December 9, 2018
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With Open Doors

A custom American Gothic — the owner’s “Church House” — along the river in Newburgh goes on the market
For the full home feature, pick up a copy of the September/October 2015 Evansville Living.

The house that sits on 2.4 acres at 619 E. Jennings St. in Newburgh, Indiana, is the result of a plan John and Jane Schroeder started together, but only one of them could witness completed. John passed away Aug. 16, 2000, but Jane went on to continue their vision. Sitting on a hill overlooking the Ohio River, the home, built in the style of American Gothic Revival architecture with a steeply pitched roof and pointed arch-windows, came to life when Jane and John — a cofounder of the Evansville computer consulting company, Keller-Schroeder Associates — began the search for a new home in 1996.

At the time, the couple lived on S. Stockwell Road in a home they built. Jane — a Reitz High School graduate and University of Evansville alumna — says her husband suggested finding a nicer, larger home to welcome their children, Kristen and Kyle, and their growing families. After researching close to 100 separate properties, the Schroeders decided to pursue a different route.

“John wanted to build a church house or try to find an old church to remodel, like people restore old school buildings and live in them,” says Jane.

Finding the property at Jennings Street where they would build their “church house” was a coincidence of sorts. It was a day in August 1997, Jane notes, when the couple spotted a “For Sale” sign on the property overlooking the Ohio River just east of downtown Newburgh. On a whim, she says John drove down Jennings Street until they found the driveway of the 1940s Bedford stone home and met with the owner.

“John walked to the window overlooking the river view and exclaimed, ‘Oh babe, this is it!’” says Jane.

The property was being auctioned off in less than a week and the couple knew they would have to make a quick decision. They contacted a friend and real estate agent and after a few discussions, the Schroeders bought the property on Aug. 21, 1997.

Jane began researching home designs, looking for inspiration in popular magazines. When she found an American Gothic Style home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, pictured in a July 1995 issue of “Victoria – Our Summer Journal” published in New York, she says John fell in love with the idea.

One of his main objectives with the home, she says, was to enjoy a good view of the river from any angle. A year after buying the property, the Schroeders met with a builder to begin the design process, but after six months, the home still had not been drafted. It was suggested to the couple they meet with builder Don Jost, who was willing to meet with them and HG McCullough Designers’ Paul Buchannan.

“They were hand in glove,” says Jane. “Don never built anything unless McCullough designed it.”

It wouldn’t be until March 29, 2000, that construction on the Schroeders’ home began when a crew razed the Bedford stone home. Jane and John were wrapped up in excitement about their new home, designing aspects of the house and helping to clear the property. Two months later, John became very ill and the couple learned he was in stage four of liver cancer. He was given only weeks to live.

“His wish was for me to finish it and to live in it,” says Jane.

Work on the home continued, she says as she and her family began to do whatever they could to make John comfortable. A trip was planned to Oasis of Hope, a cancer treatment hospital in Mexico, to help John feel better, Jane says, but before the family left, John wanted to see the house. Standing in one of the guest bedrooms on the second floor, with only the studs of the house frame up, Jane says John looked up at the sky and said, “Guys, this is my last trip up here.”

Eleven weeks after his diagnosis, John passed away.

Three months later, Jane returned to the building site. With her children — who moved back to Evansville with their families temporarily — she worked with the builders and finished the home, a two-story, three-bedroom, four and half-bath masterpiece. It would be 20 months after John's death before Jane moved in and for an entire year, she lived with only the necessities — a card table, four chairs, washer, dryer, stove, bed, etc. — not knowing if she could continue to live in the home.

“Little by little I decided then, OK, he wanted a church house,” she says. “So I began furnishing it in a ‘church house’ style.”

Jane then worked on John’s second wish — to live in the home if she could. For 12 years, she has done just that, giving character to the home she planned with her husband. Now, at this time in her life, Jane says she feels it’s time to move to the next chapter. After discussions with her children, she has decided to sell the home.

John Pickens with Berkshire Hathaway is working with Jane on marketing the property. Though it is very personalized and completely unique to the area, Pickens feels the home — which also is being sold with two additional vacant lots next to it — will appeal to many different types of homeowners.

“Even though there is a small market for an extremely sophisticated piece of property in Evansville, the market is there,” he says. “We just have to reach that market, make sure people are aware of what is there.”

Currently, Pickens is listing Jane’s home not only in local outlets, but in Berkshire Hathaway’s Prestige Homes magazine, which has a national and international reach.

“It’s definitely a ‘wow’ house. You have to absorb it; you can’t possibly walk through in one visit and see everything. Every time I go I see something different.”

The 8,315-square-foot home not only has a white exterior, but every interior room also is painted white. Many of Jane’s furniture and decorative pieces are white as well.

“At that time, with the freshness of grief, my life was not very colorful and making all the decision was difficult. So I thought I’ll just do everything in white and add color later,” she says. “Then I got used to it and I loved it.”

Nearly every furnishing and detail of the home is custom made. There are so many intricate pieces that ordain the rooms, Pickens’ description rings true; it is hard to view each of them in one visit. Accompanying her “church” theme is the use of bare light bulbs throughout the home. A grand chandelier hanging over the front room — or as Jane calls the Sanctuary — consists of bare light bulbs with small wings attached and was made in Germany. In a half-bath behind her laundry room, a large light bulb mirror is displayed and was purchased from the former Koressel Glass Company.

“Again, a lot of that has to do with the Lord; He’s the light of the world. Some of my interested also stemmed from something I saw in a Martha Stewart catalog with the bare light bulbs, so I thought we’re just going to do that throughout,” Jane says.

The Gothic arch windows display another theme in the home — intricate designs or stained glass accents, also completed by Koressel Glass. The home holds three full stained glass windows — one in the downstairs half bath and the other two in the master suite. The window display in the hallway leading to the master suite was acquired by Jane’s son Kyle from the Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky.

In the first floor solarium, the top of the windows showcase etchings of nature. The windows of the guest bedroom directly above it — known as the swing room, named for the two swings that hang from the ceiling — are etched with Celtic knots at the top.

The home and property also feature many murals. Dakri Sinclair (featured in “New Beginnings”) painted whimsical scenes from a children’s book in the playroom on the second floor. She also is the creator of many paintings throughout the home and a mural of a baptism in the first floor solarium. Local artist Judi Powers painted Christian murals along an outdoor concrete retaining wall leading to Jane’s lower garage.

Though it was built as a “church house,” with its Eastern white pine wooden floors, pew-bench seating in the Sanctuary, white walls, and religious styling, the home is cozy with love and memories.

“John and I didn’t plan the home for the purpose of presenting it on public house tours or to show off. We did it to share with our family and close friends,” says Jane. “The doors have always been open. Now I am emotionally ready to share it publicly so that another family may open its doors and make memories of their own.”

Click here for more information about the Schroeder home.

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