A Facelift for the Porch Begins (And a History of Porches Past)

The 1980’s was a time of stylistic turmoil. We can all agree on that, right?

I mean, basically we all dressed like this every day.

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Or, maybe that was me in a Halloween costume in third grade. Not much difference, probably.

SPEAKING of Halloween, which you all should know is a HUGE DEAL on Martin Place, where we live – the most common thing that kids told us at our house was “You have the scariest porch ever.” Oh, honesty, how I love you. But seriously – the fact is that over 1,000 kids trick-or-treat on our street each year, and it is LEGEND in the state of Indiana for being the best place to go… I worry about the porch being safe and having kids with masks falling off of it.

Martin Place at Halloween : Artwork by local artist Tom Peters.


I wish I had a bit more information on the porch, besides the fact that it is being systematically eaten by water. And carpenter ants. But, we DO know that it underwent a restoration to its current style in the 1980s. Stylistic turmoil.

In the description of the house from the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, we read this :

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Now, I don’t know too much about how architecture was researched in the 80s, but the porch columns do not – at all – reflect the “Queen Anne Style of the house.” They were boxy and foreboding and really cut off the visual circulation of the house.

The earliest picture I have of the house is from 1910.

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The white (!) house on the left, is our girl. It looks like the house is much closer to the ground, and has cement or stone steps. There is no railing, and the columns are quite simple. The brick base at the bottom is solid.

The porch was re-built in the 1980’s. In this picture from the Indianapolis Star, you can see that the ceiling of the porch hasn’t been built yet, and there are temporary posts holding up the roof. PERFECT opportunity to take a field trip, and have kiddos sitting in the construction zone! Note that the brick base is brought back, but it is not solid. This picture is from 1986.

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Also from 1986, we have this picture. The witch’s hat has been added, and the porch columns are taking shape. Now, in this picture, if I pretend that the base of each column is an extension of the brick, I think I would like this (and agree that it has Victorian sophistications). Also, notice the awesome station wagon, and the fact that the house has no fence out front, and also no arbor.

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The end result, or course, was this porch :

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With these columns :

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We didn’t tackle the porch with the initial restoration of the exterior, because we just flat-out ran out of money. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to do it this summer or not, but we were able to make it happen! Much like the rest of the house, the porch was primarily in bad shape because of water. I mean, this porch made it almost 30 years. Not too bad, all things considered.

Some of the damage :

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One last look at her – then she’s getting her much-deserved facelift.

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We hired the same guys who did the exterior of the house to come and do the porch. Doug and I are helping on this project, but we needed to hire out the majority to get it done this century. First, ripping off the floor!

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There structure wasn’t in too bad of shape. There certainly was rot on the edges.

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And they rebuilt some of the interior with sister joists to be able to have something really solid to nail the floor to.

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Under the porch was a wealth of trash, building supplies, and a plethora of beer cans. SO much was under here!

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The porch posts came down –

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– and temporary posts went up.

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The guys have been working really hard in some seriously hot weather to get all this done!

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The porch floor showed up, and so did the porch posts – we are duplicating the posts we put on the balcony.

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The center of the porch floor was sagging, and since no one likes a saggy porch, cement and a jack went in, to live forever underneath.

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Ready for floorboards! The first pieces of tongue-and-groove flooring is going in!

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At the end of the first couple of days, this was the new view of the house! More changes to come! (Oh, yeah. We took down the arbor. I’ll cover more of that in the next post!).

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  1. I’ve read your blog from time to time. I’m glad to see that someone is fixing up the house -again.
    I lived on Martin Place while the Beidlers lived in your house. The Beidler’s are the reason the house was saved from apt hell, but that’s another story. I’m sure Duane and Rose have filled you in.
    The porch was never intended to be restored as to the post card view. I’m sure you can understand from your work on the inside. In fact, the porch was never finished and was always a point of anguish for Karen : ) Time, money and Karen’s illness limited progress and what you have inherited was a work in progress. Karen was a meticulous researcher in her own right and also relied on help from Historic Landmarks.
    I think the take on 80’s research isn’t quite on target. The people that landed in the area at the time helped form Franklin Heritage and were instrumental in placing Martin Place on the National Register. A rep for Historic Landmarks lived around the corner on Banta and always kept us on our toes. I was the curator at the Johnson County Museum and helped set up house files for local researchers.
    Apparently other owners left their imprint on the place-some not so good.
    I don’t know if you’ve met Ronnie-the Beidlers ‘s daughter. She lives in Acton. (My daughter rents from her). I’m sure she could supply you with many memories.
    Enjoy your adventure. When I left Martin Place I said never again. 14 years later I’m in an 1850’s house : )
    By the way, you can blame Duane for the money you spend on trick or treat candy : )

    1. Hi, Julie! It’s so great to hear your perspective. I have done a lot of different types of research on the house, and it being vacant for many years is really the biggest issue with the house. I have not met Ronnie, but would love to. One of my best friends is a preservationist with Indiana Landmarks, so I have both been fortunate for her help in researching the home and time period, and the files at the museum are wonderful, and they have helped me to jump to other things, such as the original owners of the house. Jim Bryant, who grew up in the house (his family owned it from 1923 until well into the 50s) has provided a wealth of information and knowledge for us regarding our main focus – the house as it was in the early 20th century. Our talks and tours with him in the house have been remarkable – he has such vivid memories of when his grandfather was mayor and the builder of many of Franklin and Indiana’s landmarks. It’s been really incredible (I can’t wait to do a blog post on it). I’ve loved being involved with Franklin Heritage, as well. It’s a great organization! We certainly are very glad the house had been turned back into a single family dwelling by the Beidlers, and had been done with much care, especially regarding the woodwork (unlike the electrical, which has been a nightmare to sort out – lots of hidden errors and illegal connections, but we HOPE it’s all fixed now!). It’s certainly an adventure, and one that we love, as historic preservation is our passion and researching the house has been a huge love of mine. And I LOVE Halloween so much. It’s really a treat for us to watch the community come together on our street. So many people have great memories of the house ,and stop by to share all the time, and I absolutely love that!

  2. I can’t wait to see the finished porch! Researching my new old home’s past is something I need to learn how to do. Do you have any tips?

    We’ll also be replacing our recently added (in the past 20 years) porch because it’s really inappropriate as it is now. I can’t wait to make it pretty again!

    1. I should do a whole post on this sometime – I have such fun researching, though it can be frustrating going down lots of paths that don’t always lead somewhere. Start with your local historical society and neighbors. Ask them what they know! Being able to find past owners can help with pictures. If you have houses next to you that are also old, look them up at the historical society, too. Many times, your house might be in the background of a picture! Many homes in each area were built by the same builders, so if you know when your house was built, look for clues among the other houses in your area from that time. Make friends with someone who works in historic preservation – I am lucky in that one of my dearest friends already works for Indiana Landmarks, and she has been able to track down documents for me. Some libraries have a local history section, and some even have subscriptions that you can use to sites like “ancestry,com”. While finding out about past owners may not help to know characteristics of the house, you’ll know more about the history of who lived there for sure. We had a lumber baron who lived in our house, which set off a light bulb as to why some of the woodwork may have been added in the twenties, and it was very ornate. Multiple women on the street and surrounding streets (including my house’s first matriarch) died within months of each other in 1909. Stuff like that is just priceless to knowing what the house was like. Here’s a site both for your porch adventure, and for research. Good Luck!



  3. Wow! I like what you’ve done with the place – MUCH improved, to say the least.
    BTW, the 4/29/86 newspaper photo shows my oldest son, Randy, and my daughter, Veronica (Ronni) on the never-finished porch. Also pictured, Sheila Hutcheon was an original board member of Franklin Heritage and helped me wallpaper the dining room ceiling after my late wife (Karen) and I had attempted to do it together. Ah, the joys of family DIY restorations…
    It was so nice reading Julie’s kind remembrances of pioneer life on the street. She was a bright spot in our lives and the neighborhood, but obviously now needs an intervention for her old house habit 🙂

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