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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Homes, sweet homes, dot Greencastle historic districts

Friday, March 30, 2012

The quaint house at 307 W. Columbia St. is probably the oldest home in the Old Greencastle historic district on the west side of town. Preservationist John Warner believes a log home skeleton exists beneath the current aluminum siding.
Greencastle is fortunate that its older homes have been so finely preserved with character and integrity.

That's the message John Warner left with the Heritage Preservation Society (HPS) Wednesday evening during its annual meeting at the Putnam County Museum.

Warner, an Indianapolis contractor, conducted background research and field studies for the HPS on Greencastle's three newest historic residential districts prior to their applications being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places.

"Greencastle, like a lot of towns that originally built everything in wood, went through some trying times," Warner said, alluding to fires and other disasters that have robbed localities of many of their historic homes.

Fortunately, he said, Greencastle has retained three residential districts of historic importance.

Taking HPS members on a slide show tour of Old Greencastle, the Eastern Enlargement and Northwood Addition -- the neighborhoods newly designated as historic during 2011 -- Warner focused his attention on some of the more unique homes in those areas.

He started with Old Greencastle, the area west of the courthouse square, roughly bounded by Poplar Street on the south, Gillespie Street on the west, Liberty Street on the north and Market Street on the east.

Architectural styles in the district span more than 130 years, Warner said, noting that 79 buildings in the district contributed to the historic designation (there are 18 non-conforming structures).

The historic two-story brick house at 501 W. Washington St. is a mixture of Federal and I-House architecture. The original owners of the structure were tanners who plied their trade in the backyard that abuts the railroad.
Old Greencastle was originally platted on 150 acres of property donated in 1826. Lots originally sold for $40-$111.

Among Warner's favorite houses in the Old Greencastle district is the simple split-level at 307 W. Columbia St. The quaint home has white siding and green shutters currently, but Warner says its roots run much deeper.

"It's probably the oldest house in the district," he said. "If you dug into those walls, you'd probably find a log structure in there somewhere.

"It's a really neat house," he said, indicating the eastern portion of the residence is an add-on but is an addition that appears historically relevant as well.

The two-story brick house at 501 W. Washington St. (which actually sits along the west side of Gillespie Street) is another of Warner's favorites in the district.

"I love this house," he said. "It's got so much going for it from an integrity standpoint."

Warner said the home is a mixture of Federal and "I-House" architecture, noting that the front porch really doesn't seem to fit either style but still represents a "natural change" to the architecture.

Meanwhile, the Greek revival house at 307 W. Washington St. may be showing its age some, Warner said, but still possesses "great bones for a house from that period."

Warner also offered slides of two adjacent houses on Poplar Street, across from Asbury Towers.

The home at 107 W. Poplar stands as an example of a house built in the Civil War era, roughly 1860-1870, in the style Warner called a "subset of Italianate" architecture.

Right next door at 105 W. Poplar is a "great example of a Craftsman home," the speaker noted, saying it looked like some of the kit homes Sears Roebuck and Co. featured in their historic catalogs.

"It was a Sears home," an HPS member assured.

Warner next turned his attention to Greencastle's Eastern Enlargement, which as the name suggests, is the area that expanded the city east and south of the downtown.

Encompassing many of the most historic homes within Greencastle, it is essentially bounded by Franklin Street on the north, Wood Street on the east, Anderson Street on the south and College Avenue on the west.

The Eastern Enlargement still has 273 structures contributing to the historic nature of the district with 22 non-conforming homes.

Comprising approximately 90 acres, the district includes 11 or 12 different architectural styles, covering the period 1830-1860, Warner said.

One of the unique features of the Eastern Enlargement, he pointed out, is that observers can start at the west end and work their way east and see how the homes were added chronologically.

"It's pretty cut-and-dried as you go along," Warner offered.

The presence of bigger, more stylish homes along East Washington Street is indicative of "some of your more affluent folks living along there," Warner said.

He noted that the former Mace Aker residence at 3 Bloomington St. was built and originally occupied by the architect of the second Putnam County Courthouse (the third one, incidentally, is currently the community centerpiece).

An 1887 Italianate home at 429 E. Anderson St., right along the street being restructured as a gateway to DePauw University, is another of Warner's local favorites.

"I love this house," he said as a slide of the home was projected on the museum wall.

Another nearby house he praised profusely was a residence across the street at 513 E. Anderson St.

"It has got all the bells and whistles of the period (including what appear to be original windows)," Warner commented. "I was really surprised to see that."

The home at 511 E. Washington St., known as the Cole House, also captured the interest of Warner and HPS President Phil Gick.

Only the ground floor remains of the original three-story Victorian home of the north side of Washington Street, just east of Bloomington Street.

"It has had some trauma," Warner allowed, admitting the house confused him originally. "I thought, 'Wait, somebody's stolen the top two floors.'"

Gick, meanwhile, said he shows the house in three separate versions during talks and tours, pointing out that the Victorian home once had Greek columns.

"Those columns are out on the Thad Jones house down next to Putnam County Hospital," offered local historian Jinsie Bingham from the audience.

The third historic district, Northwood, is the area north of Franklin Street and south of Shadowlawn Avenue between (and including) Northwood Boulevard on the west and Arlington Street on the east.

Platted in 1920, the property was mostly part of a single farm and represented the first development of its kind in Putnam County, Warner said.

He contends that Northwood represents the influence of C. M. Robinson, a noted landscape architect whose "City Beautiful" design was advanced by the popular 1903 book "Civic Art."

"The idea is you don't just draw lines and start platting houses," Warner said.

Instead, the movement urges the use of the rolling landscape to create a unique neighborhood.

"You use what's there instead of your bulldozer," Warner said, noting that no high fences or above-ground utilities are allowed in such subdivisions.

"Obviously somebody involved (in developing Northwood) used Robinson's principles," Warner said, noting the neighborhood reminds him of the Fall Creek area north of downtown Indianapolis.

Among the Northwood homes he pointed out as unique was one at 312 Greenwood Ave., which he said was built by a building trades class at the high school.

Showing a slide of the home, Warner said, "It looks exactly the same. The only difference is the size of the bushes in this picture."

He also pointed to 600 Ridge Ave. as the "largest and first house built" in the neighborhood and 612 Highwood as an interesting example of Tudor Revival.

The Cape Cod-style homes along the south end of North Arlington Street, Warner said, are "evidence of the evolution of the district."

HPS President Gick reminded the organization that the process resulting in the three historic district designations "was almost a three-year effort."

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It was a pleasure to read about the old homes in my home town. I grew up in my very early years walking along Anderson to school and as seeing all those old homes and later I lived in Northwood. It sure brings back lot of memories.

I wish I could get back and walk those street again. Thank you so much for the trip down memory lane.

Betty Yuncker Lee

-- Posted by BettyJ on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 5:43 PM

As the current owner of the home at 107 West Poplar, my abstract indicates the home was built in 1852. It was "modernized" in the early 1900s. It's very interesting to read about our town's history.

-- Posted by studio107 on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 6:13 PM

I live on Sunset Dr in a home that was originally a one room house and a cornerstone has the date 4-25 23 on it. Berry St behind me didn't even go through to Jackson. It was still farmland.

-- Posted by dumpsterdiva2 on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 8:07 AM

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