The Depression-era federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles has been… (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los…)
WASHINGTON -- A New York grave site, a Kansas battlefield, the Ohio home of an Alcoholics Anonymous founder and Los Angeles’ downtown federal courthouse are among the newest national historic landmarks.
In all, 26 sites received the largely honorary designation this week from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The designation of the courthouse comes as Congress debates the future of the Depression-era Spring Street building because of plans for a new courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. The designation does not guarantee a property’s preservation; it places no restrictions on the property but does make it eligible for federal grants and technical assistance from the National Park Service.
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The park service, which nominated the site, cited the important role it played in the mid-1940s "in the annals of postwar American school desegregation efforts and the civil rights history of Mexican and Mexican American people in the Southwest.’’
The park service cited the Mendez vs. Westminster School District case of 1947 that led to the end of segregation in California schools -- eight years before the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. (A recent Los Angeles Times story also noted that Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin faced paternity suit trials there.)
Salazar said that each of the landmarks "represents a thread in the great tapestry that tells the story of our beautiful land, our diverse culture and our nation’s rich heritage.’’
National historic 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,’’ according to the park service. Currently, there are 2,527 national historic landmarks.
Other new landmarks include:
Adm. David Farragut burial site: The park service said the New York City grave site is the "only known property directly associated with the officer who is universally recognized as one of the most accomplished officers in American naval history.’’ Farragut is known to many for his famous cry during a Civil War battle, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" The park service said the designation also would recognize the contributions of Latinos to the nation’s history, noting Farragut was the son of an immigrant from Spain.
Black Jack Battlefield: The site in Douglas County, Kan., was the setting for what the park service called "the nation’s first true open military conflict over the issue of slavery, fought between opposing pro- and antislavery militias." The three-hour battle, fought on June 2, 1856, "marked a culmination of escalating violence in 'Bleeding Kansas' and the beginning of John Brown’s war on slavery," the park service said.
Humpback Bridge, Va.: Built in 1857, the bridge in Alleghany County was described by the park service as "among the most historically significant and intact examples of a 19th century covered bridge surviving in the United States."
Poston Elementary School, Unit 1, Colorado River Relocation Center: The school in Parker, Ariz., was part of "the second of 10 relocation centers established for the confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II,’’ according to the park service. It is the only relocation center that retains an above-ground complex of elementary school buildings.
Camp Evans, N.J.: This Army Signal Corps facility in Wall Township was "one of the principal U.S. sites associated with the development of radar."
Dr. Bob's Home: The Dr. Robert and Anne Smith House in Akron, Ohio, is associated with Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob) who, along with William Griffith (Bill W.), cofounded Alcoholics Anonymous.
San Francisco Courthouse: The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, built as the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office at the turn of the 20th century, was described by the park service as a "nationally significant as a superlative Beaux-Arts public building.’’
Cesar Chavez’s California retreat in Keene, which was recently declared a national monument by President Obama, also was designated a landmark.
A full list of the new landmarks is available at the Department of the Interior site.
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