I realize there are more important things taking place elsewhere. I’m reminded of it by news pundits who have exhausted but still report on such topics as the “fiscal cliff,” the civil war in Syria, North Korea’s rocket launch and Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest.
I, on the other hand, prefer to take roads less traveled in my news reporting. Where else but here is anyone going to find a thoroughly researched essay on whether there is a Reeves house on Fifth Street?
I thought I had produced one last week in a column about a bunch of limestone rocks that Cheryl Carter Jones, a former Columbus resident, wants to sell. The limestone slabs have a particular historic significance in Bartholomew County because they were part of the handsome mansion that once graced 913 Fifth St.
In the early years of the 20th century, the building was home to Girnie L. Reeves and his family. The house, originally constructed in 1850 by one of Girnie’s distant relatives, eventually was demolished about 1983. Following demolition, the remnants of the house were put up for auction and were purchased by an Indianapolis attorney who later would become Cheryl’s husband.
Cheryl, who plans to return to Columbus, has offered the limestone for sale, in part because of its historical significance.
Girnie L. Reeves was president of Reeves Pulley Co., the city’s leading employer for a good part of the first half of the 20th century.
His house also was part of a Reeves enclave. His brother, Milton, lived across the street at 912 Fifth St. Another brother, Marshall, lived at 722 Fifth St. The three ran Reeves Pulley. Milton also was a well-known inventor and developer of some of the earliest autos on the road around the turn of the 20th century.
I even ran photos of the three stately mansions to accompany the article — photos that had originally appeared in the “Illustrated Columbus Indiana” 1914-15 book — noting that all three homes were demolished eventually.
Imagine my surprise when I received an email from a reader pointing out that a Reeves house still was standing on Fifth Street. Jessica Schnepp even said that it not only was occupied by Milton Reeves and his family but bore the same address as the building I reported had been demolished — 912 Fifth St.
Imagine my additional surprise when I picked up my copy of The Republic on Wednesday morning and learned that Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. had just sold the Milton Reeves house at 912 Fifth St. to Timothy McNealy of Columbus.
“Where’d that house come from?” I asked myself.
As noted in the photos above, there is a distinct difference in the appearance of the two 912 houses. One’s made of brick, the other is of wood.
According to Jessica, who has studied the history of the Reeves houses, Milton Reeves lived in the brick home recently sold by the school corporation until his death in 1925.
It then was occupied by his widow and children, who sold it to a local dentist, who in turn passed it on to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The school corporation acquired it in 2005.
According to official records, the structure was said to have been built in 1900, but Jessica believes that’s not the date for the construction of the brick house.
“The current brick home was built sometime after 1913,” she wrote in an email. “M.O. Reeves destroyed the home depicted in the article and the home located next to it to build the new structure.”
To date, there has been no firm time frame set for the brick home’s construction. Since the wood house was depicted in the 1914-15 photo book of Columbus, it’s likely that it was sometime after that period.
Compared with many of the 19th-century homes still standing in the downtown area, Milton Reeves’ brick house is one of the “new kids on the block.”
But Jessica and school officials still feel it has an important place in local history.
“Although it may not be as old as Girnie’s home, I believe it does deserve recognition,” Jessica wrote. “Maybe not for its architecture but for the family that contributed so much to this community.”
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.