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Lucas home ready for 2012 Super Bowl visitors

T.J. Banes (Indystar.com) – With the big game set for Lucas Oil Stadium, Forrest and Charlotte Lucas prepare for a big bash at their other Hoosier home

Forrest and Charlotte Lucas show off the mechanical rooms of their 25,000-square-foot home as enthusiastically as their collection of Dmitri Vail celebrity portraits.

The couple, whose company's name is on the home of Super Bowl XLVI, will host more than 1,000 guests at their Hamilton County estate Wednesday.

It's exactly the kind of event the couple envisioned when they purchased the estate in October 2010. The 33.6 acres -- which include an infinity swimming pool with cascading waterfall and five buildings -- has been the site of community benefits such as the Young Presidents Organization with guest speaker former President George W. Bush, St. Vincent Hospital's Key to the Cure with race driver Danica Patrick, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's introduction of its music director Krzysztof Urbanski.

On a recent afternoon, crews worked feverishly to repair damage caused by a broken water line. The leak, which started on the third floor and reached the basement, damaged some of the hardwood flooring and wall murals.

The cost of the repairs are minuscule compared to the $35 million that former Conseco executive Stephen C. Hilbert said he put into the estate. The Lucases purchased the home for $3 million from the insurance company Hilbert founded.

And like most of their business decisions, the Lucases did not jump into the purchase.

"We looked at it for two years before we bought it," said Charlotte, 62. "We aren't crazy spenders, so we made an offer and stuck with it because we hated to see it cut into parcels or the house destroyed."

They also saw the estate as an opportunity. "It's like a museum," said Forrest, 69. "And like a museum, it shouldn't be hidden away, but shared."

The Lucases, who travel the globe for their oil business, own five residences. They spend much of their time at a country home in Marengo, 20 miles from the Indiana plant that produces 70 percent of their product.

"What sets this home apart is this -- it's in Indianapolis -- and all of our other homes would fit inside it," said Charlotte, adding that she has been schooled on proper terminology for some of the rooms in the four-story home.

"I was calling this room the 'family room,' but it's really the 'hearth room.' "

When the Lucases acquired the property, they spent two months overseeing a landscape project that included adding walking paths around the exterior of the home, a butterfly and hummingbird garden and a 160-spot parking lot.

"There were days when I couldn't find him, and he'd be outside showing the crews how to roll out the sod. He knew exactly how he wanted it done," said Charlotte of her husband.

The project was all part of keeping with the home's grandeur in French Chateau style.

Inside, the couple haven't made dramatic changes but furnished the home with antique and modern pieces -- some collected on their travels.

Most of the pieces are accompanied by stories -- there's a painting of Jim Nabors as Marine "Gomer Pyle;" handmade rugs from Eastern Europe; law books that belonged to the grandfather of Indianapolis attorney Richard Tharp; a football helmet signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; an oil painting by a survivor of the USS Indianapolis; and velvet-covered 17th-century gold leaf "throne chairs."

Much of the "museum-like" appeal of the home is found by looking up.

Former owners Stephen and Tomisue Hilbert commissioned a number of ceiling murals throughout the mansion.

The paintings are among Forrest's favorite features of the home.

"You can tell he is the king, and she is married to him because she's looking him right in the eyes," he says of a Baroque painting depicting robust female figures.

"See those plates full of food? That showed their wealth back then," he said of another fresco.

One original painting is thought to represent Hilbert riding in a chariot.

"Of course we'll keep it," said Charlotte. "It's part of the history of the house."

Her husband added: "Steve Hilbert made this place happen. We're just keeping it alive for the community."

 

Source Indystar.com