By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — With an eye on creating a historical experience, the Friends of Mounds State Park have been restoring the Bronnenberg House since 2005. Due to a recent generous long-term loan from Connor Prairie, the entire house (built in the 1840s) is well-appointed with period-appropriate furniture.
“A lot of the things that were on display before the loan were not period appropriate, they were just old,” said Carol Arena, publicist for the organization. “One of the houses at Connor Prairie was an 1896 home and they changed it to an 1840s house, so they didn’t need this furniture. We have them on indefinite loan.”
“Connor Prairie came through big time for us,” said Tom Parker, vice president. “We want to give them a lot of credit for this.”
Frederick Bronnenberg Sr. traveled to the United States from Germany in 1791 at the tender age of 16. After marrying Barbara, the couple settled in Madison County around 1820 and had a total of 13 children.
Their son, Frederick Jr., built the Federal-style Bronnenberg house in the 1840s. Later additions were made in the rear of the home to retain the architectural fashion, which includes a cube shape, proportional spacing between windows, and strong horizontal lines.
His son, Ransom Bronnenberg, moved into the home in 1869 and likely added a second-story room with its own private staircase. Frederick, III, created the second addition around 1896 and is rumored to have leased 40 acres to the Union Traction Company in 1905.
This lease was to expand Mounds Amusement Park, which operated from 1897 to 1929.
Mounds State Park born
After the property was purchased by the Historical Society and given to the state of Indiana in 1930, the state park was born. The Bronnenberg home then became the lodgings of the park superintendent until the late 1950s.
In the mid-1970s, naturalists began using the home for activities until it fell into disrepair. Just when some were calling to raze the structure, the Friends of Mounds State Park stepped in to restore the historic home.
“The house is worth saving because it is a jewel in Madison County, like the Paramount,” said Parker. “It’s something that would have been a shame to lose. It’s one of those landmarks that is important and needed to be saved.”
From repairing water damage from a leaking roof (which the state replaced in 2012) to removing tract lighting to painting over camouflage walls to installing drywall to mudding, the Friends have worked tirelessly to create an experience.
“So many younger people don’t comprehend how people used to live,” said Arena. “I was working in here one day and some young women came in and asked me what this quilt frame was. I started to explain and then realized they didn’t even know what a quilt was.”
“This is a legacy to leave for future generations,” said Nancy Hulse, member. “It’s great to see all the kids on the buses and walking the trails. Now on a field trip, they will be able to walk through the house, too.”
“Part of our bylaws is to educate the public,” said Parker. “We are here to assist the naturalist, Steve Thompson, and help with the children’s programs. This house is not all we do; we also maintain all the gardens.”
Despite the progress the Friends have made on the house, they are not finished. One last bedroom, some outdoor repairs and restoration of the spring house remain on the to-do list. While they donate man-hours and talent, materials are costly and they are in need of donations.
Since the beginning of the organization in 2005, they have raised $23,000 and reinvested every cent into the park. Donations to the Friends stays within the park and designations for the Bronnenberg House are used specifically for that purpose.
Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bronnenberg Open House When: Sunday, June 23, 1 to 4 p.m. Regular business hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. Break-out box (outhouse): The outhouse and wood shed are newly constructed from wood salvaged from a 100-year-old barn to comply with the standards of the National Register of Historic Places. Cutlines: 4: In the dining room, the table, chairs and buffets from Connor Prairie accent the built-in china cabinets. 13: This antique stove, donated by Connor Prairie, sets the tone in the kitchen. 22: The couch and chairs in the parlor are on long-term loan from an anonymous local donor 24: This piano in the parlor sends visitors back in time. 34: The Bronnenberg House has been restored by the Friends of Mounds State Park. 51: Tom Parker, Diana Priest, Carol Arena, Nancy Hulse, Phil Hallenback and Steve Thompson are in the wood shed, despite all their hard work. 39 or 43: Steve Thompson, Tom Parker, Phil Hallenback, Diana Priest, Nancy Hulse and Carol Arena have worked hard to create an educational experience.