finishes first phase of restoration
Visitors Center is now open
LANCASTER, Ind. (October 2007) The first phase
of the restoration project on Historic Eleutherian College, located
Hwy. 250 in Lancaster, Ind., is nearly completed. This phase, which
included stabilization of the entire structure, took nearly a year and
was funded by several grants, including one from the National Parks
Services Save Americas Treasures and federal Community
Development Block Grant money given to Indiana for distribution.
by Konnie McCollum
have completed some
restoration work on the Hoyt
and Underground Railroad Visitors
Center in Lancaster, Ind., and also
added displays about the Hoyt
family and their participation in
the Underground Railroad.
We are thrilled with the work that has been done
up to this point, said Jae Breitweiser, executive director of
Historic Eleutherian College Inc. But there is much more work
to be done, and more funding to be found to complete the entire restoration
of this important historic site.
Historic Eleutherian College is listed in the Indiana and National Register
of Historic Places, is a National Historic Landmark, is listed in the
Save Americas Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation
and is a Civil War Site. The college and the surrounding village of
Lancaster played prominent roles in the anti-slavery Underground Railroad
We received National Historic Landmark status because something
significant happened here that changed the nation, said Breitweiser.
The historic site was the first college in Indiana and one of the first
in pre-Civil War America to admit students regardless of race or gender.
Because of a lack of funding for years, the structure was in desperate
need of assistance due to the prolonged effects of neglect and vandalism.
The first phase of work has turned things around for the college.
I feel we got to this just in time before the building was lost
possibly forever, said Breitweiser.
During this first phase of restoration, the exterior was the main focus.
Harmon & Harmon Construction Co, based in North Vernon, Ind., stabilized
the entire structure, cleaned the stone and redid the mortar. The chimneys
were refurbished using brick donated from the Reindollar family home
in Madison that was destroyed by fire. The interior floors were stabilized
as well, and access to the Bell Tower was reopened.
The company also used wood from the original floor joists to create
window casings. Period windows were found as replacements and the doors
were reconstructed using designs in keeping with the era in which the
college was built.
Everything was done according to National Park Service standards
for Historic Landmarks, said Breitweiser.
Part of those standards include making certain that a specific percentage
of original material be used in the restoration. She said the yellow
poplar Old Growth timbers used in the 1820s for the original
floor joists had rotted on each end and were not safe to continue using
as flooring. Instead, the huge beams were turned into window sills and
casings, which worked perfectly with the NPS regulations.
There was some interior work done as well during this phase of reconstruction.
David Cart of Madison, Ind., was responsible for reconditioning the
flooring, replacing floor joists and putting in the sub-floor. The original
flooring was removed and put in safe storage until more work on the
interior is completed.
Cart was the director of the Lanier Mansion and oversaw the restoration
of that historic structure during the period in which preservationists
were trying to secure National Historic Landmark status for the structure.
I watched the actual contractors work, and I thought it looked
fun to actually physically do the work, said Cart. Ive
now been actively working as a historic restorer for about 10 years
now, and I love my work.
Carts crew, which consisted mainly of his family, were on a deadline
of two months to complete their section of work. He was excited about
his role in the historic reconstruction and hopes to bid on more work
when the second phase begins.
He has done preservation and restoration projects with Historic Madison,
Pearl Park and is especially proud of his work on the historic Deputy
United Methodist Church. We restored it to its original 1884 grandeur,
and it looks simply beautiful, he said.
In addition to the work completed on Eleutherian College, the artifacts
and displays for the colleges Hoyt & Underground Railroad
Visitors Center were completed. Lyman Hoyt was responsible for building
up Lancaster into the thriving community that it was. He was also a
major Underground Railroad conductor in the Lancaster area.
Breitweiser said the second phase of restoration for Historic Eleutherian
College will begin as soon as more financial assistance is procured.
For more information about Historic Eleutherian
College, visit www.eleutherian.us.
Back to October 2007