I took a trip up north Saturday to Franklin, Indiana. It’s a town of about 24,000 just south of Indianapolis. The occasion for the trip was the Preservation Roundup and Idea Exchange sponsored by the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA). About forty preservationist from all over the state gathered to discuss successes and challenges.
I’d never been to Franklin. It was charming. Like many Indiana towns, it has a town square with a city court house in center. It has recently been restored. The details were impressive.
We met at the Artcraft Theatre, which is currently being renovated by the local preservation non-profit Franklin Heritage, Inc. Rob Shilts, Executive Director, was very proud to show off their most recent acquisition. A capital campaign to raise $500,000 to complete restoration is expected to end successfully next week. Franklin Heritage has also purchased, restored and resold seven historic homes.
What did I take away from the visit? New Albany desperately needs a local preservation organization with an emphasis on our vast housing stock. Many structures are at risk and being lost. Thousands of tax dollars are spent to demolish instead of preserving.
I believe that it will take an assertive non-profit to intervene and break the cycle of ambivilance that is perpetuated in New Albany. The Southern Regional office of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana has had success here in facilitating home restorations, but their fourteen county area of responsibility means they can not focus only on New Albany.
We need focused advocacy, education and bricks and mortar work full-time. If Franklin can do seven homes, we should be able to do fifty seven. I feel strongly enough about this need that I've recently purchased the domain name of PreserveNewAlbany.org. Do you like the name Preserve New Albany? Feel free to toss out other suggestions.