2012-08-09 / Front Page

Former County Home Property Likely To Be Sold Pending Bid Approval By Commissioners

Soon-To-Be Married Couple Planning To Restore Home Site
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

A pending bid of $116,077.77 has been submitted by Becky Brown and Gary Cunningham of Spencer to the Owen County Board of Commissioners to purchase the former Owen County Home building and its 9.97 acres of land on State Road 43S. (SEW File Photo) A pending bid of $116,077.77 has been submitted by Becky Brown and Gary Cunningham of Spencer to the Owen County Board of Commissioners to purchase the former Owen County Home building and its 9.97 acres of land on State Road 43S. (SEW File Photo) The sizeable task of restoring one of Owen County’s most well-known sites is on the verge of being undertaken by a soon-to-be married Spencer couple.

Officially closed in December of 2002, the Owen County Board of Commissioners has attempted to auction off the former Owen County Home site on State Road 43S for the past four years. The most recent attempt came Monday morning when bids were accepted during the board’s first of two meetings this month.

A single bid for the asking price and fair market value of the 9.97 acres, all buildings and the mound sewer system totaling $116,077.77 was submitted to the board by Becky Brown and Gary Cunningham of Spencer.

“We kind of woke up this morning and wondered what we have gotten ourselves into,” Brown said Tuesday morning. “But on the same side of it, a lot of prayer went into it and what is meant to be will be.”

While the board took the bid under advisement until its next meeting on August 20th, the sale will likely be complete within two weeks. Neither Brown nor Cunningham are ineligible to purchase the home because of property taxes owed and Brown’s real estate company, Brown & Associates, does not prevent her from the purchase.

While plenty of clean-up and preparation are needed to ensure that no additional deterioration of the building takes place, the couple plan to recite their wedding vows at the county home on Saturday, October 6.

“We know the immediate needs that need to be addressed and issues that need to be corrected to minimize further deterioration, which we can certainly have done in the next month or so,” Brown explained. “It will be an ongoing restoration to return it to where it was originally, at least that’s the game plan,” Brown said. “We’ve already taken dogs out there, who are a little sensitive to big, strange things. We walk them over to (McCormick’s Creek) State Park sometimes and take a look at what Tilden (Keith) has for sale on the hill. They encountered a big, black gorilla and I didn’t think they would move another inch, it was like trauma. So we took them to the county home to see if there was something out there that they would detect that we were oblivious to and they were fine. The dogs gave their stamp of approval.”

On Tuesday morning, Brown ensured members of Owen County Preservations that the building would be restored and that the couple have no intentions of demolishing the historic structure.

“We became interested when we heard there were potential buyers with plans to tear the county home down, and we did not want to see that. That’s why we stepped up,” Brown explained. “After realizing we were the only bidder, it’s still undetermined, but we would like to maintain the county home from a historical standpoint and the history that goes with it – the comfortable and uncomfortable – just so the history is not lost.”

At some point in time, she said, the couple plans to move into the home.

“It’s still undecided as to how we’re going to utilize it as far as a non-for-profit endeavor. At some point in time, when we’re old and gray, we have talked to historical preservation groups here in the county about it being appropriate for us to leave it to the community,” Brown said. “Obviously we need an exit strategy in case something happens to Gary and I, we don’t want to have rescued it for the short-term from demolition only to have it fall into someone’s hands later that may not have the same agenda that we do.”

The 8,000 square foot, 17-room, two-story brick structure was originally constructed in 1878 at a cost of $8,000 on the former farm of Colonel John Franklin.

Brown mentioned a structural study in 2005 that noted an estimated cost of between $700,000 and $1.2 million to renovate the building for basic use.

“Owen County Preservations did a really nice feasibility study in 2005 that kind of laid out a stepby step game plan on what you would need to do structurally to maintain the integrity of the building. So we have a pretty decent blueprint of where we need to at least start,” she said. “We definitely wouldn’t give it back to the county, it would be Owen County Preservations, possibly, with discussions with Indiana Landmarks in the future. We don’t anticipate any problems. We’re kind of looking forward to the future and I’ve already had a couple of people expressing interest in a tour. We’re certainly open to making the county home accessible to people who want to just come and take a look and get the before and after feel.”

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