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Culver Commercial (Downtown) Historic District

Note: This detailed text on the history, architecture, and significance of Culver's downtown, Main Street district provided the basis of the district being placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was compiled by the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver, Indiana in the 1990s. It is probably the most thorough and detailed account of the buildings in that district currently available.

 The Culver Commercial Historic District is located in the town of Culver in Union Township in the southwest part of Marshall County. The town is situated on the northwest side of Lake Maxinkuckee, the second largest, natural, inland lake in Indiana. The center of Culver is near the northwest point of the lake. The town extends south and east along the waterfront. Culver Military Academy is on the north side of the lake near the east shore. Along the east, south, and west shores are houses of the resort community of Lake Maxinkuckee. The surrounding area is mainly farmland.

 Sanborn maps for Culver, dating from 1906, 1914, and 1924, show that the main commercial area has historically been concentrated in the two blocks on Main Street between Washington and Madison. The earliest commercial buildings were small, wood frame structures. After the turn of the 20th century, these were gradually replaced by larger, wood frame, or brick structures. One of the oldest extant buildings is the north half of the Osborn Block (right in  2), which appears in a 1901 photograph of Main Street. Also visible in the 1901 photograph is the two-story wood frame building located at 108 S. Main Street (left in  6). The Menser Building at 116-20 N. Main Street, a two-story, brick building which originally housed a meat market and bakery, was built in 1903.

 The south half of the Osborn Block had been constructed by 1906, the year the Sanborn Company first mapped the town of Culver. Also appearing on this map is a two-story, brick building, which was remodeled c.1920 for the Easterday Funeral Home, at 108 N. Main Street; and a two-story, brick building, also remodeled c.1920, at 103 S. Main Street.

 By 1914, the two-story, wood frame buildings at 117 S. Main, and 110 S. Main Street had been constructed. The 1924 Sanborn map shows the Knights of Pythias Building at 110-12 N. Main Street, which dates from c.1915. This building replaced two earlier wood frame commercial buildings. The Carnegie Library at 107-11 N. Main Street, completed in 1916, replaced a wood frame dwelling. The concrete block building at 115 S. Main Street, built c.1920, replaced a one-story, wood frame, commercial building.

 The c.1935 service station on the southwest corner of Main and Jefferson Streets was constructed on the site of a wood frame dwelling which had earlier served as a boarding house. The one-story, brick, commercial building located at 114 N. Main, was built on a vacant lot in about 1930. Two wood frame houses were removed to make way for the 1935 U.S. Post Office on W. Jefferson Street.

 There are two vacant areas in the historic district. The one on the southeast corner of Main and Jefferson Street contained a two-story, wood frame commercial building which housed J. Saine & Son, a dry goods store. This was torn down in 1932 to make way for a service station which was later demolished itself. The second vacant area is on the northeast corner of Main and Jefferson Streets. This was the location of two one-story, wood frame buildings, built c.1910 and demolished in 1990. The south building was Rector’s Pharmacy, a long-time Culver business.

Three of the noncontributing buildings in the district replaced earlier buildings of note. The one-story brick building at 105 W. Washington Street, built c.1950, was constructed on the site of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The bank located on the northwest corner of Main and Jefferson Streets was originally the State Exchange Bank, located on this corner by 1914. The Culver Hardware Store on the northeast corner of Main and Madison Streets is on the site of an earlier hardware store, the O.T. Goss Store. The Goss Store, comprised of two, two-story, wood frame buildings, was at this location by 1906.

 Outside the historic district boundaries, on East Jefferson Street between Main Street and the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, there were transportation-related and industrial buildings. Among these were liveries (replaced later by garages), the Ferrier Lumber Company, the Dillon and Medbourn Grain Elevator, John Osborn’s cement block factory, warehouses, and the Medbourn Ice House. Most of these structures are now gone, replaced by a condominium complex. Two automobile garages remain on the south side and one on the north side of Jefferson Street, east of Main Street. 

A secondary commercial area was located on Toner Avenue (now Lake Shore Drive) across from the railroad depot. The 1924 Sanborn map shows this area, which, at that time contained a movie theater, several stores, a dance hall, and a garage. Some of these buildings are now gone and the remainder have been altered.

 The areas surrounding the Main Street commercial district on the north, west and south sides were, and continue to be, mainly residential. Houses date from c.1890 to c.1940. Among styles represented are Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Craftsman. Vernacular types include gable-front, T-plan, and American four-square.

 Within the commercial historic district, buildings are generally simple brick or wood frame structures, one to two stories in height. The Italianate style is seen in the Osborn Block), and in the building at 108 S. Main Street. Several buildings show the influence of the Arts and Crafts style in the early 20th century. Among these are the Easterday Funeral Home, and the building at 101 S. Main Street. The Carnegie Library and the U.S. Post Office are outstanding local examples of the Colonial Revival style. The scale, materials, detailing, and style of the buildings are typical of many small towns in northern Indiana.

 The historic district generally has a good of integrity. Most intrusions are located on the edges of the district, except for the bank building at 101 S. Main Street, which is in the center. Other than the bank, intrusions are the buildings at 105 W. Washington Street, 105 E. Washington Street, 120 S. Main Street, and a concrete block garage at the rear of 120 S. Main, all of which were constructed after the period of significance. The building at 115 S. Main Street, built c.1920, is counted as noncontributing because of alterations.

 Among contributing commercial buildings, upper stories are generally intact, and storefronts have been altered. Additional descriptive information is included below under individual buildings.

U.S. Post Office, southeast corner Jefferson and Ohio Streets, Colonial Revival, 1935.

The post office is a one-story, brick building with a hip roof and rectangular plan. The entry is in the center bay of the five-bay principal (north) facade. Original doors have been replaced with aluminum and glass doors, but the classical door surround remains. This consists of pilasters on each side of the opening, which support a frieze and pediment. Windows are wood, with multi-light, double hung sash. Window sills are stone. There are stone keystones in the brick lintels above the openings, and decorative stone panels above. At the front corners of the building are brick quoins. The interior of the building has a high degree of integrity. The principal decorative feature is a mural entitled, “Arrival of the Mail in Culver.” It was painted in 1938 by Jessie Hull Mayer, an Indianapolis artist, as part of the Public Works of Art Project.

The 1906 Sanborn map shows the Culver Post Office on the east side of Main Street between Washington and Jefferson Street in a frame building on the site of the present Knights of Pythias building. The 1914 and 1924 Sanborn maps show the post office in the first floor rear of the State Exchange Bank building. This building, which was located on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Main Streets has also been removed. The present post office was constructed in 1935. It was built by James I. Barnes Company of Culver at a cost of $37,466.45.

Osborn Block (south), 113-111 S. Main Street, Italianate, c.1905.

This building and the one to the north comprise the Osborn Block. This building is a two-story, brick structure. The principal (east) facade is faced in concrete block, and is four bays wide. There are two storefronts. The south storefront has been covered with wood shingles. The north storefront is an intact, c.1920 bronze storefront made by the Kawneer Manufacturing Company, Niles Michigan. The transom has been covered. The floor in the storefront area is colored tile arranged to spell out “Mitchell & Stabenow.” Windows in the second story of the building are double hung, wood windows, with one light in each sash. Window openings are flat-arched. Sills and lintels are stone. Extending across the top of this building and-the north building of the Osborn Block is a decorative, pressed metal cornice. At the second level, between the two building is a stone tablet with “OSBORN BLOCK.”

The Osborn Block housed a number of important Culver businesses. In the south building, the south room was a grocery store in the early 1910s. In the late 1910s and 20s, it was the location of the Home Theater, a movie house. Today, it is the Cafe Max. In the 1920s, the telephone exchange was located on the second floor. The Mitchell & Stabenow Clothing Store, located in the north room from at least the 1910s, was an early and longtime tenant. In recent years, Andy’s Culver Clothiers was located here. Today, Fisher and Company Clothiers is here. For many years while Mitchell & Stabenow were here, H.L. Werner, a jeweler, was located in the room above.

Osborn Block (north), 109-107 S. Main Street, Italianate, c.1900.

The north building of the Osborn Block is a two-story brick structure with a four-bay principal (east facade). The two store fronts have been altered. Second story windows have segmental arch openings with brick lintels and stone sills. Windows are wood. Sash are double hung with one light in each sash. A pressed metal cornice extends across the top of this building and the one to the south.          ,

Charles Medbourn had a grocery store in the south room of this building by the early 1910s. By 1914, a dry goods store was located here. From the time the building was constructed or soon after, Thomas Slattery had the Culver City Drug Store in the north room. The drug store, which was famous for its chocolate sodas, was here until the 1970s. Today, the offices of the Culver Citizen occupy this space.

Service Station, southwest corner Main and Jefferson Streets, Vernacular, c.1935.

This is a one-story, concrete block building, influenced by the Moderne style. The main (east) part of the building has a one-bay garage on the south, and a room with a corner entrance on the north. Above the entrance and extending around the building is an overhang with a rounded edge. This simple line is echoed at the top of the building with concrete banding. A rear addition, rectangular in plan, contains more garage space. Original garage doors, as well as windows, have been replaced.

A service station was constructed on this corner in 1926 by a Mr. Hand, and leased by the Standard Oil Company. R.R. and Howard Mikesell were the first managers. The present building is similar in form and style to other Depression-era stations in Indiana.

 Culver City-Union Township Carnegie Library, 107-111 N. Main Street, Colonial Revival, 1916.

The library is a one-story, brick building with a raised basement. The roof is hipped. The entrance, reached by a set of concrete and brick steps, is in the center of the principal (east) facade, which is seven bays wide. The original door has been replaced, but the elaborate stone surround - columns supporting a Doric frieze and broken pediment with a cartouche in the shape of an open book- is intact. There is a gable roof wall dormer above the entry. Windows are multi-light, wood casement windows with transoms. There are modillions under the eaves. On the lawn in front of the building is a World War Memorial consisting of a boulder with two bronze plaques. One plaque reads “In Honor of Those Who Served/World War I;” the other, “In Honor of Those Who Served/World War II.”

The general contractor for the building was Milo Ottshall of Akron. Zola Moss was the first librarian. Officers of first library board were Dr. E.E. Parker, president, Dr. N. S. Norris, vice-president, and Mrs. W.O. Osborn, secretary.

Commercial Building, 108 S. Main Street, Italianate, c.1900.

This is a two-story, wood frame building with a four-bay principal (west) facade. The storefront has been altered, and a decorative wood porch added to the front of the building. Second story windows are double hung, wood; with one light in each sash. There are wood lintels above the openings, and decorative wood brackets under the eaves.

 Hattie and Perry Wickiser had a furniture store and millinery here by the 1910s. Today, the building houses the Old Towne Restaurant.

 Knights of Pythias, Marmont Lodge 231,110-112 N. Main Street, Tudor Revival, c.1915.

The K of P Building is a two-story, brick structure with a four-bay principal (west) facade. The northernmost bay has the entry to the second floor lodge rooms. The opening for the entry is recessed, Tudor-arched and has a decorative stone surround. The window above the entry at the second level is flat-arched but has a similar decorative stone surround and sill. The window in the opening is wood, double hung, with multi-light sash. The entry bay has a triangular parapet with stone accents and a tablet with the name and number of the lodge. The three south bays of the first floor contain two storefronts which have been altered, with a metal awning above. At thesecond level, above the storefronts, are paired windows with flat-arch openings. Window sills are stone. Windows are wood, double hung with multi-light sash. Above the second floor windows is stone banding.

Apparently the building to the south, at 108 N. Main Street, was once the Knights of Pythias Building. A c.1910 photo shows it with “K of P Hall” on its pressed metal parapet. This earlier building was later remodeled for the Easterday Funeral Home.

Menser Building, 116-120 N. Main Street, Vernacular, 1903.

The Menser Building is a two-story, brick building with a four-bay principal (west) facade. There are two storefronts, each with an entry in the center, and a door accessing the stairway to the second floor. The storefronts have been altered. Above the first level is an added pent roof. Second story window openings are segmental-arched and have been blocked down. Windows are wood, double hung. There are added wood balconies at the windows. Between the two middle windows is a stone tablet with the building name and date. A corbeled brick cornice which wraps around the front and north side of the building is the most decorative feature.

The 1906 Sanborn map shows a meat market in the north room, and a bakery in the south. Nathan Rector is known to have rented a room in the building in 1909 when he started his pharmacy. By 1914, there was a grocery store in the north room, and a silent movie theater in the south.

The Culver Commercial Historic District is significant under Criterion A in the area of commerce, and under Criterion C in the area of architecture. The two block area on Main Street has been the principal commercial district for Union Township since the turn of the 20 century. The district contains several good examples of early 20th century architectural styles, including the Italianate style Osborn Block, the Tudor Revival style Knights of Pythias Building, and the Colonial Revival style Culver City-Union Township Library.

The area in which the commercial district developed was first platted as Union Town by Bayless L. Dickson in 1844. In 1857, Union Town was replatted by Thomas K. Houghton, and the name changed to Marmont. At this time, the present street names, including Washington, Jefferson Madison, and Main, were established. Marmont grew slowly until the Vandalia Railroad (later part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system) was constructed along the west side of the lake in 1883, to the east of the Marmont town plat.

The existence of the railroad led to the creation or expansion of local industries, and established Marmont as a shipping center for area farmers. Also because of the railroad, there was increased interest in the Lake Maxinkuckee area as a resort. Culver Military Academy was established in 1894. Soon after, the name of the town was changed to Culver. The railroad, the resort community, and Culver Military Academy were all important factors in the growth of the commercial district.

Commercial establishments existed to serve a broad constituency: area farmers, town residents, the cadets and faculty of Culver Military Academy, tourists, and members of the permanent resort community. The commercial district, as it appears today, was developed during the first four decades of the 20th century. The district reflects the character of Culver’s main commercial area at the time the U. S. Post Office was constructed in 193 5.

An early picture of the businesses on Main Street comes from a 1905 directory. At this time, there were two bakeries, a bank (the State Exchange Bank), a barber, a drug store (Slattery’s), several dry goods stores, a shoe repair shop, a carriage and wagon repair shop, a furniture store and funeral home (Easterday’s), several grocery stores, a hardware store, two meat markets, a millinery, and a newspaper (Culver Citizen). There were also a boarding house, a post office, a church, and a lodge hall in the two-block area on Main between Washington and Madison Streets.

There were two long-time drug stores in the district. The first was Thomas Slattery’s Culver City Drug Store, mentioned above. Established shortly after the turn of the 20th century, this was located in the north room of the north building of the Osborn Block

The second drug store was Rector Pharmacy, started by Nathan Rector in a room of the Menser Building in 1909. The store was later moved down the block to a wood frame building, constructed c.1910, which has been demolished. In 1977, the two drug stores merged under the name of Mr. T’s, which is now located on Academy Road in a different part of Culver.

There were a number of movie houses in Culver. At least two were in the historic district. One of the earliest was the silent movie house in the south room of the Menser Building. The Home Theater, owned by John Osborn, was located in the south room of the south building of the Osborn Block.

Of the two historic service stations which were located in the district, one remains. This is the station, built c.1935 and leased by the Standard Oil Company, located on the southwest corner of Main and Jefferson Streets. In 1932, a Linco Petroleum Company station was built on the southeast corner of Jefferson and Mains Streets. This site is now a vacant lot.

Culver has had one bank in its history, the State Exchange Bank, established in 1901. By 1914, a handsome two-story brick building had been built on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Main Streets to house this institution. The building was rebuilt or remodeled to its present appearance in recent years, and does not contribute to the character of the district. It has changed hands and is now known as the Indiana Federal Bank.

Another businesses which should be mentioned is the Corner Tavern at 117 S. Main Street. It is housed in a two-story, wood frame building which was either built at this location or moved here about 1910. Apparently, it started as a grocery store, but soon became a tavern. It has been a popular gathering place in Culver since.

The Culver Commercial Historic District contains the largest concentration of historic commercial buildings in Union Township. Shortly after the railroad was extended through the town, additions were made in the vicinity of the Pennsylvania Depot, and a secondary commercial area developed on Toner Avenue (now Lake Shore Drive). Most of the buildings of this secondary commercial area, which still exists, have been altered, and none were identified in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. Possibly the only significant building in Culver which is directly associated with commerce and is not located in the historic district is the Kreuzberger Saloon (54024), an outstanding Italianate style building which dates from 1894. This resource is located at 303 State Street, near the Pennsylvania Depot.

In other parts of Union Township, there were several small market centers. The most important of these were the village of Maxinkuckee, the oldest commercial center in the township; and Burr Oak, Hibbard, and Rutland, which grew along the New York, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad, built through the northern part of the township in 1884.

Buildings associated with Maxinkuckee which were identified in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory include houses, a school, and a farm. The Allegheny House (50023), an 1855 inn, is the only remaining building in Maxinkuckee related to commerce. In Burr Oak, the Indiana Historic Sites and Structure Inventory identified one commercial building, the G.T. Marrows Grocery Store (51006). This has been demolished. No historic commercial buildings were identified in Hibbard or Rutland.

Historically, the economy of Marshall County was based on farming and timbering. Most of the commercial centers existed as processing and shipping centers for agricultural goods and wood, and as market centers for farmers and other residents. Plymouth, the county seat, contained the most important commercial center. This was identified in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory as the Plymouth Downtown Commercial Historic District (21001-069). Plymouth was laid out at the intersection of the Michigan Road and the Yellow River in 1834. The extension of several major railroads through the town in the late 19th century contributed to development of the commercial district. Growth continued during the first three decades of the 20th century. The district retains much of historic character, and contains notable examples of a number of architectural styles, including Italianate, Romanesque Revival, and Neoclassical.

Other historic commercial centers of Marshall County are Bremen, Bourbon, and Argos. Located in northeastern Marshall County, Bremen was a small settlement which increased in importance after the northern line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was constructed in 1874. Bremen became an important regional market town, and agricultural shipping and industrial center. Its historic commercial area was identified in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structure Inventory (01001-044). The district contains a number of Italianate style buildings dating from the late 19th century, as well as Neoclassical and Arts and Crafts style buildings from the early 20th century.

Laid out along the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad in 1853 in eastern Marshall County, Bourbon was another regional market town. The Bourbon Commercial Historic District (31001-034) was identified in the Indiana Sites and Structures Inventory. As in the Bremen Historic District, a large percentage of the 19th century buildings in the Bourbon district are Italianate in style. One of the most distinguished buildings is the Bourbon Town Hall, a Queen Anne style structure built in 1898 (31034).

The towns of Sidney and Fremont, laid out on the Michigan Road in southern Marshall County in the 1850s, were consolidated in 1859 and named Argos. The LaPorte and Plymouth Railroad was extended through Argos in 1868 on its way to Peru. In 1882, the New York, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad was constructed, and Argos’ future as a regional market was assured. The Argos Commercial Historic District (41001-021) was identified by the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. As in Bremen and Bourbon, many of the late 19th century structures in Argos are Italianate in style. Other styles which are represented in the district include the Romanesque Revival and Neoclassical.

The Culver Commercial Historic District continues today as a marketplace for area residents, Culver cadets and staff, and members of the resort community. The railroad has been abandoned and the town no longer serves as a marketplace and shipping center for farmers. Recently developed shopping areas on the outskirts of town offer some competition to the Main Street commercial district. Its ability to survive may depend on its historic character, which distinguishes it from other commercial areas. The Culver Antiquarian and Historical Society has initiated this nomination in hopes of preserving that character.

Carlisle, John C. “Murals completed half-century ago,” in Marshall County Life, March 21, 1992.

Corwin, Edwin R. One Township’s Yesterdays. Culver: Culver Citizen, 1934.

Evermann, Barton Warren, and Howard Walton Clark. Lake Maxinkuckee: A Physical and Biological Survey. Vol. I and II. Indianapolis: Indiana Department of Conservation, 1920.

Hartman, R.B.D., Centennial Historian and Archivist, Culver Military Academy. Letters, 29 November, 1994, and 12 December, 1994.

History of Culver Military Academy, 1894-1956. Vol. I.

History of Indiana. Special Addition for Marshall Countv. Madison, Wisconsin: Brant, Fuller and Company, 1890.

Holland, T. Holland’s History of Marshall County, Indiana. Chicago: Western Publishing Company, 1876.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Marshall County Interim Report. Indianapolis: Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, 1990.

Indiana Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Women of History in Marshall County, Indiana. Plymouth, 1976.

Kosiusko and Marshall County, Indiana, Pocket Business Directory. Scranton, Pennsylvania: U.S. Vest Pocket Directory Company, 1905.

Mather, Charles C. History of Culver Military Academy, 1894-1956. Vol. I. Culver, 1959.

Maxinkuckee Yacht Club, 1993 Yearbook.

McDonald, Daniel. A Twentieth Century history ,ry of Marshall County Indiana. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908.

McDonald, Daniel. History of Marshall, Indiana. 1836-1880. Chicago: Kingman Bros., 1881.

National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet

Section No. 9

Page 2  Culver Commercial Historic District

Nolan, Bea (Culver resident). Interview, Culver, Indiana, December 12, 1994.

Official Souvenir Program and History of Marshall county, Indiana. Plymouth: Marshall County Historical Society, 1936.

Roeder, Mark. A History of Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee. Culver: Maxinkuckee Press, 1993.

Sanborn Map Company, Fire Insurance Maps for 1906, 1914, 1924.

“Souvenir Addition of the Culver City Herald,” 1898.

Standard Atlas of Marshall County Indiana. Chicago: George A. Ogle and Company, 1908.

Standard Atlas of Marshall County, Indiana. Chicago: George A. Ogle and Company, 1922.

Swindell, Minnie H. The Story of Marshall County. 1923.

Taylor, Robert M., Jr., et al. Indiana: A New Historical Guide. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1989.

Terre Haute and Logansport Railroad, “Lake Maxinkuckee, A Resort for Health and Pleasure in Northern Indiana,” 1885.

Thomas, John Hardin, “The Academies of Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History, December 1914.

U. S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, Map of Lake Maxinkuckee, 1901.