraries.
Now many of these buildings are at risk. Many have been replaced with more modern library buildings; some have fallen into disrepair. But in our community, this beautiful landmark has become The Harvey County Historical Museum.
According to local historian and preservationist Dr. Keith Sprunger, this is the result of residents who value local history and don’t want to see it destroyed.
Every year, the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation designates America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The 11 sites chosen each year are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy.
This year’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places will be featured on The History Channel on July 6.
Among the sites are the historic bridges of Indiana, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and the Gold Dome in Oklahoma City—an early example of the geodesic dome patented by Buckminster Fuller.
All segments of the program are interesting, but the final story speaks to every citizen in every town or city.
“From Staten Island to the heart of Texas, historic neighborhoods are being destroyed,” announces the History Channel narrator. “So-called McMansions are replacing historic homes and the idea of community is giving way to generic, soulless suburbia.”
If neighborhoods don’t assume control and protect their irreplaceable structures, says the National Trust, teardowns can erode the fabric of a community.
And, says Sprunger, a community loses a part of itself when it loses its historic sites. Saving treasured landmarks, he says, will help a community thrive. It will make it a more livable place for the future, as well as more attractive to tourists.
So what treasured landmarks in your community are at risk? And are you willing to get involved to save them?
For inspiration, visit saveourhistory.com and view “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2002” on The History Channel on July 6 at 9 p.m. (CT).
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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