BACKSTORY: Fairmount is located in Grant County, Indiana, approximately fifty-five miles northeast of Indianapolis. It is best known as the boyhood home of actor James Dean, who is buried there.
In the 1940s, James Dean lived with an aunt and uncle, Ortense and Marcus Winslow on a farm north of Fairmount in Jonesboro. He attended Fairmount High School, graduating in 1949. After his death in 1955 James Dean was brought back to Fairmount and buried in Park Cemetery. In 1996 a small Memorial Park north of the town's business district was dedicated to him with a bronze bust by Hollywood Artist Kenneth Kendall. A new high school was built for the district, and Fairmount High School became a middle school. When a new junior high school was opened in 1986, the Fairmount High School building was closed for good. Sadly, it has been a victim of vandalism and decay, with a large portion of it collapising in July 2013, according to this article edited from the Indy Star:
A portion of the Indiana high school where James Dean was first exposed to acting collapsed early Wednesday, dimming hopes of saving the long-shuttered brick schoolhouse in the actor’s hometown. Dean fans and local officials had tried over the years to shore up the weathered, three-story red brick and limestone schoolhouse, which closed in 1986, and installed a rubber covering on its roof to keep out the elements. But a southeast corner of Fairmount High School gave way about 3 a.m. Wednesday, said Fairmount clerk-treasurer Jo Ann Treon, and officials are now concerned one of the 115-year-old school’s exterior walls could collapse next.
“It’s just too far gone from the elements,” Treon said. David Loehr, curator of the James Dean Gallery that’s a few blocks from the school, said various proposals to restore the building and turn it into a library, museum, community center — or some combination of those and other ideas — never came together. “There was a lot of interest, but the money didn’t come with it,” he said.
Loehr said the third-story section of the school that collapsed was above the portion of the building that once housed the wooden stage where Dean performed in school plays. That stage was removed years ago from the deteriorating school by the Fairmount Lions Club, and Loehr said that group is working to raise money to restore it and someday give it a new life for performances in another building.
The school was listed on Indiana Landmarks’ list of the state’s 10 most endangered landmarks in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Tina Connor, the preservation group’s executive vice president, said the group found a California developer who pledged to restore the 1898 Romanesque revival and neoclassical school, but he was unable to line up hoped-for funding from Hollywood celebrities. “The building is in such terrible shape. It’s probably not salvageable,” she said. “It’s a shame because old schools were well built. They had style that we can’t generally afford today, and if they’re maintained they’re really super steady buildings.”
Dean wasn’t the only notable to graduate from the school. Garfield creator Jim Davis and retired CBS correspondent Phil Jones are also alumni.
The annual James Dean Festival takes place each year during the last full weekend in September and includes a huge Custom & Hot Rod Car Show, The Grand Parade, Street Fair, Carnival Rides, Live Entertainment, a 1950's Dance Contest, and the James Dean lookalike Contest. On September 30 of each year there is a Memorial Service for James Dean at The Back Creek Friends Church just south of The Winslow Farm.
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