Executive Director’s Message

From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

May 16, 1991, Philadelphia. A small crowd assembles on this beautiful spring morning to dedicate our state historical marker at the New Freedom Theatre on North Broad Street, a landmark in this great city’s rich cultural history. Once the home of prominent nineteenth century thespian Edwin For­rest, and later the location of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now the Moore Institute of Art), the building serves as a dynamic center for both the teaching and presentation of the per­forming arts.

After lunch in the restored Bellevue Hotel (1902-1904, 1910-1911) in center-city, I ven­ture out to Merion on the Main Line to visit the Barnes Foun­dation. Housed in a handsome 1920s villa, the gallery features one of the greatest private collections of paintings and sculpture in the world. The collection of more than one thousand works of art includes pieces by renowned masters such as Renoir, Matisse, Ce­zanne, and, of course, Picasso. Although the Barnes Founda­tion functions chiefly as an educational facility, providing courses in art appreciation, there is an increasing demand by the public to visit this re­markable collection.

My final stop of the day is at the Washington Crossing Historic Park. I am late for a meeting with the historic site’s park commission, and I enter in the midst of a prolonged discussion on the condition of buildings and roads in the five hundred acre park. My mind is filled with visions of Ce­zanne and Renoir, but I plunge into the thorny issues of con­servation and maintenance. I am also reminded of – and am truly grateful for – the dedica­tion and commitment of the individuals who selflessly serve as park commissioners, as well as the thousands of volunteers who support the operation of our historic sites, museums, and organizations throughout the Commonwealth.

May 17, 1991, Scranton. I spend the night in Scranton’s elegant Royce Hotel, formerly the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Station (1907-1908), that has been beautifully rehabilitated and creatively adapted for reuse. The federal investment tax credit program made restora­tion of this historic edifice possible – as it did Philadel­phia’s grand Bellevue Hotel.

My first stop is a tour of the James L. Crawford House (1898-1899) near the campus of the University of Scranton, and I cannot help feeling somewhat discouraged about our vanishing architectural heritage. This wonderfully eclectic English Tudor Revival style house is threatened by expansion-a widespread problem in Pennsylvania. Although the building is struc­turally sound and could be adapted for reuse, preserva­tionists must raise substantial funds to move it from its present site; otherwise, the university will demolish it.

My second visit is more encouraging. U.S. Rep. Joseph M. McDade presides over a press briefing to present a long-range heritage plan for the Lackawanna Valley region. This ambitious plan calls for the preservation, interpreta­tion, and integrated marketing of several historic resources that will recount the story of industry, transportation, and the significant contributions of the diverse ethnic groups that settled in the area. Among the most prominent examples of such resources are the Scran­ton Iron Furnaces and the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heri­tage Museum, both adminis­tered by our agency.

The past forty-eight hours give me ample evidence of the broad scope of public history in Pennsylvania – and the critical role the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission is playing in preserv­ing and managing all aspects of our priceless heritage.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director