It’s a travel itinerary as eclectic as they come: From a gas station shaped like a UFO, to an inn once proclaimed one of the most magnificent hotels in the country, to mystical rock pillars that fascinated an ancient culture.
Put them all together and you have part of a collection that may make history buffs smile and explorers reach for their maps.
Behold the list of “Preservation Wins of 2012” put together by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization that has made it its mission to save America’s historic sites.
“These are places that were threatened in some way – whether it was demolishing them or (fearing they would) fail and maybe they wouldn’t be preserved – and essentially, they ended up being maintained or restored,” said Rebecca Morgan, a spokeswoman for the trust.
The list was assembled in no particular order – Morgan declined to rank the successes, calling each a great save.
Here are the sites that made the cut:
Cesar Chávez National Monument – Keene, Calif.
In October, President Obama designated the property known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz – the home, workplace and burial site of labor leader César Chávez – a national monument.
“This site marks the extraordinary achievements and contributions to the history of the United States made by César Chávez and the farm worker movement that he led with great vision and fortitude,” the presidential proclamation reads.
“La Paz reflects his conviction that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”
National Trust President Stephanie Meeks applauded the move, noting it was a big first step in celebrating the life and legacy of Chávez.
Howard Theatre – Washington
This historic landmark, which helped launch the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, sat vacant for decades, the trust said.
But in the spring of 2012, it was restored to its original 1910 appearance after a $29 million renovation. The venue is now once again showcasing artists and drawing stars including B.B. King, Little Richard and Tracy Morgan.
Michigan Bell Building – Detroit, Mich.
Built in 1929 as the headquarters for Western Electric, this building was transformed this year from a vacant warehouse into a mixed-use space that will provide housing for the homeless, the trust noted.
The Neighborhood Service Organization, a Detroit nonprofit group, took charge of the project, creating 155 furnished, one-bedroom apartments inside the structure, along with a health care clinic, gym, library, computer room, art and music rooms, and a chapel.
'The Flying Saucer' Phillips 66 Gas Station – St. Louis.
When local preservationists found out this former gas station was threatened with demolition, they launched a public campaign to save the landmark, the trust said. Built in 1967, the glass and concrete building features a 120-foot circular roof and is a “prized example of mid-century modern architecture,” the activists told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Their work paid off. In September, the saucer-shaped structure opened as a Starbucks and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Chimney Rock National Monument – Pagosa Springs, Colo.
Located on more than 4,000 acres in the San Juan National Forest and home to the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, this area was designated a national monument by President Obama in September.
“It is a living landscape that shapes those who visit it and brings people together across time,” he noted in a statement.
The ancient inhabitants who lived here 1,000 years ago left behind more than 200 homes and ceremonial structures on the mesa overlooking the two stone spires called Chimney Rock and Companion Rock. The moon rises perfectly between the rocks every 18.6 years.
The National Trust calls the area the single most important cultural site managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
Pillsbury A Mill – Minneapolis, Minn.
Declaring the mill “a masterpiece of industrial architecture and the largest and most advanced facility in the world at the time of its completion in 1881,” the trust included the vacant complex on its list of America’s 2011 Most Endangered Historic Places.
But this year, local lawmakers gave a thumbs-up to a plan which will convert the building into 250 low-income apartments.
Los Angeles Boyle Hotel – Los Angeles
Built in 1889, the hotel later fell into disrepair and was converted into an apartment complex. The nonprofit East Los Angeles Community Corporation bought the property in 2006 and began an extensive renovation, seeking to restore some of its grandeur. The project was completed in August, with many of the original features back in place, including the grand staircase and foyer, the brick façade, and the corner cupola and cap.
Emerson School – Denver
This 1885 schoolhouse underwent a “green rehabilitation” in May, and now features a new geothermal heating and cooling system, a complete interior rehabilitation, window restoration, and new fencing, trees and landscaping.
Wake Forest Biotech Place – Winston Salem, N.C.
Two former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. warehouses now serve as a state-of-the-art life sciences center. Opened this year, this development enhances Winston-Salem’s rich history and architectural heritage, the trust said.
Hotel Lafayette – Buffalo, N.Y.
When it opened its doors in 1904, this inn boasted a grand lobby, enormous windows and posh rooms, prompting reviewers of the time to proclaim it "one of the most perfectly appointed and magnificent hotels in the country,” according to its biography. This year marked the completion of a rehabilitation project that converted the hotel into a mixed use building of apartments and businesses.