Road Trips

Abandoned schools on old US 50 in Butlerville, Indiana

I hope my last post didn’t make it sound too much like I’m the Master of the Old Maps and Road Guides, because all too often the old directions stump me. Such was the case as I tried to find US 50’s original path between Nebraska and Butlerville, two tiny towns in Jennings County, Indiana. My Automobile Blue Books kept telling me to turn down roads that I couldn’t find on Google Maps. My best guess is highlighted in blue on this map. (Do you see what I mean about the old roads so often being indirect?)

When I arrived in Butlerville along this path, I came across two abandoned school buildings right next to each other. This is the Butlerville (Elementary, I presume) School, built in 1922. The bushes out front aren’t all that overgrown and the grass is cut, suggesting that someone is minimally maintaining the property.

Butlerville School

And this is the Butlerville High School, built in 1904.

Butlerville High School

I assume that the school consolidation that ran so rampant in Indiana after about 1950 claimed these two schools. It’s sad that they sit derelict, but they’re not alone; many once-proud schools across Indiana have been left to molder.

I thought figuring out the path to Butlerville was hard, but figuring out the way to the next town, North Vernon, was even harder. I’m pretty sure it involves a segment of road that is no longer labeled on Google Maps but shows up in a farmer’s field just the same, and a bridge that not only no longer exists, but there’s no trace of one ever having existed. Whee. So I gave up and just followed current US 50 to North Vernon. It’s a charming town, of which I’ll share some photos next time.

I found another abandoned school just off the Michigan Road in Middlefork, Indiana. Check out the photos.

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23 thoughts on “Abandoned schools on old US 50 in Butlerville, Indiana

    • We take stuff like this for granted here. My sons and I drove across Maryland last year along the old National Road (US 40) and marveled at buildings that dated to the 1700s there; I’m sure Marylanders take it for granted, too.

  1. Clint says:

    There’s an abandoned school and gymnasium just west of 75 on 32… also just west of Western Boone High School. I think it’s old Dover High School. It’s in complete disrepair, but still amazing!

  2. Joseph says:

    I would have thought that 50 was always there. Most old roads follow the railroad tracks and those were laid down in the early 1900’s. I’m sure US 50 was a dirt road next to the tracks that took you from North Vernon to Butlerville and then on to North Vernon.

    • Bear in mind that US 50 wasn’t US 50 until 1927. Its predecessor road, State Road 4, was laid out over existing roads in 1914 or so. My 1916 Automobile Blue Book is very clear about following SR 4 and gives directions that as best as I can interpret are the blue line on the map excerpt above. The ABB absolutely told the driver to make turns in this area — not follow a smooth path along the tracks.

  3. tom taylor says:

    Interesting to come across this site. I’ve owned the two old Butlerville school buildings since about 1980. It does not appear as such, but have put several thousand dollars into them over the years, only to have them vandalized. This is not to mention keep the grass cut, etc. Over the years have tried to interest folks in a day care, a community center, or something else. For a bit one was a church. The east building had the old basketball court in the basement. Seats were in a balcony around the edge. Butlerville was famous for the “squirrel play” in basketball. Basically, the had a great big fellow who stayed down under their basket. When the team go the ball they would pass it to a little fellow. The big fellow would bend down and the little fellow would run up his back and put the ball in the basket. (Yes, I am serious.) Butlerville HS closed in 1950 and the elementary closed in 1972. By the way, I live in North Vernon and put together the coast-to-coast U.S. 50 yard sale each year. Interesting to read about old routes. North Vernon is now building a U.S. 50 by-pass. – tom

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tom, and thanks for being the caretaker of these properties. Towns like Butlerville used to have rich traditions and strong identities, but school consolidation eroded it significantly. I understand that bigger schools can offer more programs, but I’m not sure the tradeoff was worth it.

  4. Ben Voiles says:

    I attended Butlerville school. I graduated 8th grade in 1968 which was the last year they had junior high but it continued as an elementary school for several more years.

  5. Michelle Voiles says:

    Makes me sad to see the old schools looking like that. I attended these schools from 2nd to 6th grades. There was still a vibrancy about the schools and the Butlerville community at that time–even though the higher grades had already been moved to North Vernon. The last time I saw these buildings was in ’93 and there was evidence that homeless people were living in them.

      • Michelle Voiles says:

        School consolidation was certainly a factor but the move to mainstream developmentally disabled people in to the general population, which resulted in the downsizing and eventual closure of Muscatatuck State Hospital, was what really killed the community. As the jobs went, so did the people. What’s really sad is that many of the higher functioning people who lived there became those we’ve all heard about who ended up homeless or in prison. Although closing places like MSH was touted as a benefit to their residents, I still believe it was all about money and the negative repercussions are still being felt to this day.

        • I worked for a while at one of the state hospitals, Northern Indiana State Developmental Center in South Bend. It closed at the same time as Muscatatuck and it was a benefit to no one.

        • Tom Taylor says:

          Jim is right about consolidation killing small communities in general. This can be seen many times over throughout Indiana. With regard to Butlerville, Muscatatuck State Hospital employed people from several counties, few of whom lived in Butlerville. MSH is now the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center and this has not led to a revived Butlerville. I have owned the old schools in question for 35 years. There have never been homeless folks live there, although there was a time when the schools were used as a residence. Many efforts have been made to try to repurpose the buildings, but no one could ever be found in the community who wanted to take this own. In the meantime, vandalism has been a huge problem. Right now the old Baptist Church just down the road is for sale. I fear for its future as I do not see anyone buying it. The old Methodist church was sold and converted to a house several years ago. The McClure property, just across from these schools is undergoing a complete remodel and looks very nice. Mrs. Bethie McClure lived there until she was 104 and I used to talk with her about how the old Highway 50 used to run in front of her house. My mother was from Butlerville and I am sad to see its institutions falling away. It is, however, all part of a nationwide picture. I am nostalgic for the small towns and institutions of years ago, but am realistic that the clock will not be turned back. – tom

  6. josephm says:

    Tom- I’d love to get into the old Baptist church for sale, I’ve stopped many times to look at it outside. It’s such a shame that all these good spaces are going to waste. I could only imagine the stories these places could tell

  7. Jeff Gildea says:

    Tom Taylor, I have travelled all over the state, photographing old high school gyms. Is there any way I could photograph the inside of the Butlerville gym? I live in Indianapolis.

    Jeff Gildea
    jeffgildea@hotmail.com
    317-529-3930

    • tom taylor says:

      Hi,Jeff – I would welcome your doing this, but I am afraid it would be almost impossible. Much of the roof has fallen to the gym floor. You might be able to get an interesting picture through a back window, but it would show mostly fallen roof. It would not be safe to go inside the building. If you want to try something through a back window, just let me know. All the best – tom

  8. JohnFarrell says:

    I attended Butlerville School from 1955 to 1959 (1st through 4th grades). I remember going up the short flight of stairs in the middle of the lobby each day. The 1st grade class was the first room on the right, second grade was at the end of the hall on the right, and the 4th and 5th grades were across the hall on the left (these grades were combined in the one room). The cafeteria was one the second floor. I made my first childhood friends at this fantastic school. It saddens me to see the pictures of it from 2015.

    • I’m sure it is hard to see these photos, when you have such good memories.

      I am fortunate — my elementary school, built 1930 and just stunning, underwent an extensive renovation in 2010 and is poised to serve students for another several generations.

  9. Austin Elliott says:

    Hello, Jim. Can you give me the longitude and latitude of the schools? I would like to explore them.

    • tom taylor says:

      I am a former owner of those buildings. They are no longer maintained, are in advanced state of deterioration, have been fenced off, are under a court order for removal, and should not be entered. – tom taylor (They are in Butlerville, a block north of US 50, and clearly visible from the road.)

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