When Jesse Holman combined the Latin words for spring, summer and fall to name his property Veraestau in 1810, he hoped winter would never touch his home. In a way, it never has. Set high above the Ohio River in Aurora, Indiana, the landmark home captures a long sweep of Indiana’s architectural history and exemplifies the historic preservation practiced by generations of two families—the Holman/Hamilton clan and the O’Brien/Gibson family.
In 1810, Holman built a two-story log house with a brick addition and gave it the name of a grand estate. After the log home burned in 1837, Holman's son-in-law Allen Hamilton bought Veraestau, salvaged the remaining brick portion, and in 1838 added a one-story Greek Revival structure. The style was at its height; architectural trendsetters employed Greek Revival to reinforce similarities between the democratic ideals of ancient Greece and the new United States of America. In 1913, Allen’s daughter Margaret Vance Hamilton added a two-story Greek Revival structure that included four bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining room, a kitchen, a breakfast room and two sleeping porches.
After nearly 125 years of ownership, the Holman/Hamilton family sold Veraestau to Lawrenceburg industrialist Cornelius O’Brien in 1933. He bought Veraestau as a country retreat for his family: his wife Anna Cook O’Brien and daughters Mary and Anna Belle. Weekend guests, dinner parties, games on the lawn and political meetings were constants.
Cornelius O’Brien was one of Indiana’s earliest historic preservationists. In 1936, he commissioned Cincinnati architect John Henri Deeken to design a three-room brick addition to the house, similar in size and scale to the original brick structure and attached to the 1913 wing. O’Brien’s interest in caring for old things extended to his newly purchased land, and he set about reforesting depleted woodlands, assembling orchards and creating grazing pastures for his Percheron horses and Hereford cattle.
O’Brien died in 1953, but Mary O’Brien Gibson and her family continued to gather at the farm. Following in her father’s footsteps, Mrs. Gibson diligently worked to maintain and preserve the property, and she successfully nominated Veraestau to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Mrs. Gibson presided over the Cornelius and Anna Cook O’Brien Foundation, which supports a variety of preservation activities in Indiana. In 1997, Indiana Landmarks and Mrs. Gibson agreed that Indiana Landmarks would open Veraestau for tours, offer its use for events, oversee restoration work that prepares Veraestau for its next century, and give people in Dearborn, Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland counties readier access to preservation services.
In 2004, Indiana Landmarks received the 116-acre property as a gift from the Cornelius and Anna Cook O’Brien Foundation. Today, Veraestau serves as Indiana Landmarks' Southeast Field Office.
Derby at Veraestau
Each May, guests gather at Veraestau to celebrate Derby Day, a tradition initiated by the O’Brien/Gibson family, who hosted lavish parties each year on the day of the Kentucky Derby.
Veraestau makes a beautiful venue for weddings, receptions, and special events of all kinds. Call for information about renting the house or grounds for your next event.
Click here for a detailed map and directions.
Veraestau Historic Site
4696 Veraestau Lane
Aurora, IN 47001-9406