11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Eleutherian College

Year Listed: 2005
Location: Madison, Indiana
Threat: Deterioration

Founded in 1848, this small college accepted students of all races and gender during a time of segregated education. During the Civil War the college participated in the abolitionist movement and the underground railroad.

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Historic Eleutherian College

 

Significance

The first college in Indiana-and one of the first anywhere in pre-Civil War America-to admit students regardless of race or gender, tiny Eleutherian College is a monument to education and equality. Founded in 1848, the school enjoyed its heyday in the late 1850s, drawing African-American students from as far away as Mississippi and Louisiana to take advantage of the chance to learn in an integrated setting. Its location, just a few miles north of the Ohio River, made Eleutherian a busy stop on the Underground Railroad, and many college leaders-faculty and students alike-were active in the movement to shelter and shepherd fugitive slaves. The college closed soon after the Civil War; its stone building stood vacant for many years until it was taken over by a nonprofit organization that operates it as a museum. Today, battered but still proud, the structure shows the effects of prolonged neglect and vandalism. The National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, formed to assist Underground Railroad sites, provided some money for restoration-but now, congressional support for that important program is decreasing. Significant funding is needed to return Eleutherian College and other landmarks of freedom to the historic spotlight they deserve.