GREENFIELD — Historical artifacts unique to Hancock County lie in danger of deterioration or damage because the buildings housing them, of historical significance themselves, desperately need to be repaired.

Officials estimate $20,000 of repairs are needed for the Old Log Jail and the Chapel in the Park, two historic structures that sit on the east border of Riley Park off Apple Street and hold hundreds of Hancock County Historical Society items. Quick fixes have been applied over the years, but several large projects must be done soon to protect county history, said Hancock County Historical Society president Brigette Cook Jones.

The society, which owns and maintains public displays in both buildings, is seeking grant funding to address water and insect damage, among other issues officials say place the society’s collection at risk.

The historical society, which maintains the 1800s-era buildings, has replaced the roof on both structures, though water damage remains to the chapel ceiling, Jones said. The chapel’s steeple and a wrought-iron handrail have been replaced as well in recent years. But three big-ticket items — a new furnace for the chapel, replacement of part of the log wall of the jail and a handicapped-accessible walkway between the two buildings — are now on the list of immediate needs, Jones said.

Story continues below gallery

“We’ve had a lot of repairs over the years, but this has come all at once,” Jones said.

Jamie Figg, docent at the Old Log Jail and Chapel in the Park, said she worries fluctuating temperatures and humidity in the building are causing advanced deterioration to fragile items like vintage clothing and newspaper articles stored there. The buildings should be kept at about 68 degrees year round to prevent damage, she said.

Figg is asking the community to step up and help the society preserve Hancock County’s historical buildings and items.

“We’re there for the community,” she said. “Financially, we’re really hurting.”

Work has just started on the brick walkway between the two buildings, said Mary Greenan, a historical society member who arranges rentals of the Chapel in the Park. Removing the brick and pouring a concrete walkway will set the historical society back by about $5,000, Jones said.

A log placed near the foundation of the north wall of the log jail, which Indiana Historical Society records list as being built in 1853, has been reduced to sawdust by the destructive force of hordes of wood-eating beetles. Though the jail has since been treated to prevent further insect damage, the foundation must be fixed to remain stable, Jones said.

The log, nearly 2 feet wide on each side, must be removed during a process not unlike changing a tire, in which the building is propped up with jacks before the log can be removed, she said. The replacement process has been quoted at about $6,000 to $8,000, Jones said.

When the chapel, built in 1856, was moved from its former home in Philadelphia in 1981, the historical society dug a basement in the current site and placed a furnace in the lower level of the chapel. The same furnace remains, but Jones and other historical society patrons believe it’s time for a replacement — and an upgrade. The chapel doesn’t currently have air-conditioning, which Jones said prevents the historical society from collecting revenue from rentals during the summer.

No one wants to sweat through their wedding, Jones said, and historical artifacts need a consistent temperature and humidity as well. Installing air conditioning will keep the historical items, from political posters to the personal effects of a child who died of diphtheria in the 1920s, from deteriorating, Jones said. The upgrades to the heating and cooling in the chapel will cost the historical society about $10,000.

Greenan said the lack of air-conditioning hurts the society’s profits.

“We don’t get the rentals in the summer that we really would like,” Greenan said. “When people come to rent, and I tell them there’s no air, that’s a big factor.”

Any grant funding the society receives will supplement funds from building rentals and other fundraising projects, like T-shirt sales.

Helping history

Hancock County Historical Society members are raising money for repairs to the Old Log Jail and Chapel in the Park, which house county artifacts.

Donations can be sent to the historical society at P.O. Box 375, Greenfield, Indiana, 46140. For more information, email or call 317-462-7780.

Building bios

The Old Log Jail, built in 1853, served as the third county jail until 1874. The building was originally located on the south side of the public square in downtown Greenfield and was moved in 1967 to its present location at the southeast corner of Riley Park near the intersection of U.S. 40 and Apple Street.

The Chapel in the Park served as a Methodist Episcopal Church when it was built in 1856 in Philadelphia. The structure was donated to the Hancock County Historical Society and moved to its present site just north of Old Log Jail, in 1981.

Source: Indiana Historical Society

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or