- Associated Press - Saturday, January 9, 2021

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - An ornate northeastern Indiana mansion that housed a funeral home for nearly a century is getting a new, more festive life as a venue for weddings, anniversaries and other occasions.

The roughly 125-year-old Fort Wayne mansion had long been served as the home of the Klaehn, Fahl & Melton Funeral Home, but the 15,000-square-foot building was sold last month to RGS Real Estate.

Belle Castle Enterprise plans to renovate the property for use as an event center for weddings, bridal parties, birthdays, anniversaries and corporate events, representative Carlene Gray told The Journal Gazette.

“No funerals,” she said, laughing.

The building was built about 1893 by Robert Clarke Bell, a late 19th- and early 20th-century attorney and Democratic state senator, for himself and his wife, Clara.

Built in the Richardsonian Romanesque-style, it is ornate inside and out. Its interior features parquet floors, carved wood trim and a tile fireplace, and its exterior includes elaborate gargoyles and decorative arches.

The building is historic for its architecture, its first owner and events that it once hosted, including visits by William Jennings Bryan, who unsuccessfully ran for president as a Democrat in 1896, 1900 and 1908.

Bryan, who was one of Bell’s friends, was reported to have given speeches from the home’s front porch, said Connie Haas Zuber, executive director of ARCH, a Fort Wayne nonprofit historic preservation organization.

“It is a very significant house. It was widely regarded as, if not the finest, one of the finest homes in Fort Wayne,” she said.

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