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Washington Co. Courthouse On Indiana Landmarks Annual Ten Most Endangered List
Updated May 8, 2017 10:15 AM
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(UNDATED) - The Washington County Courthouse is listed on the Landmarks annual Ten Most Endangered list.

The sites judged to be most threatened with destruction include a courthouse, commercial and government buildings, houses and multi-sided barns.

"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:

  • Washington County Courthouse, Salem
  • Speakman House, Rising Sun
  • Pryor's Country Place, Fox Lake
  • Simpson Hall, Indiana School for Deaf, Indianapolis

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.

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.

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

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