- By Eric C. Rodenberg
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Featuring a wrought iron fence – in a Greek Key pattern – that formerly graced the Vanderburgh County’s courthouse, the Roach-Gross-Decker house in the Riverside Historic District of this Ohio River city contains a lot of surprises.
Originally built in 1873, the classic Italianate-style home has two parlors with two-bay gabled windows in the front, and another bay window to the side. There are six fireplaces in the house, including the parlor’s marble mantel that dates from the construction of the house.
The structure is considered one of the “pioneer” homes in Evansville, built for John J. Roach who opened the first wholesale “hat house” in downtown Evansville, according to information provided by Dennis M. Au, a retired Historic Preservation Officer with the City of Evansville. Roach was the owner of Roach and Torrian, wholesale dealers in hats, caps, straw goods and ladies’ furs. Roach lived in the home for nearly a decade, before Nathaniel Gross took out a mortgage from Camilla P. Roach for $2,600 in 1882 – a princely sum in the day.
In 1883, the Evansville City Directories lists Nathaniel Gross, a “dealer in ready-made clothing and gents’ furnishing goods.” Gross and his wife, Elizabeth, are listed as living in the house until 1920. Gross was a resident of the city for 75 years, dying at the age of 92. He was accorded the headline an “aged pioneer” by the Evansville Courier upon his death. Gross expanded his trade throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and other states, according to the 1927 Courier story.
It was subsequently bought by the Clement Decker family in the 1960s, and more recently was owned by Judy Wargel, a daughter.
“Retiring to the home from careers in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Wargel spent years painstakingly restoring the home to much of its original grandeur,” said Andrew Wilson, president and principal auctioneer of William Wilson Auction Realty.
Wilson, in settling the Robert J. Wargel Family Trust, is accepting sealed bids for the real estate until Sept. 24 at noon. But he’s also selling a vast collection of “attic finds,” comprised of antique architectural items, lighting, a doll collection, books, bird watching equipment, ephemera and more.
“The home has been in the family for multiple generations, so the attic contains items stored there for more than 100 years,” Wilson said.
The personal property will be sold online only via Wilson’s website, with the closing date of Sept. 26. There are nearly 400 lots in the sale.
Found in the attic is a Riviere Studio green slag glass and bronze lamp, about 68-inches tall, with a 24-inch octagon shade and hexagon base; a 16 inch by 24 inch oil on canvas of a dog confronting baby chicks in his water bowl titled The Intruders by Herbert William Weekes (English, 1841-1914); a primitive 12-tin pie safe; and vintage hand tools, bench and bed tray.
Estate jewelry includes a 14k yellow and 2.04 carat diamond vintage-style ring; an 18k yellow gold, platinum and 3.01 carat diamond ring; and a 14k yellow gold and 2.04 diamond pendant.
A preview date for the real estate and personal property is scheduled for Sept. 23 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.