Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Old Cellar

  The following pictures were taken by Indiana Landmarks before the collapse. They are all pictures of the cellar under the West Wing. These pictures were taken either by looking through holes in the floor or holding the camera down through the holes and are fairly random. These pictures are the only look that even we have had, or will have, until the stabilization is finished. Many thanks to Indiana Landmarks for giving us a preview of what's to come.

I think that this is the South wall and the boarded up area is the old coal chute.

This picture was taken through a hole in the floor. Between that ans the old support post it is clear that the West Wing had some long term stability issues.

There's a lot that's worrisome about this picture including the stubbed off wires just hanging around.

In this picture and the last it looks like there is an elevation difference in the floor. Anybody have any ideas on what this might be?

Another picture of the South wall. I wonder what's up with the chain. No, maybe I don't want to know.

It looks to me like there might have been some repairs done. Some of the bricks in the upper left corner look to be new.

Out of all the pictures, I find this one the most interesting. It's an odd angle, but you can see into the "crawl" space. This makes the crawl look to be about two feet deep, but it looked much deeper than that when Bob was standing in it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Abstract & Title Part 6

On August 11, 1897, James M. & Delia P. Risley sold the house by Warranty Deed to Mary A. Thomas; Mary E. Miller, Frank W. Miller and Bertha M. Morrison.

Mary A. Thomas died on or about June 9, 1898 as appears by affidavit of Bertha M. Hooper recorded in Misc. Record 111, page 558, which is shown in a subsequent continuation to the abstract of title.

NOTE: No letters of administration issued in the Clerk’s office of Marion County, Indiana, upon an estate of Mary A. Thomas, deceased. No will of said decedent filed for probate in said County.

March 29, 1900: Frank W. Miller and Belle Miller, his wife; Mary E. Miller and Charles E. Miller, her husband; Bertha M. Hooper and Harry Hooper (signed & acknowledged Henry H. Hooper) her husband to Silas F. Fleece.

The 4 items above are all part of the Abstract.

Since Mary Thomas, Mary Miller & Frank Miller are such common names, I decided to see what all I could find on Bertha Morrison first. During the time Bertha lived in the house, she had married Henry H. Hooper becoming Bertha M. Hooper. They were married in April 1899 in Indianapolis. Their 1900 Census shows that Bertha had 2 sons by a previous marriage, Ralph Morrison born in 1879 and Clarence Morrison born in 1884. Then I found an obituary in the December 9,1918 Indianapolis Star for Charles Miller. Bertha Hooper is listed as his daughter. His address is 1143 College Avenue. So Bertha is really Bertha Miller Morrison Hooper.

Searching on Bertha Miller in the 1870 Census, I found Mary Carpenter born 1816 along with Mary born 1844, Frank born 1863 & Bertha born 1869, all  Millers. The date for Bertha is consistent. So it appears that Mary E. and her children are living with who may be Mary A Carpenter (Thomas). Which gives us Mary A., Mary E., Frank & Bertha, the same as is on the Abstract except the last name for Mary A doesn’t match.

And then we hit pay dirt. In the 1880 US Census, we find William Thomas, 69, and wife Mary A. Thomas, 65. They are with the Millers: stepdaughter Mary E., 38, and boarders Charles E., 44, Frank, 17 and Bertha, 11. The "boarders" are obviously Mary E's husband & children. So we do have validation that this group is really 3 generations of the same family.  The grandmother, Mary A. Thomas passed away 10 months after they purchased the house. She had $60,000 listed as the value of her real estate in 1870. Twenty one months later, the children sold the property to Silas Fleece.

In the 1915 & 1916 Indianapolis City Guides, Bertha Hooper is listed as the widow of Harry H. and is living at 1143 College Avenue, her father’s old house.

This takes us up to 1900, when the house was just 25 years old. If you are interested in more information & pictures regarding what Irvington was like during the early 1900's, go to Bill has some extraordinary pictures and stories of the Irvington community at the turn of the century.  One of our next blogs will be about the Silas Fleece family. This is one of my favorite Horner House families, probably because they live there for a relatively long time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Old Wagon

When we purchased the Horner House, there was an old wagon on the Brookville Road side of the property. It’s a very interesting wagon. It looks like it is very old but we haven’t had much time to do any research – there are just too many things to do…  If you look very closely at the picture below, you can see the wheels and a little of the wood that remained. This fence is an interior fence on the North side of the property.

We spent some time last week, untangling the wagon from the trees and weeds. Once untangled, we moved it into storage for safe keeping until we begin doing landscaping. At that point, we hope to restore the wagon and return it to the property. (And, yes, the scrapers were at it again which is why this is now in storage.)

Hopefully, we can get some more detailed information from what remains to determine whether this wagon is, if not original, at least a wagon that matches the early years of the house. One more “project” added to the ever growing list.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Abstract & Title Part 5

The last time we wrote about the Title & Abstract, we ended with the sale of the property on November 22, 1893 to James M. Risley.

It has been difficult to find out a lot about Mr. Risley & his family. The following information is from posts on & James Monroe Risley was born to Herod & Elizabeth Ann Hodgen Risley in Knox County, IN in 1844. It appears that his family was in Indiana as early as 1839 when his grandmother Sarah Crooks Risley was buried in Knox County.

He married Frances Adelia Piety (Delia) on October 26, 1881 in Knox County, IN. Their daughter, Bertha, was born August 17, 1882. A little over a year later, they had a second daughter, Jenny, born December 14, 1883.

The year 1885 appears to have been a tragic year for the family. In July, Bertha died at just 2 years & 11 months old. Just 3 months later, Jenny died at 1 year & 10 months. They are both buried in Knox County, however, we’re not sure whether they were still living there at the time. In December, James Maurice was born in Marion County.

Then in March 1887, they suffered another death when James Maurice died at just 1 year & 3 months old. While there are many people today who say that people were much more prepared to handle the death of their children in the 1800’s, my great grandmother never recovered from the deaths of 5 of her 8 children.

Just 9 months after James died, Florence Irene was born on December 15, 1887. Twenty two months later Roger Ashley was born on October 20, 1889. And 26 months later, Lulu Belle was born on December 26, 1891.

When the Risley’s purchased the Horner House on November 22, 1893, their children were just 5, 3 and 22 months old. I don’t think I would have purchased a house with such a narrow steep staircase with such small children. Perhaps the children only used the back stairway which was gone before we saw the interior of the house.

Anyway, just 13 months after purchasing the house, Allen Percy was born on December 19, 1894. These last 4 children lived pretty long lives, Irene passing at 60 years old, Roger at 98, Lulu at 93 and Allen at 83.

The family sold the house on August 11, 1897 just 3 years and 8 months later. The children were 9, 8, 5 & 2. In the 1900 US Census, the family was still living in Washington Township, however, it appears they were living in a rural area. Their entry includes a boarder who is a farm laborer. James & Delia remained in Marion County until their deaths in 1912 & 1943.

On August 11, 1897, James M. & Delia P. Risley sold the house by Warranty Deed to Mary A Thomas; Mary E. Miller, Frank W. Miller and Bertha M. Morrison. But these new buyers will need to wait till another day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Aren't We in a Severe Drought - Part 2

We have good news tonight! Amanda has been in contact with several people at the water company (including the CEO of Citizens Energy Group). They were very apologetic about the miscommunications over the past week. Apparently, having 2 homes on 1 property (with separate addresses) added to the confusion.

The leak has been fixed and there is no more water running into the street. The leak was on the other side of the meter and no water was running toward the house. The spokes person was very helpful and apologized several times for all the confusion.

The gravel doesn't look great but given the drought, it's probably the best patch at the moment. And the water in the street should dry up soon.

We owe a big thank you to Linda Cuff for giving us some great suggestions on how to get this issue resolved. Without her suggestions, who knows how long it would have taken to get the leak fixed.

And while we're on the subject of water, our area of Franklin Township got about 2 inches of rain tonight. We were at the Irvington Historical Society where there was plenty of lightening & thunder but no rain by 9pm. We're saying more prayers that the East/SouthEast side get more rain in the next several days. And then, hopefully, all our water problems would be resolved - for now.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Aren't We in a Severe Drought?

According to the Saturday night news, we are in a severe drought in Indianapolis with about 0.08 inches of rain in the past 45 days. The water company started the first ever Indianapolis mandatory watering ban. Why are we writing about this in our Horner House blog? Because we are not very sure that Citizens Water understands that we are currently in a drought.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ron went to the Bungalow to mow the few tall weeds and noticed some really lush green grass in the grass strip between the sidewalk in front of the Horner House & Emerson Avenue. A four foot square area was muddy and water eventually spilled out into the street flowing down the gutter to the corner. Now, even if we weren't in the middle of "an Historic" drought (per WTHR), we would be worried about what was obviously a water leak.

Real green grass in the strip between the sidewalk & street.

So, Ron called Amanda and she called the water company. They answered the call very quickly and were very helpful saying that they would get a truck out the same day to take a look at it. The conversation went very well until Amanda asked about whose responsibility this is. They told her anything on the property side of the water meter is our responsibility and the rest it theirs. Now this would not normally be a problem, but we have no idea where the water meter to the Horner House is. So Amanda asked several more questions was told that anything is possible and yes there could be water running to the Horner House, but that they couldn’t tell us anything until someone came to look at it. She could call back after 4pm and they would know more then. Since she only called it in at 2:45 that seemed like a reasonable response.

But it left her worried. The only plumbing in the house was in the West Wing. Since there are broken floors and walls, we are certain that there are broken pipes. What if water is collecting in the cellar as well as the street? Anything that impacts the cellar has the potential to literally bring the house down. And how is it possible that there could be water coming from our side of the meter? We never had it turned on. 

So, Amanda planned to make the call as soon as she returned to Indianapolis from Valparaiso. Unfortunately, as you may have seen from the Facebook page, the car had some issues on the way home and it distracted her. It was a bit after their 7pm closing time when she remembered that she needed to called back.  

On Wednesday morning (the 11th), as soon as she could break away from the immediate needs of the company, Amanda called to find out what the status of the leak was. She was told that someone had been by and noted that it looked like a water meter leak and ordered another truck out to look at it. Now, things were starting to look worse. If this is a meter leak, why is it leaking and could there be water running to the house. When Amanda explained the issue and the concern, she still received the same “party line” that they didn’t know anything and wouldn’t know until it was looked at. And call back after 4pm and before 7pm.

Knowing that the cellar could be full of water and the foundation of the entire structure in danger, we began trying to figure out how we could check for water ourselves. Our contractor & engineer had left us with strict instructions NOT to disturb anything around the cellar. Indiana Landmarks was called and notified of the issue and asked some questions about any other information that they might have in their records. Other calls were made and a last resort of crawling through the crawl space back to the cellar to try and see or hear any water was considered. This being the most dangerous choice, it was decided that we would wait until after 4:00pm and see if we need to do it then.

At 4:05pm Amanda and Ron called again. After speaking to a customer service rep., being put on hold for his manager, being hung up on (they did eventually try and call back and leave a message), calling back, speaking to another customer service rep. and transferred to her supervisor (think 65 minutes later), they thought they had finally found someone who could help. They educated the supervisor on the importance of understanding where this was leaking & why. (Perhaps it was something about Ron stating that. since we had notified them of the issue, that if this historical building was damaged then they would be responsible and dealing with several news stations and our lawyers.) The supervisor finally agreed to send someone out to find the water meter and make sure that the water to the Horner House was turned off. They were to come out the next day, Thursday, but they wouldn't tell us when they would be there. Their policy is for the workers to hit & run - they don't let anyone know when they are to turn off your water and they do not knock or let you know they are there. It makes their workers "uncomfortable" when they have to turn off someone's water. Even after arguing that we were the ones asking to have it turned off, they refused to let us know when they would be there. The only detail we got was they would be there between 7am & 4pm the next day.

After Amanda and Ron got off the phone they looked some more to see if there was a way to check things out without going into the crawl space or the cellar. Ron was finally able to contort himself enough to shine a light into a crack (without touching anything). He was able to see a small part of the cellar floor and it was dry. This brought some level of relief; however, the water still needed to be checked since we couldn't see the entire cellar.

On Thursday Ron & Tristan staked out the front of the Horner House so they could speak with the water company when they showed up. The water company was a no show. A note was left on the door on Friday at 3pm, however, as far as we can tell, they didn't do anything. So when we’re in the middle of a severe drought, when people are severely restricted on what they use water for, is the water company not concerned with a leak? The water continues to flow into the street at about a gallon a minute by our estimate. Amanda is going to try to determine whether they can capture or divert some of it to the trees on the property that have taken a big hit with the drought. There are several large trees that might be lost without some water - lost right into the middle of Brookville Road.

Oh, per the Supervisor at Citizens Water, it could take up to four weeks for the leak truck to come out and fix the problem.
Notice how brown the yard is and the amount of water in the gutter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012

Normally Mom writes the blog posts for us, but she has been granted a rare and special night off.

On this day, July 10th, 42 YEARS ago, Ron and Mary were married. It many not be a "milestone" year, but I believe that every year of a marriage should be. Happy Anniversary to two of the most loving, amazing and generous people out there. We love you both!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

End of June Update - July 5, 2012

It has been a very hot, dry, busy month both at work and at the Bungalow. Although there has not been much progress made on the Horner House, the Bungalow is getting close to the end of the demolition phase which will lead into the more dreaded cleaning & painting phase.

So what all did we accomplish in June? The basement demo is complete. Multiple cans of Lysol have given their all to reduce the mold population and smell. The main basement floor drain was cleaned out as well as the drain to the 1st floor bath. The water to the 1st floor is partially complete. Some wiring was fixed up to the1st floor. The remaining trash has been removed and we have a fairly clean slate to work with. Next steps include completing the work on the wiring, drains and water and a thorough cleaning.

                                         This is what the entire basement pretty much looks like now.

                                         New water & drain pipes.

On the 1st floor, we concentrated on the kitchen & bath. In the kitchen, all the base cabinets and counter top have been removed. And the kitchen sink and plumbing....And layers and layers of flooring...And the ceramic baseboards. Demo will be complete when the tiles on the East wall are removed. We're getting close!

                                         Layers and layers of flooring in kitchen.

                                         Here you can see the subfloor in several places.

In the 1st floor bath, the old toilet was removed and the new one installed - complete with water. The decision was made to keep the old sink for a while and cold water was plumbed in. The drains were all checked and are now running free. And we have lights which is good & bad. It is no longer a small dark room, however, we can now see just how much remains to be done.

                                         This is as good as the bath will get for a while, except for some cleaning.

Moving up to the 2nd floor, all the old carpet was removed....And the linoleum....But not the tar paper. Which leaves a thick layer of nasty goo. Yuck!  Most of the goo has been removed from one room but the others still need lots of TLC. Can't yet tell whether all the original hardwood flooring will be salvageable.  

                                         Second floor carpeting which had seen better days.

                                         The goo...

                                         Progress in the front bedroom.

So there has been much progress during June. Ron leaves tomorrow to pick up his antique motorcycle. When he returns, it's back to the wiring. It will be interesting to see how much we can accomplish in July. If the weather stays excessively hot, it will be difficult to work on the first two floors without any fans or air conditioning. There is still soooo much to be done. Wish us luck and stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bungalow Kitchen Demo - In Progress

 Before the big shopping expedition back in September, Amanda & Eric took a quick look at the kitchen and planned to leave the cabinets pretty much intact. They wanted to add a dishwasher and a new kitchen sink. They were going to move around the appliances and try to make the layout better. Bottom line was we originally thought that we could get away with a major cleaning and just some minor changes in the kitchen prior to moving in. (It was actually pretty scary dirty. There were syringes with the needles still attached. And opened bottles and jugs of cleaning chemicals all over the place.)

We went shopping and brought back a whole truckload of our initial purchases including a new kitchen sink and dishwasher. As we were carrying in the purchases, I took a peek under the sink. Oy Vey! The pipes had burst and there was mold everywhere. (And there was no gooseneck. Later we found a gooseneck in the basement but this is definately not up to code!) Given Amanda's allergies, it looked like a ticking time bomb. We began to do a more in-depth assessment. The base cabinets on the East wall weren't really built in. They were a free standing cabinet just pushed up against the wall. On further inspection, Amanda found that the feet weren't even wood, they were styrafoam! (See green cabinet below.) The base cabinets on the south wall were all in pretty bad condition as was the countertop. The floor was white ceramic tile with lots of stains & broken tiles. So we determined we needed to do some real demo and remodeling in the kitchen.

Below, you can see the East wall of the kitchen. These are the old upper & lower cabinets. If you look real close, you'll see that the wall has some very unusual tiles covering it. This also gives a good view of the tiles on the floor. The partially open door leads to the basement.

The South wall has two upper cabinets plus the bases. There is a broken window between the upper cabinets with the sink beneath it.

And then the work began. The past couple weeks, we've had several people working in the kitchen doing the demo. They've been removing pretty much everything, including the kitchen sink. In the picture below, the base cabinets on the South wall are gone and the green cabinet has been moved. A better assessment of the floor resulted in the decision to remove and replace it. All the layers. You can see that the tile has been removed from the kitchen floor.

We knew there were several layers but it was hard to tell what all was beneth those large white ceramic tiles. The next layer had a strange mesh on top & bottom with large grey cement stuff in-between, which might have been used to level the floor for the tiles.

Then under that was Masonite... And under that was old fashioned linoleum... And under that was the old sub floor. 

More to come!