GREENVILLE – Robin Farris is looking to sell a piece of Greenville history.
Farris owns the Jesse N. Smith house at 9569 U.S. 150. At one time, she lived in the house and also ran her beauty shop there. But now, she said, it's time to sell the house, which is more than 140 years old.
"About everyone around town lived there at one time," she said.
Smith was a Civil War veteran and son of Greenville doctor Reuben Smith. He joined the Indiana 17th infantry regiment in 1861 at the age of 19 and eventually rose to the rank of corporal before exiting service in 1864 during the Atlanta campaign, according to a news release from the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission. Smith returned home, marrying wife Anna shortly after the war's conclusion. Along the way, they purchased the center-passage "T" plan home in 1871, and used its location along U.S. 150 to sell groceries, general merchandise, and even jewelry, according to the release.
Farris said she is asking $95,000 for the historic home, which she said needs some tender loving care. It has been on the market for a year and only a few people have shown interest. Her hope is to keep it from being torn down.
Matt Uhl shares that hope.
Uhl, president of the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission, is hoping his group can find the funds to purchase the building and possibly turn it into a community space. He said he has been working with Greg Sekula, Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional director, on the town applying for some grants. He said the commission will do everything it can to purchase the home and restore it.
"Buildings like this are a foundation to build a greater understanding of our community, our citizens, and how we have a role in building our country," he said. "We would love to gain control of the property and see the house rehabilitated for community use."
Uhl said the house, though, is presently not protected from demolition.
Once the house is purchased, it will take thousands of dollars to rehab it. Uhl said it may have to be moved since it sits so close to the highway.
The house has "a beautiful staircase" and other features and some of the windows are original, according to Farris. She said it has been several years since anyone has lived in the house, although she still checks on it regularly.
"I will work with the town on the price," she said.
The commission and town have limited resources, Uhl said, so that is why they are looking for grants and other means to buy the property. He said it's an effort that is definitely worth pursuing.
"We understand a town of our size may not have the resources larger cities have for preservation," he said, "But that doesn't erase Corporal Smith's service and impact he contributed to our local history, and what his home means as a potential touchstone for future generations."
The HPC has submitted a National Register eligibility assessment to the Indiana DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. National Register listing could aid with grant funds should the preservation commission or another local non-profit group be able to purchase the property.
“Preservation is about ensuring that our urban landscape reflects more than just profit margins or the whims of developers and real estate speculators,” Greenville Town Councilman Andy Lemon said. “It doesn’t make sense to recycle cans and paper, but to not recycle buildings.”