Traveling to Fort Wayne? Book the famous 'Cube House' on Airbnb

When Fort Wayne's Hanselmann House hit the market in 2017, it caught the attention of mid-century design fans around the world.

Built by the renowned 20th-century architect Michael Graves in 1971, the house was Graves's first commission, which he designed for high school friends, Jay and Lois Hanselmann.

For decades, it's been quietly tucked into a wooded neighborhood on the city's Southwest side.

Now, the lucky purchaser of the home is opening it up to guests across the country and around the world, dubbing it the “Cube House” on Airbnb.

A bridge-like walkway leads out from the second storey of the house.

Evan Mulvihill, 27, of Fort Wayne first saw the Hanselmann House on Facebook in August of last year, and he was immediately attracted to its unique design.

True to Graves’s iconic style, it looks like a deconstructed cube with bridge-like walkways and pops of color. 

Since Mulvihill purchased the home for $265,000 last fall, he’s gotten offers from realtors with clients willing to buy him out, but he keeps turning them down. 

“I think I’ll do really well just renting it out,” he says.

Evan Mulvihill, 27, bought the Hanselmann House. Behind him is a mural by Michael Graves.

So by day, he works in sales for Sweetwater, and by night, he’s welcoming guests into the mid-century modern masterpiece, where they can rent beds for as cheap as $30 a night, rooms for $50, or the entire place for somewhere around $500 a night—depending on the time of year.

Mulvihill says the home can sleep 16-18 people at capacity.

When you enter the main level under the elevated walkway, you’re welcomed into an airy common room with seating and four bunk beds in back. These are the hostel beds, Mulvihill explains, which are rented out individually.

Upon entering, guests are welcomed into an airy lobby.

The main floor also has two private rooms and a shared bathroom for guests. Then the second story has a shared kitchen, porch, and common area.

The third floor with a balcony is where Mulvihill lives (and occasionally vacates when he rents the entire space). He’s hoping to move out completely in the next few years, so he can rent the house fulltime and purchase more Fort Wayne properties to list on Airbnb, too.

The Cube House has two private rooms.Airbnb, Inc., is an online marketplace and hospitality network that allows people to rent or lease short-term lodging out of their homes. It is disrupting the hotel industry much in the same way that Uber has disrupted the taxi industry.

Instead of going to hotels, visitors can stay at people’s houses or apartments in local neighborhoods, often at a fraction of the price.

For hosts, it's an opportunity to turn extra space into extra cash, and for guests, it's a chance to get more “authentic” living experiences in the places you're visiting.

“There’s more of a social aspect to Airbnb in actually being able to talk to your host and get recommendations, find out what’s cool—things that you can’t just find out online,” Mulvihill says.

Of course, having an iconic space to share always ups the appeal, too.

Mulvihill added an eclectic mix of local art to the second storey of the house.

A Chicago native, Mulvihill moved to Fort Wayne about five years ago for work and has been sharing his space on Airbnb since November 2016. He previously lived in West Central.

Since he started listing the Hanselmann House this year, he says his bookings have gone up by 100 percent.

“Some people book it specifically because they know about Michael Graves,” Mulvihill says. “Other people are just like, ‘This looks cool! I want to stay here.’”

The kitchen overlooks a wooded backyard with a second-storey porch.

While he says that he filters his clientele to people who he believes will respect the space, he has welcomed guests of all types, from traveling nurses, to people on business trips, to people just passing through.

“I had a group book with me recently because they’re doing a pizza tour,” Mulvihill says. “They’re just traveling to different cities and experiencing their pizza.”

He feels like he got on the Airbnb trend early in Fort Wayne, too.

While the city only has about 150 listings on the website so far, compared to thousands in places like Indianapolis, Mulvihill sees the potential for Airbnb to grow in popularity here. 

His guests have rated their experiences five stars, and he thinks the city is in a strategic location for business to thrive.

“Fort Wayne is a really good midpoint between a lot of major cities—Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis,” Mulvihill says. “I’m just lucky that I got in when I did because I feel like it’s going to take off.”

Airbnb visitors are asked to mark their hometown on a map in the lobby.

He says his neighbors don’t seem to mind the people coming and going from the house, and guests are often excited to experience a piece of history. 

While he has given the Hanselmann House a new name, he has kept much of the iconic design original and minimal, adding an eclectic mix of local art and decor to give it his own flair.

Rainbow unicorn pillows decorate the beds, and the shape of a man is taped out on the kitchen floor left over from a Halloween party.

“That’s Ralph,” Mulvihill says, laughing. “He’s the head chef.”

Mulvihill added a few of his own creative touches to the house.

The Hanselmann House received an AIA National Honor Award in 1975, and has since been featured in publications like Dwell, Curbed, and Architectural Digest.

Now, fans around the world can experience it firsthand.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara is a Fort Wayne native, passionate about her hometown and its ongoing revival. As Managing Editor of Input Fort Wayne, she enjoys writing about interesting people and ideas in northeast Indiana. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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