- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

“My wife made me come,” Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alfonso Jackson confessed with a smile at Tuesday’s gala dinner benefiting the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As if to up his credentials among the crowd of several hundred preservationists and conservationists, he quickly added that he has been a member of the Nature Conservancy board and his fervent mission is to “provide more people with homeownership.”

Marcia Jackson was one among a top-drawer list of women serving on the decidedly bipartisan organizing committee of the event, held in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. The 2005 Restore America: A Salute to Preservation Gala brought together an eclectic group of sponsors and honorees as well.

Honorees included a Democratic senator (Maryland’s Paul Sarbanes); a Republican representative (Ohio’s Michael Turner); the Bank of America; Boston Red Sox owners; and Clest Lanier, director of Kentucky’s African American Heritage Foundation, which helped turn around one of Louisville’s most historic black neighborhoods. All are united in a movement by the estimable National Trust to maintain and upgrade buildings considered valuable American historic and cultural treasures.

Co-host, along with trust President Richard Moe, was Burton Jablin, president of Home & Garden Television (HGTV).

Sen. Edward Kennedy appeared briefly at the reception, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert showed up near the program’s end to give Mr. Turner his solid crystal obelisk award. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta also was present.

The show was run like a mini-Oscars, with local TV personality Barbara Harrison as emcee in a ruffled diaphanous gown and presenters of rank, who included Fran Mainella, head of the National Park Service (introducing Mr. Sarbanes), and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who praised Red Sox owners for saving and enhancing Boston’s fabled Fenway Park (“the number one tourist attraction in new England”) and couldn’t resist announcing that “by the way, they are winning tonight.”

“Entertainment” was provided by Stephen Lash, chairman of Christie’s America, taking charge of a live auction that netted more than $30,000 for various cruises and getaways and a special tour of one of the trust’s current projects, the rehabilitation of Lincoln Cottage, the Washington retreat President LIncoln considered his home away from home. A team-autographed baseball went for $2,000 to a Red Sox fan.

Mr. Jablin said privately that the annual gala was the idea of trust officials. (HGTV is partner with the trust in a multimillion-dollar Restore America campaign that promotes efforts to restore sites for housing in 12 community locations.) “I said, ‘Why don’t we walk before we run?’ and the National Trust said, ‘Why don’t we run first?’”

Run they have: Mr. Jablin took the occasion to announce a contribution from HGTV of $2 million for the campaign. The locations on the list include MacGillivray’s Pharmacy in Baltimore, which is being turned into apartments.

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