Monday, May 5, 2014

Celebrating Historic Preservation Month

by Jill Downs

A flip of the calendar to the month of May tells us it’s the start of Preservation Month.  Started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1973, Preservation Month seeks to bring awareness to the work being done across the country to preserve those buildings, sites, structures, districts, and objects significant to the history and development of our nation. 

The focus is not just on historic preservation that has  national significance, such as the current rehabilitation of the New York State Pavilion from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, but also on those at the state and local levels as well.  In Indiana, for example, we can point to the preservation of the West Baden Hotel, the Lanier Mansion, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Gronauer Lock . 

Fort Wayne can point to examples such as the Embassy Theatre, the Goodrich Silvertown (VanGilder & Trzyznka) building, the Chief Richardville House, and numerous other significant, but less well-known preservation projects throughout the city.  

Although it’s nice to be able to focus on the successes, Preservation Month also reminds us that there is still a lot of work to be done.  Preservation requires the collaboration and coordination of organizations and volunteers.  Preservation requires educating the public about the importance of saving historic places and the need to train people in skills necessary to maintain and preserve older structures.  

There are many ways in which you can celebrate Preservation Month.  Locally, ARCH will be presenting a lecture on the architecture of Allen County and workshops on repairing historic porches and small carpentry repairs, and the History Center will be hosting a lecture on Fort Wayne industrialist John H. Bass.  

The Chief Richardville House, May 3, 2014

The Chief Richardville House became a National Historic Landmark in 2012

A good way to celebrate Preservation Month is just to take a walk outside.  Take note of architectural details of houses and buildings, appreciate designed landscapes such as Lindenwood Cemetery and the Brookview neighborhood along West State Boulevard, or stand on the historic Wells Street Bridge overlooking the St. Mary’s River.  After you’ve celebrated, build on what you’ve learned and continue to support the cause for the rest of the year.

Jill Downs has a graduate degree in Historic Preservation from Ball State University.  She previously worked as the Preservation Specialist for the West Central Neighborhood Association, and is a past member of the ARCH, Inc. Board of Directors and City of Fort Wayne Historic Preservation Commission.  She currently works as a preservation consultant writing nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and researching the histories of old houses.  Her website is

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