The Most Unique House
During the year of 1897, Dr A. Houser decided to start building the most unique house in Marion, Indiana. Dr. Houser and his house were generally characterized as “Jack” and “The house that Jack built” (“Marion’s Most” 1). The dedication that was shown over the five years it took to complete the house corresponds with him and his occupations. The creation in which he built was a remarkable image to many of the locals of Marion at the time. However a tragedy occurred which left Dr. A. Houser in complete dismay and immense sadness. The example set by the most unique house and its owner opened up a whole new level for housing in the twentieth century.
Dr. A. Houser was born in Ohio on June 13, 1962 to Chas and Harriet Houser (“Grant County’s” 311). He was an only child and soon the family of three moved from Ohio, to Jay County, Indiana. Between the ages of seventeen and thirty three, Houser moved to Grant County and married Lena. They lived at 605 E. Grant Street and conceived three girls and one boy during their marriage (“Grant County’s” 311). While in Marion, Houser was associated with many different groups and occupations. His intelligence was ranked among the highest of people living in Marion (“Marion’s Most” 2). Dr. Houser was a trained practitioner and a member of the Grant County Medical Association. Although this seems like a prestigious occupation that is not all Dr. Houser did. He was also a practicing attorney and a member of the Grant County Bar, a school teacher, a bachelor of arts, a licensed mechanical engineer, licensed civil engineer, licensed plumber, licensed blacksmith, licensed carriage builder, licensed wood carver, licensed carpenter, licensed brick mason, painter, and paper hanger (“Marion’s Most” 2). At one point in his careers he even was a professor of ethics at Ada College in Ohio (“Marion’s Most” 2). That is just a list of the things he could recall from memory when the Daily Leader interviewed him in 1902 (“Marion’s Most” 2). Houser earned a M.D., LL. D., B.A., B.S., Mus. Doc., C.E., Ph. D., and a few more (“Marion’s Most” 2). Some of these degrees were accomplished through Northwestern University (“Marion’s Most” 2). With all the skills he obtained throughout his educational experiences, Houser decided to build a house to fit his successful style.
The house in which Dr. Houser built was located at 707 East Grant Street, Marion, Indiana (“Marion’s Most” 3). This ordinary story and a half cottage was deceived by many from its exterior look, but the real beauty laid within its interior (“Marion’s Most” 2). The incredible sight of his hard work was desired to be witnessed by many people (“Marion’s Most” 2). The house from its foundation and the roof was all the work of Dr. Houser and nobody else (“Marion’s Most” 2). Not one other hand was used in the amazing masterpiece in which he created (“Marion’s Most” 2). There were a few features of his house that stood out the most. The reading room, the reception hall, and the staircase were the most distinctive features of the doctor’s house (“Marion’s Most” 2). Dr. Houser spent eight months and used two hundred thousand pieces of wood in the building of the reception hall (“Marion’s Most” 2). Each piece of wood was cut precisely to his liking and then carefully fit together with the other pieces to form a mosaic wood structure (“Marion’s Most” 2). The staircase, which was located in the reception hall, took six out of those eight months to build (“Marion’s Most” 1). Each piece of the staircase was presented to Dr. Houser’s as gifts from his friends from all over the world (“Marion’s Most” 1-2). He received wood from the following places: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, North America, South America, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, and many more places (“Marion’s Most” 1-2). The next distinctive feature that Houser built was his reading room. The reading room was seemed to believe where his best work appeared (“Marion’s Most” 2). The room was paneled up to the ceiling with nothing but wood from Indiana (“Marion’s Most” 2). One hundred thousand other separate pieces were used for decorating the room as well (“Marion’s Most” 2). In this room there was also a few instruments in which the Dr. had created himself too (“Marion’s Most” 2). During an interview with the Daily Leader of Grant County, Houser explained that he was working on an automobile that he designed around his own ideas and thoughts (“Marion’s Most” 2). After finishing it from start to finish, he was going to take a tour of the west and over the Santa Fe Trail (“Marion’s Most” 2-3). The house was becoming a remarkable sensation with the people of Grant County and it served as an example of all of the hard work and dedication Dr. Houser put into the things that meant the most to him.
What seemed like a fairy tale ending turned out to be a tragedy that would put a damper on Houser’s hard work. On August 20, 1902, the Dr. was awakened by the smell of fire within his household (“The House” 1). He proceeded through his house following the smell until he came upon the door of his dining room (“The House” 1). When he opened the door the flames seized him and started to burn him severely (“Dr. J. A.” 1). By the time the fire department was called and the flames were gotten under control, there was not much of the house left (“Dr. J. A.” 1). The origin of how the fire started was and still is a mystery (“Dr. J. A.” 2). However there was a theory out about how lightning struck his house but nothing could have been discovered to prove it true (“Dr. J. A.” 2). Within a small amount of time, one man’s perfection was completely shattered in front of his face. After this tragedy in Houser’s life, he moved back to his old house at 605 E. Grant Street (“Dr. J. A.” 2).
Thirty-six years after his devastating loss, Houser died in his house from a heart attack on December 5, 1938 (“Grant County’s” 311). His unlucky failure was just an example of how things are not always going to turn out the way we would like them too. Although in the end his house that took him five years to build was diminished by the fire, Houser had many other accomplishments to own up to. One of Dr. James A. Houser’s successes was creating the most unique house in Grant County, and possibly America.
- "Marion's Most Unique Home." Daily Leader 03 Jan. 1902: 2
- "The House Built by Houser in Flames." Daily Leader 20 Aug. 1902: 3.
- "Dr. J. A. Houser Dies At Home." Daily Leader 05 Dec. 1938: 1.
- “Grant County Death Records.” 05 Dec. 1938. 311
This paper was submitted by Emma Friday on June 6, 2007 for Mr. Munn's AP US History class at Marion High School.