26 February 2014

LaFontaine (luh-fountain, per Hoosier-speak)

The Parker House & Store, LaFontaine
William Grant was the first settler in Liberty Township; he settled in 1834 near what would become LaFontaine.  William Grant created a wolf trap in that area and the creek that flows through LaFontaine is named for him and his two brothers, Daniel and Smith.  The town of LaFontaine was originally platted in 1845 by Daniel Grant and named Ashland.  The first house, which was a log cabin, was constructed in 1841.  The settlement acted as a trading post for the Miami Indians which lived on a nearby reservation.  A few stores were established in the years following Daniel Grant’s plat, but growth was slow.  This was partly due to a road that was constructed through the town of America.  America was platted in 1837 and was just over a mile east of Ashland; after the road’s construction America boomed during the 1850s and 1860s.  Eventually America was abandoned and local lore indicates that a few of that community's buildings were relocated to LaFontaine.  The next boon for LaFontaine came with the construction of an electric rail line, but it was short-lived.  Later the town's main highway was also bypassed.

The oldest house in LaFontaine was built by the Rogers family in about 1848.  The Rogers established one of the first businesses in LaFontaine.  The house was also used as a general store prior to its purchase by the Parker family.  The Rogers completed the sale of their home to Adam and Nancy Parker for $600.00 in 1854.  The Parkers were natives of Kentucky who established a tailor shop in the community in 1853.  That business was expanded over the years to include other staples and hardware.  The original Parker store is located west of the house; a second store building was constructed by the Parkers in 1881 east of the house.  They used the first floor for their store and the second floor was known as the Parker Opera House.

Adam Parker became the postmaster and Justice of the Peace for the community.  He was also an officer of the local chapter of Free Masons and was a founder of the LaFontaine Bank.  The iron fence in front of the house was added at the time the second Parker store was constructed.  Adam’s grandson Kenneth also lived in the home.  Kenneth married Mable Boys in 1906 after which time they became the owners of the home.  Kenneth Parker made minor modifications to the house in about 1910.  At that time the circular columned porch was added on the front of the house.  The Parker home and store, which closed in 1960, remain in the family.  These folks do love their history, much of the entire town is being placed on the National Register.

24 February 2014

Luckey Hospital of Wolf Lake


If you're going to pick a name for a hospital....Luckey's not a bad one to choose.  The following is the history of the Luckey Hospital in Wolf Lake.  The building is now a medical museum: http://luckeyhospitalmuseum.org/.  It was listed on the National Register in 2012.

Dr. James Edward Luckey, founder of the hospital, was born in 1865.  He graduated from the American Medical College in Chicago and received a certificate from the Medical College of Indiana in Indianapolis in March of 1892.  This was the forerunner of the Indiana University School of Medicine.  He satisfied the requirements for study in histology, pathology, and bacteriology.  Dr. Luckey returned to Noble County and began to practice medicine in Wolf Lake as early as 1893.   In 1901 he built a home from which he operated his medical practice until the size of his family and his practice grew to a point that he built a small wood frame building behind their home to accommodate his practice.  Until that time, Luckey allowed patients to remain in his home if they were too ill to return to their homes. The first building was expanded to a five bed hospital in 1928.  The building was razed to make room for the new building in 1929.

As was common practice, Dr. James Luckey made house calls.  A story was relayed of a house call for a delivery in 1917.  The child weighed only four pounds and was placed on the door to the oven of the wood cook stove to help keep her warm.  Luckey also performed surgery for his nephew, Frank Starkey, in the family’s kitchen.  Frank had a fractured and compressed skull for which Luckey inserted a steel plate in the frontal area of his skull.  Luckey was very seriously injured in 1918, requiring immediate medical intervention to save his life.  Luckey had visited a local store in Wolf Lake when he was stabbed by a man.   A witness wanted to take Luckey by automobile to the Luckey residence; however the doctor felt he could not withstand the car ride and instead walked several blocks to his home.  A Ft. Wayne ambulance and several doctors from nearby towns were summoned and it was determined that Luckey would bleed to death if transported by ambulance, so he remained at his residence under the care of local physicians.  Dr. James Luckey enjoyed hunting and fishing and would rather sit and visit with people than practice medicine.  James brought a bear cub back to Indiana from a trip to Washington state; once it had grown it escaped its cage.  Several men in the community helped catch the bear and required stitches from Dr. Luckey from cuts the bear inflicted.

In 1929, Luckey and his son, Robert, also a doctor, embarked on the creation of a state of the art clinic and hospital facility for the region, primarily funded by James Luckey.  The facility was equipped with fire protection, electricity, nurse call equipment, surgical center, and a full dining area with kitchen.  The Luckey Hospital also acted as the village drugstore for the community of Wolf Lake.  At the time the Luckey Hospital opened the nearest hospitals were the McCray Hospital in Kendallville, also in Noble County, and the hospital in Columbia City.  This left a considerable area not serviced by a hospital for emergency care, surgeries, or maternity care.  The Luckey Hospital was designed to fill the gap of services and excel in patient care.  Within two years of being fully operational the Luckey Hospital had recorded 250 surgical cases and 7,475 treatments, examinations, and prescriptions in the outpatient department.  Doctors from all over the region brought patients to the facility.


Appointments to see the doctors in the hospital were not taken; rather it was first come, first served.  After Dr. James Luckey’s death in 1938 the second floor of the Luckey residence was converted into nurses’ quarters and nurses came and went from the hospital to the house utilizing the tunnel Dr. Luckey had constructed for himself.  Nurses were provided with housing, uniforms, meals, and $16.00 a week in pay.  Part of the nurses’ responsibility was to gather cash for groceries which were purchased locally.  The hospital was utilized after a train accident which resulted in a number of injuries in Cromwell.  Being understaffed for the demand, the nurse on duty called her son who operated the Wolf Lake Hardware for assistance.  Dr. James Luckey called on his nephew at the age of 19 to assist with restraining patients.  After World War II the baby boom created a shortage of space in the maternity ward of the hospital.  At one time all four maternity beds were filled and beds were set up in the hallway of the third floor.  The nurses used dresser drawers to hold infants because of the lack of space in the nursery.  Dr. Harold Luckey designed and constructed an incubator for smaller babies out of a box and a light tube.

Dr. James Luckey died in 1938.  His son Harold had been receiving surgical training in Austria when his father died.  It was said of Dr. Luckey that his community loved him for what he was, a kind, skillful, hard working, self-sacrificing doctor devoted to his professional duties.  In Luckey’s lifetime the practice of medicine changed from country doctor and house visits to physicians’ offices and hospitals.  Luckey not only was a part of that change, but led in it by establishing his state of the art hospital in the small community of Wolf Lake.  In 1957 Whitley County opened a new hospital in Columbia City, which made the privately operated Luckey Hospital somewhat obsolete.  The hospital closed in 1959.  Family members of the Luckeys purchased the hospital and reopened it as a museum of medicine.

19 February 2014

All you ever wanted to know about Wisconsin Dairy Barns


The Sisters at St. Mary's developed St. Patrick's Farm from a small typical mid-19th century farm into an impressive operation to sustain their ministries located at St. Mary's Convent and School in St. Joseph County.  They bought the farm in 1883 and began making several changes with the addition of new buildings.  The largest of these were the hog barn and dairy barn.  The hog barn was converted into offices for St. Joseph County Parks when the county bought the farm in 1977.  The dairy barn has been carefully preserved over the years by the parks.  It has to be one of the most impressive examples of a dairy barn in northern Indiana.  Along with its two wood stave silos, it is a must-see for barn enthusiasts.  The barns were built  in c. 1920.

Both the hog barn and dairy barn are modeled after the Wisconsin dairy barn which was developed for housing large herds of dairy cows. Both buildings are nearly double the length of typical 19th century barns and were internally organized for large-scale livestock production; they measured about 185’ and 120’ long.  Less than ten percent of barns constructed in this region of Indiana were Wisconsin dairy-style barns.  The Wisconsin dairy barns were the product of a departure from the post and beam tradition of timber framing to the use of truss construction.  Because of a depletion of large timbers in the United States by the second half of the 19th century, barn builders were unable to continue the practice of framing with hewn timbers in mortise and tenon construction.  Heavy timber construction provided the necessary structural capacity to create large spans with single timbers.  The roof shape of these earlier barns was typically gabled.  As dimensioned lumber replaced hewn timbers in wall and roof construction, the development of roof trusses composed of dimensional lumber allowed builders to reclaim and expand on volumes once permitted with large timbers.  Trusses eliminated the need for cross bracing and provided large open spaces in the barns’ loft areas.  The most prolific roof form to develop during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the use of trusses in barn construction was the gambrel roof.


During the late part of the 19th century the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Wisconsin also was attempting to improve barn designs.  The gambrel roof form and lumber-truss construction were advantages in the development of the new model that was promoted for Wisconsin’s growing dairy industry.  The barns were narrow and lined with rows of small windows to provide interior light which was important to a dairy operation.  The interior of the Wisconsin dairy barn is arranged with a central aisle and two rows of cattle stanchions.  The first story ceilings were also low to conserve heat generated by the animals.  The Wisconsin dairy barn also incorporates ventilation chutes to assist in cooling the building during the summer; these are built into the building’s walls and extend up the roof.  Roof ventilators are also important features of the barns.  The superior system of lighting and ventilation caused the Wisconsin dairy barn to be touted as the most sanitary and suitable for healthy livestock.

17 February 2014

Sticking with the French theme: LaSalle Avenue, South Bend


Studebaker family house, West LaSalle Ave., c. 1880
 South Bend has a number of great residential historic districts, West Washington and the Chapin Street Historic District being two of the best-known.  Recently a short three-block district running along West LaSalle Street, just north of the Washington Street neighborhood was also listed to the National Register.

The West LaSalle Avenue Historic District is comprised of six portions of subdivisions created prior to 1900 in the City of South Bend.  The eastern half of the district was created in the “State Banks First Addition” to the City of South Bend.  This addition included the Chapin Subdivision between West LaSalle (then known as Water Street) and Lincolnway (then known as Michigan Avenue) from the point these streets converge east of the district (Michigan Avenue angles northwesterly) to the west side of 505 West LaSalle Avenue.  The Studebaker Subdivision was laid out west of the Chapin Subdivision, also between LaSalle Avenue and Lincolnway, and ended at Scott Street which lies to the west side of the Studebaker home.  Chapin and Studebaker are two of the names most associated with the early development of the city.  The Kuppler Subdivision was platted north of West LaSalle from the western border of the Studebaker Subdivision west to North Cushing Street, west of the district boundary; Christopher and Anna Kuppler created the subdivision and lived at 705 W. LaSalle Avenue.

Jacob Freyermuth House, West LaSalle Ave., c. 1875
Most of the homes in the district were constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s (about 1885-1915).  But there are a handful that are slightly older.  One of them is one of the Studebaker family homes constructed before the family really hit it big.  Another house was built by Jacob Freyermuth, a noted builder and owner of a lumber yard.  His son went on to create one of South Bend's most prolific architectural firms.

By 1923 the Chicago Lake Shore and South Bend Railroad Company chose this area of LaSalle Avenue, from the City Cemetery west of the district to the downtown east of the district, as the route of the interurban electric railroad.  Later known as the “South Shore”, this section of track was abandoned in 1970.  No visible evidence of the electric railroad exists in the district.

12 February 2014

In Honor of Marquette

Marquette School on South Bend's northwest side
South Bend's Marquette School made the news a few years ago when a fight broke out between residents wanting to save the school, and the school board.  That led to the building being placed on the National Register and a reuse plan adopted by the school corporation.  The school has a history not unlike many other urban neighborhood schools of its era.  The area surrounding Marquette School began to grow during the early 1900s as South Bend continued to experience growth in its population and economy.  The neighborhood, located on South Bend’s northwest side, was connected to the downtown by Portage Avenue, east of Marquette School.  As the population in the area grew, so did the need to construct a school building to provide for the education of children living in developing neighborhoods of the area. The city used what they termed as a "portable" school to alleviate the need.

The new Marquette School was completed in January of 1937, and was placed in service at the opening of the second semester of the 1936-1937 school year.  A unique feature of the school is the stone carvings located above the vestibule entrances are stylized human figures engaged in learning.  The carving above the auditorium entrance in the west corner bay’s west wall is a stylized human figure holding masks depicting comedy and tragedy.  Other carvings on the building include motifs related to Marquette’s French heritage such as the fleur de leis.

Note the stone carvings above the auditorium entry
The New Deal projects created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt provided much needed work and consequently, wages, to the American worker to raise the nation out of its economic disparity brought on by the Stock Market Crash in 1929.  Several agencies were developed to administer New Deal funds.  The Public Works Administration (PWA), which funded 45 percent of the Marquette School construction, was formed in the first 100 days of Roosevelt’s administration.  The PWA was not a relief organization, but provided funds for construction, planning, materials, or labor.  Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes headed the organization.  School construction throughout the United States evolved as appropriate and necessary public works projects that benefited communities by providing new facilities and jobs for the unemployed citizenry in the cities and towns the public buildings were located.

Between the CWA, WPA and PWA several buildings and infrastructure improvements were made in St. Joseph County with construction lasting into the 1940s.  In South Bend John Adams High School at 808 S. Twyckenham (1940) and Marquette School were the only two new school buildings funded with PWA dollars. Ten park or landscaping projects were also funded through the WPA in South Bend, these included clubhouses, shelters, and the construction of the lion house at Potawatomi Zoo.

The design contract for Marquette School was awarded to the local South Bend architectural firm of E. R. Austin, N. R. Shambleau, and G. T. Nethercutt.  Their firm designed other large public buildings in the city including James Madison Elementary and the Tower Building in downtown South Bend.  A few styles were frequently chosen for large public school buildings during the period in which Marquette School was constructed.  Architects frequently turned to classical and colonial interpretations for large-scale neighborhood schools.  Another common applied style for schools of this era was the Art Deco style, the dominant style selected for Marquette School.  The building has some Art Moderne features, such as its mostly flat wall surfaces and stone banding, while its windows are more inspired by the Revival styles popular during the period the building was constructed.

10 February 2014

Channeling Reagan on Filing Day

Me & President Reagan

Well, after six years being out of politics, last Thursday I jumped back into the fire.  I filed to run in the Republican primary for county commissioner.  It was a position I had been approached about four years ago when we moved out of town and back into my old stomping grounds.  Where it will go-I have no idea.  It's a five-way race....so I guess I have a 20% chance.

I like those odds.

After I got back from filing someone jumped me and claimed I had picked February 6 because it was Ronald Reagan's birthday.  Can't say I had thought of that...but sure, why not.  Reagan was my absolute inspiration for engaging in politics at a young age.  While today I don't know that I would agree with all of his policies, it certainly is true that he inspired a nation burdened in a state of malaise to be something better and stronger.  "Some people would say America's best days are behind her, well, I believe they're still ahead."

That's right.  The gleaming, golden city on a hill.

Talk about inspiring.

Last Fall, my wife and I headed to one of our favorite vacation spots, Galena, Illinois.  We typically take the scenic route, which this time led us through Dixon, Illinois.  What's so great about Dixon?  Why, it is Reagan's boyhood home.  So, we jumped on the signed "Reagan Trail" which steered the car onto a side street right in front of Reagan's boyhood home.  I didn't want to make my wife go through the boredom and visiting the museum, but I did stand and contemplate at the feet of the Gipper-where she snapped this shot.  If you think this is bad, you should have seen the shrine I had built in my studio space in architecture school.

Ronald Reagan's boyhood home in Dixon, IL
I grew up surrounded by Republicans-home, work, church, school, family.  Only my great aunt was not-but a more fiscally conservative elected official I've yet to meet.  And so I just figured if I stayed the course, worked hard and climbed the political ladder I would be contributing to my party, and my community in the best possible way.  Returning home after college I set into motion doing just that.  The problem was that I applied a set of skills I find sorely missing in most political debates-that of critical thinking.  And what I realized is that often it wasn't about what was best for people, or the community.  And I just couldn't accept that as ok.  Not as a person of faith.  And that's when things took an ugly turn.

I'm terribly fiscally conservative.  I think I got that from my aunt.  But I found that if you disagree with, well, usually just a person-not necessarily a set of ideals-you find yourself at odds with the whole party.  And that just seems lame.  Worse yet is when you know there are motives not all-together legitimate that goes into the decisions.  I don't have to agree with everything my party, or more specifically, a handful of folks do.  You have to think for yourself, bring what you have to the table, and make decisions based on good judgement and what's best for everyone involved.  That's what governing is.

05 February 2014

I miss civility in politics


Last Sunday a friend of ours spotted me in the hallway at church and began heading toward me with an envelope in hand.  She handed it over to me with a big smile on her face and mentioned that they had come across it in a box of her father-in-law's things, and thought for sure that I would want it.  I recognized the handwriting from the address on the front of the envelope immediately.  It was my grandmother's.  She had really beautiful handwriting.

I opened the envelope and read the letter addressed to then-State Representative Ed Cook.  It was an invitation to my grandma and Doc Bowen's home over Labor Day weekend in 1982.  They mention in the letter that they would be with the Gees, another political family, after the parade, and presumably joining them at their home in Bremen.  Have I mentioned yet that Mr. Cook was a Democrat?  And the others were Republicans?

Doc would have served with Representative Cook while he was governor, and likely would have worked with him to some regard, across the aisle so-to-speak.  Something that would be extraordinarily uncommon today.  Even more poignant of the level of civility was this invitation.  Friends in public servitude, albeit from both sides of the aisle, enjoying each others' company over the holiday.

Where exactly did we go wrong in politics?  I fully admit to being naive upon my entry into politics, but I was only modeling what I knew to be right, good, and true.  Modeling what I saw in the revered leaders of a better time.  Of a more civil time.  Maybe I just miss my grandparents' wisdom in this storm.

I have to believe, or at least I really want to believe, that a majority of people feel the way I do.  That it isn't about who screams the loudest, who's out to get who, where the money comes from, or political positioning that leaves us further and further outside of the access of our own government.  I have to believe I'm not alone in wishing for more civility, for the betterment of all our people.  And that I don't, nor do they, have all the right answers....but together we just might be better off than apart.

Here's to wishing for politicians who are everything but political.  Who can weigh what is right on a scale free of bias and personal aim.  Who serve their fellow man with utmost humility and discernment.  Maybe someday.

03 February 2014

How Studebaker's reach shaped Plymouth's railroads

The new Pennsylvania Depot in Plymouth created after the railroad's acquisition of the Vandalia line
I'm knee deep in Studebaker history right now, but with a very targeted perspective of Studebaker's influence on the railroads.  I've been handed a task to justify inclusion of the two depots that lie adjacent to the former Studebaker manufacturing campus in a combined historic district.  The challenge:  prove that the depots are there because of Studebaker.  It seemed more difficult than it proved.
The Vandalia Depot on South Main Street, South Bend, c. 1910.  Studebaker's warehouse is on the right side of the photo in the background.

In the early 1880s the Studebaker brothers, along with other prominent members of South Bend, began pushing for a rail alignment to open markets in the south.  Up until this time, industry was connected to points east and west, but without direct links to the south.  So to help move the project along, a corporation was formed, with Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing being the leading stockholder, that purchased right-of-way south from South Bend through Plymouth into Logansport and points further south. Their intention was not to personally build and operate the rail, but provide the easement on which a railroad could be constructed on the route the South Bend industrialists desired.  The process moved a little slower than they had hoped, but eventually a railroad company was landed and the line became known as the Vandalia Railroad.  Where was the northern terminus of the railroad?  Immediately adjacent to the Studebaker warehouse between Main and Lafayette Streets, and immediately south of their administration building.

Later the Vandalia line was leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad which crossed the Vandalia in Plymouth.  This became an extremely important hub for the Studebakers because it provided both the southern route they desired, but also permitted another east/west route to large markets yet untouched.  It should be no surprise then, shortly after the Pennsylvania Railroad leased the Vandalia line, that a new depot station was constructed in Plymouth and their crossing even though the older Vandalia Depot in Plymouth remained.

This photo of the Nickel Plate Depot in Plymouth was taken probably the last time the building was painted, which looks to be the early 1970s.  The building is on Garro Street just west of the downtown.
But the Studebaker Corporation didn't focus their influence with just the Vandalia and Pennsy.  Clement Studebaker, the founder, shamed the Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad into building a new depot to replace an old wooden one already sandwiched between the company's expanding campus.  When Albert Erskine, who took over the Studebaker Corporation, made a speech to South Bend businessmen in 1919, he rolled out an impressive vision for Studebaker that would result in adding over 3 million square feet to their manufacturing facilities.  The primary one being the large building that forms a backdrop to Coveleski Stadium and Union Station.  In Erskine's speech, he implored the railroads to aid in the development of Studebaker by elevating the tracks, combining the Grand Trunk with the New York Central, and to build a new station.  And his words carried a great deal of weight since Studebaker was the 4th largest auto manufacturer at that time.  By the mid-to-late 1920s the tracks had been elevated and Union Station, rivaling other depots in cities many times the size of South Bend, was constructed.

Union Station and the Vandalia Depot still exist in South Bend and have found important new uses.  The situation in Plymouth isn't as bright for the city's remaining depots.  The Vandalia Depot was demolished in the early 1990s, despite having been a stop for presidential candidates and future presidents.  The Pennsylvania Depot that was built to accommodate the company's acquisition of the Vandalia line, sits vacant and deteriorating, but retains some vestige of its more elaborate past.  Plymouth has one other depot that remains, albeit in a state of abuse and neglect.  The Nickel Plate depot has seen its better days as well.  Both the Pennsy and Nickel Plate Depots should be preserved-the difficulty is in getting a railroad completely uninterested in community development or pride, to agree.