The Rejuvenating Power of Mineral Springs

Three downtown landmarks dating from Martinsville’s heyday as a mineral springs destination are under renovation to become affordable housing for seniors.

Martinsville, Kivett's Five and Dime
The former Kivett's Five and Dime store on Martinsville's courthouse square is one of three buildings being rehabbed as affordable housing for seniors. (Photo: Lee Lewellen)

A Place to Call Home

Three downtown Martinsville landmarks—the 1925-1926 Martinsville Sanitarium, the 1890 Morgan County Jail and Sheriff’s Residence, and a nineteenth-century commercial building—long ago lost their original purposes. Soon, people 55 and over could find themselves at home in the National Register-listed buildings being repurposed as The Retreat at Mineral Springs, 38 affordable apartments.

Developer Flaherty and Collins, the City of Martinsville, Morgan County Historic Preservation Society, and WellSpring Center, a nonprofit devoted to relieving homelessness in Morgan County, are collaborating on the $8.4 million project.

Set on an idyllic lawn, the Martinsville Sanitarium dates to the city’s period as a center of mineral springs retreats between the 1880s and the 1950s. While West Baden Springs and French Lick won more national attention for their mineral water resorts, Martinsville also drew patrons to 11 mineral water retreats that offered a variety of treatments for seeking relief from a host of ailments.

Martinsville Sanitarium

Visitors flocked to Martinsville Sanitarium, drawn by the touted health benefits of local mineral waters. The property is one of three local landmarks being rehabbed as affordable housing for seniors.

The city’s location on several major passenger railways made it an appealing destination, and the Martinsville Sanitarium was one of the finest retreats in town. Designed by architect Wilson B. Parker, the three-story spa building combines features of Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Renaissance Revival architecture. After the sanitarium closed in 1957, it served as the Kennedy Memorial Christian Home—a senior living facility—until 2002. Once renovations are complete, the building will include 18 apartments.

In a serendipitous twist, the revitalization of the sanitarium coincides with the relighting of a historic sign. Originally powered by neon, the sign advertised the local industry: “Martinsville: City of Mineral Water.” Dark for more than 50 years, the recently rehabbed sign once again illuminates the courthouse square from atop a downtown commercial building. Just across the street, the three-story commercial block that once contained a Kivett’s Five and Dime will house 15 of the project’s apartments.

Martinsville sign

(Photo: Lee Lewellen)

Five apartments will fill the 1880 sheriff’s residence. Safety requirements dictate that the original cellblock at the rear of the Italianate structure be sealed off and remain unused. Indiana Landmarks holds a protective covenant on the property, so we’ll review the exterior renovation to ensure it maintains the historic architectural character.

Martinsville Sheriff's Residence

The development uses both the federal Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit and the Rental Housing Tax Credit to cover gaps in the project’s budget, enabling a profitable reuse of historic buildings that will preserve local heritage while enhancing connectivity and curtailing sprawl.  The project is slated for completion by the end of December 2017.

Sign up for our e-newsletter.

Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.