Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Old Irvington Post Office

As most of you know by now, on Sunday afternoon there was a major storm that hit Indiana. We had more tornadoes in a single day than had ever been recorded before in November. There was a lot of damage all over the Midwest, but something more personal to us also happened.

On the corner of Ritter Avenue and Washington Street in Indianapolis was a very old building. It was originally built to house the U.S. Post Office for Irvington, Indiana, back before it became part of Indianapolis. This building has been just another piece of commercial property for decades, but it is still a part of the history of the town of Irvington.

This picture came from Bill Gulde's blog post in December of 2012 when the rehabilitation was announced. You can check out his entire blog at It's well worth checking out!

This building has been empty since 1997, was neglected, and in need of many repairs. Since then many people tried to get the building donated or purchased so that it could be rehabilitated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It took countless hours, a significant number of people, and the help of several organizations, but finally late last year the purchase was achieved. The IDO (Irvington Development Organization) and Irvington Historical Society were able to create an LLC and to get the project off the ground.

This picture was taken from Bing. It shows the hole in the roof of the old Post Office.

The initial stabilization was done and included removing the badly damaged roof. Other work was started and fund raising begun. The steel beams for the new roof were to be delivered on Monday, 11/19. But it was not to be. During the storm on Sunday the side walls collapsed and the rest of the building had to be demolished for safety reasons. It was heartbreaking to see.

As with any disaster, people came out in droves to see the destruction. Some of these people were neighbors that truly had an interest (positive or negative) in the project. Others just came to see. But some began complaining that the building was completely unstable, that the project had been a danger, the stabilization done incorrectly…

I would like to take this chance to put in my two cents worth. We (Eric and I) are somewhat familiar with the project. Last winter we (ARE Surveying) were asked to do a survey on the property and locate the building. This we did, and that is about all we know of how the project was moving forward. But I do know that when you are dealing with an old building, you had better be willing to throw out almost everything you know about renovation, building, codes, houses, etc. The materials used 100+ years ago are very different than modern ones, especially after buildings have sat and deteriorated for over a century! Each of these projects will be different, and each will have unbelievable challenges to overcome. It makes me very sad that there are people out there who are taking this opportunity to complain about how things have been handled. I guess I am especially sensitive to this because that easily could have been the Horner House. Eric and I are doing our best and so did the people trying to save the old Post Office. Straight line winds can destroy new buildings being built or even buildings in good repair, and old buildings stand even less of a chance. The poor outcome should in no way reflect on the good intentions, money, effort and love people expended in moving this project forward.

And while we are extremely thankful that no one was hurt, we are very sad to lose another piece of our community’s precious history.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Knightstown Architecture - Houses - Page 7

I first saw this lovely painted lady from the viewpoint of the first picture. It was so captivating and fun, I am going to show it in the same way here.

What first caught my attention was the size of this house. It's pretty sizable to being with, but when you add on the addition, whether original or not, it makes this one big house. In this photo you can also see another cute "front", or side door.

The large picture window is on an interesting little angle that adds interest to a fairly square house.

Gingerbread liberally covers the front porch. This trim with the wood balls must have taken a skilled woodworker to create. And there is even some additional decoration under the trim.

More gingerbread posts, rails and trim cover the rest of the front porch. And double front doors. How often do you see those?

The windows on this side of the house are very fun. I love the step pattern. And this side of the house doesn't have an addition, but what looks like a giant carport. That's nice to have with the crazy Indiana weather.

Here's the front of the house. Not only is it pretty cool looking with the multiple colors and complexity, we have the added bonus of seeing loving attention in progress.

Up close, we can see the spectacular difference a coat of paint makes. And I don't know if the angle irons, board, and ladder are standard in the construction industry, but what an innovative way to setup and work on this obviously loved and cared for home.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bungalow - Front Windows

When I was growing up my Mom’s parents lived on the near East side of Indianapolis in a large bungalow. It had a great big window in the front with a stained glass window above, built in bookcases, several other stained glass windows, columns between the living room and dining room, and all of the woodwork was painted that very dark brown color that looks black when it ages. This is not to say that my Grandparents were rich people, far from it, but the house was richly built. In 2006 my grandpa died and we made my grandma move as the neighborhood had gotten unbelievably bad. Our Bungalow reminds all of us of Grandmas house.

This is not grandma's house, as her's has been left abandoned by the new owners, but it is just down the street, and astonishingly still has its original leaded glass window.

The enclosed front porch on our bungalow has been added on. It now obscures one of my favorite features of the house; the large picture window with two side windows and a stained or leaded glass window above. The fancy window is gone, but one day we’ll replace it with a stained glass piece that is appropriate to the house. Some of the other window pieces are missing too. So for now, we have another plan.

The enclosed porch has been integrated into the house, so we are going to use it as the public meeting room for our business. As such, I really don’t want clients to be able to look directly into the house. And since so much of the window is already missing we are going to put up a visual barrier for now. We are going to remove all of the windows and paint the inside the same color as the living room. The office side will be painted to match the porch and we will use it as a backdrop for a couple of very old plats.

 It's almost impossible to stand back far enough to get a good picture of the windows, but I did my best. You can see that the lower window on the far right is missing and the office side window of the picture window is missing. It can't be seen in the picture, but the living room side window of the top center is missing.

It’s so hard to describe what it will look like in the end, but once it’s complete we’ll put up some photos.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Knightstown Architecture - Houses - Page 6

This grand place is a big change in direction from the painted ladies that sit across the street from it. In comparison it is very plain, but let's take a closer look.

The front entry has a very classic look with the glass panel in the door and matching side lights. Adding a bit of drama is the stone lintel that graces the front door.

As with any brick building the porch could use a small amount of re-pointing, but that's be expected, especially near this great porch drain.

It's not a fancy pattern, but even the columns have many different elevations including in the brick.

We need some rose bushes here. No, for me it would be honeysuckle. It takes me back to sitting on a summer porch, relaxing in a swing, chatting with friends and family. 

The lintel over this window remind me of a crown gracing a king of the ages, adding some dignity and pomp to this already lovely home.

On the opposite side of this home is this lovely set of windows topped by a timeless clay tiled roof.

The picture of the chimney is a bit dark, but even it has a line of decorative brickwork.

The lower part of the chimney is extra wide and quite decorative, with many extra elements in both stone and brick.

Iron fences are always great, especially with Victorian houses. As this one is a little newer than Victorian I like that the fence is iron, but a less ornate pattern. 

The iron fence transitions to this other style half way down the property. While shorter iron fence is good to have on the front corner, so that drivers can see, I really like this one better overall with the home as the styling matches a bit better.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Miscellaneous Bits: Fire pit, Garage, and Amazon

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you probably already know that once again, last Sunday, someone tried to break in to the house. They must have heard the alarm and ran off, but there is some small damage to another window. I don’t know if it’s the same people, but someone also stole our fire pit several weeks ago. We had half a drum raised on blocks that Dad was occasionally using. The cost of constantly replacing and fixing things is getting a bit old. It’s hard to get anything new complete when we keep getting drug backwards.

The blocks are still there, but the fire pit is gone.

That takes us on to the garage. We only have until the end of this month to get it cleaned up. So far health and hospital has been very understanding, but come December 1st, that might change. Eric is going to be getting the clean up arranged while I am gone. Taking us back to the fire pit, at the same time the scrappers took it, they took some burned metal from the garage. This is another frustration, as we had no insurance on the garage (it had been condemned and we couldn’t get coverage until it was completely fixed) so we are having to pay out of pocket for the cleanup. That metal could have been turned in by us to help offset those costs.

Now on to a happier topic… You may have noticed that we have added an Amazon search box in the right column of the blog and an Amazon tab at the top. We have signed up to be an Amazon associate which allows us to do two things. First, anyone who accesses Amazon through our search box and then buys anything, you earn us funds to put towards the house. This does not cost you anything! It’s similar to us receiving a finder’s fee for directing you to them. The other thing that we will be doing is posting books, tools, and that we recommend. These will go on the Amazon tab and you will have to go look at them, they will not come to you. We will not be constantly be bombarding you with this.

So, just a few miscellaneous things as get ready to leave. I’m off early tomorrow to Minnesota and will see you all in a couple of weeks. Until then, I leave you to Eric’s gentle care. J


Monday, November 11, 2013

Knightstown Architecture - Commercial Building - Page 2

This old Hardware store is on Main Street. I love not just the building, with it's very interesting windows, but how the colors really highlight the complexity of the building.

These windows are fabulous. You just don't see this kind of 3D masonry work being done these days.

And gutters just aren't what they used to be. None of the decoration is structural, but it really does add to the overall look of the building.

The corbels are very complex for a decoration that is way up in the air. The rose is better seen in this close up, but even from the ground you can tell the corbel is decorated.

If I am remembering correctly this is now and antique store. It's really neat that they have kept the old hardware sign. And while it's got the big plain picture windows, the wainscoting has the boxed areas to add complexity. This pattern is similar to what we have in Toad Hall. 

This door is from another time. The large window, transom, and mail slot really show it's true age. It's fun to see such a little thing that adds so much to the overall history and beauty of this building.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

November 2013 Update

There has been quite a bit going on with us, but almost none of it is actual work on the Horner House. To quickly recap, Eric has been crazy busy keeping the survey business running, Mom and Dad bought a piece of land in Southern Indiana that needs some improvement (that’s like saying the Horner House is a fixer-upper), I have been to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota twice this summer, Grandma (who was going to help with the Bungalow) fell and broke four ribs, someone burned down the garage, and we have completed much work on the Bungalow. What a busy summer and fall!

We are still doing research on the Horner House and haven’t forgotten it, but right now we are mostly focused on the Bungalow. The structural issue with the basement is fixed, the structural issue with the back porch has been assessed and is not an immediate issue, and we have begun work on the kitchen. The only other major projects are finishing the upstairs bathroom and cleaning up from the garage fire. After that we have about a dozen medium sized projects and then it will be ready for us to move. Right now, the Beech Grove house is about 40% packed and I am so ready to get moved! We still have to fix the hail damage on Beech Grove, as well as get it ready to sell, and the latest storm on Halloween broke the back fence. (My dogs really enjoyed getting a chance to check out the alley.)

Even though it’s fall Eric is still really busy with work, but he’s been working at the Bungalow every chance he gets. I’ve been doing what I can to help, but frankly, it’s not much. We’ve not really posted too much about my health, and I will not bore you with the details, but I’m headed back to Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic next week. Mom’s taking me and we will be staying for almost two weeks. Even they don’t have answers as to what is wrong with me, but all of the doctors agree that there is something really wrong, it is probably genetic, and I need to be seeing a Rheumatologist. This will probably be my last trip out there and then the doctors at IU will take back over. The hope is that even if they can’t give us answers that they can get me functioning at a more normal level. I sure hope so.  

Just for fun, here's an ooold Christmas photo of Eric, Amanda, and KaCee.

As we head to the end of the year we are trying to get moved as soon as possible, sell the Beech Grove house, and get settled so that we can really focus on the Horner House in the coming year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Knightstown Architecture - Houses - Page 5

Today we are going to show two houses:

House #1

On first glance this house has some complexity, but is similar to many others that you see. It's somewhat plain, but not uninteresting.

On a closer look the porch has a nice bit of decoration on it that helps give this home a personality.

But then, peeking out from the back, is this spectacular sun room and outdoor sitting area. In my opinion  this is where architecture becomes art. The only thing missing is a large glass of sweet tea, a cushion for the bench and a book; then it would be perfect.

House #2

This home sits on a corner lot, which allows us to get a better look at the entire building. On the left side (the block side) there is a nice bay window, which is always a plus.

Backing out and looking from the corner in, you can really see all the different elevations in the roof going all the way to the back of the house. 

One of the unique features of this house is how complex the roof really is. Not only does the front corner not come to a sharp peak, but the slope changes twice in that same area of the roof. The first break in slope is about half way up the corner vee and the second is at the top of said vee. I'd bet that the builder of this one had some fun getting that right!

The one thing that both of these houses have in common, is that a little extra imagination and design changed what would have otherwise been an average home and turned it into something special. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What's in the Attic?

What’s the fun in owning a haunted looking house if you don’t get to play with it for Halloween? Since we knew that we would not be moved in any time soon we had planned to go over to the Cuff residence to help hand out candy. (When you have 1500+ kids every year it takes a crew!) But then Eric decided that he wanted to decorate at least a little bit.

So, on Thursday afternoon/evening Eric got some black poster board and cut out four ghost “shadows”. We then went over to the house and started playing. First, we had to get electricity from the Bungalow to the tower and test the light. This involved running high powered extension cords from second floor window of the Bungalow through a second floor window of the Horner House, then climbing a ladder to the third floor and stringing it over to the tower.

Once the light was working Eric taped his ghosts to the windows and hung an orange cloth behind it. He then set up the light and went back to the Bungalow and set a timer so that the lights would go off and on all night long. It was a little thing, and our pictures didn’t come out very well, but we had fun.

Once of the ghosts fell down, but you get the idea.

Next year we’ll be moved and will be handing out our own candy on Halloween. Plan to stop and get a piece, and see what better things we come up with!