- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

BURLINGTON, Ind. (AP) - The peeling yellow paint on the exterior of the American House in Burlington could be a clue that the old house has seen a lot of history, and now local volunteers are working to tell its story.

James Rich, a history enthusiast, estimated the house was built in 1850. It didn’t always stand where it does now, at 205 S. Michigan St. in Burlington. It used to be down the street, where it served as a hotel for workers building the plank road through the town. The road was built to improve the transportation of goods.

John Longstreth originally had the house built. According to Rich, when Longstreth realized Burlington was not going to be a railroad town, he sold the house and left Burlington to try to make more money elsewhere.

Before the house was built, there was only one hotel in town, and not enough accommodations for the road workers. Burlington was a crossroad town at the time, as it contained roads that linked Indianapolis to Logansport and Muncie to Delphi.

In 1904, it was moved to its current location. At some point, another addition was added to the back, as well as a front porch.

The house changed hands a number of times throughout the years, according to a pamphlet Rich wrote about the history of Burlington hotels, liveries, routes and stages.

Now, volunteers want to turn most of the house into a historically accurate representation of what it was like to stay in a hotel on the Michigan road in the mid-1800s.

“We want to be able to walk in here like it was the 1800s; just like it was,” said Rich.

Rich is part of a local civic group called Promoting Wildcat Valley, which has the goal of preserving history in Carroll County.

The organization is raising money to purchase the land the house sits on and for renovations. The previous owner of the house handed over possession to Promoting Wildcat Valley.

Originally, the plan was to move the house to a lot the group had access to, but preservationists said there was a chance of doing damage and it would have been an expensive move.

The completion date of the project depends on how quickly they raise the funds.

The goal is $40,000; $20,000 to buy the lot and $20,000 to do restorations. They started raising money in February, and by June had around $12,500.

“The faster we get the money, the faster we get this done,” said Rich.

In the past, the group has hosted a chili supper and a tenderloin supper, and the last Saturday of each month, they have a homemade biscuit and gravy breakfast in Burlington Park where they accept free will donations. According to Rich, they make around $1,000 at each of the breakfasts.

They are also selling prints of a drawing of the American House by John Russell, historical preservationist of Kokomo who signed the 100 copies of the drawing, for $250.

The goal is to make the front section of the house, which was built in the 1800s, completely historically accurate. They want to furnish it as it would have been, and have volunteers there to show people around. Rich said he plans to be one of the volunteers, and to act as though he is actually from that time period.

The part of the house added on in the early 1900s will contain historical memorabilia from Burlington. Rich said he has an old map from 1832 and a trunk from around 1812 that he hopes to donate, as well as other artifacts he can obtain.

A more long-term project is to have the front porch removed, since it was not there when it was originally built.

Rich said once they have the money, they have volunteers willing to put in work on the house. A painter is willing to do repainting, and a carpenter is lined up to do repairs. Rich also said there are some kids from town who mow the lawn.

“It’s a community project,” Rich said.

Rich has already given lots of time to preserving local history. He said he writes small town basketball history and sells the books he writes. The money goes to plaques that mark local historical locations. He hopes to write a book on the American House.

He also donates time to the historic Adams Mill site, and has over 6,000 hours of research into the census information for the town Prince William, Indiana, a town in Carroll County that died out around 1920.

Rich said that it’s necessary to remember how important the Michigan Road was for Indiana, and he wants the future museum in the American House to teach people about it.

“There is nothing on the Michigan Road to show how important this was to the state,” said Rich. Other museums that stand on the road are, according to Rich, solely county museums, but he hopes the American House will provide a more accurate account of what life was like.

“Stories like that, we need to preserve them, and we need a museum here.”


Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/28JAvhf


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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