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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Home has much history stored inside

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Paul and Margaret Champion bought this historic home on West Walnut Street, which was built in 1863 by Isaac Matkins. [Order this photo]
GREENCASTLE -- When Paul and Margaret Champion first stepped into the foyer of the old house on West Walnut Street in Greencastle, they knew it was the right one for them.

"We stepped inside and just went 'ahhh.'" Paul said. "We knew we found our house. It had only been on the market for three days and we were the first people to see it. We bought it."

The home is a perfect backdrop for the many antiques the Champions own, many of which are family heirlooms. They include bedroom sets, rocking chairs and a handmade wicker bottom chair hand-painted by Paul's relatives, as well as a rocking chair used by his grandmother to rock him when he was a baby.

A trunk from Margaret's grandmother sits in the foyer. She used it when she went away to boarding college as a young woman. Isaac Matkins built the Champions' home in 1863 on property that was originally purchased by John Clark in 1822 -- the same year the city of Greencastle was founded.

Since moving into the home in 2007, Margaret and her son James have done extensive research on the history of the home. They have traced back ownership of the home to Matkins, who died in 1864.

"The house was built in 1863 probably by Isaac Matkins, who died the following year," Margaret said. "It was bought by the Walls family after Matkins' death."

The lot the home is built on what was an early land purchase in the new city of Greencastle. John Clark bought the land, but it wasn't until 1832 that the lot was named when John Cowgill registered it as lot No. 32. It would be approximately 30 years before a structure appeared there.

"According to the Greencastle Transfer Book of 1864-69, the Matkins heirs were listed as owners; the value of the lot was rated at $250 with another $100 in improvement so it's likely it cost $100 to build the house," said Margaret.

In 1877, it appears a large amount of money was spent again on improvements.

"A kitchen was added at a cost of $540. That was a lot of money for the time," said Margaret.

The house would eventually be owned by George Hathaway, son of the man who erected the Hathaway building in downtown Greencastle. Hathaway bought the home from James Wall in 1877 and sold it in 1882 to his widowed mother, Mary. After her death, Mary deeded it to her daughter Helen Hathaway, two married daughters Lucy Lee and Ida Cooper and back to George.

The house ended up with Helen, who was unmarried. Somewhere in this time period, most likely around 1913, a carriage area was at the back of the house. A front porch and smaller side porch were also added.

"Changes have been made, of course," said Margaret. "But the basic structure is much the same." Margaret pulled out fire maps of the home, comparing it to drawings prior to 1913.

"There isn't a porch shown prior to that time. There is the additional area at the back of house with steps that we think may have been a livery area," said Margaret.

The home was later sold to the Cooper family, which Ida Hathaway had married into. It remained in the two families until 1936 when it was sold to the Currie family.

The Thomas family bought it in 1943 and sold it to the Harlan family in 1971. Candace and Emory Hardman bought it in 1999, eventually selling to the Champions in 2007.

Much work had been done on the old house by the Hardmans, and the Champions would not have had to do much if a large tree hadn't fallen on it in December 2007, three months after they moved in.

The Champion family was at home when their neighbor's tree fell. Paul said at the time "they felt the shudder and heard the crash as the tree broke a window, knocked off gutters and an overhang, poked holes in the roof and put cracks in the wall."

No one was hurt.

The tree was so large that a crane had to be brought in and the street closed for a few hours in order to move it. As for the house itself, the impact of the tree falling on it shifted the upstairs sideways far enough that the bedroom doors would not close. Plaster cracks and damage to the walls and roof had to be repaired.

"If it had been a new house, it would have gone straight through to the basement," said Paul. "But, she stood and eased back into place after the tree was lifted off."

The floors in the downstairs are original pine that had to be imported at the time the house was built. The upstairs floors are made of oak.

"People entertained in the downstairs so the expensive wood was used there. Oak was common here but pine was not, " explained Paul. One of the stories the family likes to tell is about a shoe found inside the crawl space of the home.

"I wanted more electric outlets on the front wall of the house and Paul had to climb into the crawl space to check to see if it could be done," said Margaret.

While in the space he came across an old leather shoe. After bringing it out and examining it, the family determined it was an expensive style men's button shoe, probably from the Civil War era.

"People used to put shoes in their walls and other places to bring good luck. Soldiers did it when they left for the civil war," said Margaret.

The couple put the shoe back where it was found.

"We didn't want it to disintegrate. We do wish we had taken a picture of it," they said.

They found the shoe before the tree fell on the house, so the shoe might not have retained its good luck feature.

Another interesting characteristic of the home the Champions have retained are murals painted on the walls of what was probably a children's bedroom in the attic.

The previous homeowner painted the exquisite pictures of fairies on two walls and flowers on another wall.

"We matched the paint as close as we could when we painted up here so we could keep the murals," said Margaret.

The Champions moved to Greencastle from Wolcott. Paul is the minister of the First Christian Church, Greencastle. Margaret has a genealogy business, and their son James is a graduate student at IUPUI.

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This was the home of my grandparents, James Donald and Dora Alice THomas. I spent many days at there home. When I married, my wedding rece[tion was held in this home. It was beautiful then as it still is today.

-- Posted by bailey2 on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 8:13 AM

I am friends with emorys daughter we used to have sleepovers in the room with the murals they were and still are very beautiful!

-- Posted by KerrieAnne on Sun, Feb 28, 2010, at 2:06 PM

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