Electric interurban railway remnants have proven to be one of my favorite topics to post on in Local Remnants. Interurban railways changed transportation tremendously in the days when horse and buggy was still widely used. But the Great Depression, automobiles and other factors caused the railways to pretty much die out. Shown in the photo is a remnant of the right of way for the Benton Harbor-St. Joe Railway & Light Co. in Michigan. Note the cut for the old right of way, which obviously followed the route of the power poles now there. I took the photo from Pokagon Street not far from Dowagiac, Michigan. The interurban railway connected Dowagiac with Benton Harbor. It was especially used by those wanting to visit Lake Michigan and take advantage of all the festivities and recreation available there. This part of the railway paralleled Dowagiac Creek, at least for a good stretch. The portion going into Dowagiac was a branch of the main line for a while. Dowagiac also had an interurban station. This railway stopped providing passenger service in 1935.
Two weeks ago I had a post about a building in North Webster and this week’s post is also about a building in the same town. Shown is a building on Main Street (State Road 13), north of the stoplight. This building has had many uses through the years, but for a long time it was a lumber yard and that’s what I will focus on here. It was known as the North Webster Lumber & Supply Co. I am told it was a lumber yard as far back as at least the 1940s and possibly earlier. I am also told the word “coal” was in the original name of the business because it did sell coal at one time. It operated as a lumber yard as late as 1977 and possibly into the 1980s. It was a full fledged lumber yard serving commercial and residential contractors as well as those people doing improvements or additions to their own homes. There were stalls where you could drive through and get what you need to load up your vehicle and then pay for it inside. There was an outdoor area with lumber and the front part of the business had hammers, nails, etc. It was good quality lumber at a reasonable price. Homer Graber and Fred Carey were among the owners, but not the original owners. At this time I don’t know who the original owners were. It later became a canvas shop and has had apartments up top for several years. I’m not sure what the building is used for now.
Before I start with this week’s post, I would just like to note this month marks 10 years since I began Local Remnants. I would like to thank all of you who have taken time to read my posts. I know there are people who have an interest in local history and I appreciate all the comments and support I’ve received through the years.
This week’s post involves a historic farmhouse in Jackson Township along County Road 50, south of New Paris in Elkhart County. It is west of State Road 15 near County Road 21. This would be the former William Neff house built in approximately 1880, according to the Indiana Landmarks survey of historic structures in Elkhart County. It was built in the well known Italianate architectural style, quite common for that era. According to his obituary published in the Goshen newspaper, William Neff was one of Jackson Township’s wealthiest and best known farmers. He owned more than 600 acres of land at one time. I noticed on the 1874 Elkhart County Atlas the Neff family owned 240 acres on each side of what is now CR 50 at that time. Mr. Neff’s obituary also notes he was a thresher in addition to being a land owner. He died at the age of 60 Sept. 28, 1901, at his home after suffering a third stroke. Unfortunately I do not know how much longer the family owned that land. I would assume descendants of the family no longer own the land, but I am not fully certain of that. When I look at large houses like this one, I can’t help but wonder what the people of that time thought when they saw this house.
Last week I had a post about a building in Wakarusa where high school basketball games were once played. This week the location shifts to North Webster in Kosciusko County. In what is now the NAPA store on Main Street (State Road 13) the former North Webster High School played some basketball games in the upper level. I’m not sure what occupied the building at that time, but it may have been a hardware store. I saw a photo in a high school yearbook showing the first basketball team of North Webster High School in 1919 and at that time they played on an outdoor court. That was quite common then because in 1919 most schools did not have gyms yet with a few exceptions. So the season was started earlier, likely even in October, to get in as many games as possible before the really cold weather and snow came. Eventually North Webster was able to move indoors into the NAPA building and then later a gym was built for the school. Teams had to play wherever they could find space back then. I am told the NAPA building has had multiple uses through the years including a hardware store and an appliance store.
This week my post is in downtown Wakarusa in Elkhart County. This building is known as the Weldy building, part of what was originally the Weldy block. It was started by Jacob Weldy, a native of Elkhart County born in 1857 who was originally a farmer. In 1897 he purchased the controlling interest in the Wakarusa flouring mill and for many years conducted a coal yard in connection. He sold the milling business in 1916 and started the Weldy block, which can be considered a monument in his memory. The building in the photo is located on West Waterford Street near the intersection with Elkhart Street. Originally the Frash brothers moved their dry goods store into this building when it first opened. Several businesses have been located in the building since then. I should also note for a while the Wakarusa High School boys basketball team played games in the upstairs of the building. I had a chance to go up there a while back and there are still remnants of what it looked like when basketball was played there. A newspaper account of when the Weldy block opened indicated it was one of the finest and most modern buildings of its kind in northern Indiana. Thanks to the Wakarusa Public Library for providing this information.
The mighty, and I do mean mighty, Pennsylvania Railroad rumbled through Pierceton many years ago. When a railroad line came through a town it used to mean increased business in more ways than one. For one example hotels were built to accommodate railroad passengers. This building in the 100 block of East Market Street in Pierceton was originally known as the Flat Iron Hotel according to the application for the National Register of Historic Places. It sits near the railroad tracks and also near the former depot, which is also still standing by the way. Passengers getting off the train only had a short walk to the hotel. According to that same application, the building was built in about 1880 in the Italianate architectural style very common of that era. The railroad tracks caused East Market Street to “defy” the north-south street grid and the hotel was built to accommodate the block. The two-story brick building is the oldest surviving commercial building in the Pierceton Historic District. The building later served as a commercial and office building and was temporarily used as a post office after a fire destroyed the previous one. It has also served as an apartment building for several years. I’m not sure of the current use of the building.
Here’s another historic building in downtown Goshen. This week it’s the Shoots building in the 100 block of East Lincoln Avenue, the first block east of Main Street. According to the Indiana Landmarks historic structures survey, this building was built in about 1880. According to the Goshen Public Library, city directories show Hawks Messick and Co. hardware store in 1885 and 1890. I found the hardware store was owned by Frank E.C. Hawks, one of the Hawks brothers who owned several businesses in Goshen at one time. This was indicated in “History of Elkhart County.” LaCasa, which now owns the building, provided some historical information. LaCasa, as well as the Goshen Historical Museum, both noted the building had the first elevator in Goshen. There were other retail businesses on the first floor and the upstairs was used as professional offices for several years. For several more years the building was used as apartments until LaCasa bought it and renovated the building. It was also noted LaCasa found nails in the first floor spaced about 12 inches apart indicating some type of measuring, which makes sense for a hardware store. I wasn’t able to find out why the building is known as the Shoots building.
I am an avid bicycle rider and when riding along the Winona Interurban Trail just south of Goshen I noticed this old barn. It sits between Main Street (State Road 15) and the railroad tracks, south of Kercher Road. I later found out this barn was once part of the Pine Manor Farm, a well known farm in that area. It was owned by Ernest Martin, born in 1879 in England. According to the book “Goshen: The First 150 Years” Martin came to Goshen in 1912 and was the owner of the original Pine Manor Farm and the Martin subdivision. He raised fine cattle as a Guernsey breeder and also raised Percheron and Belgian horses. It is said he amassed $13 million, mostly through Canadian gold mine development. There is still a Pine Manor Farm business nearby and I’m sure it is probably connected to the original one in some way. Martin died in 1949 while living in Oregon. I saw an old photo of the original farm and it looks like it was quite an operation with multiple barns, a greenhouse and beautiful grounds. There are also some grain silos still standing on the property and you can see quite a bit of the foundation of other buildings.
I’ve posted several historic buildings here that are located in Goshen. Many of them are in the downtown area. This week’s photo is the historic Spohn building at the intersection of Main and Clinton streets. Designed by well known architect E. Hill Turnock, it was built in 1909. It originally housed the office and manufacturing facilities for Samuel Spohn’s business, the Spohn Medical Co. Produced at the facility was Spohn’s distemper and cough cure for horses and other animals. The product was sold throughout the United States and in many other countries. I’m not sure when this company dissolved, but you can still find old medicine bottles or informational booklets with the company’s name on the internet. Today the building is used for weddings, fundraisers, seminars, business meetings, banquets and other venues and is known as Spohn Ballroom. It has been beautifully restored and still has some of the original trim and other original features.
Here’s another post related to where high school basketball teams played games before they had gyms built. This one is in the small town of Sidney in southern Kosciusko County. State Road 13 is the main road coming through town and on this road is a building where Sidney High School played basketball games before the school’s gym was built in the 1920s. The building is pretty close to the railroad tracks. The basketball team played above what was then a hardware store. During that era, basketball was not nearly as popular as it is now. Many schools hesitated to build gyms (some colleges already had gyms before the 1920s). Administrators were simply not convinced basketball was worth spending much money on. Also in the same room where basketball games were played the high school used it for class plays. The building is now used by Spangles Country Crossing. I obtained this information from long time and well known high school basketball coach Bill Patrick, who played basketball for Sidney High School in the 1950s and later coached at the school. If anyone would know this information, he would.