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Ex-Colgate Plant Nominated For National Register

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 11:03am
Charlie White, The Courier-Journal

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- The former Colgate and state prison site in Clarksville — with its signature clock that has overlooked the Ohio River for nearly 90 years — is being nominated for the National Register of Historic Places to help fulfill federal preservation requirements for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Jeff Vlach, with project consulting firm Beam Longest and Neff, told members of the Indiana Historic Preservation Advisory board this week that the finalized nomination application was submitted to the state last week.

Vlach said the previous property owners refused to allow access to the property to take the required inventory, but the company that bought it in 2011, Boston Development Group, have been open to the idea.

Clarksville historian Jane Sarles said she's happy to see the process moving forward.

"I hope to see the historic buildings on the site preserved and turned into a vital part of the community again," Sarles told The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1gwDj0t ) of Louisville, Ky.

While the buildings that front South Clark Boulevard are the most reconizable, some of the oldest buildings are behind those, including the unaltered Building 30, where horses for the prison were stabled.

It's unclear how much of the 55 acres would be considered part of the national registry. Project officials said the nomination application is considered a work in progress, and is not yet available to the public.

A decision on the nomination is still likely a year away because it must be reviewed by the state historic preservation officer and the state's national register review board, which will forward their recommendations to the National Park Service.

To be listed on the registry, the park service uses three main criteria: age, integrity and significance. Properties listed are usually at least 50 years old, look much the way they did in the past and convey historical information about events, people and architecture.

It doesn't prohibit property owners from making changes to the property, nor does it restrict its use or sale.

Indiana's first state prison opened off Market Street in neighboring Jeffersonville in 1822. The final report from recent archaeological digs related to the bridges project is still several weeks away from being completed.

Prisoners were moved to the site in Clarksville in 1846 and in 1897 it became the Indiana Reformatory, which housed teenage boys and men up to age 30.

Colgate-Palmolive bought the property from the state in 1921 and operated a plant that produced toothpaste and other personal hygiene products until 2007. The clock, built in 1906, overlooked the Hudson River at Colgate's plant in New Jersey until a larger one was added there.

The original Colgate clock, dubbed "Old Faithful" by some, remains one of the largest single-faced clocks in the world.

A state historical marker was placed across from the main building in 2005 and another marker commemorating the eugenics law was installed next to the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis two years later.

Jay Sheth, managing partner of Boston Development Group, said Friday the nomination of the property was news to him.

"It makes me concerned that they wouldn't consult me," Sheth said.

Sheth continues working to attract investors to help redevelop the property. Plans call for a mix of retail and other commercial businesses, as well a technology park built around an existing data center with broadband connectivity, a museum dedicated to area history, a boutique hotel and an international-themed shopping area.

Property owners have the opportunity to comment on the nomination either in support, in opposition or to request additional information, project officials said.

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