Protecting a Labor of Love

After years of restoration, Fort Wayne resident Arline Nation plans to safeguard investment in her historic home by donating the property to Indiana Landmarks.

Since purchasing her Victorian dream home in Fort Wayne in 2012, Arline Nation has carefully repaired the 1886 Queen Anne to bring back its historic features. Photo: Sierah Barnhart Photography

Victorian Dreamhouse

When Arline Nation saw Fort Wayne’s historic Becker House in 2012, she knew she wanted it for her home. However, the road to owning the 1886 Queen Anne wasn’t easy.

After years of vacancy, the foreclosed property was a wreck, with broken plumbing and radiators, damage from frozen pipes, and cracks in almost every window. But, beneath the damage, Nation saw her dream Victorian home. “It took almost a year from the time I put my offer in to get the house in my name and fix to a point it was livable,” says Nation.

Since her teen years, she’s devoured information about renovating old houses, using her informal knowledge and advice from local preservation experts to guide the home’s transformation. After closing on the property, Nation started ticking off repairs, replacing the boiler and broken radiators, fixing plumbing, masonry, and windows, and repairing the collapsed roof on the carriage house. With exterior work largely complete, she’s now focusing on interior renovations. A retired nurse, Nation manages rental properties and puts the proceeds back into ongoing house repairs.

To protect her hard work, Arline Nation plans to leave the house as an estate gift to Indiana Landmarks, which will attach protective covenants to the property. Photo: Sierah Barnhart Photography

“People told me I was crazy for putting money in a house that I was never going to get back, but I didn’t care because I love this house,” says Nation.

The home remained in the Becker family for nearly a century before it was divided into four apartments. Fortunately, the conversion retained original features previous owners were able to reclaim in the 1990s: hidden fireplaces, perfectly preserved pocket doors, and even a walled-up staircase.

Her love for the property inspired Nation to hire Indiana Landmarks’ affiliate ARCH to nominate the house to the National Register of Historic Places.

Nation regularly attends Preserving Historic Places, Indiana’s statewide preservation conference, where she likes to visit the historic downtowns that host the conference and gather preservation ideas for her hometown. While serving as leader of a local neighborhood advocacy group, Nation learned how historic preservation can play a role in vibrant communities, insight that prompted her to become a member of Indiana Landmarks.

She extended her interest in local history to researching every parcel in her neighborhood, a personal project that has also made her aware of the area’s history as home to many of Fort Wayne’s Irish immigrants, and the zoning policies that destroyed some of that heritage. Fearing a similar fate for her home, Nation decided to donate her property to Indiana Landmarks as an estate gift, which will be protected with our preservation covenants.

“I’m not married, and I don’t have children. When I’m gone, I don’t want this house to end up in worse shape than I got it or be sold to someone who will tear it down,” says Nation. “Indiana Landmarks’ preservation easements help me know that’s not going to happen to my house.”

This article first appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Indiana Preservation, Indiana Landmarks’ member magazine. Learn more and subscribe.

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