The historic chapel at Sylvan Springs could be a site for weddings, according to a Michigan organization’s plan to renovate the property. Staff photo by Dave Kurtz
ROME CITY — Sylvan Springs remains on the “10 Most Endangered” list of Hoosier landmarks in jeopardy, released today by Indiana Landmarks.
“Our mission is to save meaningful places, and this is a list of 10 important places in greatest danger of being lost,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit preservation organization. “All of these places are full of memories and meaning and potential.”
Indiana Landmarks said the sites that reach 10 Most Endangered status are significant, irreplaceable and often challenging to save. Sylvan Springs made its first appearance on the list in 2011.
“These landmarks preserve connections to our shared heritage, and restoring them can spur broader revitalization,” Davis said. Indiana Landmarks uses the list to bring attention to the imperiled sites and mobilize support for their preservation.
The listing comes six days before an event designed to showcase the potential of the Sylvan Springs property north of Rome City.
The Sneak Peak at Sylvan Springs will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will offer tours of the main building, a glimpse of the future of the Springs, the first bed-and-breakfast rooms, collections of photos and artwork by Sherri Gocha, walking tacos, and the opportunity to stroll the scenic grounds.
Conscious Community, a Michigan nonprofit organization, announced last year that it is raising money to revive Sylvan Springs as a retreat center with a fine dining restaurant, roadside market and other activities.
On April 21, nearly 50 volunteers gathered at Sylvan Springs to spruce up the grounds and buildings for the Sneak Peek event.
Indiana Landmarks provided this brief history of the property in its listing of the state’s most endangered site:
“Beginning in 1910, Catholic nuns took over a health resort above Sylvan Lake in northeastern Indiana. They operated Sylvan Springs as a spiritual health spa offering spring water treatments, exercise, nutrition and herbal remedies to cure TB and host of other afflictions.
“Sufferers bathed in the springs, drank the waters and prayed for relief in the chapel and outdoor shrine. One of the nuns claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to her, attracting even more visitors. Some attribute startling cures to Sylvan Springs, and people still make pilgrimages, even though the nuns sold Sylvan Springs in 1976. The Way International, a religious group that some consider a cult, operated a college there for 20 years.
“The Neoclassical main sanitarium, enlarged with additions over many decades, includes 248 guest rooms and an attached chapel. Cottages, barns and other outbuildings remain from the time when a farm on the property produced the herbs and food for the sisters and their guests. Foreclosed by a lender, Sylvan Springs needs a preservation-friendly new use.”
Indiana Landmarks says that since it began the “10 Most Endangered” list in 1991, only 11 of the 94 historic places on the lists have been lost.
In addition to Sylvan Springs, the other repeat entries are Taggart Memorial at Riverside Park in Indianapolis and Tyson Auditorium in Versailles.
New endangered sites for 2012 are: The American House, Centerville; Harmony Way Bridge, New Harmony; House of Tomorrow, Beverly Shores; Masonic Temple, Jeffersonville; Old Clarksville site, Clarksville; The Pantheon, Vincennes; and T.G. Wilkinson House, Muncie.