INDIANAPOLIS (July 29, 2021) – For their role in preserving Meltzer Farm in Shelbyville in Shelby County, Kris Meltzer and Karen Meltzer-Armstrong won the 2021 John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation, to be presented by Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau on August 5 at the Celebration of Agriculture, hosted by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture at the Indiana State Fair.
Frederick Meltzer moved from Germany to Shelby County and purchased the homestead in 1857. It’s been farmed continuously by the family ever since, with siblings Kris Meltzer and Karen Meltzer-Armstrong currently overseeing the production of corn and soybeans on the farm’s 100 tillable acres. Today, the farm includes an original farmhouse and timber-frame barn dating to the 1850s, log barns, a log cabin, a one-room brick schoolhouse, gas well, artesian well, an outhouse, and an old growth forest.
“The award committee was deeply impressed by the unique and diverse collection of historic agricultural buildings still in use at the Meltzer Farm,” says Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office and Arnold Award coordinator. “And the commitment generations of the family have demonstrated to preserving and maintaining the farm’s heritage is extraordinary,” he adds.
With a practical, waste-not, want-not approach, the Meltzers have incorporated the farm’s historic buildings into modern operations. The nineteenth-century frame barn houses farm equipment, hay, straw, and occasionally livestock, and the log barns store grain. The original farmhouse has served as a machine shop and time capsule for preserving the family’s heritage.
Liberty Township School #2, built by members of the family in 1875, remains in its original location south of the farmstead. When school consolidation rendered the school without its original use, the Meltzers retained the school as a machine shop and secured its entry in the National Register of Historic Places.
The family’s love of the land extends to conservation of its 60 acres of woods, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 and one of the last remnants of the state’s old growth forest, meaning it contains trees more than 150 years old. In 1928, Brady Meltzer placed the woods in Indiana’s Classified Forest Program. To ensure its long-term protection, his son Philip Meltzer partnered with the Central Indiana Land Trust to dedicate Meltzer Woods as a nature preserve.
The property took on new significance in 2020 as the family sequestered during the pandemic in the Italianate-style farmhouse built by Philip Meltzer in 1882. “We were sheltering in place in the same house where our ancestors sheltered in place during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918,” notes Karen’s daughter, Vanessa Armstrong. “My grandfather Philip shared stories from his deathbed – the same room where he was born in 1926. Listening to him reminisce about this life on the farm and what it meant to him has given me a great appreciation of his lifelong work to preserve the farm.”
About Indiana Landmarks
Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to our heritage, and saves meaningful places. With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns. People who join Indiana Landmarks receive its bimonthly magazine, Indiana Preservation. For more information on the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit www.indianalandmarks.org.
About Indiana Farm Bureau
Since 1919, Indiana Farm Bureau has protected the livelihood, land, equipment, animals and crops of Hoosier farmers and is the state’s largest general farm organization. As a farmer’s strongest advocate, INFB works diligently to ensure a farmer’s right to farm, because agriculture is so vital to Indiana’s economy. Learn more at INFB.org.
Tommy Kleckner, Director, Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office, office 812-232-4534, cell 812-249-3116, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mindi Woolman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Indiana Landmarks, office 317-639-4534, cell 317-417-1204, email@example.com
Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.