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2005 Endangered Historic Sites List Includes Hemingway's House in Cuba


The National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the Cuban home of American writer Ernest Hemingway on this year's list of 11 most endangered historic sites.

National Trust for Historic Preservation president Richard Moe says this is the first time the group has listed a site outside of the United States.

"This is Finca Vigia, on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba. This was Ernest Hemingway's home, from 1939 to 1960, the period during which he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many other great works," he said.

Cuba and the United States do not have formal relations. Also, there are U.S. government restrictions on Americans traveling to and spending money in Cuba.

This state of affairs could present problems, but Mr. Moe says so far Washington and Havana have offered good cooperation.

"Both governments have seen this as part of our shared cultural heritage that deserves to be preserved. That is why the U.S. government granted us a license, in exception to the present policy, that allows a survey team to go down. I should say that we do not yet have a license to take financial resources to Cuba, but the door is open for us to come back and re-apply for that," he said.

Some of the historical sites on the National Trust's 2005 list are endangered by encroaching urban sprawl. Others, like a 1924 house in California designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, have been ravaged by time and bad weather.

Mr. Moe says one listed site, King Island, sits 64 kilometers off the west coast of Alaska. "This island, in the Bering Strait, is the traditional home of the Inupiat Eskimoes," he said.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs forced the Inupiat off the island in 1954 and relocated them to the mainland. Since then, the homes and ceremonial buildings that remain on the island have had little maintenance and are in danger of collapsing.

Marilyn Koezuna-Irelan, whose parents are from King Island and who heads the corporation that owns the island, says the Inupiat see the deterioration because they still return to the island as often as possible.

"We go back to the island during the spring and summer, to the walrus hunting. And, as we speak, they are actively doing walrus hunting now," she said.

The non-profit National Trust has been compiling annual lists of endangered historic sites since 1988. Its designations are not binding on the U.S. government, but Mr. Moe warns that if action is not taken to preserve U.S. heritage.

"America's past will not have a future," he says.

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