Brian and Linda Strout restore the splendor of their 19th-century Franklin home
By Jon Shoulders | Photography by Josh Marshall
»The task of reconditioning a home built less than a decade after the American Civil War might seem like an overwhelming undertaking. However, almost immediately after Brian and Linda Strout moved into their four-bedroom, three-bathroom Franklin home on Christmas Eve in 2013, they tackled just such a project with no hesitation. “When we took over the home we wanted to restore it to its original grandeur from the period,” Brian says. “We had that in mind with the color schemes, the lighting and even the furniture we brought in. The craftsmanship in these old homes is really something to be appreciated.”
The 3,939-square-foot Italianate home was built in the early 1870s by W.C. Wheat, a local pork producer, as a wedding gift to his daughter, Ophelia, and her husband, John. An abundance of detailed oak trim, large pocket doors and a back staircase used exclusively by servants in the early days of the home’s existence all add a distinct character to the building, and a front porch and carriage house were both added to the property in the early 1900s. “I would say it was built as an upper-middle-class home back in the day, and a lot of the embellishments were in the places where the entertaining was done, where it would be visible to guests,” Brian says. “That’s why you see a lot of pine doors and slightly less expensive materials on the upper level. They focused on the areas that were seen the most by guests downstairs, as far as decorative patterns and materials.”
Much of the work completed by Brian, a Wisconsin native, and Linda, a New York native, involved bringing the home’s original touches back to life, including refinishing the front wood staircase, embellishing areas of the existing crown molding and refinishing the flooring in the kitchen and family room, which originally served as a ballroom. “Previous owners actually used it as a dining room, and we had to pull up the carpeting in there and refinish,” Brian says. “The beam ceilings in there are original, too. When Mrs. Strout first saw the shelves her eyes lit up, and I think it took her a grand total of three weeks to fill up those with pictures.”
Brian says Susan and Tom Jones, owners of the historic home from the early 1980s until 2007, worked diligently to restore and enhance several areas, adding built-in shelving and a fireplace in the family room, installing a claw-foot tub in one of the upstairs bathrooms and completely renovating the kitchen with maple cabinetry, granite countertops, updated appliances and a pass-through window to the dining room. “The Jones family put a lot of money and energy into the home so we’re thankful for that,” Brian says. “It would really be in shambles otherwise.”
Stepping into the front parlor, complete with antique lamps, reupholstered plush chairs and an Edison phonograph the couple found in Fort Wayne, is a bit like traveling back in time. “We tend to find things at antique shops and from word-of-mouth, and then restore them as needed,” Brian says. “That way you save money and you get craftsmanship that you just don’t find these days in retail.” The Strouts turned to Franklin Heritage Inc. Architectural Salvage, a nonprofit shop operated by the local historical preservation organization, for several decorative pieces, fixtures and woodwork.
The Strouts let their passion for antique and one-of-a-kind acquisitions shine while renovations were underway, as evidenced by several vintage radios (which Brian restores in his spare time), a faux fireplace in the dining room and quartered oak bedroom furniture on the home’s upper level, where all four bedrooms are located. “Brian is an antique enthusiast, to say the least,” says Danny Causey, director of Franklin Heritage Inc. Architectural Salvage. “They got the clock in the center of the mantel and some other pieces from us. Right when you walk in the door there’s even a vintage cast iron register that came from a local law firm that they bought for a decoration piece. I like the way that the house has the ultra-formal front with the great parlor area, and then the really comfortable back and upstairs.”
Although the family room is Brian and Linda’s favorite space for relaxation, both feel the view of Tabernacle Christian Church through their dining room window makes the dining area an attractive spot, particularly in the evening. “When they have the lights on at night, the stained glass looks beautiful, and the colors somehow mesh with the colors and lights in here in a neat kind of way,” says Linda.
The Strouts met during their high school years in Inverness, Florida, and with their daughters, Katelyn, 23, Kelsie, 22, and Kristin, 20, resided in Carmel beginning in 1998 after relocating from Los Angeles, where Brian worked for United Airlines. During trips to Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and many other states around the country for their daughters’ travel soccer teams, Brian and Linda began to notice the craftsmanship and individuality of historic homes in each city they visited. “It was during those soccer trips that we really developed a taste for old homes and became committed to finding a special older home,” says Brian, who currently works for AAR Aircraft Services as a lead quality control aircraft inspector in the former United Airlines facility at the Indianapolis airport.
Serendipity lent a hand in the Strouts’ initial discovery of the town they are now proud to call home. While returning to their Carmel home from a soccer trip in Tennessee in 2011, the family decided to pull over for a collective coffee break and spotted Exit 90 for Franklin. “We came through town and were astounded with the old homes,” Brian recalls. “We spotted the Artcraft Theatre, and we were awestruck. It was pretty apparent to us that the leadership in the community was very much involved in maintaining and keeping the quality of the community. So we became motivated to start looking for a home down here.”
Linda, a registered nurse who works at Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis, says the home’s inclusion in the 2014 Franklin Historic Home Tour, hosted by Franklin Heritage Inc., provided an incentive to hit the ground running with renovations when she and Brian assumed ownership. “We found out that it had been a long time since this home had been opened up to the community, and we got a lot of positive feedback,” she says. “We moved in at the end of 2013, and the tour was in the fall of 2014, so it was a whirlwind, but looking back we’re glad to have gotten so much done — all the lighting, the painting, the floors and the bigger pieces of furniture.”
The Strouts look forward to the prospect of being part of the 2016 Franklin Historic Home Tour (franklinheritage.org) and plan on steadily continuing with restorations, repairs and upgrades in the meantime. “I think the hardest part is the patience that it requires — that patience it takes to get to the point where you’ve envisioned it,” Brian adds. “One thing we still want to do is window treatments and some stained glass, and also do some work on the carriage house. We’re still not quite there, but we hit it really hard since the day we moved in to get it to this point, and it’s been great.”