This is a series featuring historic homes in Daviess County. The Daviess County Historical Society and the Bicentennial Steering Committee joined forces to bring the Bicentennial Home Project to life by printing 200 signs for owners of homes more than 100 years old. Over 50 homes currently have the signs. Signs are still available and can be picked up at the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce, 1 Train Depot St.
As part of Washington and the Hoosier state’s bicentennial celebration, the Daviess County Historical Society and the Washington Bicentennial Committee joined forces to pay homage to homes that have hit the century mark and more.
The Daviess County Historic Yard Sign Project launched earlier this month and already, 50 homeowners, mostly from within the city, have made their way to the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce to pick up one of the signs designating the status of the home.
Doug Dougherty, president of the Daviess County Historical Society, said the society was happy to take part in the celebration.
“We are proud to partner with the Washington Bicentennial Committee, in sponsoring the celebration of historic homes in Washington and Daviess County as a whole,” said Dougherty, adding that the yard signs are free of charge to 200 county homeowners on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“It’s truly unique that the city of Washington, Daviess County and the state of Indiana are all celebrating their 200th birthday in 2016,” he said.
Don Spillman, co-chairman of the city’s bicentennial steering committee with Terri Kelso, said historic homes are just as important to the history of the city and county as its businesses and industries.
“Every day, we drive by houses that have been a part of the community for a century or more,” said Spillman. “Some of these houses were here when the city was new, some witnessed Abraham Lincoln walk by, others saw the coming of the railroad and troops going off to war.”
Highlights as part of the 50 homes include:
The McCafferty House 1868
Southeast 11th Street, owned by Arlene Sobecki
Built between 1868 and 1870, the McCafferty House was built by George Washington McCafferty, the county treasurer. The home has changed ownership many times over the years but was owned for Dicie DiCanio and her relatives for decades.
DiCanio’s grandfather, Lorenza Dow Evans had purchased the stately white brick home from John McGaughy in 1904, and DiCanio and her husband Vic, moved into the home after their marriage in 1931. The DiCanios were both teachers.
The story and a half home includes a spiral staircase made of cherry, poplar and oak in the entryway as well 10 rooms and multiple fireplaces. Poplar was said to be a popular choice for woodwork in those days because it was not only sturdy but termites would not eat it.
“Dicie didn’t want the dust so she had the fireplaces blocked,” said Arlene Sobecki who owns the home that also has original poplar woodwork. “One of the fireplaces is made of wood and other is described as being marble-like material.”
While the kitchen now has all the modern conveniences, at one time, the back portion was called the well house, there the water and cistern were stored underground and out the back door was the smokehouse.
Situated on a lot nearly 2 acres in size, at one time, the grounds had several trees. Sobecki said some of those trees that were taken down in a storm in 1938 were used to create the paneling now in the home’s den.
“The trees were cut down and stored in one of the barns on the property until 1951 when it was used for the paneling,” she said, as she showed off the seamless panels.
The home currently boasts a wrought iron front porch, but according to information DiCanio had told Tri-County News a number of years ago, the home has had four different styles of front porches over the years.
The John Dougherty House 1914
East VanTrees Street, owned by Bill and Beth Babrick
Bill and Beth Babrick have lived at Van Trees and Northeast 10th streets for 40 years now and they have no plans to move anytime soon.
“We love it here,” said Beth Babrick. “When we were looking to buy our first home, we looked at several, but this one had everything we wanted, including a front porch.”
The Babricks, both teachers, loved the charm of the claw-foot bath tub and the home’s kitchen too, but until just a few years ago, they knew little about the home’s history.
“We just didn’t know much about the house because the records were destroyed when the courthouse burned,” said Bill Babrick.
It wasn’t until some relatives of the home’s original owner asked the couple if they could drive by the home that they learned more.
“They asked if they could drive by and we told them there was no need to just drive by when they could come in,” he said with a laugh.
Through that visit, the Babricks soon learned their home was built in 1914 by John Dougherty, a railroad machinist.
“He started from scratch and built a five-room house complete with basement, central heating and front and back porches,” said Bill Babrick, adding the couple has pictures of the home’s original family.
Originally, the couple said the kitchen had a gas and a wood range and although those items have been replaced, the original kitchen cabinets still adorn the walls and the china hutch can still be viewed in the dining room.
Dougherty, wife Emma Louise (Bordenet) and their five children, including a set of twins, lived in the home. Emma passed away in 1918 and John in 1919 and the home was sold to John’s brother Frank in 1920. Frank Dougherty passed away in 1949, but his wife, Maude, continued to live in the home until it was purchased by the Babricks in 1976.
The Rogers House 1904
East Main Street, owned by Bob and Beth McGookey
Built in 1904 by Hugh and Lydia (Hyatt) Rogers, Bob and Beth McGookey are the fourth owners of the home on Main Street. The McGookeys purchased the home in 1982.
Rogers owned a local broom factory that may have been located in the former Graham Hydraulics building nearby. A broom from the factory, called a ceiling broom, the McGookeys said was found in the attic when they purchased the home. The family also had a steamboat located on the White River near Maysville called, te Rosebelle.
“The Rogers sold the home sometime after the mid-1940s and the next owners converted the home into three apartments,” said Beth McGookey, adding she and Bob lived in the downstairs apartment and rented the the two units upstairs for a few years before returning it to a single family home.
Made of solid brick with limestone lintels, sills and foundation veneer, the full porch is supported by Doric columns and two Corinthian piliasters.
Four rooms, the parlor, dining room, kitchen and butler’s pantry are all on the main floor, with four bedrooms upstairs. Woodwork throughout the home is natural stained red oak. Two fireplaces with beveled glass mirrors are also on the lower floor.
The home’s kitchen features the original built-in flour and sugar bins, as well as a butler’s pantry with a small door that may have been used to deliver ice for the ice box.
“The ice box would have been above the solid stone trough in the basement,” said Bob McGookey, adding that the rough carved trough may have been installed when the home was first built.
The McGookeys said the home also features four original light fixtures that were a combination of gas and electric. The front parlor has a cast chandelier with three up gas and three down electric lights.
“This type of lighting was available during the transition from lighting with gas then converting to electricity,” said Bob McGookey, adding many antique refurbished gas/electric lights have been added. Many of the home’s floors and doors have also been brought back to the original finish.
The Woodland Farms 1911
Rural Elnora, owned by Tom and Carol Nugent
Tom and Carol Nugent purchased Woodland Farms and its accompanying 80 acres from Tom’s maternal grandparents Norvin and Nellie Marie Holt in 1976. The house, located near the junction of SR 58 and 358 in what is known as Skeeter Bend, was built by William H. and Jennie Swinda in 1911 and was purchased by the Holts in 1936, but it had a couple of other owners inbetween.
“Norvin and Marie bought the house and farm in 1936 when they had to sell their home in Martin County near Burns City,” said Carol (Gainey) Nugent, adding the Holt’s property later became part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane.
The Nugents said they discovered the name of the farm printed on an old sepia-toned photogrpah of the Swindas and their young daughter in a buggy out in front of the house with a white picket fence. The fence has been replaced with a row of maple trees.
In 1980, Tom Nugent hired Ben Miller Construction to remodel and preserve the outside of the house, which once also included a cupalo.
“The cupalo was removed by my grandparents many years before,” said Tom Nugent, who said over the next nine years, he gutted and remodeled the home’s inside while farming with his father Russel Nugent.
When Tom and Carol wed on June 17, 1989, they moved into the home where they have raised two sons, Thomas Ray and Lewis Martin.
Dr. Nelson Wilson House 1893
East National Highway, owned by Ralph and Mary Smith
The home that may be one of the most recognizable in town belongs to Ralph and Mary Smith. Known as the Dr. Nelson Wilson House, located on East National Highway, it has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008. The Smiths have worked to maintain the splendor of the house that serves as an example of late 1800s Queen Anne architecture.
“Dr. Wilson was a dentist here in town and he married Matilda Campbell, the daughter of James Campbell, around 1891,” said Mary Smith, adding that she and her husband have used many antique furnishings in the home. “J.W. Gaddis was commissioned as the architect. Gaddis was well-known in the area and had designed the Daviess County Orphanage and City Hall and several other buildings around town.”
Smith said the Wilsons were able to move into their stately brick home around 1893, but they were unable to enjoy it for long.
“Dr. Wilson had a stroke at the dining room table and died not long after,” said Smith, adding that over the last century, very few modifications have been made to the interior of the home that has original windows, porches, trim and more.
In 1900, the home was purchased by William and Sadie Beck. The Beck’s daughter, Doris, lived in the home until 1978, then three families lived there before the Smiths took ownership.
Thomas Faith House 1821
Bedford Road, owned by Dean and Brenda Sobecki
One of the oldest homes in the city belongs to Dean and Brenda Sobecki. Located on Bedford Road, the Sobecki’s home is known as the Thomas Faith House and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994. It was originally a log cabin when constructed in 1821.
According to the application to be placed on National Register, Thomas Faith, who had the house constructed, was a farmer and cabinetmaker from Pennsylvania. The property, which once included 14 acres was sold to Matthew L. Brett and his wife, Alice, for $260 in 1852. Around 1874, the property was transferred to Brett’s widowed sister, Honora Burke, who lived there until her death in 1905. Alice Brett moved back onto the property the next year and lived there until the Reed family purchased it.
The house has been added onto several times over the years, but logs can still be seen in the attic area. The orginal part of the house is called an I-house, a single pile dwelling with a side gable roof.
The Sobeckis said they were able to learn a lot about their home from newspaper clippings, many which included information from Miss Evelyn Reed, a former teacher at Washington High School, whose family had owned the property since 1913.
“We have several newspaper stories that include her sharing what it was like living here,” said Brenda Sobecki, who also has a copy of an article written during the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1966 which included information on a tour of historic homes that was being sponsored by the Daviess County Hospital Auxiliary.
“Evelyn lived there until 1988,” she said.
Part of the original grounds are now part of the Washington Country Club golf course and had been maintained by Brett Cabel in the late 19th Century.
Lon and Ranita McMurtrey Home 1910
Northeast Seventh Street
The McMurtrey home, located on Northeast Seventh, was constructed in 1910 and since taking ownership some 22 years ago, the couple has worked to bring the brick home back to its glory.
“We think the family that owned the old creamery on Van Trees Street originally built the home,” said Ranita McMurtrey, adding that a fire at the courthouse many years ago likely destroyed the records that would tell them for sure. “We think the next owner was the Hudson family, followed by Roscoe and Bernice Meyers and then us.”
When they first purchased the home, the couple described it as the worst house on the block. “We started to work on it and it seemed to start smiling,” said McMurtrey, adding the home had double brick walls, limestone sill plates and limestone above and below each of its windows, as well as 12-foot ceilings and the big selling point - woodwork that hadn’t been touched by paint. “The neighbors noticed that too and on one of the first days, when we were tearing off some of old screen, the neighbor from across the street showed up with a sledge hammer.”
The McMurtreys said neighbors couldn’t wait to see what they would be doing next. Recently, they participated in the city’s sidewalk replacement plan and built a retaining wall around the property and added a new sidewalk in the front.
“The house seemed to like that project too, because it seemed to smile even more. I know it sounds silly to think a house has personality, but I think this one does,” said McMurtrey, noting that she and her husband tried to determine what type of gingerbread was originally up in the gables, but due to a lack of photographs, they were unable to determine what was above the front porch.
“The gables have original cedar fish scale wood, and we have tried to preserve the original wood all around the house which is an ongoing challenge each year,” she said.
Hunter House 1888
Rural Montgomery, owned by Tim and Jane Hunter Nolan
The Hunter family homestead, located in rural Montgomery, was constructed in 1888 although the property in which the home is built has belonged to the family for 198 years.
“My great-great grandfather Frank Hunter help tear down the original Bethany Church,” said Jane Hunter Nolan, who along with her husband, farms the old homestead. “The house was built with wood from the old Bethany and its foundation is made of Cannel Coal, which is how Cannelburg got its name.”
Nolan said over the years the home was passed from one family member to the next and in 2003, she and Tim took ownership.
“My dad and his sisters had ownership of the house for years,” said Nolan, who is proud to call the farmhouse a part of her family history. “It’s not a fancy place, but I’m pretty proud that we’ve been able to keep it in the family for so long.”
The home has seen a lot of upgrades over the past century including transitioning from coal stoves for heat to fuel oil heaters and finally electricity.
Nolan said, in addition to its unique foundation, the home also has a small fruit cellar under the kitchen that now has an outside entry. But originally the entry was in the kitchen. Several other old structures also dot the property.
Anyone wishing to have their home featured in the next segment of the series should contact Lindsay Owens at 812-254-0480, ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HAVE A BICENTENNIAL HOME?
The Daviess County Historical Society and the Bicentennial Steering Committee joined forces to bring the Bicentennial Home Project to life by printing 200 signs for owners of homes more than 100 years old. Over 50 homes currently have the signs. Signs are still available and can be picked up at the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce, 1 Train Depot St. The Historical Society hopes that information about the homes will be filled out so that it can be documented at the Daviess County Museum.
Anyone wishing to have their home featured in the next segment of the series should contact Lindsay Owens at 812-254-0480, ext. 123 or email@example.com.