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October 20, 2018 - upcoming

How to get teens to care about historic buildings

This unassuming, unused 19th-century building in Ferdinand, Ind., is the subject of a project by a pair of high school students who traced its history and proposed a number of ways in which it could be repurposed for modern use.

A former grocery store built in 1870 in the town of Ferdinand in Dubois County is, to say the least, unimpressive looking.

The three-story structure on Main Street has few distinctive features other than a blue awning out front. It has stood vacant for more than a decade following a series of retail and commercial uses, and its weathered exterior conveys the long period of neglect. In addition to serving as a grocery store, over the years the structure has housed a fertilizer and lawn mower business and an express lube oil change service.

Even so, two students at Forest Park High School chose the 19th century building, one of the oldest in Ferdinand, as the structure they would most like to see creatively re-used. In a video and an essay, the teens trace the history of the building back to its construction; the lot it is located on was initially owned by the Catholic priest who founded the town.

The teens envision a range of ideas for creatively repurposing the former grocery, including converting it into a café. Another of their ideas reimagines it as a town hall housing the mayor's office and a museum about Ferdinand's heritage.

Melissa Martin, managing director of Great Towns Inc., an Indianapolis-based non-profit, put together the competition at the high school in order to generate enthusiasm for historic preservation among teenagers. The contest was a pilot project Melissa hopes to replicate in towns across the state.

To share advice about how to spark interest among young people in historic buildings, Melissa will join Nelson as a studio guest. So will Brent Mather, an Indianapolis-based architect and architectural historian. As a principal with R&B Architects, he works with developers in small communities across the state, including projects focusing on adaptive reuse and historic preservation.

Teens often are apathetic about old buildings that may have seen their glory days unfold generations ago. To some young people, a historic distinction can seem irrelevant.

"But if there is an emotional connection," Melissa says, "all of a sudden a place can take on new significance."

 

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- G.B. Landrigan, Realtor, Certified Residential Specialist 
August 2018

 

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- Mark Dill, owner, FirstSuperSpeedway.com
July 2018

 

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If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Hoosier History Live, click here or call Molly Head at (317) 927-9101 for more info.

What people are saying about Hoosier History Live

"Hoosier History Live does more to promote Indiana history than does any single source."

Andrea Neal, Indianapolis author and educator

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James Still, playwright in residence, Indiana Repertory Theatre

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DT Wong Consulting, LLC
Former Lilly research scientist who developed Prozac

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Ken Burns, speaking at a preview of his film "The War" at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, April 18, 2007

 

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