Knotty Pine meets its end

Knotty Pine around the time it closed

Knotty Pine around the time it closed

The Knotty Pine at the northwest corner of Main and Virginia
dates back to around 1894. It was built for J August Ritter who relocated his confectionery here from W Franklin St.
Ritter was a manufacturer and wholesale dealer in candies. He and his wife Henrietta lived upstairs.

Entry for J August Ritter's confectionery from the 1899 city directory

Entry for J August Ritter’s confectionery from the 1899 city directory

Around 1914 the store became Becker’s Confectionery. It continued for a number of years until the mid 1940s when it became Stewart’s Confectionery.

Todd's Cafe 1950

Todd’s Cafe 1950

Around 1950 the building became a restaurant. Todd’s Cafe was open 24 hours and specialized in plate lunches. It was around this time Shirley Todd, the proprietor, built an addition in the rear along Virginia St.

About 1958 the restaurant became Dottie’s. Service around the clock was continued by its new owners Harold and Dorothy Townsend.

In 1962 the restaurant became the the Knotty Pine Cafe as most will remember it.

1964 ad for the Knotty Pine Cafe

1964 ad for the Knotty Pine Cafe

The Knotty Pine operated at the corner for nearly half a century. Economics forced the restaurant to close around late 2011.  It was torn down last week.

Waterworks Collapse 1904

Water Works collapse

Water Works collapse 111 years ago

The new Water Works was built from 1898-1900 after the original one closer to downtown became obsolete.  The land where the plant resides today was purchased in 1895 and has been in service ever since.  There was however a fiasco in 1904 that almost saw the new structure become short-lived.

Water Works postcard c1900

Water Works postcard c1900 (Courtesy Thomas E and Gina Topper Collection, EVPL)

A cave in at the Water Works emerged around New Year’s Day 1904.  It was near the intake and was only 50 feet away from the river-facing wall.  The collapse ate out the ground and caused cracks in the building.

Almost immediately, the old West End pumping station was prepared for emergency use.  The original Water Works on Riverside Dr, which had been abandoned since the new one became operational, was also considered.

Water Works

Cartoon of the Water Works asking for help January 8, 1904.  The building at right is the original Water Works that was abandoned when the new one was built

Additional cave ins occurred January 9 and the dry well, and caisson were abandoned.  A new trench along the route of intake pipes was proposed. There was some concern that water supply to city would be affected, but the water department assured it would not.

Water Works

Continued problems for the new Water Works plant

The administration brought in an expert engineer from St Louis.  Walter Luddington designed an interlocking steel piling to seal off work around the dry well.  The cave in kept growing larger and mud passing into pipes January 27 forced the Water Works to post a worker at the old plant and the West End Station too.  The Courier was very against the administration and demanded who would pay for the repairs and reported an incident where the Akin-Erskine mill had its machines clogged by muddy water.  Contrarily, the Journal-News downplayed any problems and said the muddy water was due to high flood waters and not the present issue.

On January 30, Cincinnati Water Works offered to send Evansville a pump boat, but their boat was in disrepair and would need fixing.  To make matters worse, the river wall of the Water Works was showing signs of settling, and it was claimed that the auxiliary stations were incapable of handling the whole load of the city.  Nonetheless superintendent Charles Thuman remained optimistic that the Water Works would soon be restored.

Water Works

Cave in in the basement of the Water Works February 3, 1904

On February 3, a section of the basement caved in and pipes broke at the entrance to the caisson.  This would most likely cause the intake to choke, and it was feared the plant would have to shut down.  The outer wall sank 8-12 inches, and a collapse was expected .  The next day the roof was braced, and the plant was closed to the public.  Things seem to worsen as the Cincinnati pump boat was delayed by ice, and Luddington was called back from St Louis to build new intakes.

Water Works

Braced wall at the Water Works

The deteriorating condition caused Evansville’s mayor to issue a proclamation to conserve water February 5.  When the building settled the next day carpenters stopped working, and excavation for intakes halted.  The Courier claimed the administration was asleep at the wheel as the city engineer was off to Mardi Gras, whereas the news didn’t event make the front page on the Journal-News.

Water Works

Water Works collapse on the west (river-facing) wall

On February 10, the river wall was knocked down with a battering ram and the greatest threat of collapse was managed.  That day Chandler School was closed as water pressure there (and over much of the city, really) was low.

The Water Works station officially closed February 13, and the old Water Works plant and the West End Pumping Station were used.  On February 15, the plant was attempted to go back online, but it didn’t work.  Problems were compounded when ice broke off the West End Pumping Station and again when the tunnel shaft began to cave during the next week.  During a fire at Babcock & Seitz February 25, it was discovered that there was no water pressure.  Pump boats from Cincinnati and St Louis were utilized, but the damage was significantly more than it should have been.

The Water Works plant was back online March 5 after having been delayed by high wind.  A temporary intake was utilized with a more permanent design to be implemented at a later date.  All in all, the bill to fix the collapse neared $50,000, but with the building being so new Evansville citizens were perplexed as to how something like this could happen.

Water Works

The collapse at the new Water Works left residents wondering who would foot the bill and why the new one was even built

Brown’s grand opening

Browns (c1949)

Brown’s Master Market


Brown’s Fine Foods at 1301 West Franklin St was Evansville’s largest grocery when it opened.  Vernon A Brown plugged his store as a “master market”–a grade above a supermarket–and heavily advertised its grand opening, which took place on September 19, 1946.

Browns Supermarket - interior (1946)

Interior of Brown’s new store


Brown’s new store boasted a clean interior with bright displays.  The buzz about the grand opening saw 3,000 avid shoppers waiting outside for the doors to open. People lined up at 6 a.m. and by 8 a.m. the crowd extended a block down Franklin St and another block down Fifth Ave.  Police were summoned and the police chief ordered barricades

Browns Supermarket - grand opening (1946 Sep 19)

Crowd of over 3,000 for Brown’s grand opening (9/19/1946)


Then it went bad…

The anxious shoppers trampled down barricades, pushed back a human wall of policemen, and threatened to cave in the glass front.  Brown conferred with the police chief and agreed to close the doors until the crowd thinned.  Attempts to let a small number of shoppers were stopped short as the crowd again swelled.  Trucks were eventually called around 10 a.m. and formed a funnel to control the flow into the store.  The rest of the day finished smoothly.

Browns Supermarket - grand opening (1946 Sep 19) 2

Brown writing “CLOSED” on the storefront to diffuse the raucous crowd

Browns Supermarket (1946 Sept 19) 2

Trucks in front of the store to control the grand opening crowd


Ultimately no one was hurt, but it was one of the more intriguing store openings in Evansville’s history.

The store was closed some years later, and the building now serves as a training center for the local Sheet Metal Workers Union

Oscar A Bippus Training Center

The old Browns Supermarket now covered and being used as the Oscar A Bippus Training Center

Indiana’s Historic Treasures Threatened

Vast troves of Indiana’s historic records are threatened under a proposed state budget cut. The Vanderburgh County Historic Society (VCHS) previously reported on Indiana House Bill 1001 (the state budget bill) and penned a letter from the VCHS board raising significant concerns. Click here to read that letter. Now more details have emerged that bring the threats into frightening focus.

Gov. Pence’s budget, reflected in H.B. 1001, proposes to eliminate the state genealogical department. This document, found on the website of the Indiana Library Federation, contains a breakdown of the proposed annual reductions in funding to the State Library programs. Page 4 describes the current Indiana genealogy department, whose entire annual budget of $400,000 would be eliminated by the cuts.

In addition to gutting the genealogy staff, the proposed budget would potentially also allow for the transfer of vast troves of the Indiana State Library resources to a private non-profit entity. The Indiana State Library is home to one of the largest genealogy collections in the Midwest. This collection (over 100,000 items) is focused on Indiana, states from which Indiana was settled, as well as some foreign countries. The collection is rich with unique family histories and genealogy materials that cannot be found in other locations. These invaluable Indiana history resources collected over the years for the use of the citizens of Indiana, and not available elsewhere.

There are grave concerns over the potential transfer of these resources and the proposed cuts in staffing to the Indiana State Library’s genealogy department. There have been no public hearings on this issue and little publicity about the proposed major changes to these resources.

Two local legislators sit on the House Ways and Means Committee. Please contact them as soon as possible to voice your opposition to the proposed budget cuts.

Rep. Holli Sullivan:
Rep. Gail Riecken:

Indiana House Bill 1001

Indiana House Bill 1001 (the state budget bill) includes a proposed 24% cut in funding to the Indiana State Library, including elimination of the Genealogy Department at the State Library and a 10% reduction in Indiana State Library staff. Today VCHS President Chris Cooke, with the backing of the VCHS board of directors, responds to these cuts. Click here (pdf) for a copy of the letter being sent to area legislators. Please feel free to share this letter and contact your legislator with any comments or concerns.

Lambert Johnson mansion

We came across the Lambert Johnson home in a Find-It-Friday listing new residences around 1930. After identifying Lambert Johnson’s house as 2300 Lincoln Ave, this house has only intrigued us more.

Lambert D Johnson residence, Outer Lincoln, completed last year (1929)

Lambert D Johnson residence, Outer Lincoln, completed last year (1929)

Lambert D Johnson Sr was the son of E Mead Johnson, who founded Mead Johnson and located the company here in the 1910s. In 1928 Lambert bought the old Bernardin residence and land which was next to his father’s house. Johnson relocated the home nearby to Boeke Ave and soon built a large English Tudor mansion. The house designed by Chester Walcot (Chicago) was paneled throughout much of the interior and donned imported fixtures. It was built by J Bippus and Sons for a price tag of $200,000 and was completed in 1929.

New home for Lambert Johnson 2-17-1929

New home for Lambert Johnson 2-17-1929

The Johnsons lived here for several years, and though it was surely a social hub for Evansville’s elite the home largely remains a mystery.  The only interior picture we found was when the daughter got married in 1941.

Mr and Mrs Gaylord Browne at the Lambert Johson residence 1-5-1941

Mr and Mrs Gaylord Browne (daughter and son-in-law) at the Lambert Johnson residence Jan 5, 1941

After Lambert’s parents passed away, the Johnsons moved into his father’s home in late 1940s to downsize (that home isn’t exactly small, so you can imagine the enormity of the Lambert residence). The mansion was deemed too big to maintain and sat vacant and for sale.  With no prospective buyers, it was razed in January 1955, and the area was turned into Johnson Place subdivision 1956 not long after Lambert’s death. One can only imagine the amount of craftsmanship and history that was demolished into a pile of rubble.

To be razed - Johnson "mansion" (Jan 10, 1955)

To be razed – Johnson “mansion” (Jan 10, 1955)

New residences in Johnson Place were limited to a smaller size so that the houses built wouldn’t fall into the same trap as Lambert’s did. Here is a view now of where the mansion once stood; the fenced community hiding a strange past.

Lincoln Ave near Boeke about where 2300 Lincoln once stood (Google Maps)

Lincoln Ave near Boeke about where 2300 Lincoln once stood (Google Maps)

2014 Year In Review


Melzer Soap

Melzer Soap Works

Destroyed by fire Oct 2014 will likely be razed

Fulton Ave, 401 N - front (2010 Jul 13)

Steierer Saloon / Service Glass

Razed after a new metal warehouse replaced old brick store

Columbia St, 321 E (2011 Dec 30)

Geier Saloon / Lanhuck’s Bar

Demolished after a car hit the structure in March damaging the building

 Faultless Caster - office (2011 Dec 08) 2

Faultless Caster office

Razed June after busted water pipes flooded building

Fulton Boys

107 N Fulton and 101 N Fulton

Left structure partially demolished and right completely gone marks two historic Mesker buildings lost


Bullocks Tavern

Razed along with other buildings near Deaconess back in August likely for a parking lot


Other notable losses

Kessler house – 305 E Columbia
Old Mater Dei offices and homes along Harmony Way
Homes near St Joe and Delaware razed for CVS



Greyhound Bus Station

Restoration well underway and blue panels are showing the old station’s beauty


Willard Library addtion

Victory garden in the rear of the lot is a tasteful addition to the historically-minded library


Sterling Brewery reuse

TBD but likely reuse for offices is an encouraging sign for an area in need of revitalization


Owen Block - detail (2010 Jan 18)

Owen Block

Fate is hanging by a thread for the old townhouses at Second and Chestnut

Century Club: Washington Ave Presbyterian


Architect sketch of the proposed church

Architect sketch of the proposed church

The idea of Washington Ave Presbyterian was conceived in late 2012 when the Presbyterian church wish to expand eastward.  The new church was planned to serve the growing suburbs buoyed by the streetcar.  The cornerstone was laid June 29, 1913, and construction progressed rapidly on what was dubbed “one of the finest churches in the city.”


Construction of Washington Ave Presbyterian June 1913

The church was dedicated May 17, 1914 making it the 7th Presbyterian church in Evansville.  The interior boasted a green color scheme with ivory colored ceiling set off with pink and brown decorations.  Its seating capacity was around 400.

Washington Avenue Presbyterian shortly after it was completed

Washington Avenue Presbyterian shortly after it was completed

An addition was built in 1954 to the right (west).  Some of the adjoining houses including the old parish house were cleared for parking.

1950s addition

1950s addition

Washington Ave Presbyterian merged with Eastminster Presbyterian on August 19, 1999. The old church was converted into the Washington Avenue Center, an outreach mission where more than a dozen ministries took place.

Not long after, the church became God’s Way Church which still operates here today.  It should be noted that during renovations the church was required to replace some of the beautiful stain glass windows on the front with clear glass per fire code.

Grand entrance

Grand entrance to the church

God's Way Church today

God’s Way Church today (note the center front window with the stain glass removed)

Aster Nut Products Co


Aster Nut Products Co on the alley behind Main St

The building was originally built for the Evansville Tea & Coffee company in 1924.  A storefront was built at 1004 Main St at the corner of William St (now Sycamore St) and a factory was built behind it across the alley (the building in the picture above).


Storefront at 1004 Main St

Around 1946 the Aster Nut Products Co moved in. It was the only manufacturer of peanut butter within 150 miles.  They also boasted that no stock was kept on hand and that all orders were made fresh.


Girls working in the factory 1946

cashew butter

Aster’s unique cashew butter — I wish I could still get this

Store front

Store front prepped for the holidays December 1946

During a natural gas shortage in 1977, Aster Nut Co had the unfortunate honor of being the first company to have its gas service cut off.  The company had used their allotment for the winter and had to operate in the cold.

Aster Nut Products closed sometime around 1978 not long after the FDA seized contaminated food from the company.  The building later became the Jewett Davidson Co in the 1980s

Main St, 1004 - side (2012)

“Jewett Davidson Company” on the side with the paint fading

Side of building 1004 Main

Side of building 1004 Main

Miller’s Club House

millers club house

Miller’s Club House

The Crockford Club House first opened June 7, 1891 with John Miller & Samuel Weil proprietors. The two, who operated a saloon in the city, invested over $12,000 into the pleasure park located at the end of the Washington Ave line. Patrons could take a short streetcar ride to get rest and relaxation from the city. The Crockford had a large clubhouse with a tower, shown above. Large grounds around the clubhouse offered croquet and lawn tennis, a bowling alley, and summer houses. The club reopened in 1892 with only Miller listed as the owner, and the name Miller’s Club House first appears.

sketch of new clubhouse

Sketch of Miller & Weil’s new clubhouse (Evansville Journal May 24, 1891)

Despite advertisements touting an upscale reputation, the clubhouse became a noted gambling club. It was located across from the old Tri-State Fairgrounds, and on the 2nd floor there was a large room for guests to watch the races.

1910 sanborn

1910 Sanborn view of the club house.  The house at left is one of the residences in the 1100 block of Washington Ave

The pleasure park was largely a failure. It reopened several times but ultimately closed in 1907 when it could not get a new liquor license.

F Grote Manufacturing bought the land in 1912 and planned to build a new plant along the Ohio Valley Railroad (US 41 now traverses where the RR tracks once crossed Washington). Even though detailed plans were published in the paper, it is not clear if the plant was ever built. The company was never listed at the new location in the city directories or articles, and 1920’s bungalows soon replaced the old Miller’s club house.

Within the past ten years, the houses that replaced the clubhouse were also torn down. A combination McDonald’s/gas station now occupies the half block.

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