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April 25, 2013

Old Clarksville Site still ‘endangered’

Jeffersonville Masonic Hall taken off Indiana Landmarks’ list

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — For the second straight year, the Old Clarksville Site is listed as one of the 10 most endangered historic sites in Indiana, according to an Indiana Landmarks press release.

Indiana Landmarks has issued the list since 1991 in efforts to call attention to the needs of historically significant properties.  Indiana Landmarks officials say they hope that its inclusion on the list will lead the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help stop erosion of an Ohio River dam that threatens the nearly 300-acre site.

Erosion of the shoreline is washing real estate and historic artifacts downstream, said Greg Sekula, Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Office director.

“This area is just steeped with history,” Sekula said. “Everything from actually prehistoric settlements, the Buffalo Trace, the Lewis and Clark expedition — all of these very significant early stories of this region are centered around this place. And the fact that we’re sort of at a standstill in terms of the Corps of Engineers needing authorization and funding to do a study to even begin to address the erosion problem is really kind of the first step that needs to be taken here to hopefully save these resources.”

The Clarksville Historic Preservation Commission and the town’s parks department are eyeing the site for an archeology park. However, those plans could be affected by the erosion issue, Sekula said.

“Thousands of artifacts have been found in and around this area over the years through archaeological digs that have occurred, yet a great deal, we believe, ultimately has been lost and has ended up down the river as a result of the erosion issue,” Sekula said. “So we’ve got to address that if Clarksville’s going to make this significant investment, long-term, in that property ... obviously they want to see a solution to the erosion issue as well.”

Removed from the list this year is the Jeffersonville Masonic Hall. However, the site remains under scrutiny, Sekula said.

“It remains on our watch list, so it’s a building we’re continuing to monitor,” Sekula said. “The reality is that the owner is engaged in a litigation with an insurance company over a settlement on the property. He has indicated that once that is resolved, that he is hopeful that he will pursue rehabilitation on the property. And given the fact that we really have no ability to influence those two factors, we felt it wasn’t prudent to keep it on the list, but we maintain it on our watch list.”

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