Historic farmhouse in danger

January 14, 2009
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Cotton-Ropke HouseThe Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana is racing to save the Cotton-Ropkey House at 79th Street and Marsh Road just west of I-465. The owner of the property, Kite Realty Group, applied for a demolition permit after no one took it up on an offer to sell the house for $1 in exchange for moving it. But the local developer has agreed to give the foundation a little more time to find a way to save the home, which was completed in 1850 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The foundation is looking at a nearby site where it could move the house, said Marsh Davis, the group's president. If they can get the home moved, they would fix it up, place covenants and resell it. The home's façade displays characteristics of Greek Revival and Italianate styles, and a staircase features ash treads and a cherry railing. Farmer John Cotton began building the home in 1848 and it stayed in the family until 1937, when the Ropkey family bought it. They owned it until 2004 when Kite bought the 95-acre farm for development. (Photo: L. Mark Finch)
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  • Amazing to me - many undistinguished houses downtown are given historic district protection, while an 1850 home the city allows to be demolished, no problem.
  • Just because its old doesn't mean its historic or worth saving.
  • Indy ... you better go back and read the post again. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. That means that it is historic. Not just any old property can be listed. Both the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service reviews each property that submits an application for its significance and if they agree that there is historic significance they will list it. You probably knew all this and just want to get an argument going.
  • I'll buy the house if someone else pays for moving it and a new site. Then I'll give you the house.
  • hey Indy anything listed on the National Register of Historic Places is worth saving. nat just any old building can get listed.
  • I don't want to overstate the significance of National Register inclusion. I think that is pretty easy to get, if you meet some technical criteria such as age, and are willing to invest enough time, money, and lobbying effort to get it. However, there are very, very few surviving structures in Indy that date to 1850 or earlier. For example, Christ Church Cathedral on the Circle, the oldest church in the city, was built in 1857.
  • Does anyone know what Kite Property wants to do with the land if they get rid of the building? I wouldn't think they'd take action unless they had some sort of proposal. Anybody know anything?

    http://goindygo.blogspot.com
  • More development? On the Northwest side of 465? I can't believe the market is still in demand for more development. Of any kind. I'm not anti-development at all, but I can't help but believe we will see empty storefronts again soon while more new buildings go up. Plus, this is a beautiful house. We have trained our eyes to settle for the quick-build houses and lose appreciation for these gems. Unfortunately, no one seems to want to buy it and move it. I could never be a developer...to order the demolition of a house like this. Nothing inherently wrong with it. Business is business. I also couldn't be a car salesman, but that's a different story.
  • The property is still in Marion County, so the IHPC can protect (via an emergency designation) it if they act quickly. This is an excellent example of an irreplaceable historic structure, so I don't think there is any real danger of it actually being demolished (Kite is actually pretty savvy on the politics of demolition in this county). The developer probably just wanted to get the ball rolling with the demo application. It definitely woke up the City and neighborhood blogs.

    As for what Kite wants with the property, they do strip malls.
  • Its all Ballard's fault. :lol:
  • How much more HOOEY can we tolerate. Stay on the point, Dufus, or stay out!!!

    This is despicable and not funny. The house has more value than what may be designated to replace it.
  • He's obviously joking. Please lighten up. And drop the name-calling.

    Anyway, it would be nice if the developer saw the 159 year-old house as an asset to the property and not a hindrance. Perhaps with a little creativity it could be incorporated into a quality development, such as a restaurant, bed and breakfast, guest services, etc.
  • The city may have been led to believe Mr. Ropkey would be there for awhile. I recall him saying that he would never sell the property (2005). But I guess a rumored 65K an acre gets to anybody. Ropkey could have put covenants on the house then as a condition of the sale, but as neigborhood protective as he claimed to be, obviously he left it in his wake.
  • Sorry, isold it in 2004, and dont recall it being a farm in the last 20 years, but a military museum, and a pond that trained rescue divers, resulting in a highly publiscized death.
  • More senseless development. The powers that be need to wise up and
    stop greedy developers from gobbling up land like this. Of course the
    former owner sold it. They were offered far more than it was worth.
    Who wouldn't. Drive along Georgetown Road, LaFayette Road, Michigan Road
    any developed road on the northwest side and look at all the empty,
    new commercial developments and tell me how the northwest side needs
    one more piece of property developed for commercial use. Before anyone
    jumps on me for being anti-development. . .I'm not. . .in appropriate places.
    This sort of thing is simply senseless. Oh, and it's an amazing structure as well.
  • I drive past this farmstead at least 2-3 times a week and have always thought the house had great potential, not knowing how the inside looked. The unfortunate thing is that a) the sale of the house isn't or hasn't been publicized and b) once you move a house of that vintage it just won't be the same either structurally or in character.

    It's interesting that Kite wants to demolish the house for some commercial purpose, yet the site is zoned for residential use. Of course, Kite is just the puppet and some lawyers in a tall building downtown are pulling the strings. It isn't like there wouldn't be enough room to drop land clearing equipment on either side of the house either. So it's likely that doing anything else with the affected parcels has to do with the house not being there. It's unfortunate that Kite wouldn't just demolish the barns and leave the house for occupation as an office or that the vaunted owner of Normandy Farms wouldn't move the house across the street.

    It's also interesting that this (long vacant) property is assessed at a higher value than the massive compound just west of 62nd and Zionsville. Paying taxes that high is motivation enough to sell or demo part of the property.
  • This house is right my office building. There is nothing around it, except farmland. It's outside of 465 and on the outskirts of Park 100. I'm not sure what would do well here, if anything. There are plenty of vacant buildings in Park 100 for offices and the strip mall just down the street at 71st street isn't full.
    We don't need any more buildings in the area!

    I hope the HLF can save this house. It's a true gem.
  • I believe I have a unique ability to unbiasedly see both sides of an issue. With that said, I want to add that 159 years later, this is still quite a good looking home and would be a shame to see it demolished (pending its interior isn't gutted and worth saving).

    Before I continue I want to establish that I'm no expert on history or preservation. But I do have first hand and negative experience on the matter. This has led me to tend to agree with post #2 from Indy. In fact, I have uttered almost the exact same words countless times.

    I understand from other posts that there are procedures and guidelines to marking something historic. However, the experience I've had tells me that those guidelines are either too lax, or the people running that organization have a problem letting go of the past.

    I've witnessed progress slowed several times in the name of historical preservation. The apartments I live in downtown once had large 5X12 balconies on them. Now my home has a balcony that is only 5X6 due to the historical nazis. I've lived there 4 years and am not aware of any historical significance. The building is bland and doesnt stand out.

    Why not concentrate on the historic that obviously needs help like Woodruff Place? That neighborhood is remarkable, but could certainly use a helping hand. Most of the fountains need refurbished.

    Also, what about the fact that most of this city needs some serious work? Other than up and down Meridian street and the broad ripple area, where is there a nice area to just go out for an evening drive? Washington street? No, its depressing. Michigan road? No, depressing. Keystone? No, depressing. 82nd/86th street? Not unless you like ultra posh boutiques and high-end jewelry stores, but thats another matter.
  • Cory, thanks for bringing some attention to this. I am VP of the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods, an umbrella of the myriad home owner associations located in the Traders Point triangle which is bounded on the east by 465, on the north by 865 and on the south by I-65. Kite acquired the property several years ago and immediately the neighbors and others became aware of the availability of the farmhouse to anyone for $1.00 providing they would relocate it to a site of their choice at their expense. Mark Dollase of Historic Landmarks has spoken with many prospective buyers and Kite has facilitated showing the property to potential buyers. Moving older homes of this era can be done. It is an expensive proposition and can result in structural damage and cost overruns. Our preference is that the property remain in place. An outstanding feature of the house is its rounded stone basement walls which cannot be preserved in a relocation. Urbanophile is correct that this is one of the oldest structures in Pike Township. Our group has presented development scenarios to Kite to stimulate discussion but we have been greeted by silence. At some point Kite will need permission from the municipality to rezone the property and they may have calculated that the support of our group to their plans is secondary to the importance of having this interstate parcel developed to its highest and best economic use. We believe the farmhouse can and should be preserved in place and that Kite needs to secure the property so that vandals do not allow further damage.
  • Jason, with your unique ability to unbiasedly see both sides of an issue regarding a preservation issue, it surprises me that you use the term historical nazis. That seems to me to scream out that you do have a bias. If the preservation community did not slow down development so the community as a whole could think and study the preservation issues, we would have very little of our built history left for ourselves and our children. There is a wide range of significance attached to properties; not all will be as important as some to be given the highest level of recognition, National Historic Landmark, such as the James Whitcomb Riley House, William Henry Harrison House, West Baden Springs Hotel, New Harmony Historic District, or the Borad Ripple Park Dentzel Carousel (located in the Children's Museum) and others in Indiana. Most are only listed in the National Register of Historic Places. But that does not make them unimportant. For the most, they add to our history, culture and environment. If you don't care about a significant historical property, think about keeping it for reuse rather than sending it to a landfill. In most cases, sending it to a landfill is just plain stupid.
  • Kite is not thought of very highly by many in Carmel. When they developed the Lowes a lot of promises were made and many more broken. He is once again trying to force a another bank into an exsisting neighborhood that is still zone residental. Carmel has had to repeatedly take Lowes (Kites is long gone ) to court for vilolations of covenantes and being a bad neighbor. The Traders Point HOA should beware as very few of Kites promies can be enforced after their developments are built.
  • What issues did Carmel have with the all brick Lowes? Was it because they didn't pave the parking lot in gold?
  • Isn't part of the historical significance the location, and not just the building? Moving and saving it, would be better than a demo, but seems like a far second-best option to re-using it in place where its context can be observed and understood for generations to come.

    If the site is zoned for commercial development, isn't it reasonable to expect that someone from the City should send the message that a rezoning would not be looked favorably upon if the historic structure disappears in the meantime. Of course, in these tough economic times, the adage of any development is good development could be a siren song to those eager to a sign of a healthy local economy.
  • The house has actual wood operating shutters. It shames most houses.
  • Toni-Funny one about the Lowes in Carmel. Parking lot paved in gold. lol. Now that's a violation.
    Donna- my 1930's era house too has actual wood operating shutters, but I don't think that makes it historic. I'm not saying the house in questions isn't historic.
    I do find it interesting about the rounded walls in the basement. That can't be saved.
  • BR Res the house *is* undoubtably historic, being that it's 158 years old. The question is whether it is a SIGNIFICANT historic building, which it may or may not be. My shutters comment was simply a compliment, noting that it has features that most contemporary homes don't have and that we rarely see be built these days.
  • I'm one of the potential buyers that Kite showed the property to - - over 2 years ago now! I had moved buildings in the past, and saw this as a wonderful opportunity to save this beautiful structure (which is even nicer inside!) and use it as my home. Unfortunately, the costs of moving it were prohibitive, and there was not a good location available close by. I hope someone can make this work.
  • Very true Donna. I agree.
  • Is it large enough for it to be a bed and breakfast?
  • There are a multiple of plain woodframe 19th century homes in the city that have very little importance(especially on their own.) but this home is over 150 years old. It has seen this region transform from a civil-war scare city to a booming metro in the 20's and 30's.
    This home has architectural importance. Like Donna pointed out, it has touches (better, ORIGINAL touches.) that you don't see anymore, even on historic homes that have been restored. Indianapolis must progress, but in the process we must preserve the important aspects of our history and culture.
    Which includes 1850's greek revival/italianate farm houses.
  • Why don't you all chip in to save it then, instead of whining on an internet message board?!?!?!!
  • Moving the house may be difficult due to the interstate limitations. It seems anywhere you move it you will have to cross an interstate. An excellent location for the home would be on Moore Road. This area still has the historic setting to support this unique home. Thats whats so nice about the Traders Point area it still has that rural feel and this house will fit right in.
  • roberth is right about the interstate problem - that is why we approached every homeowner on Moore Road. Mari, it isn't a matter of chipping in, it's a matter of where to take it.
  • Does anyone out there have any ballpark idea as to how much it might cost to move it, say about 20 miles? I would be interested in saving it.
  • No progress as far as I can tell
    "Racing"? Laughable. I grew up near this house and always thought it was fantastic. I called and emailed the Historic Landmarks Foundation about this property for more information a couple of years ago, and the clown who was the contact for this NEVER responded. This tells me that, sadly, the HLF of IN is not remotely serious about preserving this beautiful house. It's still there at least, but the sign out front is faded so that no contact info can be read. Figures. A huge, wonderful dairy barn and two smaller farmhouses on this same property (off 86th St.) were also demolished. Countless other historic buildings in Pike Township have been whacked over the last 40 years, too. It's how we roll in Indianapolis; we bulldoze neat, old houses just to make a little more room for parking lots for churches (like a farm on 71st St. just west of Michigan Rd.), retention ponds, etc. People have no imagination and respect for history. This is part of the reason I'm moving out to the east coast; at least people there preserve rather than destroy. I wish I could afford to have this home dismantled and moved out east.

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