Finding the Fairmount House

The Fairmount House is a standout in a town full of hundreds of beautiful historic homes, and we discovered it quite by chance.

We were living in Maryland, newly retired, with the dream of finding a historic home that still had much of its original character. Our quest became a treasure hunt, lasting more than two years with trips to many states.

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Along the way, we discovered magnificent houses, but they were often lone survivors in fading towns. Then, after looking at a home in Indiana near the Ohio River, we decided to take the river road to the next bridge. That's when we arrived in Madison. 

As we drove through the town, we were surprised at every turn. There was a bustling Main Street surrounded by blocks and blocks of historic homes as well as a beautiful walk along the river front. After exploring the downtown, we stopped the car and said, "This is it!" We had found the town, now it was just a matter of locating the right house. 


For two years, workmen labored to construct Fairmount from a rich mixture of fine materials: hefty cut stones for the foundation, hand pressed brick highlighted with bands of white limestone, third story balconies on highly decorative gable ends, a steep slate roof topped with terracotta roof caps and elaborate chimneys.  

Inside, the main rooms were trimmed in different types of wood: oak, walnut, and butternut, all with inlaid floors, cherry doors, and three fireplaces; two with carrara marble mantels and one carved from butternut. In a town full of amazing architecturally significant homes, this is only one of three Queen Anne - Eastlake style residences.

When we returned to Maryland, we combed through the local real estate sites. That's when we first saw the Fairmount House. We were immediately taken by its striking exterior and picturesque setting. Even better, the interior of the house was largely untouched. We finally found the right house in the right town.

Soon after moving in, we learned more about the home's history. In 1870, a successful young lumber baron, Aurelius Gibson, engaged an architect from Boston, George Rand, to design a residence on a hilltop overlooking the river. 


Fairmount House 1930s

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Fairmount House 1950s

In 1930, a prominent local businessman, Bob Yunker and his new bride Nell, became the second owners. Shortly after WWII, the couple hired Stratton Hammon, a well-known Louisville architect, to update the residence.

The most striking change Hammon made was to double the size of the living room with a south wall of glass to give the Yunkers a beautiful armchair view of the Ohio River valley. Outside he removed the front porch and wrapped the west and south exteriors of the home with wide and accommodating upper and lower patios framed with a decorative wrought iron railing. 

During our time here, we have enjoyed continuing the tradition of carefully updating the house while honoring its original design. 

In 2013, we were awarded the Dorothy Inglis Reindollar Preservation Award from Historic Madison, Inc. for our restoration efforts. We invite you to view the photos to see more of the home and grounds. We will be happy to answer any questions, provide additional information, and set up an appointment for you to see the home. If you are intrigued by what you see, this may be the next grand adventure in your life just as it has been in ours.   

    Betsy Lyman and Gary Valen