- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2020

ATTICA, Ind. (AP) - Five months ago, Katy Kays was in Attica looking at a property she was thinking about buying, renovating and reselling.

As Kays poked around a house that could have used a handy touch before the general manager of Lafayette’s Achieve Marketing and Consulting tried to flip it, she said she had a visit from James DeGrazia.

“He said, ‘Want something you can really sink your teeth into?’” Kays said. “I knew exactly what he was talking about.”

When she went with DeGrazia to 500 E. Jackson St., where the 4,800-square-feet of the McDonald House had been empty since the early 2000s, Kays said things were rough, inside and out. DeGrazia, as he told the J&C; in 2015 and told Kays again in summer 2019, had bought the Greek Revival home, built in 1855 by Attica businessman James D. McDonald, at a tax sale in 2013, with hopes that someone would come along with the chops and wherewithal to save it.

“It was bad,” Kays said. “The whole back wall was open in the back. There were raccoons inside. It needed, I don’t know … everything.”



But given a price so low she wouldn’t repeat it and a promise of help when she needed it, Kays said she was in. Other projects were set aside. And she and a crew of five bombed the first phase of a McDonald House restoration that continues to have people slowing down on their way in and out of the Fountain County city on Indiana 28.

As Attica looks to entice HGTV’s “Home Town” to bring its show – and restoration muscle – to town to look at a downtown that’s listed as a whole a one of Indiana Landmarks’ “10 Most Endangered” list, a restored McDonald House will get its big unveiling Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, as it opens as an inn five years after it, too, had been listed as one of Indiana’s most endangered structures.

Last week, Kays and Brittany Smith, innkeeper for the newly branded Historic McDonald Airbnb, and others were “buttoning up a few things,” as Kays put it, before guests started to arrive and ahead of the foot traffic of an open house.

“As you can see,” Kays said, “there’s still a lot to do.”

James and Lucinda McDonald built the three-story brick home on a hill where Jackson and Main streets merge, near a park that bears their name. The home sat on an acre and featured eight bedrooms and six fireplaces. A walnut staircase climbs through the middle of the home and up to the roof. Iron balcony rails ran along the second story. The house provided a hilltop view of downtown Attica to the west.

After the McDonalds died, the property passed through several hands during the remainder of the 19th century and through the 20th century.

Dolly Poston-Zollars spent part of her childhood growing up in the house, which she said her mother used as six apartments as well as a home when the family owned it.

“I used to slide down those bannisters,” Poston-Zollars said. “I can’t wait to see my old bedroom.”

The house stayed in the family until 1997, she said. Fountain County property records show that the McDonald House traded hands several times after that, before DeGrazia bought it.

Indiana Landmarks included the McDonald House in its 10 Most Endangered lists in 2014 and 2015, hoping to draw attention to a property that had growing problems, including brick work that had been destabilized by water gushing from failing gutters.

In 2016, then Mayor Bob Shepherd told the J&C; the McDonald House “an integral part of Attica and its history.” DeGrazia told J&C; reporter Kevin Cullen that he bought it knowing that he wouldn’t sell it “if they want to demolish it.”

Enter Kays.

Kays said the past five months have been a blur of foundation work, rebuilding a back wall that had given way, tuck pointing the rest of the brick, installing streel beams to shore up floors, replacing 89 window panes, adding insulation and HVAC systems, hanging drywall, painting and cleaning.

“And cleaning and cleaning,” Kays said. “We’re still at it.”

That was just to get the property, as she said, through phase one, which meant “habitable.” She said work on the next phases will continue on rough spots still evident, even as the inn opens for guests this week.

Kays said McDonald House is ready for Mayor Duane Roderick to cut a ribbon for a grand opening.

Poston-Zollars said she’s watched the renovation from afar. And she booked several rooms around the time her son will graduate from Attica High School in the spring.

“It provides a much-needed spark to the community to see someone from the outside come and join us in our bid to preserve the historic integrity of the town,” Poston-Zollars said. “This, to me, is such a focal point of the entrance to the community when you come in off (Indiana) 28. I think it’s just a huge showpiece when you see this beautiful home that’s been redone rather than coming into town and the first big historic home you see looks like it did. … What a blessing.”

IF YOU GO: An open house for the Historic McDonald Airbnb, 500 E. Jackson St. in Attica, will be 3-5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, and noon-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1. Parking will be available at Attica Elementary School across the street.

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Source: Journal & Courier

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