A Story Debunked
Karen M. Vincent
Minnetrista Director of Collections
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For almost 25 years, Minnetrista staff told visitors a passed-down story about the Dr. Lucius L. Ball family home. The story goes that Lucius didn’t build his family’s home but, instead, purchased an existing farmhouse that faced Wheeling Pike (now Wheeling Avenue) and, around 1910, rotated it 180 degrees in order for it to face the river like the rest of the homes. Turns out, the story isn’t entirely true.
Lucius and his wife Sarah did, indeed, purchase the existing farmhouse around 1898 and added to and remodeled it extensively ca. 1910. The house didn’t have to be rotated, however, as it never faced Wheeling Avenue. How do we know this? We know it because of the good work done by former Minnetrista employee Brad Carter.
Brad needed an internship to complete his Master of Science in Historic Preservation at Ball State University and asked me if there might be a project for him in the Collections Department. I’ve always thought that turning a house around seemed a little far-fetched, so I asked Brad to delve into this story. And delve he did! With the assistance of archivist Susan Smith, Brad studied photographs and poured over blueprints. He also spent many hours going through the house from attic to basement studying staircases, floorboards, ceiling joists, footers and more. What he found instead was conclusive evidence that the house was not turned but that it had always faced the river.
When he presented his findings to the Minnetrista staff, it was an “aha!” moment. Now we know, and we can tell visitors about the house with assurance that we are accurate.
We don’t know how the story about the turning of the house got started. Brad’s theory is that Dr. Ball may have set up an office in the rear of the house where he could see patients. Those patients would have entered from Wheeling Pike, thus giving the idea that the house faced Wheeling. A sign spotted in one of the early photos may have been his “shingle.” Right now, we don’t present that theory as fact. With a little more research, maybe we can.
In the meantime, check out the first floor blueprint of the remodel and the photos of the house before and after. That ca. 1910 remodel was certainly ambitious.
minnetrista heritage collection
minnetrista collects the objects and archival material that document the people, places, events, organisations, businesses and industry of the region - in other words, the history of east central indiana.