723 West 4th Street
Marion, IN 46952
Open 10 am to 4 pm - Monday thru Friday.
The Hostess House is historically significant structure, not only to the people of Grant County, but to the state of Indiana. It captures the beauty and elegance of the early 1900s, and remains one of Grant County's treasures. This gracious house was built during the early part of the 20th century and was the site of many cocktail parties, dinners, and afternoon teas for invited guests. After being abandoned and vandalized in the 1940s, a group of Marion women started a community-wide effort to revitalize the structure. They named it the Hostess House - a place they could use to entertain outside their homes. The Wilson-Vaughn House is a place for people to enjoy lunch, attend weddings, cultural events, and other social gatherings. But more important, it is a vital part of Grant County's history.
The Wilson-Vaughn Hostess House was commissioned to be built by a wealthy Marion businessman who gave it to his bride as a wedding gift. That gentleman was J. Wood Wilson, who became vice president of Marion National Bank. Wilson was born in Kentucky in 1854 and came to Marion around 1888. When he met Lillian Pampell, also known as Peggy, she was a 27-year-old Wabash school teacher. Despite the 33 year age difference, the two married. For a wedding gift, Wilson in 1912 purchased a homestead at 723 W. Fourth Street, Marion, and had a mansion built for his wife. Many furnishings for this beautiful home were purchased in France, and the Orient. At one time, the sun porch off the dining room had a small fountain and built-in fish pond. And the third floor ballroom was where guests enjoyed such cultural events as musicals and Peggy reciting her own poetry and writings. It was a short romance. Wilson died in 1916, still holding his position with the bank. The young widow left for New York, often visiting her Marion mansion. When she returned to stay in 1928, it was with her second husband, Dr. John Colin Vaughn.
Vaughn led an adventuresome life. He was born in 1875 aboard his father's ship and lived at sea until he was 15. Vaughn received his education in New York while living with a relative. But Vaughn had his own ideas... After high school, he moved west to become a cowboy. When he tired of this, he went to Alaska where he became proficient in dog sledding; and later joined an expedition party above Greenland. Higher education must have been calling, because he returned to New York and in 1907 graduated from Columbia Medical School. Vaughn met Peggy when he operated on her for acute appendicitis. The two fell in love and on Oct. 2, 1926, Grant County Judge Willard Gemmill granted a marriage license to the New York surgeon and Peggy. After marrying in Grant County, it is believed they returned to New York. Vaughn retired and in 1928, they returned to Marion. Her second husband died in 1940, and Peggy died in 1949 or 1950, both in New York.
Samuel M. Plato was the gifted contractor who built the Hostess House for the Wilsons. Plato was a black businessman and owner of a construction firm who lived in the Marion area from 1902 to 1921. He built the Platonian Court Apartments at 15th and Adams streets, a structure named for him. He is also responsible for building First Baptist Church on the northwest corner of Fourth and Nebraska streets, and Second Baptist Church at 1824 S. Branson Street. During his career, Plato built about 40 post office buildings around the country. He was also awarded several defense housing contracts. Plato was born in 1882 in a one-room slave cabin in Waugh, Alabama, the son of James and Katie Plato. His father supplemented his farming income by building furniture and houses, which is where Samuel began learning construction. He attended the State University of Louisville, Ky. While there, he enrolled in the International Correspondence School at Scranton, Pa., and received his formal architectural training. He died in 1957 at the age of 75 in Louisville, Ky. He was one of the few black men in the United States to receive contracts to build defense housing and post offices.
The romance lingers on. Today the Hostess House is one of Grant County's favorite gathering places. It's a site where cultural events such as art exhibits are held. Many brides walk arm in arm with their fathers down its grand staircase to be married. And it's also a place where friends, co-workers and families enjoy lunch. While none of the original items are left, area families have donated many of the decorations that adorn this splendid home. The Hostess House membership fees are nominal and are used in the upkeep of the house. Members may sell items in the Hostess House Resale shop on consignment. Donated items are also welcome. The Hostess House may be scheduled for events such as receptions, cocktail parties, family reunions, and workshops. A full banquet menu is available, and the House staff is skilled in preparing delicious meals and hors d'oeuvres for each event. You are invited to visit and enjoy this historical landmark.