Joan Hostetler is fascinated with old houses and her enthusiasm is contagious. The Indianapolis resident, who owns Heritage Photo & Research Services with husband John Harris, discussed “Researching Your Historic Home or Building” at the Batesville Memorial Public Library Oct. 10.
She loves being a detective to glimpse a structure’s past. “That’s what everybody wants who live in historic houses: They want the pictures, they want the family stories.” The researcher, who earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in museum studies and imaging arts from Rochester Institute of Technology, has learned how to dig up the truth.
Attendees came to pick up advice. Davied Engelking reported, “My house was built in 1850.” According to Irene Krieger, “The one I’m living in was built in 1922.” As a girl, she inhabited a house with an interior section of logs. BMPL genealogist Denean Williams noted, “We have a historic building uptown … the Kramer building,” which now houses All About Water. “It used to be an old dry goods store” in the early 1900s.
Hostetler said, “I’m always mining good sources to help us date our houses.” She discussed eight areas:
• Inspect. View the home and surrounding neighborhood. “You have to put it in context. You can learn something about the house from where it sits.” She suggested, “Take lot measurements. Get a photo of anything unusual or datable. Look for similarities or differences. Is it the oldest house on the block? Look at setbacks,” landscaping, trees and out buildings.
• Determine the architectural style. That can give clues on when a home was constructed. Hostetler explained the Italianate style wasn’t built in 1850, but was common in the 1870s. Williams believed their building was a Queen Anne. Others have guessed it was built around 1910, but Hostetler advised Queen Annes started appearing in the 1880s and were popular in the 1890s.