Knox County ‘Poor Farm’

Olivia P. Tucker, Sections Editor

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The Knox County Asylum or what is known as the “Poor Farm” has been around for over a century, originally serving as a home for many types of people who didn’t fit into the social norms back in the 1800s.

In 1843, it was relocated so that everyone could be moved to a central location, so the land around its current location on Hart Street could be purchased. Everyone in the area was relocated there when the building was finished.

On Aug. 16, 1881, an inmate by the name of Perry Smith set fire to the old building, burning it completely to the ground, according to The Indianapolis News on Aug. 18, 1881.

“Fire made headlines back in the day,” Richard Day, a local historian said during an interview on the building’s history.

Joseph Frick of Evansville designed the massive building in its current form. The building is two story with a cupula in the center and windows that to this day cover all sides of the structure.  In December of 1881, the building was completed and served as a county home until 1923 when the inmates were moved to a different location.

According to Day the original design of the building was to have a cross shape, but due to financial reasons only the three sides were built.

Day said, “It’s an outstanding piece of architecture,” and added that it would be a great thing for students who are going into architecture and design to look into.

“Purdue took over for a model farm,” Day stated to what had happened to the farm after the inmates were transferred.

By the 1930s the George Rogers Clark Memorial was built and the people who were in the asylum were relocated back to the original location on Hart Street. The poor farm served as a home for patients up to 1975.

In recent years the building has transferred over from the county to Sandy Ivers, whose intention, according to Kellie Streeter, the Knox County Commissioner President, “was to raise money and open up a Hope House for women whom were in need of shelter and rehabilitation.”

Streeter also mentioned that the property transfer took place approximately four years ago and “In that time the building was not completed for the intended project.”

There is also interest in the building from others. According to the article “Ghost hunter still interested in ‘poor farm’” by Jenny McNeece from the Vincennes Sun-Commercial, Adam Kimmell, a producer and director of a documentary show on YouTube “Resident Undead” presented a plan to the county commissioners to turn the poor farm into a paranormal site back in July.

Streeter said, “Currently the county attorney is reviewing the legal documents to verify that the property transfer previous is valid or void due to time length. Once we are clear on the property we will then proceed with the plans for the future.”

Streeter mentioned as well that the building is under review with the Indiana DNR for historical designation.

The Trailblazer will be following up on this story in the future.

 

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Knox County ‘Poor Farm’