News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 22, 2012

Billie Creek Village to be broken up, auctioned off

No acceptable bids submitted for historical tourism site

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

ROCKVILLE — No acceptable bid was submitted during the sealed bid auction for a Parke County tourism treasure, so the land, buildings and antiques that make up historic Billie Creek Village will go up for public auction in October.

Billie Creek Village is located just east of Rockville in Parke County, about 30 miles northeast of Terre Haute.

Jeff Doner of Key Auctioneers in Indianapolis told the Tribune-Star on Friday that a few bids were submitted, but all were declined. The sealed bid auction began Sept. 10 and concluded Thursday.

No estimated value for the property has been released, Doner said.

Property owner Charlie Cooper has also declined to say what price he would accept for the property.

An online check of property values at beacon.schneidercorp.com shows several property parcels owned by Billie Creek Village as a tax exempt entity. The three largest parcels added together have a combined value of more than $1 million, based on assessment year 2008.

Billie Creek Village — a long-time staple on the school field trip circuit and an interesting visitor destination since it was founded in the mid-1960s — consists of about 70 acres. It includes two covered bridges, 30 buildings from the Civil War era, and a modern party pavilion. The Billie Creek Inn located nearby is already under private ownership.

Originally owned by a not-for-profit organization, Cooper purchased a controlling interest in the village about four years ago after financial struggles threatened the local landmark.

Cooper said on Friday that even though the property did not sell during the sealed bid auction, he will consider reasonable offers until time of the live auction.

A live liquidation of the property will be conducted during the Covered Bridge Festival in October, and items will be sold separately. The property will likely be divided as the village area of about 27 acres, the farmstead property of about 42 acres. All antiques and equipment will be sold individually.

That sale is planned for 10 a.m. Oct. 20, with a preview set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 19 to register bidders, give tours of the property, and answer questions of potential bidders.

Selection of the Oct. 20 auction date was intentional because of the attention Parke County receives during the Bridge Festival.

County Commissioner George Nicholas said he hopes that whoever buys the property keeps it as a working historic village.

“I would still rather prefer it going to one person or organization to operate as a solvent tourism attraction,” Nicholas said. “Billie Creek Village is an important part of the local tourism industry. It would be sorely missed if it were not there.”

He also noted that many of the antique equipment and furnishings that bring authentic character to the village have been donated through the years by Parke County residents.

“I’d hate to see it all sold off,” he said.

Earlier this month, Cooper told the Tribune-Star that many factors caused him to shut down the village this year and offer it for sale — including declining finances of the not-for-profit, and higher cost of operation and maintenance for the property.

“I’m 80 years old, and we farm out here. I got my hands full with the farm operation,” Cooper said of one reason for the sale. “I want to get it [the village] into the hands of younger people.”

He said Friday that there is still time for individuals or an organization to come up with the financing to purchase the property, which also includes antiques, equipment, furnishings, and the inventory of the General Store.

The village includes multiple buildings such as a blacksmith, broom shop, pottery, school, livery, churches, candle shop, mercantile, farm house and a print shop.

Anyone wanting more information about the property can go online to www.keyauctioneers.com or call the auction company at 317-353-1100.



Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.