Vevay, Ind. receives National Historic Register status
It comes after years of hard work by local officials
VEVAY, Ind. (March 2020) – In December 2019, Vevay, Ind., announced that the town had received National Historic Register status after several years of planning and pursuing this effort. It was a process that began in the 1970s and was tabled until eight years ago.
“It was really a simpler process in the 1970s,” said Martha Bladen, director of the Switzerland County Historical Museum and member of Switzerland County Historical Society. “We were accepted at state level, but there was a lack of support at the local level. Residents started fearing that having National Historic Register status would involve more governmental control, and it was a very hot topic. Really, the community just wasn’t educated on what it meant exactly.”
When several groups in Vevay decided to restart this process, they decided to try a different approach by hosting public meetings in advance. “The Historical Society and Vevay Main Street supported it, so they decided to hold a series of public meetings at the library to help educate the public,” said Bladen.
She noted that the meetings were well advertised and that individual invitations were sent to people who lived in significant historic homes or ran businesses in well-known historic buildings. “We received lots of questions and really hoped to convey that pursuing this was to show that we’re proud of what’s here and have an appreciation for what is here.”
The Schenck Mansion in Vevay, Ind., underwent a massive renovation by owners Jerry and Lisa Fisher. It is now open to the public as a bed and breakfast.
Paul Diebold, Assistant Director for Preservation Services with Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, is the state’s manager for the National Historic Register program. He served as a key resource for Vevay as it pursued this status.
“They invited me to attend one of their public meetings and help people understand the purpose and the process,” said Diebold. “It took time and took several reviews of the application. I’m the staff member that gets the last review before the application is presented to the Indiana Historic Preservation Review Board, which makes the final decision.”
Diebold said that he acts as a “go-between” for people of Indiana who want to pursue national recognition through the federal program. “Once Indiana’s board makes a decision, the community is listed on the state register, and the application is then forwarded to Washington D.C., for a decision by the National Register,” he said.
To qualify as a location for the National Historic Register, a town must have significance through its events, association, architecture or archaeology on either the local, state or national level. Diebold said that Vevay was shown to have statewide significance because of the events that have taken place throughout the town’s history.
The application to apply to be a location on the National Historic Register involves several steps, including detailed descriptions on the applying community’s historical significance and an explanation of what they are nominating. Bladen said that Vevay’s process was lengthy and involved pursuing various grants in order to have the funding necessary to make some changes.
“The hardest part was the mapping portion,” Bladen said. “Once we found someone to work on the maps, our application was complete. Paul really helped us fill in the gaps, and we worked together with him to get everything ready to go. I don’t think we realized all that goes into it.”
Bladen described several of Vevay’s locations that are a prime example of why they deserve this status. “The Schenck Mansion is the real star of Vevay. It was in terrible shape for many years but went through a beautiful restoration by Lisa and Jerry Fisher. Now it’s used as a commercial property and serves as a bed and breakfast,” said Bladen.
The Fishers also own a historic home on Vevay’s Market Street “This home was built by Ulysses Phillip Schenck, who was the father of the builder of Schenck Mansion. It’s a Greek Revival home that was built pre-Civil War,” said Bladen, noting that Vevay is fortunate to have both pre and post-Civil War structures.
“The Grisard Home is another outstanding example of what we have to offer. It was built from 1846-1848,” said Bladen. “Our courthouse received an individual listing on the National Historic Register in 2009. It is styled very similarly to Jefferson County’s and has the same architect, but Switzerland County’s was advanced a little,” she said. “We also have some beautiful churches and some great examples of Italianate architecture.”
Bladen said that the community is looking forward to the impact the newfound status has on the town. “We hope that this will draw attention to the community and to investors in preservation,” she said.
Diebold said that he thinks it could come as a surprise to people that Vevay was not listed on the National Historic Register prior to this. “We often think of those iconic Ohio River towns like Madison, Evansville and New Albany. Vevay especially has a very unique story with its Switzerland-Indiana connection. It’s a truly American story. It’s a true story of immigration, of someone working hard to establish a niche and place in the world, and it has a true mark on Indiana,” he said.
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