In recognition of decades spent advocating for Indiana’s historic buildings, Tim Shelly of Elkhart is the recipient of Indiana Landmarks’ 2022 Williamson Prize for outstanding leadership in historic preservation.
“Tim leads by example, championing not only preservation and philanthropy in his own community but at the state and national level, as well,” says Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “He truly embodies the tenets of the Williamson Prize.”
Tim and his wife, Meg, moved to Elkhart in 1985 after he accepted a job in the law firm Warrick and Boyn, where today he is a partner. They practiced renovation on a historic “starter home” before taking on an 1874 Neoclassical mansion just around the corner in 1992. The property is best known as the former home of Colonel Charles G. Conn, whose Conn Instrument Company once held status as the world’s largest manufacturer of band instruments. With an appreciation for the house’s sound “bones,” the Shellys began restoring the mansion’s original features, undoing years of disrepair to adapt it as a home for them and their two sons.
In 1989, Tim joined the Elkhart Historic and Cultural Preservation Commission, where he helped advocate for thoughtful development in the city’s State-Division Street Historic District. His work on the preservation commission acquainted him with Indiana Landmarks, which provided professional preservation services to the group. Eventually, Tim shared his own preservation expertise as part of Indiana Landmarks’ Northern Regional Advisory Council and on the organization’s board of directors, including a term as board chair in 2013-2014. He also served on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Board of Advisors.
The Shellys’ hands-on involvement helped save two endangered sites in Lawrenceburg and Waveland. When the city of Lawrenceburg began tearing down vacant buildings in the ‘90s, Indiana Landmarks purchased and pledged to restore 14 buildings in the National Register-listed historic district. Tim and Meg supported the effort by buying and restoring a rowhouse for use by a family member.
Another family connection led the Shellys to a more personal preservation project, this time in western Indiana, where they helped save the boyhood home of painter T.C. Steele. From 1852 to 1870, painter Theodore Clement Steele lived with his family in a Greek Revival-style cottage in Waveland, where he began to develop his craft. More than a century later, deterioration and a proposed highway threatened the cottage. After local efforts to save the property foundered, Indiana Landmarks began restoring the exterior of the house in hopes of attracting someone who would finish the interior.
A distant Steele relative, Tim proved to be the perfect partner for the project. The Shellys bought the property and worked with local businesses and contractors to restore it as a retreat for artists. They also sponsor field trips to the site for local elementary school students to learn about the artist’s beginnings.
“I think it’s important for young people to understand you don’t have to live in Chicago or New York or Indianapolis to do important things,” says Tim. “This nationally renowned artist started in this little town of Waveland.”
Tim will be honored as part of Indiana Landmarks’ annual meeting in Indianapolis on September 10.
Mindi Woolman, Indiana Landmarks, 317-639-4534, 317-417-1204 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Williamson Prize:
In naming this individual award, Indiana Landmarks honors the impactful career of J. Reid Williamson, Jr., president of Indiana Landmarks from 1973 to 2005. A change agent for the organization and the state, Reid Williamson advanced the preservation movement by stressing the importance of local preservation organizations and by using restoration as a tool to revitalize entire neighborhoods and towns. Under his leadership, Indiana Landmarks created regional offices to serve the entire state, and grew in membership, staff and endowment. The Williamson Prize includes a $1,000 cash award and the Williamson Prize sculpture by Evansville artist John McNaughton.
Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to our 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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