Haunts and Jaunts: The Nicholson-Rand House

By Rick Hinton

The Nicholson-Rand House was saved from demolition in 1997 by being moved down the street from its original location. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. (Photo by Rick Hinton)

This is the story of a house. Houses can come in all shapes, sizes, colors and owners as they age; and… apparently in some cases, final destinations. When David Nicholson began construction of his home in 1870 on the southwest side of Indianapolis, he most likely never entertained a notion it would still be standing 148 years later. Or, would have never imagined the stories associated with it…

   Scots-born stonemason Nicholson was a contractor whose current project at that moment in Indianapolis’ history involved the construction of the new Marion County Courthouse downtown.  During the same time he began construction of his own residence to lie just south of the city. His wife Marion had died in 1870, yet Nicholson quickly remarried, working on their residence which evolved into six years in the making. The Victorian Gothic mansion held many traces of his handiwork: intricate scrollwork, decorated rafter tails, and multiple dormer windows—touches still there today. Yet, the couple had only three years in the house, divorcing and the home being sold to Allison Remy in 1879. Remy, a Marion County Commissioner, seemingly spent very little personal time there, rather renting it out to various tenants throughout the 1880s. What happened to the home during the 1890s is anyone’s guess. Most likely it sat empty. What we do know is that original builder and owner Nicholson died in 1899, and on March 28, 1903, it was acquired by John Lindsay Rand and his wife. It had become a home again!

   The Rand’s lived there for the rest of their lives. Upon their death in 1926, daughter Florence (Rand) Beckett inherited the property. She already had her own home, a 600 acre farm nearby, so consequently rented out her inheritance from the late 1920s thru the 1950s. In the latter 1950s the property was donated to DePauw University, who never really did anything with it. The once stately mansion slid into disrepair over the years: deterioration, water leaks, break-ins, vandalism, and a site for illicit activities, so they say. Eventually it was sold once more to a commercial developer with plans to raze it. Nope! Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana stepped in and acquired the home for preservation purposes, yet under the condition it would have to be moved!

   This captured moment in time is when the Nicholson-Rand Home gained its present day paranormal notoriety!

   In April of 1997 the home was hoisted upon a trailer for its half mile journey to a parcel of land purchased by Historic Landmarks at Southport and Mann Roads.  The event included a parade of workers, police officers, the press, and curious onlookers. While in transit, photographer Mike Fender from the Indianapolis Star Newspaper thought he had seen a figure in an upstairs window; couldn’t he? However, duty called as he shook it off and continued to snap pictures. The photo that appeared in the paper the next morning shocked many readers, even Fender himself. Displayed across the front page of the newspaper for all to see was the image of a little girl with blond hair, wearing a blue dress and staring out of the center second story window at the workers below as the house made its way down the road!

   Then the stories started….

 

   To be continued

The figure of a young girl can be seen in the middle upper window during the moving of the house in 1997. (Photo Submitted)