Historic Structures

Veraestau - Holman-Hamilton House, Aurora Indiana

Date added: April 16, 2021 Categories: Indiana House

Jesse Lynch Holman, original owner of Veraestau, studied law in the office of Henry Clay who remained a life-long friend. Holman was admitted to the Kentucky Bar in 1805. He is regarded as Kentucky's first native novelist, and after moving to Indiana in 1810, he became Indiana's first "resident" novelist. More importantly, he served for fourteen years as Judge of the Indiana Supreme Court and for eight years as Federal District Judge in Indiana. Holman was a delegate to the Indiana Constitutional Convention at Corydon in l8l6 when the state's first constitution was drafted. He was defeated in a United States Senatorial election by one vote in the legislature.

Jesse Holman laid out the town of Aurora in 1819 and remained a civic leader there. He was active in the creation of the Indiana Historical Society in 183O and served as its vice president. He was also a Baptist minister in Aurora and one of the founders of Franklin College Indiana.

Jesse's son, William Steele Holman, was born at Veraestau in 1822. He was elected to the United States Congress sixteen times and had served in the House longer than any man in American history. He became one of the foremost Congressional leaders and was known as the "Great Objector" and the "Watchdog of the Treasury."

Prominent locally and regionally was Allen Hamilton, a native of Ireland who married Emerine J. Holman, eldest daughter of Jesse Holman. Hamilton was a merchant and banker in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and he bought the Holman house in 1838 and added the Greek Revival front addition. Both Hamilton and his brother-in-law William Holman were members of the Indiana Constitutional Convention when the present state constitution was adopted.

In the twentieth century, the two most distinguished members of the family were Edith Hamilton, famous classicist and author of The Greek Way, and her sister, Dr. Alice Hamilton, specialist in industrial diseases, first woman on the faculty of Harvard University, and author of Exploring the Dangerous Trades. Both were granddaughters of Allen Hamilton and spent time at Veraestau.

Cornelius O'Brien (1883-1953); who purchased Veraestau in 1934, was a successful farmer, banker, and manufacturer. He, like the first occupant of Veraestau, was active in the Indiana Historical Society, and as an early advocate of preservation contributed varied and substantial services to the efforts of historic preservation in Indiana, especially the White Water Canal restoration project in Metamora.

In l8l0 Jesse Lynch Holman acquired the land on which he built Veraestau. In that year he built the earliest part of the house, a log structure which no longer exists. Shortly thereafter he added two rooms of brick construction which now constitute the oldest part of Veraestau. Holman named the house "Veraestau" derived from Latin roots for spring, summer, and fall. Allen Hamilton, Jesse Holman's son-in-law, purchased the house in 1838 and added to the house in that year. Veraestau was owned by the Hamilton family until 1933 when it was purchased by Cornelius O'Brien. His daughter, Mary O'Brien Gibson, aquirred the house in 1953.

The original log structure burned circa 1838, leaving two brick rooms. Allen Hamilton added the Greek Revival portion of the house to the east side of the brick structure in 1838. This was a symmetrical, three bay, one-and-one-half story addition, facing the Ohio River to the northeast. In 1913, under direction of Margaret Vance Hamilton, the two-story portion of the house on the southeast side was added as well as a second story sleeping porch above the 1838 entrance portico. Also added at that time were dormers on the rear (west and north) sides. In 1937, Cornelius O'Brien expanded the house to the west, adding three rooms of brick construction.

The first floor is entered from either the east or west entrances. These lead to a hall which is at the center of the 1838 addition. To the north of this hall, accessible through two doorways, is a large parlor (originally a pair of matching parlors) with a pair of fireplaces on the north wall. The 1810 portion, which consists of two rooms of unequal size, is entered through a door at the west end of the parlor. The larger of the two 1810 rooms is used as a den.

To the south of the main hall are two doors of which the easternmost leads to a sitting room; the other door leads to the stairhall. The stairs are L-shaped, with a small landing and landing window on the west wall. The sitting room and stair hall formed the south end of the 1838 addition.

South of the sitting room and the stair hall, accessible through both, is a large dining room, with dining porch at the east end. At the west side of the dining room is a door which leads to the kitchen and service area through a hall. Off this hall to the south is a small breakfast room. The kitchen, dining room and dining porch belong to the 1913 addition.

To the west of the kitchen is the 1937 servant's or caretaker's apartment. This consists of a bedroom at the east end, a living room at the west, and a central bathroom. South of the living room, but not connected internally, is a small storage space. There is also a porch on the south of the 1937 addition.

The second floor, which extends over the 1838 and 1913 additions, is reached by the stairs in the stairhall or by stairs from the kitchen. Both stairways lead to an L-shaped hall. Over the 1838 addition is one large bedroom with two closets and sleeping porch, and a bathroom, north of the second floor stair landing. Along the north side of the 1913 addition is a hall; four bedrooms and two bathrooms enter into this hall. The easternmost bedroom has a sleeping porch.