Franklin Heritage in the early days: a conversation with Craig Moorman, a founding member of FHI
In 1983, Franklin Heritage, Inc. (FHI) was established by a small group of concerned citizens who felt it was important to preserve the historical character of the City of Franklin, Indiana - especially its tree-lined boulevards, brick streets, and historic architecture.
Craig Moorman is a founding member of Franklin Heritage, Inc. He moved to Franklin in 1980, liking the appeal of the old, historic homes. He took a position as a pediatrician at a local hospital and his wife was a dentist in Whiteland. In their spare time, they collaborated with others in their neighborhood to raise awareness that Franklin’s old homes and tree-lined streets were assets the town needed to preserve.
I sat down with Craig to talk about his memories of FHI in the early days of the organization, historic preservation, and his thoughts about what FHI looks like today.
What are your memories of FHI in the 80s?
All of us in FHI owned old houses in Franklin. It started with us collaborating on our home repairs and remodeling. And I got to know Chris Hext, Mike Beidler, and some of the other folks in town. There were a few older buildings that got torn down in the downtown area which upset us. We wanted to try to preserve the charm that Franklin had. I think one of our big assets is just the historic integrity of the city. Mike Beidler became active and involved. He wanted to make sure the city was making decent decisions. He attended every meeting of the Franklin zoning board. He got so involved and so knowledgeable about all the building codes, he ended up on the board of zoning appeals.
He was very dedicated to that. Chris Hext was our fearless leader. He had a background in engineering, and he was actively working on his old house right next to the Presbyterian Church on Madison Street. All of the other members were close as well, and we all had a common interest.
The first thing we did was try to establish the affiliation between Franklin Heritage and Historic Landmarks. We were like the Franklin branch of historic landmarks. One of the first things we tried was to plant trees all over downtown. Some of those trees are gone today, but it was a nice project.
Our house was also on one of the first home tours that FHI organized.
Are you still a resident of Franklin?
Yes, we are! And we live in the same house, too. It’s an 1870 brick home. I’ve redone almost everything in the home at least once. I built a garage and a porch that wraps around the house. I love the tall ceilings and arched windows in the front of the house.
When you buy an old house, you have to accept the fact that it needs attention. We’ve had to redo things periodically. I had to rewire the house because it was the old knob and tube wiring.
In World War Two, Camp Atterbury just south of us had a huge explosion of business and a big influx of servicemen and their families who came and were looking for housing in the Franklin area. A lot of the older homes were busted up into boarding houses and apartments. I believe our house was an apartment at that time. The people we bought it from in 1980 had taken it back to a single-family residence and removed a lot of the stuff that was left over from one of the subdivided and opened it back up. So we don't have a complete history of what it was originally, but we’ve tried to keep its history and integrity.
I've had people drive by and tell me that when they were a kid, they lived in one of the apartments in my house.
What are your thoughts on historic preservation right now? What do you think about Franklin's current progress and what FHI is doing?
Franklin Heritage is well established now. We've pretty much prevented any more demolition of important downtown buildings. There have been a few buildings lost to fires and things over the years that are sad to see. But overall, the historic structures we still have are advocated for and preserved. I think the general tone of Franklin is that we value the town and the atmosphere and we're always looking for progress, but at the same time, we want to preserve what we have. The town's historic image is one of our big assets, and people are pretty attentive to that.
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Megan Elaine is a writer and storyteller who lives in Franklin, IN.