Lanier Mansion, Madison, Indiana
Canon PowerShot S80
Lanier Mansion, Madison, Indiana
A couple years ago I told you the story of the 1910 Glossbrenner Mansion, on Meridian St. at 32nd St. in Indianapolis. Read it here. The preservation advocates at Indiana Landmarks had just purchased the home and held a holiday open house there, which I attended.
Indiana Landmarks has completed a number of improvements to the mansion, including removing a 1950s addition, and is about to place the property on the market. But first, they’re opening it up to the public for one last chance to see it. The event is this Thursday, April 4, fom 5 to 7 pm. It’s free, but you need a ticket; click here to get one.
If you can’t make it, here are a few photos I took when I visited in 2010. This is the main entry.
This parlor is on the first floor.
Everywhere you look, rich woods surround you.
Another historic Indianapolis house is for sale: the Boardman House. Check it out!
Have you ever passed by a grand old home and wondered what it looked like inside? I recently got to tour one I’ve admired as long as I’ve lived in Indianapolis — the Glossbrenner Mansion, at 32nd and Meridian Streets. I first noticed it because it reminds me of where I attended elementary school. I am especially drawn to its arches, which lend a stately air. I count eight from the carriage port to the main entry.
It takes a wealthy man to build a home such as this. Alfred Glossbrenner (1869-1938) certainly qualified, having made a fortune in printing. As you drive by, it seems odd to see such a grand manor surrounded by other buildings deep within the city. But in 1910, when the home was completed, 32nd Street was pretty far north in Indianapolis. In this old photo, the house appears to be way out in the country!
In 1949, physician Joseph Walther (1912-2005) bought the mansion and practiced medicine in it. Walther founded Winona Memorial Hospital in 1966; I’m under the impression it operated here for some number of years before moving to a larger building. He sold the hospital in 1985 and used the proceeds to fund cancer research. His Walther Cancer Foundation operated out of the mansion for many years.
After Walther’s death, the foundation donated the mansion to Indiana Landmarks hoping to see it preserved. Indiana Landmarks had its annual Indianapolis holiday open house here, which is how I got to see it. Much of the house is in fine shape, but there are a few rough edges, especially in the stairwells leading to the third floor. Also, a few windows provide a view to a wall, as a 1950s addition blocked them. I took my camera along and took a whole bunch of interior photos, the best of which are in this slideshow. They’re not my best work, but my excuse is that I was shooting handheld in available light in a crowd. Still, they show you the home’s inner beauty. Click here to see the slideshow.
It’s funny how I came to have an interest in historic preservation – I trace it to my interest in roads. When I started to tour the old roads, my interest was solely in exploring former highway alignments. But soon I started to notice the structures on and along the roadside, first old bridges and then old homes. I came to really appreciate the care and attention that goes into maintaining or restoring these structures. Then in 2009, after meeting preservation architect Kurt Garner through his blog, we partnered on the Historic Michigan Road Byway project. Exploring the Michigan Road with him, he began to teach me about historic architecture, and my interest exploded. Thanks, Kurt!
An old friend of mine, a New Jersey girl, has family in Aurora, Indiana. We became friends while she was a student at Indiana University, and she used to spend some of her breaks in Aurora. Her time there always centered and relaxed her, or at least that’s how it always seemed to me. She described it as a charming small town, the kind where everybody knows everybody else. She was often recognized on the street simply because of her family resemblance.
Aurora was settled in 1796, making it one of Indiana’s oldest towns. It grew rapidly as a busy port town and, later, a railroad stop. Cincinnati and Louisville became the major commerce hubs, however. Aurora’s slowed growth had a happy side effect in that so many of its downtown buildings were not torn down and replaced in the name of progress. And so my friend was right; Aurora is charming and relaxing. But she never told me about one major detail – the bridge.
You know I love old bridges! I write about them nearly every time I come upon one. This Whipple truss iron bridge was built in 1887. That was long before anybody conceived of a network of numbered highways criss-crossing the nation, but it was a good enough bridge on an important enough road that US 50 (and its predecessor, old State Road 4) were routed onto it. US 50 was realigned around Aurora in 1950, but this bridge carried State Road 56 until 1972. It’s still a busy bridge – I wanted to stand on its deck to take some photographs, but in twenty minutes of waiting there was never a time when cars weren’t crossing it.
So I gave up and walked along Aurora’s Main Street.
I also checked out Aurora’s business district, which appeared to be concentrated on 2nd Street. I am always tickled by buildings that prominently feature a person’s name, such as the John Neff building. Neff’s Shoe Store operates on the ground floor.
Downtowns in so many Indiana towns of Aurora’s size are either dead or given over to antique stores. But Aurora’s downtown is still vital. Joining Neff’s Shoes on 2nd Street are a florist, an embroiderer, a seller of educational materials, a pizzeria, a furniture store, and a Mexican restaurant (at which I ate lunch). The pizzaria is in the building at left below, and the educational materials store is in the former Aurora State Bank building at right.
Along Main St. I found a steakhouse, a pub, and a bicycle shop. I also found the First Presbyterian Church building on Main St. “Found” is actually a bit strong of a word, as it was impossible to miss as I crossed the bridge into town. It was built in two stages, the first completed in 1850 and the second in 1855, according to the church’s Web site.
The church is at 4th and Main. Old State Road 4 may or may not have turned right here; while US 50 passed through town, it turned right at 3rd St. Yet I continued straight up the hill, for I caught a glimpse of this grand old dame at its crown.
This is Hillforest, built by one of Aurora’s prominent citizens in 1855. It is a museum today; you can tour it six afternoons a week, nine months of the year. I may take that tour the next time I’m in Aurora, but I had spent over an hour exploring Aurora and needed to get back to US 50.
Another small Indiana town that welcomed me on a road trip is Thorntown. Read about my misadventure there.
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