The Eagle’s recent article on the Upstreet Cultural District failed to highlight the Colonial Theatre’s catalytic role in positioning Pittsfield as a cultural center. The independent re search firm Center for Cre ative Community Develop ment found that a staggering $4 million in direct economic impact in the Berkshires is the conservative estimate for each year the theater operates.
In addition, it was with dismay that I realized that abso lutely no recognition has been given to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the work she did as first lady in helping restore the Berkshire County community historically, financially, and culturally.
It is the prerogative of the country’s first ladies to undertake a project close to their and their country’s heart. Mrs. Clinton undertook and championed the campaign Save America’s Treasures. In May of 1998, Mrs. Clinton visited the then-derelict Colonial Thea tre. I was privileged to have been with her on this historic bus trip from Washington, D.C.
In 2000, a federal SAT grant of $400,000 was awarded and this was the jump-start to save the old vaudeville and later movie theater on South Street. Between 2001 and 2006, an unprecedented $21.5 million was raised to purchase and rehabilitate this building. At the present date there is no reference at the Colonial Theatre about Save America’s Treasures, nor mention made of the first lady’s visit, which spearheaded the renovations.
Mrs. Clinton also visited the Mount, home to the American Pulitzer prize-winning author Edith Wharton. The Mount also received an SAT grant. The impact of a restored Colonial and the Mount is visible in the resurgence of cultural activities in Pittsfield and Lenox.
The next administration continued Save American Trea sures but unfortunately the SAT has now been disbanded. However, the enormous benefits received from this project remain, and I think Pittsfield and the entire Berkshire County owe a debt of gratitude and public recognition to former First Lady Hillary Clinton for the work she did here.