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If walls could speak

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GINGER LEE: Save Our Stories will give the 108-year-old house at 917 S. Adams St. a new roof, new fireplace mantel, window treatments and more.
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UNIQUE FEATURES: Bill Munn said the Ginger Lee house, which he believes is a Samuel Plato design, has a number of notable features like the second story sun room, complete with a glass bottom floor.

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

The brown brick house at 917 S. Adams St. was probably built in the early 1900s, when Adams Street was lined with similar structures, according to Grant County historian Bill Munn.

Throughout its life, the building was used for residential and commercial use, but it has sat vacant for the past 10 years.

Stan and Lydia Wiseman, owners of Brenda’s Dream B&B, originally bought the building in hopes of making it the location for their bed and breakfast.

But before they could start renovating, the bank pulled their loan because of the condition of the surrounding neighborhood, Lydia said.

“We were heartbroken when we found out,” she said.

Though the Wisemans have lived and traveled all around the country, they saw something special in Marion and in that house in particular.

“I just wanted to make sure that whoever’s hands it went into, it was going to be saved,” Lydia said.

In order to make sure the house went into the right hands, she gifted the property to Save Our Stories (SOS), a local historical preservation organization.

With the help of Indiana Landmarks, SOS was able to get a loan to restore the building to its former glory.

Currently, the building suffers from a number of issues. Munn, who is also president of SOS, said the top priority is redoing the roof.

Windows are cracked or missing altogether and there is also some extensive water damage.

But despite its current state, the building still holds character and history.

If those walls could speak, they’d tell the story of J.W. Stephenson, the original owner.

Munn said Stephenson was a wealthy man who was on the board of directors for the Indiana Truck Company, the First National Bank and many other endeavors.

According to Munn, the Stephenson family occupied the house until about 1959.

Next it became the rectory for St. Paul’s Catholic Church for a short period of time.

Most recently, 917 S. Adams St. was home to Ginger Lee’s, a hair salon.

Munn said that as a hair salon, the building was a place where women would socialize and literally let their hair down.

“There were reputations buried here. … Decisions were made here,” he said.

While SOS will be in charge of cleaning and restoring the building, Munn said the organization won’t be making decisions about the interior design.

When the project is complete, the building will be put up for sale.

Though it could be used as a residential building again, Munn thinks it will most likely be used as a commercial space.

The Wisemans said they are past the point of taking on large projects, but Lydia also thinks it could prosper as a commercial space like a tea room or pie house.

“It’s another one of the gems in Marion … if people would open their eyes and look,” she said.