Turning of First Sod for the James Dean Birth Site Memorial

The turning of first sod took place on Friday, June 19th at 4 p.m. for the James Dean Birth Site Memorial located at 410 S McClure Street in Marion, Indiana and marked a historical moment that several generations past have been waiting for.  The tribute will include a park-like setting surrounding a six foot tall black granite monument with pictures of Dean etched onto the front, along with a picture of The Seven Gables Apartment House in which Dean was born. The back of the monument will have a brief biography of the iconic film star.

James Byron Dean, son of Winton A. and Mildred Wilson Dean, was born on February 8, 1931 in the “Seven Gables” apartment house at 4th and McClure Street in Marion, Indiana.  The first home and place of birth of James Dean has long been demolished after falling into despair and becoming part of an extensive demolition project in East Marion during the 1970’s.

James Dean was an American actor.  His internationally celebrated films include Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he plays as a troubled teenager Jim Stark, East of Eden (1955) in which he starred as loner Cal Trask, and Giant (1956) in which he is characterized as a surly ranch hand Jett Rink.  In just nine short months and three major films, James Dean became a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement.

Dean’s unexpected passing on September 30, 1955 in a terrible car crash on what is now Highway 46 solidified his legend.  James Dean is the first performing artist to get a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only performer to have had two posthumous acting nominations.  In 1999, the American Film Institute positioned him as the 18th best male movie star on their AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list.

The completion of the James Dean Birth Site Memorial will give fans across the globe another serene space to pay their respects to the star.  For first time visitors, make sure to visit all of the James Dean hot spots while you are in the area.

Other places of note include:
The James Dean Gallery in Fairmount, Indiana contains the world’s largest collection of James Dean collectibles and memorabilia. The James Dean Memorial Gallery was established in 1988 in the actor’s hometown and final resting place. This extensive exhibit is the private collection of James Dean archivist David Loehr, who began collecting in 1974. The collection is housed in a beautifully restored 1890 Victorian home, located on tree-lined North Main Street in downtown Fairmount. The exhibit consists of literally thousands of items of James Dean memorabilia and gives visitors the opportunity to see the worldwide impact that this Indiana native and American film star has made. Learn more by visiting the Gallery website at jamesdeangallery.com.

The Fairmount Historical Museum also located in Fairmount, Indiana.  The Fairmount Historical Museum, Inc. was organized officially formed February 23, 1975. The initial location for the museum was located over the Western Auto Store at 113 1/2 South Main Street.  Letters were mailed to former students, soliciting charter memberships and memorials.  Sufficient income from the membership drive was received to pay the bills and remodel the old Hockett Studio rooms.  The dedication ceremony for the Fairmount Historical Museum was held Sunday, September 21, 1975.  In 1977, the Museum Board purchased the J.W. Patterson property at 203 East Washington Street. This would later become the permanent home of the museum.  The Patterson house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and Sites on November 14, 1979. The museum was moved to its permanent home in the Patterson House on September 5, 1983. In addition to artifacts related to the town, its families, and schools, the museum also holds many pieces related to and once owned by James Dean and his family. These include awards, clothing, motorcycles, and much more. In addition, the museum houses a tribute to another Fairmount native, Jim Davis and his creation, “Garfield.” Learn more about the Fairmount Historical Museum by visiting their web site at www.jamesdeanartifacts.com.

The James Dean Memorial Park is located on 200 Main Street in Fairmount, IN.  The park features a James Dean bust with a nice enclosing landscape that creates a quiet and serene place to pay homage to the star.

The James Dean grave and headstone in Park Cemetery on South 150 East in Fairmount, IN.  Every year on September 30th a memorial service is held at the nearby Back Creek Friends Church.  From the church, you can even see the Winslow Farm where James Dean was raised.  It is still a private home owned by Dean’s relatives.

Every September, James Dean fans converge in Fairmount, Indiana to attend the James Dean Festival is also known as the annual Fairmount “Museum Days” Festival. The three day festival, always held the last full weekend in September, gives special recognition to Fairmount natives who have made a distinct mark in the world. The theme of the festival centers itself around activities relating to James Dean and Jim Davis’ character, “Garfield.” These activities include recording stars from the 50’s, James Dean Look-A-Like contest, a car show featuring approximately 2,000 cars, and much more.

Main Street Marion would like to give a full-hearted thank you to the James Dean Birth Site Memorial team, without whom none of this would be possible. Thank you so much David Loehr of the James Dean Gallery, Jim Sutter of Marion, Marcus Winslow of Fairmount, Justin Wiley of Bowman Construction, Michael Hotz of Spitzer Herriman Stephenson Holderead Conner & Persinger, LLP, Dawn Brown and the Community Foundation of Grant County board at-large, Mark Sullivan and the Grant County Convention and Visitors Bureau board at-large, and James Harris, Michelle Armand, and Michael Halstead of Halstead Architects. Main Street Marion is proud to dedicate this piece of land to the lasting memory of a talented and sincere man.

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