Historical Society seeks community funds to match restoration grant


The Switzerland County Historical Society has earned a grant that will focus on the renovation of the house on the Farmstead property west of Vevay, and will now begin a year-long process of gathering community support – and funds – to match the grant requirements.

“We got a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and it was for having an Historic Structures Report done on the farmstead house,” Martha Bladen of the Historical Society said. “Basically they were representing a particular funder, which was the Jeffris Family Foundation out of Wisconsin.”

Martha Bladen said that the Switzerland County had to provide half of the funding’s $20,000 cost to match that grant and have the report done.

“We ended up with this very in-depth report done,” Martha Bladen said. “It was Ball State’s Center for Historic Preservation who did the study. With that study, we were able to apply to the Jeffris Foundation directly, with a letter of intent.”

Martha Bladen said that once the Jeffris Foundation got a copy of the report, it commented that it was an excellent study and encouraged the local historical society to apply for a grant.

The Jeffris Foundation supplies one-third of the cost of a historic renovation. The report said that the house restoration would be about $234,800 – meaning that the foundation will provide about $78,267.

The Switzerland County Historical Society now has one year to raise the rest of the needed funding.

Martha Bladen said that one of the specific things about the Historic Structures Report is that the document will guide the restoration; and also gives alternatives on certain aspects of the project.

“For instance there is an enclosed porch on the back of the structure currently that originally was an open porch,” Martha Bladen said. “We had to determine whether we would go back to the open porch, or would we leave it closed because the Thiebaud family lived there for three generations, so it was probably done while they were living there, but we had to choose a period of interpretation, so we’re probably going to go back to an open porch.”

Martha Bladen said that the Jeffris Foundation is very “hands on”, noting that Mr. Jeffris has already called a couple of times; and sometimes likes to visit sites once foundation dollars begin to be used.

Martha Bladen said that the Historic Structures Report shows is that there is a stone foundation in the cellar of the current house that doesn’t line up with what’s above it.

“The thought is that the original cabin was on that site, also,” she said. “When the Thiebauds settled in 1817. Now we feel like that is the original site, and during the time with the hay press barn, which was 1850-1851, was when the family started seeing the financial improvements on the farmstead. We think the period that the house was rebuilt was 1858 due to finding a single little piece of hardware that had a date on it.”

As for the barn, a mixture of science and history has brought some startling findings.

“Dr. Darin Rubino of Hanover College, he’s a biologist, but what he does in timber archeology to date a structure by basically reading the rings of the tree. It’s not counting rings, it’s by weather patterns, so there are years where the rings are wider or narrower. He recently dated the barn, and he determined that it was built between July of 1850 and April of 1851, because that’s when those logs were harvested. It’s really kind of amazing.”

The farmstead’s period of interpretation will be that general period around 1850, when the haypress barn was fully operational and the farm was in its biggest growth period.


So with the restoration plan established, the push is on to inform the public about the need for the matching funds. The Historical Society has asked Anita Danner to lead the fundraising efforts.

“Our goal is to raise $200,000,” Anita Danner said. “That gives us some additional monies to do something with the barn, because originally the thought was that the barn would be the first thing that would be worked on, but this grant is focused towards the house, and if someone is going to give you money – you want to do that.”

Anita Danner said she’s done some math, and at the last meeting of the historical society, she told the members that if each person in Switzerland County gave $20, the $200,000 would be raised and the society wouldn’t have to go beyond the citizens of the community.

“It’s really important, I think, that it starts at the grass roots. The individuals who live in Switzerland County,” Anita Danner said. “This is a ‘homecoming’, it’s going back to the farm. It sort of fits in with all of the ‘going green’, but it’s a homecoming, we’re going back to the farming origins of this county.”

That said, Anita Danner said that she’s not optimistic enough to think that each and every person in the county will give $20 to the project, but the society still feels that it is important to start with individual contributions, because then when officials go to entities like county government, tourism, and economic development, they can show that there is a true grassroots effort to make this plan a reality.

“I want to be able to say that this is something that all of the people in Switzerland County are supporting,” Anita Danner said.

“It’s important because the people who help the farmstead on an ongoing basis need to be a part of it from the very beginning,” Martha Bladen said. “There’s going to be volunteers needed; and we want there to be interest and caring within the community. We think this is a really important place to start.”

So how do members of the community show that support?

Anita Danner shows off a cloth-covered box with a ribbon around it. For now, it serves as the society’s “treasure chest” for donations.

People can give $20 – or whatever amount they choose (Anita Danner will accept larger donations) – to the Switzerland County Historical Society. Donations should be earmarked for the “Capital Campaign”, and can be left at the museum; or give it to Martha Bladen or Anita Danner; or mail the donation to the society. The mailing address is:

Switzerland County Historical Society

P.O. Box 201

Vevay, Indiana 47043

Attention: Capital Campaign


Martha Bladen says that other activities are planned that will show the community the work that has already been done at the farmstead. Three Conservators Holidays have been held, where volunteers have helped with the restoration; and the front porch has also been rebuilt.

“There has been a lot of effort that has already gone into the house,” Martha Bladen said. “We think people will come and see what we’ve done, and see the vision of what’s to come.”

– Pat Lanman