Two Illinois entrepreneurs and history buffs are using their skills to help restore the historical appeal of one of Parke County’s familiar, albeit aging, tourist attractions. The living history site known as Billie Creek Village has fallen on hard times and has not officially welcomed visitors for over a decade. With its general store, one-room schoolhouse, and authentic log cabin, the attraction used to tell the story of early American life in rural Indiana.
In an interview with Around INdiana reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Billie Creek Village Chief Operating Officer Gregg Larson said they want to restore the history site to its former glory.
“We don’t want to fundamentally change. We like Billie Creek as it is. But we want to do it entrust for the future generations who are going to use it,” said Larson.
Created in the 1960s by residents of Parke County, Billie Creek Village was famous for its authentic historic buildings and covered bridges. But time has not been kind to the 70-acre property that narrowly escaped demolition in 2005.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t get the love and care that it needed to sustain itself. You know, structurally and is more or less set idle for decades,” said Cyndi Todd, executive director of the Parke County Redevelopment Commission.
Larson and business partner Steve Cecchin are leading the efforts to revive the property, and they’re not alone. The project has received a grant from the Wabash River Regional Development Authority. The funding is part of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s READI grant program.
“We want to do the school days again where we invite school kids coming for field trips here, said Steve Cecchin, who is part of the new management team. “We’re looking for volunteers to come and do some of the living history roles that they played in the past.”
Larson and Cecchin say they also hope to bring back Civil War reenactments, medieval renaissance fairs and perhaps concerts to make the village a draw once again.
“Just anything tourism based. We’re looking to bring people from two, three, four hours away here to enjoy Parke County,” said Cecchin. “We have a lot of ideas for things we wish to do out here and just make really quick drive again.”
This is not their first foray into resurrecting historical properties in Parke County. Larson and Cecchin are the “brains behind the boo” at the abandoned Indiana State Sanitorium. They want to turn it into what the business partners call “the premier paranormal destination in the country.”
“We are kind of like ghost Airbnb,” quipped Larson.
The partners say they are hosting a team of ghost hunters who were going to spend two nights on the abandoned 200-acre property.