Canal House, Connersville Indiana

Date added: April 07, 2016 Categories: Indiana Commercial House Museum Greek Revival

Canal House was built in 1843 for the Whitewater Valley Canal Company as an office building while the Canal Company completed construction of Indiana's Whitewater Canal. It later served as a bank, veterinary hospital, and the private residence of one of Connersville's mayors. The structure was acquired by Historic Connersville, Inc. in 1971; this preservation group restored the structure for use as a museum.

The Whitewater Canal Company purchased lot 53 in 1843 for $7000, which also included the large hotel, Huston House. In 1846, it sold the portion of lot 53 upon which the hotel stood for $6495, only $505 less than the sum at which the company bought the entire lot three years before. The Canal Company sold the remaining land and Canal House in 1848 for $4000.

As constructed in 1843, Canal House consisted of the main two-story rectangular brick section. The two-story front portico, supported by four wooden fluted Greek Doric columns, was without a second-story balcony, and the steps fronting the portico extended across the full width. Leading into the front entry vestibule, the main doorway was fitted with heavy double doors with nine-light panels over recessed molded panels on the lower half. On the east and west sides, four brick pilasters are arranged so as to define the end bays of each facade.

The double doors open into the main vestibule, which extends beyond to the side stairhall with a hardwood stairway on the west wall leading to the second floor. The front room, to the left of the hall, has a fireplace on the east wall, and one of the two steel vaults originally installed by the Canal Company, on the south wall. The back room, also to the left of the stairway, has the second vault on the north wall. The second floor consisted of one large room.

When the property was acquired in 1848 by the company's president, Samuel W. Parker, the structure was converted into a residence. In 1855 it was purchased by the Savings Bank of Indiana and adopted for use as a commercial bank. Shortly thereafter, in 1857, the building was reconverted into a private residence. Subsequently at some point during the early 20th century, Canal House served as a small veterinary hospital.

The one-story rear ell is believed to have been constructed when the building was converted from a commercial to a residential building. This later construction date is indicated by differences in the sections' structural systems: the foundation of the main section is a soft limestone, quarried in Longwood, Indiana; the ell section's foundation is a hard limestone, quarried in Laurel, Indiana

In 1936, Finly and Alice Gray acquired the structure and restored both the interior and exterior, added the front second-story balcony, and the chimney on the exterior east wall. This chimney served fireplaces in the basement and the first floor's front room. The Veterans of Foreign Wars acquired the property in 1948, and they bricked the east window in the first floor's back room, added bathrooms to this room, and removed all closets on the second floor.

In 1971 Historic Connersville, Inc. began an extensive restoration of the structure. The major portion of the restoration was completed in 1973-76, which included the installation of a fire escape at the rear of the building, the replacement of all windows with double hung sash, six-over-six lights, relaying all floors with oak hardwood, removing the front second-story balcony, and replacing the east, first-story window.

The Whitewater Valley Canal Company was chartered in 1842 to complete the construction of the Whitewater Canal, begun in 1825 by the State Internal Improvement Program. The Improvement Program involved building railway, turnpike and canal arteries. Because priority was given to this project, twenty of the Whitewater Canal's thirty-five miles, between Cambridge City, Indiana and the Ohio River, had been completed by December 1838. Unfortunately, the program was bankrupt at this time. All work stopped on the canal until the Whitewater Valley Canal Company was organized in 1842. By 1845 the canal had opened to Connersville, and by 1847, to Hagerstown, Indiana. Damaging floods in January 1847, however, brought an end to the project. Subsequent flooding ended the use of the canal as a means of transportation, and the Whitewater Valley Canal Company dissolved in 1848.