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Last Link To Orleans' Stetson House Dies

Last updated on Wednesday, May 8, 2013

(ORLEANS) - The Orleans community’s last direct link to the town’s famed Stetson House, Elizabeth Stetson Allen, has died at the age of 106.

Roger Moon of the Times-Mail reports that Allen, who lived in Bethesda, Md., was the granddaughter of the Hoosier Countess Elizabeth (Libby) Shindler Stetson and the great-granddaughter of Mary Ann Walker Shindler (Elizabeth's mother), who once called Orleans home.

The Stetson house is known locally as "The House that Hats Built" or as "The Storybook House." It is on the east side of Orleans on State Road 337 and was erected in the late 1800s. Elizabeth (Libby) Shindler had grown up in Orleans, and, upon leaving there as a young girl, met and married John B. Stetson of the Stetson hat company. (After his death, she married the Crown Prince of Portugal, which gave her the title of countess).

Stetson had the pre-cut home shipped to Orleans as a wedding gift of sorts and, for a period, it was occupied by Libby's parents, Benoni and Mary A. Schindler.

Robert Henderson, the Orleans clerk-treasurer and a local history enthusiast, received word of Allen's death from her son Lewis Allen of Pennsylvania.

The house is regarded as one of the first -- if not the earliest -- pre-fabricated houses in the Midwest. Today the house is the private home of Betty Foutch.

Henderson related that Elizabeth Allen was in all likelihood the last living person to have personally known the countess, having been 22 when her renowned grandmother died in the late 1920s.

Saving Historic Orange County, in recent years, conducted one of its meeting there, and Foutch provided a guided tour of the home.

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