Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Abstract & Title: Part 3

When we left off last time, Lincoln Insurance Company owned the property in late 1876.  There are repeated entries for both the Sheriff's Deed and the Shoemaker's Quit Claim Deed in October of 1877 which both denote Franklin Insurance Company owns the property.

The next entry in the Abstract is dated 1/19/1878 showing that Franklin Insurance Company (LS) deeded the property to......Abraham & Emma Z. Horner. What? Given this rapid return to the Horners, it isn't possible to tell how long Abraham actually lived in the house. Maybe someday we'll find some additional documentation but for now, we can only speculate whether the Horners lived in the house prior to the lawsuits and how long they may have lived there afterwards. Since they deeded the property back to The Franklin Insurance Company of Indianapolis on 3/25/1879, the most time they could have spent in the house was 3 years & 7 months, if they lived there from the time they purchased in August 1875 until they sold in March 1979.

As for the Franklin Insurance Company of Indianapolis, to date, I have not been able to determine how they used the house. There are no advertisements listed with the Horner House address. The Franklin Life Insurance Company (not the Franklin (Fire) Insurance Company) was located on the corner of Kentucky Avenue & Illinois Street. The President, Augustus D Lynch lived at 825 N Meridian Street during this time.

The third owners, Oscar & Laura Hopping Turrell, purchased the property in October 1884 and sold it December 20, 1886. Oscar was born in Franklin County, IN in 1832. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1880, he married Laura Hopping in Ohio. The Indianapolis City Directories show Oscar Turrell, book keeper, living in Irvington in 1886 & 1887 but without an exact address. They had 2 children while living in the house, Harriet in about 1885 and George Harding in about 1886. According to several family trees on, George Harding died in Ohio in 1887. The 1900 census shows Oscar (67), Laura (45), Harriet (15), Rebecca (11), Elizabeth (8) & Charles (5) living in Hamilton County, Ohio where they had been married.

On December 20,1886, the Turrells sold the property to J. L. Thompson.  J. L. and Nancy Jane held the property until November 22, 1893. We have determined that J. L. was James L. Per the 1890, 1891 & 1892 Indianapolis City Directories, James was a County Commissioner at 43 Court Street and his residence was in Irvington. Unfortunately, with such common names, the Thompsons have been very hard to research. Hopefully, my next trip to the IN State Library will turn up something more.

The house had a total of 4 owners in the first 18 years. Part 4 will finish up the 1890's and take us to 1900.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Townships, Sections, Quarter Sections, and All That

After the earlier blog posts giving the land transfer history of the house, I thought I would give everyone a brief overview on how Indiana’s land system works. It’s pretty arcane stuff, so be warned. Here comes…
--The Public Land Survey System--


The Land Ordinance of 1785 formally established the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). In 1787 the Northwest Territories (consisting of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota) were formally designated by Congress, and land surveys were begun to start parceling off the land for sale to private landowners. The first surveys were performed in Ohio. Several different systems were tried out (which modern surveyors in Ohio now have to keep track of, much to their dismay) before settling on what is basically the current system.

The first surveys in Indiana began with the establishment of the Initial Point of Second Principal Meridian in 1805. The Meridian is a north-south line running all the way through the state. The Initial Point was established by running 12 miles due East from the southwest corner of the Vincennes tract, which was an earlier survey in the territory. The point landed about 7 miles south of Paoli, about ¼ mile west of what is now State Road 37. As the name suggests, this is the point of origin for all of the government surveys within most of Indiana and a part of eastern Illinois. Bit of trivia: the Meridian passes exactly through the center of the rotunda of the Boone County Courthouse. This was done by design (I guess a surveyor was on the board at that time, and was totally geeked out by the thought; I have to admit I am too.)

Above: The actual marker (a stone in the middle of the fenced area) in Orange County.

 How it All Works
The largest basis of measurement in the PLSS is the township. This is not the same township we normally think of in everyday life (as in Center, Warren, etc.), but a square of land 6 miles long on each side. To avoid confusion, surveyors refer to these as Congressional townships, while the government units are called civil townships. Beginning at the Initial Point, east-west lines were laid out every 6 miles north and south. Then north-south lines were laid out every 6 miles along the east-west line running through the Initial Point (called the baseline). Once this grid was laid out, the land inside each square was divided into 36 squares, each 1 mile on each side, and called a section.

In order to uniquely identify each section of land, the townships were designated by how far they were from the intial point. So for example, the first township north and east of the Initial Point was called Township 1 North, Range 1 East. The next one north would be Township 2 North, Range 1 East, and the one east of that one would be Township 2 North, Range 2 East, and so on, as shown below:

Each section of land would then be numbered 1 through 36, in the following pattern:

At first, the smallest unit of land sold was the section. Later, when prices starting going up, it became necessary to subdivide the sections into smaller pieces. The system of describing these smaller pieces is called the method of aliquot parts. This is much easier to describe with a picture, so here goes:

This method of subdividing can theoretically go on to infinity, but in practice the smallest area normally described would be 5 acres. So, a 5-acre tract in the northeast corner of the above section would be described as: The East ½ of the Northeast ¼ of the Northeast ¼ of the Northeast ¼ of Section 10, Township 1 North, Range 1 East, Orange County, Indiana.

Of course the vast majority of land parcels are far smaller than 5 acres, and this method can only define square or rectangular pieces. Next time, we will go into the ways that most people in metropolitan areas have their property described, either as a lot in a subdivision, or as a tract described by metes and bounds.

I know that this is pretty dry stuff, but I hope this has been informative and maybe even answered a few questions that you might have had.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

End of November Update

We are working on our West Wing Stabalization blogs for days 2 & 3. There are too many technical items for me (Mary) to address & Eric/Amanda are working 16 hour days in our business. Once they get a chance to catch their breath, we'll make another stabilization post. In the meantime, I thought I'd catch you up on some of the unusual things that are happening now.

We have so much to be thankful for, the Horner House, family, friends and the overwhelming support & interest of people in our renovation project. The most recent interest came from The Indianapolis Star. As some of you know, Will Higgins did an article on the Horner House that was published in the Thanksgiving Day (11/24/2011) Indianapolis Star - There were more pictures in the print version but you'll get the point from the online version. Amanda posted some clarifications on our Facebook page.

Clarification for the 11/24/2011 Star article from our Facebook Page:

"This article ran on Thanksgiving Day. There are a couple of things that I would like to clarify. First the quote from Reggie Walton about the community wanting the house torn down, while technically correct, doesn't tell the whole story. There were some members of the community clamoring to tear the house down, but Christian Park Active Community was desperately trying to save it. Even going so far as applying to purchase the home for a community center.

The other two items I would like to clarify are the statement that reenacting is our current hobby and recorder playing. Eric and I did participate in the SCA for many years, but have not had the time since we opened our surveying company in 2007. We still have many very good friends in the group but are no longer active ourselves. As for the comments on our music, it is true that we occasionally play in public, but leaves out much information. Eric and I are two members of a music group called the Dragon Scale Consort. The group consists of nine members who play harp, recorders, cittern, and a myriad of percussion instruments. We have played for many different audiences including weddings and fund raisers, Ren Fairs in Indiana and Louisiana, the Biergarten at the Rathskeller, and with the Indiana Ballet Company before they dissolved. We do love music as much as we love things that are old.

We greatly appreciate Will Higgins, Matt Detrich, and the Indianapolis Star taking the time to write about the Horner House and also the controversial demolition issues in our city putting preservation in the spotlight. Hopefully by doing so other deserving houses can be saved. "

Just below the article on the Horner House was an article regarding saving the homes in Indianapolis that are slated for demolition - We realize that the Horner House is an unusual example when it comes to the abandoned homes in Indianapolis slated for demolition but it makes us sad to see any home demolished if it could be saved. We would like the process to slow down so that those homes on the list that could be saved will be, whether historical, archeticturally significant or just needing TLC. Some may, on the surface, look like there are no options left but demolition but that might not be true. When we first saw the west (back) wall of the Horner House, we were afraid that the entire structure might not be stable. It was only through the input of our structural engineer, Bob Ladish, that we determined that the Horner House was still stable enough to save.

Several days later, imagine our surprise when there was another item in the Star mentioning Amanda & Eric - And especially when it began with "Indianapolis needs more people like Amanda and Eric Browning -- many more of them." We do hope there are others in Indianapolis who share our passion for old houses and Indianapolis history. While we would like to see the demolitions stopped long enough to do some educated decision making, we didn't start down this road to be crusaders. We just couldn't stand the thought that the Horner House would be torn down and would fade into history as so many of our Indianapolis landmarks have in the past.

We really don't consider ourselves unusual. We appreciate old things, especially beautiful old houses. They can be awesome when restored. Perhaps the thing that sets us apart is past experience and having some wonderful contacts. One of our goals in starting this project was to not just save the Horner House but also inspire/assist others in moving forward if they had a dream of saving an old house. When we started this blog, it was partly to document our progress but mainly to share what we learn with others. If we influence anyone else to travel the road to save an old home, we'll feel we've accomplished something special. If our journey assists anyone else in saving an old/historic home, we will feel doubly blessed. Soon, we'll be adding information on some of the companies or people who have assisted us to date. We hope others will find their assistance valuable, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Middle of November Update

Thank you to everyone who has expressed their sympathy over the unexpected death of my brother & Amanda's uncle, Charlie. He was a graduate of Howe High School and quite excited about the purchase of the Horner House. He will be sorely missed.

Although we've had many stressers the past several weeks (the funeral, several illnesses, the death of a beloved dog, furnace issues), we've also had many blessings. The raising of the beam to support the back wall of the West Wing, being busy at work, a good report from the Ortho Dr regarding Eric's ankle and a wonderful article in the Eastside Voice are just a few positives.  As a friend recently said, we just need to setup a camera and do a reality TV show. People would think things are contrived and staged because no family could have so many things going on at once. The support we've received from the community is wonderful. It's what has kept us going the past few weeks.

We're trying to get back on track with the blog and plan to post more about the stabilization work shortly. We're also slowly gathering more information on the early abstract/owners of the house. Let's just say that after almost 3 months of calculations, planning and praying, Bob & Bill have pulled off a miracle and the beam is up. There is more to be done but the most critical steps have been successful. Although this was just a tiny step in the overall project, we just can't help feeling that we've reached our first major restoration milestone!

Beginning to clean up the items that were setting around in the way of working on the West Wing back wall.

More old foundations found in the rear of the West Wing. There are several so it's hard to tell what all was original and what all was added later.

The weeds/vines grew so big that the stumps they left were so large they could puncture a tire. We had to wrap in yellow tape to ensure no one drove over them during the stabilization work.

Is there a subject you'd like to post about? Do you have questions about what we're up to? Please feel free to give us feedback on the blog, either here or on Facebook.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stabilizing the West Wing - Day 1

Leading up to the first day of stabilization, Bob & Bill had several calls, meetings and emails over several weeks. We even met at the house back in October to discuss exactly what we were going to do. The meeting lasted about 90 minutes and we went through multiple different ideas before finalizing the plan.

Bill's main concern was safety and not allowing anyone to cross the threshold because the roof might collapse. Another factor was cost and what could be accomplished within our limited budget. Then came the issue of bracing complications. Normally when bracing is put up, the boards outside get bolted through the wall. This requires someone to be inside to put the bolts on – this was not possible since no one can go inside.

After much discussion, it was determined that taking the roof off or attempting a controlled demolition were not options. Renting a lift would be expensive and it would be difficult to control any type of demolition. (My mom always talks about the "painted nail". This is the one nail that holds the entire house together. So you could say we were afraid of finding the painted nail in the Horner House.)  The question became what can they do to give the roof some support. They discussed using a front-end loader, pulling it up to the building & extending the arm inside until the roof beams rested on it. Again, this was not a cheap solution because the loader would need to sit there for several days. And we didn’t know how stable the cellar walls were; there was a chance that the shift in weight could damage the cellar walls. The idea of using the loader was discarded as too costly.

Then, Bob suggested using an epoxy adhesive instead of bolts, so no one needed to be inside. This will damage the bricks that the bolt holes are drilled through, since the epoxy will be stronger than the brick. This was an "out of the box" idea, it's not standardly used in buildings but is more often used in road construction. We all decided that the loss of 15 or 20 bricks was better than someone getting hurt or losing the entire wing.

After that, they discussed simply jacking the beam up into place without something to support the roof.  The biggest concern at that point wasn't that the walls would fall inwards, but the pressure and roof would force them outward.

Finally, a plan began to form for bracing the north & south walls and the 2 pieces of the west wall that were still standing. Then they would jack up a beam into the opening (the collapsed area) to make a new lintel. The posts would remain permanently, and the space between would be framed in like a modern house. The beam would be "cheated", or set slightly inside of instead of being centered over the foundation, to allow one course of brick to be erected so that from the outside it will match the rest of the brick exterior.

At that point, Bob asked for an elevation or vertical survey (a map of the walls) before finalizing the plan. Fast forward - as discussed in previous blogs, the ivy had to be removed to do the survey and the removal of the ivy led to Eric’s accident and subsequent delays. To add to the worries, during the time when Eric was out of commission, Eric & Amanda noticed that the west face of the West Wing’s mansard roof was buckling inward.

This picture shows the rotation of the back roof as well as some of the debris that was removed prior to work.

A few weeks ago, Bob & Bill met Amanda & Eric on site again. After looking things over, they determined that the roof was not really buckling. The north portion of the west wall was leaned out significantly enough that it caused the northwest window on the back wall to twist. The southwest line of the wall was still in place giving the optical illusion that the roof was buckled. The decision was made to move forward with the plan with one exception. A specialty lift called a "Lull" was to be rented and used to straighten the roof. It would be used to pull the bottom edge of the southwest lower portion of the Mansard outward to match the leaned out roof line on the northwest edge of the west wall. This added more complications. When they started to move the roofline, everything could collapse or worse, there might not be enough good wood for the beam to catch on.

We spent the next few days moving forward with this final plan. While it was still the best plan, the risk was higher that the roof would collapse before the structure was complete. We finished the ivy removal & gave ILB the survey. Bob provided Bill with the necessary specs for the beam & other items that needed to be purchased.

On November 10th, we were finally ready to get started. The first day on site, Bill & his crew cleared all debris lying outside the west wall. While this may sound simple, it took half the day. They salvaged about half of the old bricks and filled in an old well with the damaged ones. The well was in the construction area and had been a safety concern.

Some of the original brick that was salvaged. Hopefully, it will all be usable.

They finally dug 4 of the holes for the foundations for the posts. It may not sound like a lot but it was a pretty full day's worth of work. Next, Stabilization of the West Wing – Day 2.

Two of the holes, filled with concrete & "nails". These will be used with the supports.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stabilizing the West Wing

After last winter, the entire West Wing of the Horner House became very unstable. During one of the ice storms, the area between the 2 back doors collapsed. The interior ground floor fell into the cellar and then the 2nd floor followed it. This left the roof without support and it, too, became unstable. As we waited for the closing on the house during the spring & summer, we've watched the structure slowly become more and more unstable. We knew we were going to have to work quickly after the closing if we were going to be able to save anything of the West Wing.

Back of West Wing, March 2011. The upper windows are still pretty much straight and the middle of the roof hasn't begun to sag.

We began working with Bob Ladisich of Design Services before we even closed on the house. Bob is the structural engineer who evaluated the stability of the house for us prior to purchase. He let us know we would need to move quickly on the West Wing in order to save it. As soon as we closed, Bob began working on the plans for the West Wing stabalization.

We needed to do an elevation survey in order for Bob to finish his plans. When we tried to remove the ivy that had covered the West Wing, Eric broke his ankle and the process got stalled. Once Eric was on the mend, Amanda & Ron finished the field work & Eric completed the drawings for the elevation survey.

In the meantime, we had began working with Bill Zeller of W. C. Zeller Renovations, LLC. Bill is a contractor with experience in working with historic houses. Bob and Bill have been working together over the past several weeks trying to pull off a miracle. Unfortunately, the mansard roof over the West Wing, especially over the rear wall, has continued to deteriorate rather rapidly. We've been approaching a milestone - either finish stabilizing the West Wing or participate in controlled demolition.

The windows have begun to rotate as the roof between them has began to collapse inward. Without a miracle, we will be doing controlled demolition rather than stabilization of this wing of the house.

If anyone can save this wing of the house, we have full confidence that Bob & Bill can do it. They have made no guarentees, however, it's obvious they are doing their best to save what they can. Tomorrow, they will be putting in the beam to stabilize the area below the windows. We're hoping they can finish the stabilization next week since it's critical to be finished prior to the first snow fall. Amanda & Eric will be doing some more technical blogs on exactly what the plan is and how it is being executed for those of you who are interested. In the meantime, say a prayer that our experts can pull off this miracle for us.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brief Update - November 6th

This coming week will be one of great joy and sorrow for our family. Assuming the weather is decent we will be raising the beam at the end of the the week. This will be the joy. We also will be attending the funeral of a member of our family. Amanda's uncle and Mary's brother Charles Hebble passed away Saturday night.

This week we will not be posting on the blog or the facebook page. We want to take our time and give you all good postings and information since you have taken the time to follow us. We will return to you all in a week with heavier hearts, but ready to engage in and enjoy the restoration of this house.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We Have a New Front Door

We intended to post Abstract & Title Part 3 next, however, we now have an awesome new front door that we just have to share.

Since we began visiting the Horner House in March 2011, access to the interior of the house has been difficult at best. The front door had been boarded over to prevent break-ins. Many of the windows were also boarded over due to broken glass. Climbing a ladder to a second story window was our first access. This was not a good solution for me since I have a fear of falling.

Then, we tried removing the plywood from one of the ground floor windows to enter. At one point, Amanda and Eric even fashioned a "door" on one of the windows so they didn't have to keep risking damaging woodwork every time they needed access. Whoever had been breaking in quickly found this new "door" and damaged it while entering the house.

Even with the front door boarded over, people continued to try to kick the front door in. They kept at it even after we moved a claw foot tub behind the door as a brace. Eventually, they finally succeeded in breaking in the front door and badly damaging the door frame. Luckily they were only able to dislodge the sides of the door frame; the tub and the framework of the stairs at the top of the opening prevented the plywood and frame from being pushed completely through, which would have allowed intruders to simply walk into the house. If it weren't for that, it's likely that the interior would have been totally trashed by the vandals, perhaps to the point of not making the restoration feasible.

Boarded over front door. Unfortunately, we never got a picture of the door as it was hung, it had been kicked down before we had a chance.

Amanda needed a front door to feel that she had a house. And we needed a door to use for workers to gain entry. The only question was - do we put in a "new" period door and pray the activity at the house would prevent further break-ins, or do we put in a security door now and a historic door in the future. Since we can't afford further setbacks, a security door was the logical choice. (Remember, it's going to look worse before it gets better.)

Front doorway. Imagine how spectacular this would be to look through a door that was half glass. You can see the back of the staircase that winds up across the transom and the newel post. It must have been very impressive to knock on the door and get a peek at the interior of the house.

Several weekends ago, Amanda, Eric, and Ron began to reclaim the boarded up front doorway, remove the demolished front door and install the security door. There were a number of hurdles to over come. The old door was broken likely beyond repair. The entire door frame was rotten. The current lack of gutters causes that area of the house to stay wet. The wood nailing blocks (originally mortared into the brick) that the old front door were attached to had become rotten and unusable. Just adding more wooden blocks did not resolve the issue because they needed to be reattached to the brick structure and the bricks and mortar are so crumbly. When they tried to re-install the door frame, it could just be lifted out of the hole because there wasn't anything to really attach it to.

Ron moving original frame because there is nothing to attach it to. They had to add new blocks and wood framing around the door opening in order to have something to attach the frame.

A steel entry door has now been secured with a regular door knob and dead bolt. Amanda added the door knob by herself - woohoo! this is a first for her. The fill-in for the old transom will occur in the next few days. Unfortunately, we don't believe the door just removed is in condition to be restored. Amanda and Eric will negotiate the final front door configuration with Indiana Landmarks, to address both security and historical accuracy, later in the project.

Our new door! A new portal into a fabulous old home.

Currently, we're just happy we can provide access to the various teams who need to be able to enter to help with restoration and also keep the property safe from break-ins. And as Amanda said, "It's just awesome to have a real front door on my house."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Abstract & Title Part 2 - All I can say is WOW!

We left off after the first 30 years of the abstract with Samuel & Elizabeth Shimer owning the property. As before, because there are so many redundant entries in the abstract, I'm just going to hit the major points. We can post all the details on the website once we've got it set up.

The Shimers took a portion of the afore mentioned land, pieced together with some adjoining property, and sold it to Charles Brouse on July 22, 1873. (Remember, Charles was one of the first Metal of Honor winners in the nation.) Charles and Margaret Brouse then deeded the property to James Downey, his uncle, on the same day. This sounds suspicious to me but maybe I'm just the wary type. There were many ups and downs in the national economy after the Civil War but the worst was the "Panic of 1873"  which was world wide. This 'depression' lasted for about 10 years in Indiana.

On June 11,1875, Downey and Brouse plat this property as the Downey and Brouse addition to Irvington. They sell lot 1 to Abraham Horner on September 1, 1875. Less than a year later, on July 7, 1876, Abraham sells the property to Mahala Shoemaker. If you read the History of the Horner House - Part 1, we ended with the following regarding why they owned for such a short time: 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.  

Well, we now know and as I promised, this is where things begin to get interesting. Between August of 1875 and May of 1876, there were 23 Mechanics Liens placed on the property. These were initially part of 3 different complaints against Abraham Horner, his wife, John F. Cooper, and Henry M. Cooper. At least 6 of these liens were written on Christmas Day 1875. I think it's pretty safe to say the Horners didn't envision their first Christmas in their new house would turn out this way. We're still digging through all the details but know that these liens were for more than $4000.00, a small fortune in those days.

In March of 1876, the Sheriff of Floyd County served a summons to the Coopers and the Sheriff of Marion County served Abraham Horner. The 3 complaints were consolidated into one and a Judgment was rendered on 5/20/1876. The judge ordered the house sold at auction on the last day of July 1876 to pay off the Judgments on the liens. If the house sold for more than the total of the liens, the remaining monies were to go to Abraham Horner. If the house sold for less than the total of the liens, the Sheriff was to seize the property of the Coopers and divide the proceeds between the lien holders.

This is the add for the Sheriff's auction in the Indianapolis Sentinel 1876.

The auction was conducted on 7/31/1876, however, there were no bids. The property was purchased via a Sheriff's Deed later that day to Willis S. Webb for $92.46. This is only about 2% of the total of the liens and an unknown percentage of the actual cost of the house & property. Since Abram Horner had already sold the house to John & Mahala Shoemaker, they had to  enter a Quit Claim Deed on  10/17/1876 to clear the title. This allowed Webb to assign the Sheriff's Deed to Franklin Insurance Company in November.

Abraham owned the house for just 10 months. And just who were those Coopers - John & Henry? Since the Floyd County Sheriff served their summons, Amanda called the Indiana Landmarks office in New Albany, IN. The Floyd County Historian found them listed as Contractors & Builders in the 1877-1878 City Directory. There is also a George B. F. Cooper, at the same address, listed as an Architect. Since then, we've found several of the lien holders were also from New Albany. Did the Coopers bring them to Indy with them? And exactly what was each subcontractor responsible for completing?

Don't know if any of you have ever been to New Albany but the architecture down there will knock your socks off. One of our many areas to do further research on is in regard to which buildings in New Albany our lien holders may have helped build. We have contacted a master plasterer in New Albany who may help us identify whether or not the Horner House shares the same plaster crown mouldings as the Culbertson Mansion or another historic building there.

Wow! Now we know that the house was really built in 1875 not 1876. We have solid leads on who some of the craftsmen were who assisted in building the house and that some were from New Albany, IN. We know why the Horners lived in the house such a short period of time. And, although we didn't mention it before, we know that some of these lien holders also filed liens on other homes in Irvington, some in Downey & Browse or other additions, at the same time. With every answer we get, we have 4 more questions. We plan to keep digging.

Now we have more questions than when we finished the History - Part 1. We  will continue to dig into the data. We hope to share more as soon as we can find additional data. This is an amazing puzzle!

To be continued, again....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Abstract and Title

First, we need to do a big shout out to Joan Hostetler of Heritage Photo. Back on September 13th, Joan conducted a class, "Researching Your Historic Home", at the Irvington Library. One of her tips lead us to find an early abstract of the Horner House.

We had expected the normal types of entries as the property changed hands over the past 190 years. As we began reading through the file, we realized that we had hit the jackpot. I won't bore you with most of the land descriptions or details. If anyone is interested, we'll be adding more documentation on our website - once we finally get it up. Documented below are the first 32 years and they're pretty much as we expected.

The story starts in the Tract Book from July 26, 1821. (History reminder - 1820 was the year Indianapolis was declared the new state capital.) The United States of America deeded to Harvey Pope the North East Quarter of Section 9, Township 15 North, Range 4 East, 160 acres.  The next entry, dated 11/15/1822, was to Hervey Pope, his heirs and assigns. It was for the east 1/2 of the property above equaling 80 acres.

This is a US Land Record showing Hervey Pope's ownership of the east 1/2 of the 160 acres. (

And this is the US Land Record showing ownership of the West 1/2 of the 160 acres. ( Unfortunately, they were both indexed as Henry Pope but when you open the records, you can tell it's Hervey.

On 8/31/1835, Harvey Pope (signed Harey Pope) and Mary Pope deeded to John Williams the entire 160 acres.  Since there are 48 John Williams in Indiana in the 1830 US Census and 98 in the 1840 US Census, we aren't currently trying to identify the Horner House's John Williams. Some day, we'll have to try to figure out who he is and if John Williams is any relationship to Ron's family. Ron's Williams line has been in Indiana since before 1850. We just haven't figured out how long yet.

Then 2 years later, in 1842, part of the property changes hands again when John Williams & Adah Williams deeded to John Hannah (or Horner) 70 acres. The abstract shows that John Hannah (or possibly Horner) purchased but John Horner sold the property. There are too many John Hannah's & Horner's in the 1840 & 50 Census to be able to tell which one might be correct. We many never know for sure who this owner is but we'll keep it on the list of things for further research- some day.

In May 1853, John Horner deeds to Samuel Shank, the full 70 acres.  Per the next transaction, we know that this Samuel Shank is married to Sarah Shank. Samuel & Sarah are living in Warren Township, Marion County, IN in the 1850 Census with their children and his father. By 1860, however, Samuel & Sarah Shank are no longer in Marion County in the US Census.

Samuel Shank and Sarah Shank sell 25-3/4 acres to William R Shimer in August 1853. The Shimer family owned a lot of land in the vicinity and had a major impact on early Irvington. The next several transactions lead to some amazing discoveries.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

Last month, over Labor Day weekend, we did some serious supplies procurement for the bungalow. Both Lowe's & Menards had major sales and we made the best of them. Amanda and Eric spent hours figuring out what we needed to purchase to get it updated and livable. Then they spent several more hours comparing prices to get the best deal. We still spent so much money that we ended up getting dedicated CSRs to help us find everything, load things and get our purchases up front to the registers. We bought everything including, literally, the kitchen sink. Both stores ended up providing three people to load our supplies onto the trailer. I think the managers wept with joy when we left.

Of course, at that point in time, we thought we'd be much farther along than we are today, due to Eric's broken ankle. The work required to get moved into the bungalow is much more extensive than what we originally thought.  We have lots of "stuff" but we're kind of short on workers at the moment.

 In this picture are several toilets, sinks & vanities.

And in this picture, about 30 gallons of paint, interior & exterior.

During this down time, we're learning a lot and working on a comprehensive project plan to help us be more realistic about the time/effort that will be needed to get things done. Not to mention how to add in some padding for the unexpected (like broken ankles). I'm used to planning major projects at work. This, however, is project management on steroids. It includes: work on the bungalow, work on Toad Hall, work to get the Beech Grove house ready to sell, and scheduling for the business and how that might impact our "time off".  In the process, we're beginning to try to define what "free" or "down" time really is these days.

Oh, happy Family History Month. I'm trying to figure out all the resources that are available at the IN State Library and IN State Archives. I think that I'd prefer to spend my next vacation at the IN State Library rather than Disney World. Amanda says I'm crazy, but I truly think I'd be happier with the information I'd get at the library than buying a ticket and just wandering around WDW. Not only am I finding out a lot about my ancestors but we are finding some very tantalizing clues about the early history of the house.

More to follow!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


As a follow-up to the toilets blog, we thought we'd do a blog on sinks. Luckily, the sink in the Beech Grove bathroom has no issues so there is no real story there.

The bungalow has the same problem with bathroom sinks as it has with toilets. They were not winterized prior to the house being abandoned so they will all need to be replaced along with the plumbing. The kitchen sink also has an issue with broken pipes. Upon closer inspection of the plumbing under the kitchen sink, Eric discovered that the drains had no traps, which is a code violation. Since everything must be replaced, it will be brought up to code with appropriate drains before they move into the house. So yes, we need to replace all the plumbing fixtures, even the kitchen sink.

More interesting, however, are the sinks in the Horner House. While the toilets were just randomly sitting around the house, some of the sinks, but not all, had actually been installed in the house at one time.

We'll start with the random sink. This one is just sitting on the floor in one of the rooms. Sorry it's so blurry but I was laughing when I took the picture.

Then there is the kitchen sink that is hanging on a wall in a bedroom. We figure it was re-purposed as a kitchen when the house was divided into apartments. It appears that the pipes were all disconnected long ago. The stove is a circa 1910's Roper gas range, which has unfortunately been stolen by metal thieves since this photo was taken.

My favorite is the one on the wall in the West wing. Keep in mind that the floors of the West wing have fallen into the cellar. When we were shopping for sinks for the bungalow, Amanda didn't really think it was funny when I suggested rescuing this sink off the wall of the Horner House and installing it in the bungalow. And we likely couldn't have figured out a way to rescue it anyway.

Stay tuned! We thought we'd slowly show the current interior condition by highlighting a few items at a time. Coming up are blogs on the bathtub/showers and more kitchen items.

Friday, September 30, 2011

End of September 2011 Update

Last Friday, Eric had surgery on his ankle. The good news is that the breaks were much simpler than expected with no other damage and no bone grafts. The bad news is that he will still be on crutches with no weight bearing for 8 weeks. He's doing pretty well although he already feels house bound. After returning to the Dr. next week, we're hoping we can begin getting him out of the house for a little while at a time.

Meanwhile, things at the family business have picked up somewhat. It appears many people & businesses need to have a survey before the weather turns bad. We're not complaining because the really slow season always comes too soon. We need to stay busy as long into winter as possible and hope for an early spring. It is amazing, meanwhile, how much Eric has been able to accomplish in the past 10 days while keeping his leg elevated. Not to mention the pain levels he has been tolerating.

As for Toad Hall, the structural engineer has decided he can move forward with the plans for stabilization of the back wall without the survey, thank heavens. Once he submits his plan, we can send it to the contractor to be put into a plan. We're still hopeful we'll get the back wall stabilization and maybe some additional work completed before winter sets in. Another priority will be to get the plasterer in to save moulds of the crown moulding on the ground floor before the cold weather destroys what is left. These mouldings are incredible and we want to be sure we can replicate with the restoration work.

While we're not able to move forward with much in the way of actual improvements at the moment, Amanda & I are concentrating on putting together a detailed project plan & assigning priorities. It gets pretty discouraging when the plan is pretty high level and still has over 1000 lines/tasks and it seems everything is a priority. We're also working some more on the history. We've found some pretty amazing documentation over the past several days. It's sad to say we were digging through the documents while Eric was in surgery. We're trying not to be obsessive but we're trying to keep it all in balance. Once we have more details and have confirmed our sources, we'll be sharing it with all of you.

What kinds of posts are you enjoying on our blog? Do you enjoy learning the history of the house and owners? Are you only interested in the preservation work? Let us know either here on the blog or on Facebook if there is anything in particular you're interested in seeing. We want this blog to be helpful to others interested in preserving old houses as well as a diary of sorts regarding our adventure. Let us know if there are questions about the processes/resources we are using to do either the restoration or history work. And thank you for following our story.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Toad Hall?

If you have been on our Facebook page, you will have seen from the title that we, very affectionately, call the Horner House “Toad Hall.” To really explain how this has come about, I need to start with a brief bit of background.

From the time I was little, I have loved old houses. Eric also has a deep and sincere love of architecture and antiques. My favorite style is Queen Anne and Eric prefers the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright. Needless to say, there’s not really a compromise between the two styles. From the time we met, we have both wanted to move into an old house, preferably a “fixer upper”, but we’ve not really found one that we both fell in love with. The Horner House is less ornate than a Queen Anne, and much more ornate than a Wright building, but it has an extremely unique beauty and personality. We have both always loved it!

One thing that we have always agreed on is how we want to treat our “dream home.” The basic philosophy is that we want to respect and showcase the history as much as possible without turning it into a museum. In this case, that means that the main parts of the house, (front parlor, dining room, music room, and library) will be mostly done in the style of when the home was built. But the kitchen and bathrooms, while not clashing with a historic look will still have all the modern conveniences as well as being up to current code. But mostly, we want it to be fun!

So, why Toad Hall? Well, when Eric was a child he read the story “The Wind in the Willows.” For those of you who have only the Disney version to go by, the story is actually quite a bit different than that. Disney did get two things correct, though. The first being Mr. Toad’s obsession with cars and the second, that Toad Hall is the finest building around and all the animals are proud of it. As a child Eric wanted to live in Toad Hall when he grew up. So, seeing as the Horner House is a “handsome, dignified old house of mellowed red brick”, he began calling it Toad Hall. Needless to say, it stuck. And if I have enough money (ha ha) when we are done with everything else, I would like to have a few glass transoms made with scenes from Wind in the Willows to go over some of the doors!

The Toad Hall connection was even reinforced this week when we received information as to why the Horner’s left the house so quickly. It seems the Horners had some money troubles, too. Look for the coming blog post, Abraham Horner or J. Thaddeus Toad!

“Triumphant Mr. Toad”, Giclee on paper by Toby Bluth, a former Disney animator. (Some day, we hope to have a copy.) This is a “scene” from the Disney version.

Below is an excerpt from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, published in 1908, that talks a bit about Mr. Toad and his wonderful Toad Hall. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we have!

'Why, certainly,' said the good-natured Rat, jumping to his feet and dismissing poetry from his mind for the day. 'Get the boat out, and we'll paddle up there at once. It's never the wrong time to call on Toad. Early or late he's always the same fellow. Always good-tempered, always glad to see you, always sorry when you go!' 

'He must be a very nice animal,' observed the Mole, as he got into the boat and took the sculls, while the Rat settled himself comfortably in the stern.

'He is indeed the best of animals,' replied Rat. 'So simple, so good-natured, and so affectionate. Perhaps he's not very clever—we can't all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both boastful and conceited. But he has got some great qualities, has Toady.'

Rounding a bend in the river, they came in sight of a handsome, dignified old house of mellowed red brick, with well-kept lawns reaching down to the water's edge.

'There's Toad Hall,' said the Rat; 'and that creek on the left, where the notice-board says, "Private. No landing allowed," leads to his boat-house, where we'll leave the boat. The stables are over there to the right. That's the banqueting-hall you're looking at now—very old, that is. Toad is rather rich, you know, and this is really one of the nicest houses in these parts, though we never admit as much to Toad.' 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Civil War Soldier

Imagine my surprise when I found a record at that Abram Horner, the original owner of the Horner House, was a Civil War Soldier! I immediately had visions of Abram being a hero during a battle. After all, a house that was as grand as the Horner House once was surely had to be built by someone of great importance.

He had enlisted in Company C, 108th Infantry Regiment of the Union Army on July 11, 1863 and mustered out on July 17, 1863. Now, imagine my amazement as I realized that he had only been in the army for 6 days. Really? Only 6 days? Surely this had to be a mistake. How do you become a hero in just 6 days?

After much searching, I found the answer on

Word being received at Indianapolis on the evening of July 8, 1863, that a force of 6,000 cavalry under Morgan had crossed the Ohio River near Mauckport and was moving on Corydon, a call was issued for citizens to organize for defense.

Within 48 hours 65,000 men had tendered their services. From this number regiments 102 to 114 inclusive, and one battalion were organized, the battalion being assigned to the 107th.

One Hundred and Eighth Infantry. -- Col., William C. Wilson, Lieut.Col., John H. Gould; Maj., Henry A. Brause.

This regiment was organized July 12, 1863, with ten companies of minute men, of which Tippecanoe County furnished five, Howard County two, and Carroll, Montgomery and Wayne Counties one each. The regiment contained an aggregate of 710 men rank and file.

It left Indianapolis on the night of the 13th for Hamilton, Ohio, and proceeded thence to Cincinnati. It returned to Indianapolis and was mustered out July 18, 1863."

Source: Union Army, vol. 3, p. 175

Battles Fought - None

OK. So he wasn't a hero. He still built a stunning house.

Here's a picture from Wikipedia where Morgan's Raiders enter Washington, OH.

Ironically, Conner Prairie featured Morgan's Raiders and Indiana's response this summer. You can still participate in some of their special programs. Check out their calendar - 

NOTE: The Brouse of the Downey & Brouse addition is not the same Brouse as the Major in Horner's regiment. Downey was Julian's son-in-law and Charles Brouse was his nephew. Captain Charles Brouse was one of the first Medal of Honor winners and a hero of the Civil War. Major Henry Brouse, Company C, 108th Infantry Regiment, was a well known resident of Kokomo, IN. At this point, I have not been able to document any relationship between the two Brouse's.

Please respond by replying here or on Facebook and let us know what you'd like for us to feature on a post. Thanks,


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Last 36 Hours - or It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better Part 2

I thought our next post would be on sinks. But we've had some changes in plans. And when I posted that it would get worse before it gets better, I didn't really envision what has happened in the past 48 hours.

The contractor, Bill, and structural engineer, Bob, requested an elevation survey before they firmed up the plans for the stabilization of the back, west, wall. In order to do that survey, the ivy had to come off parts of the house. Amanda & Eric headed over to the house yesterday evening to prep the house for the survey & remove the ivy. Sounds simple, right?

Ivy from early this spring - before it really got a chance to take over.

Several hours later, I get a call that they are all headed to the emergency room because Eric fell while removing the ivy. The hook & rope that they had rigged up to pull the ivy off the exterior walls had given way causing Eric to stumble & fall. Amanda, Eric & Ron all said that they heard a loud pop (eww!) and then Eric was on the ground, in pain.

Hours later, x-rays confirmed that Eric had multiple breaks and likely tendon & ligament damage. According to the Orthopedic Surgeon this afternoon, it looks like Eric'll be having surgery later this week or early next week, depending on when the swelling goes down. For 8 weeks, he'll not be able to do any weight bearing at all and then he'll gradually be able to shed his crutches. We're hoping this will happen sometime between Thanksgiving & Christmas.

So now, it's already Fall. We have a tremendous amount of work to do; in the business, the bungalow & Toad Hall; prior to winter and we have our first crisis. As Amanda put it, Toad Hall 1 - us 0. We are confident that things will get better, just not on the timeline that we expect/wanted. This project is going to be a lesson in patience and reality checks.

Say some prayers that we can get things moved forward without Eric and get prepared for winter. If the house wants to be saved, she better start cooperating!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three Houses

I'm sure you've heard the expression, water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. We've revised this for our purposes to toilets, toilets everywhere but not a pot to pee in. Sometimes, it just appears that God has a good sense of humor.
Let me explain. When Amanda & Eric purchased the Horner house, they also purchased a 1920’s bungalow nearby.  Given that they already owned a house in Beech Grove, they now own a total of 3 houses. This might sound like a wonderful position to be in but let’s take a little closer look.
The water wall of the Horner House was in the West Addition. That was the part of building that fell into the cellar this past spring. There are several toilets just sitting around the house or in the cellar but none of these have plumbing.
 Look to the right side of this picture and you'll see the toilet that is currently in the music room.
And to the left, here's one strategically located in the dining room.

Now, let’s take a close look at the bungalow (sorry no pictures for this one). The bungalow has 2 bathrooms, however, it appears the house was never winterized before it was abandoned. The bathrooms will need to be gutted and fixtures replaced due to the water damage. All of this would discourage even the hardiest of couples but Amanda & Eric have been taking it pretty well.
Now back to the beginning paragraph. They were taking it pretty well until the toilet in their Beech Grove house sprang a leak this past weekend. House 1 – Beech Grove with 1 bathroom – one leaking toilet. House 2 – the bungalow with 2 bathrooms – no working toilet. House 3 – Horner House with no existing bathrooms – and no working toilets. Thank you, we needed a laugh!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Christian Park Active Community (CPAC)

Last Tuesday evening was the monthly meeting for the Christian Park Active Community, which is the neighborhood association where the Horner House sits. This is a large neighborhood bounded by Washington Street on the north, Raymond Street on the south, Irvington Avenue on the East and LaSalle Street on the west. The members were very welcoming and had a reception for us. Everyone was anxious to hear about the plans for the house and pleased to see that the house was going to be made into a home again. Anne Holy, President, presented Amanda & Eric with a very interesting book about the neighborhood called "The Christian Park Community". It even has a picture and write-up of the Horner House!

We're hopeful that the contacts they supplied will be able to provide us with some additional information and possibly some old photos of the house. We are sure this will be beneficial group with which to work and felt truly welcomed to the neighborhood.

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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Past Glory

To give everyone an idea of the final goal, I decided to share a photo of the house as it stood in 1932, from an Indianapolis Star article. This is the oldest known photograph of the house:

As you can see, we have our work cut out for ourselves.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

When we started on this wonderful journey in March, the Horner House was in much better condition than it is today. Between the bad weather, vandals and people scavenging for metal, so much about the house has changed – for the worse. And everyone is going to be patient because it’s going to get even worse before it gets better.   I know that sounds awful but let me explain.
First, we don’t have $300,000 sitting around waiting for us to start our restoration so things are not going to visually progress as quickly as everyone would like, including ourselves. Secondly, we needed to secure the property so that the looting would stop. We’ve already installed security thanks to Myers Protection Services  -! They were great to work with and we’re hoping that just having the security setup and the signs will prevent trespassing and looting so that we don’t have to waste our time in court. Now we have peace of mind and at a discount. We’ll need to work with the city to understand what type of construction fence we can install. And we’ll need to work with Health & Hospital to keep from getting fined for any further violations on the property. Hopefully, they will understand that we’re working as fast as we can to get this property back up to code.
Our proposal to Indiana Landmarks was to get the roof, windows and walls watertight before winter.  Our plan all along was to use temporary materials to make the structure watertight for the winter.  The priority was to use Plexiglas and caulking on the windows and asphalt shingles/roll roofing on the roof. But our priority has changed to stabilizing the West Wing first so it can survive the winter. The horrible ice this winter caused the back wall of the West Wing to collapse. We had planned on the wall being stabilized before we closed on the house, however, that plan fell through.  Now our priority is to get the structural engineer back out to help us put together a plan to do the stabilization. Then we need to find the funding to get that completed before the weather turns bad  again. Unfortunately, the cellar of the West Wing has become a pit for the vandals to dump the contents of the house into, so we also need to get that cleaned out before much stabilizing work can be done. Since the West Wing can’t be seen from the street, it’s going to look like we haven’t done anything much on the property for a while. And then when we can move forward, the Plexiglas and loss of the slate shingles will not make us popular. So we’ll be doing some work that may make the house look worse temporarily.
But now, back to our original plan. After making the house watertight, the plan for the Main Wing of the house was to improve first the roof, then the windows and finally the brick walls before starting on the inside. Unfortunately, the structural engineer changed those plans on his initial visit. The interior floors have become weakened due to exposure to the weather and this is causing the exterior brick walls of the Main Wing to become unstable. Before anything permanent can be done to the exterior of the Main Wing, the interior floors will need to be stabilized.
There is not enough money to do everything we want/need to do, so we’ll continue to do some basic prioritization. And while we do all this work on the house, we’ll also be working on funding for our “little” restoration project and growing the family business. And we’ll be trying to find time to sleep occasionally, too!
So we are hoping you’ll all be very patient as we go through this process. She is not going to look better initially but we’re hoping it won’t take too long. If you promise not to get discouraged,      we promise we won’t!

Here’s the way the West Wing back wall looked in March. Unfortunately, it’s even worse now. More pictures to follow.