Jane Owen is almost singularly responsible for the existence of New Harmony as you find it today. Others have certainly made significant contributions, but without her, it’s likely that none of that would have happened.
Miss Jane, as she was known to the local townfolk, was an heiress to Texas oil fortunes who married Robert Owen’s great-great grandson. After her first visit in 1941, she made New Harmony her cherished personal project for the remaining seven decades of her life.
Jane Owen both restored the old New Harmony and built the new. She was as much, if not more, in love with the town’s spiritual legacy as its historic. She believed that, tended carefully, the town’s beautiful natural environment could elevate it into a spiritual, as well as a natural landscape. To achieve that goal, she worked to create sacred places that combined the best of nature, art and architecture.
She is responsible for the initial restoration of the Rapp-Owen Granary and the laboratory set up by David Dale Owen, who is considered the father of American geology. And she worked closely with the Historic New Harmony organization, which was later taken over by the University of Southern Indiana, to restore and maintain other elements of the town’s history.
Looking forward, she brought in world class architects and artists to build and decorate such landmarks as the Atheneum, Roofless Church, Cathedral Labyrinth, Carol’s Garden, and Tillich Park.
She was also responsible for the Red Geranium Restaurant, a lonely outpost of world class fine dining in the Midwest, and the New Harmony Inn and Resort, which was built in the spirit of the original Harmonists.
She also furthered the arts by sponsoring grants and retreats for artists and writers.