Superman Building makes national list of endangered places

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence’s iconic Superman Building, Nashville’s Music Row and a North Carolina nightclub that served the black community during segregation have been included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of the nation’s most endangered historic places, the private nonprofit announced Thursday.

The 2019 list highlights 11 architectural and cultural sites the National Trust deems at risk because of neglect, development or other threats. This year’s list also includes the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., and North Dakota’s Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge.

The listings can mobilize support and funding for preservation but can also be controversial. When the National Trust advocates halting proposals to develop a site, local residents and officials may disagree, citing a need for modernization or economic growth.

Rhode Island’s tallest building, at around 430 feet (130 meters), has mounting maintenance needs after six years of vacancy, said Katherine Malone-France, the National Trust’s interim chief preservation officer.

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The 91-year-old skyscraper — formally known as the Industrial Trust Building — resembles the Daily Planet headquarters in the old “Adventures of Superman” TV show. Brent Runyon, executive director of the Providence Preservation Society, said he wants to use the list to refocus attention on the building, defeat the idea that it should be demolished, and inspire people to save it.

Runyon said the effort will take both private and public funding and he called on state leaders to step in to provide a subsidy. Renovating the entire tower could cost over $100 million, he added.

Meanwhile, The Excelsior Club in Charlotte, where musicians like Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong performed, also made the list. Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaigned there, and locals went to the club to celebrate Barack Obama’s election as the first African American president.

The club, which opened in 1944, closed in 2016. State Rep. Carla Cunningham, who owns the building, has filed paperwork to have it demolished.

The trust also drew attention to threats to Nashville’s Music Row, which it noted played a critical role in the identity, economy, and culture of the Music City.

It says vital pieces of history are being lost due to rapid development, with 50 demolitions on Music Row since 2013. Many of those have affected small, independently owned music businesses and much of the new construction consists of high-rise luxury apartments and offices that don’t serve the music industry.

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