Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

By Arnold Berke

Berke at Work

Credit: Art by Richard Thompson

Add another gem to the restoration repertory. The Boston Opera House has come back to life after a lavish refurbishment. Born in 1928 as the B.F. Keith Memorial Theatre, a 2,600-seat vaudeville and movie palace designed by Thomas W. Lamb, the theater had decayed so badly by 1995 that it and two adjacent halls were named to the Trust's 11 most-endangered list. Soon our northeast office began exploring ways to reuse the building. Aided by the enterprising work of many Bostonians, including the deal-making savvy of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, that search culminated in Clear Channel Entertainment's acquiring the theater and launching its $38 million restoration. On July 21, the Opera House reopened with a stage adaptation of the Disney film The Lion King. Bravissimo!

… Those who buy a Phaeton, the fancy new VW sedan, will get a bonus on top of all that motoring pleasure—a year's membership in the National Trust. Volkswagen of America, Inc., is offering the welcome gift through March 2005, emphasizing what it calls the "very nice fit" between the car and the Trust's "efforts to preserve extraordinary and time-tested design." There's more to the deal: Phaeton owners will receive Vanishing Histories, a book written by Colin Amery in association with the World Monuments Fund that showcases 100 of the world's imperiled art and architectural treasures.

The Rosenwald Schools Initiative, founded by the Trust to preserve the African American schools built in the early 20th century through the largess of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, has received a challenge from his descendants. The William Rosenwald Family Foundation is matching each dollar donated to the initiative up to $100,000. The offer was announced in Nashville in May at a conference held by the Trust and Fisk University on reclaiming these southern and southwestern schools (Preservation, July/August 2003). Visit to make a donation or call the southern office at (843) 722-8552. In related news, the CBRL Group Foundation of Lebanon, Tenn., has granted $15,000 to a digital imaging project for a portion of the Rosenwald schools' archives at Fisk.

A globeful of National Trusts will gather in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15–19, 2005, when your own Trust hosts a conference of its sister organizations. Representing lands large and small from Australia to the United Kingdom, the 50-odd groups—that impressive number a surprise to me—will share ideas and achievements from back home while absorbing preservation know-how from colleagues around the globe.

… Slowly and carefully. That's the way Leo Fitzpatrick renovated his 1916 barn in Beaverton, Mich. It took nine years and much of his own labor, but the results were fine enough to earn him the 2004 Barn Again! Farm Heritage Award. Fitzpatrick installed a new roof—after straightening out its sagging structure with the ingenious use of car jacks—and painted the barn, which he uses to store straw, machinery, and tools. Given by the Trust and Successful Farming magazine, the award salutes the best examples of adapting old barns for new farming uses or preserving whole farms or ranches. Five Recognition Awards are also presented.

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