By Todd Travis
Hannah House dates back to 1858 when Alexander M. Hannah purchased the bricks to build the house for $585. He had just returned to Indiana after spending several years in California prospecting for gold and co-owning a ranch. His father, Samuel Hannah, was a prominent land owner and the president of the Indiana Central Railroad. Upon Alexander’s return to Indiana, he began to work for the railroad and purchased about 240 acres of land from his father. On that land is where he built what is known as the Hannah House today.
In 1872, Hannah married his wife, Elizabeth and added a service building to the house. In this addition there was a milk house and a wash house or summer kitchen with a large fireplace on the first floor. On the second floor were the servants’ quarters.
Also running through those 240 acres of land was Marion County’s first toll road, the Indianapolis-Southport Toll Road, which ran from Indianapolis to Madison along the Ohio River. Hannah collected tolls from travelers from 1860 until he passed away in 1895. Following his passing, the land was split up and sold since he had no heirs to inherit the land.
While it has not been confirmed, lore has it that the house was one of the stations for the Underground Railroad. The slaves would have been hidden on the grounds and secretly escorted to the railroad that was on the property.
In 1899, the house was purchased by Roman Oehler, along with 21 acres of property surrounding the house. During the time he lived there, the front porch was widened, and several outbuildings were added to the property. Oehler’s daughter Romena Oehler Elder would be the next owners of the property, which consisted of the five acres that are still owned by the Elder family today.
In 1978, the house was placed on the national register of historic places. Over the years the house has been used as an antique shop and a flea market and it continues to be used for parties, banquets and receptions.
Scott Longere, the manager of the house, visited the house for the first time when it was a flea market and took an immediate interest in it.
“I love the historical architecture of the house and the history of the families who lived there. I’ve made up a family tree of the Hannahs and the Oehlers and the Elders and I give tours of the house every week on Sunday,” Longere mentioned.
Longere has become like a son to Judy (Judith) Elder and has helped her to maintain the house and run the various events that are held there. Judy married David Elder, the son of Marion and Romena Oehler Elder, in 1960 and was with him until he passed in 2013.
“The first time I saw the Hannah House was at David’s brother’s wedding. For David and his family, it was just the house they grew up in,” Elder said.
In addition to the historical significance of the house, a following has grown over the years from people interested in the paranormal. Many people have come to believe that the house is haunted. Longere has welcomed paranormal followers to come and investigate the house for themselves and has even hosted National Paranormal Day at the house.
“We had people come from five different states to set up as vendors for Paranormal Day. It’s one of the largest ones around,” Longere said.
Whether you are interested in the paranormal or just the rich history of the Hannah House, you can check out the website: historichannahhouse.com. Hannah House is located at 3801 Madison Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46227.