Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
John Wright
For Immediate Release:November 13, 2003

Secretary Norton Announces Grants to Rhode Island's Touro Foundation,
N.Y.'s Eldridge Street Project and Texas' Mission Concepcion


(NEWPORT, R.I.) - Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton announced today that the Touro Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Touro Synagogue, will receive a $375,000 grant under the Save America's Treasures program. The Touro is the nation's oldest synagogue. Save America's Treasures grants are used to preserve the legacy of historic landmarks. Secretary Norton made the announcement at the Touro Synagogue with Foundation leaders and Rhode Island officials.

"The Touro is the nation's oldest standing synagogue and continues to be a place of inspiration, while encouraging people of all backgrounds to learn about the important role Jewish settlers played in our country's history," Secretary Norton said. "I am delighted to share in advancing the protection and preservation of this national legacy for future generations to learn from and enjoy."

Located in the Newport National Historic Landmark District and designed by noted colonial architect Peter Harrison, Touro is the oldest standing synagogue in the United States and is an excellent example of classical Georgian architecture with Sephardic Jewish elements. The grant will be used to preserve the synagogue's exterior architectural features and reinforce overloaded roof trusses.

Secretary Norton today also announced Save America's Treasures grants for the Eldridge Street Project in New York City, the Mission Concepcion in San Antonio, Texas, and the John N. A. Griswold House in Newport, R.I.

" The Eldridge Street Project in New York City receives a $300,000 grant to assist in the restoration of the pressed brick, terra cotta and bluestone elements on the synagogue's imposing facade. Eldridge Street is the first synagogue constructed in the United States by Eastern European Jews and served the immigrants of New York's Lower East Side. The synagogue was completed in 1887 and is a National Historic Landmark.

"The Eldridge Street Synagogue was a significant place of worship for Jewish immigrants a century ago and still serves an important role in lives of worshipers and others to understand our nation's cultural and religious heritage. It's an extraordinary honor to assist in Eldridge Street's long-term protection and preservation," Secretary Norton said.

" The Mission Concepcion in San Antonio, Texas, receives a $215,000 grant to improve drainage to redirect water away from the building to protect the structure from damage. This National Historic Landmark is the oldest unreconstructed Spanish Colonial church in the United States. Completed in 1760, the mission structures are almost entirely the original colonial construction and include delicate frescoes on the interior.

"San Antonio's Mission Concepcion played an important role in establishing a religious and cultural legacy in the border regions of our country and is one of the bright yarns in the tapestry of our shared American experience," Secretary Norton said. "It is an honor to help to protect the Mission for future generations to learn from and understand."

Until this year, historically significant treasures that are also used for religious purposes had been ineligible to receive historic preservation grants. Secretary Norton announced the policy enhancement at Boston's Old North Church on May 23, 2003. "This new policy brings balance to our historic preservation program and ends the discriminatory double-standard that has been applied against religious properties," Secretary Norton said. "All nationally significant historic structures - including those used for religious purposes - are now eligible to receive funding from Save America's Treasures program."

" Also today, Secretary Norton announced a $250,000 Save America's Treasures grant for the John N. A. Griswold House in Newport, R.I. The house, built in 1862, designed by Richard Morris Hunt is located in the Bellevue Avenue National Historic Landmark District. The house is generally considered to be the first and an outstanding example of the Stick Style of architecture. Funds will be used to protect the house and contents from potential fire dangers.

Save America's Treasures was established in 1998 as a public-private partnership between the Interior Department's National Park Service, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The public-private partnership is a national effort dedicated to identifying and rescuing America's threatened cultural treasures that serve as symbols of American tradition and define this country as a nation. As the public partner, the National Park Service administers the program's highly competitive federal grants program.

Additional information on the Save America's Treasures program can be found on the PCAH Web site at, the NPS Web site at, or by contacting the NPS at 202-343-9570, ext. 6.



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