Minute Man National Historical Park. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

UPDATED: Endangered Historic Places announcement warns against Hanscom expansion

By Laurie O’NeillCorrespondent

“A 21st century shot heard ‘round the world.”

That’s how CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley heralded Wednesday’s naming of Minute Man National Historical Park, Walden Pond/Woods, and other local sites to the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

National Trust Deputy Counsel Betsy Merritt made the announcement to cheers and applause from a crowd of more than 200 under a tent at The Old Manse. She said Minute Man and other local landmarks made the list because of the proposed expansion of Hanscom Field, which abuts the park.

The proposal would dramatically increase the capacity for private jets through the construction of 17 new hangars and augment the airport footprint “for what would be the largest expansion in half its history.” 

Minute Man National Historical Park. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

The move “threatens to significantly increase private aviation activity over historic and natural landscapes,” said Merritt to a wave of applause.

Though some at the event were bundled in parkas and ski hats, the raw weather didn’t dampen their excitement and appreciation of the day’s announcement.

While the National Trust “endangered” designation carries no legal weight, it can draw attention to places that need urgent protection from threats such as development and galvanize local support.

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Hanscom Field, supports the expansion. Proponents of the plan say building more hangars will cut down on so-called “ferry flights,” or short local air trips, because more planes can be stored on site.

Wise witnesses 

Joining the group under the tent, actor and activist Ashley Judd insisted “there is absolutely no need and no defensible rationale to further expand infrastructure for private luxury jets at Hanscom or anywhere else.”

Judd is the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, an advocate for mental health awareness and treatment and for women’s sexual and reproductive health, and a leader of the #metoo movement and founding member of Time’s Up.

Ashley Judd. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

She was introduced by Anna West Winter of Save Our Heritage, who noted that Judd’s birthday is April 19, the same date as the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

Judd called the area’s historic sites “not relics of the past” but “wise witnesses of who we were then, they hold the mirror to who we are now, and they inspire us to envision what we want to be tomorrow.”

She mentioned Henry David Thoreau, who “urged environmental awareness, conservation ethics, and civil disobedience;” Louisa May Alcott, who broke through “suffocating norms for females in the patriarchal world of publishing;” and the Robbins family and Ellen Garrison, who “worked to further the promise of equality, independence, and freedom.”

Walden, she said, “is known both nationally and internationally as an iconic symbol that inspires a clarion call to honor and protect our natural world.”

Ashley Judd before her remarks at The Old Manse. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

A former jet-setter vs. expansion

Judd said she has taken “much inspiration and guidance from the principles and philosophies that emerged from the thoughtful people who lived, worked, prayed, and played, and contributed to the American Canon here.”

Now, she said, “is the time to raise our voices along with The National Trust’s and engage the freedoms and the representative form of government that the once embattled farmers, at the bridge before us, fought and died for.”

Judd said she used to fly on private planes, “but my values are different now because I know better.” She urged those in the crowd to “go to savingplaces.org with me and sign the petition to Governor Healey and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg” to protest the expansion.

A chorus of opposition

Adding their voices in opposition to hangar expansion: State Rep. Simon Cataldo (D-Concord); Strong Bear Medicine, sagamore of the Nashobah Praying Indians; Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA3); and local preservation groups.

“We must all stop this unsavory expansion,” said Brinkley, a Rice University professor, his voice defiant in a pre-taped video message played for the crowd. 

“If we the people allow this odious jetport enlargement to go forward, we will be sending a solemn message to future generations that our treasured, historic places of today will be tomorrow’s runways for the privileged few.”

A Draft Environmental Impact Report diagram of proposed hangar expansion at Hanscom Airfield.

Merritt said it is not the first time that Minute Man National Historical Park and nearby historic sites “have been threatened by proposed changes to Hanscom Field.” 

In 2003, these sites were included on the Trust’s endangered places list for that reason.

She said the listing can help galvanize public support to protect a place and asked those in the audience to submit comments opposing “this harmful and unnecessary project” to the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. 

The office has issued a draft environmental impact report and has extended the public comment deadline to June 14.

Questions, but few answers

Rep. Simon Cataldo (D-Concord). Photo by Laurie O’Neill

Cataldo said that ever since early 2023, when he took office and attended meetings with the proponents of the Hanscom development, he has asked a simple question: “How is it that we’re going to see either a flatlining or a decrease in private jet volume, traffic, and carbon emissions if, at the same time, we are greatly increasing the amount of private jet infrastructure?”

Cataldo added that since then, “I have not received one iota of a semblance of a cogent response.”  

Trahan was not at The Old Manse Wednesday, but sent a message saying she considered the National Trust designation “deeply alarming.”  

The proposed expansion of Hanscom “poses serious threats to these sites that are living testaments to some of the most important moments in our nation’s history,” she added. “I’m committed to protecting them from harmful and unnecessary environmental degradation.”

Strong Bear Medicine and Jan Turnquist. Photo by Laurie O’Neill

Other speakers at the event included Christine Morin, COO of the Trustees of Reservations; Jan Turnquist, executive director of the Orchard House; Paul O’Shaughnessy, president of the Friends of Minute Man National Park; Robert Munro, assistant head for Academics and Equity at Concord Academy and co-chair of Concord250’s executive committee, and Kathi Anderson, executive director of the Walden Woods Project.



Minute Man National Historic Park, Walden Pond/Walden Woods, and nearby areas of Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, and Bedford have been designated Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The designation, announced today, was made due mostly to the threat from proposed development at Hanscom Field.

Minute Man and environs are among 11 historic places the Trust named to the list.

The list, since its debut in 1988, “has proven to be a highly effective tool for shining a light on the threats facing our nation’s greatest treasures,” according to the Trust.

“It has often provided the decisive force needed to preserve important cultural landmarks. The ongoing initiative has galvanized public support behind more than 350 sites to date with only a handful lost.”

The Trust said in its Wednesday morning statement that “a proposed major expansion of nearby Hanscom Field airport could significantly increase private jet traffic, leading to increased noise, vehicular traffic, and negative environmental and climate impacts.”

For that reason, “A strong coalition has formed in opposition to this expansion, arguing that such an extraordinarily important area should not be impaired by a development of this scale and potential impact.”

The addition of the local sites to the list will be made today at The Old Manse at 11 a.m.  

Trust representatives will be joined by Ashley Judd, a United National Population Fund Goodwill Ambassador and actor, author, and activist; Rep. Simon Cataldo; Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and CNN presidential historian and author; public officials; and local preservation and environmental organizations.

Today’s event is sponsored by Save Our Heritage, the Concord Historical Commission, The Walden Woods Project, and the Orchard House.