Practicing What We Preach
Even fire-damaged and neglected, the Louis and Katherine Kunz Hartman House earned second looks from people traveling along New Albany’s State Street, so it’s no surprise the house captured the attention of Greg Sekula, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Southern Regional Office.
“I call this the grand dame of State Street. Heading north out of downtown, it’s the first house you see and the most architecturally striking,” he says.
In it, Sekula saw the potential to do what we had previously done with Jeffersonville’s Willey-Allhands House: restore an ailing landmark as our office and inspire investment and revitalization in the surrounding neighborhood. Indiana Landmarks bought the Hartman House in 2017, and in May—following a 20-month restoration—we celebrated its opening as the new home of Indiana Landmarks’ Southern Regional Office.
More than 125 supporters gathered in front of the 1899 Kunz-Hartman house for the official ribbon-cutting on May 20, including members of the Kunz and Hartman families who traveled from Utah, Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana to celebrate.
Louis Hartman, a German immigrant and prominent New Albany businessman, built the Queen Anne-style home for his family in 1898-99. Influenced by his immigrant status and Christian upbringing, he demonstrated notable generosity toward Africans Americans who struggled economically and socially in the post-Reconstruction era. Local tradition and newspaper obituaries at his death maintain that Hartman advocated for African Americans throughout his life. The State Street property later served as an African American funeral home for more than 40 years.
Vacant since 2012, the house suffered a fire in 2017 that left gaping holes in the roof, along with charred timbers and water damage in the attic and second floor. The owner had begun to strip the building in preparation for demolition when Indiana Landmarks acquired it. We started with emergency repairs: securing the house, installing a new roof, and addressing leaky gutters to halt water infiltration.
Outside, workers with Garrett’s Construction replaced fire-damaged siding and repainted the whole house in a period color scheme. Inside, contractor Danny James stripped and restored what original woodwork remained—white oak, cherry, and butternut—much of which had been pulled off the walls, headed for salvage shops before we rescued it. An Amish crew with Werncke Construction put the woodwork back into place. “It was a giant jigsaw puzzle that took a bit of detective work,” explained Sekula. The project also returned the parquet floors and the butternut staircase to their original splendor. Though no original light fixtures remained, vintage fixtures from a similar era now shed light on the refurbished spaces, many of them collected and donated by Sekula.
Covered in soot and too uneven to reuse, the original attic flooring, was used to mill new woodwork, and as wall accents in the kitchen and attic. Most of the “new” woodwork installed in the third floor was salvaged from another historic home that had been demolished in New Albany. Workers also incorporated a salvaged stained-glass window on the second floor, adding the 1899 construction date and an “H” for the Hartman family. “We tried to recycle and repurpose as much as we could to divert materials from the landfill,” noted Sekula.
New Albany’s Kaleidoscope Stained Glass restored and repaired the home’s original stained-glass windows and rare leaded bevel-glass windows set in the house’s front and side doors. The company proved to be a serendipitous choice for the job: it’s located in the city’s former German Methodist Episcopal Church, where Hartman attended and paid for one of its memorial stained-glass windows. Local craftsmen John Frederick, Darrell Thomas, and Fred Aemmer undertook custom woodworking. Artisan Mary Margaret Trinkle of New Albany’s Monarch Studio repaired faux-grained doors and windows, and stained-glass artisan Rhonda Deeg repaired a damaged leaded glass window for the house’s kitchen.
We funded the restoration through the sale of our long-time office in Jeffersonville, with major contributions from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, the City of New Albany and its Redevelopment Commission, the Paul Ogle Foundation, the Kunz family, PC Home Center, Develop New Albany, and many generous individual contributions. Architect Ron Stiller of Floyds Knobs-based RCS + Associates served as project architect.
At the dedication, New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan noted the positive impact our investment will have in New Albany, “The city is serious about historic preservation but we couldn’t do it by ourselves.”
“It has been an amazing project,” said Indiana State Representative and Indiana Landmarks Board member Ed Clere. “The future of this property was anything but assured.”
Along with housing our southern office at the Kunz-Hartman House, we’ll be offering three additional office spaces for lease on the upper floors. For details, contact the Southern Regional Office, 812-284-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.