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Billie Creek future uncertain after auction

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The auction of western Indiana historic site Billie Creek Village generated a combined $550,000 in bids, but it's not clear yet whether any bid will be accepted.

Owner Charlie Cooper told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star for a story Sunday that he has three days to decide whether to accept any of the final bids after they fell far short of the opening prices for each of the three lots.

About 90 people filled the old Baptist Church on Saturday as the Civil War-era village went on the auction block. Bidders' representatives sat on wooden pews next to Amish men and tourists who were in town for Parke County's Covered Bridge Festival.

Employees of Key Auctioneers told participants that the property, buildings and their contents represented a "once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity."

The first parcel offered contained more than 19 acres including one covered bridge, the main village and all of its buildings, including blacksmith and broom shops, a pottery, a school, a livery and churches.

Auctioneer Chuck Hunt started the bidding at $700,000, but with no takers, his numbers fell to $100,000 in a matter of seconds before rebounding to a final bid of $250,000.

The second parcel of nearly 42 acres also contained a covered bridge and a barn, farmhouse and all of their contents. Hunt started bidding at $500,000, but it wound up stopping at $280,000.

The third parcel of 3.7 acres included a parking lot near Billie Creek Inn. Hunt began bidding at $75,000, saying the buyer could benefit from the parking lot's revenue during the annual festival, but the price dropped to $10,000 before settling at $20,000.

As a multi-parcel auction, bidders could have mixed the prices for any combination or beat the $550,000 sum to buy the whole property. Despite some brief discussion, no bidder offered to combine the parcels and none offered $550,000. The bidders remained anonymous.

The auction finished in about 25 minutes.

Steven Majewski of Riley said he came to watch. He recalling the numerous antique car shows and Civil War days he'd seen at there.

"I just hope someone buys the place and makes it as successful as it used to be," he said.

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