Inside Lawton Loop: Couple talks on years in historic home, community on Fort Harrison

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Patrick and Maryanne O’Malley had no plans to move to Fort Benjamin Harrison’s historic Lawton Loop neighborhood.

Initially wanting to buy in downtown Indianapolis after moving back to the area from Japan for Patrick’s then-job at Eli Lilly, the couple looked at their home at 5720 Lawton Loop West Dr. upon the suggestion of a former neighbor and their realtor who lived in the neighborhood.

“I came out and said, ‘Wow, this is impressive, but it needs a lot of work,’” Maryanne said.

“It was not in great shape, to say the least,” Patrick said. “I walked in and said, ‘Oh no. You have no idea how much work this house needs. I’m not sure I’m ready for that.’ So, we went back and forth for a few months trying to decide.”

The loop has a boulevard feel, lined with hundreds of maple trees dating to the turn of the 20th century. Through the decades, the historic homes housed many high-ranking U.S. Army officers and generals stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

The entire ellipse of homes was built between 1904 and 1910, just after the base opened in 1903. In 1995, the base was decommissioned and pieces of the base were sold in chunks.

The O’Malleys decided to take on the project in late 2004 and moved into the 4,700-square-foot home in December of that year.

“We sort of embraced it as a project,” Patrick said. “We like old things and restoring things.”

“We just couldn’t turn our backs on it,” Maryanne said.

Before buying on Lawton Loop, the couple owned a home in the Butler Tarkington neighborhood before being moved to Japan for Patrick’s job. Prior to that, they said they had always rented.

“It really was more of a labor of love and love of the history and seeing a place like this and saying, ‘You know what? We could breathe a little life into this,’” Maryanne said.

The home has three levels and a basement. It has five bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, large hallways and two staircases. Each room has been refinished and restored to its original quality, which was the couple’s goal for the home.

“We tried to save what was to our liking and what was quality,” Maryanne said. “The previous owners had redone the kitchen, so we kept the flooring and cabinets, added some cabinets, changed the countertop, backsplash, lighting (and) added plantation shutters.”

A prominent front porch on the homes in the neighborhood adds character to the outside, but when the O’Malleys moved in, the screened front porch had been blown in and landscaping was nonexistent.

Original wood flooring gleams throughout the home. Additions like crown molding and paneling in the dining and living rooms also give the home upscale features. Transom windows above each doorway now features stained glass because the originals were painted shut when the O’Malleys moved in.

“We really just went room by room to get it all done,” Patrick said. “The first things we did was replace all 27 windows and the furnace. We moved in Dec. 10, so it was freezing.”

With the home now on the market, the O’Malleys said they are looking back fondly on the work they’ve put in. Patrick accepted a job last year in Boston, and their families are  in New England.

“Most of the things we wanted to do, we’ve done,” Patrick said. “It took us most of those 14 years.”

“If it weren’t for our move to the East Coast, we wouldn’t be leaving. There are things that we would have done, but about three years ago we realized the clock was ticking,” Maryanne said. “It’s time to let somebody else enjoy it. It is meant to be shared.”

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