The stately home has sat at the curve around Vernon since 1840, and today it welcomes visitors and serves them Hoosier hospitality and food.
John and Karen Branham purchased the historic home in 2012 for the purpose of restoring the building to serve as a tea room-style restaurant. After nearly two years of work, they opened the Vernon Tea House last fall.
“All my life, I have dreamed of owning a tea room, so this is my dream come true,” Karen Branham said, as she adjusted fresh flowers sitting on one of the tables in the room.
Normally, the Vernon Tea House is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. As a part of the Town & Country Home & Gardens Tour, the tea house will be open during the hours of the tour: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 29. Ticket holders can tour the house and property.
Nothing in the 174-year-old building looks old. The long windows and the freshly painted pale blue walls trimmed in white give a fresh and cheerful atmosphere to the place.
The Vernon Tea House has a long and somewhat colorful history.
In 1919, Karen Branham’s grandfather purchased the house and large surrounding yard for a mere dollar. The property remained in Karen Branham’s family until 1979, when it was sold outside the family to settle an estate.
“I always hoped to get the house back; and in 2012, it was put on the market, and we bought it,” she said.
Karen Branham was 73 years old when she and her husband began renovating the house to accommodate a tea room operation.
“People do ask me why I started such a thing at my age and I say, ‘Well, just what are you supposed to do at this age? Just sit on your tail and wait?’’’ she said.
“We grow a lot of the vegetables we use right here, and what we don’t grow ourselves we buy fresh,” Karen Branham added.
Diners can look out the windows and see vegetables and flowers growing about the yard, including a 6-foot-tall lettuce tree on the porch.
Karen Branham taught cake decorating and baking in Columbus, North Vernon and Seymour for several decades. She now uses
her talent to bake desserts for her tea room every day before the restaurant opens.
John Branham is at the front door to greet customers and make sure everyone has what they need.
“John helps a lot. It’s funny, he would never wash a dish at home, but he washes a lot of the dishes here. He says it’s because I never needed him to help at home,” Karen Branham said.
“It’s funny, John was born at a house on the first curve into Vernon, I was born at the second curve, and now we are both working away at the third curve.”