BASIE WINS NATIONAL HISTORY DESIGNATION

A time-lapse video captured the interior renovation work on the Count Basie Theatre in 2008. Below, a detail of an organ loft grille.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

More than a year after it lifted the curtain on nearly $8 million in improvements, the Count Basie Theatre should have an easier time moving forward with its ongoing spruce job thanks  its latest accomplishment: making it onto the National Register of Historic Places.

The Red Bank landmark was named to the list two days before Christmas, a culmination of at least a year’s worth of work by the theater’s Board of Trustees to get the 83-year-old former Vaudeville and silent film venue added, said Hugh Ward, a trustee.

“Pretty nice Christmas present, huh?” Ward said.

basie-grilleworkWith the end-of-year gift comes not only a certain sense of pride, but also some big benefits. Ward said being on the list opens the door to state and federal grant money previously unavailable — or at least difficult to attain — to make more improvements and cover operating expenses at the theater.

The 2008 overhaul covered only the interior of the venue, but trustees have said in the past they’d like to get the outside of the building whipped into better shape, too.

Considering that funds for the arts is dwindling, Ward said making the register will be a big boost.

“It’s a pride thing, as well as the economic factor,” he said. “Anything that helps the arts is much needed.”

Ward, who stepped down as chairman of the Count Basie Theatre Foundation in June, said the trustees and foundation spent about 18 months filling out forms, going through numerous site visits with officials and shelling out about $12,000 in fees to get to this point.

“It’s a long process. It’s a fairly stringent process,” he said. “Once we made it through that process, we met the requirements hands down.”

Only thing left now is to celebrate. The theater will hold a ceremony and tack up its plaque recognizing it as a historic place some time in the spring, Ward said.

The designation puts the Basie among these other Red Bank institutions already on the register:

The T. Thomas Fortune House on Drs. James Parker Boulevard

The Anthony Reckless Estate (now the Woman’s Club of Red Bank) on Broad Street

The Red Bank Train Station

The former River Street School

The Monmouth Boat Club

The former Shrewsbury Town Hall on Monouth Street

We haven’t been able to find the listing on the NRHP website yet, but the theatre’s blog reports that it will be listed under the Carlton Theater, one of five names its held. (It wasn’t until 1984 that the theater was renamed to honor Red Bank’s venerable jazz musician.) It will also listed by reference number 09001100.

From the NRHP website:

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.