The Historic Carpenter House
The Willard Carpenter Home, located at 405 Carpenter Street, houses the offices and studios of WNIN TV and WNIN 88.3 FM.
The Willard Carpenter mansion is one of the two landmarks that are recognized as memorials to one of the city's most aggressive and influential pioneers, philanthropist Willard Carpenter. The other is Willard Library which he built, endowed and gave to the people of the area.
Construction began in 1848 on the Carpenter home and was completed in 1849. The home is one of the finest examples of pure Georgian architecture in this area. Built of brick and stone, it features a balanced facade and a classic facade over the entrance door. Its cellar walls are massive stone blocks. The outer walls of this home are solid brick. Originally, there were long, wide, two-storied porches on either side of the mansion behind the drawing rooms and filling the space of the rear portion of the house which is narrower than the front. Lawns and gardens were spacious as they were surrounded by acres of open space. Large stables and carriage houses were at the rear of the estate, with quarters for grooms and gardeners.
Indiana limestone was cut by hand to resemble stone. All materials except the bricks were brought in from Lawrenceburg, IN. The rooms have exceptionally massive baseboards of molded woodwork, and interior shutters, divided like Dutch doors, were at each window. Together with massive brick and stone exterior walls, they kept the rooms surprisingly cool during the hot Evansville summers. The wide central hall led to a cross hall behind what were a spacious drawing room and library. There were two main stairways, ascending to the second story, one in each end of the cross hall. Four large bedrooms were on the second floor. A single stairway led to the third story. Italian marble was purchased for the fireplaces which were kept burning constantly during the cold months as the house had no central heating. All furnishings for the home were purchased in Europe of New York City.
The hard times of the Depression years were to see the fine old home pass from Carpenter hands. The property was purchased by Funkhouser American Legion Post for a reputed amount of $3500. In 1956, they sold the property to WTVW/TV7. The TV station occupied the gymnasium (built by the American Legion) but had no use for the mansion. Owners, with reluctance, announced their plan to have it demolished. However, fate was again kind to the aged but sturdy structure. Upon purchasing the mansion in 1974, Medco announced plans to restore the home to as close to its original condition as possible.
WTVW moved to its strikingly modern quarters on the site of the Carpenter School for which Mr. Carpenter had contributed both the land and the money. The gymnasium came down to provide off street parking. The old home was, indeed, restored. Medco stayed in the home until 1985 when it was purchased by WNIN.
The Carpenter House is listed among the National Register of Historic Places.