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Crawfordsville museum honored for inspiring kids’ camps

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The Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society in Crawfordsville and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute have won Indiana Landmarks’ 2022 Sandi Servaas Memorial Awards, recognizing outstanding achievement in historic preservation.

To inspire a love of history and deepen appreciation of historic architecture in the next generation, the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society has hosted summer ArchiCamps for elementary and middle school students, since 2013. Modeled after an award-winning curriculum developed by Indiana Landmarks, ArchiCamp encourages children to use their imaginations and powers of observation, beginning at the camp’s home base: the 1898 study built for Civil War General Lew Wallace. A National Historic Landmark, the study provided a respite for Wallace to practice his music, art and inventing and today is an equally engaging space for campers to discover architecture and Wallace’s story.

Through neighborhood walking tours and visits to local landmarks undergoing restoration, students learn about building techniques and architectural features, as well as how buildings can be adapted to new purposes. Campers also participate in hands-on activities reinforcing what they’ve learned, such as designing decorative plasterwork, stained glass, and cardboard models of their own private study, inspired by Wallace. Along the way, ArchiCamp exposes them to careers in history, architecture, preservation, and archaeology.

“We’ve found ArchiCamp introduces young people to the community in a way that might have a lasting impact,” said 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.”

Near Terre Haute, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has made 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 and its impact on plans for future stewardship.

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 2017 spurred the groups to broaden awareness of the historic campus, including  sponsoring talks, tours, and exhibits showcasing its architecture.

Increased awareness of its heritage led the college to rehabilitate the campus’s iconic entrance gate and nearby gatehouse, adapted to serve as a welcome center for visitors. Now, restoration is underway in the auditorium of the 1913 Conservatory of Music, which hosts campus theater, chorale, and other music programs. The historic district’s National Register status enabled Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to apply for grants from the federal Historic Preservation Fund used for both projects.

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

“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,” King said. “We want to invite people to the Woods as we refurbish these buildings.”

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 receives $2,000. Both organizations receive the original sculpture “No Doors to Lock Out the Past” by Evansville sculptor John McNaughton.

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