Documenting the past

Scott County Interim Report
documents area history

The 125-page book includes illustrations
and maps of town’s important structures

By Levi King
Staff Reporter

(November 2005) – Scott County residents have a new guide to the historical sites of their area. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana recently published its Scott County Interim Report, a catalog of historically significant structures. Historic Landmarks is a private not-for-profit foundation dedicated to preservation and has currently completed interim reports of 81 of Indiana’s 92 counties, as well as reports dedicated to individual towns across the state.

Scott County Heritage Center

Photo by Debra Maylum

The report can be purchased
at the Scott County Heritage Center,
a historical site featured in the book.

As the introduction notes, these reports are “designed to be used as a working document by government agencies, local organizations and private citizens as the basis for a wide variety of projects.”
Jeff Harris, executive director of the Scott County Heritage Museum, participated in the study by assisting Historic Landmarks surveyors with information about sites around the county. He explained that the report focuses on the “built environment, including bridges, houses, public buildings, cemeteries, and even outhouses.”
Work on the Scott County report began in May 2002 when HLF held a kick-off meeting in Scottsburg to alert residents to their presence. Shannon Hill, the survey coordinator, said, “When we start a report, first we let people know we’re going to be around the county taking notes and photos, so they don’t think we’re auditing them or snooping around.”
Surveyors spent more than a year in Scott County uncovering, researching and documenting sites. The surveyors first divvied up townships, then drove every road in their townships, making notes of potential sites. Then they returned to the sites, where they filled out forms, took photos and interviewed local folks to learn about the history of a particular structure.
Danielle Bachant-Bell, a historic preservationist in Bloomington, Ind., served as one of the four field surveyors in the report. “Sometimes individual owners are friendly and sometimes not, but once they understood what we were doing, they were generally happy to work with us,” she said.
Bachant-Bell and her colleagues relied on the help of locals to guide them to obscure sites.
Carol Susnick, Scott County historian, was “thrilled to death” to put her 71 years of experience in the county to good use. “I took those girls around to different places and pointed out historical sites. I got plenty of exercise,” she said, laughing.
Susnick drew on her personal library of notebooks and newspaper clippings to trace the heritage and ownership of some locations. Susnick led the surveyors to barns and cemeteries they may have missed from the roads.
“I learned a lot from them, too,” she said. Bachant-Bell and fellow surveyor Teressa Jackson pointed out architectural features and materials that help date structures.
Following the survey work, HLF spent more than a year compiling and editing the interim report, which highlights such treasures as the Scottsburg Depot, The Scottsburg Courthouse Square Historic District, and the Scott County Poor Farm, which is now home to the Heritage Museum. The report classifies sites according to their historic significance. To be included, a site must be at least 40 years old.
An outstanding site is either listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and must retain its “historic integrity,” meaning it has not been remodeled or significantly altered. Notable sites might be eligible for the register, but may have been changed slightly. Finally, contributing sites are common but important structures, such as older farmhouses.
The book is softcover, 125 pages, and illustrated with photos and maps. The report debuted in May and is currently available at the Heritage Center for $15.
The report uncovered several remarkable sites and structures. Hill pointed to the Double Irish Arch Bridge off Getty Road as one of the most significant finds. The bridge was built in 1856 by Irish laborers to carry the B&O Railroad. “A lot of times people don’t know what they have nearby,” she said.
Bachant-Bell, a Georgia native, said she enjoyed her time in Finley Township the most, because the rolling hills and woods reminded her of home. “There are beautiful, picturesque farmsteads,” she said. “We found little treasures here and there all over the county.”

• For more information, call the Scott County Heritage Museum at (812) 752-1050.

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