The County Home facility was built on this site in 1886 to provide housing for those who were unable to support themselves. The Indiana Constitution mandated that counties, when able, should build a facility “to provide one or more farms to be an asylum for those persons, who by reason of age, infirmity, or other misfortune, may have a claim upon the aid of beneficence of society.” The 1886 County Home building was constructed in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. It was an iconic building on the Elkhart County landscape for decades.
The Elkhart County Home also had a farm adjacent to the main building. Farm work was done by residents. Earnings from the produce and livestock sold at the farm were used to offset the costs of the home’s operations. The sales from the farm in 1930 included 15 tons of alfalfa, 229 bushels of wheat, and over 1,500 quarts of canned fruits and vegetables. This made the farm self-sufficient and saved nearly $800 in the county’s operating budget. With the country in the grip of the Great Depression, the number of residents reached 116, the highest in the home’s history. Despite these challenges, the County Home was recognized as one of the best run facilities of its kind in the state.
By the mid-1900s the county home was on the decline. The growth of private care facilities and the lack of experience amongst the staff of the county home led to a steady decline in the number of residents. After analyzing the stability of the County Home, county officials made the decision to close the facility in 1965. The closing began in 1967, with the farmland being turned into Ox Bow County Park. The home remained open while a group led by County Councilwoman Marjory Madlem fought against its closure. The group, named Home Sweet Home, presented a petition to the county officials that the home remain open and improvements be made. County officials continued to move on with the closure despite the petition and, over the next decade, Madlem and Home Sweet Home continued the campaign through a series of lawsuits, protests, and a referendum. The referendum was voted down, lawsuits favored county officials, protests produced no action, and Madlem lost the council seat due in large part to her effort to keep the County Home open and her unwillingness to consider other options. By November of 1977, the last residents of the Elkhart County Home were transferred to assisted living facilities and the home officially closed. The building lay dormant for 4 years until it was demolished in 1981.