Friday, May 25, 2012

National Historic Preservation Month 2012 - Discover Our Hidden Gems – A Month in Review

Historic Bear’s Mill, St. Clair 100th Anniversary Tea at Manor

May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme on a national level is “Discover America’s Hidden Gems.” Since the National Trust for Historic Preservation created Preservation Week in 1971 to spotlight grassroots preservation efforts in America, it has grown into an annual celebration by small towns and big cities with events ranging from architectural and historic tours, to educational programs and heritage opportunities. Due to its overwhelming popularity, in 2005, the National Trust for Historic Preservation extended the celebration to the entire month of May and declared it Preservation Month to provide an even longer opportunity to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our communities.

Locally, Friends of Bear’s Mill, Darke County Historical Society and Main Street Greenville are collaborating to bring historic awareness to the Greenville and Darke County community. Together with sponsor Mote and Associates, Inc. they have presented a full month of events to promote history and preservation in the community that dwells on hidden gems.

The first weekend of May was a busy one in Greenville as locals enjoyed the First Friday’s Upper Floor Building Tours in downtown Greenville. Over 250 members of the community had the rare opportunity to tour the upper floors of four downtown businesses. Participants had the chance to meet with the building owners and hear them share their vision for the space, as well as the history and what ‘used to be.’ Along with the First Friday’s Tour, the Greenville Public Library and the St. Clair Memorial Hall were available for touring, with over 100 people learning about the building design, décor and ornate details of these two historic gems. In addition to the tours, The Memorial Hall celebrated their centennial with an Evening of Legacy hosted by local musical artists performing selections from the Memorial Hall’s original dedication in 1912. Also, in honor of the Memorial Hall Centennial Celebration, the Fort GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution hosted a light afternoon tea at St. Clair Manor with Henry and Ella St. Clair (portrayed by John and Karen Burkett). All funds raised were contributed to the restoration of the Memorial Hall.

In honor of National Historic Preservation Month, the Lowell Thomas House, which has been preserved at the Garst Museum, was open for tours on May 5th, as well as Saturday, May 26th from noon to 4:00 p.m. Admission to the house is free, but regular admission to tour the museum will apply. Enter the museum through the glass doors next to the parking lot for admittance.

Whether it was the tours, shopping or just a leisurely stroll on the grounds, the nice weather and weekend events brought out a steady crowd of locals and tourists for this year’s annual Spring Open House at Historic Bear’s Mill. Visitors to the Mill got their fill of samples of the Mill’s gourmet goodies and enjoyed docent-guided tours hosted by The Friends of Bear’s Mill to celebrate this historic weekend. In the Mill Gallery guests enjoyed the black and white photographs by award-winning photographer John Bower whose exhibit entitled “Capturing the Soul of Our Past” took the visitor on a journey of our rapidly disappearing past.

“Historic Preservation month allows us to collaborate to educate and create an awareness of the local gems waiting to be uncovered and appreciated right here in our community. The three organizations look forward to the opportunity to work together and are already putting their thoughts on paper for next year’s celebration,” stated Amber Schmerge, Executive Director of Main Street Greenville.

The month long celebration also involved local youth by inviting them to be building detectives within their church to find “My Church’s Hidden Gems.” Three downtown Greenville churches’ Sunday School students explored the history, architecture and meaning behind the symbols in their church. The students made replicas and illustrations of their church to highlight these points. The work will remain on display at the Greenville Public Library through Tuesday, May 29th.

This year a Coffeehouse Series was offered on a weekly basis at the local coffee shops in downtown Greenville. Postcards and pictures from the past, as well as a presentation from the Fort GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution were two of the topics in the series. Those in attendance enjoyed learning about the history and culture of our local community, as well as promoting patriotism, preserving American history and securing America’s future through better education for children. If you have not been able to attend, the final Coffeehouse Series will be Thursday, May 24th at 7:00 p.m. at The Coffee Pot. This presentation “Our Greenville City Park, A Local Gem” is free and open to the public and will be presented by two generations of Greenville natives, Steve Birt and Amber Garrett, as they share their mutual love and appreciation for the memories, their understanding of importance and their hopes for the future of our Greenville City Park.

For just $50 (special supporter rate) you can become an individual supporter of Bear’s Mill, Garst Museum and The Annie Oakley Center and Main Street Greenville. Your support is 100% tax deductible as all three organizations are 501( c )(3) nonprofit organizations. Stop by Garst Museum or Bear’s Mill or visit to support our treasures today.

The Friends of Bear’s Mill provides a rich cultural experience and community-oriented events including educational tours, demonstrations and nature walks, while preserving the Mill’s historic significance and natural beauty. As caretakers of Bear’s Mill, they continue to explore the possibilities of this unique property while maintaining its historic beauty and physical needs.

The Darke County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of the county and fostering education on its impact as a Crossroads of the American Experience. Its mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, study and interpret materials relating to the history and culture of Darke County as part of the development of the Crossroads of the American Experience. Permanent exhibitions of national significance include Annie Oakley, The Treaty of Greenville, Lowell Thomas and Ohio Native Americans.

Main Street Greenville is committed to stimulating and supporting revitalization efforts, historic preservation and economic growth in historic Downtown Greenville. The organization strives to create a program of work that serves and assists the downtown business district with education, design & technical assistance, activities & events, promotion & image branding, beautification & streetscape improvements.

To learn more about historic preservation or local preservation activities and initiatives contact Amber Schmerge at Main Street Greenville at 937.548.4998, Merri Niekamp at Bear’s Mill at 937.548.5112, or Clay Johnson at Garst Museum at 937.548.5250.

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