St. Louis World’s Fair
The Mansion was originally the State of Connecticut building at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Connecticut chose architect Edward T. Hapgood to design the building. The state wanted their pavilion to represent a country gentleman’s home, and the architect patterned the building after the 1820 Sigourney Mansion in Hartford. Many components were taken from the 1760 Hubbard-Slater Mansion in Norwich including the front entryway, various interior columns, and door capitals.
The mansion was designed and built to be moved after the World’s Fair. It was dismantled and moved to Lafayette, Indiana, immediately after the Fair by Mr. and Mrs.William Potter and became their personal residence. There are only 15 known buildings surviving from the Fair, and the Haan Mansion is most true to its original design and purpose of the 13 buildings removed from the grounds.
The mansion has three above ground floors and a full basement totaling 15,000 square feet. It also includes seven fireplaces and 4 1/2 baths.
The Accidental Museum
Bob and Ellie Haan purchased the mansion, then known as the Potter Mansion, in 1984, as their personal residence, where they raised their three sons. In 1992, they started an intensive restoration of the building, and at the same time, began amassing this amazing collection of Indiana art. After they realized they had a museum quality art collection, they decided to upgrade their antique furniture to the best of American furniture, mostly from the Renaissance Revival period, 1860-1890.
In 2013, while they still lived in the building, they started offering tours as the Haan Museum. In 2014, they decided to enhance the museum with ceramics by Indiana artists. By the end of the year, they had an amazing collection of major ceramic pieces, many by currently active and retired professors.
2015 was the year they donated the real estate to the non-profit Haan Museum of Indiana Art they had created, and moved to a new home. The museum is run by a Board of Directors, a small staff, and several volunteers including the Haans. Most of the contents are still owned by the Haans, and will be donated to the Museum as the IRS rules allow.
When the Haans bought the mansion, there was no hint that they would end up creating a museum. Their interests and talents drove them step-by-step in that direction over a period of 25 years, until they realized they were living in a museum and that the art, ceramics, and furniture should be shared with the public.