Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How it all started

The Horner House is a beautiful but neglected historic house in Indianapolis, IN. Our blog and Facebook page are being started to document our journey as we began our project to rescue her from the wrecking ball.
Just a few facts:
The Horner House was built in 1875 by Abraham Horner. It is a beautiful example of Second Empire architecture. The house, close to the historic Irvington neighborhood, was once considered a jewel of Indianapolis. Over the past half century, she slowly sank into disrepair, sitting empty and eventually boarded up. At one time, the house was chopped up into 5 apartments. Then it was used mostly for storage. Finally, the city assumed ownership. It was boarded up, deserted, left to the elements, tagged by a gang. The elements and time were rapidly impacting her potential to be preserved. Then, the nasty winter of 2010-2011, with the heavy snow and multiple ice storms, resulted in the partial collapse of the back wall. Time was running out to find anyone willing to take this gem back to her original beauty. On March 9, 2011, we discovered that Indiana Landmarks was looking for someone to purchase the house, to save it from demolition, and so our journey began.
Who we are:
Mary (married to Ron) grew up in Indianapolis and has had a love of historic homes since visiting the Lanier House as a small child. She works as a project manager in information services. Her interests in genealogy and Indianapolis/Indiana history got this project started. Mary will be sharing blogging duties with Eric.
Ron grew up in a nearby suburb of Indianapolis. He and Mary worked to restore a beautiful turn of the century home in Michigan, where he gained first-hand knowledge of the joy and pain required. He works as the VP of Marketing in the family business. He will be sharing his extensive experience in home repair, mechanical systems and marketing during the project.
Amanda (married to Eric) lived near Indianapolis until she was 8 when her family moved to an historic home in southwestern Michigan. During her childhood, she visited many beautiful old homes throughout the Midwest. It became her dream to someday rescue an elegant old home, preferably one with a large library. She is the president of the family business and the primary driver of this project.
Eric grew up in Florida and Kentucky. He has a long time love of architecture and historic buildings. He brings an eye for beauty and love of all things old to the project. He is the VP of Operations in the family business and a professional land surveyor. His knowledge of standards, architecture and woodworking will be critical to our success. 
About our blog:
We all have a strong sense of community and believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to give back. Ideas for our blog started right at the beginning of the project. The goal is, by blogging our experiences, discoveries and successes, we can inspire others to begin their own preservation project. We hope to prove that you don’t need to have a lot of money to get started, as long as you’re willing to work hard, and plan carefully.  To prove that an ordinary person can preserve our city and state, one house at a time, without having to win the lottery to do it.

Your input, help and comments are very much appreciated. Any donations will be gratefully accepted. Please join us on our journey and pray for our success.