Aurora is a historic river town that is situated 35 miles west of Cincinnati, Ohio, located in the Southeast corner of Indiana. Aurora was settled in the early 1800's and incorporated in 1845 and has strong historic connections to the Ohio River. Aurora is full of unique and historic buildings that preserve its older rivercity characteristics.


Hillforest Mansion with a view of the front porch.

213 5th St, Aurora, IN 47001
Cliff Thies, Director

Hillforest, an iconic site in downtown Aurora that overlooks the Ohio River, was home to industrialist and financier Thomas Gaff and his family between 1855 and 1891. Today, the mansion enjoys the designation of National Historic Landmark and serves as a historical museum and local event destination.


Tours of the Mansion run from April 1st - December 30th. The Museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, & Christmas Day).


Hillforest is available for small wedding ceremonies, capacity up to 65 people including the wedding party. The museum is also available for photography sessions, bridal teas, showers, and rehearsal dinners. Call or email for prices.

For information or pricing call: 812-926-0087 or email:


Inside Hillforest Mansion, taken between the first and second floor landing.

In the Spring of 1853 Isaiah Rogers, an architect known as the "father of the modern hotel", met with Thomas Gaff, a prominent Aurora financier and industrialist, to and examine a plot of land on which Gaff wished to build a new home. Rogers would design for Gaff a magnificent mansion situated on ten acres of land overlooking the Ohio River that Gaff and his family would call home from 1855 to 1891. Although based on the Italian Renaissance architectural style, the two-story home's design reflected Gaff's involvement in the shipping industry with its full-width front porch being reminiscent of a steamboat's deck. The enduring legacy of Rogers's design for what came to be known as Hillforest Mansion was highlighted in 1992 when the United States Department of the Interior designated the mansion as a National Historic Landmark.

Thomas was not the first Gaff brother to build a home in Aurora. His brother James had that distinction, constructing a home on the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets known as Linden Terrace. Thomas, however, would more than match his brother's efforts with Hillforest. The building's steamboat-influenced style is reflected in its circular porches and colonnades, curved doors and windows, and a circular rooftop belvedere with round-arched windows that resemble a steamboat's pilothouse. Also, the interior features a flying staircase in the entrance hall that is typical of the better steamboats of the time period.

Hillforest would remain in the Gaff family until 1926, when it was purchased by Will Stark, a local furniture manufacturer. The home eventually became the clubhouse for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, who used it for that purpose from the late 1940's to the mid 1950's. In late 1955, when the VFW decided the home did not meet its needs, a group of local citizens, fearing the home would meet the same fate as Linden Terrace (which had fallen into disrepair and had been torn down), banded together to purchase the mansion. They formed the Hillforest Historical Foundation as a non-profit organization and has been open to the public as a historic property museum since 1956.