Summit Tunnels 6 & 7 and Summit Camp has been identified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2021 list of Most Endangered Historic Places in America.
The Summit Tunnels 6 & 7 and Summit Camp Site tell the story of thousands of Chinese railroad workers who constructed the Transcontinental Railroad through the Sierra Nevada mountains from 1865 to 1867. These workers, making up approximately 90 percent of the Central Pacific Railroad workforce, risked their lives to cut and build railroad beds and dig tunnels in incredibly difficult working conditions and extremely dangerous terrain and weather—all while being paid less than their white counterparts.
Vandalism currently threatens the tunnels, resulting in extensive graffiti, as well as physical damage to cultural and natural resources at the site. The Tahoe National Forest protects the archaeological remains of Summit Camp, but visitors who don’t understand its significance are not always respectful of the site’s remaining artifacts. Highlighting how Chinese laborers accelerated the development of the American West, and better interpreting and protecting these sites, would honor this important and often overlooked part of our country’s history.
Each year, America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places sheds light on important examples of our nation’s heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 300 places have been listed in its 34-year history, and in that time, fewer than 5 percent of listed sites have been lost. Visit their webpage for more information on how to get involved.