(UNDATED) – Indiana Landmarks works continuously to revitalize historic structures that give communities visible connections to their past and lends irreplaceable visual character to the streetscape.
Once a year, they announce the 10 Most Endangered, a list of historic places on the brink of extinction and too valuable to lose.
“Indiana Landmarks uses its 10 Most Endangered list in several ways. Sometimes it serves an educational role. It functions as an advocacy tool. And it can assist in raising funds needed to save a place,” says Marsh Davis, president of the nonprofit preservation organization. “Every listing comes with significant challenges. In all cases, when an endangered place lands on our list, we commit to seeking solutions that lead to rescue and revitalization,” he adds.
Included on the list is the 19th-century Mineral Springs Hotel in Paoli.
Photo: Lee Lewellen
Around the turn of the last century, people flocked to the Springs Valley to “take the waters,” seeking relief for everything from digestive issues to rheumatism in water from the area’s abundant mineral springs.
In Paoli, a group of local businessmen constructed a hotel across from the Orange County courthouse at 124 South Court Street, hoping to boost domestic tourism and compete with nearby resorts at French Lick and West Baden Springs. The Mineral Springs Hotel opened in 1895. At a time when the town had no electricity, the hotel offered the luxury of electric lighting in each room, courtesy of a steam-powered generator in the basement, and guests could bathe in water from a sulphur well piped directly into the hotel.
With an opera house in the lobby, a billiard hall, ballroom, bowling alleys, even a Greyhound bus stop, the hotel served as the community’s social and recreational center for decades.
The hotel closed in 1958, but various businesses continued to occupy its ground floor until recent years. Vacant and unmaintained, the building is taking on water through a leaky roof, and broken windows leave the upper floors open to the weather and roosting pigeons.
The Mineral Springs Hotel is one of the most architecturally distinctive buildings on Paoli’s courthouse square and a community favorite. It needs an owner with the creative vision and financial resources to give it a new use.
The 10 Most Endangered in 2019 includes two sites repeating from last year’s list and eight new entries:
- Cannelton Historic District, Cannelton (repeat entry from 2018 list)
- Church of the Holy Cross, Indianapolis
- Commandant’s Row at Indiana Veterans’ Home, West Lafayette (repeat entry from 2018 list)
- Crump Theatre, Columbus
- Downtown Attica
- Howe Mansion, Howe Military Academy
- Mineral Springs Hotel, Paoli
- Peru Circus Winter Quarters, Peru
- Pulaski County Courthouse, Winamac
- Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, Richmond
Demolition has claimed only 16 of the 139 Most Endangered sites listed since 1991, while 85 places are completely restored or no longer endangered.
To see a list of the 2019 entries and their background click here.
These places shape lives, and when they’re gone, they leave a void that can’t be filled.