First lady stops in city to promote preservation Visit is used to announce Key monument restoration

July 14, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Hillary Rodham Clinton came to town yesterday, making Baltimore the first stop on her "Save America's Treasures" tour.

Clinton gave a speech by the Francis Scott Key monument in the city's Bolton Hill neighborhood and visited Fort McHenry to see the place where the flag was still there in the dawn's early light in 1814, inspiring the young lawyer's poem that later became the national anthem.

"This city is just steeped in American history," said Clinton, addressing a gathering of more than 200, made up mostly of Maryland elected officials and Bolton Hill residents.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening used the occasion of Clinton's visit to announce a $125,000 restoration of the Key monument -- fountain, friezes, columns and all -- to begin later this year.

Highlighting historical sites along the way, Clinton's four-day journey is intended to raise public awareness of preserving often-obscure places, aging documents and delicate artworks important to the telling of the nation's story in its 222nd year. As part of her trip, Clinton announced a $1.4 million campaign to save America's outdoor sculptures with a mix of private and public money.

Clinton began yesterday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where the flag that inspired "The Star Spangled Banner" is housed and will soon be restored. She saw the original poem at Fort McHenry. The manuscript was transported from its home at the Maryland Historical Society after special permission was granted by the National Archives.

The slightly shabby -- yet still graceful -- 1911 marble and bronze monument on Eutaw Place provided a picturesque backdrop for the White House "Millennium Program," a new initiative to encourage public and private funding of preservation projects.

As she looked around the architecture of Bolton Hill, including a majestic former synagogue now used as a Masonic lodge, Clinton said, "I could stay all day."

"Baltimore, the monumental city, is your kind of village," said Schmoke, beaming at Clinton, whom he has known for years, dating to his college days at Yale.

The Key monument restoration, the Baltimore piece of the $1.4 million campaign, fits the private-public sector model the White House is trying to promote for saving historic landmarks. Target Stores is paying half the bill for the Key monument work. The pTC other half will come from a mix of public funds.

"It [the monument] is very dramatic in a 19th-century way, with Key staring up at the flag and the spirit of victory," said Jennifer Dowley, a director of museums and visual arts at the National Endowment for the Arts, the government agency spearheading the national conservation project.

Sounding the "honor the past, imagine the future" theme she will carry this week, Clinton delivered a crisp 15-minute speech that concluded, "Let's remind ourselves of our common roots. That's a job all of us can undertake."

More in keeping with traditional first lady projects -- such as Lady Bird Johnson's national beautification and Jacqueline Kennedy's White House redecoration -- Clinton's latest venture steers clear of controversial political issues she has embraced in the past, such as health care reform.

Clinton's other stops will include inventor Thomas Edison's house in West Orange, N.J., an Underground Railroad house where ex-slave Harriet Tubman lived and worked in Troy, N.Y., and a colonial theater in Pittsfield, Mass.

On Thursday, Clinton's final destination will be the small town of Seneca Falls, N.Y., where she will speak to a crowd gathered to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first women's rights convention in 1848.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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