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A local Landmark

Historic Fairmount House in Madison goes on the market

Couple has cared for the hilltop home
for the past nine years


(July 2020) – The Fairmount House, located at the top of Michigan Road hill, overlooks the city of Madison and the Ohio River. It has been a notable landmark in town since it was built in 1872. Locally known as the Castle, its cone topped tower, elaborate chimneys and steep roofline gives it an enchanted feel.
To the current owners, Gary Valen and Betsy Lyman, it’s like a living in a work of art.  According to Gary, “The mix of rich materials, the comfortable arrangement of rooms as well as the property make it a magical place to live.”
They purchased the house in 2011 and in doing so became part of its long history. The house features six bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.

Photo provided

Betsy Lyman and Gary Valen pose with the preservation award they received in 2013 from Historic Madison Inc. for their work in preserving the Fairmount House in Madison.


The first owners, Aurelius and Sarah Gibson, built the house from the design of their Boston architect, George D. Rand. Because of its size and intricate features, there’s no question the residence took a couple of years to complete. The foundation is made from cut stone, topped with white limestone, hand pressed bricks, three bay windows, a slate roof, copper gutters, terra cotta roof caps, decorative gable ends and two balconies.
Each room on the main floor is trimmed in a different wood; oak, walnut, butternut and cherry with features such as inlaid floors, stain glass windows and a statue lighted newel post. The house also retains its original doors, hardware and light fixtures. Flanked on the north, a carriage barn built at the time of the house mirrors the architecture of the main residence.
The next owners of Fairmount were Bob and Nell Yunker. Bob was vice president and manager of the Pearl Packing Co. in Madison. The company was responsible for the employment of people in the packing house as well as ice deliverymen throughout the county, numerous livestock buyers and traders, coal supply companies, gasoline and oil companies; box, can and craft manufacturers as well as several public and private trucking companies.
Because they enjoyed entertaining, they had Louisville architect Stratton Hammon double the size of the living room, add two large upper and lower patio areas and update the bathrooms and kitchen.
Bob and Opal Hines were the next owners. In 1972, the Fairmount House was featured on Madison’s Historic Tour of Homes. Opal was well known for her love of antiques, and the house was full of early American and Victorian furniture further enhancing the history of the house.  From the 1970s on, there were several other families that added their own touches to Fairmount: an in-ground pool, greenhouse and koi pond, but by and large each family was careful to honor the home’s original design.

Photo provided

The Fairmount House was designed by Boston’s George D. Rand and built in 1872.


“That’s what we found so amazing about Fairmount,” said Betsy. “We looked for two years in six different states to find a house that had so many historic features. When we saw the woodwork, six fireplaces, original lights as well as the structural soundness of the house, we knew this was the place for us.”
In 2013, Historic Madison Inc. awarded the couple with the Dorothy Inglis Reindollar Preservation Award.
“We were surprised, delighted and honored to receive such a prestigious award,” Gary said. “We had installed gates and iron fencing around the formal garden, painted rooms and sanded the floors, but in our minds, we were just getting started.”
And so they continued to restore and maintain the house and grounds, including installing a new slate roof with copper gutters last summer.
Now after 10 years of living and loving Fairmount House, they are ready to find the next caretakers for this Madison treasure. They recently listed the house for sale. “We have so enjoyed the experience of discovering the beauty of this house. It has been a labor of love,” Betsy said.

• For more information, visit the website: www.FairmontHouseForSale.com.

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