Baptism by Fire
For 140 years, the historic O’Hair House near Brick Chapel in Putnam County has been a familiar site to travelers along US 231 between Greencastle and Crawfordsville. Built by James Elsberry O’Hair and his wife Louisa Elizabeth in 1879, the brick Italianate is one of several homes in the area constructed by members of the prominent O’Hair Family.
In August 2019, a lightning strike during a nighttime storm sparked a fire that nearly spelled the end of the landmark house. The blaze destroyed the roof and much of the second floor. Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire, but the weight of saturated and scorched roof debris settled onto the second floor of the open house.
By the time the home’s owner contacted Indiana Landmarks, the house had been roofless for more than a month. Though his insurance company counted the building as a total loss, the owner recognized its historic value and turned to Indiana Landmarks for help.
Our staff helped the owner identify contractors to clean out fire debris and devise a strategy to stabilize the house, including installation of a temporary roof to safeguard the structure through winter. The home’s owner decided to donate the property to Indiana Landmarks, along with funds to offset the cost of a new roof to be installed this spring.
The house’s structure remains remarkably solid, a testament to its sturdy masonry construction. In spite of damage to the second floor, character-defining features on the home’s first floor and exterior remain intact. Cranberry glass accents the front doors, and carved woodwork sets off the main staircase — just two of the features relatively untouched by the fire.
Indiana Landmarks will partner with our local affiliate, the Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County, to seek grant funding to complete stabilization, including installing the new roof, restoring the decorative cornice, and replacing and repairing missing and damaged windows. When the work is complete, we’ll market the property for sale with protective covenants. The property includes a large nineteenth-century barn and several historic outbuildings, nestled on 6.5 acres approximately five miles north of Greencastle.
To learn more about the project, contact our Western Regional Office at 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.