GARY — The new director of the Indiana Landmarks Northwest field office believes we have a lot to learn from our past and that buildings are among the best ways to do that.
"I've quickly come to learn over the past three or four years how much preservation can breathe new life to and energize spaces," Brad Miller said. "I try to let people know it's not just about preserving old buildings, it helps bring a new spark to places sometimes."
Miller, 26, took over the Indiana Landmarks Northwest field office in June after former director Tiffany Tolbert left for a position in Chicago. As it was with Tolbert, Miller's role is to offer preservation and revitalization help in Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties.
Miller was born and raised in central Pennsylvania. He attended Gettysburg College to study history and religious studies. Miller moved on to graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University to further his studies in public history and historic preservation.
"It's important to save the physical buildings, landscapes and communities," Miller said. "They all add up to tell the story."
After college, Miller lived in Boston for a year and helped out with a number of historical preservation projects there.
"It was a great opportunity to get my feet wet," he said. "It was a unique experience because of Boston's continued growth and history."
Miller worked out of the South Bend office of Indiana Landmarks prior to taking the position in Gary.
"It's been great," Miller said of the job so far. "One of the things I like about the organization and the job is it allows you to get out and meet people and go to where they are and hear what their needs are."
Duties of Indiana Landmarks directors include acting as consulting staff for local historical preservation commissions.
"We're kind of able to fill the gap between the city paying for a full-time or part-time staff and versus the commission members doing it all by themselves," he said.
There are also goals that include helping communities set up historic preservation commissions, getting ordinances written and historic districts established.
Miller consults for the Crown Point Historical Preservation Commission that oversees four districts, "so they have a big workload," he said.
"A community can have multiple districts," Miller said. "Crown Point has a commercial district, which is a totally different set of buildings. And then neighborhoods that kind of developed separately."
Miller said there is no limit to the amount of districts.
"You can have your own house or business designated on its own if it was significant enough," he said.
Miller said a lot of what Indiana Landmarks is founded on and continues to build on is working with local communities, whether it be commissions, city councils, non-profit organizations or mainstream organizations to help add preservation as one of their tools to economic development and neighborhood stabilization.
"Preservation isn't the end all, solve all," he said. "It's really just one of those other things we can put in our tool belts in our neighborhoods to strengthen our communities."