Indiana Landmarks releases Top 10 Most Endangered list

INDIANAPOLIS (May 1, 2017) – Indiana Landmarks has announced its annual 10 Most Endangered list, an annual compilation of Hoosier landmarks in jeopardy. The list includes a courthouse, municipal, commercial, community and school buildings, houses, and barns that share an unusual characteristic.

“These places shape lives and give identity to communities, and when they’re gone, they leave a void that can’t be filled,” says Marsh Davis, president of the nonprofit preservation organization. “While some might call these lost causes, we can point to countless 10 Most success stories—places on the brink of extinction that were saved, restored, and repurposed,” he adds.

Demolition has claimed only 16 of the 119 Most Endangered sites listed since 1991, while 72 places are completely restored or no longer endangered.

The 10 Most Endangered in 2017 includes three sites repeating from last year’s list and six new entries (see addendum for more information on each):

  • Washington County Courthouse, Salem
  • Speakman House, Rising Sun
  • Pryor’s Country Place, Fox Lake

One entry on the 2017 list returns to the list after a long absence:

  • Simpson Hall, Indiana School for Deaf, Indianapolis

Six sites appear on the 10 Most for the first time:

  • Old Fire Station 18, Indianapolis
  • Old Marquette School, South Bend
  • Marion National Bank Building, Marion
  • Old YMCA, Terre Haute
  • Newkirk Mansion, Connersville
  • Round and polygonal barns, statewide

Places that land on the 10 Most Endangered often face a combination of problems rather than a single threat—abandonment, neglect, dilapidation, obsolete use, unreasonable above-market asking price, owners who simply lack money for repairs, remote location—or its opposite, encroaching sprawl that makes the land more valuable without the landmark.

“Indiana Landmarks populates the 10 Most list with important structures that have reached a dire point.
The list generates helpful attention—from communities, developers, potential buyers—and strategies for saving these places,” says Davis.

Round and Polygonal Barns, Statewide
Farming is big business in the twenty-first century, increasingly managed by corporations that use huge machinery stored in utilitarian pole barns. The size of the equipment leaves vintage barns in jeopardy, sometimes even on smaller family farms. “Round and polygonal barns (chiefly octagons) were rare to begin with—219 were built in Indiana between 1874 and 1936, among the most in any U.S. state—so each loss matters more,” says Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks.

Round and polygonal barns arose as developments in agricultural science in two overlapping periods: octagons and the occasional nine-sided variety sprouted between 1850 and 1900, while the round barn era ran from 1889 to 1936, with an assist from farm journals that touted their advantages.

The form offered efficient use of building materials, producing open space free of interior poles, shorter feeding lines, and multipurpose functionality. With a circular silo in the center, the round barn put a hay loft on the top level, machinery and grain storage on the main level reached by a ramp, and wedge-shaped animal stalls around a central feeding trough in the basement.

Nearly all round and polygonal barns stand on private property. Unless they can be modified to suit farming today, they are not assets most farmers can afford to maintain. The Smith-Hall barn in Medora and the tile-walled Cornish Griffin barn in Angola both desperately need new roofs that are financially beyond the capacity of the owners. Many others share this condition. Near Paragon, an octagonal barn long in rough condition has completely collapsed.

“We need a complete survey that identifies the round and polygonal barns most in jeopardy, and strategies and funding sources to help owners repair roofs and find uses for these structures,” Davis declares.

Newkirk Mansion, Connersville
371-321 Western Avenue
Completed in 1880 by the well-to-do owner of a furniture manufacturing company, the Newkirk Mansion at 317-321 Western Ave still displays the original walnut and cherry mantels and woodwork. Sited high overlooking the town atop a 3-acre lawn, the long-vacant house attracts attention for its architecture and deteriorated condition.

Newkirk’s widow died in 1933. Several years later, a new owner converted it to an apartment house, a 25-year stint that ended with its conversion to a nursing home in 1962. Now vacant, the house declines under a leaky roof that’s damaging the woodwork and plaster. An arson fire destroyed the property’s historic two-story carriage house on April 23, 2017.

“The Newkirk Mansion’s arresting architecture and enviable site deserve a better fate. It needs a new owner willing to restore and maintain it,” says J. P. Hall, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Eastern Regional Office.

Marion National Bank Building, Marion
402 South Washington Street
Before suburban branches, ATMs, and online banking, people did their banking in impressively ornate halls that celebrated wealth like the one in the old Marion National Bank, constructed in 1917. The seven-story building at 402 South Washington Street dominates downtown Marion’s National Register-listed historic district.

The main floor, occupied until last year by Regions Bank, remains an impressive space with a vaulted ceiling supported by massive classical columns and ornate teller’s cages. Empty for a decade, the upper stories display deterioration, and thieves have stolen the copper plumbing pipes.

Sheathed in white glazed terra cotta with an ornate entry and cornice, the building shows the design influence of the famed Chicago skyscrapers built early in the twentieth century. The leaking roof has damaged plaster ceilings on the upper floors and destabilized the ornate terra cotta cornice, with pieces falling to the sidewalk, threatening public safety.

The Los Angeles investor who owns the structure has not invested in urgently needed repairs. “Pressure from the city to induce the owner to sell, augmented by the 10 Most Endangered status, may help us find a developer who’ll repurpose the building, with apartments a likely answer,” says Paul Hayden who runs Indiana Landmarks’ Northeast Field Office in Wabash.

Old YMCA, Terre Haute
200 South Sixth Street
Emerging from the Great Depression, Terre Haute’s new YMCA provided a civic boost when it opened in 1939. The state-of-the-art facility had a gymnasium, dormitory, meeting and classrooms, racquetball courts, exercise rooms, and a pool with a sauna and steam rooms.

Vacant and privately owned since the Y moved to Fairbanks Park in 2006, the Spanish Revival-style building has broken windows and other evidence of vandalism. Last year, lightning struck the chimney, showering a cascade of brick on the roof, courtyard, and sidewalk.

Architects Miller & Yeager designed the building with a tower-like chimney, low-pitched roof, arched doors with carving, ornamental tile and ironwork, and an interior courtyard open to the weather. In the lobby and flanking meeting rooms, ceiling beams, stenciling, and the carved stone fireplace surround show the Spanish Revival influence. Many of Miller & Yeager’s buildings in Terre Haute and elsewhere have since been listed in the National Register.

“The downtown Y played an important social and athletic role in the lives of thousands of Terre Hauteans across more than three generations. The landmark needs a new owner who will rehab and repurpose it. That’s the goal of our 10 Most listing,” says Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office, located in a Miller & Yeager-designed former bank in downtown Terre Haute.

Old Marquette School, South Bend
1905 College Avenue
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal –a massive make-work program to pull the country out of the Depression—paid nearly half the cost to build Marquette School at 1905 College Avenue in 1936-37. In 2011, the school system opened a new school north of the old one.

The replacement plan had been underway for years, so the old school was long neglected before it was emptied, with demolition expected as its ultimate fate. The building won National Register status in 2013 over the school system’s objection. Now it undergoes slow demolition by neglect.

Solidly constructed of steel and concrete with brick facades and limestone trim in the Collegiate Gothic style, Old Marquette has the usual classrooms and gym, and a 683-seat auditorium with stage lights and a projection booth. Reliefs of seated figures decorate each corner of the limestone main entrance. Additions in 1948 and 1953 enlarged the school.

“We hope to save the school system the considerable cost of demolition by identifying a developer who can repurpose the landmark, an aim the 10 Most attention will help us accomplish,” says Todd Zeiger, director of Indiana Landmarks’ northern office in South Bend.

Simpson Hall, Indiana School for the Deaf, Indianapolis
1200 East 42nd Street
Indiana was a pioneer in deaf education, creating one of the first free state schools for the deaf in the U.S. in 1846. When the school outgrew its downtown Indianapolis location in 1907, the state hired Rubush and Hunter to design a new facility.

Simpson Hall, one of the five surviving National Register-listed buildings in Rubush and Hunter’s original Neoclassical quadrangle-style campus. The 1911 building has been vacant for more than 30 years without maintenance and urgently needs stabilization. The legislature has appropriated nearly $1 million to demolish the structure.

Simpson Hall, the girls’ dorm, appeared on the 10 Most Endangered list from 1999-2005 with its companion Beecher Hall, the boys’ dorm. The state demolished Beecher in 2002.

Located at 1200 East 42nd Street, immediately north of Indiana State Fairgrounds, Simpson Hall overlooks the popular Monon Trail. “Despite its condition, we have several developers interested in repurposing the building as apartments,” says Mark Dollase, Indiana Landmarks’ Vice President of Preservation Services. “We’ll work to persuade the state and the Indiana School for the Deaf to invite developers’ proposals for reuse of the landmark.”

Old Fire Station 18, Indianapolis
3130 West Washington Street
Pierre & Wright designed Old Fire Station 18, built in 1936 at Washington Street and Tibbs Avenue on the Indianapolis’s west side, at the edge of the former Central State Hospital. IFD replaced the Art Deco-style station in 1994 and it has been vacant, neglected, and graffiti-tagged ever since.

American Builder magazine highlighted the station in 1937 with photos that showed the curvilinear walls of windows flanking the central fire truck bays. The magazine praised the station’s “functional modernism,” noting that its compact single-floor layout eliminated the need for the classic bell tower and brass pole.
If the building is allowed to deteriorate further, it may lose the chance for recovery. “We hope the 10 Most listing helps us identify developers or a potential user, so we can convince the city to sell the corner property before the building is so far gone it gets scrapped for a convenience store-gas station,” says Mark Dollase, Indiana Landmarks’ Vice President of Preservation Services.

Speakman House, Rising Sun
Old State Road 56 at Laughery Creek
Inexorable decline could turn the Speakman House into a ruin. One of Indiana’s great nineteenth-century houses, it sits on a rise above Laughery Creek near Rising Sun, with a view of the Ohio River. The deterioration of the porches has escalated over the past year since the long-vacant house first appeared on the 10 Most list.

The property, subject of local myth and legend, includes a tunnel, outbuildings, a stone arch bridge, and a vintage water pump. In the 17-room house, a curving staircase rises from the entrance hall and nine double fireplaces remain, including two in the huge country kitchen, but the porches are collapsing, the roof leaks, and the interior suffers water damage.

“The Speakman House desperately needs a restoration-minded buyer. In the past year, the owners have agreed to allow Indiana Landmarks to commission a building assessment, the first step in establishing a fair sale price,” says Jarrad Holbrook, who runs Indiana Landmarks’ Southeast Field Office in nearby Aurora.

Washington Co. Courthouse
Courthouse Square, Salem
Historic courthouses are a limited resource, so it raises concern when one faces jeopardy. The Washington County Courthouse, at the center of the National Register-listed square in Salem, offers an appearance of solidity that’s deceiving.

The Romanesque Revival-style structure’s clock-and-bell tower is unstable. Ill-conceived repairs after a 1934 lightning strike caused deterioration over the intervening decades. The tower needs reinforcement before a high wind causes a collapse.

Chronic roof and masonry leaks also require urgent attention. Added to the structural problems, the interior no longer meets the needs of county government, vastly different in 2017 than in 1888 when the limestone courthouse was built. “An annex is under construction for the courts,” notes Greg Sekula, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Southern Regional Office. “Supporters are concerned that the county may relocate other government functions, leaving the historic courthouse empty.”

In a rural county with limited resources, it will be a tough challenge to find the money to repair and rehab the courthouse for the twenty-first century. Since the building first appeared on the 10 Most Endangered list last year, further study revealed that the tower is more deteriorated than the initial report indicated.

Pryor’s Country Place
1540 West Fox Lake Road, Angola
An African American landmark on Fox Lake faces jeopardy not because of severe neglect but because it sits on a large parcel of highly desirable land.

Fox Lake near Angola became an African American resort destination in the 1920s, a time when segregation limited blacks’ opportunities for lakeside recreation. Pryor’s Country Place, built in 1927 as a home and in the 1940s converted to an inn, provided three-season accommodation to black vacationers. During prohibition, liquor reportedly flowed from a lakeside still through a pipe to the house.

The rustic charm of the cobblestone and clapboard exterior conveys a connection to nature that is a hallmark of the Craftsman style. Now vacant, Pryor’s is for sale. The house occupies a five-acre lakefront site in a place where land is at a premium—an equation that puts the landmark in jeopardy. “We hope another year on the 10 Most list will help us identify a preservation-inclined buyer for the African American landmark,” says Todd Zeiger, director of Indiana Landmarks’ northern office in South Bend.

Indiana Landmarks saves places that matter, revitalizing neighborhoods and communities. 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 http://www.indianalandmarks.org.