HPS recognized for historic district listings
Having reached a historic preservation goal achieved by only one other Indiana county, the Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County was recently honored with the Indiana Historic Preservation Award.
Presented by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, the award particularly honors the efforts by HPS to get all districts in the county which are eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places actually recognized by the National Register.
“This has only been done one other time in the history of our office,” Assistant Director of Preservation Services Paul Diebold said. “Kosciusko County accomplished this in the mid-1990s. So you’re in rare company to be able to do this.”
For Putnam County, this means that between 2011 and 2020, districts added included the Cloverdale, Bainbridge, Russellville and Roachdale historic districts, as well as Northwood, Eastern Enlargement and Old Greencastle.
“These districts include a total of 856 historic properties, which is a pretty good total,” Diebold said. “The owners of these are now able to apply for historic preservation programs that assist in rehabilitations. These include matching grants for towns and non-profits, federal tax credits for businesses and tax credits for homeowners.”
HPS President Phil Gick also deflected some of the praise back to Diebold and his division for helping to guide the effort, as the first time the two men met, Diebold drove each street of some of the districts, advising Gick on what was and was not eligible.
“The actual shape of those districts was informed by Paul taking the time to go through them,” Gick said. “They will come out and help you make sure you make qualified nominations so that you’ll have success.”
Though he knew HPS was receiving an award, Gick was previously unaware of the county’s rarified company in listing all districts.
“I didn’t realize we were only the second county to have done that,” Gick said. “There were two other districts in the survey in 1984, but they have had too much attrition and just aren’t viable as historic districts anymore. That’s the reason to get them listed and the reason for communities to get invested in them. Even though you get them listed, doesn’t mean they can’t have significant erosion. I guess it is possible to get de-listed if you had enough erosion. It’s a constant thing. You can’t rest on your laurels.”
Of course, listing districts hasn’t been the only activity for HPS in recent years, as the organization has been actively involved in such preservation efforts as restoring, replacing and modernizing the Putnam County Courthouse clock — while adding a second face to the north side of the structure — as well as the rather large undertaking of restoring the Forest Hill Cemetery Civil War Monument, which Diebold noted as one of the earliest of its kind.
HPS has been the recipient of a pair of preservation grants through the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, one in 2010 to assist with the efforts to nominate all districts and another in 2016 to help with monument restoration.
“We were able to get the funding for the monument because we also got the cemetery listed beforehand because we knew we may need that funding,” Gick said.
Greencastle Mayor Bill Dory, in attendance for the presentation, noted, “It’s been a great team effort.”
“I’ll use the Civil War Monument as an example: No one entity in a community of our size is going to make something happen,” Gick said. “It takes pulling together the various organizations and entities and individuals. It can happen.
“It takes time,” he added. “Nothing in preservation happens over night in my experience.”
“You guys are a model other counties can emulate,” Diebold said.
Gick told the Banner Graphic the award ultimately encompassed a lot of efforts over a long period.
“I think it’s a recognition of a lot of work by a lot of folks over a lot of years,” Gick said.
He noted that local residents have other choices of places to live, but the choose Putnam County. As someone who grew up here, spent his military career away, and then returned, Gick believes the setting is one of the reasons.
“Let’s face it, we’re blessed — some people might say cursed — with a lot of historic structures in this county,” Gick said. “Sometimes it’s almost by accident that they’re still around. But they’re not going to stay around through an accident. It’s going to take some conscious effort by an individual or a community.
“My motivation has been to try and preserve not just the structures, but the quality of life, the setting, for not only myself but others in the community,” he added.
Gick noted that HPS was founded in 1977 and has had ups and downs over the years. When he returned to Putnam County and joined in 2007, it was just reconstituting.
At that time, the organization had about $10,000 in the bank and no endowment.
“Not only have we done the listings in that time, but we’ve done restorations like the Civil War Monument and we also have more than $100,000 at the Putnam County Community Foundation over that time in addition to raising money to make these listings and do those preservation efforts,” Gick said.