This impressive residence in Kokomo, Indiana was built by Monroe Seiberling, a businessman who spent several years in the city. Seiberling came to the area to open the Kokomo Strawboard Company, which manufactured hat and shoeboxes. Within six months, however, he had sold the business to open the Diamond Plate Glass company, the largest and most technologically advanced glass factory in the country.
Construction of this three-story Victorian mansion began in October 1889. It cost $50,000—an outlandish sum at the time—and took two years to complete. A triumph of Neo-Jacobean and Romanesque-Revival architectural style, the house was located in the Old Silk Stocking Historic District. Seiberling reportedly browsed the architect’s portfolio book and picked out all the specific details he wanted, which included a different type of wood in every room. The wood carving in the house is astonishing: some of the floors feature highly decorated friezes such as florals and checkerboards, and even the door hinges are elaborately carved.
A large natural gas reserve was discovered in the region in the 1880s, and the town capitalized on their newly-discovered natural resource by offering free land and gas supply to anyone who opened a factory in the town. Unfortunately, the gas supply, which was thought to be essentially limitless, was quickly depleted. The technology to reach the deepest wells wasn’t available, and mismanagement rendered them all but unusable. By 1902, the gas boom had ended. As their prospects in Kokomo waned, the Seiberlings moved to Peoria, Illinois, in 1895. Seiberling opened up other companies in Peoria, as well as another glass plant in Ottawa, Illinois.
The house changed hands multiple times. In 1945, Indiana University opened a Kokomo extension center, but it quickly outgrew its existing structure, and the university purchased the Seiberling mansion. It was used for several years, but was then vacated, and sat empty for seven years before the university turned the property over to Howard County for use as a house museum. As some of the original stained glass was destroyed by vandals, the Kokomo Opalescent Art Glass company, replaced it with period-accurate materials. During renovation, the original icebox was discovered behind drywall panels, and is now on display. The house is now owned by the Howard County Historical Society and serves as the main outpost of the Howard County Historical Museum.
Know Before You Go
The Seiberling Mansion is open between February and December, Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students or those under 18.