Greenwood house remains on most endangered list

For the second year in a row, a Greenwood architectural marvel is considered one of the state’s most imperiled buildings.

The Mills House, inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, made the list of the 10 most endangered places again this year as judged by conservation group Indiana Landmarks.

The structure’s walls of floor-to-ceiling glass and use of fieldstone and other natural materials make it unique among Indiana homes.

“It’s really one of the few outstanding Wrightian-style houses in the state,” said Mark Dollase, vice president of preservation services for Indiana Landmarks. “There are one or two houses that were designed by Wright, and other examples of Wright-inspired designs around the state, but few are as well done as this one architecturally.”

Indiana Landmarks posts its 10 most endangered structures every year as a way to call attention to important but struggling buildings, bridges and other architectural features.

The organization has featured 99 historic structures since starting the list in 1991.

This year’s selections include the Rivoli Theater in Indianapolis, Camp Chesterfield and Indiana Medical History Museum in Indianapolis. Seven of the places on the list are new, while the Mills House, the McDonald House in Attica and Indiana county homes were repeated.

Noted Indianapolis architect Harry Cooler built the Mills House on Fry Road in 1955. He constructed the house for Ernie Mills, who owned a company that sold countertops and cabinetry. He wanted to use his home as a showcase for his products, Dollase said.

Cooler was inspired by the Usonian style popularized by Wright, using stone and wood native to the area, flat roofs and natural lighting with large windows.

The house is owned by longtime Greenwood lawyer and former Johnson County Prosecutor Charles Gantz, who now lives in Florida.

Without a permanent occupant, the vacant house has suffered a leaking roof and rotten soffits, which has led to structural damage, Dollase said.

“Not much has changed. There hasn’t been a lot of improvement on the site that addresses the structural issues,” he said. “The owner did put a partial roof on the roof. It’s the membrane, but it’s not tacked down on the edge of the roof. You have to wonder how much protection the property received on the investment.”

Indiana Landmarks has worked with Gantz to help him find a buyer for the house and possibly repair it, but so far it hasn’t been listed for sale, Dollase said.

The organization has an ongoing positive dialogue with Gantz about progress on the house, Dollase said. He has spoken with individuals who learned about the house last year, and are interested in buying it. Indiana Landmarks now wants to continue conversations to ensure that happens.

“It’s been quite frustrating to try and put parties together, and thus far it hasn’t happened. That’s why we felt that it warranted being back on the list,” Dollase said.

At a glance

The Mills House

Where: 944 Fry Road, Greenwood

Built: 1955

Architect: Harry Cooler

Style: Midcentury

Notable features: Floor-to-ceiling windows; use of fieldstone and other natural materials; flat roof; clerestory windows; broad, cantilevered balcony

Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered Places

1. Mills House, Greenwood

2. I.O.O.F-United Brethren Block, Huntington

3. Former First Presbyterian Church and Lafayette Building, South Bend

4. Camp Chesterfield, Chesterfield

5. McCurdy Hotel, Evansville

6. Rivoli Theater, Indianapolis

7. Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis

8. Elks Building, Bedford

9. McDonald House, Attica

10. Indiana county homes, multiple locations throughout the state

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.