Trust Me

Arnold Berke

Credit: Art by Richard Thompson

Who ever said preservation was easy? Surely not the Palm Beach Theater Guild, which has been trying for three years to save the Royal Poinciana Playhouse. The group envisions the elegant ­Regency-style hall, built in 1958 but shuttered since 2004, ­restored for regional performing arts companies. However, a series of developers in control of the property, on a prime spot in a retail plaza at the edge of Lake Worth, Fla., has been trying to replace the playhouse with condos or a hotel. The guild advocates landmark status for the theater, but Palm Beach's Town Council voted in April (for the third time) to postpone the matter—a delay that guild president Patrick Henry Flynn blames on "commercial interests." The National Trust has given the group funds to study how to repurpose and reopen the Poinciana.

… As "green preservation" grows, so does the recognition that it's part of the overall green building movement. Through its Sustainable Preservation Coalition, the National Trust has been working for two years with the U.S. Green Building Council to better incorporate historic structures in the council's point-based LEED system of rating building projects. One result: LEED 3.0, to be unveiled next January, which should better represent the durability and embodied energy of existing buildings.

… Those of you who love row ­houses—and that's no small crowd—should check out a new guide the National Trust has funded, Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual. Aimed at helping homeowners maintain and adapt dwellings without diluting their historic integrity, the manual offers advice both inside (mechanical, kitchens, closets) and out (windows, gardens, porches) and even talks about green roofs. Its title may say Philadelphia—by most measures, the country's row house hub—but residents elsewhere should find it just as useful. The city published the manual as step one in a comprehensive mission billed as the Historic Philadelphia Rowhouse Initiative. Get your copy online at

… Please don't call him "sir." The Canal Corridor Association in April honored National Trust President Richard Moe with its Canal Boat Captain's Award, saluting Moe as a preservation leader both nationally and locally. The association manages several sites along the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which runs between Chicago and the Illinois River. The properties include the Gaylord Building (1838), a National Trust historic site in Lockport that has served a series of industrial and commercial uses.

… That vivid new five-dollar bill you may have seen, an eye-catcher with purple ink, debuted in March at a ceremony at President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust historic site. Federal Reserve Board official Michael Lambert sent the first new fiver into circulation at the museum store by buying a book of Abraham ­Lincoln's speeches.

… Things are looking good for the ­National Landscape Conservation System. In April the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to make the system—which helps manage and protect a choice collection of natural, historic, and archaeological lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management—a permanent part of the bureau. NLCS was established in 2000 as an administrative entity and thus was subject to the whims of changing presidential administrations. The National Trust has made final passage of the bill, which awaits ­action in the Senate, a top priority on its broad ­agenda of public lands stewardship.   

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