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If these walls could talk: 304 and 316 E. Jefferson

November 3, 2012

Aftermath of the April, 1923 fire which claimed the lumber yard. Many of the houses visible in the background still stand on E. Washington Street. The tower of the Methodist Church at Main and Washington can be seen upper left.

As part of our ongoing "virtual" walk through Culver -- most recently the downtown area -- we've been wandering through a business-rich offshoot of downtown, the eastern end of Jefferson Street. We're still on the north side of the street, where we'll stop by the now-defunct property at 304 E. Jefferson (that's lot 15 of the F. B. Harris Addtion, in case you were wondering, which you likely weren't).

By 1914, Sanborn Fire Maps show the space as a dwelling. A note in the Jan. 28, 1942 Culver Citizen tells us Russell McFarland just completed a new ice house next to his home, "where he has headquarters for the Culver City Ice Company."

Many Culverites will remember the McFarland ice business, which of course continued a very vibrant -- though by the McFarland era, very different -- tradition of ice sales in Culver. Starting in the 1880s -- as we'll detail in future installments of this feature -- ice was harvested by the millions of tons each winter off of Lake Maxinkuckee. 1937 marked the final year of actual harvesting of ice, though sales continued.

Even after the ice harvest ceased, sales of manufactured ice (whose existence obviously circumvented the need for harvesting "natural" ice from the lake) continued. By that time, some households -- particularly those in the rural areas surrounding Culver -- would still have a need for block ice for refrigeration purposes, though rural electrification had done away with most "ice boxes." McFarland -- with his wife Esther -- however, provided ice for a variety of other purposes.

According to the Culver Citizen of Oct. 12, 1967, "Mr. and Mrs. McFarland moved to the former McClane property in May, 1934, and began the re­tail sale of ice for the late Harry Medbourn. In 1940 the McFarlands built a refrigerated ice house across the street, next to their home. There they managed a little store and raised and sold fishing bait along with the ice business.

"In 1963," continued the Citizen, "Mr. McFarland died, but his wife continued with the business until 1966, at which time health conditions forced her to retire. Another hobby of Mrs. McFarland's was making noodles, which she sold to the public."

It was noted Mrs. McFarland had moved to Plymouth by 1967.

The Bill and Nita Wieringa family moved to the house shortly thereafter, their home until the 1990s. The house was razed to make way for the addition of today's Bayside condominiums.

Moving east, we stop on at 316 E. Jefferson Street, the longtime home of the Ferrier Lumber Company, one of the longest-running businesses in Culver during the 20th century.

J. 0. (James Oliver) Ferrier, originally of Carroll County, Indiana, launched his lumber business in November, 1898, having moved here with Rosa, his wife of 15 years at the time. A few years after opening, Ferrier's son Clark I came on board, and in the early 1900s the family opened a branch, with large storage yard, in Lakeville.

Daniel McDonald, in his history of Marshall County, notes J.O. Ferrier "is also the proprietor of a town addition consisting of eighty-nine lots, which is known by his name and is being quite rapidly settled (as of 1909). It has been accepted by the town board, is nicely laid out, and lots are readily selling at from $100 to $300."

Those living in Culver South of Davis Street may recognize Ferrier's addition on their property abstracts, and in fact it was Ferrier, following a visit to Florida (then a far more rare occurance than it is today) who gave the rather unusually Spanish-sounding names to a number of streets in that area (think Batabano, Obispo, Prado, and so on).

J.O., according to McDonald, was "a strong anti-saloon man, believing that in local affairs the temperance question should be paramount. He was at one time a member of the town board, but after serving one term refused firmly thereafter to accept a renomination. Rather he prefers to devote himself to the upbuilding of his church interests, and the advocacy of temperance."

The lumber company dealt in lumber, lath, shingles, sash, doors and blinds, cement blocks, cement, builders' hardware, drain tile and sewer pipe.

As of Jan. 1, 1915, Clark Ferrier took over management of the business, his father retiring with plans to look after his farm.
1906 fire maps show three buildings, with four to five total in 1914, including two lumber sheds. Between 1924 and 1937, a cement block factory joined the lumber office and lumber shed, roofing and sash storage, and cement storage.

The April 21, 1923 Fort Wayne News Sentinel's headline proclaimed, "Rain Saves Culver From Flames -- SOS is Sent Out," the implication being that the town itself may have been in danger from the massive fire which swept through the Ferrier lumber yard.

Fire departments from Knox, Plymouth, and Logansport assisted in battling the blaze, and Culver’s inadequate water supply forced firemen to pump water from nearby Lake Maxinkuckee. Efforts were concentrated on saving the surrounding homes (one, that of Oliver Morris, was burned, though not entirely). Clark Ferrier burned his hand moving his car to safety, and two firemen were injured fighting the blaze.

The fire had been spotted around 4:30 a.m., and rain began to fall “in torrents for about 15 minutes” at around 10 a.m., enabling firefighters to gain the upper hand in the fire, which they finally pronounced likely not to spread by 11:30 a.m. The damage was estimated at around $100,000 to the lumber company, which rebuilt its central building in brick, a structure many Culverites will recall still standing into the 1990s.

Former assistant Culver Elementary principal Craig Hopple kindly provided the newspaper clipping and photos (being related to the Ferriers by way of Clista Easterday's marriage to Clark Ferrier), which can be seen on the Antiquarian and Historical Society's webpage at culverahs.com.

J.O. Ferrier died in December, 1934, at age 76, leaving Clark in charge, with his own son Charles Ferrier stating work at age 12 for the lumber yard (Charles worked at the Ferrier Lumber Compnay until it was sold to settle the J. O. Ferrier Estate).

In June, 1943, the J. O. Ferrier Lumber Co. was sold to William Hass of South Bend, who renamed it the Marshall County Lumber Company. In March, 1945, Charles Ferrier was appointed manager of the company, succeeding R. Harry Jones. In December, 1947, the Citizen noted Culver's lumber companies were consolidating, with George Babcock as manager, which continued until 1968. In September of that year, the company became Culver Lumber, Inc. under the management of Wally Dinsmore. Interestingly, in the early 1970s, George Babcock opened his own lumber company at 115 E. Jefferson, across the street (site of today's Culver Wings), which was closed in 1977 due to his deteriorating health.

In 1974, Dealers Wholesale Services Inc. was listed at 316 E. Jefferson (though no longer, by 1975). In 1977 and 1978, Ralph's Auto Service was listed at the site, and by 1979 the Top Shop waterbeds had opened at 316. It held court there, under the management of the Reininga family for a handful of years; in fact in 1982 the Citizen noted the roof on one of the storage buildings on the property caved in due to the weight of the heavy snow that fell that winter.

In the mid-1990s, Gary Shaffer joined his father Verl in giving a business district locale to the latter's longtime business (which Gary took over) in opening the Gazebo Marine there.
The old building sat empty for several years prior to development, in the mid-2000s, of today's Bayside condominiums.

Revisiting the property a few buildings west, at 104 N. Plymouth, which we profiled a while back, Deb Overmyer pointed out to the editor that the building today housing Elizabeth's Garden is, in fact, not a new building, but a renovated version of the longtime existing building, contrary to what was written in the article. Those who recall the interior details of the place will no doubt agree she's right, so we're setting the record straight!

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