Evansville Historic Preservation Month Information


Evansville’s Department of Metropolitan Development, Preservation Alliance of Evansville, and the Reitz Home Museum present a full slate of lectures, tours, activities, and events. 

Brochure draft-- 2016 2-page-002Brochure draft-- 2016 2-page-001 

Linda Eales, Samara Trust

Associate Curator

Saturday, May 28, 11a.m. Reitz Home Carriage House, 224 S.E. First St.

“Usonian architecture

 and SAMARA”

     Samara, the home of John and Catherine Christian, is the Usonian style house in West Lafayette designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  In 1956 when this house was erected, Evansville’s William Wesley Peters was Wright’s primary assistant.

    Eales’ program covers the fascinating story behind this home.  She will discuss the signature architectural innovations of Wright’s design found here.  The Usonian architectural style, of which this is an example, will also be explained.

    Considered a premier example of Wright’s work, Samara is now listed as a National Landmark.

   After Ms. Eales program, Preservation Alliance of Evansville, will announce its Preservation Awards.

Post-Program Tour of

Peters-Margedant House

     Saturday, May 28, 1:30p.m.-3:00p.m. Located at 1506 E. Indiana Street.  The Peters-Margedant House, a Usonian prototype designed and built by Evansville native and Frank Lloyd Wright protégé William Wesley Peters, will be open for tours.  This little home has nearly all of the features that Wright later incorporated in his Usonian design.

Haynie’s Corner First Friday Walk

     Friday, May 6, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m.  Gather in front of the Alhambra Theatre, 50 Adams Ave.  Haynie’s Corner has become a vibrant neighborhood in our city that is celebrated on the First Fridays of the month.  Learn about this area as its fascinating history and unique and varied architecture are highlighted and explained.  The history and architecture of the building now housing some of the city’s most popular restaurants will be special features.  Guide: Larry Bristow

Bayard Park Tour

     Monday, May 16, RESCHEDULED Tuesday, May 24, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m.  Tour originates at East Branch Library, 840 E. Chandler Ave.  Mrs. Samuel Bayard’s gift of ten acres in 1901 signaled development of the park.  There are superb representation of early 20th century architectural styles found around the park – Prairie, Georgian Revival, Bungalow, American Foursquare, and Tudor.  Guide: Dennis M. Au 

Lamasco: Evansville’s Other Historic City

    Tuesday, May 17 RESCHEDULED Wednesday, May 24, 6:30p.m.-8:30p.m. Walking tour starts from Dairy Queen parking lot, 901 W. Franklin St. parking lot.  Lamasco was platted as a rival independent city to the north and west of Evansville in 1837.  Though it merged with Evansville in 1857, the area still has special character.  See homes, businesses, and churches that give this part of town its lasting unique personality. Guide: Joseph Engler 

Downtown Transportation History

    Thursday, May 19, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m.  Meet at N.W. Fourth and Vine Streets – south corner of the Old Courthouse.  As Evansville evolved through history, the downtown always was the transportation hub of the region.  Here there were steamboats, canal boats, trains, trolley cars, and this was the place where the community was introduced to the ‘horseless-carriage.’ See the places and buildings that still recall these eras of our past.  Guide: Dennis M. Au

Riverside Neighborhood: 21st Century

QR Code Walking Tour

     Saturday, May 21, 2:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Gather at Reitz Home Carriage House 224 S.E. First Street.  Enter the 21st Century with this groundbreaking tour!  Mr. Jon Carl’s Reitz High School ‘Feel the History’ class researched and produced thirty-six video histories of homes in the Riverside District.  What brings this into the 21st century is that you can access these histories on your smart phone through QR codes!  Tour starts with Mr. Carl giving a history of the project and instruction on how to access the videos on your smart phone.  Next, Mr. Au will take the group on a short walk.  This will be a combination of the traditional tour-guide’s presentation and opportunities for you to access the appropriate videos on your phone.  Tour Guides: Jon Carl and Dennis M. Au

Oak Hill Cemetery

     Sunday, May 22, 2:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Tour departs from the veteran’s memorial to the right of the main entrance. Two walking tours will be offered simultaneously – one featuring the 19th century section of the cemetery and the other the 20th century portion. This year, at one stop on each tour, history will come back to life, with a costumed actor portraying a noted person buried in the cemetery.  Each tour features Evansville history and biography and touches on the tombstone art and symbolism.  You will see why Oak Hill Cemetery richly deserves to be on the National Register of Historic Places.  Guides: Jane Davies and Dennis M. Au; Costumed portrayals: Malania Ripley and Chris Ripley

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum: Centennial Tour
Tuesday, May 10, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m. Starts on the front steps of the Coliseum, 350 Court St.  A century ago, construction started on the Coliseum, one of downtown Evansville’s monumental pieces of architecture.  In addition to a walk around the building, this includes a tour of the fascinating treasurers of the interior.  Celebrate the centennial of this Evansville Landmark! Guides: Shelia Acker, Mark Acker, Barbara Kortz, and Dennis M. AuSoldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum: Centennial Tour

Old Vanderburgh County Courthouse – County Legal History Museum Tour

    Sunday, May 15, 2:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Gather in the main rotunda on the first floor of the building. Guided tour begins in the legal history museum and the restored Superior Courtroom. The Vanderburgh County Bar Association recently assembled this interpretive museum and restored the courtroom to its Victorian splendor.  After seeing the exhibit and courtroom, the tour covers both the interior and exterior of this magnificent building.  Guides:  Kristen Comer and Dennis M. Au.

Owen Block Restoration

Wednesday, May 18, 6:00p.m.-7:30p.m.  This program is scheduled for the Reitz Home Carriage House, 224 S.E. First St.  The Owen Block, a stunning 1880 Second Empire row-house fell into ruin.  With the support of grass-roots preservationists and Indiana Landmarks, award-winning restoration contractor Mike Martin of Architectural Renovators stepped forward and saved this treasure from imminent collapse.  Martin will give a contractor’s perspective on rescuing this building from stabilization to making it ready for tenants later this year.  After the talk, Martin will tour the group around the exterior of the building.

Century Club: Howell General Baptist

Howell General Baptist is one of the oldest congregations in the Evansville area.  It was founded in 1823 as Liberty General Baptist by Benoni Stinson, who established the General Baptist branch with this being the mother church.

In 1891–when Howell was still a separate town–the Liberty General Baptist congregation built a church at the northeast corner of Rose and Signal Streets, what is now Delmar Ave and Emerson St.  (The streets of Howell would eventually be renamed from their railroad specific names around the turn of the century).  It was situated across from the original Howell Public School that later became known as Daniel Wertz.

Original church building
Original church building

In 1916 the church solicited the help of famed architect Clifford Shopbell to build a new church building.  The brick Neoclassical structure was erected on the same site as the old structure.

Architect sketch
Architect sketch Clifford Shopbell & Co
Shortly after completion
The new church shortly after completion

A sizable addition was built in 1955 just left (north) of the church.  This too would eventually be enlarged to include a second story.  The church would eventually buy the old Daniel Wertz school, which moved out to South Red Bank Rd in 1986.  The vacated school was purchased the following year and for a while was used for storage until it was razed around 1990.

Church today
Howell G. B. Church today
Stonework above the main entrance


Howell General Baptist website – https://howellgeneralbaptist.com/history

Evansville Day Presentation and Video

Evansville Day Presentation and Video

The Vanderburgh County Historical Society and the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science will sponsor a new, never before seen video of the Evansville Day Parade of June 23, 1945. The Evansville Day Parade celebrated Evansville’s contribution to the war effort during World War II.. Video footage will show military hardware and personnel, the Central High School and Lincoln High School marching bands, floats from major manufacturers in the Evansville area — Republic Aviation, Servel, Bootz Manufacturing and others — and the Evansville built USS Vanderburgh at Dress Plaza. Representatives from the VCHS and Evansville Museum will provide historical insight into this parade as part of the presentation.

This five minute color video is the first of several videos the Vanderburgh County Historical Society will be unveiling in 2016. These videos are sourced from 16 MM film donated to VCHS by the family of Janet Noelting Robinson.

The Evansville Day Parade presentation will be at 6:30 PM on Thursday, June 16, 2016 in the Koch Immersive Theater of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science at 411 S.E. Riverside Drive Evansville, Indiana 47713-1098.

Seating in the Koch Immersive Theater is limited. Please make reservations at the Evansville Museum at 812-425-2406.

Terry Hughes, President of the Vanderburgh County Historical Society

Facebook Event Page

Schulte House: the 1st Wabash Ave mansion

Charles Schulte was a partner in the Schulte & Reitman sawmill on Ohio St.  Its success made Schulte, who was a native of Prussia, a rich man.  He built his large residence in 1878 in the Italianate style along Wabash Ave between Indiana and Illinois St.  It boasted a fancy veranda, ornamental window heads, and a three-story tower and juxtaposed with the modest working-class homes nearby.

1880 Schulte
The new Schulte residence from the Evansville 1880 Map

Schulte was instrumental in establishing St Boniface parish, along with several other prominent West Siders.  It also interesting to note his partner, Henry Reitman, built his large home just across the street. Many may recall this house just off the Lloyd Expressway that was razed just a few years ago.

The mansion as it looked around 1889, before the wrap around porch.

Mr. Schulte passed away around the turn of the century and his wife around 1910, so the house became available.  The West Side merchant, William Scherffius, who ran his department store nearby on Franklin St purchased the house.  Immediately he set to remodeling the mansion including the addition of a massive front porch.  At 1400 sq ft, it was the largest in the city.  It was decorated in stone and wrapped most of the house.

new porch 1400 sq ft
Article about new porch encompassing 1,400 sq ft – Evansville Courier 9/22/1912
Wabash Ave, 110 N (1920 Nov)a
Talk about curb appeal.  The updated Scherffius house c1915

Scherffius too passed away sometime around the late 1920s.  The house was purported to be the home of the National Youth Administration, but found its new calling when the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) purchased the home in 1942. The clubs growth facilitated an addition which was built in 1950 just left/south of the old house, which is still in use today. The organization grew to become the largest chapter of in the United States.

1961 aerial of the club.  The West Branch Library is in the lower right and Reitman’s home (Schulte’s old partner) is in the upper left close to the Expressway

By the mid 1960s the house was deemed “too costly to repair” as plans were made to replace the magnificent home with a simple one-story structure. The old home was torn down in 1966, and the new building was completed later that year adjoining the 1950s addition.

new sketch mar 1966
Sketch of new VFW building March 1966.  The round top part (left) was the 1950 addition.

One final look then & now

Doomed.  Article about the Schulte/Scherffius home being sentenced
VFW Present day
VFW Present day similar to view above.  The 1950s addition is in the background left

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: vchshistory.org 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: http://www.willard.lib.in.us/calendar_of_events/event_details.php?eventID=1267