by Donald Hunt
NNPA News Service
The building where Philadelphia boxing great Joe Frazier trained for his big fights has been named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The annual list spotlights important examples of the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage according to the association. More than 230 sites have been on the list over its 25-year history and, in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost.
Joe Frazier's Gym, a three-story building on North Broad Street, is now a converted warehouse. The space where Frazier developed his skills as a heavyweight boxing champion is home to a discount furniture store and there are two floors of vacant space. Despite increased interest in commemorating Frazier's life following his death last year, the history of the gym is currently not well recognized and the gym is unprotected, with no formal historic designation at the local or national level.
"Joe Frazier was a sports legend," said Brent Leggs, field officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation in Boston, Mass. "He deserves a place to celebrate his legacy and contributions to the sport of boxing. Placing Joe Frazier's Gym on the local and national registry is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest athletes of all time.
"Our goal is really to protect the building, to keep it safe from any negative alterations that could physically alter the building in any negative way, to prevent it from being demolished and to bring greater visibility and awareness to this historic site."
The first step in recognizing and protecting Joe Frazier's Gym is to ensure that it is designated at the local level. This month, students at Temple University started the process. They will submit a nomination form to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places to protect the gym from adverse alterations and demolition. But additional steps are needed, including having the gym placed on the National Register of Historic Places, identifying a buyer now that gym is for sale, and assisting present and future owners in developing possible reuses.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America's historic places.
(Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune)