Help for the Needy
In the nineteenth century, before federal welfare created a safety net for the poor and disabled, Indiana’s 92 counties operated poor farms or county homes. The large and handsome complexes—often second only to the county courthouse in architectural presence—sheltered people who earned their keep working on the farm and in the institution.
Although not opulent, county homes were usually large and well built. Most looked more like a handsome nineteenth-century house on steroids than an institution, surrounded by land with barns and other outbuildings.
Beginning in the 1930s, federal programs gradually decreased the need for these locally financed institutions, leaving county governments and private owners struggling to find new uses for the historic complexes.
Only 10 of Indiana’s 92 counties continue to operate functioning county homes. Many have been demolished, and even more have been closed or sold.
By 2013, only 48 of Indiana’s original county homes were still standing. The following year, we collectively entered county homes on our 10 Most Endangered list.
To aid all county homes, whether in government or private hands, Indiana Landmarks commissioned a Multiple Property Documentation Form—in-depth research on all county homes that makes future National Register nominations easier. We used a grant from the Efroymson Family Fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) to hire James Glass of Historic Preservation and Heritage Consulting, LLC. to prepare the document.
Indiana Landmarks concurrently nominated county homes in Carroll, Clinton, Hendricks, Knox, and Randolph Counties to the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction that could make them eligible for preservation grants and tax credits. The listing became official late last year.
Find more information about the history of Indiana’s county homes in the Multiple Property Documentation Form. For more information on Indiana Landmarks’ work to preserve them, contact Mark Dollase, 317-639-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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