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Indiana Landmarks rescues Wabash historic home

The Albers House, located at 45 E. Sinclair St. in Wabash, is undergoing fašade renovations after being threatened with demolition last year. Indiana Landmarks, the organization behind the Wabash historic home’s rescue, hopes to fix for a new owner to later purchase and call home. Photo provided

By Emma Rausch

After withstanding nearly 170 years of weather and time, demolition loomed over Albers House last year. That was, at least, until Indiana Landmarks intervened.

Located at 45 E. Sinclair St. in Wabash, the pre-Civil War era residence, a two-and-a-half story brick and stone home, was built in only 10 days in 1848 by Phillip Albers and his brother, Jacob, according to Indiana Landmarks officials.

In 2016, due to years of wear and tear that damaged the structure’s roof, the Federal-style home faced being razed.

That’s when Indiana Landmarks stepped in.

“We’re a nonprofit organization (and) we’re all over the state of Indiana with nine offices,” Paul Hayden, director of the Northeast Field office, told The Paper of Wabash County. “We’re really involved in historic preservation of old buildings all over Indiana.

“Coincidentally, we opened our (Northeast Field) office (in Wabash) last year in March and we got notice almost the next day that this house was being threatened with demolition.”

When Hayden inspected the residence, he recounted that it was very substandard.

“It had been neglected and vacant for a number of years,” he explained. “What was important about the building is its social history to Wabash and its architectural kind of style.”

The Albers House structure is, simply put, unique.

The residence exhibits Federal-style features including a front fašade with a centered door between symmetrical windows and two side gables finished with matching chimneys. However, the home also features a raised stone foundation, which was typical to southern state homes of the era, not Indiana, according to a Indiana Landmarks press release.

In the southern states, the raised foundation allowed for cross ventilation to cool upper living spaces, but for Phillip Albers, the attribute served a different purpose.

“Phillip took advantage of the tall foundation to turn the lower level of his home into a public house,” officials noted in the press release. “Outside the rear door, the family created a Bavarian-style beer garden where they served Phillip’s home brew in steins, along with sausage, smoked ham, knockwurst and sauerkraut, while musicians played German music.

“When a new depot was constructed directly behind their home, the Albers’ business grew. As his brewing skills became more refined, Phillip and a business partner founded Rettig & Albers, a full-scale brewery on the north side of (Wabash).”

Since its founding, the Albers House has never been modified or modernized, according to Hayden.

“While it was neglected, it was almost exactly as Mr. Albers built it in 1848, making it one of the oldest houses there in Wabash,” Hayden said. “So all of those things combined kind of overrode the fact that the house needed a fair amount of work. It was really important for the history of Wabash for someone to step in and save it.”

To avert the loss, Indiana Landmarks negotiated with the former owner that donated the property and the City of Wabash supplied funds previously marked for demolition to pay for the house’s new roof, according to officials.

The state organization intends to reopen the house for a homeowner to purchase, Hayden said, and hopefully it will be available on the market by the upcoming fall.

“So we’re doing that in phases and Phase One is we’re going to make the whole outside look pretty again,” he explained. “So when you pull up there, a person, a buyer could say, ‘Yeah I could live in that house,’ and then they could choose how to remodel the interior however they like.”

The next homeowners will have domain and opportunity to refurbish the inside how they see fit while maintaining the fašade to remain historically accurate, as per agreement with Indiana Landmarks, Hayden continued.

“Indiana Landmarks will have what is called a protect covenant of the building,” he said, “and what we’ll do is we’re using our money to restore the outside and this (agreement) then will require the person to maintain the outside in a way that’s original, and what that means is the brick that is there cannot be stuccoed over or the old windows that are there can’t be replaced with vinyl windows. … And we’ll be glad to advise on what’s appropriate remodeling-wise.

“But,” he later added, “we really want to attract an owner who cares about the history of this building as much as we have and wants to maintain that historic appearance.”

When the exterior’s renovations conclude, Hayden said that the organization will host an open house and allow the community to learn more about the home.

By taking over the residence, Indiana Landmarks hopes to lead by example and encourage historic preservation, according to Hayden.

“I think Wabash is fairly unique for a small community,” he said. “Your population is around 10,000 people and you have what we call a lot of historic resources, and that could mean commercial buildings in your downtown and houses out in the residential neighborhoods and I think its important that we support that.

“Wabash has done a great job playing up historic preservation as an asset and because we now have an office here, we want to support that.”

Posted on 2017 Jun 20