Excelsior Club named one of most endangered places in U.S.

The historic club on Beatties Ford Road is currently listed for sale, and paperwork has been filed that could lead to its demolition.

Glenn H. Burkins

The Excelsior Club, a landmark in Charlotte’s black community since the 1940s, has been added to a list of the11 most endangered historical places in the United States.

The list includes sites that are “at risk of destruction or irreparable damage,” according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which maintains the annual list. The 2019 list includes “a diverse mix of historic places across America that face a range of challenges and threats, from climate change to inappropriate development to neglect and disuse,” according to the organization’s website.

Since the first list was compiled 32 years ago, more than 300 landmarks have been added, and fewer than 5 percent of those listed sites have been lost, according to the trust.

The Excelsior club was the only Carolinas landmark to make the 2019 list.

Located on Beatties Ford Road, the Excelsior Club is listed for sale at $1.5 million, according to New River Brokerage’s Facebook page. The building is owned by state Rep. Carla Cunningham, who acquired it after the death of her husband, Pete Cunningham, who also served in the North Carolina legislature.

Paperwork filed for demolition

The club had fallen into disrepair and closed its doors in 2016. Carla Cunningham has been quoted as saying the building needs nearly $400,000 to address repairs and code violations. The building is designated a historic landmark.

Despite the building’s history, Cunningham last year filed paperwork that would permit its demolition, which could happen after June 12.

Founded in 1944 by Charlotte businessman Jimmie McKee, the Excelsior Club was for decades one of the leading social clubs for African Americans in the Southeast, regularly hosting political meetings as well as leading entertainers such as Nat ‘King’ Cole and Louis Armstrong. Dating back to the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, it was listed in the Green Book as a destination for African American travelers.

Members of the public are invited to learn more about what they can do to support these 11 historic places, and hundreds of other endangered sites, at www.SavingPlaces.org/11Most.

Other sites that make the list:

Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah. Located between two national monuments—Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients—this area of Southeast Utah is one of the most culturally rich but imperiled landscapes in America. If left unprotected, thousands of irreplaceable artifacts—some dating back 8,000 years—would remain threatened by the damaging impacts of oil and gas extraction.

Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge. Bismarck, ND. Built in 1883 using state-of-the-art construction methods, the majestic rail bridge was the first to span the Upper Missouri River. Rather than demolish the bridge as proposed, advocates believe this treasured landmark could be retained and re-used as a pedestrian bridge.

Hacienda Los Torres. Lares, Puerto Rico. Built in 1846 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hacienda Los Torres helps tell the history of economic development, class conflict, and political struggle in Puerto Rico. Built at the height of Puerto Rico’s flourishing coffee industry, the structure embodies architectural characteristics, materials and craftsmanship of Puerto Rico’s 19th century coffee haciendas.

Industrial Trust Company Building. Providence, RI. Dubbed the “Superman Building” due to its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from Superman comics, the iconic Art Deco tower—Rhode Island’s tallest—has been vacant for six years and has no current rehabilitation plans.

James R. Thompson Center. Chicago, Ill. Chicago’s foremost example of grandly scaled Post-Modernism, the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center—the ‘youngest’ building ever to appear on this list—is threatened by a sale that could lead to its demolition.

Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital. Mount Vernon, Ala. Continually occupied and in use for over 200 years—as an arsenal, a prison and later a mental hospital for African Americans—this complex closed in 2012 and currently sits vacant and awaiting preservation and re-use plans.

Nashville’s Music Row. Nashville, Tenn. This district of late-19th century homes and small-scale commercial buildings contains more than 200 music-related businesses that have produced chart-topping recordings in multiple genres for generations. Nashville’s booming economy and Music Row’s proximity to downtown have made it a hot market for new development, resulting in 50 demolitions since 2013 and threatening the sustainability and survival of the heart and soul of Music City.

National Mall Tidal Basin. Washington, D.C. The millions of tourists who throng to “America’s Front Yard” every year may not realize that it’s threatened by rising sea levels, unstable sea walls, and outdated infrastructure. It’s estimated that as much as $500 million is needed to upgrade and maintain one of the most popular and visited sites in the National Park System.

Tenth Street Historic District. Dallas, Texas. One of the rare remaining Freedmen’s towns in America, this vital piece of Lone Star State history is being eroded by large numbers of demolitions.

Willert Park Courts. Buffalo, NY. The first public housing project in New York State made available to African American residents and a notable example of Modern design, the historic complex is currently vacant and deteriorating but could be revitalized as much-needed affordable housing.

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