With its hand-painted ceilings, carved rosewood staircase, marble fireplaces and crystal chandeliers, the Culbertson Mansion reflects the affluence of a man once considered to be the wealthiest in Indiana. In 1867, William S. Culbertson spent about $120,000 to build his grand home in New Albany. The three-story French, Second-Empire mansion encompasses more than 20,000 square feet and contains 25 rooms.
At age 21, Culbertson left his hometown of New Market, Pennsylvania, to explore the expanding Western Territory along the Ohio River. Settling in New Albany, he found employment as a clerk in a dry goods store. Culbertson possessed exceptional business sense and energy, and by 1860, he became a prosperous, independent businessman. In 1868, Culbertson retired from the dry goods business to invest his money in new ventures. These investments included purchasing managing stock in the Kentucky-Indiana Railroad Bridge Company and establishing his own utility in 1854. He died in 1892, at the age of 78, achieving a net worth of 3.5 million dollars. In today’s economy that would equal approximately $61 million.
Much of Culbertson’s wealth and vitality was invested in New Albany, as he involved himself in civic affairs. He funded the construction and supervised the Culbertson Old Ladies Home and served as a Trustee of the First Presbyterian church. He also founded the Cornelia Memorial Orphans Home, named after the second of his three wives. Culbertson was widowed twice and married for the third time at age 70.
In 1964, Historic New Albany purchased the home. The State of Indiana accepted the mansion to be maintained as a state historic site in 1976. The Culbertson Mansion represents the lifestyles of the Victorian fortune-makers as well as the lifestyles of the servant staffs. Visitors may view the grand parlors, dining rooms, bedrooms, kitchen and laundry room.