CROWN POINT — As Kara Graper spent the summer working at the farmers market at Bulldog Park, she often thought, and heard from others, about making the square lively again.
Graper, who grew up in unincorporated St. John, said she thought a walking tour would help drive traffic to local businesses on the square.
“There were so many people that had no idea about the businesses in the square and around there, and I was thinking, ‘How can we help fix this?’” she said. "And then the history nerd kicked in.”
Graper said she and her husband, Adam, had done a couple of walking tours in Springfield, Illinois, which had QR codes that featured stories.
The last official walking tour on the square was in 1984 and featured businesses on North and South Court Street, West Clark Street and Main Street.
Making a connection
Shortly after, Graper said she connected with Kent Loosemore, who runs the "Crown Point in Snapshots" Facebook group.
Unbeknownst to Graper, Loosemore had started gathering information for a walking tour about 20 years prior.
“I've been saying for a year, we need to do one of these, we need to do one of these, we need to do one of these, but it never came to fruition,” she said. “I mentioned it to (Loosemore), and he already had all the history started.”
After Graper and Loosemore posted more about the tour, Graper said Indiana Landmarks, an organization that saves places that matter to Hoosiers, reached out to her to give her essential information, including the project would need support from a local nonprofit.
At the same time, Adam Graper and Alan Myszkowski were forming a new Crown Point Chamber of Commerce, which became the project's partner.
“For us, this is a no-brainer to partner up with. … It's a way of being innovative, modernizing a historic district while embracing our past,” Myszkowski said.
Kara Graper and Loosemore are compiling photos for the tour, and they plan to apply for the Historic Preservation Education Grant from Indiana Landmarks for $2,500, which she said will help pay for placards and web hosting.
“I made up albums for each side of the square and posted some of the older pictures from (the) east side, and that's generated a lot of interest in Snapshots,” Loosemore said.
That interest has pushed people to share their memories of the square with Loosemore.
“That's where those stories came from ... those stories may not be what we're looking for, but it shows a generation of activity for the project itself. These are people who are Crown Pointers, and they're talking about their history, their involvement with the town as it was.”
Loosemore said when he hears his friends complain about not having anything downtown, he thinks, “Whose fault is that?”
“Our fault because when the shopping centers opened up, that's where we went to shop, and we ignored downtown,” he said.
Loosemore and Kara Graper hope the tour will help spark more interest in the downtown area and boost business. The pair hopes to see the walking tour on the square by May 2020.
The tour will cover the downtown area and a block past the square in each direction.
“I was also told the (Baby) Boomers are gonna love this,” Kara Graper said.
“Well, yeah, because that's what they grew up with,” Loosemore replied.
When it comes to how people will be able to interact with the tour, Myszkowski said it will start at a basic level, with users being able to access a digital story via a QR code.
“I think the next kind of step of that is audio and then the third final step is going to be something cinematic," he said.
Adam Graper added the tour could help provide an accessible, more complete picture of the history of local buildings.
“The businesses may have changed ... but I don't think the sentiment changes. I think we're all the same (and say), 'I loved it here, growing up here and this down here,’” Adam Graper said.
As for what buildings will be featured on the tour, all four agreed the project will first highlight buildings with the most historical information.
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