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Meet H. Roll McLaughlin

H. Roll McLaughlin
Born in Indianapolis and an IHS member since 1961, Roll McLaughlin, FAIA, architect, is one of the best-known personalities in history circles around the state. He lives in Carmel with his wife, Linda, in a house he designed for his parents.

How did you develop such a love of history?
It was passed down, and when I had an opportunity to visit Williamsburg for the first time, that spurred my interest in historic preservation and restoration. My interest in history is widespread – architectural, genealogical, military, the history of Indiana. I was a co-founder of Historic Landmarks Foundation [now Indiana Landmarks] with Mr. [Eli] Lilly in 1960. He encouraged me to join IHS as a life member, and I’ve been involved ever since.

Why do you think connecting to the past is important?
I think it’s important to recognize and preserve our architectural and historic heritage. When I was discharged from the Navy, the big word was “progress”– tear down and rebuild. As a result, we lost many significant structures in Indianapolis. Until we understand something about the past, I think it’s difficult to solve the problems of the future.

What do you think of the Indiana Experience?
I enjoy Destination Indiana where you can just touch the screen and blow up the details in a photo. The technology is fantastic, and I enjoy seeing the early renditions of Indianapolis. One of the pictures of the Circle [circa 1912] has my great-grandfather Roll’s shop in the background – he was one of the early merchants in Indianapolis. And my wife and I loved the Cole Porter Room.

What are your hobbies?
Photography and gardening, and I like to do cartooning. I also collect early architectural drawings of Indiana and Indianapolis buildings, which I’m organizing to donate to IHS along with my own drawings and records.

What’s your favorite book?
It depends on the subject matter, but A Future for the Past by Moultrie R. Kelsall and Stuart, published in 1961, is a perfect text if you’re interested in historic preservation technology.

“My biggest problem is I get involved in too many things.”

H. Roll McLaughlin attended John Herron Art School and studied architecture by traveling to many places around the world. He served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in Europe during World War II in the 108th Naval Construction Battalion, taking part in the Normandy invasion and building and operating the Mulberry harbour at Omaha Beach.

His architectural firm, James Associates, was involved with reconstruction or restoration of many historic buildings throughout Indiana – from Ernie Pyle’s birthplace to Benjamin Harrison Home to City Market to East College at DePauw University. He still does consulting work.

He has served on the advisory board of the Historic American Buildings Survey and National Park Service, has been a board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was chairman of the National Committee for the American Institute of Architects’ Historic Resources Committee. He was also elected to the College of Fellows, American Institute of Architects.

Locally, Mr. McLaughlin is chairman emeritus of Indiana Landmarks and serves on the board of the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation. He has served on the boards of Park Tudor School, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Eiteljorg Museum, Historic New Harmony, the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation and several other local cultural organizations.

Mr. McLaughlin served on the IHS Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2001 and was president and on the Building Committee when the History Center was dedicated. He is an active honorary trustee.