Indiana Couple Hopes To Turn Former Poor Farm Into Hospice

(VINCENNES) — A southwestern Indiana couple is aiming to turn a grand but deteriorating Victorian building that once served as a county poor farm into a hospice house.

The Knox County Commissioners agreed to transfer responsibility for the 140-year-old brick building to Andy Barmes and Angie Barmes, a contractor and local nurse.

The next chapter in the saga of the county’s old poor farm puts the 140-year-old Victorian building into the hands of Andy Barmes and Angie Barmes, a contractor and local nurse respectively, who plan to restore it and reopen it as a hospice house.Sun-Commercial photo by Gayle R. Robbins

No money was exchanged, but the commissioners did require the couple to meet certain criteria, including making significant progress, to keep the property in their hands. If there is no progress within two years, the commissioners reserve the right to take the property back.

The Barmeses hope to eventually open the renovated building as a new nonprofit, County Farm Hospice House Inc., the Vincennes Sun-Commercial reported.

Andy Barmes told the commissioners last month that he plans to restore the home and its historic character, including nearly 13-foot ceilings, tall, ornate windows, and magnificent fireplaces.

Barmes said his first task will be to replace the building’s roof to prevent further water damage from the elements.

Commissioner Tim Ellerman called the transfer to the couple “a gift to the taxpayers” of Knox County.

“We haven’t put any money in it for a very long time,” he said. “I think they are doing us a monumental favor by taking it over.”

The building and the property served as Knox County’s poor farm for impoverished residents until the 1920s. It served various purposes over the subsequent decades but was eventually abandoned.