Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

By Arnold Berke

Berke at Work

Credit: Art by Richard Thompson

After years with an iffy future, Philadelphia's last movie palace will be restored. The 1928 Boyd Theatre has seen many owners and uses, one as a Cinerama venue (remember Ben Hur?). Renamed the Sameric in 1971, the art deco gem was menaced with razing in 1987. So the Philadelphia Historical Commission landmarked it, prompting the owner to challenge the designation and the state supreme court to toss out the city's whole preservation law. The Trust played a big role in the court's 1993 reversal of that ruling. But the theater continued to decay, and it closed in 2002. That's when the Friends of the Boyd was born. Aided by the Trust, its rescue campaign succeeded in January, when Clear Channel Entertainment agreed to buy and restore the theater, after similarly reviving Boston's Opera House and Baltimore's Hippodrome.

... A big breakthrough on the save-our-schools front: The Council of Educational Facility Planners International, the folks who set the standards for building or rehabbing schools, has a new publication addressing the latter. A Primer for the Renovation/Rehabilitation of Older and Historic Schools represents a huge turnaround for CEFPI, whose prior guidelines were heavily biased against such facilities. Hewing to those, local boards have for years been abandoning historic schools, even consolidating them out of neighborhoods to edge-of-town campuses. The Trust has been working with CEFPI, and on many other fronts, to change that practice. Learn about the new guide at

... A little-known fact about the Farnsworth House, the historic site in Illinois that the Trust bought last year: Its structural members were made by the late Bethlehem Steel Corp., whose name is stamped proudly on each piece (see feature story on page 32). A case of beaming with pride?

... A year ago, I reported on the enduring threat of a road proposed for the petroglyph-rich west side of Albuquerque. Alas, the project lives on, so now the Trust has joined nine other organizations and individuals in a lawsuit opposing the city's plans to build the Paseo del Norte extension. Filed in February, the suit alleges that the city fails to comply with New Mexico's preservation law by not offering a feasible alternative to protect thousands of Native American artifacts in the Petroglyph National Monument. They could be saved by building a tunnel instead, a plan that the Trust favors but that the city says is too costly.

... Chicago commuters should now get the message—the Trust's, that is. As they ride "L" trains past the Monadnock Building, greeting them on a sign lining the windows of the midwest office is the exhortation to JOIN THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION. We'll be looking for a hike in Chicagoland membership.

... If you were missing your home preservation honchos on March 1, don't fret. They were probably here in Washington for Preservation Lobby Day, an annual rite in which movement leaders meet with congressional members and staff. Hosted by the Trust, Preservation Action, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, the day brought some 300 professionals and volunteers to the Hill, pushing such goals as restoration of Save America's Treasures funding (the proposed federal budget cuts it in half), fair treatment for conservation easements, an increase in the Historic Preservation Fund, support for preservation in transportation reauthorization, and passage of the Community Restoration and Revitalization Act, which would enhance the rehab tax credits.