28 August 2013

Hoosier pioneer left a New England mark in LaPorte County

1842 Captain Ames House, LaPorte County, IN
One of the oldest homes in LaPorte County is the Captain Charles Ames House located northwest of LaPorte.  Ames served in the War of 1812 from his home state of Massachusetts.  Ames came to LaPorte County by waterway in 1836 two years after his brother, George, landed in Michigan City and established a business.  George Ames became a wealthy philanthropist who had a hand in establishing the public library in the 1890s.  Immediately Charles struck out to build a cabin and later a barn in 1838 which still exists.  He built a Federal style home inspired by his New England roots in 1842.  The house features corner posts exposed inside the home, a certain New England construction method and quite rare to find in the Hoosier state.

In 1856 Charles son, Augustus Ames, constructed a home near his father's house.   Augustus Ames kept a diary during the year of 1851 which gives some insight into the life of a young pioneer man.  The diary is part of the Ames Family archives of the La Porte County Historical Society.  Augustus recorded his daily work activities that included dragging logs that had been cut on the property to the mill during the winter months of January and February.  He also recorded cutting rail timber for fences in a number of entries and mentioned doing so once with Mr. Mayhew, who was likely his future father-in-law.  He mentioned cleaning the ice house and stable and “drawing corn into the barn”.  In the spring Augustus mentioned making wagon shed poles, digging holes for them and covering the wagon shed, presumably with wood siding.  He also mentioned cleaning out the barn and boarding up the ice house.  Later that spring he split rails for fencing and replaced the old fence.  In the early summer Augustus recorded mowing the orchard.  He also recorded buying a yoke of oxen and going to pick them up.

Augustus also recorded in his diary other activities of pioneer life besides work.  He mentioned several times attending Sunday meetings to hear Minister Cunningham preach at the “brick school house”, the location where Augustus also attended “singing school”.  He recorded attending an event with his future bride, Amanda “in the forenoon”.  Augustus mentioned visits from his father’s uncle Thomas, and from uncles Fisher and George, who lived in Michigan City.  He recorded attending the funeral of Uncle Fisher’s baby in Michigan City on March 16th and James Orr’s funeral on April 6th.  James Orr was a La Porte County pioneer with a neighboring farm.  Augustus recorded attending the dedication of the Methodist Church in La Porte on July 27th.   He also recorded that his father had “come home from the East”, presumably to visit family.  Augustus had also traveled east going to New York with his uncles Fisher and George to visit his grandmother.  At the end of 1851 Augustus recorded a trip he made to Milwaukee.
The Ames' family homesteads are being carefully preserved and were listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

26 August 2013

The Garwood House: inspiration for the Golden Dome?

Garwood House, c. 1900
John Garwood Jr. came with his father to LaPorte County in 1831 where he later married in 1854.  John Jr. inherited his portion of his father's estate and constructed an impressive farmhouse west of LaPorte.  The historic John Garwood Jr. farmhouse was constructed in the "Italian Villa" style in c. 1866, which, as the name implies, reflected the rambling villas of the Italian countryside.  John and Cynthia left the home to their son, George, in 1893.  George established Garwood Orchards, a fixture in LaPorte County's countryside to this day.  George's sons later inherited the farm.

Garwood farm as depicted in LaPorte County History Book, 1874
While the house is architecturally extraordinary, the more fascinating aspect is the home's possible connection to Northern Indiana's most iconic example of architecture.....the Golden Dome.

Just east of the Garwood house is the William Orr House, constructed in 1875 and designed by Chicago architect Willoughby J. Edbrooke.  Edbrooke became a nationally-known architect who designed the Georgia State Capitol and the Treasury Department in Washington DC, among many other large-scale government buildings.  But what does this have to do with the Garwood house and the Golden Dome?
Note the cream-colored brick and burgundy-colored stone trim
The level of design craftsmanship in the Garwood house led me to research the only other contemporary architect-designed building in the vicinity, the Orr house.  That led to the discovery of Edbrooke's design for the new administration building at Notre Dame in 1879.  But what caught my eye was the match of materials used on ND's administration building and those used on the Garwood house.  The use of cream-colored bricks on both buildings was maybe coincidental, but the use of burgundy-colored sandstone window embellishments was uncanny....I've yet to run into it anywhere else in Northern Indiana.  Other minor stylings of ND's administration building also have the feel of the Garwood house.

Note the similarity of materials used
So, the question became if Edbrooke didn't design the Garwood house, did the Garwood house inspire Edbrooke's design of Notre Dame's new administration building?  I tend to think that Edbrooke had a hand in the design of the Garwood house, which predates the Golden Dome by about a decade, but no paperwork has ever been found to connect the architect with the home....it could quite possibly be one of his earliest designs.

The Garwood House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

21 August 2013

Valpo's link to the invention of the hypodermic needle

Conrad and Catherine Bloch settled in Valparaiso and became early merchants of the city.  They constructed their large double-pile brick home in the Italianate style in about 1873.  Luther Bloch Jr., a grandson, leased the building to Dr. Harvey Cook who turned the building into a hospital in about 1923.  Dr. Cook was a resident of Valparaiso living just blocks from the hospital at Morgan and Chicago Streets.  The hospital closed in the early 1930s.

Harvey Samuel Cook, born in Gilman, Illinois in 1888, is best known for his contribution to medicine by his invention of the hypodermic syringe.  Cook, while an Army-medic during World War I and in need of local anesthetic as quickly as possible, developed the idea for the syringe by drawing inspiration from the cartridges used by Army riflemen.  Cook created brass syringes with double-pointed needles which locked into place; he cut glass tubes and rubber pencil erasers which were used for stoppers.  Cook filed an application for patent of the hypodermic syringe on October 21, 1916 and it was patented on June 26, 1917.  He branded it as the Cook “Carpule” System of Hypodermic Medication. At this time he was a resident of Worthington, Indiana.  Later he moved to Chicago and established Cook Laboratories from which the syringe was produced.
Dr. Cook relocated to Valparaiso, Indiana and established the Valparaiso Hospital and Sanitarium in about 1923.  Cook graduated from the Kankakee Conservatory of Music at Kankakee, IL and later attended Valparaiso University for two years.  He married Ida Mae Doty in Valparaiso in 1910.  He entered the Chicago College of Medicine and Surgery and graduated in 1913.  He began his medical practice in Gilman, IL, but entered World War I as a medic, receiving the rank of first lieutenant.  Cook returned to Valparaiso in 1920 and established his hospital a few years later, but was “forced to give up the venture because of a health breakdown.” Cook served as city health commissioner and city councilman, both positions he resigned from due to his illness.  Cook was credited with extensive oversight of the city’s health and was credited with helping the community avoid large scale illness during a major typhoid epidemic in 1933.

Today the former hospital is a single family home again.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

19 August 2013

A nod to Labor for this upcoming holiday

Rows of worker housing in the Standard-Pullman Company Town
A neighborhood comprising approximately 150 homes is located in Hammond's northeast side near the old industrial area that made the city an important steel and manufacturing hub for both rail and ship freight alike.  The neighborhood is one of only a very few "company towns" constructed in Indiana and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.  Known as the Pullman-Standard Historic District, the community radiates out from a center public square on Columbia Avenue.  The Standard Steel Car Corporation was founded in Butler, Pennsylvania in 1902 by John Hansen and “Diamond Jim” Brady with financial backing by Andrew Mellon.  The company became immediately successful as one of the largest steel rail car manufacturers in the United States.  Eyeing Hammond, Indiana as a prime location for production because of shipping ports and steel production, SSC opened a second plant at this location in 1906.  Their manufacturing facilities grew to cover over 350 acres, with a workforce of 3,500 men and production of 100 cars a day by 1912.

In 1917, during World War I, the United States Housing Corporation formed to provide housing near industries supporting the war effort.  Standard Steel Car Corporation was one such company and benefited from what became known as “Industrial Housing Project No. 457”. The USHC contracted with architects and planners to establish development designs; Chicago architect J. C. Llewellyn was selected for the Hammond site.  The plan began to be implemented in 1918 with build-out of 131 buildings by 1919.  The design included single-family homes, duplexes, quadplexes, and a large hotel/boarding house in a large central block.
Standard duplex design

In 1919 the Standard Steel Car plant became the scene of a long and violent summer of marches, confrontations, and riots centered around labor issues at the plant. SSC, while recognizing the labor union representing most skilled, native born labor, did not recognize the union representing less skilled and predominantly non-native born laborers. This union was known as the Amalgamated Union. In August of 1919 4,000 rioters manned barricades at the plant’s entrance. A month later a thousand men gathered at Columbia Avenue and Highland Street and began a march toward the SSC plant. The men, gathered behind the American flag, collided with police officers near the end of Highland Street. Four workers were shot and killed and sixty more were injured. The strike ultimately collapsed in October and the Amalgamated Union ceased to function.

Standard quadplex design
The strength of demand remained strong for the Standard Steel Car Corporation.  In 1929 Chicago’s Pullman Corporation purchased SSC. The corporation was Hammond’s largest employer with over 5,000 men just as production came to a halt at the onset of the Great Depression.  The company closed its doors in 1929 and remained closed for nearly 10 years. Little remained in Hammond other than small industry. In 1934 the company became a merger of SSC and Pullman and was renamed Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing.  By about 1938 thousands were returning to work as the war in Europe resuscitated the railroad business, waking the Pullman-Standard plant.  After the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 the plant received an order for 500 freight cars. The company became prosperous again during World War II as manufacturing lines were retooled to produce field guns, 81 mm mortars, shells, and thousands of 28 ton Sherman tanks.  After the war the company “shrugged off” government contracts and returned to railroad car production. During the second half of the twentieth century the company saw expanded production of freight cars in 1966 and production of Amtrak passenger cars during the 1970’s.  1981 saw the last production of railroad cars; the company closed the same year.



14 August 2013

But if you want to have a discussion on architecture.....

The 1876 "Deutsche Evanelische Lutheranische Saint Paulus Gemeinde" in Michigan City
We're not about a building.

It's like a badge of honor we wear in our churches today.  What we really should say is we can't afford to be about a building.  I can buy that, or, other things are of higher priority.  That at least sounds spiritual....depending on what the priorities are.  Saving souls of course.  Maybe this is a part 2 to the last post, but the prior post's message was about preserving a place for God in our churches, not so much about the architecture....but if you want to have a discussion on architecture, let's go.

But our lack of attention to architecture goes far beyond ecclesiastical buildings.  This infatuation with starving architecture has also made a tremendous impact on civic and government buildings.  Here we say we're just being prudent with taxpayer dollars.  Well, who could argue against that and not come across as a liberal?

Now, at the same time we expect where we buy our coffee or hamburgers to look and feel like the latest trend because if it doesn't, we'll just go elsewhere.  I always get a little bewildered when I see a building not more than 20 years old get shuttered or demolished in order to make way for the latest and greatest model.  And we're more than all right to open our wallets wide to pay for that, but forget about something that might represent our highest cultural ideas or much more, how we feel about our Creator God.  He's good with just a warehouse, but Starbucks better make me look and feel good about myself.

And then there are the temples that we create for ourselves.  Our mini-castles outfitted with the latest home theaters, craft rooms, a bath for each bedroom, our personal studies, elaborate great rooms, and the list goes on and on.  And we stay in them on an average of 5 years now until we upgrade to the newest neighborhood "Generic Estates".  But collectively, as a society, it's about pinching pennies.

Fountain County Courthouse, 1934, built during the depths of the Depression but with magnificence
At one time the two types of buildings that have suffered most at this shift in our cultural thinking were built with little expense spared as symbols of what we espoused and aspired to be.  Government buildings, particularly city halls, schools, and courthouses were constructed as the pride of their communities almost in competition with their surrounding towns and counties.  Terms such as "magnificent" and "splendor" were often used to describe a community's public buildings during the 1800s and early 1900s.  When was the last time you heard those to describe the newest municipal building?  I'm thinking specifically about Republicania County's new jail as I write this.

Religious buildings have also taken quite a hit.  And a personal hit to me.  The church of my ancestors in Bremen has a date with the wrecking ball and in its place a parking lot and a fancified pole building.  Gone are the iconic stained glass windows and vaults that inspired the soul to better commune with God.  Instead metal walls, white-boxed inside, and little if any natural light define our new churches today.  When only up to the 1970s, congregations still felt compelled to build with a bigger picture in mind.  Church architecture's rich history of not only teaching its members through inconographical representations in murals and windows, but also through subconsciously inspiring its members to contemplate the glory of God in its architecture is gone....long gone.  In its place larger and larger screens, more lights, and more sophisticated sound equipment.  In many ways replacing the real and tangible with hype.

I'm not in favor of waste, or excess in any form.  But it is time to return to a thoughtful and meaningful approach to the design and creation of space in which we live and give shape to our most important civic buildings.  It's what we expect out of our coffee shops-it seems like our churches and public buildings ought to be at least as important.

12 August 2013

The Loss of Sacred

Once while driving around with my elderly great aunt, she pointed at a corner in the countryside where two roads intersected.  It was obvious something had been there at one time due to the large old trees and the lay of the land; now it was the extended lawn of a modular home pulled up to the road just south of the corner.

"There was a church at that corner..."  my aunt said "...my dad knew the man who tore that building down, his whole family got terribly, terribly ill and he died.  That's why my dad said never would he tear down a building that had been used for God's house."  Based on my knowledge of the area, I guessed that the church was razed over 100 years ago.

We, well, not me, tear down churches all the time.  I imagine if there was some hard-and-fast conclusion that people who tore down old religious buildings became cursed and died, I suppose that church demolition would have ceased a long time ago.  We've turned churches into homes, parking lots, antique stores, bakeries, and even night clubs.....that's got to be worse than a bulldozer.  I'm familiar with the practice of "consecrating" and inversely, "de-consecrating" buildings for the use of God's purposes.  That seems to add some level of understanding that the building itself may be a vessel for God's use, not unlike what we are called to be.

But I think my aunt's trepidation went beyond this thought that the building itself was a fixed sacred site not to be tampered with.  I think it was the larger concept of the callous loss of something sacred that should concern us.  I recently gave a presentation about a downtown historic district that once included a grand building constructed in 1867 for use as a Methodist church.  When I showed the slide with the photo above, aside from the local, older, Methodists in attendance, folks were unaware that the building existed.  The building was reduced to an auto garage in 1912, then almost entirely razed by the time its back wall became part of a pizza shop today.  Magnificent house of worship-turned auto garage-turned pizza place.....nothing sacred about that.

I suppose the reverse could be true.  New congregations are springing up in strip malls, downtown storefronts, and warehouses (like our church)....they are taking the secular and making it "sacred"?   Maybe.  I don't want to get too side-tracked on church architecture's present state of decline, but it would be a great history lesson for churches to understand the importance architecture once played, and could still play, in lifting the soul in worship.  Far greater I think than a light and sound show.

I'd be the first one to acknowledge that God's presence is not confined to any one building or particular site....that a church is more about the people than the building, but even then do we understand the sacred?  And I'm not talking about specific music, ritual, or how we dress.  I'm referring to how we engage in the presence of God-and yes-specifically on Sundays for the purpose of this discussion.  Is church routine?  Is it just a place to have a good time with our friends?  When we walk into the sanctuary doors, in what state is our heart?  Are we rushing through a ritual (that occurs even in our evangelical churches) that is too busy to acknowledge we might just be in the presence of God?  I remember a communion service once when the pastor was breaking the loaf of bread and a small piece fell to the floor.  An elder went to pick up the bread and the pastor stopped him; instead he knelt down and carefully picked it up using the two pieces yet in his hands.  Sacred.  And I remember a time when a joke was told during communion.  It just felt really, really wrong.

I can recall just a handful of services in my 40+ years when it became clear that God "showed up".  Oddly enough.......He wasn't planned into the schedule of service.  It seemed as though His spirit found a small window, entered, and the rest of the schedule was given to Him.  I don't think that most of us even come to church with the expectation that God might actually show up.  To me this is the loss of sacred.  As much as I'd love to save old churches, I'd much prefer the fight to save a "place" in our churches for God.

While Christ's crucifixion may have torn the veil to provide access to God's presence, God is no less holy.....His presence is no less deserving of our sanctity.  I think about all that the priests went through to enter the Holy of Holies to meet with God.....and yet, do we even contemplate much less lose a step-when we stride into our sanctuaries Sunday after Sunday?  It may actually help if they didn't look like warehouses, but I suspect our brothers and sisters in the most beautiful cathedrals may suffer some of the same ambivalence to God's house.  Let us bring back the sacred-not an outward show, but that rendering of our hearts and minds with the expectation that God might actually show up if we let Him.

07 August 2013

How to get rich in 5 years

Mr. E.....pondering the ancients
Another five year anniversary came and went on August 1st with little fanfare.  My wife was in Haiti and my kids were with their grandparents, otherwise it may have been more eventful.  August 1 marked the first day of my preservation/consulting business after I left the only post-college job I had known in 2008.  I wasn't sure where that leap of faith would take me.

Well, I'll tell you where it took me.

I spent the better part of the day on August 1, 2013, trompsing around in the woods with a most interesting 88 year old man with a long career in agriculture on a federal level, and a profound history with politics.  The old kind.
Mr. E, as we'll call him, had a number of questions about the history he has managed to preserve on his family's farm that dates back to 1854.  The history of the farm includes some fascinating glacial kettles that are believed to have been American Indian meeting sites, along with a known Indian trail that traverses his property.  As would be expected, I was soaking it in.

He asked if I would stay for lunch.  Sure.  A helper made us sandwiches, we said grace, and dove in.  After some more interrogation by Mr. E, he stopped and said "what absolutely fascinating work you are involved in".  I concurred, then I followed it up by saying it was never going to make me rich.  To which he suggested the measure of wealth is not in dollars, but in the richness of people in our lives and then what we give our lives to.....the satisfaction of enjoying what we do.

Well said.  I'd still like to be pulling down six figures, but well-said nonetheless.  And it was probably what I needed to hear on this 5-year anniversary of sorts.  I get dang frustrated on any number of issues that arise but I still set my own hours doing what I enjoy.  I'm not sure you can put a price tag on that.  I've been fortunate to have met so many great people, visit cool and interesting places, and learn some fascinating Hoosier history.....and to this day when people ask what I do, I get a smile on my face when I say, well, it's a little hard to explain.

05 August 2013

Historic Michigan Road signs are popping up!

Byway sign in Marshall County
Almost 5 years ago to this day I met up with a guy named Jim I had only corresponded with over this blog on the topic of the Michigan Road.  The Michigan Road was the first state-commissioned highway Indiana created between 1829 and 1836.  It was established to spur development in the state north of Indianapolis and connect/create ports in Madison and Michigan City.  Jim and I traveled the historic route in Fulton and Marshall Counties and shot a lot of photos in Rochester where we grabbed a bite to eat.  And it was there that we talked about what we could do to foster an appreciation of one of Indiana's most historic highways.  A few months later I attended a state byways conference on behalf of the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association and the venue for our objective became crystal clear.  We needed a "Historic Michigan Road Byway".

So, working with some contacts we already had in the north half of the state, we held our first informational meeting in Rochester in January of 2009.  Over the next several months we built a coalition of folks just like us, who cared about the road and understood the economic benefit a byway could bring to their communities.  In November, 2009, we switched our efforts to the southern half of the state where state byways had been developed many years before.  As I say "they got it" so it was an easy sell.

Byway sign in Clinton County
By the end of 2010 we completed our byway application and submitted it to INDOT.  Review and approval took almost a year to obtain, but in September of 2011 the Lieutenant Governor declared the Michigan Road a state historic byway.  Over the course of the following year we organized and completed our non-profit filings and late last year developed some long-term planning that led to our first objective:  signing the route.

That meant more approvals and raising nearly $8,000.00 in order to secure the first group of signs that cover 12 of the 14 counties the route passes through.  Cities, towns, counties, businesses, tourism offices, and individuals made the purchase possible.  We picked up the signs in June and have been distributing them to INDOT district offices and local municipalities through which the route passes.  Because INDOT is responsible for installing the signs on state roads, and most of the Michigan Road is composed of state roads, the bulk of the signs are being installed per INDOT district office.  The Crawfordsville office has already installed the signs on their stretch through Clinton and Boone Counties.  The LaPorte District office has the remaining northern part of the state and the Seymour office has the southern counties of Jefferson, Ripley, and Decatur.  Where the route is maintained by counties or cities, those local authorities are installing their signs.  The Town of Argos and Marshall County have installed their signs in the last few weeks.

Byway sign in Argos

Our goal is to have the entire road signed by the end of this year.  Some additional fundraising and permitting will need to be done in Marion County-Indianapolis, which is probably the toughest nut to crack.  Marion and Shelby Counties are under the Greenfield District office and will be secured at the same time.  Five years.  It may seem like a long time.....but not when you're starting from scratch, educating the public, building a coalition and forming a non-profit, and did I mention we were working with INDOT?  In all seriousness, the people that make up our board and have gotten us to this point are some of the best Hoosiers I have met.

From just a conversation over a couple of sandwiches in Rochester.....to a state-wide economic and tourism development in 5 years.  Not bad.  It still took longer to build the road.