Historic structure deserves to be preserved
The County Home of North Annex on Grant Line Road, built in 1878, has served the best interest of Floyd County residents continuously, until just a few weeks ago when the Floyd County Youth Shelter moved into its new facility in the renovated Pine View School.
In 1838, Floyd County officials had the vision to purchase 240 acres to create a working farm so that people who could not take care of themselves could live out their lives with dignity at the county “Poor Farm.” This continued without interruption through the construction of the present facility in 1878 and lasted until 1978 when it was turned into a youth shelter.
And now this structure, eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, is sitting vacant and threatened with demolition. For five years preservationist have worked diligently with county officials to attempted to save and repurpose this historic building. Even though this structure has been grossly neglected for decades a survey by a historic architect in 2008 found it structurally very sound.
Last year, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Louisville and nationally acclaimed was prepared to purchase this structure and four acres to create a campus for Floyd County single women with young children to be able to go to college. This would have immediately provided an opportunity for 55 Floyd County women and their children to leave Section 8 housing to attend and graduate from college to break the cycle of poverty. After county officials initially expressed support for this possibility, even verbally indicating this was a win-win situation, something unknown to us suddenly caused it to be abruptly canceled.
Since the 1960s, Floyd County and New Albany have lost far to much of their architectural heritage. This building seems to have too few champions since most of its residents were people with few resources, even though many names listed in old ledgers are ancestors to many of our well known present residents today.
One of Floyd County’s most famous citizens and national heroine, Lucy Higgs Nichols, died there in 1915. She was the runaway slave who helped save untold numbers of Floyd County soldiers’ lives during the Civil War and is now immortalized with a historical marker in Veterans Plaza on Market Street and an elaborate permanent exhibit at the Carnegie Center.
The final disposition of this structure will be made very soon. The real question is will this building follow the majestic post office and courthouse as they were reduced to rubble 50 years ago, or will our three county commissioners, who make the final decision, realize that they would not want their names linked to the destruction of the last historic structure along Grant Line Road. We must hold them accountable that they make every effort to positively repurpose this magnificent building.
We will be discussing this issue at the commissioners meeting at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Pine View Government Center.
— Vic Megenity, Floyd County Historical Society vice president and Stephen B. Pacciano, Heritage Preservation League President