The history of Nicholson-Rand House: Part I

By Rick Hinton

This is the story of a house. When David Nicholson began construction of his home on the southwest side of Indianapolis in 1870, he most likely never entertained a notion it would still be standing 148 years later. Or never imagined the stories associated with it…

Scots-born stonemason Nicholson was a contractor whose current project involved the new Marion County Courthouse in Indianapolis. At the same time, he began construction of his own residence just south of the city. His wife Marion had died in 1870, yet he quickly remarried, working on their residence, which turned into six years in the making. The Victorian Gothic mansion held many traces of his handiwork: intricate scroll work, decorated rafter tails and multiple dormer windows; touches still there today. Yet, they had only three years in the house; they divorced and the home was sold to Allison Remy in 1879. Remy, a Marion County Commissioner, most likely 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 John 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 house, the move, the figure. (Photo by Mike Fender)

The Rands lived there for the rest of their lives. Upon their death, daughter Florence (Rand) Beckett inherited the property in 1926. She had her own home, residing on a 600-acre farm nearby. She rented it out from the late 1920s thru the 1950s. In the latter 1950s, the property was donated to DePauw University, which 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. Eventually it was sold once more to a commercial developer with plans to raze it. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana stepped in and acquired the home for preservation purposes, with the condition that it would have to be moved.

This 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 short journey from West Southport Road to a corner at Mills and Mann Roads. The event included a parade of workers, police officers, the press and curious onlookers. While in transit, photographer Mike Fender thought he had seen a figure in an upstairs window but duty called as he continued to snap pictures. The photo that appeared in the paper the next morning shocked many readers, even Fender himself: the image of a little girl with blond hair and wearing a blue dress, staring out of the center second story window at the workers below!

Then the stories started….