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New Owner Steps Forward To Rescue Ohio County’s Speakman House

Posted On February 05, 2018

Indiana Landmarks article republished with permission

Mark Banschback and Guinevere Emery plan to use the Speakman House as an office, residence, and community gathering place. Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks.

(Ohio County, Ind.) – Stephen Speakman built his house in 1846 on the banks of Laughery Creek north of Rising Sun, with a view of the Ohio River. With 17 rooms covering almost 7,000 square feet, it was one of Indiana’s grandest homes – the centerpiece of a profitable farm. Today, the 40-acre property includes a large dairy barn, a small tenant-farmer house, a milk house, and remains of a large stone ice house.

By the time it landed on our 10 Most Endangered list in 2016, decades of deferred maintenance and vacancy left the house with a badly leaking roof, deteriorating masonry, and collapsing porches. To underscore the peril, in 2017 Indiana Landmarks paid for a professional assessment of the structure’s condition.

Ben Ross of Ratio Architects and structural engineer Logan Cook from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates inspected the house from stem to stern to identify work necessary to stabilize the property. Their report detailed more than $300,000 in urgently needed exterior repairs alone (not including new electrical, plumbing, HVAC, or any interior improvements).

With a clear understanding of the true scale of work, in December the Speakman House’s owners agreed to sell the property to Mark Banschback of nearby Dearborn County, who will use the house as an office, residence, and community gathering place.

Banschbach owns Top Quality Building Products, Inc. and has decades of experience in residential and commercial development. With partner Guinevere Emery, he expects to operate Banschbach Properties, a property management company, on-site.

Photo courtesy of Ohio County Historical Society

More than 300 people visited the house during a tour hosted by the Ohio County Historical Society in October, underscoring local affection for the remarkable survivor. Banschbach understands how much the house means to the area and plans to share it, bringing a traditional lawn party back to the site, along with new community and social events including tours, garden parties, weddings, reenactments, open houses, and more. He’s already been approached about using the site as a filming and photography location, and plans for a possible gift shop and bed & breakfast are also on the radar.

First priority is a new roof – the existing roof was installed in the 1940s, followed by rudimentary patch jobs. Once the house is water-tight, Banschbach will tackle the façade’s impressive double portico. With no protective paint, the wood columns deteriorated over the years, along with damage from termites and a swarm of honeybees that have been on-site for over 50 years. His third priority is repairing the rear summer kitchen as a catering kitchen for use during events on the lawn. Once priority work is complete, he can begin masonry repairs and rebuild the home’s creek-side porch. Interior rehab will follow, in addition to renovation of the tenant house.

Stay tuned for more on the Speakman House. In the meantime, check YouTube for a peek inside, filmed during the October tour.

Photo courtesy of Indiana Landmarks

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