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Historic Preservation in Indiana
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Over the last half century, historic preservation has been on the rise in American cities and towns, from urban renewal and gentrification projects to painstaking restoration of Victorian homes and architectural landmarks. In this book, Nancy R. Hiller brings together individuals with distinctive styles and perspectives, to talk about their passion for preservation. They consider the meaning of place and what motivates those who work to save and care for places; the role of place in the formation of identity; the roles of individuals and organizations in preserving homes, neighborhoods, and towns; and the spiritual as well as economic benefits of preservation. Richly illustrated, Historic Preservation in Indiana is an essential book for everyone who cares about preserving the past for future generations.

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HISTORIC PRESERVATION IN INDIANA

Historic Preservation in INDIANA

ESSAYS FROM THE FIELD

Edited by Nancy R. Hiller

Photographs by Kristen Clement

an imprint of

INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS  Bloomington & Indianapolis

This book is a publication of

INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS

Office of Scholarly Publishing

Herman B Wells Library 350

1320 East 10th Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA

iupress.indiana.edu

Telephone orders 800-842-6796

Fax orders 812-855-7931

© 2013 by Indiana University Press

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses’ Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992.

Manufactured in the

United States of America

Library of Congress

Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Historic Preservation in Indiana : essays

from the field / edited by Nancy R. Hiller;

photographs by Kristen Clement.

pages cm.–

Includes bibliographical references

ISBN 978-0-253-01046-9 – (paperback :

alkaline paper) – ISBN 978-0-253-01067-4

(ebook) 1. Historic preservation –

Indiana. 2. Historic buildings –

Conservation and restoration – Indiana.

I. Hiller, Nancy R., editor.

2013008453

1  2  3  4  5  18  17  16  15  14  13

There’s an actual relationship, when you go into a building that’s very beautiful, and it’s awe-inspiring, and it’s uplifting…. It elevates the soul.

FATHER MICHAEL WALKER,

Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church, Indianapolis

Contents

FOREWORD  Duncan Campbell

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Introduction  Nancy R. Hiller

1 Historic Preservation  Henry Glassie

2 Economics and Restoration: The Story of a Neighborhood’s Rebirth  Bill Sturbaum

3 Ode to a Bungalow  Teresa Miller

4 The Old Library Debate: How Bloomington, Indiana Preserved Its Carnegie Library  Elizabeth Schlemmer

5 On Loan from the Sea  Scott Russell Sanders

6 Industrial Muncie  Cynthia Brubaker

7 Preservation as Good Business  Gayle Karch Cook

8 Passing Through: Historic Preservation in Pike County’s Patoka Bottoms  Edith Sarra

9 Where’s the Porch? and Other Intersections between Archaeology and Historic Preservation  Cheryl Ann Munson

10 Preservation in Our Parks: A Natural Fit  Vicki Basman and Benjamin Clark

11 Bloomington Restorations: Saving Landmarks, Neighborhoods, and Bloomington’s Sense of Place  Donald Granbois and Steve Wyatt

12 Guinea Hens in the Churchyard: Signposts of Maple Grove Road  Lauren Coleman

13 No Place Like Home: Preservation, the Past, and Personal Identity  David Brent Johnson

BIBLIOGRAPHY

CONTRIBUTORS

Foreword

Duncan Campbell

I have always been struck by the passion and fervor of historic preservationists and environmental activists. They have a thirst, an appetite for their respective causes that sustains their advocacy and fuels their zeal. This is as it should be. After all, there is a lot at stake: cut down a Sequoia or tear down Penn Station and they are gone forever. There is little room for compromise among combatants and lots of room for disappointment and anger when your cause is lost. The prize is the nation’s real estate, and there is precious little of it left to go around.

Of course there are many important causes, each with its champions. Elections, business deals, and even sporting events can also involve high stakes, and their respective advocates, whether campaign workers, CEOs, or soccer fans can be just as fervent. In contrast, though – and this is not to suggest that these other activities don’t matter – there will always be another election, another business opportunity, and another game: an opportunity to even the score, tweak the market, field another team. There will never be another Penn Station or stand of Sequoias.

What distinguishes environmental and historic preservation advocates from other activists is that the threats they battle have irrevocable results. A highway cut or razed building can be absorbed emotionally, but the place will never be the same. The tree-hugger and the building-hugger understand this, and though not everyone agrees that protecting a landmark and defending a forest are quite the same thing, each proponent in his or her own way is fighting the same battle: the battle for place. When I ask students why they want to study historic preservation, or what first motivated them toward an interest in historic sites, invariably their responses describe a meaningful experience of a place: a grandparent’s house, a trip to Williamsburg, a favorite neighborhood. Natural resources students convey similar experiences: a first glimpse of Yosemite, camping in a national forest, a trail construction stint in a state park. Both say they have experienced the loss of a place meaningful to them.

My own path to historic preservation was circuitous, and perhaps not typical, but my motivation to protect both the natural and built environments is predicated on a respect for the importance of place that was constructed from a childhood enjoyment of nature, trips to historic sites, reading history, old house carpentry, a preservation graduate degree, consultant and advocacy work, and a stint as a university professor – overall, a lot of time observing, caring for, studying, and just being in the presence of irreplaceable places. Coupled to this is another aspect of my own character that I see shared by other preservers: a desire to do right, to defend places of value. For many, and I have witnessed it among students as well as more seasoned preservation believers, it is an ethical commitment consistent with a closely held sense of right and wrong. Protecting and saving meaningful places is the right thing to do.

The defense of special and historic places, whether wild natural landscapes or our most meaningful constructions, is challenging on several fronts. In both arenas choices are complex and undertakings can be long and arduous, often taking many years; in a real sense, the job is never done. As a consequence, we commonly refer to environmental or preservation advocacy as movements, ideas whose manifestations persist over several generations, engage high stakes battles, and command from their followers a shared sense of what is right. But what makes this possible? What is the ingredient that enables an idea about protecting place to be important enough to sustain itself as a movement, to engender passion in its advocates?

I suggest that we are the ultimate beneficiaries of saving meaningful places. We do it for ourselves, our communities, our fellow human beings. People experience place. We get something in return for being in meaningful places, something I think of as sustenance, though it may be closer to redemption. I believe John Muir, the naturalist, thought of it as salvation.

In the fall of 2009, filmmakers David Duncan and Ken Burns aired the public television series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which conveyed in their pioneering style the developmental history of our national park system. In the telling, the eloquence and fervor of naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir emerged as a key part of the story, revealing – perhaps for the first time to many viewers – the important advocacy role that Muir assumed in motivating President Theodore Roosevelt to establish our system of national parks.

Environmentalists, of course, have long cherished John Muir’s capacity for rapture in the presence of wild places, and his moving essays recounting his own explorations are well known. Perhaps less well known is his emotional defense of the wilderness. I encountered his writing in my twenties, while living in California and having the occasion to hike and camp in the Sierra Range, and I credit him as one who helped motivate me toward my eventual career in historic preservation, even though, to my recollection, he never mentions it by name. Many years later, reading his letters, I discovered his familiar quote, Nothing dollarable is safe, however guarded.

The letter in which the quote appears was written by Muir, then president of the Sierra Club, advocating for the protection of Hetch-Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park against the proposal to flood the valley for San Francisco’s water supply – a campaign he ultimately lost, but that remarkably continues today as advocates conduct feasibility studies for the removal of the reservoir. Brought back to the public’s attention by Ken Burns in the PBS special, Muir’s comment is credited both to a letter to the 1908 Governors’ Conference on Conservation, and to a memorandum to J. Horace McFarland, president of the American Civic Association. The letter was subsequently read into the Congressional Record at hearings held before the committee on the Public Lands of the House of Representatives in December 1908.

When the PBS presentation was initially broadcast, an interviewer asked Burns, appropriately, what he considered John Muir’s greatest contribution. I have never forgotten his response: He taught us that we don’t save these places, these places save us.

At a time when protecting the natural environment and the built environment can occasion conflict between their respective advocates, it is important to recognize the commonalities in both efforts, as well as the benefits that result from the defense of both the natural and built environments. It is not, to my mind, a choice between one or the other. If we require, as Muir believed, a regular dose of nature in all her resplendence for our spiritual well being – these places save us – I would argue that we derive much the same benefit from our ancestral gifts, historic places. There are no man-made historic places as ancient as the Grand Canyon, although there are certainly historic places that are as uplifting. Comparisons of place will always be subjective, and each will have its own devotees. But saving places should not be a contest between places; it is a contest between right and wrong – all meaningful places need to be protected.¹

Let me put John Muir’s quote in the context of his original letter: Nothing dollarable is safe, however guarded. Thus the Yosemite Park, the beauty glory of California and the Nation, Nature’s own mountain wonderland, has been attacked by spoilers ever since it was established, and this strife I suppose, must go on as part of the eternal battle between right and wrong.

If Muir’s lesson is that the best places in nature are necessary for our well-being, then it follows that to advocate for their preservation is to advocate for our own. I have to think the same is true for saving historic places. We need these places to fully experience our humanness. An understanding, even an exposure to the ancestral past, is a condition for being in the present, and for molding the future. Preservation rhetoric is replete with references to community and the benefits to communities derived from saving neighborhoods. Jane Jacobs championed this notion, and no one has successfully refuted it. It is right to protect human communities, and wrong not to.

There is, I acknowledge, the problem of choosing to protect the places that mean the most for the greatest number, which best serve the public good, ultimately a political consideration – another reason to vote. And historic preservationists have come to learn that most preservation happens locally, where citizens are best equipped to make those choices. It comes down to determining who is going to make the decisions, who will represent our political will; and in a country where private ownership of land, the profit-taking exploitation of resources, natural or otherwise, and personal wealth are the preferred qualifications for political empowerment, making those choices can be daunting. Complex issues surround the meaning of place, issues that condition the delicate balance between the right and wrong choices, choices often prejudiced by economic opportunity, however benign.

Muir’s insight, however, can be the advocate’s guide: Nothing dollarable is safe, however guarded. Protect those places that sustain you, that lift your spirit, that you need. Today’s worthless wilderness or depressed neighborhood is tomorrow’s exploited resource. Protect them even if you consider them safe, because sometime soon, the spoilers will want your place for themselves.

NOTE

1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=awxFgkuI8cMI. Interview with Zinta Lundborg, September 23, 2009.

Acknowledgments

Many people have worked to turn the idea for this book into reality. First among them is our sponsoring editor at the Indiana University Press, Linda Oblack, who championed the proposal and saw it through to contract. Linda’s assistant at the press, Sarah Jacobi, and project editor Nancy Lightfoot have also been unfailingly patient and helpful.

Others who have made contributions, whether direct or indirect, are Lee and Eric Sandweiss, Nancy Hiestand, Evelyn Perry, Daniel O’Grady, Guy Loftman, Bruce Tone, Cem Basman, Fritz Lieber, James Madison, Barbara Cummings, David Tarrence, Tommy Kleckner, Marsh Davis, Tina Connor, Kara Vetter, Megan Worrell-Smith, Michael Galimore, Michael Szajewski, John Straw, David Garner, Pravina Shukla, and Kathryn Lofton. I am grateful to Bridget Edwards, Mary Krupinski, and Devin Blankenship for seriously considering contributing to this volume, even though circumstances kept each of them from doing so. Jonas Longacre has provided invaluable technical assistance.

My gratitude goes to those who have contributed essays, as well as to Duncan Campbell, who crystallized his thoughts on a life devoted to preservation in his foreword. Duncan and my dear friend Edith Sarra made constructive suggestions that improved my introduction. Matthew Clement and Mark Longacre have been extraordinarily patient throughout this volume’s preparation.

My special thanks go to Kristen Clement, who has graced this volume with her remarkable eye for beauty and shared with me, during our collaboration, her deep capacity for joy.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION IN INDIANA

Preserve. From late Latin praeservare, formed from prae + servare to keep, protect. 1. Transitive: To keep safe from harm or injury; to take care of, guard. 2. To keep alive (arch.); to keep from decay, make lasting.

OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

Introduction

Nancy R. Hiller

Turkeys are a common sight in the fields surrounding the Monroe County Airport near Bloomington, Indiana. But out of the hundreds I’ve spotted over the years, there is one I will never forget. It was an autumn day in 2008 when this particular turkey caught my eye. Ten feet off the asphalt, it lay breast-up in the corn stubble, clad in a white plastic wrapper.

Damn it, Josh. I told you we were going vegetarian, I could just hear some young wife shouting. I can’t believe you went and bought a turkey. I pictured her slamming on the brakes, running to the back of the car, and heaving the fat round package into the field.

Twice a day for several weeks I passed the package on my way to and from work. Perhaps I should have removed it, if only to get the plastic out of the field. But I could not bear the thought of touching it. Instead I watched in horrified fascination as the wrapper slowly inflated. Eventually it burst, and the maggots began their feast.

In less than a fortnight there was nothing left but a scrap of mangled packaging. The turkey, unable to fly in life, had finally taken wing.

NATURE

Some may see in this image of the vacuum-packed turkey amid corn stubble a symbol of historic preservation, insofar as it represents an attempt to save an object from damage or even destruction while natural progress continues all around. It’s certainly true that preservation at its most basic has something in common with the plastic wrapper, aiming, as it does, to stop, or at least slow, decomposition. Let mice nest in a wall, and the organic byproducts of their domestic arrangement will rot your building’s timbers. Ignore the tendrils of a vine peeping out from your roof, and you’ve allowed a pioneer to bushwhack a path for settlers – beetles, molds, and fungi – as surely as eighteenth-century European traders cleared the way for Ma, Pa, and the kids to venture westward in horse-drawn wagons.

But does it follow that preservation is somehow antithetical to nature, which is ever changing? Of course not. All life forms engage in preservation, both of themselves – of ourselves – and of the environment on which their life depends. Bark, skin, and shells are the first line of defense against pathogens; cilia in lungs and macrophages in blood work with other mechanisms to handle intruders that breach these bounds. Buildings have their own versions of skin and exoskeleton, along with their own forms of everyday preservation: siding and shingles, stains and paints, aluminum and copper flashing are all barriers against the sun and water that invite house-eating organisms in. When these protections fail, we take on the work of cilium and macrophage, removing intruders, and then repairing any damage they may have done.

Still, what we call illness or decay is nature’s way of shuffling the deck to create new life, and it’s a force we are ultimately powerless to resist. All buildings, all bodies, will someday revert to the ground from which they came. Does this impermanence rob history of its significance? Certainly not at the level of human experience. In fact, it constitutes the very condition for historicity. To be historic is the opposite of standing still, of remaining unchanged over time. It is instead to have a story – a story that extends beyond the present, and even beyond individual memory, to encompass the labor and the materials invested in our bodies, our buildings, and our landscapes by those who came before us. In fact, we exercise a dangerous selectivity when we exclude from our histories the very earth, air, water, and sun of which all is made, as Scott Russell Sanders suggests in his essay On Loan from the Sea in this volume.

ROMANCE, AND OTHER MEANS OF DESTRUCTION

But natural decay is just one of the threats facing old buildings and historic places. The preservation movement was founded in response to more aggressive forces than dry rot and termites: the wrecking ball and bulldozer in the developer’s pay.

Some people think buildings should be preserved just because they’re old, said a realtor while showing me a house in the mid-1990s. But houses have lifetimes, just like people, and this one is nearing its end. That was my first encounter with the vacuum-packed-turkey take on historic preservation. At the time, I found my realtor’s statement jarring for its combination of no-nonsense certitude and patent absurdity. The house in question was in reasonable structural condition and scarcely 70 years old, whereas some of my friends from high school in England lived in seventeenth-century cottages. The realtor’s view expressed more than an ideology of continual progress; it implicitly denied the value of much that makes life worth living yet resists commodification. Those who think buildings should be preserved just because they’re old are romantics, unwilling to face reality.

I cite the realtor’s comment because it prompts the ultimate question for those engaged in historic preservation: Why bother?

Some preservers justify their work, at least in public, by invoking its instrumental value. A recent example is the role of historic preservation in green building, which demonstrates the superior sustainability of using existing structures rather than demolishing them and building new. Arguments invoking embodied energy and the irreplaceability of prized materials such as old-growth lumber have become increasingly sophisticated since the U.S. energy crisis of the 1970s. While compelling and widely embraced, the green rationale, being primarily instrumental, is limited in its ability to offer protection; what happens to your beloved old building if someone comes along with a plan to replace it at a net savings in carbon emissions over the next hundred years? Just as important, the green building rationale fails utterly to account for what motivates preservationists. What fills them with the passion and fervor that Duncan Campbell describes in his foreword, sustaining them through battles sometimes years long, in the course of which victory may repeatedly appear all but beyond their reach?

The most popular instrumental justification claims that historic preservation promotes economic development. And so it does, as the essays in this volume by Gayle Cook and Bill Sturbaum show. Yet however useful it may be for obtaining funds and motivating involvement by government or business, this justification, too, is ultimately inadequate, because it fails to explain the appeal of old places to those who sign costly leases for high-ceilinged apartments in Victorian mansions, or who lunch at sidewalk tables admiring the patchwork of century-old buildings on a restored Midwestern square. Just what is it that makes historic preservation good for economic development? Why do people love old buildings and old places?

PLACE AS CONSTITUENT OF IDENTITY

The most satisfying justifications for preserving things and places are existential, and therefore also personal, which goes some way toward explaining why they are eschewed by those who work in realms where instrumental conceptions of value reign supreme. In such circles – and they’re the ones where money and other forms of influence typically aggregate – to venture beyond instrumental reasoning is at best to risk derision and at worst to sacrifice one’s career.

This is unfortunate, for many reasons. Let’s begin with the most basic: the