BRI History 1976 to 1980
In the mid-1970s, historic North Walnut Street and other key historic areas of central Bloomington were being lost to demolition. A core group of local residents banded together in 1976 to stop the destruction. They founded Bloomington Restorations, Inc. (BRI) as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization – “A Foundation for Historic Preservation in Monroe County.”
The first officers of BRI after its organization were Rosemary Miller – described in the Spring 1977 newsletter as “the moving force behind the establishment of BRI” – Gayle Cook, Larry Burke, and Jane McIntosh.
Soon after its founding, BRI obtained a feasibility study on the use of the old Monroe County Public Library. In the following year, BRI provided leadership and acted as fiduciary agency for a coalition – The Old Library, Inc. (TOLI) – that restored the former Carnegie Library, now the Monroe County Historical Museum and home of the County Historical Society. The project began with Historic Landmarks Foundation’s loaning BRI money for a feasibility study. TOLI raised funds to purchase the library, then donated the library to the Monroe County Historical Society and Museum. To help finance restoration of the library, BRI successfully applied for Community Development Block Grant Funds through the city of Bloomington, and TOLI received $225,000 in federal grant funds to provide hands-on training for youth in the construction trades. HLFI also provided a $3,000 grant.
BRI’s first hands-on project, in 1978, was restoration of Mount Ebal Church on Fairfax Road. BRI purchased the church with a $1,500 loan from Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (HLFI), the statewide not-for-profit preservation organization. Monroe County contributed grant funds to replace the roof and finish the project - $29,715 in all. BRI members donated nearly $15,000 in in-kind services.
City grant funds, combined with loan funds from the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, made it possible to establish a revolving fund program capable of buying, restoring, and reselling endangered properties. In 1981 BRI completed the first Revolving Fund project, the Morgan House at the southeast corner Tenth and Walnut.
Since BRI’s early days, the group’s volunteer activists have moved their preservation mission forward on many fronts: research and writing, sponsoring National Register nominations, showcasing and publicizing local historical treasures, sponsoring educational presentations, and advocating for historic preservation with city and county government.
Besides direct funding, BRI has provided technical advice, liaison, feasibility studies, and other intermediary support for numerous high-profile restorations and other projects in Bloomington and county-wide: the Monroe County Courthouse (1983-84), south side of courthouse square (1984-85), Princess Theater (1986), Redman’s Lodge in Smithville (1990-91), Robinson House in Spencer (1990), Zeigler House (1990), and the old City Hall (1990-92). All of these buildings were adapted for new uses. Examples among these: several business buildings on Bloomington’s square became Fountain Square Mall; the Redman’s Lodge became a community center; the former City Hall became the John Waldron Art Center. In 1997 and 1998, BRI also raised $80,000 in NAP credits toward restoration of the Indiana Theater. An early milestone for BRI was winning Historic Landmarks Foundation’s Servaas Award in 1979 for contributions to preservation awareness in Indiana. Creating public awareness and attracting the support we need to carry out our mission are intrinsic to BRI’s thinking in each of our endeavors.