October 28, 2013

Tower House back on the market

Tower House up for sale again after holding period

by Sarah Einselen

---- — The Tower House on Banker's Row is back on the market.

Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit state preservation organization, has reacquired the two-story house at 136 Eel River Ave. that in 2011 was sold to an Illinois couple.

Steve and Susanne Brinkman had intended to breathe new life into the historic house, but "they had some personal setbacks and medical issues ... that sidetracked them," said Todd Zeiger, director of the South Bend office of Indiana Landmarks. The organization worked out a deal with the couple to regain ownership of the house and intends to sell it to a restoration-minded person, Zeiger said.

Once on the verge of demolition, Indiana Landmarks, which at the time operated under the name Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, stepped in to work with local entities to save the building — and with it, the character of Banker's Row as a whole.

"A lot of people that come to Logansport know that Banker's Row of homes," Zeiger pointed out. "The loss of that Tower House would've really opened up a gap in the row."

"You lose one tooth in the row, then pretty much you lose others," he said.

The organization funded renovations over the course of about six years, some of which were carried out over three years by students at Century Career Center. After those renovations were finished — which included structural work on the roof and the tower, new electrical wiring and plumbing, and a new furnace — the house was featured on the cover of the January-February 2010 edition of Indiana Landmarks' magazine, Indiana Preservationist.

Since then, however, it's been in a holding pattern. Indiana Landmarks' reacquisition is meant to get the house's restoration finished, Zeiger said.

Its significance to the organization, he added, lies in its age and architectural distinction.

"It's one of the older houses on the block, if not the oldest," Zeiger said, to judge by its Italianate styling amid the other houses' predominantly Queen Anne and Victorian facades.

Other houses on Banker's Row are "a little bit frillier," he said. The Tower House's original, thick woodwork, the tall arched windows — and not least, the tower — are signs the house was probably built in the late 1860s or early 1870s, Zeiger said. "It's all give or take 10 years."

Logansport has other houses built along similar lines, he added. "Because of the early history that Logansport had — the rivers, the transportation ... You have very early period homes that some other communities just don't have."

The tower itself — more decorative than utilitarian — can be accessed only via a ladder, set up to reach the attic trapdoor in one of the 12-foot ceilings. A stooping walk through the attic leads to a short, wooden door, opening into a small, square room whose windows look down upon Cole Park at the junction of Market Street and Eel River Avenue.

"That's the weird part about the house," Zeiger said. "That whole tower roof, the windows up there, were never really accessible."

Zeiger knows little about the house's original owners. It's not included in the book "Old Homes of Logansport," a compilation of narratives and photographs kept in the Logansport Library.

Over the years, though, it's seen its share of changes. At one point, the house was divided into four apartments and the rear butler's staircase was removed. "If you know where it's at, you can see the scar, or the remnants of it," said Zeiger.

It's still a fixer-upper. While the exterior work, including rebuilding the front porch, is done, the house lacks a kitchen and has just one small half-bathroom on the first floor.

And Indiana Landmarks doesn't want to sell the Tower House to just anybody.

It'll need someone with both financial capacity and restorative aims, "a sense of how to work on this property in a way that makes sense financially, and not over-rehab it and make it something it's never been," said Zeiger. The concept, which he termed "respectfully rehabbing" the Tower House, won't limit its use to a residence, however.

Indiana Landmarks is relying on local firm MPR Realty for the Tower House's sale. A few people have expressed interest in the house, Zeiger said, but some time may pass before a suitable buyer shows up.

"We'll see what happens," he said.

Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME