23 July 2008

Artistry in Stone in Argos

Foker's personal house in Argos; notice the "wheel" and star designs in the chimney

There is a humble little town in northern Indiana, straddling the Michigan Road and long bypassed by U.S. 31. The little town's main identity these days....particularly THESE days.....is the Marshall County 4-H fair. But this little town also boasts of probably the finest collection of stone crafted homes and porches in all of Indiana, executed by probably the finest stone mason the Hoosier state has ever known.

William Foker was born at the dawn of the Civil War. Making Marshall County his home from early on, Foker became enamored with the building projects at the University of Notre Dame and applied himself to the masonry trade working under expert stone masons the university brought from Italy.

Becoming an expert with the pick and chisel, Foker began creating intriguing fieldstone porches, both dressed and undressed (meaning hand cut or not). His fame quickly grew locally where he began to receive projects in a thirty mile radius of Argos including Culver, Plymouth, Bourbon and Tyner. Foker created an identifying trademark he called the "wheel of life" based on his personal religious beliefs. The "wheel" can commonly be found in the large cut stone fireplaces of his commissions. His most important works spanned from about the turn of the 19th century to some of his last projects for the WPA, including the Izaak Walton League Building near Argos.

I would place his stone work up against any other mason in Indiana. It is remarkable both by the craftsmanship of stone fitting against stone, but also by the design work involved in creating the porches and homes.........appearing as though they grew out of the earth themselves.
An oriental-inspired bungalow with Foker's handiwork

My great, great grandad was a contemporary of Mr. Foker's and tried his own hand at stone masonry creating many of the smaller pebble stacked porches and walls in the Lake Maxinkuckee area. Still, no comparison to Foker. And Argos is the richer for having the master craftsman's hand applied to her history.


jimgrey said...

Wow. I didn't realize Argos had this much going for it!

Is there much of his handiwork along the Michigan Road?

hoosier reborn said...

A fair amount actually. There is a large farmhouse on the south side, just before town. One on South Michigan and several on North Michigan in Argos. There are also a few in Plymouth on Michigan St.

At some point I'd like to go out and photo collect all of his extant work and stick it in a book on him.

jimgrey said...

That would be a worthy project!

Owl mama said...

Thanks for the great info... we have a wheel design in the stone chimney of our house. How would one go about finding out who did the work? It was built in the 30's for Judge Curtis.

I'll see if I can put up a photo on my new blog...

hoosier reborn said...

Not sure how you would find out who constructed the house; I do believe Foker designed and constructed many of the homes he applied the masonry to. Best thing to do is to do a search of Judge Curtis in the surname files in the museum and see if something isn't mentioned about his home being built in the news archives.

You're the Tyner house...;)

Owl mama said...

I'll have to check into that... we've heard some crazy stories out here about all sorts of things...

Ryan said...

Awesome! Thanks for reading!
There's a pebble/stone front porch I love to look at in my hometown. One of these day's I'll have to take a picture and post about it!