Red barn at fairgrounds has long history in Elkhart County

Every year I visit the Elkhart County 4-H Fair at least once. It is a tradition for me by now I guess you could say. I usually stop by the farmstead barn on the fairgrounds. The red bank barn was originally built in 1890 somewhere north of Elkhart in Elkhart County. In 1990 it was moved to the fairgrounds. A Dr. Pappodopolus owned the barn at the time it was donated to the fair. An Amish crew erected a new stone foundation for the barn and took it down and numbered the boards and erected the barn just like it was north of Elkhart. Inside the barn are items donated by individuals including old farming equipment, tools and more. When you walk inside this barn, you get a good feel for the history of farming locally and can better understand how difficult it must have been to try to make a living farming. Of course red is a very common color for barns. When we think of older barns, we likely think of red more than any other color. I wish I had more information about the farmstead barn, but all I could find is what was written on a small display inside the barn.

Historic barn at Elkhart County Fairgrounds
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Old building has some history in town of Rolling Prairie

A couple of summers ago I visited the LaPorte County Historical Museum. After the visit I drove over to the small town of Rolling Prairie, also in LaPorte County. There are many old buildings in the town and of those is shown in this week’s photo. I am told by Bruce Johnson, county historian, the building may have been a Masonic hall at one time and was later occupied by Hunt Construction Company for many years. It is on South Depot Street and the LaPorte County GIS indicates it was built in 1927. At the time the photo was taken there was a tanning salon located in the building but I’m not sure if there is any business presently using the building. I should also note Michigan Street in Rolling Prairie is the original alignment of U.S. Highway 20. A new Highway 20 was built in 1940 and the road was rerouted at that time. There is also some railroad history in Rolling Prairie and if you look closely you can see a railroad track in the photo.

Old building in Rolling Prairie
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Site of first interurban railway station in Goshen

According to multiple sources including a George Bradley book and others, Goshen had electric railway service as far back as the 1890s. Northern Indiana Railway operated those lines and used the building in the photo for a station. A 1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows the station located at Main and Clinton (where the photo was taken). In 1911 or 1912 it was moved a few blocks south to Main and Jefferson. I found a newspaper article saying the railway felt moving its station was the best option. Northern Indiana Railway shared the station with the Winona Interurban Railway, as well as trackage. I have seen only one old photo circulating of the station at Main and Clinton but I have seen more photos of the Main and Jefferson station. Of course the building at Main and Clinton has been the long time home of Olympia Candy Kitchen.

Former interurban station in Goshen

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Classic cars can be found at museum in LaPorte County

I’ve visited several county history museums in Indiana and one of the most interesting ones can be found in LaPorte County. It has displays on multiple floors including classic automobiles. Shown in the photo is the Tucker automobile. Only 51 were made in Chicago in 1948. The company led by Preston Tucker was forced to declare bankruptcy in March 1949. I won’t go into much detail here because the history has been well chronicled. Mr. Tucker was accused of stock fraud but was acquitted of those charges. He suspected the bigger automakers were plotting against him in order to stop him. If you look closely you can tell the Tucker had innovative design and safety features. In some ways the car was ahead of its time. It just looked different. There are other classic cars on display at the museum and there is also a lot of local history to browse through in the exhibits or displays. There is also a nice gift shop with several items available to purchase. I have been to this museum at least twice that I can recall including two summers ago and I would recommend it for a visit.

Tucker automobile at LaPorte County History Museum
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Parkside Motel was once located on South Main in Goshen

In today’s world there simply aren’t as many small, family owned motels as there used to be. Especially in the 1950s, these motels thrived because families more often took to the roads for vacations and traveling. It was more expensive to take an airplane flight. So it was quite common to see motels all along major highways or roads. And now it is much more difficult for a smaller motel to advertise and compete with the big chains or corporations. Shown in the photo this week is the site of the former Parkside Motel on South Main Street (State Road 15) in Goshen. I looked through old city directories and it appears the motel opened in about 1957 and closed in about 1981. An advertisement for the motel in the 1969 Goshen College yearbook said the motel offered large modern units, completely tiled showers, beauty rest mattresses, hot water heat, televisions and air conditioning. Parkside is a familiar name in this area because a housing addition carries the name and there is also Parkside Elementary School. There was also a Parkside Pharmacy at one time after the hotel closed. I also noticed comments on social media saying there was a gas station and grocery store before the hotel opened. Now the site is multiple businesses including an insurance agency, Goshen Home Medical and others.

Site of former Parkside Motel in Goshen
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Law office in Goshen was originally a residence

The building in this week’s photo on North Third Street in Goshen, at the intersection with Clinton Street, is now the home of the Rudolph Law Office. According to the inventory of historic structures for Elkhart County done by Indiana Landmarks, it was originally a Italianate house built in 1885. Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Goshen show a residence at the same address as far back as 1886. Mike Rudolph of the law firm told me through email he thinks the original house was not as big as what is located there now. He saw a carved wood art piece showing a smaller version of the house. He had originally thought the house was built in the 1920s or so, but a structural engineer told him he thought the house was built in the 1890s. Mike said there is an old wooden ice box in the back of the building and in the basement an old coal shoot can be seen. After doing more checking in old Goshen city directories, I found a John W. Egbert lived in the house at one time. There were two John W. Egberts (father and son). They were associated with hardwood lumber manufacturer Sanders, Lesh & Egbert Co., which I believe was located somewhere near Lincoln Avenue and Ninth Street in Goshen. The Egberts apparently owned the house for several years before it was converted to a law office. I’m not sure if there was another resident or business in it before it became a law office.

Historic Italianate house in Goshen
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Trace of a former interurban railway near Decatur

This week’s photo, at first glance, probably doesn’t show very much except a worn path. But based on its location somewhere near Decatur and also close to U.S. Highway 27, it is instead a remnant of the former Fort Wayne & Decatur Traction Company. This would have been the path taken by the interurban railway. I’ve shared the details about this railway the last two weeks. It is yet another example of a railway that never reached fulfillment. There were a lot of big dreams that simply never materialized due to a lack of money and other reasons. Sometimes the economy took a turn for the worse and halted plans. This railway was originally intended to go to Springfield, Ohio, but was only built between Fort Wayne and Decatur in Indiana. By the late 1920s, it was out of business which was earlier than several interurban railways closing.

Remnant of Fort Wayne & Decatur Traction Company
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Former interurban station still stands in downtown Decatur

Last week I posted a photo of a former interurban station in Decatur. It’s my understanding that was the second station in Decatur. The first one was located in the building shown in this week’s photo that was taken in downtown Decatur. The station was part of the original Fort Wayne & Springfield Railway that was incorporated in 1903. The first car didn’t run on the rails between Fort Wayne and Decatur until Dec. 31, 1906. The interurban station served passengers until 1915 when financial difficulties eventually forced sale of the railway to what came to be known as the Fort Wayne & Decatur Traction Company. Eventually this station was closed and new one with a freight station was built elsewhere in Decatur, which I posted about last week. Interurban stations were places where tickets could be purchased and connections made with other interurban lines and probably steam locomotive railways, too. The Fort Wayne and Decatur Traction Company stopped running in 1927. Growing popularity of automobiles, financial difficulties and the Great Depression combined to shut down most interurban lines by the 1930s.

Location of original interurban station in Decatur
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Building served as interurban station and freight depot

Here’s another post for the Fort Wayne & Decatur Traction Company. As I mentioned in last week’s post, this interurban railway was originally known as the Fort Wayne & Springfield Railway. The original intent was to build the line all the way to Springfield, Ohio, but it was only built between Fort Wayne and Decatur in Indiana for financial reasons. Shown in this week’s photo is a building where the second interurban station for the line was located within the town of Decatur. I don’t recall the name of the street it is located on. I am told it also served as a freight station. Passengers traveling on interurban railways could go to a station to buy tickets and make arrangements to connect with other railways (steam railways). I am assuming you could also buy tickets for other types of travel such as by boat, for example, if there was a lake nearby or you could get tickets or at least information for types of amusement available in the area. Interurbans also carried freight and for some of them that was the only thing keeping them going when passenger service ceased. Next week I will post something about the original interurban station in Decatur.

Former interurban station in Decatur
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Former interurban railway substation near Decatur

The Fort Wayne and Springfield Railway was incorporated in 1903 with plans to build all the way to Springfield, Ohio. A leg was built between Decatur and Fort Wayne and that 22 mile stretch was opened by promoters in February of 1907. But as often happened with interurban railways, plans and dreams were bigger than bank accounts and many lines either were never built or were not completely finished. Shown in this week’s photo is a substation of this line, which later became the Fort Wayne and Decatur Traction Company. It can be found along U.S. Highway 27, south of Decatur as I recall. The original intent was to build the railway line without a substation but those plans proved to be a serious mistake and the voltage had to be converted to DC. Some grading was done between Berne and Decatur but no track was ever laid. The original company failed and was replaced by the Fort Wayne and Decatur Traction Company in 1916. It only lasted 11 years and was abandoned in 1927. An effort was made to refinance the portion of the line in the Fort Wayne suburbs but it also failed. I obtained information for this line from “The Electric Interurban Railways in America,” a valuable resource.

Former interurban substation near Decatur
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