13 May 2015

Hobart's more than just a sign on U.S. 30


Ever travel that stretch of U.S. 30 toward Chicago and think, hmm....Hobart, it has a little sign out here on the highway and a mile or so of strip mall shops-but where's the rest of Hobart?  There really is more to Hobart-but you've got to get off the highway to see it.  Now, you may think that you've wandered into a land of medieval knights due to the false half-timbering here and there.  Evidently this was all the rage when their redevelopment commission began the stucco and board crusade in the early 1970s.  Personally, I like the kitchy feel.  The downtown was placed on the National Register in 2014.  Here's a little history on Hobart:

In 1846, George Earle, who had a mill and was postmaster of a nearby village named Liverpool, purchased land and constructed a new mill by damming Deep River a few blocks north of downtown Hobart.  Earle relocated the post office to his new mill site and within a few years platted a new village he named for his brother, Hobart.  The first schoolhouse in the region was constructed in 1845, near the future mill site, at the current Hobart Masonic Temple location.  In 1849, Lake County organized Hobart Township, in which the newly established village of Hobart would become the center for community life in the township.  Earle built the first cabin in the village; his son, John, constructed the first residence a few years later.  The new village was located on the Chicago-New York coach route, which allowed the community to reap the benefits of frequent travelers and trade.


Hobart became the second railroad center in Lake County when the Pittsburg-Ft. Wayne-Chicago Railroad was established through the town in 1858.  The railroad was the only line located in the county until after the Civil War; therefore farms and industry in the region brought their goods to Hobart for shipment to outside markets.  By the 1870s, the population reached 500; there were 95 families recorded in 1871.  Hobart was incorporated as a town in 1889.  In 1895, the Hobart and Western Electric Railway was constructed down 3rd and Washington Streets; it connected Hobart to the booming city of Hammond in northwest Lake County.  The railway remained active until after World War II.


James Guyer established a brickyard in the town in 1872.  Brick making became the largest industry in the community; there were four brickyards employing over 100 people by the early 1900s.  W. B. Owens Hollow Porous Clay Tile Works and Kulage Brick & Tile were the largest companies in the early 1900s.  The National Fire Proofing Company operated from Guyer’s former brickyard until 1966.  The company produced fire-proof brick and tiles.  The town also had four lumberyards.


The railroads and subsequent industry accelerated the community’s growth during the first decades of the 20th century.  In 1900 the population was 1,200.  It grew to over 6,500 by 1935.  The town responded by incorporating as a city in 1921 at which time the population had already nearly tripled to 3,500.  S. H. Henderson was the city’s first mayor.  Hobart’s population continued to climb dramatically through the middle part of the 20th century.  In 1950 the population had reached over 10,000 and by 1960 had grown to more than 18,000.  Hobart’s population currently is just over 29,000.

06 May 2015

The Erwin mark on Tippecanoe Township's Architecture

The 1879 Gaskill-Erwin House
Newly listed to the National Register of Historic Places is the Gaskill-Erwin House in Tippecanoe Township, Marshall County.  The house was built in 1879 by the Gaskill family but has had a much longer history with the Erwin family after they purchased it in the early part of the 20th century.

Joseph Gaskill and his family arrived in Marshall County from Stark County, Ohio in 1860.  Gaskill was the proprietor of a sawmill and also farmed his eighty acre tract.  They had eleven children between 1855 and 1876.  Lewis Erwin purchased the farm in about 1925.  The Erwin family had arrived in Marshall County from Stark County, Ohio during the mid-1850s.  Members of the Gaskill and Erwin families knew each other and jointly had sold property in Stark County, Ohio.  The Erwin family had accumulated considerable landholdings in the northern part of Tippecanoe Township and southern Bourbon Township.  Lewis, a grandson of the original Erwin to settle in the county, and Eleanor were the parents of two children, Emily and William.   The house remains in the Erwin family today.


The Gaskill-Erwin House is an excellent example of the Italianate style used on the construction of a large frame farmhouse.  The Italianate style was popular between 1850 and 1880, particularly in Midwestern towns where the expansion of railroads brought wealth to communities and created a building boom during the period.  Cupolas, towers, and bracketed cornices became the style’s hallmarks. The style was popularized by house pattern books by Andrew Jackson Downing during the middle part of the 1800s, but its popularity began to wane as it began to be replaced by the Queen Anne Style in the last decades of the 19th century.  While the Gaskill-Erwin House type is more typical of a late Georgian double-pile, its architectural style is in keeping with the popularity of the Italianate style during its construction date of 1879.

The 1855 Erwin House
An earlier house constructed by the Erwin family in about 1855 is just across the road from the Gaskill-Erwin House.  The earlier house was recently restored and is in the process of also
being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The house is an example of Greek Revival architecture applied to an "upright-and-wing" house type, which simply means a dominant front gable, usually two-stories tall, with a one or one-and-a-half story wing on its side.  The Greek Revival style became popular in American building trends as the nation sought to emulate its democratic identity rooted in Greek civilization.  The style typically has some appearance of pilasters and an entablature, even in its most simple rural form, as a nod to ancient Greek temples.