Dear Fellow Chautauquans and Friends of Chautauqua,
We are delighted to report the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today it named the Chautauqua Amphitheater as a National Treasure. At a press conference today in Buffalo, we witnessed this momentous announcement -- a milestone in the 122 year history of the Amp.
We hope that The National Trust’s high level of engagement will encourage the Chautauqua Board of Trustees to not only explore various preservation options but to decide to move forward next August with a plan for saving this authentic and important part of America's history -- while also making it a place where more people of all ages will choose to come to listen, learn, and enjoy.
The National Trust has supported the Chautauqua Institution in the past for their thoughtful stewardship, and was a donor in the Amp’s 1980 campaign. Now a coalition of national and regional preservation groups, including the National Trust and the National Park Service, is calling on the Institution's Trustees to reconsider their plan to replace this unique, storied structure.
“There are many significant cultural historic sites in America, but there is only one original Chautauqua Amphitheater,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The plan to demolish the Amp would tear at the heart of Chautauqua, and compromise the historic character that many Chautauquans and visitors from around the country deeply value. It also threatens the National Historic Landmark status of this nationally significant place.”
While the National Trust says that it is pleased with the Institution’s recent announcement to postpone any decisions on the Amphitheater project until August, they encourage the Institution to recognize and embrace the value of the authentic building as a starting point for a renewed dialogue. The National Trust is encouraging the Institution to work closely and openly with local, statewide, and national preservationists who have offered their assistance to come up with an alternative plan that respects the key historic features of the Amp while accommodating necessary and needed improvements. The National Trust is partnering with Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the Preservation League of New York State, The Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater, and others in this effort.
“We had the opportunity to advise the Institution during the early Amp planning process but somewhere along the line the preservation values that were set for this project got lost,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of New York State, a member of the original Amphitheater Study Group. “We join the National Trust in urging the Board to re-evaluate preservation-based options for rehabilitating the structure.”
The National Treasures are a portfolio of highly significant historic places throughout the country where the National Trust makes a long-term commitment to finding a preservation solution.
Which, of course, is exactly what we need.
The Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater
Brian Berg, Steve Davies, and Alicia Berg
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