In the 1950s and early 1960s, many governing bodies were of the opinion that the image of being progressive and looking to the future was best portrayed in communities with sleek, functional, minimal design. But to construct buildings in the trending Modernist architectural styles all too frequently entailed the demolition of older historic structures. In the very early 1960s, a counter movement for historic preservation took root in Franklin. Under the leadership of Diseé Dinkins and Marguerite Kramer, the small group of preservationists in Franklin organized, and with the help of like-minded friends in the Louisiana Landmarks Society in New Orleans founded an organization — the St. Mary Chapter of the Louisiana Landmarks Society. The fledgling group went straight to work, advocating to save the Beaux Arts Courthouse and 1860 jail on the town square. The Parish’s governing body was not swayed, however, and both buildings were demolished, replaced with the current courthouse whose architectural style is appropriately named Brutalism.
When the City Council proposed demolishing Grevemberg House (formerly used as the town’s recreation center) to install a baseball field, the intrepid group went before them to defend it. Three council members agreed, and Grevemberg was saved by one vote.
In 1967, Landmarks finalized its 501c3 designation with the mission statement: “to focus attention on Louisiana’s historic building; promote interest in the study of Louisiana’s architectural heritage; disseminate information on Louisiana’s Landmarks and support their preservation; publish a guide to Parish Landmarks and operate a community museum”. After great efforts to restore and furnish Grevemberg, St. Mary Landmarks has operated the house as a community museum for more than 50 years. Several exhibits and numerous lectures and learning opportunities have taken place at the site. More recently, St. Mary Landmarks has also accepted ownership and stewardship of Shadowlawn. Today’s organization seeks to continue that mission.