26 volunteers jump into Main Street tasks
Sean Hawkins, community development manager for the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told a Main Street Corydon follow-up meeting Thursday night that: “Tonight, we’re gonna start making things happen.” Happen they did. Main Street Corydon had one of its most productive meetings in years.
Main Street Corydon Chair Pam Bennett Martin asked the 32 people at Magdalena’s Restaurant to introduce themselves and put their money where their mouth is by signing up for one of four basic Main Street committees that are designed to lead to downtown revitalization and economic prosperity. “Make a commitment tonight or it ain’t gonna happen,” Martin said.
The four committees are: Promotion, Economic Restructuring, Design, and Organization. Twenty-six people responded – not including John R. Goss, director of the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, who was a guest of James L. Epperson, the tourism director for the CVB.
Goss is a close and long-time associate of Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon and First Lady Judy O’Bannon. Judy was the driving force behind Main Street coming to Corydon in the 1980s. Goss was in town for the John Hunt Morgan Trail marker dedication and also to discuss Frederick P. Griffin’s and Tim Griffin’s plans to resurrect the law office of Judge William A. Porter.
Porter is the Griffin brothers’ great-grandfather. Armed with a recommendation by William McGuffey of McGuffey Reader fame, Porter came here in 1827 to take charge of and teach in the local seminary. Gov. James B. Ray appointed Porter judge of the probate court in 1829. He practiced law here until he died in 1884. Fred Griffin’s house is on the lot where Judge Porter had his law office.
The Griffin brothers have paid for the construction, the plans for which have already been drawn up by the state. It will be built by James A. Shireman Inc. It will be about 14-by-22 feet and go between the Gov. Hendricks Headquarters and the Wright Interpretive Center (the former Corydon Presbyterian Church on Walnut Street).
Tim Griffin, now 90, lives in Indianapolis. Fred Griffin, now 87, is the last person whose house faces the town square.
One of the newest persons in Corydon is Barbara Ann Auld, who owned and operated museums in Louisville and Washington, D.C. She moved here to care for her grandmother, Laura Richardson, who died recently at age 99. Auld got interested in the fitness center and yoga classes here and “something happened.” She decided to stay. Auld said she would like to open a museum here, and she could help fill it with her own antique clothing, books, art and furniture.
“I’m sold on this place. Anyway I can help, I will,” she said.
Auld said when she moved here, she called the Chamber of Commerce for an information packet for new residents. They could offer nothing other than a slick new magazine aimed at tourists. She thinks there ought to be some kind of information package readily available for those new to Harrison County. No one disagreed.
Pam Bennett Martin chaired the meeting. She said she’s been chair for about 10 years longer than she had planned, and she wants to step down. There is also a need for more members of the board of directors, who now include Dr. Bruce Burton, Fred Cammack, Jan Frederick, Gordon Pendleton, Bill Taylor, Dr. Sharon Uhl and Darrell Voelker.
Two people at the meeting who offer an “out-of-town” perspective are new county commissioner Jim Heitkemper and long-time plan commission member Jim Klinstiver. Klinstiver’s family has lived in Taylor, Posey and Boone townships for seven generations and frequently came to town, Corydon, on weekends for vital goods and services. He said the county seat should be the economic hub for the spokes of the wheel of the county.
Heitkemper restores homes, farms near Elizabeth and now he also represents the county. He and Klinstiver both see the need to keep county government and other businesses alive in the county seat town. They said they would act as informal liaison with county government and the plan commission.
Heitkemper said there is a need for townhouses and apartments in the Corydon area.
Martin said the committees should get together as soon as possible, elect chairs and get to work. A general meeting of all the committees and the board will be held soon and quarterly thereafter. Hopefully, Martin, said, the board will add new members and elect a new president soon.
Hawkins said the Promotion Committee needs to take the initiative to work with the downtown businesses and create a promotion schedule for the year.
Things to be considered are: coordinated special event promotions, coordinate hours, cooperative advertising, downtown image creation, and “information flow projects,” such as a newsletter.
The Economic Restructuring Committee will work on strengthening the business mix in town. It will tackle business development seminars, one-on-one business counseling, financial incentive programs, and a market analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to downtown Corydon.
The Design Committee will work on beautification and facade projects. It will also look at financial incentive and assistance programs to improve the looks of buildings downtown. It will work with the town trustees on an ordinance to ensure the historical character of downtown Corydon,
The Organization Committee will be in charge of funding methods. It will investigate local, state and federal grants, county and city government funds, a revolving loan program for small business development, a business improvement district, and food and beverage taxes.
Heitkemper said a business often has to have something, fill a need or provide an unusual attraction in order to succeed. He and Klinstiver said they can think of “about 100” reasons why tourists would want to visit Harrison County – the First State Capitol, Hayswood Theatre, Lanesville Heritage Park, the caves, the wineries at Lanesville and Laconia, Old Goshen Church, Cedar Farm, the Camp Stem Scout retreat, even the spot near Laconia where the White Caps were ambushed by the Conrads on property the Klinstiver family now owns.
Heitkemper told the story of a pharmacist and his wife who moved to a small town, Wall, S. D., during the Great Depression to care for an ailing relative. The pharmacist started a business but it was doomed to failure until he had an idea: He had just installed an ice water dispenser at his store, so he put up a sign on the nearest highway, about two miles away, that said, “Free ice water.” In a matter of days, he had more business than he knew what do with. Heitkemper said Wall Drug Store is still a major tourist stop.