Community foundation has a plan for Thomas Pendleton House
PENDLETON — A house built in the first half of the 19th century — by the family for whom Pendleton is named — is on the cusp of receiving a significant makeover.
Preservation work on the Thomas Pendleton House, located at 233 S. Main St., is set to start this year on what will likely be a multi-year project.
“The brick is failing because it’s original handmade brick, and it’s starting to disintegrate in some places,” said Tammy Bowman, executive director of South Madison Community Foundation, which has occupied the building since it was gifted to the organization in 2005.
“The floor — I don’t want to overstate it — but it’s collapsing.”
In December 2021, Historic Fall Creek, Pendleton Settlement, a local preservation group, successfully applied for a $3,500 Efroymson Family Endangered Places Grant from Indiana Landmarks — a statewide preservation group of which it is a member — to help defray the $15,500 cost of the preservation plan for the building.
Sandi Butler, chairwoman of Settlement board, signed off on the grant application.
“That building needs (work),” Butler said. “The foundation is really in poor shape and really needs to be done.
“That house is one of the oldest houses in Pendleton, and so we need to get that restored.”
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The community foundation hired Fishers-based architectural and engineering firm RQAW Corp. to research and write the plan, which is 35 pages long with additional appendices comprised of photographs and cost estimates.
The plan, issued in August, includes a history of the house — constructed circa 1840 — in the context of the town’s settlement and development, the architecture of the day and ownership history. It also describes the physical features of the two-story, 1,976-square-foot home and includes a conditions assessment, work recommendations, priorities and a list of potential costs — which have since increased, Bowman noted — totaling between $125,000 and $155,000.
“The Thomas Pendleton House is significant in vernacular architecture and construction,” the plan states in a section evaluating the home’s significance. “The structure is one of the best and earliest examples of a Colonial Federal Style L-plan (or I-house with rear wing) house in Pendleton.
“The Thomas Pendleton House is significant in the area of Settlement for its association with the Pendleton family and the Town of Pendleton’s settlement,” it states. “The period of significance begins shortly after the Town of Pendleton was named for Thomas M. Pendleton and the structure is one of the oldest examples from that era of Pendleton’s development.”
The report also notes the house is listed as a contributing structure to the Pendleton Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and as a notable structure on both the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory and the town’s historic district with Pendleton Historic Preservation Commission.
Thomas M. Pendleton, was, among other things, the first treasurer of Madison County Circuit Court, and he and wife Mary donated land for the construction of the First United Methodist Church.
Bowman said one surprising idea that surfaced from the research is the possibility that the house was built by Thomas H. Pendleton (and wife Sarah) instead of his father, Thomas M. Pendleton (and wife Mary), the elder having arrived in the area in 1821 and been credited with setting down the first town plat.
The report was inconclusive on that possible revelation, and Bowman said that’s part of studying history — it can be revised as new information is discovered, leading to an increasingly clearer picture.
According to the preservation plan, “little is known” about who owned the house in the second half of the 19th century. But, in 1910, it was purchased by the Owens family. Fred and Bessie Owens owned it initially, and their son Charlie owned it later. Charlie died in 2005 and left it to the community foundation.
Bowman said the foundation has done routine maintenance on the home, using a fund that Charlie Owens had arranged for that purpose.
However, that fund is not big enough to pay for the amount of work now needed on the home, she said, so the foundation decided to take the opportunity to commission a preservation plan to guide work and for use in grant applications.
She said the foundation wants to do the preservation work “to the best of our ability, to ensure that the history is showcased for future generations to witness.”
The house is a stop on the town’s Historic Marker Walking Tour, with its marker honoring Thomas M. Pendleton as possibly “the savviest and most generous” settler.
The preservation plan will be followed, moving as quickly or slowly as funding permits, Bowman said. The foundation will “take our time, do it right.”
Bowman said the foundation expects to hear this month whether it will receive a $30,000 Historic Preservation Grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
That, combined with $33,000 the community foundation has committed in matching funds, would pay for roof and drainage work, masonry repair, and the removal of the front porch and shutters, Bowman said.
But because of the dire condition of the masonry, “grant or no grant, I see brick work being done this summer.”
She said the foundation is eyeing an even larger state grant that it plans to apply for with help from the town of Pendleton. This would be used primarily for foundation and flooring work, she said, as well as door, windows, venting, stairs and more.
In addition to public funds, private and in-kind donations can help move things along, too, Bowman said.
Last year, she said, local company Berline Construction Inc. provided critical joist repair services without charge; that helped save money that can be used for additional work elsewhere.
Ultimately, Bowman said, beyond simply preserving the house, the eventual goal is for the building to serve the community more, as a place for meetings, social gatherings and even flexible workspace.
For that, “we have to have it in proper condition,” she said.