Edmund Pettus Bridge Makes List of National Historic Landmarks

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By Glynn Wilson

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama — the scene of the infamous civil rights march on March 7, 1965 that came to be called “Bloody Sunday” — made the most recent list of national historic landmarks announced by the Obama administration this week.

International outrage over the violence helped create a national groundswell for passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the addition of 13 sites on Monday to a list of 2,540 landmarks, declaring that the largely honorary designations will “help tell the story of America.”

The landmarks are “nationally significant historic places” designated by the Interior secretary “because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States,” the National Park Service said in a press release announcing the additions.

“From the Civil War to civil rights, to the struggles and accomplishments of women, African Americans and Latinos, these sites highlight the mosaic of our nation’s historic past,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

National historic landmarks are nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. The program, established in 1935, is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. Currently there are 2,540 designated national historic landmarks.

The new national historic landmarks include the following sites:

* Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library, Camden, Maine. The Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library is one of the few public projects of Fletcher Steele, one of America’s premier practitioners of 20th-century landscape design. It is an outstanding representation of the contributions made by the landscape architecture profession, private benefactors, and national associations to develop public landscapes in the United States that celebrated natural regional beauty, scenic character, and rich cultural history.

* Camp Nelson Historic and Archeological District, Jessamine County, Ky. One of the nation’s largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers during the American Civil War, Camp Nelson is also significant as the site of a large refugee camp for the wives and children of the soldiers who were escaping slavery and seeking freedom.

* Casa Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez, San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was the residence and workspace of Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez, a prolific and prominent literary criticism voice in Generación del Treinta (Generation of 1930), a literary movement that shaped Puerto Rico’s 20th-century national cultural identity.

* Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Ala. On March 7, 1965, civil rights marchers drawing attention to the need for voting rights legislation were attacked by law enforcement officials as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The attack, which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” contributed to the introduction and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, considered to be the single most effective piece of civil rightslegislation ever passed by the US Congress.

* The Epic of American Civilization Murals, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. These murals are the most important work in the United States by muralist José Clemente Orozco, one of Mexico’s foremost mural artists of the early 20th century. Orozco conceived the murals as a representation of a North American continent characterized by the duality of indigenous and European historical experiences. Though highly controversial in their day, the murals challenged traditional ways of thinking about the development of Aztec and Anglo-American civilizations in North America.

* George T. Stagg Distillery, Franklin County, Ky. With resources dating from approximately 1880 to 1953, the George T. Stagg Distillery is a rare, intact example of an operating distillery before, during and after Prohibition. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to study at one site the evolution of buildings and technology associated with the American whiskey industry.

* Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Hartford, Conn. Though best known to modern audiences for her antislavery work, Harriet Beecher Stowe was widely recognized in her lifetime as a highly prolific and nationally significant reformer for a wide variety of causes. Her longtime home in Hartford is associated with Stowe’s later career as a reformer on issues relating to the family and women’s roles.

* Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson, N.J. Hinchliffe Stadium the institutionalized practice of “separate but equal” facilities was the accepted norm.

* Honey Springs Battlefield, McIntosh and Muskogee Counties, Okla. By far the largest Civil War engagement of the 1861-1865 period of conflict within Indian Territory, the Battle of Honey Springs was the largest battle in Indian Territory in which Native Americans fought as members of both Union and Confederate armies. It is also significant as the first and largest engagement in which Indian troops of both sides fought in the formalized style of Anglo-American warfare.

* Old San Juan Historic District/Distrito Histórico del Viejo San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is the only existing representation of an almost 400-year-old Spanish Colonial city in the United States, and contains the largest collection of buildings representing four centuries of Spanish culture, religion, politics, and architecture. It is the oldest city within the United States and its territories, and the district includes the oldest house, Christian church, executive mansion, convent, and military defenses in the country as well.

* Pear Valley, Eastville, Va. Dating to 1740, the wood-frame house known as Pear Valley is an excellent, rare surviving example of the distinctive form of architecture that developed in the Chesapeake Bay region, illustrating how early settlers in the colonies adapted to their new environment.

* Second Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Ill. The Second Presbyterian Church represents the visual and philosophical precepts of the turn of the century Arts and Crafts design movement. Its interior, the masterwork of noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, presents some of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts mural painting, sculpture, stained glass and crafting in metals, fabrics, wood and plaster.

* Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. One of the country’s oldest artists’ retreats, Yaddo has hosted more than 6,000 influential writers, visual artists and composers who shaped and imprinted American culture with a distinct national identity in the 20th century. Among the notable artists who have worked at Yaddo are Aaron Copland, Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath and Langston Hughes.

We followed the events on the anniversary in Selma last year. You can see our comprehensive coverage with photos, stories and videos here.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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