NAME: Meg Purnsley
TITLE:  Sr. Architectural Reviewer   FOR: The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, Department of Metropolitan Development, City of Indianapolis
SINCE? 2000
ORIGINALLY FROM? Chicago, Illinois
YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE?
• I review applications for Certificates of Appropriateness
• I provide technical assistance to property owners in IHPC districts and occasionally outside districts
• I serve as a Hearing Officer for administrative hearings
• I conduct property research and analyze case history, and prepare written recommendations for requests to the Commission
• I coordinate with other departments throughout the City of Indianapolis, State and other local entities including Code Enforcement, Marion County Health Department, Dept of Public Works, Planning, Indiana Landmarks and the State Historic Preservation Office to name a few.
YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY? 40 hours most weeks
PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? The restoration of the Indiana Landmarks Center, saving of the Meridian Street United Methodist Church, and the Askren House, a c. 1825 Federal-style I-House in Warren Township.
OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? College Corner, Mill #9, Triedstone Baptist Church in Ransom Place (currently for sale by Indiana Landmarks), Central Supply Warehouse Redevelopment, The Cultural Trail, and a lesser known 1860’s building in New Augusta known as the Wagle Brothers General Store.
WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? I love helping people. Most people do not expect to like working with the government, but when they do, I know I have done a good job and that makes me happy.
WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? Seeing people not happy. The enforcement nature of my job is not easy. And, when that causes a property owner to become angry, confused or upset, it never feels good.
HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? Loving what you do. If you love what you do, you will be good at it, and as a result, you will be successful.
ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Be sure you have a passion for preservation. Then, go to school and get your degree. Believe it or not, you can get both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Historic Preservation. And, because Historic Preservation is a very specialized field, getting the proper education is required. You can now even earn a Master’s degree online from several very reputable schools out there.
IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? That buildings in America were not made to be disposable and historic preservation was considered to be culturally required, like it is in Europe, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.
WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? Vision. I took an architectural history class in college and it opened up my eyes to the world of Historic Preservation. I went to Egypt that following year and studied Egyptian architecture and brought home with me a very crystal clear vision of what I wanted to do for my career.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? Motivated people. Whenever I see other people doing things, it makes me want to do things, too. I am especially motivated by creative people doing creative things in new and interesting ways.
WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? Jon Davey, Bob Dickensheets, Mike Jackson, Valecia Crisafulli and David Baker. Jon was my professor in college who introduced me to historic architecture. Bob was my professor in grad school at the Savannah College of Art and Design and he made me truly understand why historic preservation is so important. Mike and Valecia were my bosses when I worked for the State of Illinois and their passion for Historic Preservation goes beyond the passion I have ever seen anyone have for their career. David Baker, Administrator of the IHPC, has taught me about the process and analytical thinking. I have learned volumes from these folks.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? All I knew when I went to college was that I wanted to do something creative, but I didn’t know what that something was. I majored in Interior Design, but it always felt slightly off of what I thought was the right career path for me. When I took my first architectural history class with Jon Davey, a light bulb went on.
MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? Indianapolis during the Civil Rights Movement.
YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? Kurt Vonnegut. He was happy, creative, and quirky but rocket-scientist smart all at the same time. I’d also like for Madame CJ Walker to be at that dinner so I can get some tips on being a successful business woman and millionaire.
YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? A photographer for National Geographic.
ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? None.