Gayle Karch Cook, noted historic preservationist, has been awarded the prestigious Historic Preservation Medal by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR)
The Indianapolis-based Cornelia Cole Fairbanks Chapter nominated Cook for the award, which was presented by Jeanie Hornung, Indiana State Regent, on May 18 in Indianapolis during Indiana DAR State Conference.
Cook and her late husband Bill are co-founders of the medical device manufacturer Cook Group Inc. in Bloomington. The couple began their work in historic preservation as a business venture in the 1970s. It became a lifelong passion.
The Cooks are credited with saving more than 57 historic structures in Indiana, including their most noteworthy restoration, the West Baden Springs Hotel in southern Indiana. After Indiana Landmarks bought the collapsing National Historic Landmark in 1996, the couple partnered with the nonprofit to stabilize the structure, eventually taking ownership and completing the $75 million restoration. The hotel reopened in 2007. The project is widely regarded as the most significant preservation project in Indiana history.
Cook and her family in 2011 completed the renovation of the former Central Avenue United Methodist Church in Indianapolis as Indiana Landmarks Center. The Cooks donated $15.7 million of the $19.5 million project and personally oversaw the restoration of the two oldest structures in the three–building complex. It is now the headquarters of Indiana Landmarks, with theaters and reception halls available for rent.
Other structures saved and restored by the Cooks include Beck’s Mill, a grist mill built in the 19th century in Salem, Ind. This mill once appeared on Indiana Landmark’s list of 10 Most Endangered Places. Now fully functioning, the restored site is owned and operated by the Friends of Beck’s Mill.
On the Ohio River near Laconia, the Cooks restored the Kintner-Withers House, known as Cedar Farm. The 1837 Greek Revival structure is the centerpiece of the only extant “antebellum plantation-style complex” in Indiana. The Cooks bought the plantation in 1984 from a direct descendant of the Kintners.
One of her early projects rescued the Colonel William Jones House in Gentryville, a Federal-style structure built in 1834. Jones was a prosperous merchant who employed a young Abraham Lincoln in the 1820s and was very influential in his life. Although he was in his 60s, Jones joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was killed at the battle of Atlanta in 1864. After the restoration, Gayle and her husband donated the Colonel William Jones House to the state of Indiana and it became the Indiana’s 16th State Historical Site.
Cook and her family restored the Graham Hotel, the James Cochran House, the Fountain Square historic district on the south side of Courthouse Square, and many other landmarks in Bloomington.