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If these walls could talk: strolling around East Jefferson

September 15, 2012

The Culver Hi-Speed Recap Tire Co. and employees, 115 E. Jefferson in the 1940s.

It's been a few weeks since our last "Walls" installment, during which we take a virtual "walk" through Culver and visit the history of the buildings here.

We started with the downtown areas of Main Street, and we're sticking to that pattern, wandering towards the lake on East Jefferson while we're in the area. First off, thanks to Sherrill Fujimurra for clarification on some important missing years on 115 E. Jefferson, site of today's Culver Wings restaurant. She notes that her father, Harry Edgington, and Charles Medbourn first launched their tire recapping business there circa 1939. In June, 1945, a massive fire, visible for 10 to 15 miles, destroyed the original building. Believed to have been started by burning grass which spread to a pile of rubber buffings and exploded 40 cans of tire paint, the conflagration fed off of 200 gallons of fuel oil. About 250 vehicle tires were destroyed in the building, which by then had handled over 200,000 tires, an important service during the rubber rationing years of World War II.

One of the oddities of the fire, according to the Culver Citizen of the day, was that the American flag on the roof of the front of the building continued to fly unharmed by the flames and smoke. The Citizen reported soon thereafter that the recap business was open at new digs adjacent to the original building. This presumably meant either a temporary site, or that the newly-constructed building was laid out adjacent to the specifics of the old one -- rather than exactly where and how it sat -- because Sherrill assures us the building currently existent at 115 E. Jefferson is the same one her family built as a replacement for the one lost to flames. She believes the new structure was up and going soon after the fire, though by 1952, the business had closed its doors.

As reported in our last installment, Roy Deckard opened his supermarket there in 1954, which would give way to Park N' Shop and a host of other businesses up to the present. Thanks to Sherrill for filling in the details. Across the street at 114 E. Jefferson, today home to Overmyer Soft Water, was in 1906 -- according to the Sanborn map of that year -- shows a only a few stables. The 1914 and 1924 maps appear to show empty lots there, but by 1937, a NIPSCO parking lot existed there.

In September, 1945, the Citizen noted the State Exchange Bank was at work on a public parking lot for the community at the corner of Jefferson and Plymouth Streets. As was also reported last time out, in Sept., 1963, Gates & Calhoun Chevrolet took over the building at 115 E. Jefferson and made use of the lot across the street to the north, at 114 Jefferson, as the used car show lot, all under the management of Earl Dean Overmyer. For many years, the site remained an empty lot, though by the 1990s, Earl Dean's son, the late Lance Overmyer Sr., had moved the family soft water business to the site from its home at his 16th B Road residence.

A few steps east at the northeast corner of Plymouth and Jefferson Streets (home today of Elizabeth's Garden florist at 104 N. Plymouth), the Culver Citizen in 1923 notes "The Plymouth Electric Light and Power Company is installing a new sub-station on its lot at the corner of Plymouth and Jefferson streets." Presumably, based on the old maps, this would be 104 Plymouth, rather than the west side of Plymouth. In August, 1941, it was announced that Harold Baker, formerly associated with the Cloverleaf Dairy, was opening the Lake View Dairy at the future 104 N. Plymouth, where it continued to operate into the 1950, its customer base eventually subsumed into the Miller Dairy operation.

In March, 1966, the Citizen noted the town board announced the Culver Street Department building "at the corner of Plymouth and Jefferson Streets will be offered for sale soon and...will be vacat¬ed when the Street Department moves to the present Town Hall (then at Cass and Plymouth Streets -- editor), and other town departments move to the new Lake Shore Drive pro¬perty" (today's fire department building, State Street and Lake Shore Drive). Again, this presumably puts us at the Elizabeth's Garden site, rather than across the street west (though your editor is open to correction from those "in the know"). Bill Overmyer operated a body shop in the old building, through the late 1970s.

By 2001, the old, by then dilapidated structure had been razed and interior decorator Chris Landskron lent her creative prowess to the new Elizabeth's Garden florist business, which of course remains there today.

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