At the end of 2015 The Eppes-Jefferson Foundation bestowed a substantial gift on The Park Theatre. Trustees have recognized the honor and generosity of the foundation’s gift with the naming of the main auditorium in honor of arts and humanities advocate, William David Eppes. Born in 1918, Mr. Eppes was a southern gentleman from Goodwater, Alabama, whose family’s roots in Colonial America traced back to Thomas Jefferson. Educated at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music, William and Mary College, George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, the University of Miami, the University of Manchester (England), Columbia University, New York University and the University of Durham (England), Mr. Eppes is listed in the 37th Edition of Who’s Who in Finance and Business (2009) as a well known author, historian, preservationist and benefactor of the arts.
In 1996, Mr. Eppes moved to New England, making his home at RiverMead in Peterborough and established The Eppes-Jefferson Foundation to continue his support of the arts and humanities he had cherished during his lifetime. The foundation recognized that the vision guiding The Park Theatre was one shared by Mr. Eppes during his lifetime, and bestowed a substantial gift to the Theatre in his honor and as a living memorial to the man and the arts and culture.
Educated as a librarian, Mr. Eppes was employed at the libraries of George Washington University, California State University, Columbia University and The Cooper Union. He founded the Film Classics League and Backstage Gallery of St. Petersburg, Florida, and served on the boards of the Memphis Theatre Historical Society, Virginia Historical Society, McLeod Plantation, Sea Island Historical Society, Greenwich Village Trust for Historic Preservation, Inc., was Honorary Commissioner of the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund, Inc., and member of the William and Mary Choir, New York Drama League, and the Society of the Descendants of Francis Eppes I of Virginia.
Throughout his life, Mr. Eppes maintained autograph letters, correspondence, memorabilia, photographs, and printed material by and about persons in the fine arts, theatre, literary and political world as well as playbills, programs, announcements and poster replicas of New York City theatres. The 2,310 items in The William David Eppes Collection of Arts Memorabilia is included in the Special Collections of the University of Virginia Library in Charlottesville. Among his collection is correspondence with Tallulah Bankhead, Harry S and Bess W Truman, Malcolm Forbes, Alfred Lunt and Armand Hammer. His collection of historic recordings include many Opening Nights of the Metropolitan Opera and the 1942 Premiere of ‘Porgy and Bess’ written at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough. In addition to contributing to a variety of historic journals and magazines, Mr. Eppes was a member of Authors’ Guild and wrote several books: The Empire Theatre 1893-1953 (1978), Gertrude Michael—A Star of the Golden Age of Hollywood (1985), Montgomery Theatre 1822-1985 (1986), and The House off Main Street, A Chronicle of the McCord-Eppes Family. ❦