Group seeks UN World Heritage status for downtown churches and civic buildings

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  • Charleston City Hall is one of the potential sites that could go on the UNESCO application — and city government is already on board with the idea

A push is underway to get World Heritage designation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for an array of religious, civic, and community buildings on the Charleston peninsula.

Since 1972, UNESCO has been designating sites of cultural and natural importance as World Heritage Sites. The organization currently lists just over 1,000 sites in various states of danger due to development and natural hazards, including several national parks in the United States.

What does yet another accolade do for Charleston, already a darling of tourists and preservationists? According to Charleston World Heritage Coalition Executive Director Tom Aspinwall, the sole employee of a private advocacy group leading the charge, World Heritage designation would put Charleston in the international spotlight and possibly position the city to receive big-time preservation money.

“This designation can be used to differentiate organizations from other people competing for grant money,” Aspinwall says. “It opens funding opportunities from international governments.” In the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or massive flooding, governments can apply for relief from a revolving World Heritage Fund.

But what about international interference in city affairs?

“It’s really not a question of legally prohibiting or allowing anything,” Aspinwall says. “One of the reasons that Charleston has such a significant leg up in terms of undertaking this process is that our existing preservation zoning ordinances are really the most stringent in the country … This will not make it more difficult for property owners to do anything.”

In order to apply for World Heritage designation, property owners in an affected area must unanimously approve the application (see below for a list of potential buildings included in the application). Aspinwall says he started mailing application documents to the owners of the affected buildings three months ago.

City government is already on board with the idea. The latest incarnation of the City of Charleston’s long-term Preservation Plan, which was released in 2008 and co-written with help from the Historic Charleston Foundation and California-based architecture firm Page Turnbull, notes that parts of the Lower Peninsula “may merit World Heritage status.” Noting that no U.S. cities have been placed on the list to date, the Preservation Plan states that achieving World Heritage status “would propel Charleston’s preservation dialogue to an international level with its contemporaries in cultural resources and awareness.”

Aspinwall doesn’t have a definite timeline for the application process, which is supervised by the National Park Service in the United States. He says he anticipates the application could be approved as early as 2017, although it could be years later. Half of the 22 World Heritage sites in the U.S. are National Parks, and few of them are in cities. Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and parts of the University of Virginia are on the list, but Charleston’s application would be the first time an ensemble of active urban buildings in the U.S. has earned a place on the list.

World Heritage designation sometimes comes with political baggage. In 1995, UNESCO caused consternation among U.S. conservatives when it placed Yellowstone National Park on its “world heritage in danger” list due to gold mining nearby. According to a report in the U.K.-based Independent, “Conservatives in Washington decided that the scheme was an undercover attempt to subvert America’s rights to govern itself and to destroy the fabric of U.S. sovereignty.” No further World Heritage sites were approved in the U.S. until 2010.

The Economist also criticized the opacity of World Heritage site approval process in a 2010 editorial, demanding that UNESCO open up its decision-making meetings to the public. “The hard fact is that danger listings, as well as inscribing sites in the first place, are getting infected by politics,” the editorial stated.

The Charleston World Heritage Coalition provided the following list of potential sites to be included in the World Heritage application. “We are still engaging many of these institutions and refining our argument for ‘outstanding universal value,’ so this will not be the final list, nor have all organizations signed on,” Aspinwall wrote in an e-mail.

Bethel United Methodist Church

Old Bethel United Methodist Church

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul

Central Baptist Church

Circular Congregational Church

Charleston County Courthouse

City Hall

City Marker and Sheds

College of Charleston (Randolph Hall)

Deutsche Freundschaftsbund Hall

Emmanuel AME Church

Exchange and Provost Building

Fireproof Building

First Baptist Church

First Scot’s Presbyterian

French Huguenot Church

German Friendly Society

Grace Episcopal Church

Hebrew Orphan Society

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue

Mt. Zion AME Church

Old Marine Hospital

Old Slave Mart

Powder Magazine

Second Presbyterian Church

St. John’s Lutheran Church

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church

St. Michael’s

St. Philip’s

Unitarian Church

U.S. Customs House

U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse

Article source: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/TheBattery/archives/2014/08/29/group-seeks-un-world-heritage-status-for-downtown-churches-and-civic-buildings

Latin America And The USA: Creating More Win-Win Relationships

Whenever a Latin American country shares a headline with the U.S., it is usually attached to a crisis. The flow of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico and the unaccompanied children from troubled Honduras arriving to stay; the Argentine government defying the rulings of U.S. judges; or the anti U.S. rhetoric and actions from countries that are admirers of Cuban socialism. The saying “no news is good news” could be complemented by saying, “good news is not news.” American audiences rarely hear about good news coming from the region. This includes honest discussions on why the U.S. government, as well as private actors, should play a more intelligent and active role in the region.

Latin America continues to be key to the United States. U.S. producers export three times more to Latin America than to China. Central and South America (excluding Mexico) purchase 50 percent more U.S. goods than the Chinese. In total trade, imports plus exports, if we include Mexico, Latin American weight has hovered between 20 and 25 percent of total U.S. trade. Approximately 20 percent of foreign direct investment in the region still comes from the U.S.  Investments and trade that result from free interaction are the best type of win-win relationship.

A bust of F.A. Hayek as “Father of Liberalism” is unveiled at a park in Pueblo Libre, a district in Lima, Peru.

Despite these trade figures, Latin American civil society and policy leaders are realizing that now, more than any time in recent history, they are “on their own.” The United States is seen as less influential. This is due in part because the U.S. is occupied in major geostrategic challenges in other regions of the world. The threats in North Africa, the Middle East, Ukraine and the China seas, are seen as more dangerous than those in Latin America.

The economic challenges at home, which also seem worse than in Latin America, also contribute to some neglect. The government debt/GDP ratio in Latin America is less than half of that of the United States (nearly 100 percent). Part of the reason is that some countries, such as Argentina and Venezuela, have such bad credit ratings that no one wants to lend to them. Better managed economies, such as Chile, Colombia and Peru, have debt/GDP ratios of under 32 percent. The region is growing at twice the rate of the U.S. and, except for a few exceptions, such as Argentina and Venezuela, inflation is under control in most countries.

The biggest threat, however, is the weak rule of law and efforts by many Latin American governments to achieve absolute power by controlling all the key local institutions. In the World Justice Index only Chile and Uruguay have decent scores. But there are limits to what the U.S. or other foreign players can do to improve this. Direct foreign intervention in the troubled countries can create backlash. The U.S. has important tools such as denying visas to corrupt leaders and their cronies, prosecuting foreigners who conduct illegal activities through American-based banks and companies, and also punishing corrupt companies. Other foreign countries have the same powers, but they seldom exercise them. The United States is more aggressive than other countries and its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a tool that few other U.S. competitors have. American companies are kept more pure but tend to lose in corrupt environments.

Speaking in terms of GDP, half of the region’s population is represented by Mexico and Brazil. The U.S. can’t neglect them but neither can they monopolize the attention. Both have characteristics which prevent them from being models for the region as a whole. Due to Mexico’s closeness to the United States, former Mexican President Porfirio Díaz remarked once, “Poor Mexico, so far from God but so close to the United States.” It is not my business to know about how close they are to God, but Mexico’s closeness to the U.S. is of major relevance. Even the current openness to a private sector role in the energy sector, previously considered taboo, is due mostly to shale-oil discoveries and improvements in fracking technology in the U.S., rather than to any ideological change in Mexico. Brazil, with its different language and different history, has found limits in its efforts to play a role beyond its borders. Just recall its dismal failure in trying to intervene in tiny Honduras in favor of the installment of another “democratic” dictatorship.

Young leaders from around the country gather in Buenos Aires to discuss solutions for Argentina

Not everyone in the U.S. neglects Latin America. Some of the free-market think tanks and foundations which have programs or experts focused on the region include: Cato Institute, Heritage, The Fund for American Studies, The Leadership Institute, Hudson, HACER, AEI, Acton Institute, Liberty Fund and the Atlas Network. These last two lead in grants and programs but I estimate that the combined spending of all these groups in the region is only $5 million per year.  This is a tiny fraction of their combined $200 million plus budgets. Foundations and think tanks funded directly or indirectly largely by the government, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Republican Institute, each spend over $5 million per year, while the Center for International Private Enterprise spends approximately $1 million.

The perceived regional weakness of the U.S., the growing relevance of China, the cyclical role of Brazil, whose influence correlates with its rate of economic growth, and the stagnation of Europe, are forcing Latin American countries to restructure their diplomatic and international economic relationships. This might not coincide with U.S. interests. The efforts by U.S. think tanks and foundations that promote the free society in Latin America might not be able to completely reverse this trend, and the region will still be “on its own.” But by supporting groups with local credibility, that can leverage their typical small grants, think tanks and foundations can create changes that lead to a future with more win-win relationships with the U.S.; relationships built on freedom and respect rather than on dominance or cronyism.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2014/08/28/latin-america-and-the-usa-creating-more-win-win-relationships/

Oldham History | Native life of the Ohio River – The Courier

It is easy to imagine large prehistoric Native American settlements in the Kentucky area if you have ever traveled along the Ohio River. The lush vegetation, freshwater mussels and abundant fish would support large villages and settlements.

Prior to the large-scale invasion of Europe and African-American settlers, there were millions of people living in North America. This is contrary to the notion of the “dark and bloody ground” so often used as a term to describe native people when settlers first arrived in Kentucky. Historians and archaeologists today dismiss this notion of a “dark and bloody ground” when noting the prehistoric settlements that would have required trade and shared hunting areas.

Almost anywhere you look in Kentucky, particularly along river banks, you can find artifacts of these settlements — chips of chert, pieces of arrowheads and remnants of mussel piles. Some small Kentucky towns today are actually built on top of Native American villages.

While visiting farms in Trimble County along the Ohio River as a child, I remember large baskets of artifacts stockpiled along plow lines as farmers worked the fields.

The Ohio River, before locks and dams were built, was more narrow than today. Shallow areas, often called grassy flats because of the abundance of eel type grasses, would give access during low water seasons for easy crossing.

In Oldham County a well-known grassy flat area is above Twelve Mile Island. It was used as a crossing area during westward expansion. In a recent oral history from Bush Straughn, a native of the river town of Westport, he remembers areas now under the river that were used as corn fields.

A testament to the type of settlements that were in existence prior to the formation of the United States is Cahokia Mounds Historic Site. Located in Collinsville, Ill., 8 miles east of St. Louis, Cahokia was the largest prehistoric settlement north of Mexico with at least 120 mounds over a 5-square-mile area.

The site, dated from 700 A.D. through 1350 A.D., contained an estimated population of 10,000 to 20,000 during its peak. It was an agricultural society that grew corn and squash, hunted deer and fished streams, lakes and rivers.

There were many single family thatched roof dwellings. Most of the mounds were built for social functions as temples, meeting places or residences of the leaders. Some mounds were no more than a gentle rise while others rose 100 feet high. The largest mound, known as Monks Mound, has 126 steps that lead up to a 14-acre platform where ceremonies were performed. It is the largest totally earthen prehistoric mound in the Western Hemisphere.

The area became a state park in 1925, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that archaeologists realized the area had been a home to thousands of people. It is not known what caused the demise of Cahokia, but it flourished for 300 years. Today Cahokia is a World Heritage Site, open to the public year-round, with a large interpretive museum.

Last week in Oldham History: Group remembers D-Day victims

Nancy Stearns Theiss is executive director of the Oldham History Center. Contact her at nancystheiss@gmail.com.

Article source: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/oldham/2014/08/26/oldham-history-native-life-ohio-river/14622301/

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Archaeological Site Of Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico: In southwestern Mexico, just a few miles west of the modern city of Oaxaca, find this less-famous (but no less worthy) archaeological site. A number of native peoples built and refined the canals, dams, pyramids and structures of Monte Alban over the course of 1,500 years, literally carving the site out of the mountainsides. They left behind a grand capital filled with advanced architectural design, ancient tombs, sacred sites and even a ball court, some 1,300 feet above the Oaxaca Valley below. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Our heritage is what defines us. We live in and among the very places that our ancestors built and cultivated years before we were here. Today, UNESCO protects these historical sites so that we can explore, understand and learn from our collective past (the perfect pursuit, we think, on any vacation).

Think these spots are all far, far away, in distant foreign lands? Think again. We’ve picked a few that are practically in your own backyard. Here are 10 amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites in North America, from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico and beyond.

Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

A seaside town on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, Lunenburg is bursting with charm and nautical history. Quaint crimson-painted wooden houses and historical churches line the harbor. In town, galleries, distilleries and a remarkably informative fishing museum, complete with a boatbuilding shop and whale bones, welcome amblers. In fact, experts say a guided walking tour, threading through Lunenburg’s perfectly preserved streets, is the best way to get acquainted with this former British colonial settlement.

ALSO ONLINE: 10 irresistibly charming World Heritage cities

Taos Pueblo, Taos, N.M.

Taos Pueblo, sitting in a small, sandy valley in northern New Mexico, is the only living Native American community designated both a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Landmark. Archaeologists estimate that the ancestors of the Taos Indians lived in this very spot long before Columbus landed on America’s shore (and its oldest structures likely date back to 1000 CE). It’s still inhabited, and tradition dictates that current residents use no electricity or running water when living within its adobe walls.

Archaeological Site of Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico

In southwestern Mexico, just a few miles west of the modern city of Oaxaca, find this less-famous (but no less worthy) archaeological site. A number of native peoples built and refined the canals, dams, pyramids and structures of Monte Alban over the course of 1,500 years, literally carving the site out of the mountainsides. They left behind a grand capital filled with advanced architectural design, ancient tombs, sacred sites and even a ball court, some 1,300 feet above the Oaxaca Valley below.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Uncover the birthplace of a nation in some 20 city blocks, with the UNESCO-designated Independence Hall as its centerpiece. In this modest brick structure topped by a bell tower, the Declaration of Independence was drafted and the thoroughly American experiment with democracy begun. Take a tour of the historic hall itself, visit the cracked Liberty Bell, or enjoy a number of special National Park Service-led programs during Freedom Week (the week surrounding the Fourth of July, when Philadelphia’s streets burst with crowds, fireworks and a patriotic parade).

La Fortaleza, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Visitors flock to San Juan for its all-inclusive resorts and golden-sand beaches, but this hub has much to offer by way of history as well. La Fortaleza, a 16th-century military structure perched on San Juan’s harbor, gives visitors a glimpse into San Juan’s past as a well-defended colonial seaport. It is now the current official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico (the oldest executive residence in North America) as well as a major attraction for guided tours of its sumptuous interiors of mahogany and wrought-iron scrollwork.

Historic District of Old Quebec, Quebec, Canada

When Samuel de Champlain settled Quebec, he chose a spot on a precipitous plateau overlooking the St. Laurent River. From that point, a lively city grew outward, with colonial churches, convents and fortresses flanking its heart and a bustling harbor below. The former capital of New France is today alive with history, with the grand Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (Canada’s most iconic hotel) front and center. A spirited Winter Carnival takes over the World Heritage city each year.

Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

At Chichen-Itza, a towering stepped pyramid and a few other structures are what remain of a bustling urban center built by the Maya people a millennium ago. With 365 steps (one for each day of the year), the main temple of Kukulkan rises from the ground, a mystical-seeming testament to the technological skills of an ancient people. The ruins are one of Mexico’s most visited sites, with frequent bus service from Merida and Cancun connecting vacationers to an enduring piece of Mexico’s past.

Monticello and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Virginia home, set among the rolling hills of rural Virginia, is a much-loved tourist attraction and historical site. See Monticello’s neoclassical architecture, vineyards and gardens (Jefferson was an avid botanist) and get acquainted with the life of one of the country’s exceptional Founding Fathers. The picturesque estate, the only presidential and private home in the U.S. on the UNESCO World Heritage list, is unmatched. Tours, films, exhibitions and lectures offer an in-depth view of Jefferson’s life.

Landscape of Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, Canada

This stunning “living landscape” of Grand Pre in Nova Scotia became Canada’s 16th UNESCO site in 2012. Here, the Acadians and native Mi’kmaq peoples lived in peace, maintaining crops and settlements beside the picturesque Bay of Fundy for years. Today, visitors embark on a 45-minute drive from Halifax to take in the area’s incredible scenery, farmers’ markets and vineyards, staying the night in the cozy bed-and-breakfasts that dot the Grand Pre’s golden meadows.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Michoacan, Mexico

An explosion of orange and the sound of a billion fluttering wings descend on Mexico each year. Scores of monarch butterflies from all over North America return to this protected biosphere, alighting on the firs and, according to UNESCO, “literally bending their branches under their collective weight.” Why they return and in such numbers remains a mystery, but the natural phenomenon draws eco-minded tourists each year, ensuring the site against overdevelopment.

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites in North America

Take a photo tour of 100 of the world’s most beautiful and interesting UNESCO World Heritage sites with the gallery below:

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2014/07/31/unesco-world-heritage-site-usa-canada-mexico/13359091/

The World Heritage Convention has entered into force for the Bahamas

On 15 May 2014, the Government of the Bahamas officially deposited with the Director-General of UNESCO its instrument of ratification of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The World Heritage Convention has entered into force for this State Party on 15 August 2014, with the Bahamas becoming the 191st State Party to accept this Convention. The 33 countries of the Latin America and the Caribbean region have now ratified the World Heritage Convention.

Article source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1177

The World Heritage Convention has entered into force for the Bahamas

On 15 May 2014, the Government of the Bahamas officially deposited with the Director-General of UNESCO its instrument of ratification of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The World Heritage Convention has entered into force for this State Party on 15 August 2014, with the Bahamas becoming the 191st State Party to accept this Convention. The 33 countries of the Latin America and the Caribbean region have now ratified the World Heritage Convention.

Article source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1177

The World Heritage Convention has entered into force for the Bahamas

On 15 May 2014, the Government of the Bahamas officially deposited with the Director-General of UNESCO its instrument of ratification of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The World Heritage Convention has entered into force for this State Party on 15 August 2014, with the Bahamas becoming the 191st State Party to accept this Convention. The 33 countries of the Latin America and the Caribbean region have now ratified the World Heritage Convention.

Article source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1177