- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

“Union Station is the perfect place to celebrate preservation,” said first lady Laura Bush at the Restore America gala Tuesday night. As trains rumbled beneath the restored train terminal’s East Hall, Mrs. Bush stood before a gathering of 356 preservationists to accept one of five “hero” awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Home and Garden Television (HGTV).

“President Bush and I want to ensure that our priceless historic properties throughout the nation continue to be preserved, used and enjoyed for the benefit of future generations,” she said of her efforts to start Preserve America. Among the successes of this national program, she related, is a preservation commission in Eads, Colo., initiated by high school students.

Before the first lady’s arrival, guests exchanged stories about their own work to save historic buildings. “We have preserved a marble monument that looks just like the Washington Monument, but it’s to Jefferson Davis,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield at the VIP reception. Also attending were Sen. Norm Coleman, Mary Ourisman, Leonard Zax, Jonathan Kemper and Carolyn Brody.

Emceeing the evening was actor Ed Begley Jr., who talked of the restoration of his 1936 home in Studio City, Calif., before taking the stage. “I kept the architectural integrity in every way, including wood windows from the original manufacturer,” he said.

National Trust President Richard Moe disclosed that Mr. Begley drove cross-country in his Prius. “He walks the walk and talks the talk,” Mr. Moe said of the actor’s environmentalism. HGTV President Judy Girard kicked off the program by announcing that the network would give away a “green” home next year and work with the trust to revive New Orleans and four other American cities.

After a dinner of crab salad and nut-crusted lamb, guests applauded the other Restore America honorees. XTO Energy Chief Executive Bob R. Simpson was so thrilled with his award that he decided to give $100,000 to each of two company employees. Kelly Romano of United Technologies Corp. related her company’s efforts to heat and cool landmarks, including President Lincoln’s summer cottage.

“Kelly, Sotterley [Plantation] needs to be air-conditioned,” pleaded House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who was honored for saving that tidewater mansion and Maryland tobacco barns.

Honoree Bill Watanabe, founding director of Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corp. in Los Angeles, reminded the audience of the preciousness of our architectural heritage.”When you lose it, you can’t get it back,” he said. “It’s gone.”