Mailbag: Clearcrest Golf Club

Article about the opening of the Vanderbug Auto Club (Evansville Courier 4/14/1915)

Article about the opening of the Vanderbug Auto Club (Evansville Courier 4/14/1915)

The farmhouse at 10521 Darmstadt Road was part of the Charles Volkman farmstead.  Built in the late 1800s, it encompassed about 80 acres and was situated about 8 miles from downtown Evansville.  The newly formed Vanderbugh Auto club purchased the property in 1915 and remodeled the 2-story farmhouse .  Driver could cruise “through bracing country air” and stop at the auto club for a bite.  Other amenities such as a stocked lake, playground, and tennis courts attracted other people to the club.


The farmhouse that became an auto club and later Clearcrest Club. Photo c1930

The Vanderburgh Auto Club was short-lived though, because by 1920 the facility operated as the Clear Crest Inn.  It was more of a roadhouse serving food and providing evening entertainment.

Ad for Clear Crest Inn 1920

Ad for Clear Crest Inn 1920

The Evansville Club, a Jewish social club located in what is now the No-Ruz Grotto, was looking for property in the country as a respite from their downtown site.  In 1921, they bought the old auto club, remodeled the clubhouse, and put in a golf course.  The club officially opened as the Clearcrest Country Club in summer 1922.

There was a giant fire June 22, 1939, and eight people barely made it out with their lives.  The buildings were a total loss, but the club rebuilt within a year.  A new clubhouse, designed by Edwin Berendes, is the same one still standing today.


What remained of Clearcrest after the June 1939 fire


A map of Clearcrest showing the new clubhouse and the changes to the golf course

The golf course was sold to a private owner around 1990 and was opened to the public. It continued operating for a number of years until it finally closed late Winter 2014. It was sold at auction the next year and is currently slated to become a subdivision.


The clubhouse 2015 when the property was up for auction

Mike Linderman’s Presentation on January 28th

Upcoming Program:
Angel Mounds’ Mike Linderman will make the following presentation in Willard Library’s Browning Gallery on January 28th at 6:30 PM. Enter at the South entrance.

Francis Martin was a pioneering woman in the field of archaeology, having worked with some of the greats like Dr. Glenn Black at Angel Mounds and doing much independent work in the field in our area. Along with her husband George, Francis traveled around the tri-state region documenting and preserving information on numerous archaeological sites.
This presentation will highlight her career through her own slides, which cover a period of over 50 years. The slides were donated to Angel Mounds State Historic Site after her death in 1999 by her niece. Now digitized, they can be shown again to the public for the first time in over 25 years. Along with showing the slides, the goal is to meet people who knew Francis and help us complete the story of her life, which is somewhat lacking on the personal level.

2015 Year In Review

It’s been a fairly good year after several losses in 2014.  We’ll optimistically say that preservation may be turning a corner as we head into the new year and downtown growth seems to be teeming.


Owen Block was a HUGE save for the Evansville community.  A grass-roots effort raised a substantial sum of money, and Architectural Renovators is well under way fixing up the old apartments.

Owen Block

Owen Block saved at the 11th hour

Greyhound Bus was rededicated after the panels were finished and the neon light was turned on for the first time in years.  Recently it was announced that a new occupant, Bru Burger, will operate out of the old station.  The Courthouse dome lights were fixed up too.  The new system can change colors and brings a fresh look to the historic building.


The once proud Turner Hall was razed this fall. The social club had declined over the years and a ministry ran out of the old brick building.

Knotty Pine, a North Main St cafe, was closed for years before being razed in March.  The building dating back to around 1894 was originally Ritter’s Confectionery.


Knotty Pine being demolished Mar 2015

Miller Furniture building across from Bosse Field has been “demolished” for nearly a year now.  After razing was begun in late 2014 little has been done to the old factory.  Miller built this factory along the Belt RR back in 1904


Demotion on the Miller Furniture began late 2014 but is still yet to be torn down

West Heights Cave Park

West Heights Cave Park was one of the main attractions in the early 1900s.  Located just off Harmony Way, the man-made cave has an interesting story to tell.

Andrew Koch was just a farmer who lived on Babytown Road, but his vision of building a cave in the hillside was something special.  Koch began digging his cave in the late 1880s, chiseling into the sandstone hillside in the back of his property.  After several years of work, Koch’s Grove opened to the public.  Curious people could descend down a flight of stairs and see the “rooms” carved into the large cave.

West Heights Cave  Courier 10/31/1898

Article about the West Heights Cave from the Evansville Courier 10/31/1898

Spurred by the new street car line, the park rebranded itself in 1902 and became known as West Heights Cave Park.  The entire area once known as Babytown adopted the West Heights nickname. City residents would take a short ride to the area for an evening adventure.  It should be noted there were several pleasure parks in the area including West Heights Park, which was different.  Cave Park boasted vaudeville shows and a temperature-controlled cave for summer nights (in a pre-air conditioning era).

Ad from 1903

Ad from 1903

West Heights Cave Park

The West Heights Cave Park clubhouse built 1903

The park was a reputable establishment in the beginning but later got a reputation for being raucous.  The clubhouse burned down in 1919, and the park closed soon after (probably no coincidence around the same time as Prohibition).  The cave was filled in, and the area was converted into a subdivision known as “Cave’s Addition” in 1921.  The street name Cave Ave is the only trace of Koch’s grand vision or of the club that once provided such lively entertainment.

Map of Koch's property that  was subdivided

Map of Koch’s property that was subdivided in 1921.  The exact location of the cave is unknown, but several articles place it next to the Jewish cemetery likely near Koehler Ave.

Vanderburgh County Historical Society’s Annual Meeting



USI History Professor to Speak about Girls in WW II Era at Vanderburgh County Historical Society’s Annual Meeting

On Thursday, November 12, University of Southern Indiana Assistant Professor of History Stella Ress will present the program Close to Home: Preadolescent Girls, Radio, and World War II. This talk, presented at Willard Library, will look at children’s radio programs of WW II and their impact on girls of the era.

On October 13, 1940, the airwaves around the world filled with the voices of the young princesses of Great Britain, Elizabeth, age fourteen, and Margaret Rose, age ten. Their broadcast was meant to raise the morale of those suffering hardship as result of war. Reassuringly and with a clearand confident voice, Princess Elizabeth reported, “We children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage. We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen.” She continued solemnly, “We are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war.” Though her radio address was directed expressly to Britain’s child evacuees who took up residence outside the reach of German bombs, her messages, both stated and implied, resonated with many Americans. Thus, radio is perhaps the best medium to explore young girls’ experiences during the war, as well as their unique contributions to victory. This presentation will examine children’s radio programs of the era to better understand the experiences of girls (between the stages of preschooler and preteen) on the American Home Front, in general, while paying close attention to Vanderburgh County.

Stella A. Ress teaches U.S. history, Public History, and other topics at USI. She received her doctorate from Loyola University Chicago and has worked on a variety of public history projects, including successfully placing the Sauganash neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois on the National Register of Historic Places. She has also crafted institutional histories for a variety of nonprofits, conducted oral histories for Chicago’s Erie Neighborhood House, and worked as both a consultant and curatorial assistant for the National Hellenic Museum. She has published and presented in the fields of public history, women’s and gender history, the history of children and youth, popular culture, and girlhood studies.

VCHS Annual Meeting and Dinner

5:30-6:00 Business Meeting

6:00-6:30 Cash Bar

6:30-7:30 Catered Dinner by Acropolis, $30 per person

7:30 Address by Stella Ress

$30 each for Dinner Reservations

Please visit: or send checks to VCHS, P.O. Box 2626, Evansville, IN 47728-0626 by Monday, November 9.

For Lecture Reservations, for those not attending dinner, please registrar at:

Century Club: Christian Science Temple

First Church of Christ

First Church of Christ, Scientist

Tucked on Mulberry St between 2nd and 3rd Sts, the Christian Science Temple is 100 years old.  The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in Boston in the late 1800s.  Not to be confused with Scientology, this denomination is most well-known for its publication Christian Science Monitor.  The church was established in Evansville in 1915, and built this edifice in the Neoclassical style.  It was designed by famous local architects Shopbell & Co and truly has that Greek temple look.  The church was built of stone with a green tile roof and reads “THE ETERNAL GOD IS THY REFUGE” under the pediment.

Architect's sketch of the new First Church of Christ, Scientist

Architect’s sketch of the new First Church of Christ, Scientist


Shortly after completion

Photo taken shortly after completion

Bethany Apostolic moved here from their old location in 1930.  The church has remained stewards of the building and still operate here 85 years later.

Bethany Apostolic today

Bethany Apostolic today


Both sides of the cornerstone which is partially covered by the ramp

Historian James H. Madison lecture on Two Hundred Years of Indiana

VCHS Madison Cover

Noted Historian to Present Overview of Indiana’s History

As a prelude to Indiana’s bicentennial celebration in 2016, noted historian James H. Madison will present the lecture Two Hundred Years of Indiana at the Evansville Museum on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:30 p.m. Madison will present an overview of our past–from Hoosier pioneers, through the Civil War, to the 21st century. His illustrated talk will highlight connections between past and present and, as we celebrate our 200th birthday, help us think about our future.
Madison is the Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor Emeritus of History, at Indiana University, Bloomington. An award-winning teacher, he has also taught at Hiroshima University, Japan, and at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England. Jim serves on the boards of Indiana Humanities and the Indiana Historical Society and as a member of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

He is the author of several books, including Eli Lilly: A Life; A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America; Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys: An American Woman in World War II. His most recent book is Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana, co-published by the Indiana Historical Society Press and Indiana University Press.

For complimentary reservations telephone the Evansville Museum at 812-425-2406.

This lecture is presented by the Vanderburgh County Historical Society and the Evansville Museum.

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Turner Hall razed

Turner Hall 1914 shortly after it was completed

Turner Hall 1914 shortly after it was completed

The old Turner Hall at 720 SE 8th St was demolished last week.  For many the Central Turners was where they learned to swim or practice gymnastics.  With another iconic building now in the history books, VCHS takes a look at what this German club was all about.

Evansville Turnverein was established locally in July 1853 and was affiliated with the Berlin Turner Society.  The German translation is literally “gymnast club.”  An article in the 1980s described the club as “midway between the YMCA and a county club.”

In 1909, the German club bought the old Kingsley ME Church at the corner of 8th and Gum and remodeled it into its new quarters.  In a few short years the club opted to erect a new building.  After a couple iterations, plans were worked up by A J Capelle in summer 1913 for a new building that would occupy the same location.

Sketch of the new hall for the Turnvereins

Sketch of the new hall for the Turnvereins

In September 1913, the church was torn down, and in October ground was broken on the new Turner Hall.  It was was made of brick with stone trimming including a large stone inscription of “Central Turnverein” over the entrance (seen in picture below).  The estimated cost was about $26,000.

The first floor included a dance hall and gymnasium separated by folding doors for enlarging the space when needed.  Turner Hall also had a white enamel pool in the back.  The basement held dressing rooms as well as a rathskeller and billiards room.  A full list of activities accompanied the club’s grand opening in mid April 1914

Great picture during the 1937 Flood showing detail of the building's original entrance (Courtesy 1937 Flood book)

Great picture during the 1937 Flood showing detail of the building’s original entrance (Courtesy – Over the Banks of The Ohio:  The Flood of 1937)

At some point around 1950 the front was remodeled covering over some of the details of the original facade.  A dining room addition to the side was also probably added around that time.

The club prospered for years, but began to struggle with membership in the 1970s when many of its members flocked to the suburbs.  The club was on the verge of closing in 1981, but rebounded quickly looking to bring in new members.  That success was short lived though as the financially strained Turners filed for bankruptcy in March 1983.

As the hall looked in recent years when it served as Impact Ministries

As the hall looked in recent years when it served as Impact Ministries

When the club closed a handful of suitors came for the property.  In February 1984, WNIN planned to move in to the building but the bank stalled on the project.  The TV station would wind up in the old Carpenter Home a year later.  Next, Krieger-Ragsdale looked to move its printing plant and bought the property.   Retrofitting the building was not viable so the company relocated elsewhere, and the old Turner Hall was sold to Christian Fellowship Church which operated its Impact Ministries out of the facility.  That nonprofit served the Center City community for years until it closed last August 2014.

After the Turners lost their home, there was some mention of the club continuing to meet, but nothing more recent was found of the once grand German club.  As for the building, it is still listed as belonging to Christian Fellowship Church, but nothing was found to justify tearing down the 100-yr old landmark.

View along Gum St.  Turner Hall sat where the street bends at 8th

View along Gum St. Turner Hall sat where the street bends at 8th

Lecture to Discuss Life and Times of Benjamin Bosse


Lecture to Discuss Life and Times of Benjamin Bosse

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 6:30 p.m. at the Evansville Museum, Jeffrey A. Bosse will discuss the life and times of Benjamin Bosse.  The author of the book When Everybody Boosts Everybody Wins: The Untold Story of Evansville Mayor Benjamin Bosse, and the great-great nephew of Benjamin Bosse,.Jeff Bosse, will detail the life of the dynamic man who led the city from 1914-1922.  In his talk, Jeff Bosse will not only look at the successes of the Bosse administration, but also scandals and allegations during his time in office.

Benjamin Bosse enjoyed successful careers, as a businessman, a church leader, a politician, and a public servant.  Despite coming to Evansville penniless, by the time of his death he had been the president of more than 25 local businesses and a shareholder of more than 40, including the Evansville Courier, the Vendome Hotel and the world’s largest furniture manufacturing company.  During his terms as mayor, the city acquired Garvin Park, Bosse Field, the Coliseum, and the Market House.  He chaired the campaign to bring the University of Evansville to the City and he increased the city’s parks from 220 acres to more than 700 acres.  Benjamin Bosse was also responsible for bringing Evansville its first major north-south highway.

Jeff Bosse is a graduate of Bosse High School, Vanderbilt University and Northwestern Law School.  He has practiced corporate, real estate and estate planning law in Evansville since 1975 and is the president and founder of Bosse Title Company.  Jeff has been active in our community and his industry for many years.  He has been the president of the Evansville Museum, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, the Vanderburgh Community Foundation and the Indiana Land Title Association.  He was the second person in the United States to receive the National Title Professional designation from the American Land Title Association and he is the recipient of the lifetime meritorious service award from the Indiana Land Title Association.

This lecture is FREE and presented in partnership with the Evansville Museum.  For questions about the program or the Vanderburgh County Historical Society, please contact VCHS President Chris Cooke at 812-455-5121 or

Facebook Event Page for Bosse Lecture

VCHS Bosse Cover