Eli Chung/News Tom Fish, left, pictured above with his wife, Susie and Foundation President Jeff Gottke, speaks at the 2019 Knox County Landmarks Foundation Dinner Thursday. Fish was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Landmarks Foundation (KCLF) held its Annual Preservation Celebration in the B & O Depot in Mount Vernon Thursday night. The celebration featured local storyteller, Kim Weitkamp, to cohost the award ceremony with Foundation President, Jeff Gottke.

The celebration commenced with a brief remark from Weitkamp. Gottke followed with a presentation honoring the history and work of the foundation and the historical landmarks in Knox County.

Weitkamp likened historical buildings to books that hold the stories of a community; preservation is an effort of “recycling” that gives old buildings a new life.

“When you recycle something, it gets a second story,” Weitkamp said.

Gottke echoed this sentiment in his presentation, cementing it in terms of the economic benefits of historical preservation.

“The greenest buildings are the ones already built,” Gottke said. He said that repurposing old buildings could provide new businesses with retail spaces at a lower cost and generate tourist attractions.

Gottke highlighted some of the foundation’s ongoing and upcoming projects, including the Lustron House preservation.

Lustron Houses were unique post-WWII houses made of thousands of metal pieces to be delivered by trucks and assembled on site.

The foundation owns the last known Lustron House in Mount Vernon, currently located on West Lamartine Street.

Tickets and donations to the evening’s celebration go toward the Lustron House preservation.

Other properties on the foundation’s Endangered Landmarks List were Fredericktown Cemetery, Round Hill Mansion, and Mount Calvary Baptist Church, among others.
The foundation defined “endangered landmarks” as historical sites that are currently underutilized. People could nominate sites through an application process.

According to the KCLF’s website, the list is released annually to “inspire the community to get involved in preserving Knox County’s heritage before it is too late.”

The foundation recognized community partners who had gotten involved in an award ceremony after Gottke’s presentation.

Eight awards were given, including Award for Historical Preservation to the Knox County Commissioners (Central School) and the Woodward Development Corporation (Woodward Opera House) respectively; New Uses for Old Spaces Awards to the Blonde Robin, North Main Cafe, and the Brickhouse Grind respectively.

Pat Crow of the Woodward Development Corporation highlighted the team effort in revitalizing the Woodward Opera House on the square.

Emily and Megan Severns were the youngest award recipients. The sister duo owned the Blonde Robin — a 1840s Victorian house in Danville, now a bohemian boutique and coffee shop off US 62.

Leve-Agriman Feed & Supply, People’s Bank of Gambier and WMVO received awards as the 2019 Landmark Businesses.

A special recognition was given to Tom Fish, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fish, a longtime preservation advocate and former president of the Knox County Renaissance Foundation, a precursor to KCLF, received standing ovation at the award ceremony.

Fish thanked his wife Susie for her support and shared his aspirations for Knox County, referencing inspirations such as Columbus’ Short North Arts District and Mohican State Park’s covered bridge.

The celebration this year had the largest attendance to date, according to Gottke. It was also the first time that it featured a guest speaker.

A KCLF committee member said that the guest speaker added to the experience and hoped to continue this practice in the future.

The Landmarks Foundation was named the Non-profit of the Year by Main Street Mount Vernon.

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Eli Chung: 740-397-5333 or eli@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @