On May 9, as part of Preservation Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the 2023 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Two of the eleven are located in the city of Philadelphia. It’s time to rally round and support these preservation efforts!
Below is [an enhanced version of] the press release from the National Trust with details about these precious places and the stories they share with us. Read more and see all the places listed on the “11 Most” at the National Trust website.
Chinatown and Henry Ossawa Tanner House are Named on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The Henry Ossawa Tanner House in Strawberry Mansion and the Chinatown neighborhood were named on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023.
Since its inception in 1988, the National Trust has been raising awareness about threats facing some of the nation’s greatest treasures. The list, which has identified more than 350 sites to date, has been successful in galvanizing preservation efforts so that only a handful of sites have been lost.
It is a rare occasion that two sites in the same city are included on the 11 Most Endangered list in the same year. Both places are integral pieces of Philadelphia’s history and hold immense significance in their respective communities. Through the efforts of community organizations such as the Friends of the Tanner House and Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, who nominated these places to the endangered program, the rich histories and stories of people of color are underscored.
Henry Ossawa Tanner House
The Henry Ossawa Tanner House, built in 1871, is a significant landmark in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood and serves as a monument to the work of African American leaders, innovators, and intellectuals. Perhaps most notable among them was Henry Ossawa Tanner, an internationally recognized painter the Smithsonian American Art Museum has described as “the most distinguished African American artist of the 19th century.”
The rowhouse is now at risk of collapse. Stabilization work is estimated to cost $300,000, and full restoration with attention to more stringent historic preservation standards is estimated at $750,000.
The Friends of the Tanner House is a Black-led, multi-generational coalition of community advocates formed in 2021 to champion the site’s preservation and reuse. With the support of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and other community partners, the Friends are embarking upon a long-term stewardship plan that honors the legacy of this a place and reflects the powerful impact of Black heritage, innovation, and achievement.
North Philadelphia, and especially the majority-Black neighborhood of Strawberry Mansion, has experienced decades of disinvestment and discrimination due in part to redlining, segregation, and systemic racism. Ongoing gentrification threatens to erase the area’s Black cultural legacy and landmarks such as the Tanner House. Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust said: “We stand with the coalition of community advocates working together to protect this place and co- create its future with the neighborhood in ways that carry its cultural legacy forward.”
To attend to the urgent Phase 1 stabilization needs, the Friends of the Tanner House are hosting an upcoming fundraiser on May 25, 2023, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. All are invited to attend. Please visit the event page at the Friends of the Tanner House website for more information.
Historically, Chinatown has been a stronghold for new immigrants, dating back to its inception in 1871. With more than 40 designated local landmarks, the neighborhood brings together the AAPI community from across the Philadelphia region to celebrate their culture and heritage. Chinatown is significant as a vibrant community of Asian American businesses, community organizations, and residents. As a commercial center with more than 300 businesses and institutions, Chinatown serves as a crucial hub for immigrant communities and visitors alike.
This designation will shine a spotlight on the historic and cultural significance of Chinatowns nationally and illuminate a long history of displacement caused by infrastructure and civic projects.
Threats of large developments, such as the proposed 76ers basketball arena, will draw the deserved attention of Chinatown’s survival. The goals for Chinatown through the 11 Most Endangered designation are as follows: encouraging the 76ers and the City of Philadelphia to consider another location for the arena and encouraging local officials and citizens to advocate for stronger anti-displacement and cultural preservation policies.
About Chinatown, Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust said “With their advocacy, residents and neighborhood leaders in Philadelphia Chinatown are demonstrating the power and tradition of community organizing as they seek to protect the area’s distinct cultural heritage from displacement and erasure. This is the moment to take a different approach to development that honors and protects Philadelphia Chinatown and neighborhoods like it across the country.”
Other organizations involved in this advocacy issue include: Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Asian Americans United, Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia Suns, Holy Redeemer Church and School, The Chinese Benevolent Association, Chinese Christian Church and Center, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, Folk Arts‐Cultural Treasures Charter School, and Students for the Preservation of Chinatown.
Learn more about the history of and threats to Chinatown neighborhoods across the county at the National Trust website.
About the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. Learn more by visiting the website: www.savingplaces.org
About the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) is a grassroots, non-profit, community-based organization. Our mission is to preserve, protect, and promote Chinatown as a viable ethnic, residential, and business community.
Contact the PCDC at email@example.com or visit the website to get involved in the community, whether it’s through using the many resources, learning about the neighborhood, or volunteering.
About the Friends of the Tanner House
The Friends of the Tanner House are currently preparing to form a 501(c)3 to acquire and steward the Henry Ossawa Tanner House at 2908 W. Diamond Street. The current visioning process for rehabilitating the House leverages a culturally responsive preservation framework that takes inspiration from the distinguished legacy of the Tanner Family in the arts, education, and civic engagement toward historic reuse opportunities that emphasize contemporary community movements within and across these sectors.
Reach out to the Friends of the Tanner House at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website to get involved, whether it’s through engaging with the history of the Tanner family, learning about the neighborhood, or volunteering. Sign up for the enews to get regular updates.