If these walls could talk...from 115 W. Mill to 600 W.Jefferson
Our ongoing series of "virtual" historical walks through buildings of note in Culver has just about wrapped up West Jefferson Street, since we're nearly to State Road 17 and thus the edge of town.
However, we hadn't yet stopped into a property which was once home to a thriving local business, Boetsma's Interiors (and various other names) at 600 W. Jefferson, at the corner of that street and S.R. 17.
The roots of that business, which opened at the W. Jefferson location in November, 1960, touch on another business property several blocks away, but which it only makes sense to touch upon in today's column, and that's at 115 W. Mill Street, between Ohio and Main.
The story also starts a few generations back with Joe W. Boetsma, who arrived in Culver in 1917 with a background in automobile mechanics and furniture factory work. He was a member of Culver's fire department and, according to the Citizen in the 1930s, helped get signers on the petition to bring town mail delivery to Culver.
According to the Citizen in March, 1939, he'd already had 19 years experience in the furniture and upholstery business when he formed Joe Boetsma & Sons in Culver that same year (he also planned to open a furniture store in Burr Oak later in March).
The Mill Street business expanded in October, 1947 "so the business will cover about 2,000 feet in floor space," according to the Citizen.
In March, 1953, Joe W. Boetsma, age 59, died unexpectedly from a heart attack, though his upholstery business continued. It's also worth noting that, two years prior, he had helped launch what would become the Culver Bible Church, several blocks south of his business, on South Main Street, though Boetsma himself only saw the early seeds of his dream begin to take root (in fact, son Joe H. Boetsma's former home at 317 S. Ohio, a block west of the Mill Street business, has been home to the Bible Church's pastor for more than 35 years; Joe Sr. lived at the house adjacent to the business on Mill Street).
Boetsma's son, Joe H. Boetsma, continued in the family business, and in Nov., 1960, relocated the business to the much-larger building on West Jefferson. The building at 115 W. Mill would receive new use around 1980, when Jim Patrick opened his Culver Auto Body shop there.
In the mid-1980s, the old Boetsma house streetside in front of 115 W. Mill was razed and made into a parking lot for the auto body business, which closed its doors in the mid-2000s.
Joe H. and wife Thelma (Harris) Boetsma's move to the big building on Jefferson was a boon to the business in size, stock, and visibility, located as it was at the edge of the "west gateway" into town. The couple eventually retired to Hobe Sound, Florida, in 1979 (though he retained ownership of the West Jefferson building until 1993), where Joe continued to work in a drapery business. his Feb., 2008 obituary describes him as "a true craftsman when it came to making things for the home," and notes he and Thelma had moved to Indianapolis in 1999 and went to Gilbert, Ariz. in December 2006. Thelma also passed away in 2008.
Many current Culver residents will remember Boetsma's under the leadership of Joe H.'s son Larry and wife Anita (Larry was officially appointed manager at the store in July, 1979, and in an article in the Citizen promised a wider array of prices for shoppers there). Many Culver carpets, drapes, and pieces of reupholstered furniture during the 1980s and `90s were facilitated by the business, whose exterior was radically reconfigured to its present state in the late 1980s.
Through the years, a number of antique pieces came into the building, and this was capitalized upon and the business re-launched as The Maxinkuckee Moon "antique mall" in the early 2000s.
The site has been closed for several years now.
NOTE: “Culver History Corner” is a semi-regular feature sponsored by the Antiquarian and Historical Society of Culver. whose quarterly newsletter is also sponsored in The Culver Citizen and online at http://www.culverahs.com.