Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Horner House History – Part 1

As part of the purchase proposal  for Indiana Landmarks, we began to do some research on the history of the Horner House. The following reflects information from and various other websites. These historical posts are to supply some context for the house, its owners and its surroundings.
In 1870, Jacob Julian and Sylvester Johnson purchased 320 acres of rural land approximately 4.5 miles from the Circle in Indianapolis. They plotted this property as Irvington in tribute to Washington Irving. Julian & Johnson had a plan to develop Irvington as an elite suburb of Indianapolis, with large lots and curvy streets. They each built Second Empire houses just off of Washington Street, at the entrance to Irvington.  In 1871, Dr. Levi Ritter platted 80 acres as an addition to Irvington. In 1872, James E Downey, Julian’s son-in-law, and Nicholas Ohmer platted another addition to Irvington. A year later, Downey acquired 80 acres on the west side of Emerson. Downey and Charles Brouse, his nephew, platted those acres as the Downey & Brouse addition to Irvington. Also, in 1873, Irvington was incorporated, containing all the afore mentioned plots of land. The subdivision did not take off as quickly as they founders expected and the Irvington area continued to be largely rural until about 1900.
So back to the Horner House. This beautiful Second Empire house was built on the first lot of the Downey & Brouse subdivision in Irvington. Records disagree whether the house was built in 1875 or 1876 but all agree it was built by Abraham Horner. (Today’s Irvington neighborhood stops on the east side of Emerson. The west side is part of the Christian Park neighborhood. However, both neighborhoods claim the Horner House. It’s very cool to be a gem of not one, but two important and historic Indianapolis neighborhoods!)
Abraham (Abram) Horner was born in Ohio around 1825 to Abraham and Hannah Horner. They moved to a farm near Crawfordsville when Abram was young.  On October 12,1859, thirty four year old Abram married fifteen year old Emma Z. Rose in Boone County, IN. He became a Civil War soldier when he joined the Union Army in 1863. But that will be the subject of a post of its own. Their daughter, Emma R. or Rose E., was born around 1861. The 1870 US Census shows the family in two places. Abram and his daughter are living in Boone County, IN with Emma Z’s family in the family hotel. Emma Z. was a patient in an Indianapolis hospital. Now for the slightly eerie part. As I paged back in the census to find the address of the hospital, I found my GGG-grandparents running a hotel 2 doors down from the hospital where Emma Z. was a patient. Could her family have stayed in our families hotel while visiting her? Did our 1870’s families ever meet? Weird!
Anyway, most documentation says that the Horners only lived in the house for about a year before selling it. By the 1880 Census, the Horners were living in Indianapolis on North New Jersey Street. In 1880, Rose E. married and by 1883 her parents were living separately with Abram at 28 North Delaware and Emma Z at 99 North New Jersey.
We doubt whether we’ll ever know why the Horners built the house and then moved to Indianapolis so quickly. As noted earlier, there wasn’t much transportation between Indianapolis and Irvington in 1876. Was transportation the issue or was the area too rural? Did their fortunes change during the numerous economic downturns post Civil War? We’ll likely never know but they built a beautiful house and left a lasting mark on the architecture of Irvington & Indianapolis.

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