Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

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.