Your Town

Designing Its Future

Aurora Indiana, November 8-10, 2001

This intense three-day workshop is designed to help the participants respond to the design needs of small towns in rural America.  The 27 participants were a diverse group of volunteers and professionals from five states.  They were from planning commissions, town councils, historic preservation groups, visitor's bureaus, transportation and land resource groups.  The speakers were drawn from a variety of specialties including landscape architecture, historic preservation, policy analysis, a mayor and volunteers who have all worked to improve their communities.

The Your Town workshops are funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and coodinated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and SUNY/Syracuse Faculty of Landscape Architecture.

The workshop focused on the community of Aurora.  It was used as the subject of our design project.

The workshop began with classroom lectures to help all the participants understand the steps required to ensure an orderly and complete design process.

We took walking and driving tours of Aurora so that we could see some of the strengths, weaknesses, problems and opportunities that it presented.

Aurora is situated on the Ohio river surrounded by steep hills.  It is an old river town that has some marvelous architecture which we all wanted to find ways to preserve and use in our plans.  It also has riverside parks and industrial areas.  A scenic byway passes through the town and riverboat casinos are nearby.  These and many other elements form the basis for any development planning that is to be done.  I hope that the pictures below give you some sense of the nature of the town.


Small group work sessions were held at Veraestau, a mansion on the hilltop overlooking the town and river below.  It was incredible that we held these work sessions in this home surrounded with antiques of the early days of Aurora.


Back to class for some more detailed information on the process that we were to use here and back home in our own communities.  A valuable part of this session was the presentations by people who had applied the process in their own communities.  Seeing their results was an inspiration to many of us.

More small group sessions followed.  Each group worked on its vision of what we thought would be best for Aurora.  We then looked at the design which would deal with recognized aspects of the community.  We strove to maximize the strengths and to develop ways to overcome some of the problems that we had seen. Some of the groups included individuals from the local community who provided extremely valuable information and insight into attributes of the community.


For the final session each of the working groups presented the plan they had developed.  The mayor of Aurora had been the keynote speaker on the first evening but was now the scholar carefully considering all our proposals for his town.  I don't know which or how many of our proposals, based as they were on such a brief study of the community, will be useful but I am sure that some will prompt further consideration.

Over the course of the workshop we were treated to meals at several restaurants in or near Aurora.  Without exception the food was excellent.

Our thanks go to the workshop sponsor Historic Southern Indiana, University of Southern Indiana and to the Dearborn County convention and Visitors Bureau, the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, and Main Street Aurora who also provided support.

The original link below has been discontinued or moved.   The rusty link is from the Wayback Machine.

For more information on this program you may contact:
Shelly Mastran, Co-Director, National Your Town Center.

Leslie Townsend, Program Coordinator, Historic Southern Indiana.

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