Handing Over the Keys
It takes imagination to look at a neglected building and see beyond the disrepair. To save such places, Indiana Landmarks improves the view by investing in rehabilitation that helps buyers see potential and offers a head start on repairs. Our efforts paid off in 2023, attracting like-minded new owners for properties in Hanover, Wabash, and Straughn.
In 2022, we saw potential in the Clemmons-Hill House at the entrance to Hanover College, though dingy aluminum siding obscured its 1880s charm. Encouraged by our work in the area, the college donated the house to Indiana Landmarks. We commenced exterior rehabilitation, uncovering the house to repair wooden siding and trim, using a historic photograph to recreate a lost front porch, and adding a fresh paint scheme.
The changes caught the eye of first-time homebuyers Ally and Eli McGillan, who were on the verge of putting an offer in on another home when they saw the Clemmons-Hill House. “We really liked the character of this house compared to every other one we looked at. It stood out,” says Ally. Since moving in last October, the couple has started transforming the interior, relying on Eli’s skills working in construction and his father’s house-flipping experience to guide their DIY efforts. “By next year, we can’t wait to get two rocking chairs out to sit on our porch all the time,” adds Ally.
In Wabash, we connected another first-time homebuyer with a Classic Revival house we had been rehabilitating as part of our initiative to increase homeownership in the East Wabash Historic District. Ani Weitzel, a graphic design teacher at Huntington North High School, was instantly captivated by the 1900 house on Allen Street, appreciating its architectural details, hardwood floors, and built-ins.
Weitzel, in her twenties, hopes that her purchase will set an example for other people her age, showing them that historic homes can retain their character while being adapted for modern living. “It had everything I wanted in a house, with so much character and historic charm,” says Ani. “I don’t want the same cookie cutter house everyone is going to get. I don’t need to add anything to this except what makes it my home.”
Last spring, Indiana Landmarks sold the 1841 Huddleston Farmhouse in Cambridge City to Tyler and Gentry Gough, organic farmers who intend to use the property as an educational site teaching historic methods of planting, cooking, and food preservation. After years serving as our Eastern Regional Office, the property’s new use honors its heritage, and its sale proceeds will fuel our work to save other landmarks in the region.
Henry County residents Doug and Jessica Barger acted quickly when they spotted the 1895 Richsquare Friends Meetinghouse in Straughn for sale on Indiana Landmarks’ website, captivated by the former church’s sturdy exterior, ornamental brickwork, art glass, and tower. Since purchasing it last August, the couple has started rehabbing the building as a residence for their retirement years. “We were surprised to find this in our backyard, tucked away quaint and quiet,” says Doug. “We fell in love with the architecture and want the outside to always remain the same.”
Indiana Landmarks also receives gifts of property donated by people who believe in our mission. Following her death, an extraordinary bequest from Zelpha Schoen Mitsch left the Sillings-Schoen-Mitsch farm near Louisville to Indiana Landmarks, including 158 acres of prime real estate, a 1910s bungalow, three barns, a tenant house, and outbuildings.
Honoring Mitsch’s wish to protect the buildings and land from development, we sold the property to Floyd County at a reduced rate with preservation and conservation easements to safeguard its rural character. The County intends to preserve the historic farmstead for public use—including agricultural instruction for 4-H groups—and maintain an adjacent 70-acre wooded tract as a natural park with walking and hiking trails. Last year, Indiana Landmarks also sold historic properties in Spencer, Howe, Wabash, and Indianapolis. See current properties for sale.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Indiana Preservation, Indiana Landmarks’ member magazine.
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