Editor's note: Nikki (Warner) Davis is a former La Porte resident and La Porte High School graduate.
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - For the last few years, Nikki Davis found herself daydreaming each time she drove past 1119 Lincoln Ave.
Built in 1912, it's a majestic house where former Evansville mayor and congressman John William Boehne Sr. (1856-1946) lived. It was a University of Evansville Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house for 20 years as well as a law office, and in the early 1990s it became home to the gift shop known as Rose Marie's.
Once known as Monticello, the home is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a marker in front.
The nonprofit cancer support organization Gilda's Club bought the house two years ago from Rose Marie's, but rather than move in, the group instead moved to establish its clubhouse on Vogel Road.
Davis, an artist and photographer who works in the wedding industry, had long admired the white home's look and grace and its spacious front lawn.
Upon learning Gilda's Club would not keep it, Davis approached the group.
"It was just meant to be," said Davis as she led a tour of the property that's now her family home, and, she hopes, her place of business as well.
Davis' family has rechristened the home as Historic Boehne House after receiving the blessing of Fran Boehne, the oldest living Boehne relative. Fran Boehne, granddaughter of John Boehne Sr., is in her 90s.
"We drove up to Indianapolis to meet her last summer and formally ask her permission on the name," Nikki Davis said.
The Davis family moved in about two weeks ago, and their West Side home is on the market. They contracted for major work, such as new plumbing, electric, and heat and air.
But the family is doing numerous other restoration tasks on its own - and loving it. They converted a 300-pound pocket door into dining room table, for instance.
"My husband (Bob) has been the backbone of this dream project for me," Nikki Davis said. "Bob has been the driving force for all of our renovations, and he has taken the time to let this be an all-encompassing family affair. I'm not tremendously handy, but I have done my fair share of grout clean up, painting, demo, haul-out and more. Our children (Mia, 11, and Cooper, 10) help whenever possible from mowing to actual handiwork, which has given tremendous lessons in hard work and perseverance."
Davis is claiming the home's basement as her studio, but first, it needs a sump pump, a level floor and much more. "I need something that's going to be able to take the mess I produce," she said with a laugh.
Davis also has embraced the home's historical significance to Evansville, and she started Facebook and Instagram pages called Historic Boehne House.
Fran Boehne and her nephew, Gregg Boehne, provided stories and photographs. Davis said she is seeking more information about the Moll family, which occupied the home prior to the UE fraternity and after the American Legion, another owner for a short while.
The American Legion didn't stay long because it was unable to get a liquor license.
"We have reached out UE, who has put us in touch with the TKE alum group for additional stories and information, and one of the TKE residents was one of the lawyers who went on to purchase the home to have their law firm practice out of," Davis said. "We are planning to host a Boehne family reunion at the site hopefully later this summer, and UE has taken us up on our offer to have an open house during their alum weekend this year, as well as host the TKE fraternity reunion that evening as well."
The City Council on Monday voted 9-0 to transfer the home's zoning from commercial to residential. But Davis said it's her hope the council will agree to another zoning adjustment allowing what she called "light commercial" use - more specifically, weddings.
She began coveting the house after attending her cousin's wedding in South Carolina, which took place at a similar-looking home.
"It is also literally in the heart of Evansville, which from a wedding perspective had significant meaning for me," Davis said. "The home is rich in history, and it is a beautiful piece of architecture with a considerable amount of land, given that it is in the city, that I think is unique to this area."
Davis said her goal is to have the house be an asset to its neighborhood, known as Old Towne.
"We want to love this house, bring it back to life and give the neighborhood what it needs. If we all get to do is live in it, I can live with that. But if we can do weddings and events, basically we can have so many more happy memories go through the doors."