Starting the German Connection

The last Bush to own the land where my home is now built, Emmanuel, sold the property on August 25, 1882 to one J. Lahmeyer. He only owned the property until March 15, 1886 in any case, but he appears to be the first in a fairly long chain of German owners.

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The men who bought the property next were Henry and August Schmidt. There appear to be several people with these names in the history of Allen County, and I can find none with many details connected to St. Joseph Township. But August undoubtedly farmed the land at least for a little while:

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In the 1887 county directory (snippet above), August is listed as a farmer (f) in Section 30 with 54 acres whose land was valued at $1,415. This matches up perfectly with the land. For whatever reason, August did not stay here long. On June 20, 1889 he sold the land to fellow native countryman Julius Remus.

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Julius Remus

I could find no record of Julius ever living on the land, and it seems as though he was a very wealthy businessman in his adopted country. His 1906 obituary commanded a lengthy column with large photo, and no doubt he was an important member of the community:

“Julius E. Remus, well known as a contractor, died Sunday morning at his home, 2218 South Broadway, after an illness of six months from dropsy. Mr. Remus was 54 years of age and had been a resident of Fort Wayne more than thirty years. He was a native of Germany, born in 1852, and came to this city at the age of 20 years, embarking in business as a contractor. Four years ago he organized the Fort Wayne Cement Store company for the manufacture of building blocks, and was its president, operating a factory on Nelson Street. He was a member of Emmaus Lutheran church and of the Bruederliche Unterstuetzings verein, and had many friends. Surviving relatives include the widow and two daughters, Mrs. L. C. Joequel and Mrs. C. H. Schultz, of this city; a brother, John Remus, of Milan Township, and a sister, Mrs. Minnie Rietdorf. There is also one grandchild.”

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Remus’ house today

Remus’ house at 2218 Broadway is still standing today. Even though it has been broken up into apartments over the last century, it is obvious that he was quite a successful man.

The businessman that he was, Remus sold his land investment on April 25, 1894 to Henry Greiner and family. After Remus’ short-term interest, Mr. Greiner did appear to work the land himself and have a family there.

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1898 Allen County Atlas – Greiner Farm in Section 30

Here in the 1898 Allen County atlas, you can see the Greiner farm clearly occupying the same plot of land that Emmanuel Bush sold almost 20 years earlier. I will go into more detail on the Greiners and their successors next time.

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The Bush Family of St. Joseph Township

Isaac Bush bought the land where my house now stands on February 28, 1846, and it became part of his larger farm. It seems like he and his wife Sarah were the first true family farmers to live off of the land that they owned after a string of investor-owners. This makes them unique, and it makes the history of the land and family more personal.

Isaac was born in Ohio in 1816 and came to Fort Wayne in his youth. According to Griswold & Taylors’s “The Pictoral History of Allen County” published in 1917, he lived for a time in one of the structures left over from the original Fort. This experience inspired him in later life to build a one-inch = one-foot scale model of the Fort, renewing interest in the old structure after it was demolished:

Increasing interest in the historic structure grew with the passage of the years, and he gathered all available information from those who remembered the architectural form of the buildings which were standing in the early thirties when construction of the Wabash and Erie canal necessitated the removal of a portion of the fort. This knowledge Mr. Bush put into definite form in the building of a model of the fort about the year 1870. At that time, he engaged the services of Frank Kincaid, a carpenter, and the latter constructed the model after the plans as prepared by Mr. Bush. ‘I remember this model very well,’ says Mrs. E. K. Bush, daughter-in-law of Isaac Bush. ‘It was about twenty feet square, and hundreds of people came to see it when it was placed on exhibition near the Baker Homestead on Delaware Avenue. The model was preserved for many years and formed an interesting part of the exhibition of the Centennial celebration in 1895. I don’t know what became of it.'” (from Griswold & Taylor, 1917)

The book includes a pen drawing of the model, but its text also references that photos of the model were taken. Since this model formed a part of the exhibit for Fort Wayne’s 1895 Centennial celebration, I figured there was a good chance I could find the photos somewhere, and I did in the archives of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society:

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Isaac Bush’s model of Fort Wayne in 1895

Isaac’s hobby wasn’t the only thing notable about him, though. In 1839, he was married to Sarah Madden in what was the first official marriage in St. Joseph Township. Ever since that date, almost all information I could find about Isaac and Sarah reference them as “old pioneers” of the township or one of its “original families.”

In 1846 when they bought the land where my house now stands, Isaac was 30 and Sarah was 26. The young family soon grew, and according to the 1850 census, they had a daughter also named Sarah who was 5 years old, and a son named Joseph who was 2 years old.

1850 Census - Isaac Bush & Family

Bush Family in the 1850 Census

In the 1860 census, the family was listed as Isaac age 45, Sarah age 40, Sarah age 11 (although 10 years previously she was listed as 5), Emmanuel age 8, Julia age 6, and George age 4. It appears as though their son Joseph died in childhood some time between 1850 and 1860.

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Bush Family in the 1860 Census

1860 is also the earliest year that I could find a map of the land. The Allen County atlas for that year shows their farmstead in the southeastern part of Section 30.

1860 Township Landowners

The farm occupied an area that includes all of present-day New Kirkwood. Here are the boundaries overlaid on the area as it looks today. It was bounded by Vance Avenue to the south, Rolston Avenue to the west, Trier Road to the north, and Hobson Road to the east. My house is marked by the red arrow.

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The boundaries of the historic Bush farm

By 1870, the census showed that the household then consisted of Isaac age 55, Sarah age 50, Emmanuel age 17, Julia age 16, and James age 5. George appears to have also died in childhood between 1860 and 1870 like his brother Joseph before him. Their daughter Sarah was no longer living at home after she married and took the name McClure. Some time after 1870, Isaac also acquired his neighbor’s land to the north, enlarging his farm even more.

On May 21, 1876 Isaac died at the age of 60. His brief obituary stated that the funeral took place at the family home, and that “there was a very large attendance of old settlers at the funeral.” His land was willed to his wife Sarah and to his children. But this is where things got messy. According to the title abstract for the land that became the Kirkwood Park and New Kirkwood neighborhoods, Isaac’s widow Sarah took her own children to court to contest their inheritance. Her argument was that as the surviving widow of the deceased, she should be entitled to all of the land.

The legal battle was waged for a very long time, and even by 1880 the land was still listed as the “Isaac Bush Estate” in the Allen County atlas of that year. However, by 1882 everything seemed to be resolved, with the estate being split among Sarah Bush, Sarah McClure, Emmanuel, and James:

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The split of the Bush Estate, with land as it is today

James got the most recently acquired property to the north of Trier Rd, while Sarah McClure and Sarah Bush ended up with adjoining parcels. There were no doubt some ill feelings between mother and daughter, as Sarah McClure ended up with a bigger piece than her mother. Emmanuel received the southern 54-acre portion of the land that became the exact boundaries of present-day New Kirkwood.

On August 25, 1882 Emmanuel sold his land to one J. Lahmeyer. By then, Emmanuel was by all accounts a successful businessman in Fort Wayne and his address was listed as Berry Street in what is now downtown. I imagine that after his legal fight, putting some space between himself and his mother was a welcome idea, and his siblings seemed to have had the same idea. Emmanuel’s obituary from 1911 lists his surviving siblings with James living in LaPorte, Indiana; Julia living in Salem, Oregon; and Sarah living in the city of Fort Wayne.

Sarah Bush lived the rest of her life on the family land and died in 1901. Her obituary from the December 17, 1901 Fort Wayne Sentinel read:

“Mrs. Sarah Bush, one of the best known of the pioneer residents of Allen County, died at 2:30 o’clock this afternoon at the old Bush homestead east of the state school at the age of nearly 82 years. Mrs. Bush has been in failing health for some time and during the past few weeks her condition has been regarded as critical. Death was due to the infirmities of age. Mrs. Bush was born January 12, 1820 at Freeport, Tuscarawas County, Ohio. She came with her father, James Madden, to Indiana in 1837, and for more than sixty years has resided near the city. She was united in marriage to Isaac Bush May 2, 1839, and to this union thirteen children were born. Four are living: Mrs. Andrew McDaniel (note: this appears to be Sarah McClure’s remarried name), E. K. Bush the commission merchant; Mrs. H. J. Oswalt, and J. L. Bush, all of this city. There are eleven grandchildren. For sixty years, Mrs. Bush had been a devoted member of the Berry Street M. E. church, widely known and universally esteemed for the splendid attributes of lofty womanhood which illuminated her life. Her death will be greatly lamented, and particularly so by the older citizens, who have known and esteemed this pioneer woman for more than half a century.”

Sarah Bush

Section 30, Township 31, Range 13

Researching the history of the land where my house now stands started with a crash course in how land was surveyed, parceled, and sold to the homesteaders who were the first European Americans to settle there. From what I can tell, I traced the chain of title all the way back to its very first private owners in a sale from the U.S. General Land Office on October 15, 1832 to Samuel Parker and Michael Clinger, both of Preble County, Ohio.

The land in question was part of Range 13, which was (or rather still is) a group of townships in northeast Indiana. The township in question is #31 in Range 13: St. Joseph Township. The section is #30. Parker and Clinger bought the west half of the southeast quarter of Section 30, Township 31, Range 13. To begin to make sense of this, here is a handy chart that I found in an old county directory:

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Legend of Land Measure

Each township in a range consisted of 36 roughly equal sections, which themselves were divided into four roughly equal quarters of 160 acres each (see the bottom-left or southwest quadrant of the legend above). So when Clinger and Parker bought the west half of the southeast quarter of 30-31-13, they were buying an 80-acre rectangle in the bottom-center of the section. This method of land management was so prolific that the grid of squares it created is still evident today, nearly 200 years after they were first surveyed. To give you an idea, here is St. Joseph Township as it looks today. The regular squares formed by arterial roads correspond almost exactly to the old farming sections.

St. Joseph Twp Sections Today

St. Joseph Township today

Zooming in, here is what Section 30 of which Clinger and Parker bought a piece looks like today:

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Section 30, Township 31, Range 13 in 2017

Section 30 was bounded by what are now Vance Avenue to the south, Anthony Boulevard and the St. Joseph River to the west, Stellhorn Road to the north, and Hobson Road to the east. The quarters are divided approximately along Carew Street to the north and south and Trier Road to the east and west. Note that the northeast and southwest quarters are squeezed a little bit because they were along the very western edge of the township, and sections like that were “always fractional” according to the legend of land measure above.

So it is clear that Parker and Clinger, having bought the western half of the southeast quarter shown on the map above, owned the land where my house is now built which is marked by the big red arrow. I can find very little about Parker and Clinger, but they owned the land for just under four years, selling it on February 13, 1836 to one Joseph Silver for the sum of $500, or $6.25 per acre.

Silver owned the land for less than six months and flipped in on July 30, 1836 for more than triple his investment at $1,600 or a neat $20 per acre. The buyer was Samuel Hanna.

That name immediately stuck out at me, because Hanna was in the chain of ownership of my last house, too! The land where my old house in Southwood Park now stands was also bought by Hanna on October 21, 1835. It seems like it would be difficult to buy two homes on opposite sides of a city that were built on land with a common owner from almost 200 years earlier, but Hanna seemed to be a prolific investor and he likely owned much, much more land than that. In any case, my current and previous homes can now claim to be distant cousins, with both sharing a common great-great-great-grandfather.

Hanna owned both properties for about a decade, then seemed to divest himself of his land interests all at the same time. My old house’s land was sold on November 17, 1845. The land where my current house stands sold on February 28, 1846, but at that point it was broken down into more pieces. Hanna sold the eastern sliver of his land where my house stands but held on to the western piece of the property for at least a little while longer, and it seems like this east-west divide is where the current boundary of the New Kirkwood neighborhood now lies. It makes sense because my house is on the very western edge of the neighborhood to the east of this divide.

The person who bought the eastern sliver was one Isaac Bush, who purchased it for $430 and added it to other land in the southeast quarter as part of his larger farm. At this point, I began to find out quite a bit about the Bush family. It is also the era where data sources like maps and census records started to become more consistently available to me. In light of this, I will take a deeper dive into the Bush farm next time. It also happens to be where some serious drama starts to occur. Stay tuned for all the juicy details from the life of a 19th-Century Indiana farm family.

One Step Back

Buying the home when it was a work in progress, we were afforded an opportunity to watch some of its most dramatic changes. I will start with the basement, since that is the only part of the home that was customized specifically for us. All the rest of it was well underway with finishes and fixtures already purchased.

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Basement Playroom – Before

The previous owner was a man named Earl Thompson who was a master brewer for the Falstaff brewery in Fort Wayne. This part of the basement is labeled as the “playroom” on the floor plan in the last post. It was roughly finished as a man cave where we are told he used to have his poker games.

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Basement Playroom – After

That space now serves as the kids’ playroom; a use just a bit different than before.

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Basement Game Room – Before

On the other side of the stairs was an unfinished room (except for the wood paneling) that was just storage.

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Basement Game Room – After

We finished it as well and it is now a more adult-focused game room, although the kids have overtaken it. Don’t mind the hand chair, although I am sure Earl would have loved it. The closet in the photo above was added to surround the sump pit.

Speaking of Earl, from what we were told he was the original owner of the house and occupied it until he passed away in 2016. Doing what I do with this blog, of course I looked him up and found plenty of information on the man who seemed to be very beloved in the community. I also found quite a few pictures of him at the house, and those helped key me in to some of the changes it has seen over time.

Front Yard

Earl in the side yard

Here is a photo of him in the side yard, where you can see a flag pole on the right and a rock in the background to the left by the street.

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The side yard today

The flag pole and rock are still there for reference, but the Blue Spruce that was behind Earl in the photo above is now gone. Instead, a new tree is growing by the street.

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Earl on the back patio

I also found a photo of Earl on the back patio. Take note of the height of the cedar trees on the left and the scrawny staked tree sapling that is just barely in the photo to the right. The patio in this shot also looks to be poured concrete.

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Earl on the back patio – later on

I found another photo of the same scene much later on with Earl and his family. Look how much the tree has grown.

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Back patio as it currently looks

Here is the same view today. The cedar hedges have become a forest, and that little sapling is now a gnarled old man of a tree. The patio was also changed to square pavers along the way.

Living Room

Earl in the living room

There was also a photo of Earl in the living room. I wish I could read the date on that newspaper.

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The current living room

Here is a photo of that same corner of the living room as we use it today.

Kitchen

Earl in the kitchen

Finally, there was one photo of Earl eating in the kitchen, with the hallway into the living room and its fireplace visible behind him.

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Looking into the living room from the kitchen today

Here is the same viewpoint as it looks today.

We had just a few more glimpses back into the way things used to look, as our neighbors undertaking the renovation project took a few reference shots of some of the home’s finishes when they purchased it at auction in 2016.

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Original dining room looking into kitchen

Starting downstairs, the dining room and kitchen used to be separated by a much longer wall, with only a standard-sized door opening between them. This photo shows that door plus the wallpaper and chandelier in the dining room and the original finishes of the kitchen.

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Dining room and kitchen today

This is essentially the same view showing how much the two rooms have been opened up. The rooms are also now finished in a slightly more modern style. That is Jaime’s arm saying hi from the kitchen. She was making cookies when I took this.

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The kitchen wall

This is the other side of the wall from the kitchen. It is now gone, along with the wallpaper and light fixture. The door on the left with the round embellishment on it is a handy reference point for the next picture.

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Where the wall used to be

This is approximately the same shot as the photo above, but with the wall gone. The built-in cabinet in the dining room is original to the house.

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The old master bathroom

Here is the former master bathroom, with tiled counter, wallpaper, and crystal chandelier. Everything in this picture is reflected in the mirror, which is why it is oriented differently from the photos below.

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Master bathroom – February 2017

Here is how the master bathroom looked the first time we saw it.

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Current master bathroom

And this is how it looks today.

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Master bedroom before

Here is the wall in the master bedroom with the doorway leading into the master bathroom. There used to be a lot of chandeliers in the house.

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Master bedroom today

Here is the same place today, relatively unchanged apart from the wallpaper.

Most of what has changed since Earl has been the result of us. A wall was knocked down in the kitchen, the basement was finished, and all new fixtures and finishes were added to most of the house, but everything has essentially been cosmetic changes. We are fortunate to have found a house so well cared for for so long. But there have been other bigger changes to our property, and they happened before the house was built.

In our previous home, I tracked backward from our residence to put together a narrative in reverse. This time, I did much the same thing to piece together its history, but the narrative is more interesting going chronologically. Next time I will start that story. Coming soon!

We Moved!

This blog has been on hiatus, but only because we have moved. We now call our home 2609 Whitegate Drive on the northeast side of Fort Wayne. That means that I have a whole lot of fresh material to get started with. After doing a history project on my last home, it was obvious that I would do the same thing to my new one, and this is the start of that.

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The new house – 2609 Whitegate Drive in February 2017

The new house is a bit bigger than the old one, which is why we moved. It is also newer: circa 1963 to be precise. The old home was 35 years old when this one was newly constructed. The history and our level of knowledge was markedly different this time around, too. The house’s original owner lived here up until his death in 2016. Following that, a neighbor purchased and began renovating it when we decided to buy it. So we established pretty quickly a direct link to this house’s origins. We also knew how this house had changed from its beginning since we were the ones who ordered some of the work to be done. But there is still plenty to learn.

I will start by giving you an introduction to the protagonist.

1st Floor

1st Floor Plan

The house is a Colonial-ish, but not entirely. It sits on the borderline between a true Colonial Revival and some of the mid-century and modern designs propagating in the 1960s. Entrance is made from the front door into the foyer, with a dining room to the left and living room to the right. A kitchen and half bathroom are at the rear of the house, with a two-car garage attached to the west side.

2nd Floor

2nd Floor Plan

The second floor has bedrooms in each corner, with bathrooms in the center-rear. We gained an extra bedroom and an extra full bathroom with the purchase of this house. The boxes in the Guest Bedroom/Office and Front Bedroom are cabinets recessed into the wall cavities in those rooms, which is an interesting feature.

Basement

Basement Plan

The basement is finished with two main entertaining rooms and an unfinished laundry area. This is the part of the house that we changed the most on purchasing it.

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Context within the neighborhood

The house (marked with a red arrow) is located in the very northwestern corner of the New Kirkwood neighborhood near the IPFW campus (Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne for the non-locals). I want to include this establishing shot in the first post about the house, because the neighborhood itself has some interesting history to it, and quite a bit happened on the land that was to become New Kirkwood. More to come soon!

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.

Half Bath

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.

Large Bedroom

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.

Living Room

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!