HANCOCK COUNTY — They watch for the ladders to go up, the fresh coat of paint coating a once-tired structure. They look beyond the construction dust and imagine what’s to come.

Greenfield Historic Landmarks plans to give eight awards honoring individuals or businesses for their efforts to preserve local history, from restoring homes built in Greenfield’s early days to uncovering an original cornerstone laid by city planners.

The nonprofit celebrates the efforts local property owners take to rejuvenate the old buildings in and near Greenfield. Structures considered for the awards are individual homes or businesses that are considered architecturally significant with owners restoring them to their former glory or working to maintain the structure, officials said.

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Starting in the summer, the seven-member board keeps an eye out for structures being restored to their original historic character or renovated for a different purpose, said Greenfield Historic Landmarks president Cathleen Huffman.

“Our goal is really to show appreciation to people doing good work in the county,” Huffman said. “We’re looking for good examples of people or businesses who are restoring historic architecture or putting a business in, whatever it takes to keep the structure there.”

Chet Ellis purchased a house at 229 W. North St. in February and has spent months restoring the home, which went to its new owner Thursday, he said.

He gutted the house, adding hardwood floors, kitchen cabinets and granite counter tops, he said. Members of Greenfield Historic Landmarks considered the house a strong candidate because of the exterior work done, especially a stone porch and iron balcony.

One of the main challenges to restoring homes built in the 1900s or earlier is that nothing is level, and nothing is square, Ellis said.

He was honored the historic landmarks organization chose the home to be recognized.

“It is a nice house, as old as it is,” he said. “A lot of people have stopped by and complimented it, and I believe it’s going to be one of the nicer homes in Greenfield.”

Some homes, like Ellis’, just need someone to help restore them to what they once were.

Other buildings require a creative eye to imagine something new.

This year, the organization chose to recognize the work done by the Hancock County Visitors Bureau to renovate a building at 119 W. North St., which had been vacant for years but is now being used to house the office of county tourism director Brigette Cook Jones.

The building has served myriad purposes over the years, from a meat locker to the original home of Hancock Rural Telecom, now known as NineStar Connect, Jones said.

Now the building, which features an office, reception area and conference room, is welcoming and gorgeous, Jones said.

“They have done an awesome job in renovating that building,” she said.

Greenfield Historic Landmarks encourages owners of historic properties to take pride in maintaining the buildings and connects them with grants or financial aid to pay for any renovations, officials said.

It works alongside other groups, such as Greenfield Main Street, to achieve a common goal of preserving local history, promoting the research of that history and educating residents.

One of the awards this year does not honor a home or business but a historical discovery.

In June, siblings Amie and Matt Collins were helping surveyors on their mother’s property at 1122 W. Seventh St., when they found a cornerstone dating back to 1890, a surveying tool that once marked the western Greenfield city limits and the southwest edge of the addition to the city.

The stone was laid before the turn of the 20th century, and the ground nearby bears evidence of bricks and glass from red brick kilns once operating there, in which workers baked bricks and fired glass, officials said in June.

At the time, city planners didn’t measure in feet and yards, but instead, rods — about 16.5 feet — and lengths — 66-foot lengths of chain or string, Amie Collins said.

She appreciates the nod from Greenfield Historic Landmarks and hopes the award will help keep the cornerstone from being paved over, she said.

“I feel very strongly that stone should be preserved,” she said.

If you go

Greenfield Historic Landmarks

Historic Preservation Award presentation

2 p.m. Sunday

The event will be held rain or shine in the gardens behind the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum, 250 W. Main St., Greenfield.

A closer look at the honorees

Jeff and Melissa Alkire

Where: 6411 E. County Road 600S

Award: Rural Preservation

Jeff and Melisa Alkire purchased their early 1900s home 27 years ago, when it was condemned. The property dates back to an original 1891 land purchase by Adam Sivard, whose ancestor recently stopped

by and brought the family a historic photo of their home. The Alkires have restored their home, including keeping one of the front doors visible from the inside.

Ed Reynolds/Studebaker International

Where: 97 N. County Road 150W

Award: Commercial Preservation

Ed Reynolds grew up with Studebaker cars when his father worked in the engineering department of the now-defunct company in South Bend. While teaching school in southern California, he had trouble finding a rear-view mirror for his “Avanti” model, so he made his own, thus launching what now is the largest supplier of Studebaker parts in the country. He has 75,000 square feet of warehouse space at the current location.

Randy and Sherri Lyons

Where: 427 W. Main Street

Award: Restoration in Progress

The Landmarks board was impressed by the interesting green color the Lyons have selected for their 1860s era home, which is currently being renovated. The house had been vacant for years when they purchased it in 2014. There had been a substantial water leak and seven large dumpsters of ruined items were removed from their basement in the clean-up process, they said.

Bronson and Joy Gradkowski

Where: 117 E. Grant Street

Award: Residential Preservation

This home is listed on historic register documents as an outstanding example of the Italianate/Colonial Revival style of architecture. The Gradkowskis believe the house was built in 1876. It was built for Frederick Hammel, a German native, who moved to Greenfield in 1854. He owned the local bakery in town. In the 1950’s or 1960’s, the house was split into five apartments. The Gradkowskis purchased the house in 2013.

Hancock County Visitors Center

Where: 119 W. North Street

Award: Adaptive Reuse

The Hancock County Visitors Bureau owns the building housing the tourism director’s office. This building on North Street was sitting vacant behind the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts. The visitors bureau purchased and renovated the building, which now boasts a waiting area, an office and a conference room.

Chet Ellis

Where: 229 W. North Street

Award: Residential Restoration

This house is of the Bungalow Carpenter-Builder style, circa 1900. The stone porch is an outstanding feature. The Ellises have added a charming iron balcony.

Bill Huffman/Photon Automation

Where: 275 Center Street

Award: Adaptive Reuse

William Huffman and his partners Jason Webster and Rick Mudd purchased the former American Legion headquarters on Center Street after it sat vacant for three years. The three partners re-purposed the

building to support their technology company, Photon Automation, Inc., while maintaining the original layout of the structure.

Collins family

Where: 1122 W. Seventh Street

Award: Historic Discovery

On June 24, an urgent message was received on Greenfield Historic Landmarks’ Facebook page from Amie Collins. While having some surveying work done on the property adjacent to their family home, a historic cornerstone was discovered. She and her brother, Matt Collins, worked to remove debris from around the stone, photographed it with the surveyor on site and contacted Greenfield Historic Landmarks to have it documented to preserve its integrity.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.