Knox County Asylum

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Knox County Asylum
Opened 1881/1935
Closed 1975
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Joseph K. Frick
Location Vincennes, IN
Architecture Style Italianate
Alternate Names
  • Knox County Poor Farm
  • Knox County Infirmary


When Indiana became a state in 1816, the constitution contained a provision for counties to establish poor farms, but nothing was mandated. Then, in 1821, the General Assembly authorized eight commissioners to purchase a farm “for the purpose of it using it to house paupers.” Around that time a log cabin-type structure was built out on what’s now Bunker Hill to serve as the poor farm and a modern brick building replaced it in the 1850s. The farm comprised 40 acres.

The poor farm stayed in that location until 1881, when an arsonist burned down the building. The county purchased the present poor farm site, on what’s now South Hart Street Road, shortly after that and started constructing a new building designed by Joseph Frick, an architect out of Evansville. The center served as the superintendent’s residence and the two wings that extended outward held separate quarters for male and female residence. Unlike the blueprint for other poor farm buildings across the state, the entrances into Knox County’s facility are located on the side of the main building. Frick also placed the kitchen and dining rooms in the basement, and a separate summer kitchen was constructed early in the 20th century. It still remains on the property.

The county’s poor farm continued serving as a home for the less fortunate until the 1920s, when it was turned over to Purdue University and converted into a “model farm,” an early predecessor to the current extension system. The poor farm residents were moved into a building on South First Street until 1935, at which point the county decided the city building wasn’t working and bought out the lease with Purdue. But by the 1960s, the farm had sold off most of the acreage and wasn’t functioning as a farming operation anymore.

Later, the building was used as office space for KCARC, during which the organization paid for many improvements to the aging structure, including putting in a new heating system, plumbing and electrical, all while leasing it to the county. But at some point, it became clear that maintenance on such an old building simply wasn’t cost-effective if KCARC couldn’t take ownership down the road. Eventually, KCARC let its lease with the county run out, and the building has been abandoned since. Local pastor Sandy Ivers with the group New Hope Center Inc. set her sights on the structure, envisioning a shelter program for women, and approached the county about obtaining the deed to the property. Seven years later, in June 2014, commissioners were finally able to sign over the deed to Ivers. By then, though, the building wasn’t in great shape. It badly needed — and still needs — a new roof, which could cost somewhere around $28,000 to fix, a project to be funded through donations.

Images of Knox County Asylum[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Knox County Asylum