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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Commissioners making final inspection of County Home

Friday, August 7, 2009

In a little over a week County Commissioners will make the final inspection of the Putnam County Home and the doors will likely be closed forever
In less than two weeks Putnam County Commissioners will do a final inspection of Green Acres, the Putnam County Home that is now closed.

Very likely several parcels of farmland will go up for auction.

Commissioners have not yet determined what will happen to the nearly 140- year-old building that has housed hundreds of people over the years.

Earlier this year the Putnam County commissioners cited budget constraints and just five residents as factors in their decision to close the facility.

The last resident has packed up his belongings and moved to a new facility.

"I hate to do it. I always thought that place would always be there," said County Commissioner Gene Beck at a meeting earlier this year. "It was different when there were 10 or 11 people living out there all the time. I hate to do this."

The home had only five residents currently living there and all but one received Social Security benefits and Medicare. Three came to Green Acres from Owen County when they closed their county-run facility a few years ago.

All three commissioners expressed distress at having to make the decision and emphasized what a good job has been done at the home over the past years.

"Shirley (VanHook) has done a wonderful job," said Beck.

The prominent brick and limestone structure seems a little out of place in the rolling farmland east of Greencastle but it has been a landmark since it was built in 1870.

The building is all that remains of what was once a self-sustaining farm for the poor and destitute of the county. For a number of years it served as a home for people no longer able to stay at home and care for themselves but not quite ready for a nursing home environment.

It was once called the "Poor Farm" but that name was changed to Green Acres a long time ago.

Persons living at the home paid part of their income for rent with the most recent rate being $840 a month. For those with little or no income a program called Assistance for Residents in County Homes (ARCH) was utilized.

Each resident had their own room, but shared the bathrooms. Women lived on the first floor and men on the second. Because there was no elevator the men had to be able to climb stairs. Meals, laundry and room cleaning were provided, along with transportation to doctor appointments if needed.

The county home started out as a self-sustaining farm that provided a place for people to go who could not support themselves. Originally called poorhouses, theses facilities were tax-supported residential institutions. They were started as a method of providing a less expensive (to the taxpayers) alternative to what we would now days call "welfare."

Called "outdoor relief" in those early days, people in need requested help from the community overseer of the poor, who was an elected official. If the need was great or likely to be long-term, they were sent to the poorhouse instead of being given relief while they continued to live independently.

By 1875, after the regulation of poorhouses in most states became the responsibility of the State Board of Charities, laws were passed prohibiting children from residing in poorhouses and removing mentally ill patients and others with special needs to more appropriate facilities.

Eventually the farms evolved almost exclusively into nursing homes for dependent elderly people. They were common in the United States beginning in the middle of the 19th century and declined in use after the Social Security Act took affect in 1935 with many disappearing completely by about 1950.

Most like Green Acres were working farms that produced at least some of the produce, grain, and livestock they consumed. Residents were expected to provide labor to the extent that their health would allow both in the fields and in providing housekeeping and care for other residents.

On Aug. 17 when county commissioners make their final inspection of the home, the historic building and surrounding parcels of land will likely go on the auction block.

Historic Landmarks Western Regional Office and the Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County are working with county commissioners in identifying reuse opportunities for the building. So far none have been identified.

For more information about efforts to preserve the former county home, contact Tommy Kleckner, director of Historic Landmarks' Western Regional Office, 812-232-4534 or email tkleckner@historiclandmarks.org.

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I hope this historic building is somehow protected from being demolished. and hope to see it restored, preserved and hopefully used. I remember visiting my great aunt there in the 70's.

-- Posted by just a local on Sat, Aug 8, 2009, at 11:42 PM

I have driven by here hundreds of times over the years and thought it would always be here. So sad.

-- Posted by Georgianow on Sun, Aug 9, 2009, at 6:59 AM

I don't see why the Putnam County Museum doesn't move in there.

-- Posted by eclectic_redneck on Sun, Aug 9, 2009, at 9:27 PM

How about a House to hold all the embezzlers in this county? Give them a place to stay away from the bustle of a material life and talk about the messed up thoughts going through their heads when they take this money from innocent people and organizations.

-- Posted by cattlequeen on Thu, Aug 13, 2009, at 1:18 PM

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