Mansion at Oak Hill changing ownership, undergoing 5-month renovation

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The Mansion at Oak Hill in Carmel has closed as ownership changes hands.

Indianapolis-based Thomas Caterers of Distinction is purchasing the facility, although the sale is not final, and renaming it Black Iris Estate.

Kelly Early, owner and general manager for Thomas Caterers, said she plans to reopen by the end of April after an extensive renovation of the two-story building that was constructed in 1978.

Early’s mother, Susann Thomas, founded Thomas Caterers in 1983. It is the exclusive catering company for events at Scottish Rite Cathedral, D’Amore and Canal 337.

The facility, located at 5801 E. 116th St. near the southeast corner of 116th Street and Hazel Dell Parkway, will continue to be used for wedding receptions, corporate events and special occasions.

The property has an estimated value of $984,000, according to a commercial property listing, and includes five acres of land.

Early declined to provide the exact investment the company is making to purchase the mansion and renovate it but said it is in the millions.

The property was previously owned by Robert Zehr, who is retiring.

Early said she had met Zehr through the catering business and mentioned to him that she’d be interested in buying the facility if he ever retired. He called her last year, and they arranged for her company to take over in 2016.

“The grounds are beautiful. The mansion is beautiful,” Early said. “We don’t have a strong presence in venue spaces on the north side of town. It was just waiting for the right opportunity.”

The mansion will be closed for the next several months as it is renovated. Early said nearly everything inside the facility will be updated, including the paint, flooring, tile, outlets, switches, windows and doors. She also plans to install new siding on the front of the mansion and new landscaping.

“We’re putting a good chunk of change into renovation,” Early said. “If you can touch it, it will be changed.”

It’s also possible that an addition is built on to the mansion, but Early said it’s too early in the approval process for her to talk about those details.

“We’ll see what future holds for us,” Early said.

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