510 West 4th Street

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Old houses are everywhere in the United States. The beauty and feeling of an old house attracts us to it. Owners of old houses should take pride not only in the beauty of the structure but also from knowing the history of their house. The house built on 510 West Fourth Street has an interesting history of elegance, disrepair, and remodeling, probably not unlike many houses on the West side of Marion. Built shortly after the founding of Marion, this house is a symbol of upper class society of the late 1800s.

The section of land that this house was built upon has a written history beginning in 1830 when the land was divided into sections and plats. The land was originally ten acres, resting in the East half of the Southwest quarter of section six. Some early owners of this land included Martin Boots, George White, Nelson Connor, and John W. Flinn, all famous names in Marion. Between 1830 and 1873 the land was divided so that each lot was roughly 74 feet by 136 feet. Lot number 27, where the house is located today, was shortened by 32 feet on the North end shortly after the lots were laid out. The land would mean little today if there were not a house there, though one could only speculate when the house was built. There is no exact record of its founding; however, the abstract of the property’s history provides a few clues. According to the abstract the land was sold in 1875 for $281.25 and then again in 1879, but this time for $2,500, nearly ten times as much. The price increase was most likely due to the building of the house during these four years.

After its construction, the house consisted of three floors and a basement, the first of which serving as the entertainment floor, the second reserved for the living quarters of the owners, and the third providing the servants’ quarters. The basement was lined with Indiana quarried limestone and brick, materials that were expensive at the time. A grand staircase ran from the front foyer up to the second floor and a second staircase extended from what now is the kitchen up to the second floor as well. A set of very narrow steps climbed from the second floor up to the third, which was used as the servants’ quarters. A bell system connects the servants’ quarters with the rest of the house. The third floor is the smallest in floor area as well as height. There is evidence of a very small bathroom and kitchen. Each of these floors is very large in today’s standards. To see this house when it was originally built would be marvelous.

Many houses built in the late 1800s were Victorian style, and more specifically Queen Anne style Victorian homes as this house is. Many characteristics distinguish Queen Anne style homes from other styles such as rounded exterior surfaces, known as turrets, wrap around porches, circle-top windows, dark-toned wooden doors, and ornate fireplaces. This house includes all these beautiful characteristics, which develop this style further and show the home’s affluence. Two turrets exist on this home: the West side and the South side (front). The turret on the West side enhances the downstairs dining room a sense of elegance and space. The South side turret develops the front of the house, creating an interesting geometrical shape. The wrap around porch on this house is located on the front (South side) wrapping around to the East corner, where the main entrance, facing the south, is located. The most prominent circle-top window located in the house is in the front foyer above three elongated windows, allowing this room to receive the most light out of any room in the house. The original dark-toned wooden doors are still in place on the front two rooms to this house. They are double-doors paned with glass on each side. Many of the original fireplaces exist throughout the house today. These fireplaces were originally wood burning, but since have been converted to gas fireplaces. Only recently have the current owners started to cover the original fireplaces with walling to prevent drafts and improve the look of the rooms.

Many characteristics of this home are evidence to late 1800’s technology, such as a coal burning boiler furnace, wood-lath plaster, and cast-iron plumbing. The original coal burning boiler furnace was replaced with a gas furnace when the technology was available. Throughout the house wood-lath plaster is used behind the surface of the walls to reinforce them. This plaster is now crumbling, forcing renovators to replace the old style plaster with currently used plaster sheets. The original cast-iron plumbing has also recently caused problems and has been replaced with current PVC piping. Other changes occurred to the house as a result of the house being divided into two separate apartments. It is hard to say when the house was divided because there are no records of it being split or people living in the house other than the owner. The current owners of the house, my parents, Michael L. and Bonnie L. Thompson, have heard rumors that the upstairs apartment was used to house VA patients; existing smoke detectors in every room and exit signs support this theory. The house was divided between the first and second floors by removing the grand staircase from the front room and converting the staircase in the kitchen into a pantry. The top section of the grand staircase still exists and can be revealed by removing the flooring in the second story apartment. The bottom section of the grand staircase was dismantled, but the wood was placed in the basement. Doors were put into the side of the house at the back giving entrance to the separate floors. The owners of the lot between 1875 and 1879, when the house was most likely built, were Terah and Isabella Baldwin, making them the first inhabitants of this house. Later inhabitants included Cyrus and Sarah Neal, Joseph and Lydia Baldwin, Mary Amelia Harrison, and Clara E. and William O. Anderson. After the Anderson’s owned the house, they sold it to Joseph R. and Grace M. McKinney. Joseph worked at Triangle Motors Inc., which at the time was located at 230-232 West Second Street. After Grace was left as a widow, she lived alone in the house until she died on March 15, 1966 at age 76. Grace’s daughter Katherine McKinney Humke inherited the house at 510 W. Fourth St., while her other daughter Thelma M. Craig inherited Grace’s other property at 1020 W. Fourth Street. Shortly after they inherited these properties, the sisters requested that the state of Indiana make partial distribution of both properties so that each sister would own half of each house. That way, if one of them were to die, the other would not inherit the house, but already own it. One year after requesting the partial distribution, Katherine McKinney Humke died, leaving Thelma M. Craig the sole owner of these two properties. She moved into the house at 510 with her husband shortly after her sister’s death in 1968. Seven years later she sold the house to Vernon L. and Helen L. Collins and moved to 1823 Kem Road. For five years Helen and Vernon lived together in this house, most likely only occupying the first floor. On June 1, 1980 Helen died, leaving Vernon alone in the giant house, during which the house was most likely divided into two separate apartments. I later confirmed Helen’s death in medical records found in a box in the attic of the house and from I.O.O.F. Cemetery records, though Vernon’s date of death is unknown. No obituary appeared for him in the Chronicle Tribune and he is not buried next to Helen at the I.O.O.F. Cemetery. Though not much is known about Vernon, a picture (most likely of him) was found in the same box in the attic that contained Helen’s old medical records and bills. Vernon Collins possibly died around 1991 when the house was sold to Eric B. and Karen L. Brockmeyer. The Brockmeyers rented the house to Brenda and Melissa Hisey who lived there for five years. In 1996, my parents, Michael L. and Bonnie L. Thompson, bought the house from the Brockmeyers and continued to use it as a rental house. From 1996 to present three families have lived in the house, the latest being Franklin and Kandi Davis with two children. Each of these families who have lived in this house have been a part of the history of this house and only create a more interesting history for the next owners.

This house is just one of the many old houses on the West side of Marion. Many of these old houses are just as beautiful, if not more beautiful than this house. The beauty of the house should only give half of the pride that the owner feels. The other half should be the knowledge of the history of the house and its area. The history does not have to be elaborate or mysterious as I have proved here. I, the daughter of the current owners feel pride in knowing only this little history of a house I do not even live in. Old houses are not only beautiful, but also historical.

Works Cited

  • Grant County Assessor: Property Information. 29 Dec. 2003 <http://www.grantcounty.net/grant/grant.fwx?DO1LIST >.
  • Historic Photos Volume 1- 31. CD- ROM. Marion: Marion Public Library. 2002.
  • Insurance Maps of Marion, Indiana. Map. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1952.
  • Keister Douglass. Queen Anne House. Marion Public Library. America’s Painted Ladies. By Elizabeth *Pomada and Michael Larson. New York: Dutton Studio Books. 1992. 246.
  • Marion City Directory. 1938, 1940, 1967, 1968, 1976- 2002.
  • Merrell, James. Queen Anne House. Marion Public Library. Victorian Style. By Judith and Martin Miller. Singapore: Mitchell Beazley, 1993. 19.
  • Petrie, Thos. E., Alva T. Frazee. Sectional Map to Marion Indiana. Map. Marion Indiana: 1932.
  • Vernon L. Collins. An Abstract of Title: White’s Third Addition to Marion: 510 West Fourth Street, Marion, Indiana. King’s Title and Abstract. Compiled by Grant County Abstract Co., Inc. 5 Apr. 1830- 23 Dec. 1975.


Sarah Thompson submitted this paper on January 6, 2004 for Mr. Munn's AP U.S. History class at Marion High School.