There is a Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Back in the days when Andrew Carnegie was presiding over his empire, he occasionally travelled on his railroad into West Virginia, to look after his anthracite coal mines. The coal was baked into coke, which was used in the open-hearth production of steel in his mill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
During his extended stays, Carnegie found genteel accommodations with the Headmaster of the Lewisburg College for Women, whereafter Carnegie donated a fine little free-standing auditorium to the college.
By the 1970s the college had closed its doors and the building fell into disrepair and was condemned by the state fire marshal. It was to be torn down, but Grandfather and a little band of rebels said “No way!”
With all the resources Lewisburgians have, intellectual, cultural and financial, we thought it was gauche in extremis to let a gift from a great philanthropist be destroyed.
So, we got a bill through the legislature exempting Carnegie Hall from West Virginia law requiring state-owned assets to be disposed of by public auction and putting it in the hands of our newly-formed, non-profit corporation, which restored it as it remains today.
Along the way, an old Chinese saying came to mind: “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan” and, as the most cantankerous curmudgeon on Carnegie Hall Incorporated’s founding board, it sometimes fell to Grandfather to put off the new “fathers” who deemed themselves more worthy to lead the hall than us neophytes.
To Grandfather’s regret, the hall’s performances have degenerated — but that’s Grandfather’s opinion only! — from classical theatre and music to that preferred by callous youth.
But above all, the hall stands tall.
“They Can’t Take That Away from Me” – George Gershwin
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian from West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family