A Family Legacy at Risk

In Campbellsburg, town officials want to tear downtown the historic J.T.C. Wilkins House and use the site as a splash park and community well.

JTC Wilkins House, Campbellsburg
John T.C. Wilkins House, Campbellsburg

Save the Queen

Most towns have influential family names connected with their early history. In the Washington County community of Campbellsburg, the Wilkins family helped put the town on the map and imparted a unique architectural imprint on the community. Today, however, part of that legacy is at risk.

Located along the New Albany and Salem Railroad between Salem and Mitchell, Campbellsburg grew around a grist mill established by John T.C. Wilkins in 1859. Additional mills followed, and by the town’s incorporation in 1875, Campbellsburg’s bustling downtown included commercial buildings, three hotels, three churches, a railroad depot, a bank, and a school.

Wilkins built a modest home on Sycamore Street at the entrance to town in 1858. His son, William, later occupied the house and in the late 1890s undertook a major renovation, expanding its footprint and adding embellishments, including horseshoe-shaped stained-glass windows and elaborate spindled porch work – all adapted from pattern books published by George Barber, a Tennessee architect whose designs filled mail-order catalogs in the in the 1890s.

Known for his exuberant Queen Anne-style houses, Barber’s plans regularly featured turrets, balconies, porches, projecting windows, arches, and gingerbread trim.

Wilkins’ other sons – James, John, and Tom – also engaged Barber’s services to construct their own elaborate Queen Anne houses in the town. Today this group of four surviving houses constitutes a rare concentration of Barber homes in a small-town setting. Their existence has attracted the attention of Barber enthusiasts around the country, due, in part, to the eye-catching restoration of the James Wilkins house, which operated for years as a bed and breakfast.

James Wilkins House, Campbellsburg

James Wilkins House, Campbellsburg

One of the Wilkins homes, however, is in danger of disappearing. Recently, the town of Campbellsburg acquired the original J.T.C. Wilkins house – dilapidated now after years of neglect – with the intent of demolishing the house and using the site for a splash park and auxiliary town well.

Staff from Indiana Landmarks’ Southern Regional Office approached town officials seeking a solution that would allow the town to move forward with the project while preserving the house.

“The town wants to see the blighted conditions of the property addressed, and we hope we can encourage officials to work with us to find a preservation-minded buyer,” says Greg Sekula, director of Indiana Landmarks’ southern office. “It’s such a community asset,” he adds. “We’d love to see the property adapted for a commercial use that would make the house publicly accessible and be a draw for the town.”

Though a Louisville-based investor has expressed interest in purchasing the house and its outbuildings, town officials have not yet decided the landmark’s fate.

For more information, contact Sekula at 800-450-4534,

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