NAME:  Suzanne Stanis

TITLE: Director of Heritage Education and Information FOR: Indiana Landmarks

SINCE? 1985

ORIGINALLY FROM? Born in Winterpark, FL but moved to Indianapolis at age 2

YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? Developing entertaining, educational programs for all ages, managing our reference library and speakers bureau, and supervising the Morris-Butler House.

YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY? Varies with programming, but essentially whatever it takes to get the job done. That inevitably includes evenings and weekends.

PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Our Experiences give participants an in-depth look at a subject through lectures and tours.  Last year we looked at catalog homes in Irvington. Our 2012 Experience takes us to Camp Chesterfield, an active Spiritualism community near Anderson, established in the nineteenth century.  I’m also proud of our county-wide survey publications.  We started printing them in 1975 and just concluded our involvement with the program last month.  They’re a tremendous tool for documenting the built environment and helped build an awareness and appreciation for historic architecture within the general public.  The surveys are just one great resource found in our reference library.  Our library is open to the public and offers a variety of materials related to historic architecture and renovation techniques.  Our Indianapolis files provide wonderful insight into our historic districts and can serve as the basis for neighborhood tours, programs or research.

OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? Continuing education courses for Realtors, children’s ArchiCamps, and speaking engagements for civic and religious groups.

WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO (JOB)? Sharing my enthusiasm for Indiana’s historic architecture and helping people discover it through programs, workshops and our library.

WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? Not being able to hire all of the amazing interns we’ve had over the years. They greatly expand our capacity to get things done, especially in the summer.

HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? Knowing that the work I do is helping to make our state a better place to live and that my family is proud of what I do.

ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Get involved by volunteering if you can’t find a paid position. The preservation community is small even on a national level, so news of your hard work and talent will spread.

IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? That more Americans would understand the economic benefits of revitalizing historic buildings. With strip malls in every town looking the same, it’s our historic buildings that provide character and a sense of place.

WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? My parents who gave me a strong work ethic while demonstrating the importance of family. My husband and daughter who support me and share my passion for history.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? Speaking to a group of tired high school students at 7:00 a.m. and seeing their heads start to pop up off their desks when I tell stories about Indianapolis architecture. By the end of the hour they’re sharing their own stories about favorite places.

WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? Ginny Graves, founder of the Center for Understanding the Built Environment, taught me the importance of working with children to create the next generation of preservationists. Dr. Jim Curtis, my advisor at Hanover College, encouraged me to design my own courses to explore my interest in historic architecture.

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? Visiting my grandparents at their home in a cotton mill company town in Georgia. I was surrounded by legends from the Civil War and abandoned mills and warehouses that fueled my imagination.


YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? Stoughton Fletcher, just so I could have seen what his house looked like in its heyday. We had our wedding rehearsal dinner there when it was the Hudson Institute. But from a conversation standpoint, I’d really like to dine with any of the early winners of the Indianapolis 500. I’m guessing they’d have some pretty colorful tales of tearing around that old track.

ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? We moved to Indianapolis when I was two so my father could build the RCA complex on East 30th Street for the company’s rapid expansion due to the popularity of Elvis Presley. One of the warehouses he built for record production now houses the Indiana State Archives. It made a great record warehouse, but not a great archives.

FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? Riley’s grave at Crown Hill Cemetery. I took my husband there on our first date.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS? I love fine dining, but I’m a diner girl at heart. I really loved the tenderloins at the old Diner in Plainfield and look forward to its future reuse. As for current diners, the owners of Harold’s Steer-In on the eastside do a great job with home-cooked favorites.


FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? As a fan of World’s Fairs I loved the behind the scenes descriptions from Devil in the White City It demonstrated just how wonderful and terrible life can be at the same time. As for non-fiction, A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester is my go-to favorite for architectural styles.

ULTIMATE BEVERAGE? Unsweetened ice tea with lemon (don’t tell my Georgia relatives)

COLLECT ANYTHING? Back in my younger days I collected dishes and teapots. I still have a fine collection of Russel Wright’s American Modern and Lu-Ray Pastels. Thanks to my Chicago in-laws I have a wonderful collection of 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair memorabilia.


One response to “Heritage Steward: Suzanne Stanis”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    These are excellent biographies!

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