Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

 

Trust
By Arnold Berke

Credit: Richard Thompson

A celebratory picnic on June 23 will mark the official public opening of the Philip Johnson Glass House. Offering tours of the 47-acre site—the 1949 landmark itself plus such other Johnson-designed delights as the sculpture gallery, the painting gallery, and Da Monsta—and a performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the event moves the Trust historic site into full operation. Johnson, who died in 2005, donated the property in New Canaan, Conn., to the Trust in 1986 (Preservation, January/February 2007). For information on visiting the Glass House, go to www.philipjohnsonglasshouse.org.

The Trust went right into action after a tornado mangled an old neighborhood and cemetery in Americus, Ga., on March 1. Assembling a team of architects, engineers, and an insurance expert, the southern office worked with residents, the state, and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to assess damage to houses and graveyard monuments and fences—much of it caused by old trees ripped out by the twister. The Trust backed up its aid with a $4,000 grant (from the Daniel K. Thorne Foundation) to the Georgia Trust.

Move it or lose it. That was the choice for defenders of the Free Will Baptist Meetinghouse in Epsom, N.H., faced with the prospect of Cumberland Farms razing the 1861 church for a convenience store. So the Friends of Epsom's Historic Meetinghouse worked on a rescue plan with other locals, the state preservation office, and Maggie Stier, a shared field rep hired last year by the Trust and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. The plan gelled when town voters went to the polls on Feb. 13 to approve the move, paid for in part by $10,000 from Cumberland Farms. Early on Feb. 25, movers transported the structure up the road to its new home, where the building will be used for town offices.

… For three decades, the Trust has been lending money to save vulnerable buildings, many in low-income historic districts. Among recent recipients is Knox Heritage, using a $350,000 line of credit to buy, rehab, and resell houses in four Knoxville, Tenn., neighborhoods. (These include the two Barber Houses, also blessed with a restoration grant from the HGTV/Trust Restore America program.) On the south side of Fort Worth, a loan of $197,000 to the Carillon Group helped restore the 1927 La Salle Apartments and will aid conversion of the c. 1905 Sawyer Grocery into shops and housing. And thanks to a $350,000 loan, Willmore City Heritage Association in Long Beach, Calif., has moved from the path of a mixed-use development a 1906 four-square house, which it is restoring at its new site.

The next time you drop by James Madison's Montpelier, its new visitors center will smooth—and enlighten—your way into the Trust historic site in Orange, Va. First, in the Alan and Louise Potter Theater, you'll learn about the plantation's history and the continuing restoration of its mansion.  Then, in the Joe and Marge Grills Gallery, you'll take in an exhibit of historic objects, from Madison's spyglass to an array of documents. Opened on March 16 (Madison's 256th birthday), the brick-wood-and-glass center also includes the William duPont Gallery, which showcases the family that preserved Montpelier for most of the 20th century. The gallery's treasures include a reinstallation of the Red Room that Marion duPont Scott built in the 1930s in the then-larger Montpelier—an art deco space that shines with chrome, mirrors, and an amazing glass mantelpiece.

 

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