Actively preserved and cared for, Putnam County has four registered historic districts that offer unique sights and entertainment.
Born shortly after the Salem Witch Trials, “Old Put” as he was known grew up in what is now Danvers, Massachusetts, but was known as Salem Village in 1718. A Major General that served in both the American Revolutionary War as well as the French and Indian War, Israel Putnam, was the original inspiration for the naming of Putnam County when it was formed in 1821.
Greencastle was later designated the county seat in 1823 and currently hosts the largest population nearing 11,000 of the roughly 38,000 residents in the county. Throughout the development of the county and its towns, downtown districts have always served a vital role, often being the center of shopping, dining, art, and architecture. With four nationally registered historic districts, three Indiana Main Street designations, and an active partnership between the Heritage Preservation Society and Indiana Landmarks, the history of Putnam County is alive, thriving, and on display for you to visit!
Named for the wealth of clover and dales found at the original townsite, the aptly named town of Cloverdale was established in 1839, three years after the post office began operation. A traditional Indiana small town with a state highway acting as “Main Street”, one road will lead you in and out of not only downtown but the entire town. Situated just a few miles from Lieber State Park, there is always an abundance of traffic heading back and forth from Cagle Mills Lake. Parking alongside the roadway will allow you to walk to any of the downtown shops and restaurants which feature antique stores, unique crafts, and local diners and bars some of which have been around for decades and others that have been recently renovated. Saturday mornings on Main Street host the Farmers Market which is supported by an active Indiana Main Street organization that also provides Halloween decorations and free Christmas sleigh rides during those special times of the year.
A recent surge in new businesses and investments, festivals, and public art has brought a ton of attention to the 900 person town of Roachdale, Indiana. Traditionally a railroad town, the beautiful architecture is highlighted by the Roachdale Hardware store on the southeast corner of Main Street. An active and thriving business tucked away in a, well over, 100-year-old building, this location sets the tone for a community-driven approach to life and business. Also playing a vital role is Roachdale’s stop along the Public Art Trail through the county. Local artist, Holly Sims, completed the project in 2017, which highlights the town’s relationship to the railroad. Located in between this beautiful mural and the architectural anchor is the local favorite, Hatchet House BBQ. Delicious BBQ, slathered with incredible, house-made sauce, this restaurant brings folks from far outside Roachdale to the lunch table on a weekly basis. What may be the annual highlight of the town is the Roachdale Rib & Blues Fest, started by the Roachdale Revitalization Alliance, an Indiana Main Street program. A BBQ cook-off starting when the sun comes up is joined by live bluegrass and folk music that plays all day long. Though anytime is great to visit, be sure to make plans to stop in during this festival in late September.
Another location named after an American war hero, Bainbridge is derived from William Bainbridge who was a Commodore in the United States Navy during the early 1800s. A few miles from a trio of historic covered bridges and two nature preserves, the town is very rural and spread out along highway 36. Unlike Cloverdale, downtown Bainbridge sits one block off of the highway to the south and has some incredible architecture that lines both sides of Main Street. Locals will guide to one of the best dive bars in the county, Haydens Bainbridge Tap, which hosts live music most weekends and a delicious menu of home-cooked items. Just off of downtown you’ll find the Dari-ette where your sweet tooth goes to have a good time, ice cream and frozen treats wait for you here.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the county seat, Greencastle, has the most robust and active downtown. Surrounding the courthouse, you’ll find restaurants that range from classic Bar & Grill style or craft breweries like Wasser Brewing Co all the way to white-tablecloth experiences such as Bridges Craft Pizza & Wine Bar where you can dine in style at the only rooftop location in the county. You can also shop at any of the five unique boutiques that are located in the registered historic district, including Conspire Contemporary Craft, an artisan consignment shop featuring works from all across the Midwest. Parking can be found along any side street and everything is within walking distance, including DePauw University, which is just a few blocks south of the courthouse square. Farmers’ markets, First Fridays, music festivals, and more can all found at varying times of the year. A town rife with local musicians and artists, simply walking around you can normally find live music, art openings, or playable public pianos.