Indiana Landmarks Unveils Endangered Places List

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This year's list of the state's 10 Most Endangered places includes seven new entries. Indiana Landmarks President Marsh Davis says the properties have potential for "revival and reuse." April 26, 2014

News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indiana Landmarks announced its 10 Most Endangered, an annual list of Hoosier landmarks in jeopardy, at Rescue Party tonight.

"Our mission is to save meaningful places, and this is a list of ten important places in the state that are in great danger of being lost," says Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit preservation organization. "But they're not lost causes - all have the potential for revival and reuse."

"These landmarks preserve connections to community heritage and restoring them can spur broader revitalization," Davis adds. Indiana Landmarks uses the Most Endangered list to bring attention to the imperiled sites and find solutions that will ensure their preservation.

Since the first 10 Most Endangered list in 1991, 99 historic places in severe jeopardy have appeared on the list. The 2014 10 Most Endangered list includes seven new entries and three landmarks making repeat appearances (see below for more details).

New on the 10 Most Endangered list:

-Gary Heat, Light & Water Co. Warehouse, Gary

-Indiana County Homes (examples in Floyd, Steuben, Parke, Warren, and Randolph counties)

-McDonald House, Attica

-Mills House, Greenwood

-Peters-Margedant House, Evansville

-Wabash County Sheriff’s House and Jail, Wabash

-West Baden Colored Church, West Baden

Repeating from 2013 list:

-Anderson Athletic Park Pool, Anderson

-Eagle Cotton Mill, Madison

-Harmony Way Bridge, between New Harmony and White County, Illinois

The prospects of six places on the 2013 Most Endangered list improved enough that Indiana Landmarks removed the critical label. One landmark on the 2013 list fell to the wrecking ball. The City of Walkerton demolished the Walkerton Church as a threat to public safety, the 14th loss among the 99 structures that have appeared on the 10 Most Endangered list.

To find out more about each of the 10 Most Endangered, visit www.indianalandmarks.org or contact Indiana Landmarks, 317-639-4534 or 800-450-4534.

Background on 10 Most Endangered/2014

Gary Heat, Light & Water Co. Warehouse, 900 Madison, Gary (new entry)

Gary’s population has fallen to around 80,000 from nearly 180,000 in the 1960s, leaving at least 12,000 abandoned buildings; some must certainly come down but the Gary Heat, Light & Water warehouse shouldn’t be one of them. The utility company - a U.S. Steel subsidiary - commissioned the noted Chicago firm George W. Maher & Son, to design the building. The steel-framed, precast concrete structure shows U.S. Steel did not skimp during the prosperous 1920s. Exterior ornament includes pilaster capitals, cartouches, spandrel panels, dentils, and massive exterior lantern-like light fixtures. The structurally sound building retains original terrazzo floors, plaster details, wood moldings, and a semi-elliptical staircase. The city's general services department occupied the building for many years but abandoned it more than a decade ago. In 2012 the city declared the building blighted, and targeted it for demolition, but it's sturdy and adaptable to new uses.

Indiana County Homes (new entry)

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. Beginning in the 1930s, federal programs gradually decreased the need for these locally financed institutions, resulting in the destruction of more than one-third of the 92 county homes. Nine historic county homes are vacant - in Floyd, Henry, Parke, Randolph, Steuben, Switzerland, Union, Warren and White counties - and most face demolition or its less deliberate cousin, neglect. Whether still county-owned or in private hands, these well-built, eminently meaningful landmarks should be repurposed rather than wastefully destroyed.

Built in 1869, the Warren County Home in Williamsport was vacated last year and is threatened with demolition. The Italianate-style landmark looks more like a country manor nestled in a bucolic setting than an institution. In Winchester, the 1899 Romanesque Revival Randolph County Home has been vacant since 2009. The Parke County Poor Asylum in Rockville—now privately owned—faces demolition by neglect. The Neoclassical-style building sits open to the elements, a target of vandals. Development pressure threatens the 1878 Steuben County Asylum which sits on a 27-acre site at CR 200 and I-69. The Floyd County Home, a 1916 Craftsman-style building, occupies 20 valuable acres on the outskirts of New Albany next to a park and across from a Wal-Mart. The county rejected non-profit reuse proposals for building and a budget crisis may motivate a fast track sale for the land value.

McDonald House, Attica (new entry)

When James D. McDonald built the 4,800 square-foot house in 1855, he was an Attica powerbroker, having donated the land for the city's park and providing its first public water supply from a spring on his property. The McDonald House is one of 193 houses included in Wilbur Peat's 1962 book Indiana Houses of the Nineteenth Century –a "greatest hits" volume, landmark division. Peat cited the three-story house at Main and Jackson streets for its high-ceilinged second floor with tall doors that open onto a balcony with handsome cast-iron railings. Vacant for years, the home's beautiful staircase, fireplaces, woodwork, and original windows remain, but failing masonry poses a serious threat. A preservation advocate bought the house at a tax sale, hoping to find a buyer capable of taking on the restoration. For the McDonald House in its present state, time is not a friend.

Mills House, 944 Fry Road, Greenwood (new entry)

Indianapolis architect Harry Cooler designed the 1955 house for Ernie Mills, who loved Frank Lloyd Wright's work. Cooler took his inspiration from Wright's Usonian houses, giving the building a flat roof and broad overhanging eaves, clerestory windows, and a broad cantilevered balcony. The house blurs the distinction between inside and outside, with walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, many doors to the outside, and fieldstone and other natural materials used both inside and out. Ernie Mills owned a company that sold formica countertops and cabinetry, and he used his home as a showcase for his products. The vacant house has been deteriorating for years with a leaking roof and rotten soffits. Harry Cooler, vigorous at 88, says the damage could be repaired if it isn't allowed to escalate. While the owner values the architecture of the house, he doesn't match his admiration with rehab action, so a pre-eminent Mid-Century Modern landmark is slipping away.

Peters-Margedant House, 1506 E. Indiana St., Evansville (new entry)

The diminutive 1935 house in Evansville designed by William Wesley Peters may rank as the first Usonian house in the nation, pre-dating even Frank Lloyd Wright's inaugural Usonian house, built in 1937. Peters grew up in Evansville and attended Evansville College before transferring to MIT and then becoming Wright's first apprentice at Taliesin. During a two-year break with the master over his relationship and marriage to Wright's adopted daughter Svetlana, Peters returned to Evansville where he designed the 552-square-foot house for a family member. Experts believe the house possesses national significance, illuminating how Wright’s work may have involved collaboration with Peters, who returned to Taliesin in 1935 and took over