In 1851, a decade before the Confederate States Army shelled Ft. Sumter to ignite the Civil War, President Millard Fillmore granted a land patent to Dr. George P. Story. Thus began the “storied” history of a Hoosier town which still bears his name.
In its heyday as a logging and farming community before the Great Depression, Story Indiana boasted two general stores, a nondenominational church, a one-room schoolhouse, a grain mill, a sawmill, a slaughterhouse, a blacksmith’s forge, a post office, Dr. Story’s medical office and several homes. Like so many rural communities, Story hemorrhaged people in the years following the Great Depression. However, the town refused to die.
Story’s survival—indeed it’s success—may be attributed to a sensible repurposing in the 1980’s. Today, the entire town is a destination country inn, a pleasant 75-minute drive from three urban centers: Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. The town of Story and the Story Inn are one and the same. It stands as an example of appropriate rural development.
Today, Story is perhaps the best-preserved example of a 19th century midwestern small town in existence. Just this month, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, where it stands company with iconic locations like Ft. Sumter.
Set amidst the woods of Brown County State Park and the Hoosier National Forest, the Story Inn is the oldest country inn in the state. Its destination restaurant was once a general store which sold Nehi sodas and pickled sausages. In those days, visitors who wanted a drink of water could do so from the cup hanging from the hand pump. And no, it didn’t get washed in between customers.
Change is sometimes for the better. The town was electrified in 1949. Municipal water arrived two decades later, enabling the town’s outdoor privies to be retired for good. Customers may still get free water at the Story Inn, but under far more sanitary conditions.
They may also purchase more interesting beverages. Downstairs in the original basement, dating back to the 1800’s, is The Still, Story’s tavern. It is so named because, well, that was one of the major businesses in Brown County until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. For three consecutive years, the Story Inn has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Story’s Old General Store building, the crown jewel of this historic town with its long-retired Standard Oil Crown gas pumps out front, is now a celebrated gourmet restaurant featuring locally-grown or sourced produce, meats, cheeses and eggs. The second floor of the Old General Store (briefly a Studebaker buggy factory in the 1920’s) has been renovated into four quaint bed & breakfast accommodations notable for their year-round occupant, the “Blue Lady,” an innocuous apparition with flowing white robes (or a blue dress as accounts from startled observers differs) whose presence has been recorded in guest books since the 1980’s. The Treaty House, the Alra Wheeler homestead, the Carriage House, the Old Mill, and other historic buildings around town have each been tastefully and authentically renovated or restored into guest cottages, many with kitchenettes and hot tubs.
The Story Inn also serves as a lovely venue for weddings and other private events and hosts both the widely attended Indiana Wine Fair and the National Maple Syrup Festival. These events and many others take place in the large meadow behind Story’s circa 1885 dairy barn, now equipped with restrooms, central heating and air-conditioning. Talk about contented cows.
Nature has reclaimed most of Brown County, and today the area surrounding Story is part of Brown County State Park and the Hoosier National Forest. Horsemen ride the “E” Trail from the state park into Story, where they can hitch up their horses and grab a beer and burger. The horses also are offered libations, albeit non-alcoholic ones in the form of fresh water in the troughs set near the hitching posts. On fall weekends, one often sees more horses than cars in Story, Indiana.
NOW HERE’S THE REAL NEWS: THE ENTIRE 17.4 ACRE TOWN HAS BEEN LISTED FOR SALE AT $3.8M. F.C. Tucker Company in Bloomington made the announcement on March 25.
The Story Inn’s majority owner, Rick Hofstetter, bought the entire town more than 20 years ago, and seeks a seamless generational transition. He wishes to see this 168 year-old village endure for generations to come.
The Story Inn will continue it business as it has in the past, under current management. “Macy’s doesn’t own the mall”, Hofstetter says. “We shouldn’t own the town.”
Need to know more? Contact David Martin, F.C. Tucker Company, Inc. at firstname.lastname@example.org.