Marilyn’s Visit

Sorry for the long delay! As I alluded to last time, I had the extreme good fortune to track down Marilyn. She answered my email the same day in December that I sent it and called me later that evening, confirming that she was indeed the girl who grew up in the house. After explaining who I was, what I was doing, and how I found her, Marilyn began to recount a host of information from when she moved in in September of 1928 at the age of three months old, until 22 years later in 1950 when she was married and moved out.

I already knew how the layout of the home had and had not changed over its history, but Marilyn was able to add much more detail. She said that the front retaining wall was built by her father shortly after the house was finished to control erosion onto the sidewalk. There is not currently a retaining wall, and I have seen no evidence of one being there, so it must have been removed a long time ago.

She also told me that her parents remodeled the home some time in the early 1960s, which is what I had suspected with the addition of the sun room. She said that they also renovated the kitchen at the same time, and she wanted to know if the countertops were still pink from that makeover (they aren’t).

One of the most interesting things she mentioned during our half-hour long conversation was that the half-bathroom off of the kitchen was not originally a pantry like I suspected. It was actually an alcove that used to house the oven. That is quite a difference from the room’s current function.

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The current half bath was formerly an alcove for the stove

She was likewise able to provide some interesting information about the neighbors, including the Foellingers who owned the newspaper and occupied the large house directly behind most of the homes on the block. The garage that backs up to our back fence used to be a horse stable, and Marilyn told me about how when was a little girl she used to watch Mrs. Foellinger tend to the horses and talk to her through the fence. She also told me her route through yards and streets to go to and from Harrison Hill Elementary School. The way she described would be fully blocked by fences now.

Wanting to hear more, I offered for her to visit the house. She accepted, and when the weather improved from the ice and snow of December, she arrived at our house about two months later along with her daughter and son-in-law. First, though, she offered for me to copy a few photos she had found.

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Wayne and Clara Mariotte, 1927

These included a photograph of her parents Wayne and Clara at Chicago’s Lincoln Park in 1927. This was the first and only photo of them that I have seen. As we continued to talk, she told me more about the house and how it used to be.

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The current kitchen

The mystery “breakfast room” referenced by the 1928 newspaper article was not actually a room at all. I was told that instead of the breakfast bar in front of the windows, there was a table with a bench underneath of the windows and that this area was not a separate room. I also learned that the current pantry with the bi-fold door shown above was a china cupboard where Clara displayed her pieces. The old refrigerator also used to be where the current stove is, and the sink was in a place right above where there are now drawers.

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The sun room, former site of the back stoop

Marilyn also explained that the sun room was put in place of a small stoop. It had an overhang supported by a pillar about where the nearest arm of the couch in the photo above is placed. Apparently, this room became where Clara lived most of the time in later life, and Marilyn was surprised that the window on the stairs was open and that the ceiling is only roughly finished. She stated that at one time this room was all drywalled, with the stair window sealed up. So the room must have been gutted at some point after the house sold out of the family. She also said that Clara’s prolific tomato gardens used to fill the back yard, and that a built-in brick oven was present in it for a long time, too.

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The current basement had an interesting past life

The basement was finished some time after 1986, and Marilyn told me that the small room off of the main area was formerly designed to be a coal cellar, but since the home had a natural gas boiler, it never contained coal. The current furnace and water heater are in a closet where the old mechanical system used to be. In the unfinished part of the basement, another small room mirrors the coal cellar, and we use it for storage now. Marilyn said it used to be the fruit cellar. The laundry area always had that function, but Clara also had a small stove in it where she would make her own starch.

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The former “sleeping porch”

The small room that is currently Alice’s bedroom we learned was referred to as the “sleeping porch.” It wasn’t really a porch, but the windows wrapped all the way around it on three sides with almost no wall space. In old age, Wayne used to nap in this room.

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The current bathroom

Marilyn told us that the bathroom is still configured how it used to be, and that the cabinet on the right is original. She also said that it used to be covered, floor and walls, in small tiles laid in patterns of various colors, including green, blue, and gold.

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Marilyn’s childhood bedroom as it is today

The larger bedroom that is currently Walter’s was Marilyn’s when she was a girl. She said there were no changes that she could see other than that radiators used to be underneath of the windows. I suspected this might have been the case, because the floor in the master has an interesting cut-out under one window that looks like it used to be for a radiator, and an old non-functioning cast iron radiator is still attached to our garage wall.

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The master bedroom as it is today

We knew that the closet shown above was an addition to the master bedroom, and Marilyn said it was also relatively unchanged. Wayne and Clara used to sleep here in separate twin beds. The ash tree you can see through the window in the photo above took the place of an elm tree planted when the house was young.

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The current living room

We knew that the bay window in the living room was a later addition, and Marilyn confirmed that it used to be French doors. She also relayed several anecdotes about the room, including how there used to be a baby grand piano in it. Marilyn also told us that when she was about two years old, her mother heard a scream from the living room and rushed in to find Marilyn hanging by her fingertips from the side of the stairs. 60 years later when she sold the house, the person who bought and renovated it, Robert Helmkemp, hired a plumber who put his foot through one of the stairs and stuck his leg into the ceiling of the basement stairs below. Marilyn also told us that the wife of Thomas Williams, who purchased the home from Helmkemp, eloped with this same plumber. If you recall in a previous post, she was taken off the deed at some point, and this story explains why! In any case, there is no indication of a broken step, but the banister in the photo above is an alteration I made, building it in 2014 to take the place of the cheap replacement present when we bought the house.

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The house some time in the mid 1980s, likely 1986

The other photograph Marilyn brought was a picture she had taken when she was trying to sell the home after Clara passed. This photo is probably from 1986 and shows the house in rather a state of disrepair. One thing to note is the garage door, which Marilyn said was installed around 1983 and replaced the original. This door is still on the garage, so it can now be definitively dated. The rest of the house looks pretty shabby during this time period because as Clara got older and deteriorated in health, she lost the ability to take care of it. As I mentioned above, Marilyn would frequently visit by using the side door to visit her mother in the sun room. This is because the house was so full of clutter that much of it was impassible. Marilyn said that after Clara’s death, it took her weeks to clear out the house, and most of that consisted of filling a dumpster. She relayed that she climbed up into the attic and tossed junk from the window out into the dumpster on the driveway below.

This may seem like a somewhat sad way for the house to enter into its period of contemporary owners, but Marilyn, and especially her daughter who visited her grandparents Wayne and Clara here, had many happy memories of the home.

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Marilyn, her daughter, and son-in-law at the house on February 18, 2017

Being able to speak with, meet, and invite over someone with such deep ties to the home was an incredibly rewarding experience. I want to thank Marilyn for her willingness to share her personal history with me simply because we shared the same address at different times in its history.

I think this will conclude the history of this home. I would love to learn more about it, but it will only be my home for a few more weeks. We are moving to another side of town, which is part of the reason why I decided to start this project when I did. I feel like a biography of this house is a proper way to say goodbye, and I hope the future owners are able to add more to its story.

The Mariotte Family

The full chain of ownership told me a great deal about who the key players were in the history that shaped my neighborhood and who built and lived in my house. As I suspected, the Mariottes were the most important people, so I began to do some research on the family to try and learn more about the circumstances that led to the creation of my home. At this point, genealogical websites like Ancestry and MyHeritage became part of the search.

As the family patriarch and original owner, Horace was where I started. He built the house with financing from Hilgemann & Schaaf in 1928, and this point is the first thing that I keyed in on. An interesting thing that was recorded with the plat of Southwood Park was a set of restrictive covenants that detailed the minimum cost of each new house built on each street and in each section of the neighborhood. The covenant for my lot mandated that any new home must cost at least $2,500 to build.

In my search of the ownership chain at the recorder’s office, I unfortunately could not find the amount of Horace’s original mortgage. However, I returned to one of my original sources of information: the census. The 1930 census was the first one completed after the home was built, and thankfully it includes a column for the value of the home that each respondent lived in. Mine was listed at $6,500. I did a quick calculation to convert that amount into a current value and arrived at approximately $95,000, which is still on par with prices in the neighborhood and indicates a middle-class home.

Based on the little other information I could find about Horace, this seems to fit. He owned a second-hand store on Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne called The Emporium. It appears to have sold everything, and old records show that the State of Indiana even contracted with the store to buy instruments for various music programs at schools around the state.

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The Emporium

The store’s location was 220 E Main, and this photo dates from some time in the 1970s I believe. After its life as The Emporium, it was known in the city as the “Goodwill Building” after a more recent tenant. The building was demolished in the early 1990s and is occupied by the current 1st Source Center.

The 1940 census told me that Wayne, Horace’s son, was occupied as a “clerk at a second-hand store.” This is doubtless The Emporium, and it is interesting to also see that Wayne’s education was listed there as only completing two years of high school. I imagine that pressure or desire to jump into the family business was great, and he left because of that. I could find very little else about Wayne other than that he had an Airedale terrier named Jiggs registered with the American Kennel Club in the early 1920s. I am not sure if Jiggs ever lived in the house or not.

Wayne’s wife Clara had similarly limited information available, but I did find that she was a nurse. The only other piece of information that I was able to see by researching her was a marriage certificate for her daughter Marilyn. This document listed Wayne’s occupation in 1950 as a bookkeeper for an auto repair shop, which was interesting in that he left or chose not to continue the family business. But the certificate also had one more pretty astounding piece of information attached to it: a photo of the wedding from 1950.

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Wedding photo from October of 1950

This is very clearly and very obviously the wedding reception being held in my dining room!

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Dining room from June of 2013

The arch over the alcove is unmistakable, and if that’s not enough, one of the only remaining original windows in the house is the one inside of this alcove, and it is an exact match.

I was so excited that I had a direct look into what life was like in my house almost 70 years ago. I wanted to know what else there was to find, so I then turned my search to the other primary occupant of the house for its first decades of life: Marilyn. Now knowing her married name, I searched for her in the hope that I could find more recent information about the house. Googling directed me to the City of Fort Wayne’s municipal website where someone of the exact same name held an officer position with a neighborhood organization as recently as a few years ago and with an email address listed. Excited and figuring that at worst I had an awkard “oops you weren’t the person I was looking for” situation, I sent an email. I got a response the same day, and I will explain what happened in the next post.

Completing the Chain of Ownership

Knowing the home’s original occupants along with some really good detail on how the house looked when it was brand new is great. But to trace it from its beginning to today required a more thorough look at the chain of ownership. I had an idea of some of the recent owners from the property card, but to complete the chain of owners, I had to pay a visit to the county recorder’s office. By looking up my purchase and working backwards from grantor to grantee and back, I pieced together the chain. Here is what I found out:

(1) Greg and Jaime Majewski purchased the home on April 29, 2013 from Tyler S.

(2) Tyler S. purchased the home on November 9, 2007 from Lori H.

(3) Lori H. purchased the home on July 21, 2005 from Brick Properties LLC.

(4) Brick Properties LLC purchased the home via sheriff’s sale on May 26, 2005.

(5) The home was surrendered to the sheriff by Anton and Leslie G. some time in early 2005.

I asked my neighbor about the circumstances of the sheriff’s sale. He didn’t know much about the situation other than to say that Mr. and Mrs. G. rented the home to a variety of individuals during the time that they owned it. So they were never occupants, but the rental history definitely makes for another interesting lead to follow.

(6) Anton and Leslie G. purchased the home on October 29, 1996 from Thomas W.

(7) Thomas and Sheri W. purchased the home on March 23, 1987 from Robert H.

It appears that at some point Sheri W. was removed from the title of the home prior to its sale in 1996. That could mean a number of things like refinance or divorce. Probably unimportant, but additional information gleaned.

(8) Robert H. purchased the home on November 3, 1986 from Clara Mariotte.

The home stayed with the Mariottes for 58 years from its original construction in 1928 all the way to 1986!

(9) Wayne Mariotte was deeded the home on April 14, 1941 from Horace Mariotte.

(10) Horace Mariotte obtained the original mortgage on the house on March 13, 1928 from Hilgeman & Schaaf.

A few very interesting things here! Number one, Clara obtained individual title to the home some time between 1941 and 1986. Wayne obtained title to the home in 1941. Horace Mariotte is the original owner, having obtained a mortgage on the property in 1928. The Southwood Park historic designation application explains that Hilgeman and Schaaf were two businessmen who originally developed the Southwood Park neighborhood, and it appears they were also financiers for homes’ construction.

Some quick Googling of names brought up a lot of genealogy websites that confirmed what I had by now suspected. Horace Mariotte was Wayne’s father. It looks like he built the home for his son and daughter-in-law, and for all intents and purposes they lived in the home as though they owned it, hence the historic reference as the “Wayne Mariotte House” and the ownership attribution in the newspaper. Horace passed away in 1941, which is also the same time Wayne took title to the home. Wayne passed away in 1971, and Clara obtained title after that. Clara passed away in 1986, which is the year it was finally sold away from the Mariotte family.

This isn’t the end of the trail, though. Southwood Park was platted in 1917, and this is also the year that a gentleman named Frederick William Prange Jr. subdivided his family’s farmland that included the parcel that would become my house. Unfortunately, there is a gap between Horace’s 1928 mortgage and when Mr. Prange subdivided his land, so I don’t know if Hilgeman & Schaaf actually ever owned the property or if they just developed it.

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Plat of Southwood Park Section ‘B’ – 1917

Above is a map I pulled from the neighborhood’s historic listing application. It shows the subdividing and plat of the original lots in this section of the neighborhood. Mine is outlined in red. This land was all farmland owned by the aforementioned Prange family. Here is where the chain really started to break up. I am confident that the Pranges owned the land since at least 1845, but how many individuals is hard to keep track of. There are a lot of Williams/Wilhelms and Fredericks/Friedrichs, all of Prange lineage. I could not really tell which were the same people when names were Americanized from their original German spellings and when Juniors and Seniors were not consistently applied. Things cleared up, though:

(11) William Prange purchased farmland on November 17, 1845 from Samuel Hanna and Allen Hamilton.

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1915 City Map of Fort Wayne

 

For at least a period of 70 years (1845-1915) the land was farmed by the Pranges. This 1915 map shows the city limits, and the area of Southwood Park was still very rural. My home would be about where the word “Mill” is on the “Old Mill Rd.” label.

(12) Samuel Hanna and Allen Hamilton purchased undeveloped and unfarmed land on October 21, 1835 from Jean Baptiste de Richardville.

Richardville is a name I recognize. His home is preserved as a historical center south of town. Some quick searching reveals that he was the last chief of the Miami people who inhabited the area that became Fort Wayne before it was settled by Europeans. I also found out that he was the nephew of Little Turtle, the most famous of the Miami and adversary of the city’s namesake General Anthony Wayne.

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Jean Baptiste de Richardville, or Pinsiwa in the Miami language

(13) Jean Baptiste de Richardville acquired several thousand acres of land, including the land that was to become Southwood Park and my home, at the Treaty of Saint Mary’s on October 6, 1818.

The Allen County Recorder’s office does not still keep original copies of documents this old, but the paper trail took me all the way back to a treaty between the Miami nation and the United States of America. The typewritten facsimile of the 1818 document shows that the signatory for the grantor of the property was U.S. President James Monroe. Pretty cool.

In tracing the chain of owners, I solved a few of the mysteries I had been wondering about. I also got an unintended history lesson. But I still had unanswered questions about how, when, and why my home has changed over the years. There is more to learn!

Finding the Original

Not long after I found the 1940 census document detailing some of my home’s first occupants, I came across another very valuable resource. The registration form for Southwood Park to be listed by the National Park Service as a National Historic District was written in 2008, and I figured since my home was listed as “notable” in the 2000 interim report, it may have been referenced in the neighborhood’s application for historic status. I was right. Here is what it had to say about my house:

“4318 Beaver Avenue: Wayne Marriotte [sic] House, c. 1928…”

Okay, so apparently nobody can spell the name correctly.

“This two story, vinyl-sided Dutch Colonial Revival house has its entrance located on the south end of the facade, under a porch supported by wood and brick piers. The porch roof has a wide, shallow arch, which is mimicked above a pair of divided-light French doors located to the north of the entrance. On the second floor are located two one-over-one windows. The front gable one-car garage is sided with aluminum…”

Sounds about right so far. One thing to note is that the historic registration further clarifies how the houses were ranked for their historic character by using three features: original unenclosed porch, original siding, and original garage. Homes with three of these features are considered “outstanding,” homes with two are “notable,” and homes with one are “contributing.” Since the interim report said my home was “notable” and it has both an original unenclosed porch and an original single-car gable-fronted garage, I now know for certain that the original siding was removed or covered some time before 2000, which is only a small help. But the note about aluminum on the garage is interesting because when we bought it in 2013 the siding was vinyl. So new siding was put on the garage some time between 2008 and 2013, meaning that the most recent owners before us were the ones who did it. Minor stuff, but the blurb continues:

“The house was featured in the newspaper shortly after its construction was completed (Fort Wayne News Sentinel, November 17, 1928).”

Jackpot! A newspaper feature from the year of construction would tell me all kinds of things about the original house, and I wasted no time going to the library, of which Fort Wayne’s just so happens to have one of the largest and best genealogy departments in the country. I had no doubt they would have newspapers from almost a century ago. It turns out they are kept on microfilm, and after learning about this technology in elementary school I found myself using it for the first time in my life. I quickly dug up the November 17, 1928 issue and I found it right away:

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A photo of my home from the November 17, 1928 issue of the Fort Wayne News Sentinel

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A photo of my home from when we purchased it in 2013

It looks the same! Some quick things to note are the original garage door, probably on vertical hinges, had some neat windows. The bay window just left of the entry was not there, which is surprising. I would have thought that was an original feature. The downspouts are actually still in their original locations, which I also would not have guessed. The house originally had shutters, too. And the driveway had two concrete tire strips instead of being one solid slab. Remarkably, the house looks very much today like it did right after it was built! But there was even more information to be had with the half-page article accompanying the photo:

Stability and character is reflected in this Dutch colonial home owned by Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Mariotte, at 4318 Beaver avenue. The appearance of comfort and abundant room, usually characteristic of this type home, is not lacking as one observes the residence from the street. Its harmonious lines forecast abundantly these essentials.

Assurance that the home will be comfortable in so far as winter heating is concerned is made certain by the installation of a gas heat furnace, the fuel to be supplied by the Northern Indiana Public Service company. Gas heat will provide level temperatures throughout the winter with a minimum of care by the owner.

Approach is made to the front door over a red cement walk and red cement porch floor, a part of which is covered by a gracefully curving roof. Entrance is made directly into the living room. This room is finely illuminated by numerous windows and French doors. The fireplace is located between the French doors and a group of book shelves. A stairway leads to the upper rooms at the rear of the room, while an arch, of graceful style, connects the room to the dining room, also placed at the front of the home.

The dining room is featured by French doors leading to the front and by the adequate space given for all purposes. The buffet is placed in a recess. All wood trim and flooring in this room as it is in the living room is of the best grade of oak. The kitchen is directly to the rear of the dining room and is replete with all modern conveniences. The breakfast room is placed to the rear of the kitchen.

Upstairs are located two large front bedrooms and a children’s bedroom is placed over the breakfast room. This room has been given windows on three sides and is ideal for sleeping purposes. The bathroom is convenient and extremely attractive with its modern fixtures, tiled floors and wall and clothes closet.

One of the interesting features of the home is the use of mineral wool board supplied by the Home Builders Supply company in the place of plaster. This is finished in various shades to suit the tastes of the owners, the living and dining rooms being dark beige; the kitchen green; the bath green; and the bedrooms green, lavender, and rose. In addition to being of decorative effect this material gives insulative value in both summer and winter. All lumber and Curtis millwork was supplied by the Home Builders Supply company.” -Fort Wayne News Sentinel, November 17, 1928

Holy cow. Even through the absurd wording of a 1920s fluff article, I got a pretty clear picture of the original house and immediately answered some of my biggest questions. The floor plan of the house has NOT been changed the way I thought it was, and there was never an addition other than the sun room! The “breakfast room” has been eliminated, with the modern kitchen cabinets likely extending into where it used to be. But the smallest bedroom upstairs has always been there and has always been a bedroom. My idea that the current master bedroom was formerly two separate rooms is also wrong.

Other interesting things to note are that the color given for the living and dining rooms – “dark beige” – is still the color of those rooms. One of the bedrooms is also still green, but the other two are thankfully not rose and lavender any more. The bay window used to also be French doors, but the photo shows that they did not lead anywhere and must have been purely decorative.

The fact that the walls are not plaster and lath is also surprising, and after looking up “mineral wool,” there may be a good chance that it is still there under the textured surfaces of the downstairs rooms and the larger of the two kids’ rooms (the other rooms have been drywalled).

This treasure trove of information was more than I had hoped to find when I started, but now I want to know even more where the article and photo are lacking. What did the original front door look like? What was the original color of the house? I still want to know about the enclosure of the sun room, and what about the “breakfast room?” The article also called Wayne and Clara the owners of the home, even though the census shows that they didn’t actually own it. So that mystery is still there, too. I’m definitely not done yet!

Did you mean “Fort Wayne Marriott?”

Having found out that my home was the “Wayne Marott House,” I had a lot of new leads to check, and I was feeling optimistic. But search after search came up empty. With a name attached to the home, I figured I would first find information on the person and go from there. But no. Google kept asking me if I was actually trying to look up Marriott hotels in Fort Wayne. The subject of my search having the same name as the city he lived in made things a little bit difficult.

Instead, I turned to some generic but hopefully still helpful resources. The Allen County surveyor’s office has publicly accessible aerial photographs of the whole county dating back to 1938 when the house was only a decade old. Hopefully I could see some changes over time.

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1938 Surveyor Aerial

Starting in 1938, the neighborhood still looks brand new! Shiny white newly poured sidewalks and cute little halfway-grown street trees are evident. My house is definitely there, too. The sun room extension is obviously not there, but I can’t tell any detail about what was there instead. Unfortunately, the northern half of the back of the house is obscured by a grainy shadow, and I can’t see the area where the maybe-extension may or may not have been.

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1957 Surveyor Aerial

The next year available is 1957, nearly two decades later. Unfortunately, the image is even grainer than 1938 and I can’t make out any new detail.

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1964 Surveyor Aerial

Jumping into 1964, the house is a little more clear. It appears that there are now two flat-roofed areas on the back of the house and it has its current footprint. The detail level is not great, but I think if there was an addition made, it has been there since at least 1964 along with the sun room.

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1986 Surveyor Aerial

It is interesting to me how more modern photographs are not necessarily better than older ones. In 1986 the image is too blurry to see much other than that Beaver Avenue is somewhat devoid of trees. I suppose this means that the large ash tree in my front yard was planted some time around the mid 80s. Kind of cool to know!

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1995 Surveyor Aerial

1995’s image is interesting in that it is a tilted view that shows more of the structures than just their rooftops. Unfortunately, there is a seam in the images that goes directly through my house. But I can definitely see that the house looks a lot like it does today.

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2006 Surveyor Aerial

In 2006 the image is really good! But at this point I already know the changes that have been made to the house, so it’s just a little too late.

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2015 Surveyor Aerial

In 2015, hey, there’s my car!

This exercise was useful in pinning down some of the major work to the mid-1960s or earlier, which at least gives me a more condensed timeframe in which to look and consider context. Unfortunately, looking down from an airplane still leaves a lot to be desired.

I kept trying random searches and county information on and off for a while. One day, I found a resource that I had not considered before: the U.S. census. Information is made public after 70 years, so the most recent one is from 1940, well within the lifetime of the house. The website was surprisingly easy to navigate by street address.

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1940 US Census for Beaver Avenue

There was my address, home of the Mariotte family. The reason I couldn’t find anything before was because I was basing my search on a typo in the city interim report! This was the first really big information breakthrough. According to the census, a family of three lived in the house in 1940 and since at least 1935: husband Wayne (age 40), wife Clara (age 35), and daughter Marilyn (age 11). But what was most interesting to me was the “R” next to the address indicating that the house was rented with the cost being listed as “free.” Even though it was listed as his house in the historic reference, Wayne did not appear to be the original owner, or even an owner at all. But he was living there at no cost, which made me think either he was a relative of the owner, or there was some kind of unique living arrangement between the family and the owner, perhaps because of the Great Depression?

This revelation opened up a lot more questions like who originally owned and built the house, but at least there was accurate information on which to start looking. More to come soon!

Getting Started and Diving In

The most obvious first place for me to start looking into the history of my home was with the property card. These are available from the county assessor, and they show the most basic information about a home for tax purposes.

There was not a whole lot of information to be found on the property card. They list the number of rooms, general construction materials, and a rough sketch of the layout of the home. No surprises there except for that it also showed we own exactly 0.10 acres of land.

The only really interesting thing learned from the property card were the recent transactions. Our home had several, and in Allen County only those dating back to about 2000 or so are listed on the card. So we are one in a series of several recent owners.

According to the county, we took legal possession of the home on April 29, 2013. The family we purchased it from lived there for five-and-a-half years beginning on November 9, 2007. Prior to them, a single female owner had the home for two years starting on July 21, 2005. That person bought the home from a company called Brick Properties LLC that owned it for only two months starting on May 26, 2005. The transaction code for the May of ’05 sale date is given as “SH,” which tells me the home was lost in a sheriff’s sale, an interesting fact for certain. Brick Properties appears to have bought the house on the cheap and immediately flipped it. The length of time that they owned it tells me that there probably wasn’t a lot of work, if any, done during that time.

The last transaction listed is for the couple who owned the home at the time of its sheriff sale, but the chain stops there. This couple could have owned the home for any length of time between 1928 and 2005, but I guessed that there were probably at least a few other previous owners. It turns out I was right, but I didn’t know that right away.

In my real estate development job, I occasionally consult a series of documents published by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources known as interim reports. These are county- or city-wide inventories of the historic structures across Indiana. Fort Wayne’s was last updated in 2000, and I was checking into the historic status of some buildings I was looking into for a project a few years ago. On a whim, I looked up my neighborhood, and rather surprisingly my address was listed. 4318 Beaver was a part of the Southwood Park district and listed as “N” for “notable” on a scale that describes a structure’s character with regard to its district in terms of being non-contributing, contributing, notable, or outstanding.

The most interesting thing in the report was not that my home was near the top of the scale in its historic character, but that it was also listed as the “Wayne Marott House” instead of just by address like most other homes! Structures are listed in the reports based on how much historic integrity they have but also based on ties to famous or noteworthy individuals. The name linked to my address was suddenly the most important piece of history I had. Having moved from Indianapolis, the name “Marott” was immediately familiar to me by way of the Marott Hotel (now Marott Apartments).

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Marott Hotel postcard – from HistoricIndianapolis.com

Some quick Googling helped me understand that the Marott name was also associated with some fancy shoe stores in Indy near the beginning of the 20th century, but I found no mention of anyone named Wayne Marott. Perhaps the namesake was only distantly related (or not related at all) to the landmark I knew, or more hopefully, maybe I just had to start looking into old records that weren’t searchable by text.

In any case, I now had an original owner to my home and a solid place to start piecing together its history from the beginning. There would still be a lot to learn, though.

The Main Character

I should start with an introduction of the main character: the house. It is part of the Southwood Park neighborhood on the south side of Fort Wayne, and as I mentioned last time we knew it was of 1928 vintage and Dutch colonial architectural style. This is pretty much everything we knew when we moved in, and since we have made some changes, I will showcase how the house was the first time we saw it. Most of the photos below are from the previous owners’ sales listing in 2013 and showcase the house in a form as “original” as we ever knew it at 85 years old.

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The lay of the land

To get your bearings, here is a rough floor plan of the home. I used a fancy CAD program called “Microsoft Excel” to draw this.

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Living room from sales listing – early 2013

You enter the house into the living room, with the fireplace and built-in bookshelves that appear original along the left side of the room. The floors also appear original. One of the major changes that is immediately obvious is the window on the stairs. It looks out into a sun room that very obviously used to be a back porch or patio and has since been enclosed. Another thing that jumped out was the replacement banister, which was made with standard off-the-shelf components from a big box hardware store.

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Dining room from the sales listing – early 2013

Opening off of the living room to the right is the dining room. A door to the front porch and an arched alcove are the defining features. The chair rail was obviously added at some point.

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Kitchen from the sales listing – early 2013

Going toward the back of the house, the kitchen has ceramic tile and “modern” cabinets that certainly aren’t new but are definitely not original. A breakfast bar extends off the back of the cabinets, and that part of the kitchen was a big question for us. It appears that the room was extended out into the back yard at some point, with the room above it added at the same time. We will get to that more in a moment.

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Half bathroom from the appraisal – early 2013

Off of the kitchen is the half bathroom, which we assumed was not original and may have been converted from a closet or pantry. This photo is pretty awful because it’s from the appraisal. I only include it here because there was not one from the listing, and I wanted a historic record since we have made some significant changes to it. I’ll do another post later on showing how the house looks today, but for now we stay in 2013.

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Sun room from the sales listing – early 2013

Exiting the kitchen to the left leads to a landing with a set of stairs down to the basement, and also a smaller step down through what must have once been the back door into the sun room. The window into the stairs is to the left of the door in the photo above, but about five feet above the floor. This room is about a quarter of a level down from the rest of the house. Of all the rooms, this is the one we have changed the most, so this bad photo also serves as a historic record.

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Finished basement from sales listing – early 2013

The basement is partially finished. The small room toward the back is directly underneath the front porch. The unfinished part is behind the wall on the left side of this photo and also contains the laundry area.

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Small bedroom from the sales listing – early 2013

Going to the upper level, the first room to the left of the stairs is the smallest bedroom. It is significantly smaller than the other bedrooms and directly above the back of the kitchen, which is why we suspected it may have been an addition. There is also a flat roof above it further raising our suspicion. The sun room also has a flat roof, and it makes sense that these two alterations would have been done at the same time.

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Bathroom from the sales listing – early 2013

Next is the bathroom, which was refitted with modern fixtures rather recently.

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Large bedroom from the sales listing – early 2013

Next is the large bedroom. For a bedroom that is not the master in a house of this age, it is huge. We suspected that it may have actually been the master bedroom at some point, with the current master bedroom formerly being two separate rooms. Subtracting the smallest room that might have been added later, that would still make for a three bedroom house at the time of construction, with smaller rooms that would be sized more appropriately for the era.

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Master bedroom shortly after we moved in – June 24, 2013

Somehow neither the listing nor the appraisal had a photo of the master bedroom, so thankfully I took a picture shortly after we moved in. The master bedroom is very spacious and has two closets, one original and one obviously added much more recently. There are also some drawers built in to the wall that may not be original but are definitely old. If this room was originally two bedrooms, I have no idea how they would have been laid out, but the space is there. The picture doesn’t really do it justice.

After taking the tour, there are now several questions to answer:

1.) Was an addition built on to the back of the house to enlarge the kitchen and add an upstairs bedroom?

2.) Was the upstairs floor plan originally different, with the current master bedroom divided into two smaller bedrooms?

3.) What was the sun room in its past life: a porch or patio, what did it look like, and when was it enclosed?

4.) When were some of the other changes made, like removing the original banister, adding the half bathroom, and finishing the basement?

5.) Which features are truly part of the home’s original anatomy: floors, built-ins, and mantle?

6.) Finally, what else is there to learn about this house that isn’t even on my radar?

I will start to dig in to these questions in the next post. Stay tuned!

Where Our Story Starts

Jaime and I purchased our home at 4318 Beaver Avenue in April of 2013. Jaime was about four months pregnant with our first child, and we wanted to relocate from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne, Jaime’s home town. I found a job there earlier in the year, and we had been living with Jaime’s parents in their cramped upstairs extra room for about six weeks, which was much longer than we had hoped considering a previous offer on a different home we liked fell through pretty badly.

Disappointed that we had to start over from scratch with finding a place to start our family, we saw our current home for the first time on a drive-by with our realtor. We were looking in a neighborhood that was not our first choice, but serendipitously we saw the “for sale” sign in the front yard on the day that it was listed, scheduled a showing immediately, and put in an offer that night. The rest is now part of what I am finding out is a very long history.

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Our first home – April 24, 2013

We knew that the house was built in 1928 and that we were buying it from another young family who was rapidly outgrowing it. It had three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, and even though there were some obvious modifications it had the old character that we wanted. With a baby due in August, we began making it a great place for our family right away and made some changes of our own. That kept us too busy to think much about the house at first other than what paint colors to choose and where all the toys (so many toys) would go.

Flash forward a few years later, our son Walter is three and our daughter Alice is one. We have lived here for almost four years. Considering how much I moved around growing up, this house is one of my longest places of residence that I have ever had, and I have come to know it very well. And just like with a friend, once you know someone well enough you want to know more about them and their past. At the end of 2016, I got the itch to start doing my own research on where we live, and this blog will chronicle the interesting things that I find.

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The star of the show – June 24, 2013

If you are reading this and interested in doing the same type of research, then I hope to be able to provide some insight, resources, and starting points for you to do the same. With a home this old, there is definitely some detective work involved, and it is pretty interesting. I hope you agree. Thanks for reading!