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Off the beaten path

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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.
 

WEB EXTRA
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. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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