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History worth preserving - and exploring

Organized in 1836, Noble County is dotted with places of historic significance, worthy of exploration.


In fact, seventeen places in this fresh-air region of Northeast Indiana are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an official record of places deemed worthy of preservation across America. Created by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the register is part of a program that supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect the nation's precious historic and archeological resources.


Historic Downtown Kendallville

Kendallville's Main Street corridor, listed as the Kendallville Downtown Historic District, is one of Indiana's most intact, contiguous historic downtown corridors.


Image of detailing on Mian Street in Kendallville
Historic Downtown Kendallville offers one of Indiana's longest, contiguous collections of historic architecture.

In 2021, its features and the community's bold plans and enthusiasm to carry them out earned the City of Kendallville recognition as one of two Pilot Communities under Indiana's PreservINg Main Street initiative. Kendallville was awarded $2 million to be granted to downtown property owners investing to restore and preserve historic elements of their properties.


The grant award has catalyzed the transformation of this historic corridor over the past two years - with more to come! The nationally accredited Main Street organization, Historic Downtown Kendallville, hosts many unique events, free concerts, and more throughout the year. Take a walk down Main Street to discover personal biographies of historic figures, shared on large window decals in storefronts. Be sure to visit the website to find complete a walking tour app, upcoming events, and more!


Old Jail Museum

History buffs and architecture enthusiasts have several choices to explore while visiting Noble County and would be well-suited to begin their adventure at the former home of the Noble County Sheriff and jail, now known as the Old Jail Museum, just off the historic courthouse square in Albion, in the heart of Noble County.

Photo of Old Jail Museum in Albion, Indiana
Old Jail Museum in Albion.

The structure at the corner of West Main and North Oak Streets was completed in 1876. The brick and limestone building, lovingly tended to by the Noble County Historical Society, is considered a Second Empire architectural style. It features original jail cells and living quarters, preserved and presented with period furnishings and artifacts. The building once served to not only contain criminals and alleged violators, it was also home to multiple Noble County Sheriffs and their families from 1876 through 1965.


The jail's cell floors and walls are composed of Indiana limestone. Purchased by the Noble County Historical Society in 1968 for $2,275, with funds contributed by individuals and organizations, the Old Jail Museum houses the society's collection of artifacts, photographs, ledgers, and more. Among them are jail records that paint the stories of some of the 20,000 prisoners and 35 sheriffs and families who resided there. Inmates' etchings in the community dinner table and a mastodon tooth are some of the thousands of interesting things to see inside the walls of the museum. To plan a visit, call Bill Shultz, a member of the historical society, at 260-740-8692 or email bill.shultz@bmrgroup.net.


Noble County Courthouse

Voted one of the most beautiful courthouses in Indiana during the Indiana Bicentennial in 2016, the Noble County Courthouse sits in the center of the county and the Albion Courthouse Square Historic District. The courthouse and district, which includes many contributing buildings occupied today, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo of the Noble County Courthouse in Albion, Indiana.
Noble County Courthouse in Albion.

The Noble County Courthouse, designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, is constructed of red brick and limestone. Embellishments may not stand out at first look, but upon closer examination, observers will discover some beautiful details including asymmetric structural elements, rock-faced limestone detailing, a standing-seam copper roof, and a variety of intricately carved faces and other decorative façade features.


Though renovations on the interior of the courthouse that began in summer 2023 are expected to thwart visitation for a year or more, a set of binoculars will provide access to observe the exterior from a safe, but nearby sidewalk.


Any downtown Albion adventure might continue to the many historic buildings that face the courthouse square. A total of 64 buildings contribute to the Register designation for the District, including commercial buildings and residences. Many are Italianate, but others represent International style, Romanesque Revival, Gabled-ell/Free Classic, Craftsman, Queen Anne, Neo-Classical, Contemporary, Greek Revival, Upright and Wing, and Hall and Parlor styles.


Two such buildings are now combined as the home of Doc's Do-It-Best Hardware. Not only is this family-owned small business a staple for locals, the interior still contains many original elements from decades past. If Don, the proprietor is around, ask him to see some of the hidden, historic elements. He has stories to share!


Stanley School

South of Albion, located in Chain O'Lakes State Park, is the Stanley School.

Photo of the Stanley Schoolhouse at Chain O'Lakes State Park, Albion, Indiana.
Stanley Schoolhouse, Green Township, Noble County.

Built in 1915, the former school sits about two hundred feet up a hill from Lower Finster Lake, one of several lakes in the park. Typical of schools built in this period, the Stanley School is a one-room, T-shaped building with a single chimney. It has multiple windows and a large chalkboard that lines one entire wall.


Wood floors, walls and ceiling covered in plaster, and openings trimmed in simple, stained hardwood moldings, are well preserved. Period furnishings help tell the story of days gone by. Noble County once had a one-room schoolhouse about every two miles. The Stanley School is the only fully preserved structure that celebrates this history in the county, thanks to a restoration completed in 2012 by Chain O'Lakes State Park. Staff there provide interpretive programs.


Sweet Church

Northeast of Albion, north of Skinner Lake, is the Jefferson Union Church and Sweet Cemetery, restored by Sweet Church Community Organization, a local nonprofit organization, in the early 2000s. Locals refer to the structure simply as "Sweet Church."

Image of Sweet Church in rural Noble County, Indiana.
Sweet Church, Jefferson Township, Noble County.

Built in 1875 by George Harvey, who also built the Noble County Courthouse, the structure served a nondenominational church called Jefferson Union Township Church. Later, locals gave it the moniker "Sweet Church" in honor of James Sweet, the man who donated the land for the building.


In 2012, an annex was added at the property, which now serves as a community center and hosts local 4-H and Skinner Lake Homeowners Association meetings. Local use Sweet Church, available for rental by reservation, for private family celebrations. Visitors are also welcomed to explore, though are likely to find doors locked unless a community event is scheduled. Find more information on the organization's website.


Kneipp Springs

Kneipp Springs Historic District, located along State Road 9 on the north edge of Rome City, is another of Noble County's historic gems. Comprised of approximately 80 acres, the district includes a large sanitarium constructed by the Sisters of the Precious Blood, a Catholic order, in the early 1900s.

Image of the former Kneipp Springs property in Rome City, Indiana.
Former Kneipp Springs in Rome City.

Drawn to the site by land that is rich with natural springs, near Sylvan Lake, the property developers constructed a chapel, Queen Anne-style house, a Gothic-arched dairy barn (now home to the Sylvan Cellars Event Center, tasting room, and restaurant), and an early threshing barn.


Today, Our Lady the Immaculate Virgin Patroness of America is in residence and is restoring the building to be utilized as a retreat facility with a "contemporary conference center," according to their website. Visitation hours and policies are provided on their website.


Gene Stratton-Porter Home

One of Noble County's most-visited historic sites is the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site on the shore of Sylvan Lake in Rome City. Stratton-Porter, Indiana's most widely read female author, naturalist, and entrepreneur, designed her Cabin in Wildflower Woods here.

Image of the GSP Cabin in Wildflower Woods, Rome City, Indiana.
Cabin in Wildflower Woods, Rome City.

The beautiful log cabin home is set in a primeval woods on the south shore of the lake, where Stratton-Porter enjoyed idyllic sunrises. The white cedar log cabin features multiple porches, a conservatory, and photographic darkroom.


A beautiful stone fireplace in the living room features carved Aztec Indian heads, brought to the home from Mexico by Stratton-Porter herself. The home was completed in 1914 and the author resided there until 1919. Today, a large collection of Stratton-Porter's belongs are interpreted for visitors. Guests may also pay their respects at an above-ground marble garden crypt nestled in the woods on site.


Learn more and make plans to visit Stratton-Porter's beloved Limberlost home by exploring the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites website.


Keep exploring

Historic homes - some listed on the National Register of Historic Places - may be observed in Ligonier, including the Jacob Straus House. Travel down Main Street in Ligonier to see some of the region's most impressive period homes. Main Street runs north and south just one block west of the commercial corridor (Cavin Street.)


Other local structures of interest include Ahavas Shalom Reform Temple, Stone's Trace, and the buildings that contribute to the downtown Ligonier Historic District.


Other Noble County properties on the National Register of Historic places include:

  • Wilmot Milling Company, Wilmot

  • Luckey Hospital, Wolf Lake

  • Cromwell Historic District, Cromwell

  • Brimfield School Number Two, Brimfield

Registry nominations and supporting documents, offering extensive details about these historic properties, were referenced for this blog. Find them at https://secure.in.gov/apps/dnr/shaard/welcome.html.

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