Zaring House tour to raise funds for restoring Civil War monument

Monday, August 13, 2012
The Dr. Clinton Zaring House at Poplar and Vine streets in Greencastle, beautifully restored by local residents Tim and Kim Shinn, will be open to visitors Saturday in a fundraising effort by the Heritage Preservation Society to aid restoration of the Civil War Monument in Forest Hill Cemetery.

Most have only passed by in amazement, gazing at the castle-like structure at the corner of Poplar and Vine streets in Greencastle. With its eyebrow window high on the rooftop, its jaunty eyeball window on the south fašade, five windows in the turret sporting 128 panes and artful leaded glass windows in the lower story, few probably have ever noted the hidden entry door tucked away under the curved and pillared verandah.

On Saturday, Aug. 18 from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. that door will be opened wide to visitors. For an admission of $10 for adults or $5 for students (under six are free), visitors can experience the thrill of looking out through those windows and seeing the amazing interiors of four recently refurbished upscale apartments.

Every penny of the entry fees and refreshment purchases are being donated to the assessment, stabilization and restoration of the Putnam County Civil War Soldiers Monument in Greencastle's Forest Hill Cemetery.

The striking home on tour was built in 1887 by Dr. Clinton Zaring. Story has it that Mrs. Zaring had admired a similar house in Germany and provided the design for the home from her memories. She added additional artistic touches of her own.

The Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County, through the gracious offer of Tim and Kim Shinn (owners and preservers of the featured home), is seeking to raise an estimated $12,500 to cover the upper estimate of assessing and stabilizing Putnam County's unique memorial prior to the ravages of another winter in its 142-year lifetime.

The Shinns, who have worked on home restorations and remodels for more than 33 years, utilize local contractors, merchants and workers in their projects. They enjoy restoring Greencastle, one historic property at a time and take pride in the restoration of the Zaring House which began three weeks after its purchase on Sept. 22, 2011.

The house tugged at the couple's heartstrings. Having resolved to not take on any more big projects, the Shinns were encouraged to consider the Zaring House. After a drop-in visit from someone acquainted with their work and their love for older homes, individually the couple found themselves driving past the long vacant house.

Eventually Tim inquired of Kim, "Do you think we have one last old house left in us?"

It was settled and the house was purchased at auction from the estate of David Pritchett. Later, Geraldine Pritchett (nee Aker), David's mother, would leave a note pinned to an original rafter tail once removed from the house in an effort to modernize the home by installing aluminum soffits. Still later, in a single dedicated weekend of work, Tim and Kim along with longtime friend and craftsman, David Irwin, removed the aluminum soffits, cut and installed 130 copies of that rafter tail, positioning them in their then revealed original locations.

Geraldine had lived in the house as a child with her two brothers and their father and mother, Dr. Charles Leslie Aker and Marie B. Gatewood Aker. Her bedroom was the atrium room, located on the southeast corner of the house. At that time the room was a solarium with windows on three sides and a glass ceiling. It, however, was not cost-effective to attempt restoration of the room to its original appearance; but the glass ceiling still remains behind the current ceiling.

A knowledgeable, skilled duo, the Shinns operate almost instinctively, knowing what needs to be done and when. Always their first step is infrastructure. In this case, termite damage was addressed where a small section of floor in the parlor and floor joists under the solarium floor had been infested.

In installing a new roof it was necessary for a local contractor to remove four layers of shingles, some of which were wooden shakes. After the effects of years of weathering on the west fašade, the old shakes required replacement with new cedar ones.

After planned reuse of space, came modernization of the plumbing and electrical system as well as the addition of a new HVAC system. The original behemoth boiler still resides in the basement, a testament to the past.

Hours were spent by the Shinns to reglaze and rerope the window sashes. Many hours of research later, they hand made new wooden storm windows out of fir in keeping with the period of the home. Glass was repurposed from storm windows discarded by an area homeowner, keeping them from going into the local landfill. Stripped of the additions of modernization throughout the years and repair of the exterior completed, painting was then begun. The last of the porch pillars are soon to be painted and a surprise color added to the main entry door.

Sticklers for keeping things as original as possible, period lighting fixtures found in antique shops were cleaned and polished by Kim. Then skilled electrician and friend Shawn Slack reworked and installed the finds.

The mantle for a once-modernized fireplace was found in the basement and reinstalled by Tim after reworking the firebox surround and tiling by Kim. The beautiful interior woodwork throughout was lovingly cleaned.

The original dining room, featuring two built-in china cupboards with leaded glass doors, is ruled over by the commanding presence of an oak buffet purported to have been hand carved by Mrs. Zaring. A piece of gargantuan proportions and obvious heft, Kim reveals that it is easily moveable.

Kitchens and baths are creatively worked into the floor plans of the four upscale apartments in the house and office. The kitchen in the lower unit of the house blends seamlessly with the original built-in pantry and is complete with granite countertops, wine rack, kitchen-office center and dining bar.

In the upper unit a window was removed and an extraordinary, repurposed door installed providing an interior entrance through the upstairs kitchen, a welcoming area with an extraordinary view of the Putnam County Courthouse dome. In both units located within the doctor's office, space is creatively and effectively used.

A tall, slender multi-paned window supplies great light into the living and kitchen/dining area where dentist, Dr. Charles Finkbiner, once served his patients. His second dental chair was installed in what now will serve as the bedroom. While a basement apartment, great lighting, an exposed stone wall and well-designed usage of space make this unit extraordinary.

The day of the tour, floral pieces will beautify each unit. While rain is much needed, it is hoped that sunlight will stream through the home's many windows and the rainbow effect of the leaded crystal glass can be enjoyed by all visitors.

After touring the intriguing Dr. Clinton Zaring House and the doctor's office, tucked away at the northwest corner of the property, visitors are invited to an ice cream social featuring homemade Dairy Castle ice cream and cookies made by Putnam County Extension Homemakers.

After a short respite, visitors are encouraged to make the short drive to the cemetery to view the eminent Civil War soldier sculpture at rest atop its hilltop within the cemetery grounds. Members of the Civil War Roundtable will be available at noon, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. to present facts about the monument and discuss the restoration needed to return the sculpture to its original likeness.

Volunteers to help with the fundraiser are still needed and may call 522-1430 or e-mail

Donations for the monument fund may be sent to the Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County, P.O. Box 163, Greencastle, IN 46135. Please indicate Civil War Soldiers' Monument on donation. Donations are tax-deductible.

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