The Pulaski County Commissioners and the Pulaski County Council met in joint session last night that included a presentation by members of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Historical Preservation and Archaeology. Paul Diebold, who is a member of the committee, answered many questions concerning the historic eligibility of the Pleasant View Rest Home.
Janet Onken from the Pulaski County Historical Society submitted a 31-page application to the DNR Historical Preservation and Archaeology in order to nominate the county home as a historic structure.
Diebold said they consider a structure for the National Register of Historic Places with the following criteria: associated by events, associated by important persons, architecture and design, and archaeological sites. The structure must meet one of those criteria at a local, state or national location. The facility should also have integrity. Diebold stated that the Pleasant View Rest Home, or county home, does fit one of those criteria.
“In the case of the county home, we felt that it met the first criteria of association with events,” explained Diebold. “The event in this case was the social welfare of the county and how that particular program was practiced over many decades both in Indiana in general and in the nation in general as our system is very distinct in those of other democracies and in your community as well.”
The DNR Division of Historical Preservation and Archaeology members do not make the final decision. They look at the applications, decide if the structure meets one of the four criteria and then make a recommendation to the review board. The review board then sends a recommendation to Washington D.C. where the National Parks Service approves or rejects the recommendation to the National Register of Historic Places.
The members did hear comments about the county home during an open meeting on Oct. 22 in Indianapolis but they tabled the decision in order to hold a public meeting in Pulaski County to inform residents about the historic preservation process and to answer any questions. Pulaski County Commission President Larry Brady was the only representative present at that meeting and presented this letter: Commissioner Larry Brady’s Letter to DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. The members also reviewed 28 letters concerning the county home and Diebold stated that he’s never seen that many typed or handwritten letters of support of a structure for the national register in the 26 years he’s been a part of the organization.
Diebold went on to say that there is a favorable recommendation at this time to place the county home on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many residents asked questions about grant funding eligibility and Diebold assured that grant money could be available to help with the rehabilitation of the building. However, once accepted they have a covenant for five years where they have the say over what can be done to the structure.
One resident brought up the issue of the possible sale or reuse of the building and Diebold said anything can be done with the structure, but that would be left to the county to decide. Those options have not been discussed or acted upon in an open government meeting.
Another person questioned whether or not the historical status of the county home could stop anyone from shutting down the operations at the home. Diebold replied that a historic status just means that residents have a historic place in which to have pride.
“The national register is not going to be like planting a flag in the ground and saying nothing can happen now. You all need to decide that. It’s a tool to help you accomplish that and it’s a tool to recognize that important things happened in this place. This is a place of architectural merit for the community.”
Pulaski County has two other structures on the National Register of Historic Places. The Vurpillat Opera House was designated in 2002 and the Pulaski County Courthouse was designated in 2007. Four other structures in Pulaski County are also registered. If the county home is accepted, it would be the seventh historic structure in Pulaski County.
The members of the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology will make a formal recommendation to the review board at their Jan. 21 meeting.
The second half of last night’s meeting was devoted to the council’s previous decision to eliminate the county home’s funding from the 2015 budget. That part of the meeting will be featured on Monday, Nov. 10.