This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A missing landmark

A couple weeks ago I noticed something missing, an old barn that was falling apart, along the little stretch of 600S (aka Kohley Road) just to the north of Donaldson's. Someone else noticed it as well, and wrote to me that it might be interesting to hear some history.  Below you can see what remains.
A couple days ago I asked the owner what had happened. He said that he had burned it. In order to burn a building in the country, you need to notify the fire department, the sheriff's department, and the Rensselaer police department. You also have to assure them that it is a controlled burn.

He waited for just the right day--a weekend so the burn would not interfere with the people using the parking lot at Donaldson's and a day with little or no wind. He got his perfect day after one of our December snows. The fire burned slowly and caused no problems at all.

At one time this barn was used for dairy and had stalls for ten cows. This was at a time when many farmers kept a few cows. Some of the milk could be sold in town, and for a while one buyer was Joe's Produce Mart or Market, a place originally near where Sprigz is now and later east on 114 (maybe where Precision Glass is now?). (Some people reading this blog will recall the places mentioned, and if I get them wrong, please provide the correct information in the comments.) Among other things, you could buy live chickens there. Later his family sold milk to a dairy in Momence, IL that sent a truck out to pick up the milk. The owner remembers the driver with awe because he could swing the eight or ten gallon milk can up onto the bed of the truck with one fluid lift.

He did not recall the old fairgrounds and racetrack that was just to the north of his residence, but said that recently some guys from Illinois came out with some expensive metal detectors and found some Indian head pennies and some silver coins. (If horse racing was hugely popular in our area more than a century ago, it would explain why one of the most famous races horses ever, Dan Patch, got his start in Oxford.)

There was a large red barn near the river at one time, part of a dairy farm. There was also an ice storage house in the area where the quarry now piles it stones. I was a bit surprised to hear two area natives recalling the ice business. The ice industry was a huge industry late in the 19th and early in the 20th century, but it melted away once electric refrigeration became available. Apparently the local ice store was near the current Century Link building. Anyone remember it?

There is a lot of history that has never been written down. If it does not get written down, it will disappear when those who remember it die.

Also in this neighborhood--ConAgra has announced that it is planning to expand it Rensselaer popcorn plant and add 24 new positions by 2014. 

And while playing around on the Internet while writing this, I noticed that Zillow now has property values for Rensselaer. (It has been a while since I have been on, and the last time I was there it did not have coverage of Rensselaer.) Just put in your address and you can find what your house is worth, and you can also get a map that lets you easily check out the neighbors. I was mildly disappointed to find that my house is the cheap house in the neighborhood.


Gene said...

I do not remember that particular ice building, but I DO remember when, in the 1940s, my grandparents (at 119 S. Scott St.) had no refrigerator but did have an 'icebox' and blocks of ice were periodically delivered to them along an ice route by Kenny Day, who always chipped off small chunks of ice and wrapped them in newspaper for us kids to eat as we ran alongside his delivery truck.

Thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

Ice business "melted away." Excellent :-)

Anonymous said...

It is sad, and I thank you for the history of the area there. It is so sad, in a way, because there are so few old barns in particular left around the county. I will keep this information for the historical society. These are the stories we need and want to hear and record.