Category Archives: Brianna Waggoner

Former student discusses Culbertson Mansion history

By Brianna Waggoner

150 years ago, William Culbertson walked into the grand yellow mansion on East Main Street with his wife Cornelia. Today, that mansion retains undying hospitality and honor, as well as historical value for the city of New Albany.

According to Culbertson Mansion program developer Kaitlyn Tisdale, William Culbertson came to New Albany when he was 21 years old and started his dry-goods business with his brother, John Culbertson. Together, they sold fabrics, clothing, and leather goods, working “hand-over-fist,” as Tisdale describes.

“William Culbertson did not believe in marking up his products, and by not marking his products up, he became the most competitive dealer in town, so everyone wanted his business because they were getting the better deal,” said Tisdale.

Eventually, Culbertson became one of the wealthiest men in Indiana during the 1860s. Tisdale refers to him as a “King Midas” because of his talent in investment.

“He was a very wise investor. Anything he invested in turned to gold,” said Tisdale. “By the 1860s, he was a multimillionaire.”

Unheard of at the time, Cornelia was allowed to design the mansion despite being a woman. She was even credited as the architect of the house when it was built.

“I think it wasn’t until 60 years later that they had even socially accepted a woman to designing, so the fact that William allowed her to do that is just incredible, and that’s another reason why I’m so proud to work here,” said event coordinator Bryce Romig, a 2014 FC graduate.

While English teacher Tim Romig knows the history of the mansion, it is not his main interest.

“I’ve learned like who built it, when they built it, why they built it. I mostly like to focus on the dark history like hauntings and stuff like that,” said Mr. Romig.

The home took two full years to build. Construction began in 1867 and the Culbertson family walked into the completed mansion in 1869. Furthermore, it had heat and running water, features most homes did not have at the time.

“Nobody had running water inside their house. It had central heat in the form of a coal-burning furnace. Nobody had that. Businesses had furnaces that could put out heat. Not homes,” said Tisdale.

William Culbertson had ten kids and three wives in total, so many servants were needed to run the home efficiently.

“There was always a staff of about 12 servants here working that [were] men and women, mainly immigrants. It was a workplace and a home, so you have to keep that in mind. The Culbertsons couldn’t have lived in this house without them,” said Tisdale.

Four years after Cornelia Culbertson passed away of cholera in 1880, William married his third wife, Rebecca. In moving into the mansion, she made a few changes to the interior. Tisdale notes that she didn’t make any major architectural changes to the mansion such as tearing down walls, showing respect towards Cornelia’s original ideas when she was alive.

After William Culbertson died at age 78, the mansion switched ownership to the McDonald family and then the American Legion, where it underwent many changes, including sealing the basement floor with cement and tearing down walls. The house is now owned by the state as a historical site.

“It’s been through many a-changes but I’m really glad it’s back in the state’s hands today,” said Bryce. “I always say we want to take it right back to the very first day the Culbertsons ever set foot in here, so everything that we’re doing, we’re trying to replicate back to exactly what it would have looked like when they were here.”

Because his son and step daughter both work at the Culbertson Mansion, Mr. Romig is often able to walk through the mansion with his own tour.

“My tour, I run the New Albany Odd Walk, we go there on occasion, and we also get to go inside and tell stories,” said Mr. Romig.

Along with tours being available at the Culbertson Mansion, the haunted house event is heavily advertised as well. Bryce offers advice for those interested in participating.

“I believe standard admission for an adult is 15 dollars,” said Bryce. “You may have to wait in a line, so maybe wear a jacket because it starts to get very chilly.”

Opening day for “Literally, a Haunted House,” the annual haunted house event at the Culbertson, starts Sept. 27 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The house typically has a sign outside of every mishap at the haunted house, such as how many people left the tour early or how many people wet themselves. Bryce encourages visitors to “come with a brave face on.”


Members Initiate New Plans for the Environmental Sustainability Club

Photo by Olivia Anderson

Story by Chloe Finn and Brianna Waggoner

Senior Kylie Bostock stands at the front of AP environmental science teacher Randy Hein’s room as she grabs the attention of everyone there. Though she expected there to be at least a few interested students, she was surprised at how full the classroom looked. Desks were full of bustling people as everyone quieted down to listen to the club president.

“I think it’s fabulous to see so many people interested in the environment,” said Hein. “To see people at the grass-roots level–especially young people–it’s reassuring. It gives me hope.”

The Environmental Sustainability Club has two major projects starting this year: creating a garden and initiating a compost.

“I’m very excited about the composting program. I worked on that all summer,” said Bostock. “I was at IU for a week, and I learned about how they do composting [and] about all of their sustainability efforts, so I kind of took that knowledge down here. I can’t wait to start our transformation into a more sustainable school.”

Along with beginning projects, the Environmental Sustainability Club is adding an executive council to assist Bostock with responsibilities she previously handled on her own.

“I have been working hours every day contacting all of these different people to get this done. They’ll kind of take some of those responsibilities away from just one person or a couple people,” said Bostock. “It’ll be several grades of kids to where we can keep this club running for several years to come rather than just a group of seniors.”

Already, students are interested in joining the new council.

“I think that being put in a leadership position, I could make more of a difference than I would [to] be able to…help better the cause,” said senior Emma Kerr.

The club, which was founded late in the year, plans to carry out more action this year compared to last.

“Last year we began in the spring, so we didn’t necessarily have any government positions, and we didn’t have enough time to create any projects that we wanted to initiate,”  said Bostock.

The Environmental Sustainability Club encourages students to research and educate themselves on environmental issues and learn how they can combat those issues.

“I was in Mr. Hein’s AP environmental [science] class, and I’d always been into a more sustainable lifestyle as I was growing up,” said Bostock. “Once you learn about climate change and how our environment is being harmed every single day, it’s kind of hard not to take action, and so I looked to see what I could do and decided to start with the school.”

Through the club, students can improve upon the school’s sustainability efforts, especially for the younger children growing up now.

“Future generations are going to have to deal with what our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents have done, and we need to be the generation that stops that and starts moving in the right direction,” said Kerr.

Even outside of the club, students have chosen to take part in the community.

“This past year I have gotten very interested in sustainability, [such as] making the most out of the products that I own, and so I just wanted to get into a group of people that were going to extend that branch into different types of elements,” said senior Natalie Hartman.

Many students are interested in assisting the environment because of their own local environmental issues. Senior Garrett Martin joined the club because he believes FC lacks an earth-friendly atmosphere.

 “We’re trying as a club to take initiative and go places as groups to clean up [when] opportunities in the club arise,” said Martin. 

Senior Claire Elmore joined the club because of how poor she felt the environment might have become.

“The agriculture that we have locally, we need to watch to take care of that. Even the beach front where the Ohio River is, it’s so messed up, and the river is [very] polluted, and there’s trash surrounding all of that,” said Elmore. “I think having monthly cleanups just in that area would get the community involved.”

Although the club is relatively new still, members have already put in effort into helping the environment.

“Over the summer, we did [help] Purdue in a pollinating day and clean up at the Falls of the Ohio and things like that,” said Martin.

In creating an Environmental Sustainability Club, students hope to inspire others to help the environment around them.

“I think that people just seeing [that] educators and students are interested in living more sustainably and having resources that are shared such as a community garden…it might make other people think, or they might be able to see how that’s modeled, and then they might be able to implement that themselves,” said Hein.

Hartman hopes for the club to continue to grow through the years.

“[The club] will affect people generationally, not be one of those things where a senior starts it and senior finishes it. It’s not a one-year thing, it’s a continuous thing we’d like to keep,” said Hartman.

Martin is looking forward to share his experiences with others within the club.

“The club is important to me because it can leave a lasting impact on the school, and while we move on, we can still hand it down to the people behind us. I look forward to having a wide range of students, not just students fully in science classes, fully in that science route, because I’m not on that science route myself. So I’m just excited to bring a bunch of people together from this school; different grades, different atmospheres, and come together,” said Martin.

The club groups students together and allows them to form their own ideas.

“[I like] being in connection with people with similar ideas that I have, and it’s really nice to hear the ideas of professors and people above me that have been working in this field for a very long time, since I want to pursue a field in most likely environmental law and sciences in general. I’m really interested in it, and this is a way to educate myself so that I’m more prepared for the classes and just anything I do in college and in the future,” said Hartman.

Unfortunately, the club mostly consists of seniors, which puts it at risk of losing most of the members by next year. Kerr mentioned that if underclassmen do not join soon, the club may disappear.

“If you guys are underclassmen, definitely get your friends to sign up. We need more underclassmen [because] a lot of us are seniors, so once we graduate it might be a smaller club, unless we get underclassmen,” said Kerr.

Elmore, however, is excited to see the future of the club in the coming years.

“I look forward to hopefully seeing this community–this club–grow, like once we get divided into committees, I look forward to seeing those individual committees grow,” said Elmore. “The number one thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the student body get more involved.”

Elmore is hopeful that the club can improve the sustainability for the future generations.

“We’re the future generations, we’re the future adults, the future politicians, presidents, doctors, [and] it’s our job to watch what we’re doing now because it’s going to affect how we live later,” said Elmore.