NMHS Newsletter, August 2015


New Face on Main Street – Again!

NMCH Facade Restoration

The uncovered 1920’s façade

One of the most often asked questions the North Manchester Center for History (NMCH) has received this summer concerns our plans for the building’s façade.  Visitors to downtown have noticed the removal of the white aluminum sheathing, mansard roof, and store-wide overhang.  Most recently, brickwork was removed to reveal the brick and granite details beneath.


The NMCH is housed in the former Oppenheim Department Store.  In 1969, the Oppenheims remodeled their buildings, and put up an easy-care aluminum façade to unite two unlike buildings in one clean, modern design.  Today, we are more interested in returning to our past look.  But which one?  In the 115 years since the original Oppenheim Department Store building was constructed, there have been two major façade renovations, in the 1920’s and in 1969.  Photographs of all these reincarnations are available in the NMCH collection.


According to Mary Chrastil, North Manchester Historical Society (NMHS) President, “We would have loved to return to the façade from Victorian times.  But that front no longer exists.  The windows both on the first floor and upstairs were substantially changed during the 1920’s renovations, and further altered in 1969.”


The overall plan decided upon was to return as much as possible to the 1920’s look, which might be described as early 20th century commercial style.  A plan, combining the most desirable features of several architectural plans made during the past ten years, was adopted by the NMHS Board in 2014.  Since the NMHS knew it could not afford to restore the entire façade at that time, the plan that was adopted had several stages.  Last year, NMCH was pleased to participate in the town’s façade improvement program, adding new windows and improved handicapped access.  The next step is to restore the remainder of the façade. 


This year, the NMCH took the bold and risky step of removing the 1969 façade.  The risk comes from the fact that NMCH had no idea of the condition of the building under the 1969 improvements.  The brick, terra cotta highlights, and limestone embellishments could all have been chiseled away in the process of adding the new front.  We already knew that while eight windows appear in the 1969 version, there are window openings for eleven windows.  Finally, we were not sure if the damage caused by installing the 1969 façade was significant.




Another concern is that NMCH had no idea of how much money would need to be raised to restore the façade until the old façade was removed and building needs were assessed.  The good news is that the brick is in fairly good shape and looks like it can be repaired or replaced.  The terra cotta features and much of the limestone need serious attention.  SRKM Architects from Warsaw had worked on a previous building assessment, and they have been contracted to provide specs and cost estimates for the project.  At this writing, NMCH is using a working figure of $150,000.  In addition to contractual work, volunteers have spent many hours on the façade removal and clean up, saving thousands of dollars.  


What’s next?  According to Chrastil, it’s been very expensive to implement the restorations so far, even with a significant amount of volunteer labor.  “The town façade program was designed to help the normal sized downtown storefront; the reality is that our building used to be three separate buildings, which were combined into one over the years.  For the window replacements last year, the funds from the town program covered less than a third of our costs.  On the other hand, the town façade program got us started on something we might otherwise have delayed for years.  We are pleased to be able to invest in our community and are so grateful to the town for their program.  The efforts made to improve downtown during the past several years have been remarkable.”


NMCH work will begin as architectural plans are prepared and funds are raised.  One concern is to secure any areas where winter weather can cause damage.  According to Chrastil, “Most people are very patient and understanding about the rough finish on our building just now.  All of the comments we have received have been very positive about the new ‘old’ look.”


New Exhibits at the Center for History


Visitors who have not come to the Center for the past few months will see many new and upgraded exhibits.  Since last January, approximately one third of the Center’s permanent exhibits have been upgraded, with better labeling, more logical positioning, and improved layouts.  The upgrades are part of the Center’s desire to present a more cohesive narrative concerning northern Wabash County history. 


A major retelling is in the area of earliest residents.  According to Chrastil, “If we don’t tell the story of our founding families, no one else will.  We are especially eager to tell the hundreds of school children who visit us annually the story of why Americans settled here, the native populations they encountered when the area was opened to settlement, and the natural features and resources that made North Manchester a good location to build a town.”  The Center features a new exhibit on prehistory and early settlers, including information on glaciers, mastodon bones, stone artifacts that are thousands of years old, and a sampling of animals the early settlers found here.  One all-new exhibit area features beautiful hand-painted murals depicting the native landscape and earliest settlements. 


The Center for History received many positive comments about the new exhibits from the hundreds of visitors who saw them during FunFest.



Special Loans to the Center for History


The Center for History is privileged to display some interesting and unusual items that have been loaned to us on a long-term basis.  The first is a Rex Windmill on loan until mid-December by Jim Koch, who is currently repairing and restoring windmills at the Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville.  According to Koch, the windmill is one of only two Rex Windmills in existence.  The Rex Windmill Company manufactured wooden windmills in North Manchester from 1889 until 1899.  When they closed, their assets were moved from North Manchester to Anderson, where metal windmills were manufactured under the Rex name.  The metal Rex Windmill on display has been beautifully restored to working condition.


Also on display are 23 delightful detailed miniature wagons and their hitches that Don Bechtold has entrusted to the Center as a long-term loan.  Nine are in the front windows, the rest inside.  The models include everything from circus wagons to farm vehicles, each with accurate scale model horses and liveries.  Bechtold’s first models were constructed around 1969.  He kept track of the time it took to construct his latest model, a 6-horse hitch, in 2015—193 hours.  For some of his models, Bechtold was inspired by his experience showing his draft ponies at the state fair.  He grew up on farms in this area and created his farm models from his boyhood memories.  His interest in the circus wagons was inspired when he took his draft ponies to the Milwaukee Circus parade three years in a row


Another long-term loan consists of animals from taxidermist Luke Hunt.  They are examples of wildlife that would have been in this area in the 1830’s, when the first American settlers came to this area:  river otter, coyote, badger, skunk, porcupine, and red-tailed hawk.  French explorers and trappers and Native American tribes would also have hunted these animals. The animals are part of the new exhibit at the Center for History on the early geography and environment of the North Manchester area, the earliest human inhabitants, and the town founders.



Historical Society Sets Volunteer Records

2014 Volunteers of the Year Honored


Approximately seventy-five volunteers to the North Manchester Historical Society and North Manchester Center for History were honored at a reception at the Center for History in April, National Volunteer Month.  They recorded 10,379 volunteer hours from January 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015, the equivalent of five full-time employees. Total volunteer hours since the Center opened have now passed the 50,000 hour mark at 54,773 hours.  Using the guidelines provided by The Independent Sector volunteer website, the 54,773 hours translate into volunteer services valued at $1,180,914.  In other words, Historical Society volunteers have donated over one million dollars of service, another milestone.


Volunteers who have accumulated 100 hours of service received a polo shirt with the North Manchester Center for History logo.  Those achieving this milestone this year were:  Jane Ann Airgood, Barb Amiss, Tom Brown, Paula Dee, Bernie Ferringer, Jim Garman, Ruth Hawley and Carolyn Underwood.


The Volunteer of the Year award was given to Dave Randall.  According to Mary Chrastil, NM Historical Society President, “Dave has always said yes when asked to help out.  The problem is, he doesn’t always record the hours and hours he puts in.”  A long-time board member, Randall has also served on the Center’s building committee.  He does construction work, recycles, helps with exhibit fabrication, and last year helped refinish the beautiful hardwood floors in the Center’s new windows.


Volunteer of the Year awards also went to James R. C. Adams and Charles Boebel for the video documentary they are creating on North Manchester.  According to Chrastil, “producing a video is a time-consuming task, especially given Jim’s and Charles’ creativity and standards of excellence.  We have interviewed scores of people for this video, and have interwoven source material from historical records and 1938 and 1985 videos.  Once we started the interviews, we realized that they will also serve as a wonderful video archive that will benefit researchers for years and years; but creating the archive added additional work.  Both of these honorees have given about 240 hours to the project so far.”  Guests at the reception were treated to a 10-minute clip showing the beginning portion of the video.


NM Historical Society volunteers honored for 100 hours of service:  Paula Dee, Barb Amiss, Ruth Hawley, Tom Brown, Jane Ann Airgood, Bernie Ferringer and Carolyn Underwood.  (Not pictured:  Jim Garman).

Volunteer Recognition, 2014-2015 


Without volunteers, the North Manchester Historical Society would simply not exist.  We have interesting and worthwhile ways you can help—research, exhibits, serving at the front desk, transcribing documents, construction, genealogy, planning our dinner programs, working with school children, even light cleaning!  If you can give a few hours each month, or if you would be interested in a one-time project, call Paula Dee or Gladys Airgood at the Center for History, 260-982-0672, to become part of our family and part of an organization that is well regarded as valuable community asset.

 Received Acquisitions in 2015

By Joyce Joy, Curator and Archivist


Some interesting items we have recently acquired from donors are:

> A cabinet with drawers that holds labels for prescriptions that was found in Landis Drug Store when John and Carolyn Reed moved there.

> Pharmacy items belonging to John Reed – medicine bottles, mixing & measuring glasses, a collection of pharmacy tiles used to prepare prescriptions.

> Christening dresses worn by Carolyn & John Reed’s children.

> A baby walker from the 1930’s belonging to John Reed

> Toys from the late 1920’s and 1930’s belonging to John Reed and brother Forrest Reed.

> An iron “Peabody Seating Co., Inc.” sign.

> Newsletters “Chester Chatter”, a Chester School paper, from the 1940’s belonging to Willodene Pottenger.

> Roann School letter sweater belonging to Mary Miller.

> Genealogy records of the Kintner/Poff  Family.

> Walkie-Talkies from the 1960’s, belonging to Denny Unger.

> School journals that gives student names and grades through all the grades.  From 1893 to 1951.

> Scrapbook from the Korean War with military records and photos of boys in service, kept by Mildred Brubaker.

> World War II Ration Books from the Airgood family.

> Windshield Wiper pressure gauge, to check wipers.
> Mary K. Peabody’s vintage 1930’s bicycle


Many of these items are on temporary display in the “New Acquisitions” case at the Center for History.




The NMHS arranges tours two or more times each year in conjunction with the NM Shepherd’s Center.  Board Member Bernie Ferringer is in charge of the tours.  In the past year, tour participants visited Gettysburg and the Eisenhower Farm August 26-29, 2014; the Eiteljorg and Indiana State Museums December 2, 2014; and the Milan Basketball Museum, Michaela Farm, Mrs. Wick’s Pies bakery, and the President Benjamin Harrison home June 18-19, 2015.


Coming up are a visit to Vincennes October 14-16, 2015, when travelers will tour historic sites, visit the Red Skelton Museum, and enjoy shops and museums in Washington, Indiana.  A trip to the Purdue Christmas show is scheduled for December 5.  There are a few spaces left for both of these excursions.  Contact Bernie Ferringer for information if you would like to join them:  Bernie Ferringer, Tour Coordinator, 314 Sunset Drive, North Manchester, In. 46962.  Phone 260 982-8734, Cell # 260 901-3323.



Traveling Exhibits


 As it does every year, the Center for History has continued to take advantage of interesting and informative traveling exhibits offered by the Indiana Historical Society.  We are currently exhibiting Hoosiers and Their Hooch: Perspectives on Prohibition.  The exhibit will be in town for a limited time, from July 30 through August 31. The exhibit includes the early years of the temperance era, the roaring twenties, and the eventual repeal of the constitutional amendment. The exhibit also covers prohibition’s effect on the United States for years afterward.

From September 1 through October 13, the Center will host Indiana Disasters.  In this exhibit, historical photographs capture unforgettable Indiana catastrophes while newspaper headlines, illustrations and survivor accounts show how Hoosiers persevere in the face of disaster. Disasters included are extreme weather, epidemics, fires, crashes, spills, explosions and many others. 


The NMHS is recognized as the local site where these professionally-designed exhibits are available on a regular basis.  You don’t have to go all the way to Indianapolis to see them!



Historic Homes Preservation Group


On May 19, the North Manchester Historic Homes Preservation Group (HHPG)  joined Manchester Main Street in a special National Preservation Month program.  The first part of the program included updates on the downtown streetscape and façade programs by Dan Hannaford, who managed the projects.  The Manchester Main Street Historic Preservation & Design committee then presented its first annual Preservation Awards, which were established to recognize individuals or organizations for their efforts to make North Manchester a more beautiful place to live.  The winners this year were Jim Wehner for the restoration of his Pennsylvania style residential home at 202 E. Third Street; and Brian and Jennifer Pattison for the rehabilitation of their historic landmark commercial property, the Sheller Hotel, 202 N. Walnut Street.  The Town of North Manchester received the Project Excellence Award for the the transformation of the downtown district through the streetscape and façade programs.


HHPG currently owns two properties, a restored house at 404 W. Second Street and a ready-to-go project 110 N. Mill Street (the brick house half painted yellow on the southwest corner of Mill and Wayne Streets).  Once the Second Street house is sold, work can begin on the Mill Street property.  In the past, low-cost loans from Indiana Landmarks have helped cover cash flow; once a house sale is completed, the loans are repaid. 


In the 8-plus years it has been active in North Manchester, HHPG has rescued eight properties from being demolished or made into rental units.  They purchase endangered houses, use their capital to restore the properties, transform them into tax-paying community assets, and then sell them to cover expenses.  The group is delighted that several of the properties have been purchased by first-time homeowners who had not thought it possible to own their own homes. 



Bicentennial Sign  


In March, 2014, the North Manchester Historical Society was one of the first Indiana organizations to receive an endorsement from the Indiana Bicentennial Commission as a Bicentennial Legacy Project.  Legacy Projects must meet at least one of the following goals or characteristics:  culturally inclusive; creates a legacy for the future; celebratory; and/or engages and inspires youths and young adults.  The NMHS project is the video with the working title, “North Manchester Video History, Yesterday and Today.”


NMHS was eligible to purchase and display a sign declaring us to be a Legacy Project.  The sign appears in the Center for History front window.  NMHS is happy to promote the Bicentennial and happy to benefit from the interest in history that the Bicentennial generates. 


Saturday, August 22, 2015


The Peabody Home Foundation hosted a rare, once-in-a-lifetime happening in North Manchester on August 22, 2015. The Homer G. Davisson paintings which had lined the hallways at the Peabody Retirement Community were auctioned off by Scheerer McCulloch Auctioneers. More than twenty Davisson paintings had been donated to Peabody by Homer’s wife Bess when she c

ame to live at the retirement community.  This personal collection had never been on the open art market. This auction fetched record-breaking prices for the Davisson art work, selling individually in the range from $3000.00 to $22,000.00. The total proceeds for all the Davisson art totaled in excess of $150,000.00.


Homer G. Davisson (1866-1957) was a prominent Indiana Impressionist landscape painter. At the time of his death in 1957 at the age of 90, he was remembered as the “dean of Indiana artists.” He taught at the Fort Wayne Art School from1911-1947, and had studied and traveled widely. According to the auction brochure, “His work depicts many views of the fertile Mississinewa River regions he loved so much, with their gently rolling hills, lush groves of trees and quiet streams of reflecting water.”


In addition to the paintings, many lots of other donated items, including fine antiques and collectibles were sold in support of various Peabody endowments. A collection of 35 Gene Stratton-Porter books were also sold, including Jesus of the Emerald and other collectible first editions. Several Stratton-Porter volumes had been transferred from the Hopewell Foundation to Peabody. Some of these books had once been owned by historian Robert Lancaster. Lancaster had been an avid researcher and preservationist of the Stratton-Porter legacy. His extensive notes and collection of rare family photos accompanied this book collection, including one of himself taken in the Summer of 1930 when he was in charge of tourist services at the Stratton-Porter cabin on Sylvan Lake, Rome City, IN. 


Mark Stratton was one of North Manchester’s early pioneers, and had lived on 240 acres just north of North Manchester (corner of Meridian and County Line Roads) during 1838-1845 before relocating to Hopewell in Lagro Township, Wabash County. Stratton’s neighbor on Lagro Creek at that time was the Riley Marshall family. The Marshall family once owned 320 acres adjacent to the 240 acres owned by the Strattons. Mark Stratton’s wife was Mary Shallenberger (Schallenberger), sister to John Shallenberger. Before the Civil War, Shallenberger owned several lots along Main Street and Walnut Street in North Manchester. The northwest corner of Walnut and Main Streets at one time was known as Shallenberger’s Corner. Riley Marshall was the father of Dr. Daniel M. Marshall and grandfather to Thomas Riley Marshall. Riley’s son (and Daniel’s brother) Milborn (also known as Samuel or M.S.) married Mark and Mary Stratton’s oldest daughter Catherine. For a period of time in the 1850s and 1860s Milborn and Catherine lived in North Manchester. It is of interest to note that in a book edited by Gene Stratton-Porter’s daughter in 1928 (The Lady of the Limberlost--The Life and Letters of Gene Stratton-Porter, pp. 266-272) several paragraphs were devoted to “Aunt Kate”.


At the Peabody auction, thanks to generous donors providing the requisite funds, the Historical Society acquired Mary K. Peabody’s vintage prewar 1930’s ladies British BSA bicycle, with her Vassar College license plate. The Peabody family had sailed to England in June of 1936 and purchased this bicycle for Mary K. She returned on the Queen Mary with this bicycle, which is now on prominent display at the Center for History.

 Mary Peabody's Bicycle