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Two thirsty cowboys descend from a winding forest trail and hitch their horses to a post. They saunter about 100 paces to the tavern to grab a beer, where a tattooed bartender is watching the only TV in town, and Patsy Cline’s voice drifts from the stereo. An elderly couple enjoys a post-lunch stroll in the garden, and in the distance, the high-pitched whine of a table saw means the handyman is hard at work, as usual.

story inn Story Inn owner Rick Hofstetter. (IL photo/Jenny Montgomery)

This is life in Story, a tiny patch of paradise that began as a logging town in 1850. By the time of the Great Depression, the village had begun to fade away, its residents leaving in search of new opportunities. Throughout the years, people tried unsuccessfully to find a new purpose for this place. But in 1999, attorney Rick Hofstetter bought the property and began transforming the cluster of aging buildings into one of Brown County’s most unusual tourist destinations.

Rooms and boards

Story’s main building – the Story Inn – is home to a restaurant, four upstairs guest rooms, and a tavern. Except for the addition of walk-out decks upstairs, the inn looks unchanged from 1916, when it was rebuilt following a fire.

“Any time that we add a building here, it’s functional and it fits the architecture,” he said.

Story has 14 guestrooms among eight buildings. From the inn’s “Blue Lady” room, where some guests have claimed to see a ghost, to the Treaty House, with its private hot tub, each room has its own character.

“No two are alike – they’re all different,” Hofstetter said. “The one thing that they have in common is that there’s no phones, no clocks, no radios, and no TVs.”

StoryInFactbox.gifAir-conditioning, indoor plumbing, and electricity, however, are standard amenities, even if not historically accurate.

Hofstetter and his wife, Angela, live on the property and share their home with three galloping, slobbering Great Danes who are as friendly as they are large. Since moving here, the Hofstetters have lived in three different buildings on the property. The first was The Old Mill Loft, which is the only room that has been renovated, rather than restored to its original state (because people don’t want to sleep in a dusty loft, Hofstetter said). The loft is now a relaxing guest room with vaulted ceilings and an open floor plan. A 250-gallon horse trough serves as a bath tub, and the room has a shower, for the less adventurous guest.

“We built this completely out of native lumber,” Hofstetter said. “Now, when I say native lumber, I mean native lumber that came from Story.” He explained that the trees were logged from a patch of land cleared for attorney Greg Garrison, who is building a large cabin that will house four more guestrooms. “And this is all jack pine from the Civilian Conservation Corps era – 1933 – where they planted the trees to hold the soil, but this is perfect barn wood, and they planted those trees there with the intention of giving us barn wood. Now we have it,” Hofstetter said.

Much of the wood used to create fences, replace siding, and build new structures comes from Brown County barns that have fallen into disrepair. Hofstetter used recycled barn wood to build Story’s horse barn just a few years ago, and he is pleased that the end result looks deceptively old. The barn’s 12-by-12 stalls are available for rent during summer months, for guests who need overnight accommodations for their four-hooved friends.
 

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Click here to see pictures of Story Inn.

After moving out of the loft, the Hofstetters lived in the Doc Story House, which sits on a hill overlooking the inn. While living there, they restored the blue house next to the inn, and finally settled there. Then they began restoring the Doc Story homestead, which is now a guest rental.

“It doesn’t look a whole lot different than it would’ve back in the day,” Hofstetter said. The windows and floors are all original, and Hofstetter added reproduction Victorian-era wallpaper and furniture. “This is very authentic to the 1860s,” he said.

Fresh food and drink

Story Inn’s restaurant uses fresh, local ingredients whenever possible.

“One of the things we focus on is, if we can grow it ourselves, we grow it,” Hofstetter said. “If we can’t grow it ourselves, we buy locally. If we can’t buy it locally, then we’ll just buy the best we can get our hands on, but the ingredients are very, very important.”

The dinner menu includes salmon, chicken, pork, certified natural Angus New York strip in a chanterelle cream sauce, and a vegetarian entrée, announced daily. Lunch offerings include a grilled Angus burger, made from beef supplied by Jasper’s Fischer Farms. For vegetarians, options include a grilled artichoke patty served on a croissant and a mixed field greens salad. The breakfast menu includes biscuits and gravy, made with sausage from Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange, seasoned with basil from Story Inn’s garden, and served over fresh buttermilk biscuits. Or try the banana walnut hotcakes, topped with syrup that Hofstetter orders by handwritten letter from an Amish farmer in the area.

story inn Story Inn owner Rick Hofstetter (above) converted this 250-gallon horse trough into a bathtub for one of the guestrooms. (IL photo/Jenny Montgomery)

Each month, the inn presents its Monthly Wine Dinner, which features four to five courses, made with local ingredients, each paired with a wine selection to highlight a varietal, region, winemaker, or special occasion. The dinners are $75 per person, which includes dinner, wine, tax, and gratuity. Space is limited to 30 guests, by reservation only.

The cozy cellar tavern, with recycled timber counter tops and bar stools made from tractor seats, is accessible from either the restaurant or an outdoor stairwell that connects with a patio. In 1932, this was where the Brown County sheriff confiscated a still. If you pick up a copy of Hofstetter and Jane Ammeson’s book, “Images of America – Brown County,” you can see a photo of the proud sheriff posing with his bounty. Nowadays, “We celebrate the action of yeast upon sugar here pretty much on a daily basis,” Hofstetter said.

A gathering place

The Story Inn hosts a variety of functions – weddings, family reunions, corporate retreats – and the large meadow behind the inn can hold thousands of people.

“We do have two big events a year, and one is the Indiana Wine Fair, which in 10 years has grown to be really about the largest wine event in the state,” Hofstetter said. “Believe it or not, our little place gets 5,000 people.”

story inn A weather-beaten tree swing offers a place to pause and think. (IL photo/Jenny Montgomery)

In September, Story will host the Hoosier Hops & Harvest beer-tasting festival, where visitors can sample craft beers from around the Midwest. A renovated century-old barn with a stage and 400 amps of power will showcase four bands, including Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition. Mathus was a founding member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who topped the charts in 1997 with the big-band inspired single, “Hell.”

The road to recovery

Hofstetter, a business lawyer who was on the legal team that took the financial services firm Conseco public, enjoys cracking jokes about his profession.

“It’s a 12-step process to wean yourself from being a lawyer to being a productive member of society,” he said.

Hofstetter still teaches business law classes at Butler University, where his wife is a lecturer. And on occasion, he still puts his legal skills to use, as he did when he sold Garrison six acres overlooking Story’s open field.

“I wrote three pages of restrictive covenants into the deed for him – more onerous than I have ever put in for a client, because I own this, and I want to make sure that anything that goes up there doesn’t look like a trailer,” Hofstetter said. “So no vinyl siding, no aluminum – even the gutters and soffits have to be natural materials, the stone has to be native Brown County. I gave him the architectural styles he’s allowed to build – rustic log cabin is one of them, and that’s what he chose.”

Keeping this aging 18-acre retreat up-and-running is a lot of work, Hofstetter said. He makes a 40-mile roundtrip to a Columbus hardware store almost daily, because something is always in need of repair. But for Hofstetter, there’s nowhere he’d rather be.

“This sure beats practicing law,” he said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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