Hamilton Grove's Epp Hall to be demolished

As we near the end of New Carlisle Epp Hall’s standing on Hamilton Grove’s Campus, it is important that we share the story of how the board came to the incredibly difficult decision of demolishing this historic building.

With almost 20 years of Epp Hall Task Force Committee contributions and efforts to utilize, integrate, and celebrate this landmark, all resources have unfortunately been exhausted in attempts to save the home. However difficult the decisions made may be, we want to take the time to share the background on the many attempts we made to revive this once thriving New Carlisle landmark.

The history of Hamilton Grove campus goes back to the early years of the 20th Century when the grandson of a farmer, Haven Hubbard (B.1852) of New Carlisle, Indiana, began to sense a growing desire and conviction to provide some means to minister to the needs of the aging population. Unfortunately his death came before these plans could see the light. His widow, Armina Hubbard, however, carried on with her husband’s dreams and pushed them forward.

Mrs. Hubbard deeded the Hubbard Family Farm of 704 acres to the Evangelical Church as a site for a home for the elderly. The home was incorporated under the laws of the State of Indiana as the Haven Hubbard Memorial of the Evangelical and United Brethren in Christ Denominations. A building committee was appointed and formally dedicated in 1923. Throughout its functioning years, Armina Hubbard added on to the building and developed benevolent funding for those who could not afford care through their own assets, refusing to turn away care to the elderly no matter their financial situations.

Through the 1960’s, major renovations and additions were added as the senior home grew with residents. By 1978, the formal name change to what we know now as Hamilton Grove was established. In 1984, more additions expanding throughout the property began to modernize and develop the campus into its contemporary setting, eventually making Epp Hall obsolete.

As far back as the 1990’s, efforts were put in place by the Epp Hall Task Force Committee to utilize the building to its fullest potential. The building has been left vacant since 2005.

Through committee and city-based involvement, countless formal meetings have been held with the goal of formalizing a newfound role in order to save this historic landmark. Numerous appraisals, estimates of restoration, as well as funding for community programs were evaluated and discussed by committee members over a 15 year period with passionate determination.

In 2011, Epp Hall made Indiana Landmarks’ yearly publication list of “Top 10 Most Endangered Hoosier Landmarks”.

The committee sent over a proposal to the Historic Preservation Commission. A motion to place Epp Hall on the National Register of Historic Places passed unanimously. This move could have potentially made it more attractive to potential suitors by elevating its status to allow access of federal tax credits and other targeted grants, should the right developer accept the responsibility of refurbishing the building.

The South Bend Tribune followed with an article outlining Epp Hall in March of 2011 and the community’s efforts to utilize this historic landmark. Unfortunately, even through these great efforts and strides, potential buyers fell through, and Epp Hall remained empty even as a recognized historic site.

Through mid 2000’s to 2010’s, countless committee meetings took place with the goal to utilize the building to its fullest potential.

One of the most popular possibilities was to create affordable senior resident housing. This option was published in the South Bend Tribune in an article outlining Epp Hall's placement on the National Historic Register as a serious consideration.

Discussion of utilizing the space as a VA clinic as well as a more structured use of storage was also assessed by numerous committee groups. With every consideration brought up and extensively discussed by Epp Hall Task Force Committee as well as the Hamilton Grove Board, costs and funding were of concerning importance. As Greencroft Communities is a Non-For-Profit organization, benevolent funding to our residents has always been priority. Carrying in the footsteps of our Hubbard Family founders, refusing to turn those away based on financial assets is in our spiritual mission.

With lack of potential investors even through years of extensive efforts by everyone on the committee, the financial effect placed on Hamilton Grove and Greencroft’s current setting would surely affect our flourishing communities. The most recent quote for a structural rehab on Epp Hall to restore the building for full use would be approximately 7 million dollars.

There is no doubt that Epp Hall has harvested rich history for not only the New Carlisle community, but for the Greencroft and Hamilton Grove as well. Setting a standard in our area for the care and treatment of our senior community has and always will be our spiritual calling. The passion that the committee has put in these last 15-20 years to try to save this historic building has been immensely appreciated, but their efforts have unfortunately come to an end.

As every avenue has been assessed and sought after the committee and Hamilton Grove Board has made the difficult decision to allow for demolition of Epp Hall.

While we are saddened by the loss of this piece of our history, we are proud of nearly a century of development into the Hamilton Grove we know today. It is imperative that we acknowledge not only our growth, but those that were passionately invested in the attempt to preserve our history.

The Hamilton Grove community would like to thank everyone involved and the outpouring from the Greater New Carlisle area with their involvement on the historic Epp Home.

Haven and Armina Hubbard’s dreams and wishes thrive daily on Hamilton Grove’s campus and just as they would want to put senior residents needs first, we look forward to doing the same.

May we look towards the future while we celebrate the past.

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© 2016 by The New Carlisle Gazette