When Indianapolis experienced remarkable growth in the 1980s, the suburban areas flourished, too. That meant change – change that created challenges and opportunities.
In 1989, some dedicated community servants with a shared a desire to improve cultural and educational opportunities, established the Pride and Progress Foundation of Greater Greenwood. Organizers soon realized broadening their efforts would deliver greater benefits, so in 1991 they reorganized and our Johnson County Community Foundation (JCCF) became a reality.
In the early days, we managed a few dozen funds and $1 million in assets. Today our team oversees more than 300 funds valued at more than $25 million.
We treat this responsibility with profound respect for our founders who acted on a shared a vision and our current investors who believe we must continue working together for the ongoing betterment of our Johnson County community.
About the house
The heart of our home is philanthropy.
The JCCF home was built in 1903 by Walter Washington Aikens, the founder and publisher of the Franklin Evening Star newspaper.
The architecture is a mix of classical revival and craftsman. Original touches remain intact including gas and electrical features, hardwood floors with original nails, and stained and leaded glass. As you look at the glass framing at the main entrance, you will see W.W. Aikens’ initials worked into the design.
- The main dining hall once hosted the marriage of the Aikens’ daughter Esther in November 1921.
- The downstairs room on the northeast corner served as the parlor.
- Directly across the hall on the southeast corner was an intimate family gathering area.
- The original kitchen was in the area where the restrooms stand today.
- As you go upstairs, you will notice two staircases, the servants used the narrower set.
The upstairs is divided into four main rooms.
- The room on the northeast corner was daughters Esther and Mary’s bedroom.
- The room on the southeast corner with a fireplace was Walter and Louise’s bedroom with a small nursery attached.
- The room on the southwest corner was the bedroom for the Aikens’ only son James.
- The center room was a sitting area with a pair of rocking chairs.
- The third floor is a full attic with wood floors where the Aikens likely stored personal items.
Long live the house
In a time when better is often associated with new, the revitalized historic house we call the Foundation’s home stands as a testimony to those who appreciate our county heritage. It proves that dedication sustains and this landmark has stood the test of time.
The stately home was built in 1903 by Walter Washington Aikens, the founder and publisher of the Franklin Evening Star and the house remained with the Aikens’ family until Esther’s death in 1971.
- 1971 – 1979: Robert Todd, Esther’s husband, lived in the home until his passing in 1979.
- 1979 – 1984: Carl and Beatrice Payton purchased the home and operated The Manor, a seafood restaurant. The Paytons added the front drive and restaurant kitchen.
- 1984 - 1996: Tim and Patty Kegley owned the Manor, operated Heiskell’s Country Manor Restaurant and lived upstairs with their children.
- 1996: The Kegleys sold the property to the Perrys, but it reverted to the Kegleys when the Perry’s business closed.
- 2001: The Kegleys sold the property to the Johnson County Community Foundation on December 27, 2001, and gifted many of the home’s furnishings and commercial equipment.
About the people
Walter Washington Aikens was born on October 18, 1860 in Newark, Ohio. He began his journalism career as a printer’s devil at age 13 and a salary of $13 per year for the Newark Advocate. After a string of other newspaper jobs took him to Kentucky, Indiana and Colorado, he returned to Ohio where he married Louise Ackerman on November 20, 1883. In 1884, the Aikens moved to Shelbyville, Indiana, when Walter took a job as a printer for a weekly publication. Later that year, he came to Franklin to help a Franklin College professor and student produce the Chemical Review, a technical publication printed in a small classroom. On July 13, 1885, Aikens produced the first issue of Franklin Evening Star in that same classroom. Walter Aikens ran the paper for 62 years until one year before his death on June 21, 1948.
Louise Barbara Ackerman, Walter’s wife, was born on November 18, 1856 in Newark, Ohio. She was responsible for the building of the first commercial greenhouse in Franklin and was the great woman behind the man of the Franklin Evening Star. Mrs. Aikens died in 1954 at the age of 97.
Mr. and Mrs. Aikens had three children, Esther, Mary and James. Unfortunately, both Mary and James died in their childhood. Esther married Robert Todd and lived with him in the family home until her death in 1971. Robert Todd died eight years later in 1979.
Mr. and Mrs. Todd were responsible for carrying the Star in its senior days and generously contributed to help build the Todd-Aikens Center at Johnson Memorial Hospital which, in their words, was a transitional place for those between hospital and home. The Todds were active members of the First Presbyterian Church and multiple civic, charitable and fraternal organizations.