BY LISA ELAINE HELD
The Monroe County Courthouse, built in 1908, is a point of pride in Bloomington. With its limestone columns, clock tower, and Beaux Arts features, it is the city’s most iconic image. So some might be surprised to learn that in the early 1980s it was almost torn down and replaced with a modern structure. Only through the efforts of community activists was it saved and restored.
“Many people really appreciate a lot of the old buildings in and around Bloomington,” says Nancy Hiller, vice chairperson of the Monroe County Historic Preservation Board of Review, “but they have no idea how much of a fight it was to ensure that they would still be here.”
The second annual Old-House Expo & Architectural Cake Contest, to be held Saturday, May 11, in the Showers Building atrium, will help educate the public about the challenges and importance of local historic preservation. The courthouse will loom large as a symbol, and maybe also as a cake.
“We want people to have fun and have it be memorable,” explains Nancy Hiestand, program manager for the Historic Preservation Commission for the city of Bloomington. “There’s something about having something made out of icing and cake that’s very fascinating.”
The contest includes categories for both professional and nonprofessional bakers, and cakes must be made to represent historic structures, buildings, or objects. They will be judged on faithfulness of representation, overall appearance, and taste and texture. Last year’s grand- prize winner was a cake representing Bryan House, the official residency of IU presidents.
The more serious part of the expo brings together artisans and tradespeople who provide specialized preservation services—everything from window repair to restoration masonry.
“We want to make sure that we give all of these skilled people credit for what they bring to our community and connect them with old-house owners,” says Hiestand. “It’s something like the home and garden show but for historical architecture only.”
The event will take place from 8:30 am to 2 pm, with cake judging at 11 am. For more information, visit the Facebook page for Monroe County Historic Preservation Board.