Hendricks County Historical Museum Reopens After Winter Renovations
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 11:00 PM by Eric Ivie
I like history. History tells us where we've come from and how we got here. I enjoy reading about topics such as the One Room Schoolhouse in Pittsboro, Indiana, and the Civil War Heritage Days in Danville, Indiana. You may not realize it, but history abounds in Hendricks County. While at the Royal Theater on Friday night, advertisements were on the screen prior to the movie, and I noticed one for the Hendricks County Historical Museum. I had kind of forgotten that the museum is there, tucked behind the southeast corner of the Courthouse Square at 170 S. Washington St. in Danville. So the next day, my oldest daughter and I decided to check it out. The museum is housed in what used to be the Hendricks County Sheriff's Department and Hendricks County Jail. Constructed in 1866, the building was used as the county jail and the sheriff's residence until 1974. As soon as we walked in, there were pictures of the Hendricks County Courthouse, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year. It's not the original courthouse, however. A display right near the front door gives an interesting history of the most recognizable landmark in Danville. (I won't spoil it for you. Go check it out!) The Tour... A delightful young lady named Phyllis greeted us and offered to show us around the place. As she led us through the museum, she showed us the new camera display, the Abraham Lincoln display, the Central Normal College room, and a room filled with historical farming implements. In each room, she vividly described the times, the society and the obstacles that people encountered in that day and age. We saw all sorts of cool historical pieces, and Phyllis made a point of highlighting many Hendricks County women who did extraordinary things throughout history. My daughter was enthralled. Then we got to the old jail. Now, I've been inside the current jail a lot. I mean a lot. For 12 years or so, hardly a week passed without me being in the Hendricks County Jail at some point -- many weeks, I was there two or three times. (Oh, did I forget to mention that I used to work in the criminal justice system?) At any rate, the current jail is not a fun place to be, but if you want to see how it used to be -- as recently as 39 years ago, in fact -- take a tour of the old jail. The current jail looks like the Taj Mahal by comparison. My 6-year-old's eyes were as big as dinner plates as we toured it, and she refused to take more than a step inside the nearest open door, for fear of being locked in. (I think I'll just let her hold on to that feeling of the horror of being in jail.) We toured the sheriff's residence, which has been renovated over the winter and features all sorts of rooms full of historical pieces. You walk into any room in the house, and you're instantly transported into the past. My daughter liked the kitchen the best, and she was amazed by how heavy the teapots were, back in the day. She was also mortified to learn about how the sheriff's wife had to gather and clean the chamber pots throughout the house and the jail every day. A life without toilets is completely foreign to her. We spent over an hour in the museum, although it only felt like a minute, and I can't do justice to all of the displays in there. You definitely have to see it for yourself. When you visit and how you can help... The Hendricks County Historical Museum is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it's free to tour. If you enjoy yourself, as we did, there's a donation jar to help out with expenses of maintaining such a valuable and interesting facility. Another way to help out with expenses is to attend the museum's annual dinner and silent auction on Thursday, April 11 at Chateau Thomas Winery. Doors open at 6 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person. The evening will highlight the release of the pictorial history of "Hendricks County" and will feature "Communities Remembered," which will highlight the smaller towns, past and present. Reservations can be made by calling the museum at (317) 718-6158. Whether you are a local or visitor, the Hendricks County Historical Museum is a real treasure that shouldn't be missed and is even part of the Rural Routes to Main Street Cultural Trail's Second Saturday lineup. For more information about the trail, click here.