12 March 2014

Not to be left out: Cromwell

Main street - Cromwell
You have to be intentional about going to Cromwell, Indiana.  Such was the case when I was asked to visit the community and give my opinion on its downtown district, restoration opportunities, and its eligibility for the National Register.  Tucked away on the west side of Noble County, the folks had heard of the work being done in their county seat, Albion, and didn't want to be left out.  And now, with the exception of Avilla, every village of any size in Noble County is now, or will be, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  That's something to celebrate....and market.

Downtown Cromwell - the c. 1874 "Cromwell House", endangered of being demolished, on right
The town's history began when Harrison Wood employed the county surveyor to lay out the village of Cromwell in 1853.  The original plat included 28 lots radiating from the intersection of Orange (also known as Albion Road) and Jefferson Streets.  The first resident was Able Mullen, who had constructed a log house a few years prior in the spring of 1849.  The town was named after the English political and military leader, Oliver Cromwell.  The first school in Cromwell was located near the railroad tracks on the north side of town.  It was constructed out of logs in about 1840.  The railroad provided the impetus for quick population growth.  By 1895 the population was 450.  By 1899 it reached 500.  Then in 1901 it climbed to 640 and to 700 by 1919.  By 1953 the population stabilized.  Cromwell incorporated as a town in 1902; the same year it installed lights.  By 1914 the town had reached its historic boundaries with new plats mostly established on each side of Jefferson Street north to the railroad.

The extraordinary 1901 Queen Anne-style Hussey House
Cromwell is going through a bit of a renewal, embracing its connection to Oliver Cromwell.  Unfortunately one building, likely the oldest building in town at c. 1874, is threatened with demolition.  The old building had a hotel on its second floor that was known as the Cromwell House and Central Hotel during the late 1800s and as the early 1900s, and later as the Kimmel House.  The building has had a restaurant operating from its first floor since the early 1900s, known as the Home Restaurant.  The hotel rented rooms for $1.00 per day in c. 1910.  The building’s north storefront was used as a bank and the first picture show was shown from the same storefront in 1915; it continued as a movie house into the 1920s.  Another remarkable building in town is the 1901 Harry Hussey House.  The Husseys operated a large drugstore in Cromwell under the name Hussey & Son.  Harry Hussey joined his father, Martin, in the drugstore business near the turn of the 19th century.
 

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