Mary Emily Fauntleroy and Jane Blaffer Owen: Preservers of the Past
March is women’s history month, and as the month draws to a close I’d like to recognize two women who have had tremendous roles in preserving New Harmony’s history.
Perhaps the patron saint of historic preservation in New Harmony is Mary Emily Fauntleroy. Ms. Fauntleroy was born in April 1858, and for decades she acted as a one women preservation movement for the Old Fauntleroy Home. Ms. Fauntleroy purchased the Fauntleroy House from a relative and acted as its guardian and historian for a number of years. She made additions and renovations, researched the building’s history, and procured furnishings. In 1919, the Indiana Federation of Clubs agreed to purchase the Fauntleroy Home from Ms. Fauntleroy, and in 1925 the house was formally handed over to the organization. In 1939 the property was again transferred, this time to the New Harmony Memorial Commission and, finally, was taken up in the 1950s by the state of Indiana.
Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen was a transplant to New Harmony following her marriage to Kenneth Dale Owen, a descendent of Robert Dale Owen. She established the Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation in 1958 with the goal of preserving New Harmony’s historical attributes, and her endeavors safeguarded many historic buildings for future generations. In addition to saving original buildings, Mrs. Owen led efforts to rekindle the appreciation for art and learning that had been an integral part of Robert Owen’s vision of utopia. This year would have been Mrs. Owen’s 100th birthday, and as such 2015 has been designated the Jane Blaffer Owen Centennial Year in New Harmony.
The first floor of the Fauntleroy Home can be viewed on Historic New Harmony’s tour, which leaves from the Atheneum at 10 and 2 each day. Of particular interest is the Minerva Parlor, interpreted as a glance into 1850’s New Harmony. The Atheneum, an award-winning building, was designed by architect Richard Meier. It stands as part of Mrs. Owen’s legacy in New Harmony today.