Groups Seeking to Preserve Properties

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Indiana Landmarks and the Historic Preservation Association of Jasper County have commissioned a preservation study to examine a group of buildings in Renssalaer. The efforts will focus on three properties in hopes of receiving nominations for the National Register of Historic Places. March 4, 2014

News Release

RENSSELAER, Ind. - For a small town in Indiana, Rensselaer has a sizeable collection of high-style Mid-Century Modern architecture. The Historic Preservation Association of Jasper County wants to bring recognition to this heritage, which is chiefly the work of architect Frank H. Fischer.

With $4,000 in support from Indiana Landmarks and its Indiana Modern affinity group, the association has commissioned a preservation study of the structures that will aid in the process of nominating them to the National Register of Historic Places.

The funds, matched by $500 from the Historic Preservation Association of Jasper County, also will result in National Register nominations for three of the most significant buildings designed by Frank Fischer - Halleck Student Center (1962) and Schwietermann Hall (1963) at St. Joseph's College, and the Rank House (1964) in College Woods. The Historic Preservation Association of Jasper County, an affiliate of Indiana Landmarks, hired preservation consultant Kurt Garner to complete the background study and the three nominations.

Fischer earned his credentials as an architect in Chicago before he married a Rensselaer native and moved to her hometown. His earliest works in Rensselaer date from the mid-1950s, including private houses and six buildings on the campus of St. Joseph's College. The USS Indianapolis Memorial on the downtown canal in Indianapolis was his last project, completed with his son Joseph. Fischer died at 94 in 2008.

Fischer's designs show the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright and the west coast architect Richard Neutra. With the goal that his buildings blend with the terrain, he favored open plans, flat roofs, horizontal lines, and a mix of natural and man-made materials - glass, stone, concrete, steel and plywood.

The Historic Preservation Association of Jasper County expects Garner to complete the comprehensive study and submit the three nominations for state and federal review by this fall. While not assured, designation of Halleck, Schwietermann and the Rank House should follow by fall 2015.

Fischer's work will be the focus of Indiana Landmarks' Rensselaer Moveable Feast on August 2, 2014. The event includes a self-guided driving tour of Fischer designs and dinner at the Halleck Student Center, where Kurt Garner and architect Joseph Fischer, Frank Fischer's son, will speak on the significance of modern architecture and the elder Fischer's contributions to Rensselaer and the modernist movement. Appetizer and dessert courses will take place at the National Register-nominated Parker House, owned by Dene and Mary Beth Mattocks, and the Ritz Theater, owned by Dr. Gordon and Nancy Klockow.

For more information on the Moveable Feast, contact Tiffany Tolbert of Indiana Landmarks, 219--947-2657, ttolbert@indianalandmarks.org.

Source: Indiana Landmarks Northwest Field Office