Today in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln spent the evening in his study discussing the works of William Shakespeare with painter Francis Carpenter. The engraving shown here, courtesy of The Library of Congress, was originally painted by Carpenter and depicts the Lincoln family in The White House in 1861.
Carpenter was a descendant of the Rehoboth Carpenter family. This family included Willard Carpenter, the enterprising pioneer, citizen, and benefactor of Evansville who lived from 1803 to 1883. The Willard Carpenter House named in his honor is now home to WNIN. But he is perhaps best known for Willard Library, which he built and endowed. An agent for the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, Mr. Carpenter incorporated his concern for the rights of African Americans into his requirement that the library “be maintained for the free use of all persons who may desire to consult it.” This definition of a “public” library was a daring social experiment in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The building at 621 Main St was built in 1897 for Rouscher & Miller, dealers in choice and fancy groceries produce feed. Located at the southeast corner of Main and Delaware, it was also a corner saloon. But what makes the building unique is that it is an old Mesker storefront. Evansville’s own Geo L. Mesker & Co. produced steel facades that could readily be applied to commercial buildings to add great ornamentation and detail cheaply.
The building was originally addressed 1823 Main St and built to serve the growing North Main St. It soon became Marby’s grocery and later H Langhorst grocer. At some point Bauer took over the building and “M Bauer” was added to the parapet atop the building.
The building at 619 N Main St (to the right, south) was built sometime around 1930. Through the years the buildings were a variety of concerns such as the North Side Shoe Shop, the Banner Food Market and the Koressel Market. Below is a view of the North Main area in 1947.
From the 1970s until the mid 1980s, Turoni’s Pizzeria was situated there. It later moved across the street into its present location.
For several years it was the Evansville Police Department’s North office. When the branch moved in the old Christa McAuliffe alternative school at Columbia and Governor, the old building sat vacant. Recently it has found new life as the home of Jacobsville Join In, a neighborhood organization serving the North Main area. See http://jacobsvillejoinin.com for more information
We are proud to unveil the new website of the Vanderbugh County Historical Society. We have been working hard to develop a new look for a our group looking back at history while looking forward and utilizing technology to bring you content that you want.
Our goal is to keep members informed of activities and events and to bring you stories of the past. Here you will find all kinds of articles and images of Vanderbugh history.
Please send us your feedback to let us know what you think and don’t hesitate to contact us with ideas on how to serve you better.
Originally posted 12/14/2009
Evansville residents may wonder why Central High School is not very centralized within the city. Geographically it lies more north than North High School. For those old enough to remember Central used to be downtown when that area was still very residential. Old Central was the oldest free public high school in continuous operation west of the Allegheny Mountains. It was a massive brick complex spanning the entire block of 6th St, Vine St, ML King Jr Blvd (formerly 7th St), and Court St (formerly Division St). It was torn down in 1973 and is now the YMCA parking lot.
After holding high school classes in various locations, the city finally got a dedicated building in 1868 when Old Central was built. It was simply called Evansville High School since no other secondary schools were in town. Once Reitz High School was built in 1918, the name Central which typified its location downtown came about.
At first, the school was a small building compared to its final state. It was a two story school house fronting 7th St.
In 1896 a clock tower and two wings were added. This massive tower that dominated the Evansville skyline is what most people associate with Old Central.
Additions in the early 1900s saw the school expand to 6th St encompassing the entire block.
After 100+ years and numerous expansions, Old Central outgrew its location. The downtown residents and families migrated north with the urban sprawl. The new Central was built out on First Ave and in 1971 the school left its home downtown for a more spacious site. The school sat vacant for a couple of years and despite some protests to preserve the tower as a downtown landmark the school was razed in 1973. The block was slated to be used for a new building for the YMCA, but that never came to pass and Old Central is now nothing more than a parking lot.
The only thing that remains of the Old Central complex is the 1927 gym on the corner of Court and 6th. Built in 1927, it is still used by the YMCA for an indoor track and basketball courts. If you look at the stone above the door facing 6th St it reads “Gymnasium C.H.S.” for Central High School.
The Globe-Bosse-World Furniture Co helped put Evansville on the map. With three large companies combining forces, this super company showed why Evansville, with its abundant hardwood, was arguably the furniture capital of its day.
Globe-Bosse-World (G-B-W) was a result of the merger of the Globe Furniture, Bosse Furniture, and World Furniture Cos. With all three companies situated near Ninth and Maryland, it made sense when they joined forces in 1910. Their size alone made them one of the largest furniture operations in the region. The company also had a hand in creating the Furniture Exchange building downtown (now the Court Building) to showcase products–sort of a salesroom for the many furniture companies in town.
The death of Mayor Bosse, the Great Depression, and aging managements contributed to the fall of several furniture companies, but G-B-W was still in operation when an enormous fire destroyed much of the company in 1946. It is still unknown when the exactly the company went out of business, but they were gone by the early 1960s.
The old offices,the World Furniture Co and the newer factory on Ninth Ave are all that remain of the great company. You can still see “World Furntiure” painted in on the old World Furniture building (south side of Maryland St). There is also a nice split down the southeast corner of Ninth and Maryland where the old Belt RR tracks used to pass by the companies, and the World Furniture building has angled walls following the outline of the railroad. The tracks have since been removed and relocated along the edge of Pigeon Creek.
Holy Trinity Catholic church, an unimposing little church downtown on 3rd St, has the distinction of being Evansville’s oldest Catholic parish. Originally the second oldest, it took that title from Assumption Church when it was torn down in 1965 for the Civic Center. But what most people may remember was the beautiful old church building that burned down in 1950.
With the boom of German immigrants into Evansville, Holy Trinity was the result of the need for a German-speaking parish (Assumption was English-speaking). The cornerstone was laid in 1849, but a cholera epidemic halted construction. The church was finally completed in 1851 and Holy Trinity parish was born.
The church occupied the entire half block of Third St between Court St (originally Division St) and Vine St. The gorgeous chuch with its tall spire was a downtown landmark. A huge school building was on the corner of Vine which for a time served as the Catholic high school (before Memorial was built).
A sister’s home was located behind the school fronting Vine St. A new rectory was built in 1912 on the corner of 3rd and Court which is still standing but hidden by the later addition of the education building
Sadly, after standing for a century the church was struck by lightning Easter Sunday and burned down April 3, 1950. The blaze completely gutted the church as seen here in this photo from the Evansville Courier. Downtown lost one of its most prominent churches, and the city skyline was noticeably missing something. Mass was temporarily held in the school while the present Holy Trinity church was being built. When it burned, it was the oldest Catholic church in the city. While Trinity is still the oldest congregation, St Mary Catholic Church, built 1867, is now the oldest Catholic church building in town.
Many people know Howell as the area southwest of town. It is a tight-knit community that sprung up from all the railroad activity at the Howell Railroad Yard. The small town just southwest of Evansville experienced a boom. Barker Ave, originally Front St, became the bustling downtown. Residents settled and built homes, and churches followed. Like any populated place the town had a school — Public School of Howell, Indiana or simply Howell Public School. Built in 1886 it was a simple 2-story structure with a bell tower and was located on the northwest corner of Delmar and Emerson. Eventually, schools were under the same umbrella of the township so the school was known by Public School District No 7. As Howell grew, the school did too. An addition in the rear along Emerson St was added in 1898.
In 1922, the school was renamed to honor the community service of Daniel Wertz.
The school continued to expand with additions in 1935 and 1958, but with the closing of nearby township schools, the school was maxed and its location limited its growth. The decision was made to move Daniel Wertz to Red Bank Rd just south of Broadway, where it is now. In 1986 the school moved and the old building was sold to Howell Baptist Church. It was used as a storage facility for a short while and was finally razed about 1990. Sidewalks leading to the old entrances are the only indication of Old Daniel Wertz which served the area for over 100 years.
Interestingly enough, during the 1937 Flood the majority of the Howell area stayed above the flood line. However, if another flood of that magnitude occurred now, the new school would be under water where it is currently located.
With its massive twin towers, St Boniface towers over the West Side of Evansville. Having served the community for 130+ years, it stands as a visual landmark for the surrounding area. The church can even be seen in several pictures from downtown.
St Boniface was originally built in 1881 as the first Catholic Church west of Pigeon Creek–only Assumption (gone), Holy Trinity (rebuilt), and St Mary are older. Several prominent West Siders facilitated the formation of the parish and helped finance it. The church was rebuilt after fire Easter weekend 1902, but retains much of the original look. The towers are a bit wider and shorter and there are dormers on the sides that used to not exist. A c1900 carriage house is located behind the church. One other thing of note is the grotto, built underneath the church in 1914. The flood of 1937 filled the grotto with 3 feet of water damaging several statues and caused it to closed, though it reopened in the 1970s as a mini-museum.
The school at the back of the block along 10th Ave was built in 1923. It actually replaced an older school on the corner where the parking lot now is. The original school was built in 1885 and can be seen in several old pictures. For a while it even housed a parochial high school. After the new school was built it was used for some time but eventually was torn down in 1951.
The sisters’ home along Michigan St was built in 1907. The nuns who taught at the school used to reside in the old school building, but as space became limited it was determined to give them a separate structure. It still stands but isn’t used except for storage.
The rectory at the corner of Wabash and Virginia was built in 1892. It is a fine example of Victorian living and blends in well with houses in the vicinity.
When doing my research I came across this postcard and thought surely it was incorrectly labelled. I knew of big houses on 1st St and even some on First Ave, but where were these grandiose houses along Fulton Ave? Upon further searching, I identified these homes as those of three members of the Cook family, proprietors of the F W Cook Brewing Co.
602 N Fulton Ave – The first and largest of the three mansions built back in 1877 by F W Cook (father). He was president and general manager of the F W Cook Brewing Co. It was torn down in the winter of 1984-5 and is now the site of Inweld Corp
620 N Fulton Ave – Charles Cook, president of the Home Realty Co, built this brick Queen Anne in 1898. It was torn down in 1998 after standing for a century and is now a side lot for the Henry Cook house
610 N Fulton Ave – Henry Cook (son) was the vice president of F W Cook Brewing Co and secretary and treasurer of the F W Cook Investment Co. This colonial revival house was built by Harris & Shopbell in 1899. It is now the only home left standing, however the building is in serious disrepair. It is on the Preservation Alliance of Evansville’s Top 10 Endangered List, and a recent, though incomplete, paint job hints of some hope for the home.
The Cooks were a wealthy family, and these residences illustrate some of the grandeur that used to line Fulton Avenue. Check out the slideshow along with the article that shows several photos of the homes through the years. As a side note, in the postcard above you can see the tower of the Fulton Ave School in the distant left
Carpenter School was the second school built in Evansville erected in 1859. It was necessitated by overcrowding at the Canal Street School (later renamed Wheeler School), and it was built using the same design plan. Land was purchased from the Willard Carpenter estate and the school was built next to his home (the current WNIN building). Carpenter School was situated on the north side of Carpenter St between Clark St and Ingle St. You can see the school’s layout here in this old 1884 Sanborn map. Carpenter School was also called Lower School since it was downstream and Canal St was called Upper School based on its relation to the Ohio River.
A major renovation in 1878 resulted in an addition to the school and a new facelift, making
the updated school hardly recognizable from its previous look. A new 6-room building was added to the front of the existing one. The updated school building had an ornate tower and large arched entrance shown here. Another renovation in the early 1900s saw the removal of the tower and squaring of the roofline as seen in the photo at left.
After operating continuously for nearly 100 years, Carpenter School was closed in 1957. The population shift left the neighborhood school with declining attendance. After a failed attempt to redevelop the historic school building, it was demolished in 1961. WTVW Channel 7 is now located on this site.