Minute Man National Historical Park and Walden Pond are on list of ‘most endangered historic places’

LINCOLN, Mass. — Minute Man National Historical Park in Lincoln and Walden Pond in Concord are among the “most endangered historic places” in America, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A proposed expansion of Hanscom Field Airport landed the local historic sites onto the National Trust’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, which lists over 350 sites.

The proposed airport expansion “could significantly increase aviation activity over nearby historic and natural landscapes, doubling private jet hangar capacity, and increasing the airport footprint in what would be the largest expansion in Hanscom’s history, if approved,” the National Trust said on its website.

“Advocates are concerned that the proposed development could lead to increased noise disruption in an area that is already impacted by noise from jet traffic, often interrupting park programming,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation said. “Advocates also cite the potential for increased vehicular traffic and negative environmental and climate impacts of private jets.”

Local residents can sign a petition to Gov. Maura Healey and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg urging them to stop expansion of Hanscom Field and “preserve these irreplaceable American treasures,” the National Trust said.

According to published reports, actress and activist Ashley Judd is expected to attend an event at The Old Manse in Concord on Wednesday to officially unveil the list. Massachusetts State Sen. Mike Barrett is also expected at the event, and historian David Brinkley will address the attendees in a pre-recorded video message.

Minute Man National Historical Park, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond and Woods, and nearby areas of Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, and Bedford are home to “places of great significance in American history,” the organization said.

According to the National Trust, the 1775 “shot heard round the world” that began the Revolutionary War took place in what is now Minute Man National Historical Park, and the area includes preserved homes open to the public. These include Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set the novel Little Women, the Robbins House, commemorating a formerly enslaved Revolutionary War veteran, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond and Woods.

“Visitors draw inspiration from these places significant to the American literary renaissance and environmental movements,” the National Trust said.

According to the organization, this is not the first time the historic area has been threatened by proposed changes to Hanscom Field.

In 2003, Minute Man National Historical Park and nearby historic sites were included on the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, “helping ward off potential jet expansion at Hanscom,” the organization said.

“A strong coalition has formed in opposition to the new proposed expansion, advocating that this extraordinarily important historic area that witnessed the beginning of the United States’ struggle for independence is not the right place for a development of this scale and potential impact, and the National Trust is once again joining these efforts,” the National Trust said.

One theme connecting the 2024 list is “the power of communities to come together to combat erasure and protect the cultural landmarks, treasured local businesses, restaurants, customs, and traditions that help tell the layered stories of those who’ve called a place home,” the National Trust said.

“By rallying around the places that bring these stories to life, communities are not only empowered by their unique pasts, but also safeguarding a sense of identity, continuity, and vitality for the future,” the organization said.

Other historic locations on the list include the Wilderness Battlefield Area in Orange County, Virginia; the Cindy Walker House in Mexia, Texas; Eatonville, Florida, known as one of the first self-governing all-Black municipalities in the nation; Hudson-Athens Lighthouse in Athens, New York; Little Tokyo in Los Angeles; Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana; New Salem Baptist Church in Tams, West Virginia; Sitka Tlingit Clan Houses in Sitka, Alaska.

“This year’s list challenges us to broaden our perspectives about American history, what it means to save places, and what our goals for preservation should be,” the National Trust said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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