(1935- Sept. 10, 2017). Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Reid Williamson graduated from Yale University in 1956. He served in the United States Marine Corps and Air Force Reserves. From 1966-1974, he served as the first executive director of the Historic Savannah Foundation where he developed a heritage tourism program and pioneered the promotion of the economic benefits of historic preservation.

A man stands next to a historical marker outside.
Reid Williamson next to a state historical marker for North Meridian Street, 2005 Credit: Indiana Landmarks View Source

Williamson served as president of Historic Landmarks Foundation Of Indiana from 1974-2005, and president emeritus from 2005-2017. Under his leadership, the organization, headquartered in Indianapolis, preserved nearly 1,000 buildings by accepting easements, applying covenants on buildings it sold, and giving grants to nonprofit community groups to save local landmarks.

Williamson extended Historic Landmarks’ impact by nominating nearly 100 Indiana buildings and districts to the National Register of Historic Places, including Indianapolis’s Chatham Arch, Cottage Home, Fletcher Place, Irvington, New Augusta, Old Northside, and Ransom Place neighborhoods and the Indianapolis Union Station, Wholesale District, and Massachusetts Avenue—all under the jurisdiction of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

To make Historic Landmarks’ assistance more responsive to individuals and organizational partners, Williamson created a network of offices around the state staffed by preservation professionals. He regarded these offices as his proudest accomplishment as they became the organization’s most effective tool to save Hoosier landmarks.

During his tenure, the regional offices helped create more than 200 local preservation organizations and commissions. Williamson developed Historic Landmarks’ grants, loans, and legal assistance to strengthen these groups. He also oversaw initiatives that identified and documented historic structures and highlighted African American heritage.

Three men stand next to a building with a small marker affixed to it.
Andy Jacobs Jr. (left) and Reid Williamson (center) stand in front of the Charles Kuhn House, 340 West Michigan Street, 1989 Credit: Indiana Landmarks View Source

Williamson was honored by the Indiana Historical Society as a Living Legend in 2003, named a Sagamore of the Wabash in 2004, and in 2005, received the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in recognition of his lifetime achievements.

Upon retirement, Williamson moved to South Carolina and then to Georgia where he died. He is honored by Indiana Landmarks with the Williamson Prize, recognizing outstanding individual leadership and achievement in historic preservation.

Revised March 2021

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