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Heritage Turkeys, 2013

If you love history and historic preservation, proceed with caution.

The 2013 Heritage Turkey list is just the tip of the bird. There were many more Turkey-worthy heritage disasters that did not make the final cut, a veritable embarrassment of debacles, bad judgment and "what-were-they-thinking" moments. Like, the guy who's building a vacation home on top of a native graveyard. Or trucks crashing into an historic icon again and again and yet again. We even saw heritage havoc wreaked by a naked dude. Here are highlights of the lowlights of the year:

Pergola Bashing
Winner: Idiots who ram their trucks into Pioneer Square landmark

The Pioneer Square Pergola is one of Seattle's most famous structures. Built in 1909, it is the very model of the city's emerging urban aspirations. It signaled a civilized town and to prove the point it offered an underground public restroom. How better to impress visitors to our first international fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition?

The Pergola also served as a stop for the Yesler & James cable car. Its elaborate glass-and-iron structure is a thing of beauty and a national landmark. Unfortunately, it is also a target. The original was flattened by a truck in 2001 (above). The current Pergola is a carefully crafted restoration. But this year, truck drivers have not been kind to it. A semi crunched it in April, another got wedged under it in May, and in July it was rammed by yet another truck. WTF? We all know that transportation around the Pioneer Square is a mess, but truckers, please, stop battering The Perg.

Nuking the Park
Winner: The U.S. Senate, for letting a bill die (again) that would have created the Manhattan Project National Park

Whatever you think about atomic bombs, there's no question they're a huge part of our history that should be recognized and explored. Advocates of a National Park archipelago of properties that would commemorate and preserve the memory of the world-changing, WWII Manhattan Project had success this year when the proposal was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The park would include Hanford's historic B Reactor site, as well as sites at Oak Ridge, Tenn. and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

In negotiations over including a larger defense authorization bill, the park idea was "left on the cutting room floor." The proposal has bipartisan support: Washington's Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray back it along with Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings who says he'll continue to work on getting the park approved in 2014. For now it's a victim of Congressional process — or dysfunction.

Blitzing Ancient Burials
Winner: The British Columbia government's Archaeological Branch for approving a vacation home on a native graveyard

Grace Islet is a mini-island in beautiful Ganges Harbor on Salt Spring Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands. Archaeologists have long known it as the burial ground of an ancient Salish village, Shiya’hwt waht. Grace Islet is covered with burial cairns and human remains have been found there. Still, a private owner from Alberta wanted to build his vacation home there.

Tribes such as the Penelakut, Cowichan, Saanich, and others have objected. British Columbia has seen a fair amount of conflict over native grave sites and development, and in some cases it has assisted tribes to buy such lands back. But with tight budgets and what some critics say is a bias toward development, the BC government's Archaeological Branch approved a permit in September. The permit requires only that the homebuilder build high enough to place parts of the structure over some of the stone cairns (read: Gravestones).

Would we allow an Amazon millionaire to build his dream home on stilts over, say, Seattle's historic Lake View cemetery on Capitol Hill? Sorry, shouldn't give anyone ideas. Chief Earl Jack of the Penelakut Tribe said the idea of building on top of the grave site was "a cynical and vulgar notion." Yup.

Tear Down History, Put up an "Amshak?"
Winner: Washington Department of Transportation for proposed historic demolition for new train depot

Wow. It sounded like a win-win. A new train station in Tacoma's Dome District to improve travel times enough to add more train trips and give an economic boost to a neighborhood. Everything was going smoothly until the unveiling of WSDOT's plans.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jan 7, 10:41 a.m. Inappropriate

You left out the Alaska Way Viaduct. Tens of thousands of commuters are going to dearly miss it…and for a lot more reasons than just Auld Lang Syne.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Jan 7, 4:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Most countries have cultural history that spans back thousands of years, and every one of them have centuries of new homes, new cities, new roads built over gravesites, sacred places and historical places.

It's impossible for the earth to have enough land to simply not build across all gravesites that ever were important.

The Indians sacred burial grounds are no more sacred than other curltures, they simply are the only "old" burial grounds we have on the West Coast, whether Canada or WA, OR, CA.

Yes, historical sites are amazing, and interesting, but it's not sustainable to preserve everything, just the most amazing finds. I also see no reason why land swaps couldn't be made, if all parties find that solution agreeable.

Posted Sun, Jan 12, 11:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Two comments so far, which along with several of the cases illustrates that the cause of most preservation losses is lack of community support. Often as not, the specific support is monetary, and I have to say I find it hard to judge harshly a group in massive debt selling an asset, or that cannot find the boatload of cash it takes to restore a boat.

Once again, the Turkey list is dominated by elements of the recent past (including a 30-something building and a reproduction pergola, each experiencing the entirely foreseeable effects of being in urband space), with scant attention to the previous 10,000-15,000 years of heritage. It's particularly distressing that every year, some of the historic resources whose loss is decried are monuments to a century or less of ruthelss extraction and rape of lands that had nurtured cultures since time immemorial.

How about doing a Heritage Achievements list? After several years the Turkey list is beginning to look like whining that urban growth areas are urbanizing, and that there is a dearth of money for preservation. We know that, tell us what kinds of solutions are emerging from the preservation communities.

Mojourner

Posted Wed, Feb 12, 10:43 p.m. Inappropriate


You mention Alaska's rotting canneries and Oregon's Kingfisher boat; but no mention of the former USCGC Storis, the famous WW II warship and later when stationed in Alaska as "the fisherman's friend" for its many rescues. Storis was to become Alaska's first floating museum ship but for the intervention of former Sen. Jim DeMint who bent on punishing a more moderate faction of his political party, had Storis taken out of appropriations bills. Scrapped in a Mexican shipyard. One of the most important coast guard vessels in that service's history.

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