'Endangered' Landmark Receiving New Life

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Restoration of the Newkirk Mansion is expected to take several years to complete. (photo courtesy Indiana Landmarks) Restoration of the Newkirk Mansion is expected to take several years to complete. (photo courtesy Indiana Landmarks)

Indiana Landmarks says a historic building that was included on its 10 Most Endangered list has new owners. The organization says it bought the 137-year-old Newkirk Mansion in Connersville and sold it a week later to a Connersville couple with plans for restoration.

Indiana Landmarks purchased the house for $65,000 and then sold it to Mike and Jenny Sparks for $56,000. The couple previously owned the home for a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s but later sold it in what Mike Spark says was great shape.

The house began its descent into dilapidation after its next owner was killed in a car crash less than two years after the Sparks sold it. It was built in 1880 and was later converted into apartments and, in the 1960s, into a nursing home. Indiana Landmarks says the house has a leaky roof that has damaged the plaster and woodwork while vandals have destroyed other original features. The property's two-story carriage house was destroyed in an arson fire in April.

The couple has already begun restoration efforts by clearing the overgrowth from around the house. Their initial goal is to fully stabilize the house and fix the roof before winter. The restoration effort is expected to take several years to complete.

"We hope the house becomes a catalyst for downtown revival in Connersville," said Mike Sparks. "We intend to do what we can to fuel that. For example, we’re happy that Indiana Landmarks has attached a protective covenant to the deed of the Newkirk Mansion. "We’re trying to create a historic district in Connersville, and we hope this project helps demonstrate that protection is a positive thing. If Indiana Landmarks had not put the Newkirk Mansion on the 10 Most Endangered list, we wouldn’t own it, and it would still be deteriorating and vulnerable. We could have lost it entirely."

The Sparks will host a "before" tour for the public on October 28 and 29. Mike Sparks says they plan to share the house with the community by opening it up for tours and events, possibly turning it into a bed and breakfast.

Indiana Landmarks President Marsh Davis says since the 10 Most Endangered list was created in 1991, 112 places have been included. "Of the total, 33 have been completely restored, 39 are safe or substantially safer, 34 remain endangered, and only 16 have been demolished. Considering the severe jeopardy these places face, it’s a strong record. We can’t buy every endangered structure to save it, but the Newkirk Mansion was running out of time, and it’s too important to lose."

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