The history behind the construction and subsequent residence of the Gaffney House is shrouded in a curious sort of mystery.
The earliest documentation of 4515 Upper River Road was the sale of the raw, undeveloped land in 1910. At the time of sale, the property belonged to the 3rd generation of the Crisler family – siblings Maggie, Ella, and Jesse Crisler – with their parents and grandparents having owned it previous to that. The grandfather, Thomas Crisler, died in 1906, leaving the inheritance to the grandchildren, who paid $1 each for it in 1909.
It is assumed that the house construction commenced soon after the sale, but the documentation after the sale trails off, leaving us with many questions. Even historical experts cannot pinpoint the exact date of construction, hence the 17-year timeline used when referencing it. What is even more curious, though, is that the name of the second owner of the house – John C. Wickliffe, Jr. – is listed on the original blueprint of the house, even though the sale of the deed between him and Gaffney had not yet occurred as James Gaffney lived in the house until 1939.
What we do know about the house is that James Gaffney constructed it in an extraordinary way with detail etched into each and every brick down to the basic materials he used. With Gaffney’s preference for natural, simple, and locally-available building materials characteristic of the architectural styles that influenced the Gaffney House’s design, it comes as no surprise that one of Gaffney’s sources for construction materials came from the Brazil Clay Company across the river in Brazil, IN. While it cannot be confirmed that he used this company specifically for the Gaffney House’s construction, the Brazil Clay Company manufactured many brick products, which are featured quite heavily in the exterior of the house.
The Gaffney House was one of James Gaffney’s last large projects, as the stock market crash and subsequent onset of The Great Depression followed by World War II put a stop on most costly projects. So, while the historical construction of the Gaffney House is a titillating mystery, it is one that we are thankful for; regardless of the exact date of construction, we have been gifted with a jewel from the past that we are excited to share with all who want to explore the intricately and painstakingly-designed Gaffney House.