Award Winners Embrace the Power of Places

Crawfordsville’s Lew Wallace Study and Terre Haute’s Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College use historic landmarks to build appreciation for local heritage.

After successfully listing the campus’s landmark buildings in the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has used the designation to leverage grants to rehabilitate campus landmarks including the 1913 Conservatory of Music (above). Photo courtesy Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Passing on the Preservation Gene

Preservation supporters have a special way of looking at the world around them. They appreciate the stories buildings tell about the people who designed, built, and lived in them, and they understand how landmarks enrich the places where we live, work, and play. Some take it a step further, drawing others into their passion to expand appreciation for our shared heritage.

The winners of Indiana Landmarks’ 2022 Sandi Servaas Memorial Awards—The Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society in Crawfordsville and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute—exhibit this preservation gene.

Among its many goals, the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society seeks to inspire the next generation to love history and appreciate historic architecture, using its own landmark site in Crawfordsville as a base for learning. Built in 1898, the eclectic structure originally served as a private retreat where Civil War General Lew Wallace could write and practice music, art, and invention. Today it is an equally engaging space for kids to discover architecture and the Ben-Hur author’s story.

Since 2013, the Society has hosted summer ArchiCamps for elementary and middle school students. Modeled after an award-winning curriculum developed by Indiana Landmarks, ArchiCamp encourages children to use their imaginations and powers of observation to study preservation and a sense of place.

On neighborhood walking tours and visits to local landmarks undergoing restoration, students learn about construction techniques and architectural features, and how buildings can be adapted to new purposes. Campers also participate in hands-on activities, learning about careers in history, architecture, preservation, and archaeology along the way.

“We’ve found ArchiCamp introduces young people to the community in a way that might have a lasting impact,” says Larry Paarlberg, executive director of the General Lew Wallace Study. “It helps them look critically at buildings and how they are put together and really instills a local pride of place.”

“They’re seeing preservation in action as they walk through buildings being restored,” says Amanda McGuire, associate director at the Study, who leads ArchiCamp. “They learn just because a building is old doesn’t mean it’s done.”

Near Terre Haute, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College makes historic preservation an important component in the vitality of its campus, leveraging its landmark buildings in strategic planning, fundraising, and tourism efforts. In 2009, the liberal arts college’s President Dottie L. King, Ph.D., consulted with staff from the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology and Indiana Landmarks on the implications of listing the college in the National Register of Historic Places.

Aided by grants from Indiana Landmarks’ Partners in Preservation program, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Sisters of Providence nominated the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District—encompassing 131 acres and 66 structures built between 1844 and 1969—to the National Register. The successful listing in 2017 inspired the groups to promote the historic campus via talks, tours, and an exhibit at Terre Haute’s Swope Art Museum. They also created a website and walking tour brochure highlighting the historic district, including its rich collection of buildings designed by the notable architectural firm D.A. Bohlen and Sons.

“By discovering what treasures these buildings are, we’ve been able to weave individual building stories into fundraising efforts, making once inhibitive renovations part of strategic planning that restores function to underutilized spaces,” says President King. “We want to invite people to the Woods as we refurbish these buildings.”

The historic district’s National Register status allowed Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College to apply for grants from the federal Historic Preservation Fund for rehabilitation projects, including the campus’s iconic entrance gate and gatehouse, and the 1913 Conservatory of Music. Work is also underway at Le Fer Residence Hall and the campus auditorium and library.

“At a time when other colleges in Indiana have chosen to demolish historic campus buildings, it is impressive to see a small college with such a commitment to historic preservation,” says Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks.

Established in 1976, the Sandi Servaas Memorial Award honors the dynamic spirit and contributions of former Indiana Landmarks staffer Sandi Servaas, who was working to raise public awareness and support for preservation at her untimely death in 1975. As winners of the youth-serving category, The Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society receives a check for $1,000. Organizational winner Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College receives $2,000. Both organizations will receive the original sculpture “No Doors to Lock Out the Past” by Evansville sculptor John McNaughton at Indiana Landmarks’ annual meeting on September 10.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Indiana Preservation, Indiana Landmarks’ member magazine.

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