- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. (AP) - An alumni group at the first degree-granting institution for African-Americans said Wednesday its members are delighted that the oldest building on campus has been named one of America’s “most endangered” places.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private nonprofit, announced that Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall at Lincoln University, outside Philadelphia, is on its list of 11 endangered historic places. The school was founded in 1854 as Ashmun Institute and changed its name to Lincoln University in 1866, a year after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

The trust describes the annual list as a way of identifying “important examples of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage” that are at risk of destruction or damage.

“This is a great day for all who love Lincoln University and appreciate its great historical, cultural and educational legacy,” said Carol Black, president of the Lincoln University Heritage Initiative, which has led efforts to save the building dating from 1865. “Now America has an opportunity to help stabilize and preserve one of its most historically significant and physically threatened structures.”

Being listed as an endangered place can mobilize grassroots and political support along with funding for preservation.

In 2013, the university floated the idea of demolishing Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall to make way for a welcome center. Officials at the time said the building, named in honor of graduates Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria after independence, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, would be too costly to fix and renovate.

That led a group of alumni to form the preservation alliance.

Richard Green, the university’s interim president, said in a statement the inclusion of the hall on the list “is appreciated” and speaks to the larger conversation of the importance of historically black universities as a whole.

However, architects and planners concluded due to the current state of the building, it would be most cost-effective to create a new facility, he said. The state-funded redevelopment of the building as a new welcome center had been publicly designated and authorized almost 20 years ago, he said.

Green noted the university is evaluating the condition and usage of other older buildings on campus. Amos Hall, built in 1902, will be renovated to house a new Museum Studies program, in collaboration with the Barnes Foundation.

Robert Ingram, a member of preservation group and president of the Alumni Association of Lincoln University, said the hall is one of 15 historic buildings on the campus that should be preserved and protected.

“The powers that be have been nearsighted,” he said.

The school’s notable graduates include Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and poet Langston Hughes.

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