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If these walls could talk: 203 - 313 N. Main

August 12, 2012

ABOVE: The then-new Standard station on Main and Washington Streets in 1958.

It's hard to believe, but we're nearing the end of the line when it comes to Culver's downtown buildings in our on­going series of "virtual" tours of historic buildings in Cul­ver -- at least the ones on Main Street proper. That's not to say we're necessarily leaving the downtown area itself, or of course the town as a whole. There are other struc­tures familiar to us all in the general area of downtown, of course, so we'll be taking some detours down a side street or two in coming weeks, and the itenerary for our imagi­nary tour of historic Culver will likely shift "uptown" (if one counts the town park area of Lake Shore Drive as "up­town" -- I recently heard tell that that area is "mid-town," and the business district on the northernmost side of town, including Park N' Shop and others, is "uptown." It's hard to get these things straight in the sprawling metropolis that is Culver, Indiana!).

203 N. Main St.
We're not done with Main Street downtown yet, how­ever. In our previous installment, we time warped to the days when Culver's Methodist Church occupied the land at the southwest corner of Main and Washington Streets. This week we'll stroll across the street to the north, which for 60 years plus would have meant paying a visit to the home of the pastor of said church. That is, the Methodist parsonage sat at what is today 203 N. Main Street, the site of Culver Express gas station.
While the first iteration of the church itself began in 1868 (with the brick exterior added and the building con­siderably enhanced in 1898), the date of 1906 was given as the first for the Methodist parsonage, or at least the one which occupied 203 N. Main those 50 years. Edwin Cor­win's "One Township's Yesterdays," however, references John and Betsy Matthew, extremely active members of the church who "settled in Marmont around 1886." The fam­ily's first residence, says Corwin, was "in the old Method­ist parsonage." Whether this refers to an entirely different building in a different locale, a different building ("old" instead of then-current) at 203 N. Main, or the same build­ing torn down in 1958, isn't certain.

At any rate, the house was there by 1906 and torn down in 1958, according to an article in the Sept. 17 Culver Citi­zen of that year, which noted that the "new Standard Oil Company (Indiana) Service Station will be built at the cor­ner of Main and Washington Streets, where the old Meth­odist parsonage was torn down last week."

Thus was born the building which would occupy the space for the remainder of the 20th century, and continues to occupy it now.

Of course, Standard Oil was not new to Culver. Into the 1920s, Standard had operated a bulk plant at the lake (east) end of Mill Street (into the early 1980s), and a service sta­tion in downtown Culver a block south. But 1958 saw the most recent manifestation of the company as a service sta­tion.

In 1959, Bernie Bauer was listed as Station manager along with Bill and Kenny Martin. Melvin Shilder ran the station starting in November, 1960, and Charles "Chuck" Baker starting in August, 1966.

According to Wikipedia, Amoco began phasing in the Amoco name in the old Indiana Standard sales territory in 1975, so Culverites would have seen the Aomoco name replacing the familiar red, white, and blue, oval-shaped "Standard" logo atop their station (Standard Oil Company in Indiana was officially renamed Amoco Corporation in 1985).

Don Weirick managed the station in the 1980s, but by then it had become part of the Good Oil Company's hold­ings. Good Oil, a remarkable small-town business success story, was launched in 1941 by Don Good Sr. in Monterey. His sons, Don and Dean, assumed ownership in 1980 and moved the home office to Winamac, and according to goodoilcompany.com, they "now own or oper­ate 20 retail locations and supply 76 dealer locations. These sites are under the BP, Citgo, Marathon and Phillips 66 brands."

One of these, of course, is the Culver Express at 203 N. Main, which today bears the BP (British Pe­troleum) moniker.

217 N. Main
A quick stop just north at 217 N. Main seems in order, only because the house, once home to Ken Tasch and to­day to Arthur and Elaine Giudice, was home for a few years in the 1980s, to a local business.

The building spent most of its life as what it was origi­nally designed to be, a private residence, listed as such on Sanborn Fire Maps from 1906 to 1937. Lois Curtis owned the house in the early 1980s, using it occasionally for fur­niture work and the like, she says. In June, 1984, Carol Saft opened The Country Harvester there. The Culver Citi­zen of the time listed it as "the Indiana distrinbutor for the Mountain Man But and Fruit Company of Colorado."

The Country Harvester (which joined a Notre Dame-based shop Saft also ran at the time) closed its doors in 1988, after which it again became a private residence, as it has remained.

303 N. Main
Moving north across Cass Street, we arrive at 303 N. Main, today the home of Culver's longest-running dentist, Greg Easterday. The location is listed as a "dwelling" in the 1906 Sanborn Fire Map, though at the moment there's no indication when it was first built. The Culver Citizen of April 6, 1967, however, in observing the 50th wedding anni­versary of Col. Judd and Mrs. Stinchcomb, notes that the couple lived at the house starting in 1921. Col. Stinch­comb died in 1969. The house was listed under the name of William F. Mills, long a principal and then superinten­dent at Culver Comm. Schools, in the late 1970s. At that time, Dr. Easterday was still operating out of the Culver Dental Clinic at 1001 Lake Shore Drive, though he had moved his practice to 303 N. Main -- where it remains today -- by 1982.

307 N. Main
Next door north, 307 N. Main, has been the home of The Painter and Poet Gallery of Esther and Ward Miller since the late 1990s, but the structure was a private residence as near as can be told, its whole life prior. Esther recalled Marcia and Fred Adams living in the home in the early 1950s (Esther, then Powers', own children played with the Adams' at the house). John and Anna Hayes occupied it in the 1960s, and in 1974 Esther recalled Tom Zoss -- who lived with his wife Bernadette -- laying out the paper in the basement during his tenure as editor of the Culver Citizen newspaper that year. Marianne Ransdall was listed there in the late 1970s.

The Millers had operated their gallery circa 1997 at 106 S. Main, later moving to 114 S. Main before purchasing the house. They moved to Winona Lake to retire in 2011.

313 N. Main
Rounding out North Main Street is 313 N. Main, which was listed on fire maps as a dwelling in 1906 (the dwelling is listed as constructed in 1900, on the Marshall County GIS site). In the 1930s, it was owned by Lena Medbourn, who first leased the space (in April, 1938) to Ruth Bodey. The move launched one of the longest continuous busi­nesses (in one form or another) in the downtown area. Ruth (Mrs. Clifton) Bodey, a Culver High School grad, had studied at the Tobias Beauty School in South Bend and began working at Cleta Easterday's beauty shop on the second floor of the State Exchange Bank building downtown. In 1940, the Bodeys bought the house from Medbourn, moving in to occupy the space as a house in addition to the Silhouette Beauty Shop, as it was known even in 1938. The Bodeys were also parents to Mrs. Jack Rich of Peru, noted the Culver Citizen in a 1963 article observing Bodey's 25th year in business. Rich is a retired state police officer and Miami County sheriff known to many Culverites, as are his son Bob and family, who still reside here today.

By the 1970s, Linda Rich was listed as owning the busi­ness. In the mid-1980s, Lou Townsend and Marcia Beck were associated, and circa 1987 Lou and Marilyn Rein­holt. Jack E. and Linda Rich sold the property to Richard and Diane Hansen in 2005, according also to GIS.

The structure has for some time had two upstairs and one downstairs apartment.

*CULVER HISTORY CORNER is sponsored by the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver (http://www.culverahs.com -- historyofculver@gmail.com)

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