BOURBON — The movie “Hoosiers” contains an authentic historical setting: an actual high school gym from the 1950s used to film the event in 1954 in mythical “Hickory” (really Milan, although the gym used is located elsewhere) in which a small Indiana school wins the state basketball championship.
Another gym of this period is located in Bourbon, and is the sole remaining vestige of Bourbon High School, which merged with Etna Green and Tippecanoe High Schools to create the Triton school district. Many Bourbon residents remember fondly their high school days as players or spectators in the gym.
Located adjacent to Triton Elementary School, it is still used for school purposes such as athletic practices (functioning as an auxiliary gym), the elementary school madrigal dinner, and other events requiring a large space. The original gym floor is in remarkably good shape for its age.
The Triton School Board would like to consider refurbishing/maintaining the building both because of its historical and sentimental value and because it provides needed additional space. To this end, the corporation initiated steps to determine the feasibility of having it declared either a national or state historical landmark, which would make it eligible to receive grants for its upkeep.
Last Thursday, the first meeting of this effort was held at the Triton school administration building. Todd Zeiger, director of the Northern Region for Indiana Landmarks, Inc., made a presentation to Superintendent Donna Burroughs, board member Kevin Boyer, and Director of Maintenance Richard Anders. Indiana Landmarks is a not-for-profit organization devoted to preserving historic buildings which has worked with South Bend Schools and other corporations. Its advice and work is available to Triton at no cost to the school corporation. It also can provide some money in the form of matching grants. One example of this is a stability analysis grant of up to $2,500 which must be matched at least 20 percent by the corporation. It would pay for architectural services to determine what structural repairs are needed to keep the building in usable condition. Other grants are available to pay for the national or state application process to become a historic landmark.
Present at the meeting also was Heather Richmund, business development executive with Odle, McGuire, Shook, Inc. (OMS), an architectural firm in Indianapolis specializing in historical structures. OMS has worked closely with Indiana Landmarks in the past in projects such as the one the corporation is considering.
Using his organization’s expertise, Zeiger made a firm recommendation that the building, while located on land owned by the school corporation, should not be managed by Triton Schools, which creates legal and logistical problems for a wide community usage of the facility. Instead, he said, it should be “driven” by an outside group such as a not-for-profit or “friends” organization which would have a master lease with the school corporation allowing the schools to use the gym for their purposes, while at the same time making it available to the public for gatherings, weddings, or any event requiring a large venue.
One possibility briefly thrown out was that perhaps a coordinated application could be developed for the restoration and maintenance of “orphan gyms” such as the Bourbon one.
In any case, the meeting was just the first step in what is destined to become a time-consuming project. Funds would be needed, and grant money for restoration and upkeep is not available at 100 percent. Therefore, should this project proceed, local residents of the school district who have a heart for the gym and Triton Schools would need to come forward and actively participate in fundraising efforts. The Triton School Board feels that it is a worthwhile endeavor, and will continue to explore the possibilities. The next step is for board Attorney Mark Wagner to compare notes with Indiana Landmarks attorneys to navigate the land mine subject of public and private ownership, management, and usage.