This week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places. According to the organization, the 11 spots on the list have made a unique contribution to American history but are threatened by a variety of factors, including environmental causes, neglect, and encroaching development.
This year’s list included some surprises, to say the least: Houston’s Astrodome and the unused Worldport Terminal, also known as the Pan Am terminal, at New York’s JFK Airport. With that in mind, we did some digging and found some other spots around the world whose endangered status may also come as a surprise to visitors.
1. Houston Astrodome
When it first opened in 1965, the Astrodome awed sports fans as the world’s first domed, indoor, air-conditioned stadium and was once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” But the dilapidated facility hasn’t been used in years – its most prominent use in recent years was as a shelter for Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. However, according to news reports, some local officials are in favor of renovating the building into a state-of-the art conference and exhibition center, which would cost $120 million, instead of tearing it down.
Best Way to See It: The Astrodome is closed to the public (although local media are sometimes allowed to take tours of the building) so the only way to see this once-glorious sports landmark is from the outside.
2. Chesapeake Bay
In recent years, the Chesapeake Bay – one of the world’s largest estuaries, and one of the most beautiful in America – has made the list of endangered places released by the Southern Environmental Law Center. According to the organization, the area is “taking hits from all sides – air, land, and sea.” Air and water pollution have contributed to oxygen-starved dead zones in the bay, which is also beloved for its bounty of seafood.
But in a recent victory for restoration efforts, earlier this week one company was fined $5.5 million along with an agreement to donate $2 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund Bay restoration projects, as well as three years of probation, for polluting the bay with large quantities of fish waste.
Best Way to See It: Experience the serenity of the bay and its diverse wildlife with an eco-tour such as kayaking. Just be sure to bring everything back that you brought out on the water.
3. Worldport Terminal, JFK Airport
Built in1960 and scheduled for demolition in 2015, this flying-saucer shaped terminal at JFK Airport landed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s latest list thanks to the grassroots efforts of two New Jersey residents whose “Save the Worldport“ campaign has helped generate attention for the beleaguered landmark. The terminal symbolizes America’s entry into the Jet Age – the first commercial flights of the Boeing 707 departed from here – and it’s been featured in several movies. But if Delta, who leases the terminal, has its way, it will be demolished to make room for a parking lot for jets.
Best Way to See It: Your best bet is to see it on the screen, as the terminal isn’t open to the public. The Worldport was featured in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die and in the opening sequence of The Family Man; airline employees on the short-lived TV series Pan Am were also based out of the Worldport.
This island off the east coast of Africa is home to 21 million people and an incredibly diverse array of unique plant, bird, and primate families. In fact, according to National Geographic, 90 percent of Madagascar’s species are not found anywhere else on Earth. But as a result of widespread logging, cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture, a mere 17 percent of Madagascar’s original vegetation remains. In addition, invasive species have decimated flora and fauna, while overfishing, human encroachment, and other threats have put species such as lemurs in danger, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Best Way to See It: Tour operators such as Abercrombie & Kent offer luxury tours to Madagascar (although through their UK base), and local company Cactus Madagascar is a well-reviewed operator that provides a variety of eco- and soft adventure excursions.