Parks tour to revisit Elkhart County Home’s storied past

A historic site with a colorful past will be featured in an upcoming program at Ox Bow County Park.

Posted on May 31, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

DUNLAP — A small cemetery, a water tower pump station and a few fruit trees are all that’s left of the Elkhart County Home demolished three decades ago, but the building’s rich history will be reawakened Friday evening.

Elkhart County Parks will delve into the past with a tour of Ox Bow County Park where the two-story brick home and its farm once stood. Interpretive naturalist Krista Daniels and Elkhart County Historical Museum education curator Rebecca Oestreich will lead a hike through the property at 6:30 p.m., beginning at the Ox Bow Haus Shelter. The park is at 23033 C.R. 45, north of U.S. 33, between Elkhart and Goshen.

“The Elkhart County Home played a really important role in our community,” Oestreich said. “It was one of the first ways we were able to provide for those who were less fortunate.”

The 65-room home, sometimes called the “asylum” or the “poor farm,” opened in 1887 as quarters for men, women and a handful of children who were poverty stricken or could not take care of themselves because of mental and physical disabilities. They raised livestock, grew crops and worked in apple orchards on the 126-acre property in exchange for room and board.

Issues with the home’s conditions sprang up during its first few years of operation. County officials reported problems with overcrowding, leaky floorboards and how the residents were treated. The last resident left the home in 1977, and the building was torn down four years later.

Friday’s program will feature historic photos, colorful tales about the residents and stops at landmarks throughout the park, including remnant trees from the orchards, the spot where the demolished structure once stood and a cemetery where residents were buried.


The Elkhart County Historical Museum will lead a pair guided walking tours through the streets of historic downtown Bristol at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. June 7.

Museum staff will make a special stop at one of the oldest churches in the county. Visitors will tour the sanctuary at St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church, which is having an open house that evening. Other stops include the old Bristol Banner office, the Interurban Station, the Bristol Opera House, the Derby Hotel and the Village Green, where the town hosted its annual melon carnival.

The walking tour will begin and end at the Elkhart County Historical Museum, 304 W. Vistula St. Pre-registration for the tour is required. Admission is $1.

For more information or to sign up, call 848-4322.


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