09 May 2013
Like so many other county poor farms, the White County Commissioners voted to discontinue service at their facility at the end of 2010. And, like so many other county farms, the building and land were in jeopardy of being razed and redeveloped.
However, most county homes aren't lakefront properties like the Lakeview Home in Monticello. It is situated on a bluff overlooking Indiana Beach on Lake Shaffer. Concerned that "Lakeview" land offered "lake views" some concerned White County residents banded together to see what could be done to save the 100+ year old home. The thought was to make the building eligible for tax credits by listing it on the National Register so when it went to auction it may entice the right buyer.
The building was designed by a noted local architect, but it should also be noted that by this time a booklet had been developed by the State of Indiana called "Public Charities in Indiana" which was essentially a guideline to design of state hospitals, prisons, orphanages, county jails and county homes. With any familiarity at all of county homes after about 1890, one can identify the common design features and layout quickly: middle part/administration and superintendents' quarters, left and right wings/resident dormitories, the rear wing/kitchen and dining, and typically a small addition on the back or a separate building that had actual jail cells with steel bars. Only the exterior architectural design features and details varied from county to county. Most county homes employed the Romanesque style, or variants of the Queen Anne or Classical styles. Here is a link to the1904 book: The Development of Public Charities in Indiana
The "poor farms" were self-sufficient. They had enough acreage to maintain livestock and grow food for the residents. Able residents worked the fields and with livestock, if they were men, and worked in the garden or laundry and kitchen duties if they were women. Barns (most of which have been the first to disappear from the county farm complex), orchards, and even cemeteries. Frequently the county farms were far enough removed from town cemeteries that paupers' graves were dug in one corner of the poor farm. Marshall County's poor farm cemetery was razed by over-zealous county commissioners and tenet farmers; the exact location has been lost.
White County's county home still has one barn and another shed remaining on the property-but the main house is intact with only minor remodeling. It has the prescribed layout associated with Indiana's county home model including an attached jail wing on the back of the building. It also has an impressive entryway down a long alee of trees. The county separated the farmland and auctioned the house and its lakeview site. The developer seems sensitive to the history of the home and can access tax credits since it was listed on the National Register in 2011.