Marking History: The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana

The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (HLFI) will release next month its 2008 list of endangered landmarks. “These suggest top priority projects for us,” says President Marsh Davis. “We commit not only the public relations part of it, but also we commit internally a lot of time in staff efforts and financial resources.” Listen The 2008 list will be announced May 2 at the Harrison Center in Indianapolis.

“We do look for geographic diversity,as well as diversity of type,” says Davis. “Some of these are landmarks that are specifically identified for their unique characteristics, and some are more thematic in approach.” Listen

Making the 2007 list were:
-- Colgate Palmolive Plant and Clock, Clarksville (Clark County)
-- Frankfort Roundhouse, Frankfort (Clinton County)
-- Illinois Building, Indianapolis (Marion County)
-- Indianapolis Public School #97 (James E. Roberts School) Indianapolis (Marion County)
-- Jennings Building, New Castle (Henry County)
-- Marktown Historic District, East Chicago (Lake County)
-- Twin Bays, Lawrenceburg (Dearborn County)
-- Washington Avenue Historic District, Evansville (Vanderburgh County)
-- Whitley County Jail & Sheriff's House, Columbia City (Whitley County)
-- Wollenmann House, Ferdinand (Dubois County)

Davis says many properties remain on the endangered list for many years before progress is made. “We work typically until we have some idea where the project is headed. In some cases, we have lost a few, but the successes far outnumber the losses.” Listen

HLFI was formed to save the state’s historic buildings and places. The group works around the state to preserve Indiana’s architectural heritage and promote preservation through education, advice, advocacy, heritage tours and events. Founded in 1960, HLFI is a “non-profit membership organization,” says President Marsh Davis. “Our mission is help communities and neighborhoods preserve historic resources and historic places -- be they buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and so forth.” Listen

Davis says HLFI has an ongoing program in which staff members travel the state to proactively identify and inventory historic sites. “Clearly, that is a database that is huge and never entirely complete,” he says. “The other way is to respond to individuals and organizations around the state where properties have come to their attention.” Listen

Davis says some of Indiana’s landmarks appear in the National Register. “A property needs to have more than 50 years of age,” he says. “It also needs to maintain and exhibit some degree of historic integrity -- that is the property has been remodeled beyond recognition or lost the features that made it significant, it’s probably not going to be considered a national landmark.” Listen

In addition, places can also receive landmark designation at the state or local level. “Many communities have historic preservation commissions, which are empowered to declare certain properties landmarks,” Davis says. “In some cases, whole districts and neighborhoods are treated as landmarks.” Listen

Davis says the efforts of HLFI are most effective when it can cultivate or join with local leadership or a local historic preservation presence. “Two or three people who are initially concerned find other people who are equally concerned, and they organize,” he says. “The entity eventually has standing in the community and has the respect of local political leadership and local funders.” Listen

He says, in many cases, the newly formed entities remain in place and move on to work to protect other local properties. “It’s not just do one thing and call it quits,” he says. “The organization is in place with a broader interest in preserving heritage.” Listen

Davis says HLFI’s biggest success has been the restoration of the West Baden Springs Hotel in Orange County. “The property was taken on by Bill and Gail Cook after the Historic Landmarks Foundation sustained it for some time,” he says. “It is clearly the showplace restoration project of all Indiana projects ever.” Listen

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