These 10 Indiana Historic Sites Are “Most Endangered,” According to the Nonprofit’s Annual List

A collection of statewide historic fraternity inns, the former home of a wealthy industrialist in South Bend, and the bustling locales of Anderson, Evansville and Steinsville. Those sites are among The 10 “most endangered” Indiana landmarks An annual list published by the Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization that seeks to save historic and “meaningful” places throughout the Hoosier State.

the organization She says the places on the list often experience many problems, including abandonment, neglect, or the owners’ lack of funds for repairs.

In a press release, the non-profit organization emphasized that these places “shape life,” and “when they disappear, they leave a void that cannot be filled.”

This year’s list includes five new landmarks and five repeat landmarks from the 2022 list.

“Each endangered place tells a distinct story, and each faces its own set of challenges. In all cases, when an endangered place appears on our list, we commit to finding solutions that lead to rescue and revitalization,” Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, said in a statement. “.

Indiana Landmarks first published its “most at risk” list in 1991. Since then, 153 sites have been on the list. The non-profit organization notes that 101 places have been fully restored or are no longer in danger, while only 20 have been demolished.

“Indiana Landmarks uses its list of the 10 most endangered in many ways. Sometimes it serves an educational role. It serves as an advocacy tool. It can help raise the money needed to save a place,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “Every threatened place tells stories. Extinction has a distinct story, and each location faces its own set of challenges. In all cases, when an endangered place appears on our list, we are committed to finding solutions that lead to rescue and revitalization.

Get a glimpse of the full list of the “10 most at risk” for 2023 below:

Historic Fraternal Inns, Statewide

An 1899 building in North Vernon once occupied by the Improved Red Men’s Order, now vacant and convict. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)

Among the attractions on the list are a group of historic fraternal lodges statewide. Indiana Landmarks said that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nearly every town in Indiana had at least one fraternal organization and lodges built by Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Elks, and other orders.

Lodges in need of revitalization include two in Vernon, Jennings County: the 1860 Masonic Building and the nearby International Order of Odd Fellows.

Other lodges listed include a building built in 1899 and occupied by the Benevolent Red Men, as well as the Knights of Pythias Lodge in Shelbyville.

Harvester International Engineering Building, Fort Wayne

International Harvester Engineering Building in Fort Wayne. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)

For decades, every truck International Harvester has ever put on the road has been designed, developed, and tested on the premises and on the nearby track. The 140-acre complex includes laboratories where engineers can evaluate the trucks’ engines and sound, as well as a giant cooler to test the vehicles’ performance in sub-zero temperatures. From 1986 to 2012, Navistar International owned the building, continuing to use it as an engineering facility. It was later acquired by a local developer.

But earlier this year, the Allen County Commissioners acquired a plot of land along Myer Road – which includes the engineering building on the site – with a view to building a new jail on the undeveloped land and considering building a county office building. Another developer has already demolished the previous test track nearby.

Thomas and Louisa’s Little House, Plainfield

Thomas and Louisa’s Little House in Plainfield (Image from Indiana Landmarks)

The large Queen Anne-style home was built between 1885 and 1891 on the west side of Plainfield, along US Highway 40, on land settled by pioneer and state legislator Alexander Little in 1830.

But Indiana Landmarks warned that the luxury home is “an artifact in danger.”

Hendricks Regional Health purchased the Thomas and Louisa Little House and its surrounding 15 acres in 2017, proposing to demolish the landmark and build a new medical facility on the site. However, community members protested, circulating an online petition that garnered nearly 9,000 signatures in favor of saving the teacher.

Development plans were later abandoned. The property is now for sale, but without any conditions to protect the little house.

Starr Historic District in Richmond

One of the many endangered homes in the Starr Historic District in Richmond (Image from Indiana Landmarks)

Beginning in the 1860s, wealthy Richmond residents flocked to an elite neighborhood north of downtown, where they built grand homes to reflect their elevated status.

Architecture enthusiasts once considered the Starr Historic District one of the best-preserved Victorian neighborhoods in the Midwest, according to Indiana Landmarks. Today, however, the region is better known for its continued decline.

The nonprofit said most of the large homes built for wealthy families have since been subdivided into multi-unit rental housing, most of which are occupied by “negligent or absentee owners”.

State Theatre, Anderson

Anderson State Theater (photo from Indiana Landmark)

Opened in 1930 at the corner of 13th and Meridian Streets, the State Theater features an eclectic Spanish Baroque facade, with white and emerald green terra cotta coatings. With seating for more than 1,500 moviegoers, the interior boasts state-of-the-art systems, including state-of-the-art sound and projection technologies and an early form of geothermal heating and cooling.

The theater closed in 2008, and a series of subsequent attempts to redevelop and reopen the theater have stalled. A pending lawsuit discouraged progress, alleging that the city of Anderson contributed to the landmark’s water damage in the 1990s by failing to cut off the water to the building. The city purchased the theater from an out-of-state buyer in 2019 to resolve legal issues, with hopes that the site could become part of its downtown redevelopment effort.

Birdsell Mansion, South Bend (recurring entry as of 2022)

Birdsell mansion in South Bend has been vacant for more than a decade. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)

When it was built in 1898, JB Birdsell’s mansion rivaled Clem Studebaker’s Tippecanoe Place and JD Oliver’s Copshaholm in luxury and prestige. However, the continued neglect of Birdsill Palace today is cause for concern. It has been vacant for more than a decade, and is held by an absentee owner with a growing list of law enforcement operations, according to Indiana Landmarks.

The nonprofit said that since he first appeared on the top 10 list last year, conditions at the minors had “worse worse”. Plywood and trash bags cover missing windows, and water leaks from leaky gutters threaten the high-fashion interior finishes.

First Friends Church, Marion (recurring entry as of 2022)

First Friends Church in Marion was designed by Samuel Plato, one of the most prominent black architects of the early 20th century. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)

The Quaker congregation chose Samuel Plato, a black architect best known for his work on post offices and housing, to design their church in 1914. The Gothic Revival-style building features semicircular pews and stained glass windows.

The congregation originally established the Church of the First Friends in the 19th century in an effort to treat the local black community fairly, and to help the residents of Weaver, a nearby African American settlement. But the Quakers later outgrew this first building.

Today, vacancy and neglect are “slowly destroying the church’s beautiful features,” according to Indiana Landmarks. Plywood covers one of the large windows, and water leaking from the rotten ceiling caused flaking plaster, warped floors, peeling paint, and mold.

After adding the church to its “most at risk” list last year, Indiana Landmarks commissioned an engineering assessment that determined the building was structurally sound, and secured grant funding for a new roof. The nonprofit would like to see the building transferred to a new owner with sufficient resources to handle the full restoration.

Holman Building and Garage, Evansville (frequent entry as of 2022)

Holman Building and Garage in Evansville (Image via Indiana Landmark)

Since its construction in 1929, the 10-story commercial building on Fourth Street has dominated the downtown Evansville skyline. It is known as the Holman Building after the company that acquired the site in the 1930s.

The building has been vacant and mostly neglected for years, according to Indiana Landmarks. Water is now leaking through the roof and windows.

In the spring of 2022, an out-of-state buyer purchased the Holman Building and adjacent 1927 garage in an online auction, and relisted the properties for sale as separate lots. Those plans failed, and the Holman Building remained on the market.

Knox County Burr Asylum, Vincennes (frequent entry as of 2022)

After nearly 20 years of vacancy, the historic slum farm in Knox County is in desperate shape, according to Indiana Landmarks. The nonprofit warned that without repairs, the 1882 building would face demolition due to neglect. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)

In the 19th century, Indiana’s plan for caring for the poor and disabled centered on developing poor farms, where the needy could work in exchange for housing and food, according to Indiana Landmarks. All 92 counties established poor farms between 1831 and 1860, but when federal agencies replaced them, county homes gradually lost their purpose, leaving county governments and private owners to struggle to find new uses for the historic complexes.

By 2014, there were only 47 homes left, prompting Indiana Landmarks to add the county’s homes to its endangered list.

The 1882 building in Vincennes, which was built to replace the previous one, is now vacant and deteriorating, according to the nonprofit. County officials transferred ownership in 2020 to a nonprofit organization seeking to rehabilitate the property as a nursing facility. The site was last occupied in 2004, and since it was added to the ‘most vulnerable’ list last year, little progress has been made to secure and repair the building.

Stainesville Commercial Buildings, Stainesville (repeated entry as of 2022)

Featuring limestone facades and large storefront windows, four historic commercial buildings remain vacant in Stainesville. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks)

Built between 1884 and 1894, the two-story Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge and four limestone-clad commercial buildings on Main Street are all that remains of once bustling downtown Stinesville. The historic Stinesville Mercantile Inn houses a local post office, but other buildings have been vacant for decades.

The block first appeared on the list of the ten most endangered landmarks in Indiana in the 1990s.

The city of Stainesville previously offered the block of four for $1 to anyone who could install it and restore it, but got no orders. Buildings remain eligible for rehabilitation tax credits as part of the National Register-listed Stinesville Commercial Historic District.

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