Chesterton Tribune

Local historians learn about Indiana landmarks

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One of Duneland’s public facilities is on the endangered list of significant historic properties.

The Porter Town Hall is on that list designated by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, said Jeremy Risen, a representative of the foundation, when he recently addressed members of the Westchester Historical Society at the Library Service Center.

Risen took local residents on a tour, via slide presentation, to Indiana’s significant historical facilities, showing his audience how some buildings thought to be unrepairable can be rejuvenated. Appreciative “oohs” and “ahs” of local residents made it clear they liked what they saw of the dramatic changes in the before and after scenes shown in the slides.

“Before and after pictures are good tools of preservationists,” Risen said.

Some of these historic buildings had to be moved in order to save them. Fortunately, grants were provided to help those willing to preserve history. The color photos showed even two story brick buildings can be rolled down the road.

One of the Century of Progress Homes at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, must be relocated in order to be preserved. The house made of steel must be moved before it is renovated, Risen said.

Speaking of the houses at the Lakeshore, Risen showed pictures of the four homes slated for preservation.

“The House of Tomorrow is no longer on the endangered list,” Risen proudly said, adding that it is currently slated for renovation. The Florida House is already under reconstruction.

“Letters of intent have been signed for all four homes,” he said showing the locally famous homes as he spoke.

The Frank Lloyd Wright home on Sixth Ave. and Fillmore Street in Gary was shown in its current disrepair, but will be saved and offered as a rental property when restoration is complete, he said, adding that Frank’s son John Lloyd Wright designed a number of houses still standing in Long Beach and Michigan City.

His tour of historic sights was extensive, reaching all parts of the state.

“How many of you ever stayed at West Baden Springs in French Lick?” Risen asked. Several raised their hands, and gasped when they saw the major improvements that have been made there.

The famous resort, once a playground for the rich, is currently only used for tours. It is being restored by Bill and Gayle Cook who will put it up for sale.

“No doubt it will be used for a convention center,” Risen said.

The Studebaker Mansion, called Tippecanoe Place, in South Bend is one of the spectacular homes on the historical list. The Auburn Dusenberg Factory soon will be on the register he said.

To be on the National Register of Historic Places, the place must be significant to American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and/or culture. Indiana’s list is extensive - more than 1,000 sites and over 150 historic districts, he said. The list includes the prehistoric Angel Mounds and the twentieth-century Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He surprised many in the audience when he dispelled a common misconception that restrictions are placed on an owner whose place is on the National Register.

“There are no restrictions on what you as a private owner can do with or to your national Register property, providing you are not using federal or state money to do it. Any restriction on what you can do with or to your privately owned property come from local or city ordinances, not from the Register,” he explained.

“The house only needs to be 50 years or older and the original integrity in tact to be considered to be listed as a Historic House,” he said.

Since 1976, federal and state governments have been encouraging residents to preserve historic structures by offering tax credits as incentives. Check with the foundation for more information.

The National Historical Landmark designation is more restrictive when it comes to renovation. For example, the original windows, doors, and fascia must remain. Grants are available for feasibility studies, he said.

For further information, please contact Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana Headquarters at 1-800-450-4534, or the Northern regional Office at 219-232-4534.