Saturday, November 20, 2010

Historic homes of Sardinia--the one in Decatur County.

On a recent trip to Sardinia -- the Sardinia in Decatur County, Indiana, that is, I came upon this gorgeous old Italianate on that little settlement's main street, which is now SR 3. 

Below is the same house in a photo taken from the east and looking west across the highway.

And below is an etching of this house from the 1882 Decatur County Atlas. 
You can see that the tower is now missing, but the rest of the house is pretty much intact, though several windows are boarded up and there are roof issues that will wear this beauty down fast.  This would be a fabulously rewarding fixer-upper project for someone. 

The bottom house in the atlas etching above is still standing just south of the brick one, too.  But it's had an addition on the facade and new vinyl siding (yuck). It hurt my eyes, so I didn't take a photo.

Sardinia has an agricultural history of great wealth directly connected to the construction of the railroad through the town.  Although settled in 1835, all the once-grand homes in Sardinia and the nearby countryside date to the 1850s through 1870s, a time when the railroad was king and before "agribusiness" meant confined feeding operations and ownership of thousands of acres.  The wealthy of the countryside around Sardinia owned a few hundred acres at most.  They made the most of them and the rich land made them rich. Their houses show it and many of those old houses remain, though most have been altered.  The one below is still in good shape and probably one of the oldest in the area. She's a beauty, eh?

I  continue to be puzzled about the people who build cookie-cutter tract houses when grand dames like these exist all over the place. Decatur County is especially graced with existing brick homes from the second half of the 19th Century.  I know it's expensive to restore an old house of this scale, but the $100,000 you might pay for a crappy house in a subdivision would go a long way toward turning a house like the first one into a restored beauty like this one.  And it's an investment that helps us retain our history.  You should think about it.


  1. Thanks for the great pics. Something tells me that old farmsteads such as these are more likely to die quietly unnoticed in the night, whereas the higher visibility of an urban estate keeps them at least squarely planted on the preservationist's (and the public's) radar. Obviously we have a culture that values new new new above all else in housing, including more than just new architectural details, which are probably irrelevant to many home buyers. The fact is that an old house has old bathroom fixtures and kitchen appliances, and the replacement/upgrade costs are often higher than most people are willing to pay, when they can get a new house without any of those other "kinks" that far too few of us see as desirable.

  2. AD, yep that seems to sum up what a lot of folks think. Personally, I'd much rather have a significant and gorgeous old house than a new bland one. But I agree that's not the general public's view, which is why we are losing rural housing at a very rapid rate.

  3. ive heard a rumor that this house used to be some sort of sanitarium/assylum... i worked w an older lady who said in school she did a history of sardinia in history. very curious where to find this info, or if anyone knows. my dad and his ex-wife used to rent the bottom half. was an exquisite interior as well.