INDIANAPOLIS (July 30, 2020) – Lebanon Eagle Scout Reece Thompson and Evansville history teacher Jon Carl have won Indiana Landmarks’ 2020 Sandi Servaas Memorial Awards, recognizing outstanding achievement in preservation.
As a high school sophomore in 2016, Thompson was looking to for an Eagle Scout project when he recalled a local newspaper article about the Thorntown Colored Cemetery, an 1836 African American cemetery that had virtually disappeared due to neglect.
Working with cemetery trustees and local leaders, Thompson developed a preservation plan, collecting donations, securing permits and a corporate sponsor, writing grants, rallying volunteers to help repair headstones and forming the Colored Cemetery Committee. Though only four headstones remained, records suggested 27 people were buried on the cemetery grounds. Thompson partnered with Ball State University on a ground-penetrating radar study to search for buried headstones and artifacts. The study revealed 48 gravesites.
Though he completed his Eagle Scout project by September 2017, Reece realized the cemetery merited larger attention and took extra steps to further its preservation. He helped secure a $16,000 Indiana Historical Society Heritage Support grant and led the group in surveying the cemetery’s boundaries, erecting a decorative fence, and securing the Indiana Historical Marker. For the site’s dedication in August 2019, Thompson located and invited descendants of those buried in the cemetery to attend as guests of honor.
“Reece’s recognition of the importance of Thorntown Colored Cemetery and his subsequent work to restore it is impressive,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “Reece drew attention to the people buried there and helped make sure they will be remembered.”
In Evansville, Carl has inspired hundreds of Reitz High School history students to create more than 75 video documentaries about historic structures in the city.
With Carl’s encouragement, students have researched and created videos that delve into the history, architecture, condition and use of Evansville’s endangered and repurposed landmarks, such as the city’s Greyhound Station. Local PBS affiliate WNIN considered the video essays of high-enough quality to air on the station, and community groups have utilized them in raising money for such local landmarks as the Owen Block and Old Vanderburgh County Courthouse. The classes also created walking tour booklets of local historic districts, including a guide to the Riverside Historic District with QR codes that take users to mini-video histories of buildings they pass by.
An Evansville native, Carl recalls being devastated as a 13-year-old by the demolition of the city’s 1902 Romanesque Revival-style L&N Railroad Depot in 1985. As a field surveyor in the ’90s documenting the county’s historic structures, he gained deeper appreciation for local landmarks and architecture.
“Jon is instilling an awareness of Evansville’s history in students at a very impressionable phase of their lives,” said Indiana Landmarks Board Member Jim Renne, who nominated Carl for the award. “The outstanding success of his work may not manifest itself for several decades, but he is inculcating a fundamental appreciation for our built heritage from which all preservation efforts flow.”
Servaas Award winners receive $1,000 and the original sculpture “No Doors to Lock Out the Past” by Evansville sculptor John McNaughton.
Media contact: Mindi Woolman, 317-639-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Indiana Landmarks
Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to heritage, and saves meaningful places. With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns. People who join Indiana Landmarks receive its bimonthly magazine, Indiana Preservation. For more information on the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit www.indianalandmarks.org.
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