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The Marion Masonic Lodge corner of Boots and Fifth St. currently undergoing restoration.
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Visible change is taking place. The house has a new roof, the brickwork is proceeding as weather allows, the leaded glass windows are being restored, and some temporary fixes are being made on the carriage house.
Currently, the property is being researched for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Some questions have arisen about construction and ownership of 917.
For many years it was the home of the JW Stephenson family. The title lists JW’s wife Edith as the owner of the property from around 1910, which is the probable date of construction. This raises two questions:
1. Why Edith is listed as the owner years before JW death? This was not a common practice in the early 20th century. Was the house a gift to her?
2. Who was the contractor? Is this a Samuel Plato house?
Please let us know on this page or respond privately on sosmarion..com. We need information, not guesses, please.
WICHITA, Kan. — For more than a century following the Industrial Revolution, rural and small-town people left home to pursue survival in commercial meccas. According to the American story, those who thrived in urban centers “made it” — a capitalist triumph for the individual, a damaging loss for the place he left. We often refer to this as “brain drain” from the hinterlands, implying that those who stay lack the merit or ability to “get out.”
But that old notion is getting dusty.
The nation’s most populous cities, the bicoastal pillars of aspiration — New York City and Los Angeles — are experiencing population declines, most likely driven by unaffordability. Other metros are experiencing growth, to be sure, especially in the South and West. But there is an exodus afoot that suggests a national homecoming, across generations, to less bustling spaces. Last year, Gallup found that while roughly 80 percent of us live in urban areas, rural life was the most wished for.
If happiness is what they seek, those folks are onto something. A 2018 study by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported that in spite of economic and health concerns, most rural Americans are pretty dang happy and hopeful. Forty percent of rural adults said their lives came out better than they expected. A majority said they were better off financially than their parents at the same age and thought their kids would likewise ascend. As for cultural woes, those among them under age 50, as well as people of color, showed notably higher acknowledgment of discrimination and commitment to social progress. All in all, it was a picture not of a dying place but one that is progressing.
The University of Minnesota Extension researcher Ben Winchester has cited a “brain gain” in rural America. Mr. Winchester found that from 2000 to 2010, most rural Minnesota counties gained early-career to midcareer residents with ample socioeconomic assets. A third of them are returning, while the rest are new recruits.
I grew up in and wrote a memoir about a place that by many measures during my Reagan-era childhood and Clinton-era adolescence was indeed “dying.” American readers love a tale of escape from such places, populated by characters who exemplify addiction, abuse, bad decision-making. My memoir instead seeks, through historical facts and cultural analysis, to reveal the immense public forces of policy and socioeconomics that shaped my family’s behaviors, opportunities and outcomes. I wrote affectionately yet unsparingly from that area, where I still choose to reside.
In the year since it was published, this less-common narrative has prompted thousands of people to find me at speaking events and book signings. They tell me this: Our stories are different but the same. I know the world you wrote about — it’s deep in me, and I care about it.
From Seattle to Charlottesville, they come bearing homegrown tomatoes (that’s “’maters” to us), fresh loaves of bread, small-town yearbooks, landscape photography, original paintings of big skies. They cry as they relate their own stories of departure, return, longing.
These aren’t just white people lamenting the loss of the family wheat farm. They are black women missing their families in the rural South, Muslim women organizing workers in meatpacking towns on the plains, young gay men hoping to return to their small-town roots. This is the rural America I know and love — a place rife with problems, yes, but containing diversity, vibrancy and cross-cultural camaraderie.
I explore this shift in the zeitgeist with a new podcast featuring rural and working-class advocates from the Black Belt of the Deep South, migrant camps of California’s Central Valley, the Iowa tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the desert Southwest, Appalachia and the Midwest. I spoke with people who founded or help guide entities such as the Black Farmers’ Network, United Farm Workers Foundation, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, the Female Farmer Project, the Southern Documentary Fund and the Kansas Democratic Party.
From where I sit, they are heroes of the American odyssey — seeing value where others see lack, returning with the elixir of hard-won social capital to help solve the troubles of home. In one conversation, the political scientist Veronica Womack described the metaphorical significance of her black students at Georgia College considering work in agriculture.
“It’s kind of a circle,” Dr. Womack said. “When our ancestors were made free, land was their pursuit.” So when she says her students are coming home, she explained, she means that they have realized that farming is a “vehicle that I can use to be free.”
Last month, The Christian Science Monitor reported a prairie trend of young people, drawn by family ties and affordable entrepreneurship, returning to rural and small-town homes around college graduation. They’re opening restaurants or starting small, unconventional farming operations. One college senior founded a direct-to-consumer beef company in Otoe County, Neb., and sold $52,000 worth of meat in the past nine months.
This return — or refusal to leave — is good news for Americans who will happily remain in cities. The future of rural is intertwined with suburban and urban outcomes by way of food production, natural resources, the economy, political movements and beyond.
We need policymakers who understand this (and care about it). Good news: Progressive Democratic presidential candidates have unveiled a spate of rural policy plans more robust than any in recent political memory. They suggest actions for which rural advocates have argued — investing in rural people and economies to lead a Green New Deal, cutting out oppressive middlemen in moving food from producers to eaters and much more.
Government agencies have made piecemeal efforts to attract professionals to rural America, offering loan forgiveness or other incentives to teachers, doctors, home buyers. To make the burgeoning rural return feasible, we need big structural fixes for a big problem, such as Poland’s recent scrapping of income tax for young workers in an effort to keep them in the country.
The concept of home is a subjective one unto the individual. But we have long interpreted it at the mercy of forces such as capitalism and industrialization. The resulting social imbalance is an objective crisis. Mobility is a virtue of freedom. Staying — or returning — is an equal virtue.
Sarah Smarsh (@Sarah_Smarsh) is the host of the podcast “The Homecomers” and the author of “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.”
Building a Preservation Portfolio
Even in decay, the Craftsman house at 917 South Adams Street in Marion is a standout. Samuel Plato, Indiana’s first licensed African American architect, designed the 1905 estate. At one time, Marion boasted several landmarks attributed to Plato. Today, only a few of his designs remain, making the house an even more important community landmark.
Earlier this year, the owner donated the property to local preservation group, Save Our Stories (SOS). As soon as the ink dried on the new deed, SOS mobilized an army of volunteers to clear mounds of debris from both the main house and the carriage house. Using a loan from Indiana Landmarks, the group is replacing a leaky roof and restoring brickwork on the main house. We also supplied a grant from our Efroymson Family Endangered Places Fund to restore leaded glass windows on the house’s sunporch. Once exterior repairs are complete, SOS will market the property with protective covenants to a new owner who will finish the restoration.
Founded in 2012, Marion’s nonprofit preservation group, Save Our Stories (SOS), has championed projects including adaptive reuse of the Marion National Bank, saving the Wolfe Law building from demolition, and developing preservation guidelines for the city’s downtown commercial district.
“We’re pleased that Indiana Landmarks’ covenants will protect our investment in the Plato property,” says William Munn, SOS president and Grant County historian. “The partnership has been an invaluable asset for our organization’s growth. We’re able to take on more, larger-scale projects due to the expertise and confidence they have instilled in us”.
To show progress at the Plato home, SOS is hosting an open house on Saturday, September 28, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors will be able to enjoy refreshments and take self-guided tours of both the house and carriage house. Tickets are $5 at the door on the day of the tour. All funds will support ongoing rehab of the property.
For more information, contact Paul Hayden, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Northeast Field Office, 260-563-7094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
POSTED ON AUGUST 25, 2019 BY INDIANA LANDMARKS | NEWS
Check out cohousing in Bloomington, Indiana.
Read about the SOS project to restore this 1911 beauty to its former glory thanks to the help of Indiana Landmarks.
Click below to read the full article by Marion Chronicle reporter Samantha Oyler.
James Fallows praises the northern Indiana town for the cooperative efforts of its residents to restore community. It can happen here.
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The restoration of the Dan Mar apartments proceeds. The article linked below outlines the progress of this significant project. This development is actively supported by SOS.
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