It’s an adapt-or-die world
We drive by our familiar Old Capitol square these days and feel a bit uneasy about all the changes that are taking place. After all, isn’t this a place that remembers and commemorates the past? Isn’t it just as it has always been?
The answer is written in reality. In order to stay viable, a place must embrace the past but adapt to the future. That has always been the case. Who would want to wade through the wet mud that originally marked the path across the town square or nudge the livestock away that sauntered in and out?
The goal of community development is to set modern standards for use while preserving the spirit of the place. Old buildings are the easiest way to gain a feel and appreciation for people and events of bygone times. We really do stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
Our awareness of the past gives us a guide toward understanding how we developed into our current society. I often note that old buildings, like old women, need a lot of help to keep them upright and functioning. They cannot just become mute statues and statements of yesterday.
Historic preservation is all about adaptive reuse. Hence, the changes going on in downtown Corydon are right in line with the march of history. Many of the buildings have had a variety of uses during their lifetimes.
The building that houses O’Bannon Publishing Co. has gone through many transformations. It was built by Dr. John Slemons in 1843 to serve as his home, drug store and office. In 1911, Lew O’Bannon bought the building and added the concrete building on the back to serve as a print shop. Fred Griffin wrote in his book, ‘The Streets of Corydon,’ ‘there was much more space than was required for the publishing of the weekly newspaper. The second and third floors were used as a hotel. They advertised, ‘Ask those who have eaten at my table’.’
In 1959, my husband, Frank, and I moved into the third-floor apartment, which I remodeled as my first historic preservation project. It was in our living room that Frank and Gordon Pendleton, whose family lived on the second floor, realized that Gordon would be a good person to take over the running of the savings and loan company that Frank operated at that time on the first floor. That business is now the First Harrison Bank located on the outskirts of town and the third floor is used for storing family memorabilia.
In 1960, Frank moved his law office to the second floor and, through the years, it included partnerships with Art Funk, Ron Simpson and Patrick Thompson. This spring, a new configuration of lawyers bought their own historic building down the street leaving the ‘Democrat’ without a single attorney for the first time in 100 years.
Our daughters, Polly and Jenny, were born while we were renters in the building. Last week, Jenny’s son, Asher, traveled from his art school in San Francisco with a friend from the University of Colorado to, in their words, ‘ hole up’ and create a video game to sell on the Internet. They moved in two tables and set up their new enterprise in the vacant law office. Who would have thought!
It was a sad day at The Corydon Democrat newspaper office when our old Goss press died. The click-click of its rollers signified news being passed to Southern Indiana residents. It wasn’t the first time that the manner of printing had changed even in my lifetime. I remember, as a new bride, watching with amazement the old hot lead-type operations, the 1959 flood that muddied all the motors hanging in open pits and the pride with which Robert O’Bannon invested in new offset printing equipment in 1977.
Through these years, we have sold some obsolete machines, scrapped others and stored those we couldn’t bear to part with. In 2010, we needed new technologies that could print multiple colors; thus, we hired a larger company to print our newspapers.
The Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County now resides where, for many years, large rolls of newsprint were housed. Red White & Blush, an upscale wine shop, is located in the attached building that originally served as a gas station.
Jonathan O’Bannon, the publisher, and I spend quite a bit of time contemplating the next remodeling and use of our space on the corner of Capitol Avenue and Walnut Street. We know that we can’t do it in isolation from all the other changes in downtown Corydon. We need a community that functions well in this day and age. That takes visioning, research, planning and a bit of luck.
What businesses compliment one another? What role does our square play in the overall mission of the county? What services and goods are best offered around the center of our town? How do we meet the needs of both residents and tourists? How do we provide housing in order to have a population that will use the facilities provided in our core community? How do we preserve our historic nature amidst providing modern advanced accommodations?
Presently, there are more questions than answers.