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.

WINS

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.

LOSSES

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.

KP
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

Miller
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.