This is the earliest known photograph of the farmhouse being considered for demolition. It was taken by John Leslie, a Native student.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School Farmhouse to Be Preserved

Rick Kearns

The farmhouse on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School grounds will be preserved and not demolished according to the Farmhouse Coalition, a group of Carlisle descendants, relatives and friends.

Army officials at the Carlisle Barracks had scheduled the farmhouse for demolition in 2012 as prior evaluations had asserted that the building played only a “peripheral role” at Carlisle. Native advocates and allies then rallied to defend the legacy of the farmhouse and mounted a petition and public advocacy campaign that brought together relevant research and support for the building.

On April 7 the coalition issued a press release explaining the new plans.

“Officials at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania have announced that a recent study by the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the farmhouse on post did serve the Carlisle Indian Industrial School from 1887 to 1918,” the coalition stated.

“This study determined that the farmhouse was ‘a significant part of the CIIS, providing food for the school and housing for the farmer and his family, training students to be farmers, and serving as a popular recreational spot for the school,’” states the coalition in the release.

The Army’s recent announcement included the news that the Army Corps of Engineers’ study recommended that the Farmhouse be added to the already existing National Historic Landmark district of the Carlisle campus.

Describing the change of the Army’s position on the farmhouse as a “complete reversal” of its prior plans, farmhouse advocates noted that the building was set to be torn down to make way for family housing on the Barracks grounds, which includes the old school, housing and cemetery.

The prior evaluation of the farmhouse had, for example, recommended it not be included for landmark status, but research by a former resident of the farmhouse, Carolyn Tolman, showed how it was used for both education and recreation for the Native students.

“When descendants of CIIS students learned of its strong ties to the school, strenuous objections were raised through an online petition headed by Dr. Louellyn White, PhD (Akwesasne Mohawk, Assistant Professor, First Peoples Studies, Concordia University). A Farmhouse Coalition was formed to petition the Army as an interested party. Several Native Tribes also voiced their protests, which finally prompted the Army to re-evaluate their decision,” the coalition noted.

RELATED: Carlisle Indian School Descendants Fight to Preserve Part of Painful History

As of press time no future plans for the farmhouse were announced, however the Farmhouse Coalition did state that they were engaged in discussions with Barracks officials. Some of the possibilities mentioned were using the site as a visitor’s center dedicated to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School experience, and as a destination for Carlisle descendants who wish to honor their relatives.

“Many Native people feel the farmhouse stands as a monument to Indian survival and has the potential to begin healing the intergenerational trauma caused by Indian residential schooling,” said the Farmhouse Coalition.

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
I can't imagine any native person wanting to preserve anything like those prisons. That is what they were too. Our ancestors were kidnapped & ripped many times out of their loved ones arms & sent off to these horrible places of abuse, murder & suicide. Every one of these places should be burned to the ground & memorials built on these lands. OUR stories should be told, testimonies printed up for all the world to know what happened to the survivors that are still living & those ancestors who have since walked on. I would not be surprised to find out the spirits of those who died in those places are still walking those halls & graveyards due to still seeking justice for all the wrong doings that have occurred in those lands & buildings.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
My first thought was 'why would anyone want to preserve this place?' but considering that it's a part of Native history that people would rather see disappear, I think it's good to keep it around. Isn't this the same reason that Auchwitz was preserved? Never again?

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Hey there Michael Madrid, Nice seeing you drop in on this topic. I can see you point as well, but from a personal level, I despise these places that ruined so many native peoples lives & those of future generations. To this day I know native people who have endured places like this & it destroyed so many of them. It took some of these folks ability to speak their native language, took their culture from them so much so that when they did finally get out of those places they could no longer relate to their family members who stayed behind or were fortunate enough to escape the kidnappers when they came to haul kids away from their loved ones. I have witnessed interviews of very old ones of our people tell their story of all the abuses they endured with tears running down their faces. They felt ashamed, humiliated & worthless at times. ALL because they some how felt responsible that the abuse has happened to them. I always tell survivors they have not one thing to be ashamed about or responsible for any of those awful things that was done to them. The blame ALL belongs to their abusers. So many of those survivors sunk into deep depression for so many years of their lives, turned to alcohol to escape the memories & so many other destructive behaviors through the years. Many developed mental illness as well. Too many times those who had been abused also abused their own family members in one way or another. From being unable to express love to others, being unable to show affection to their own children at times & at times, even worse things. The shock waves of the past are still being felt by a number of native families to this day in one way or another. Abuses are a vicious cycle my friends so many times. It is a wonderful thing when one generation can break that vicious cycle for their own children's sake.