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Oct 8, 2020

Typically, the 10 Most Endangered Places list of Indiana Landmarks features single sites, such as a historic church, school, hotel or bridge with an imperiled fate. But in the case of a small city on the Wabash River in far-western Indiana, the entire downtown is on the endangered list.

Attica, Ind., flourished with the building of the Wabash and Erie Canal during the 1840s and, about 10 years later, the completion of the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad that came through Fountain County city, where 3,245 people currently live.

Hotel Attica, which was built in 1853 (and known initially as the Revere Hotel), was the overnight lodging spot for notables including Teddy Roosevelt, Al Capone and Bing Crosby. A Masonic Temple became a popular gathering place. Houses and commercial buildings were constructed in a range of architectural styles from Federal and Italianate to, eventually, Art Deco.

Today, Hotel Attica is vacant, with structural damage that includes a partially collapsed façade. Some 19th century buildings have been neglected, resulting in significant deterioration. And the Devon Theater, a 1938 cinema house that's been a beloved landmark, is struggling to endure.

As Hoosier History Live explores Attica - where the Attica Downtown Historic District and three other historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places - Nelson's guests will include Tommy Kleckner, the western regional office director of Indiana Landmarks.

Nelson also will be joined by Lexxi Haddock, president of Attica Main Street. A native of Attica, Lexxi returned to her hometown to live after graduating from college in 2014. In addition to raising her two young daughters with her husband, Andy, Lexxi is a title insurance agent and a civic leader active with the Friends of the Attica Public Library and the Covington Business Association.

Tommy emphasizes that, despite the challenges that confront Attica's downtown, the city retains several assets, including historic residential neighborhoods - some with houses dating to the canal era - as well as a 90-acre park and an area known as Cottrell Village with a church constructed circa 1850 in the Greek Revival style.

This 1872 photograph depicts a wedding party held on a canal boat in Attica, Ind. The town flourished with the building of the Wabash and Erie Canal during the 1840s. Courtesy Attical Heritage Days Festival.But Hotel Attica, the Masonic Temple and other downtown buildings are, according to Tommy, "imminently threatened by neglect." The hotel's west façade collapsed in 2012 during a severe windstorm; three years later, the hotel closed. The façade remains unrepaired and continues to crumble.

Many of the hotel's famous guests stayed in Attica because they were traveling through town by train. Attica was founded in the 1820s, but grew slowly until the canal and railroad era; according to Tommy Kleckner, the population grew by 70 percent during the 1850s.

By the early 20th century, the city also became a hub of brick manufacturing. Beginning in 1907, Poston Brick Company shipped bricks across the country for nearly 70 years. More than 25 academic buildings at Purdue University were constructed with Poston Brick.

In addition to downtown Attica, the 10 Most Endangered Places list includes a Carnegie library in Elwood; a vacant Presbyterian church with dozens of Tiffany stained glass windows in Richmond, and a former jail and sheriff's residence in Tipton County.