Friends: Early History (this section could follow a section detailing the earlier history of the park from 1953 through about 1985)
In late 1983, a new organization, the Friends of the William Howard Taft Birthplace, was created. NPS Superintendent Boyd patterned the Friends group after the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association, the private support group attached to the National Park Service-administered Frederick Douglass Home in Washington, D.C., with which she was familiar. Boyd recruited Hope Taft, wife of Robert Taft II and an active volunteer on community projects; Jane Goetzman, wife of well-known Cincinnati architect Bruce Goetzman and a preservation activist; and Lloyd Taft, son of Robert A. Taft, as the organization’s first three trustees. This core of founding trustees recruited others, including Mary Heller, another preservation activist, as president of the Friends. The Friends group envisioned itself as a broad based organization and maintained modest dues for membership. Its purpose was to support the Taft National Historic Site through public awareness, fundraising, lobbying, donations of objects for the furnishing of the house, and educational programs.
After its founding, the Friends group solicited donations for the Property through the “Gifts Catalogue” which was initiated by Superintendent Boyd and published with the financial assistance of the Taft family. The Taft gifts catalogue was modeled on a similar catalogue produced by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in 1982 which listed needs for material goods and projects, prices, and ways in which individuals and organizations could participate in the program. The Friends also organized several fundraising activities, such as the William Howard Taft Commemorative Ball held March 2, 1985. Other activities included the production of a videotape on William Howard Taft, called “The Reluctant Politician,” and other high visibility programs.
The amount of fundraising required was greater than initially anticipated. The group raised nearly $190,000 as of mid-1985, a sum that exceeds that raised by most private support groups attached to National Park Service sites. Through the funds raised by the group since 1983, objects for the house have been acquired and repaired and supporting activities funded. Although the National Park Service staff provided the initial impetus for the formation of the Friends group, the Friends group has achieved a high degree of independence and performs the kind of lobbying and local support work that cannot be carried out by a Federal Government agency.