I Miss Historic Places

In a world consumed by the fears and changes hefted upon us by COVID-19, we crave the comfort and community offered by historic places.

Amack's Well Coffee House, Batesville

Comfort and Community

By Jarrad Holbrook, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Southeast Field Office

As we slowly begin to emerge from quarantine, I have a confession. I miss Amack’s Well. There, I said it.

Missing Batesville’s gem of a coffeehouse and social hub may seem trivial in a world consumed by the fears and changes hefted upon us by COVID-19, but the comfort and community of places like Amack’s Well are the very thing we crave in times of crisis. In a world where we are barraged with phrases like “uncertain times” ad nauseum, I know a lot of people would love to post up in that cozy space and relax for a while with a hot cup of coffee.

Amack's Well, BatesvilleMaking the responsible decision to stay home when we can to curb the spread of the coronavirus has been tough on so many of us for so many different reasons. We miss our friends, our families, the daily and weekly routines that all keep up grounded.

Speaking of being grounded, non-essential travel is out for now and travel is one of my absolute favorite things. When I travel, there are three things I look for first and foremost: historic sites, great restaurants, and cozy coffeeshops (ice cream shops and bakeries are a close 4 and 5). These are places that give each community — big or small — its own identity. There’s no replacement for the truly unique experiences they offer. Who doesn’t love a good, “Remember the time we stopped at that little tiny cafe in XYZ? The BROWNIES!” story?

In fact, stories like that are what got me into preservation in the first place. My bachelor’s degree is in theatre, and I worked in theaters in Chicago and Denver. But when my beloved company in Denver closed in 2012, the opportunity to explore a new career suddenly presented itself. Thinking about the things I really love, I kept coming back to travel – more specifically, all the cool historic places I had been to over the years, from traditional historic sites to great restaurants and shops in historic digs.

Though I had no real training in architecture other than a super-accelerated examination of design in my “History of Costume and Décor” theatre class, I knew I liked historic buildings even if I didn’t always know details or the names of architectural styles.

I returned to college at the University of Georgia to explore art history, but a flyer promoting an “Introduction to Historic Preservation” class changed my course. Within a couple years, I graduated with my Master of Historic Preservation degree and was off to Indiana less than a month later to begin my preservation career here at Indiana Landmarks.

Back to Amack’s Well. As regional director of the Southeast Field Office in Aurora, normal workdays often involve site visits or meetings with public officials. Whenever that work takes me to Batesville, a stop at Amack’s Well is practically mandatory.

Amack's Well, BatesvilleBuilt as a hardware store in the early twentieth century, the two-story brick commercial building that houses Amack’s Well has served a number of purposes over the years. The Community Church of Greensburg and Batesville bought the property at 103 E. George Street a decade ago for use as a Batesville campus, installing worship space in the rear of the building and mothballing the front store.

The coffeehouse was always intended to be more than just a place to get a great latte. In 2014, church members hatched the idea of opening a coffeehouse in the empty storefront, envisioning it as friendly gathering space and a hub for community outreach. They formed a nonprofit and began rehabbing the historic storefront. Since opening in 2015, the group has stayed true to its goals, from hosting local school art exhibitions to supporting other community charities and organizations.

Between its focus on community engagement, stewardship of a great historic building, and genuine, friendly faces on every visit, this place is everything preservation should be.

I could list a range of solid arguments for saving old buildings – from preserving important parts of our shared community history, to rescuing high-style architectural standouts, to reducing construction waste bound for a landfill by reusing an existing structure. But Amack’s Well takes it to another level, celebrating a historic building and making it important to the community.

That’s what really great preservation does. It enhances the community. It creates buy-in. It invites people to care about buildings and what they represent. As our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation are fond of saying, this place matters.

That’s what motivates me every day, knowing that that my work isn’t just about saving old buildings – it’s about building great communities.

Oh, and if you do go by Amack’s Well eventually, grab me a large S’mores latte?

Jarrad Holbrook

Jarrad Holbrook is director of Indiana Landmarks’ Southeast Field Office. He’s spending quarantine at home in Aurora with his husband, Brad, watching British mysteries and baking — even tackling macarons, which were NOT a disaster.

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