home on Jefferson Street
Jane is the name given to a home on Jefferson Street by its new owner, Sonia Quillen. [Photographer / John Wales]

Local Franklin 19th Century Home Gets a Marvelous Makeover

Jane is simply stunning. A timeless beauty yet quiet and unassuming. Through the years Jane has been both loved and neglected. Majestic and understated, Jane has stood the test of time and now shines bright. However, Jane isn’t an actress from Hollywood, and in fact, downtown Franklin is where she can be found.

Jane is the name given to a home on Jefferson Street by its new owner, Sonia Quillen.

This Carpenter Gothic home is over 150 years old. Quillen fell in love with the house while visiting a friend who lived nearby. “As I walked by and saw it, I thought, ‘This is not a typical Midwest home,’” she says. “It had lots of character. It was the one.”

The home includes pointed arches and steep gables that instantly draw the eye to the more distinct features, as well as board-and-batten siding. Colorful stained glass window panes adorn an alcove, and above the main entry, a curved window reminds one of the famous “American Gothic” painting from Grant Wood.

The original owners were David and Sarah Bergen. Tax records on the home can be found dating back to 1874, where annual taxes cost the Bergens a lofty $6.01. Later the home on Jefferson Street was passed on to their son, John, who would reside there until he died in the house in 1957.

In the decades after, the home fell into disrepair. The decay mirrored that of many homes and buildings in downtown Franklin at the time, until the 2010s ushered a renaissance period for Franklin. The downtown revitalization spread and eventually reached the doorstep of Quillen’s home.

Quillen is quick to give credit for her home’s renewal to previous owners, Shari Carr and Erin Nicholas. The mother-daughter duo worked to restore the home, maintaining its history while modernizing it to make it safe for families to enjoy for centuries to come. The home required attention from the foundation to the roof. It takes a love of history and the determination to work hard to bring a 19th century home back to life. It also takes a lot of money.

house on jefferson stCarr and Nicholas did much of the work themselves. Along the way they found many surprises. Original machine-cut nails and bottles from the early 20th century were found in the basement. Perhaps the biggest surprise was a fireplace hidden behind several layers of remodeling.

In 2021 the world was still in the grip of the COVID-19 epidemic. Building material costs sky rocketed and completion of the house was in doubt. Then, a visit to a friend once again altered the future of the house.

Quillen, a Shelbyville resident, took a stroll down Jefferson Street to enjoy the revitalized downtown area. Along the walk, she was stopped in her tracks. She found herself marveling at this house, which seemed to be calling out to her. She knew instantly that it was her home.

The house was not for sale, but she was determined to purchase this gem and finish its evolution. She found Carr on Facebook and they shared a single Facebook friend. Quillen messaged Carr about the home.

Carr contacted the mutual friend and was told that Quillen was the perfect person to complete her vision of the home. Quillen estimates the house was 80% finished. She loved the level of detail put into the house, so a deal was made and she became the new owner in December 2022.

Quillen needed to move by February 2023, so she enlisted an army of local businesses to aid her in completion of the home.

The kitchen received a complete transformation that modernized it while preserving the historical look of the home. Woodworking by Rich, in Whiteland, was called upon to build the cabinets and kitchen island. The massive island serves as the focal point of the kitchen and is topped with a gorgeous countertop from Natural Stone Creations of Franklin.

The fireplace, now visible, needed some attention to make it functional. Indianapolis-based Brick + Ember Outfitters fixed the existing brick and replaced damaged bricks, then installed a gas insert for instant ambience.

Local handyman Christopher Ortiz finished the flooring, drywall and paint. Quillen also put some sweat equity into the house. The rich wood staircase and casements, a hallmark of Carpenter Gothic homes, were refreshed to their original appearance. They were treated with linseed oil, which returned the dark finish to a luster, showcasing the wood grain as well as the subtle nicks and bruises the staircase attained over its life. The wood carvings harken to the era when craftsmanship was a standard element of construction.

house on jefferson stMarissa Stout was called upon to oversee the exterior transformation of the property. Through the facade grant program of the Franklin Development Corporation, Quillen was able to complete the exterior projects and create tremendous curb appeal.

The repaired and painted board-and-batten siding is complemented by green window casements and black trim. Landscaping enhances the charm and welcomes visitors. Due to the home’s proximity to the Franklin amphitheater, Quillen wanted a private outdoor entertainment space where she and her family could enjoy the music and entertainment playing nearby. She added a deck to the back of the house.

To protect the home for generations, she enlisted Franklin-based Irish Brothers Pest Control to treat the home for termites. Quillen is very happy with her finished home. “It just feels good,” she says.

She loves being in downtown Franklin, in the middle of everything. She plays pickleball nearby with friends, and walks to local establishments to enjoy coffee or a meal. Her family regularly bikes on the city trails and enjoyed last year’s Fourth of July fireworks on her back patio. She loves her new town, and she loves Jane.

“It’s been a fun adventure,” she says. It’s an adventure she plans to continue for years to come.

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