A Student of History

March 21, 2012

Tryon Palace in NC Going Forward

Filed under: Early America,Historic Places,NC History — John Maass @ 7:06 am

From The Sun-Journal:

New Tryon Palace Commission Chairman William C. Cannon Jr. is far from new to the Palace and its mission.

A third generation supporter of Tryon Palace, his grandmother, Ruth Coltrane Cannon, was one of the women involved with New Bern’s Gertrude Carraway in the Society for the Preservation of Antiquities and the Daughters of the American Revolution that uncovered what was left of a historic artifact and helped restore and preserve it.

Cannon said that was in a time in the early 20th century when there were few opportunities for women in the workplace and those women’s avocation was a career based on solid commitment that took much of their time and heart.

That influence translated into money, by way of fundraising and personal contribution.

Kay Williams, Tryon Palace director, said one early gift from Bill Cannon’s grandmother actually bought the gates to the Palace that remain.

Williams said the group of early enthusiasts stayed focused from the late 1920s until Tryon Palace’s reconstruction and opening in 1959.



Bill Cannon has served on the Tryon Palace Commission for 10 years in various capacities including secretary and, prior to his recent appointment, as vice chairman.

Cannon and his wife, Ann Cannon, have continued that family tradition of gatekeepers, co-chairing the fundraising effort for the North Carolina History Center.

“We love New Bern, and what we’ve seen of Craven County and the people we know who share the same excitement about its history,” he said. “We love Tryon Palace, Mitchell’s Hardware, the whole town” and said he’ll probably spend “more time than I really have” in his effort to keep the complex going.

Sitting across a large 1700s dining table in the Commission House this week, Cannon recalled his most memorable early impression of Tryon Palace as a teenager.

“After I was old enough to drive, a friend and I went to the beach and we stopped here and bought a ticket and went in. I still have a picture in my mind of the black and white marble floor in the foyer from that day.”

Williams said she, staff, and commission members “are very excited about Bill Cannon’s leadership”

Commission member Alice Graham Underhill agreed. “Bill Cannon has been a strong commission member in the past and a great supporter of Tryon Palace and New Bern. I’ve very happy he’s accepted the chairmanship. He has the ability to continue the tradition of leadership we’ve had in the past.”

Cannon is a graduate of Wake Forest University in Winston Salem with degrees in business administration and economics and serves as vice chairman of Carolina HealthCare Systems.

He said that how the North Carolina state “budget will be structured is our big unknown and how that’s going to affect Tryon Palace is as yet unknown. The proposed cuts are extensive. What the Tryon Palace Commission hopes is that there will be some restructuring of the deepest cuts.”

To help accomplish that, Cannon said “I expect I’ll be spending about as much time in Raleigh as in New Bern” over the coming months.

He lives on a farm in Concord, not a long drive from Raleigh, and he is a private pilot and said it only takes about an hour to get to New Bern.

“I don’t think there is any question there will be cuts” from previous state funding, he said, but as drafted, “beginning in July 2012 with the beginning of the 2013 budget year, there are draconian cuts planned.”

“I can’t see into the future but I believe there will be some significant change in those,” Cannon said. “I know there is some support.”

 Regardless of where the money comes from, “Tryon Palace will have to operate more efficiently, leaner, and with a higher percentage of private money in the public-private mix” that is currently 30 percent private, 70 percent public funding for Tryon Palace complex including the N.C. History Center.

More private money must be secured from donations, endowments, and ticket receipts to keep Tryon Palace’s mission for historical preservation and education alive, he said. Going forward more of its operational funds will have to come from big donors and Friends of Tryon Palace, of which there are about 10,000.

“Our job is to go out and raise additional revenue from any kind of event we can hold and to maximize shop sales and visit numbers to continue to do the education that makes us an important part of North Carolina History,” Cannon said. “According to our mission, we are going to keep state, regional, and colonial history alive for the next generation. We’re going to do it — preserve and teach North Carolina history in any manner possible.”

Cannon met with New Bern and Craven County leaders this week, he said, and “with the Tryon Palace staff, “simply to tell them that I’m honored to work for them and work with them. We have such a dedicated staff here of wonderful people with wonderful talents and character.”

“The jewel that is the History Center only opened 18 months ago,” he said. “It is hard for me to think that with all the state money that just went to build it, they won’t work to keep it open, given all the positives that are in the future for Tryon Palace.”

He complimented Linda Carlisle, secretary of N.C. Cultural Resources, as “a wonderful friend of Tryon Palace. I’m not sure many people in New Bern know how hard she worked in the last budget session with the legislature.”

Cannon and Williams said Tryon Palace Commission plans to hold a town meeting near the end of March at the N.C. History Center to talk about the changes commission member and Palace staff sees coming and to answer questions with as much information about Tryon Palace future operations as they can.

Regardless of how complete the information on state funding will be by then, Cannon said: “I can promise the Tryon Palace will survive.”


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