moves historic Victorian house to save it
NORTH VERNON, Ind. (April 2007) On Feb. 22, residents in
North Vernon, Ind., were probably quite surprised to see a historical
landmark in the town moving down the highway. The Jennings County Historical
Society was moving a small Victorian house to its property in historic
by Steven Mobley
small Victorian house sits quietly before
being moved to a safe location.
The undertaking was a huge community effort; many
people and companies donated their time and money for the project,
said society president Chris Asher.
She said the home was designated by the Historic Landmarks of Southern
Indiana as the smallest Victorian home in the state. The white frame
home measures 16x16 feet and was a pattern home ordered
from the Sears and Roebuck catalog and shipped via the railroad.
According to Asher, during the late 1800s with the development of the
rail service, pattern homes became popular throughout the Midwest.
It was much easier and quicker to simply look through a catalog
and order a home than it was to cut the lumber and build one from scratch,
she said. Eventually, the pattern homes became big business for the
All of the homes had standard features that included three windows and
corner gingerbread; the pieces were numbered and came in on the train.
Because they were all of a standard size, a foundation could be prepared
and laid before the house even arrived.
Once you know the characteristics of pattern homes, they are easily
recognizable. There are many in this area, said Asher.
She said this particular home was originally purchased by Vernon resident
Eldo Hicks, who along with his four sons worked as engineers and built
railroad bridges. The elder Hicks bought the house to use as a railroad
office. It was originally located on College Street in North Vernon,
one block from the railroad. Asher said the original purchase price
for the house was probably around $700.
In 1910, Eldo moved to Florida, and the home was sold out of the family.
Asher said the historical society believes it was at that point the
house became the home of an unnamed elderly gentleman. The little house
never had plumbing, but electricity was eventually added to it in the
Eventually, the home ended up as the property of preservationist Bill
Williams, who recognized the little house was a piece of the countys
history and should be preserved. He donated the building to the society.
Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana gave the society a $10,000
loan to cover the moving expenses. We have about 18 months to
get the loan paid back, said Asher, but then we have to
come up with the funds to totally renovate the house.
Edwards Moving & Rigging Inc., recommended by Historic Landmarks
because of past historical work it had done, was hired to do the actual
It took about three days of preparation before the home was actually
moved to its new site 2.2 miles south onto historical society property,
First, the badly damaged roof was taken off, and the walls were braced
from inside the building. Then, a huge tarp was wrapped around the building.
Next, the house was jacked up and the creek stones used for the foundation
were carefully pulled up and put in place at the new site. Finally,
the house was slid onto a low-boy and traffic was stopped along Hwy.
7 for the 30-minute trip to the new site.
People lined the highway to watch, and it was really exciting
and fun, said Asher.
The society plans to restore the home to its original state and use
it as an extension of its headquarters.
The restoration is already under way; some of the pieces the home needs,
such as door jambs and windows, were donated by people who had other
pattern homes in the area before they were torn down or destroyed.
The donations we received for the project were simply tremendous,
said Asher. Even the historical moving company donated money and supplies
for a new roof to be put on the home.
She said several companies and individuals donated their time and effort,
including excavator David Heilman and surveyor Brad Bender.
Lees Group donated concrete for the new footers, Goecker Lumber
donated supplies for the foundation, St. John Trucking donated sand
for mortar, the Jennings County High School Building Trade donated workers
to help put in the footers, and Woodall Roofing removed the old roof
for free, and are donating towards the new roof.
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