Source: NMHS Newsletter November 1991

100 Years of Housing in North Manchester 1891-1991 
By L.Z. Bunker, M.D. Ret.

Since 1966 effort has been made to catalogue and preserve the history of the early residences, churches, and business buildings of North Manchester.  One hundred of these structures were listed in 1986 (North Manchester Chronology, Bunker and Reed).  Of this number the Main Street Church (old Lutheran Church of 1848) and the Brick Mill are now missing.

No structures were listed which were built after late 1880-1890, so we are now confronted with numerous structures built following this date which are now 100 years old.  Many of these merit documentation.

To keep the history of our town on-going, an attempt to identify and list these structures, their builders and history will be made.  If you live in a house that falls in this category and it is not in this list, please call: Dr. L.Z. Bunker, 201 North Mill Street, North Manchester, IN 36962.

The recent group of these buildings involved different framing construction, the first since the days of William the Conqueror (in the year 1066), wholly new concepts of style, materials, planning, and execution.

The earliest frame construction in England and on the Continent was called “post and beam,” in which heavy timbers were raised to support the roof, walls, and floors of a building.  This required much labor and was expensive.

About 1833 “balloon framing” appeared, said to have been around Chicago.  This was a light frame using 2X4 lumber instead of 2x6 or heavier, with many light studs rising to support the roof.  Various Civil War hospitals were put up by the United States government as emergency housing in this pattern, and its use became widespread.  Heavier framing was still used for barns, for example.

A further development for frame structures appeared later, using still shorter and lighter lumber.  Here the studs in two vertical rows.  This was called “platform” framing.  Other new elements changed construction:  better tools, steam-powered saws, and efforts to build a warmer house, using sheeting, paper sheeting, and so on, as insulation.

The wide spread of information, books, magazines, and builders’ manuals after the Civil War gave impetus to house-building.  At the end of the century, mail order companies began to ship entire precut houses by railroad to customers who could hire carpenters and put them up or even do it with the help of their relatives and friends.  Sears, Roebuck and Co., Montgomery Ward, and the Aladdin Company were three which shipped thousands of houses all over the United States into the 1930’s.

Many new ideas in construction, Richards serpentine designs, water towers, curved porches, and shingled siding, appeared across America.  What was early called “Mission” or later “bungalow” style arrived from California.  Many of these houses had thick textured plaster, elaborate plumbing and heating and amenities unheard of previously, to say nothing of electricity and telephones which everyone now enjoyed.

Frank Lloyd Wright built his “Prairie” house which had a great impact on local builders by way of builders’ magazines and pirated designs.  These houses were characterized by many windows, large flow of indoor space, built-in furniture and, of course, heating and plumbing.

The first indoor plumbing in North Manchester was in the Noftzger House, Market at Third Streets, 1881.  The city water system was soon put in , in 1894, after which plumbing and steam heat became prevalent.

Whole families worked in the building trades.  Among them from 1874: Allie and John Spurgeon, three generations of the Grist family, the Ezra Frantz family, Charles Taylor, William Bickel, and the Renicker brothers.  Charles Kohser and Oliver Rager laid hardwood floors and made door and window frames.  Otis and Bert Young were stone and brick masons, as were Marion Grim and Grover Trick.  Hayes and James West worked in brick and stone.  Charles and Henry Hower were notably cement masons.  Plasterers were the Meek brothers and Roscoe Bash and sons.  There were many others whose work is their monument to this day.

At the turn of the century, Joe Blickenstaff built the large frame residence at 116 West Main Street, now the Fruitt Basket Inn, and also George Scheerer’s agency building at 114 West Main, then a residence.  105 West Third dates from this time, built by Oliver Rager, as well as the Austin Blickenstaff house, northwest corner of Third and Market streets, a large Georgian Revival.  In 1905 Owen Smith built the former North Manchester Marble Company at Mill and Main Streets.  The North Manchester Public Library was built in Arts and Crafts style by Ezra Frantz in 1910 [The latter structure is listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey.]

Charles Weatherhogg, the Fort Wayne architect, planned the John Snyder house on the northeast corner of Maple and South streets, using two old houses as a base and incorporating a sunroom, marble fireplace and, paired windows which we see today.

Stucco appeared as a siding, and the Tobias Pugh house at South and Elm streets and the Simon Burkett house near the corner of Wayne and College were created with this material as well as two houses from other locations, now on West Ninth Street.

J.J. Wolfe of the Peabody Seating Co. built the large light brick residence at 410 East Third Street.  This had the broad architectural planes of Frank Lloyd Wright’s works which we find in the overhang of the roof in particular.

An example of the prevalent foursquare house was built by Lyman Philips on North Mill Street and other similar structures appeared, often built by the houseowners themselves.  Many of this kind of house are found along College Avenue.

Milton Schubert, Sr., built in 1918 at 401 East Seventh Street and then remodeled in 1929 as a California type with a sunroom and a tile roof.  The Alvin Ulrey residence, 509 East Third Street, used similar materials in the Dutch Revival style.

In the mid-1930’s were built two executive homes, both opened to the public in recent historical society house tours.  A.M. Strauss, a Fort Wayne architect, planned the Fred Gingerick house, 201 South Maple Street.  Charles Weatherhogg returned to North Manchester to direct the construction of Thomas H. Peabody’s house, 300 West Seventh Street, the largest residence build here since the 1880’s.  Weatherhogg was the architect for the Peabody Retirement Home, built by Grist Builders.

A number of houses were built in the town limits.  Harry Leedy’s, 710 North Wayne, a so-called “Free Classical” house; E.B. Dunlavy’s, 301 West South, a ranch house in brick; Chester Teeter’s Art Deco house, 304 North Bond; and Rollin Smith’s prize-winning Better Homes & Gardens house at 313 Bond Street, which uses large sheets of ceiling-to-floor glass and cathedral ceilings.

The Subdivisions
Old maps of the town show a platted area across the Market Street  bridge marked “Riverside.”  Nothing is known of its origin, but we must consider it North Manchester’s first subdivision.  Its largest house was that of George Gaddis, complete with modern improvements and steam heat which Gaddis had built single-handed and elaborated over the years.

About the time of the first World War Ben Oppenheim and other local businessmen, probably including Jonas L. Warvel of Olinger and Warvel Ford dealers, arranged our town’s first formal subdivision with cement sidewalks and street signs.  This was on the edge of Harter’s Grove, the town’s old-time recreation area from about Fifth Street north to Seventh and extending west to the fairground (where Peabody Retirement Community now stands).

It was called the Oak Park Addition.  It did not immediately catch the public’s fancy, and grass covered the new sidewalks.  It was 50 years or so before many lots were sold.

In 1942 Dr. William K. Damron platted Rolling Acres, extending from Wayne Street to State Road 13 and west to Walnut Street.  It immediately was popular and, as soon as World War II was over and building materials were available to the area, was soon built up.  Some of the early homeowners here were Tom Wetzel, Dr. George K. Balsbaugh, Clyde Eckart, Elmer Aschliman, and numerous others.  The town’s earliest swimming pool was constructed in Rolling Acres at the home of Glen Blocher.

In 1955 Dr. Damron remodeled a farmhouse on State Road 13, creating a beautiful Bluegrass mansion.

The year 1955 is also the year of Dr. Damron’s second subdivision, Briarwood, the site of Heckathorne Woods.  Some remaining virgin timber was here, and stumps 4-1/2 to 5 feet across were found here, from the great trees of pioneer days.  Many fine homes soon appeared, such as those of Dr. Lloyd Smith, Paul Grandstaff, and others.  This area continues to have shade and shrubs, and building continues, including two homes of the Briner families.

Across from Briarwood is the condominium development, Woodspoint, built by Michael Welborn.

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Wendel developed Wen-dells on State Road 114 west of the Sam Blocher farmhouse, a brick structure from 1863.  From the early 1950’s this expanded over a large area and many new houses, split levels and country styles were built.  Glen Frantz built a fine house which he planned himself.  This well-kept area is marked by open spaces and many decorative plants and bushes.

The period of 1971-1972 marked the growth of Wendels’ River Dells, from the west end of Main Street to Road 13 and south to the river and along its banks.  Among the numerous attractive houses one received an award for its imaginative use of electricity.

In 1957 Richard and Jane Hostettler tore down an ancient log cabin east of college property on East Street, once the site of Cook’s Orchard, and platted the Hostettler addition which maintained a rural setting.  Here houses were built for Prof. Emerson Niswander, Donald Strauss, Raymond Kauffman, Al Nordman, Enrique Quintana, among others.

 Paul Hathaway carried out construction of steel-framed prefabricated houses in the area known as Eastgate at the east end of Seventh Street.  There is also an interesting Japanese type, built by Howard Fuller, at 807 East Street.

There are a number of innovative houses in our town, built in the last quarter century.   Included in the group are the David Grandstaff house, a solar house at 207 Grandview Court, and Earl Montel’s house built with earthen embankments on three sides at 701 Baker Street.

The author hopes that this will interest you in your own house and that we can compile a reliable list of buildings dating from 1890 and following to 1991.