Oliver Mansion, South Bend Indiana: Glimpse a Family’s Lavish 1930s Lifestyle

Oliver Mansion, South Bend Indiana: Glimpse a Family’s Lavish 1930s Lifestyle

Oliver_MansionIt isn’t often that  all of the furnishings in a historic home are original to the house, especially a 38-room, 12,000 square foot mansion. That’s what you’ll see when you tour the Oliver Mansion in South Bend, Indiana, immersing you in the lavish lifestyle of its owners, the J.D. and Anna Oliver family, as it was in the 1930s.

J.D. Oliver’s father James immigrated to the United States with his family from Scotland when he was 12 years old. He took a job working on a farm where he became familiar with plows. As an adult James was a partner in the South Bend Iron Company and experimented with improving the field plow. He registered 45 patents on improved plow design during his lifetime. The company flourished, and James Oliver became wealthy. J.D. eventually took over as President of the company. By that time the company name had been changed to Oliver Chilled Plow Works.

Oliver PlowJ.D. married Anna in 1885, and in 1886 they moved into their new Indiana fieldstone Romanesque Queen Anne home. The Olivers had four children, and as the family grew, so did the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, becoming the largest plow factory in the world at the turn of the century. The family lived lavishly, were socially active and also deeply involved in community service. The family’s community service continued through the generations, as J.D. and Anna’s grandchildren donated the mansion and its furnishings to South Bend’s Center for History.

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The home is set up as a working house in the 1930s. Though daughter Catherine, who never married and lived out her life in the mansion, sold or gave away furnishings, recipients of those items have returned many of them.

Each of the 14 fireplaces is different, some more ornate than others.

Fireplace 2FireplaceFireplace 4Carved woodwork on fireplace hearths, railings, even on the ceilings exude richness.

Ceiling - living roomParlorCeiling 2The office and the game room have especially masculine features.

Officegame roomLeaded glass windows in several rooms soften the harshness of the dark wood, and fabrics soften the decor in the dining room and music room.

Leaded windowsThe kitchen isn’t as fancy, but it’s spacious, with multiple stoves and plenty of icebox and storage space needed to prepare for large parties.

kitchen 2kitchen 1Catherine lived her adult life mostly on the second floor, which she had redone in green art deco.

Catherine suiteAfter J.D. and Anna’s son Joseph’s wife was thrown from a horse and killed, Joseph came back to live in the family home. He stayed mainly on the third floor. His seven shaving brushes, one for each day of the week, are on display in the bathroom.

Joseph shaving brushesBeautifully manicured gardens surround the mansion.

PergolaBesides the mansion, the tour also includes a look at the Polish workers’ house, less than a five minute walk from the main house. The house, comfortable quarters for the Olivers’ domestic staff, was built in 1851. The Olivers added a bathroom and other conveniences. Like the mansion, the workers’ house is decorated as it would have been in the 1930s.

Polish workers housePolish workers house 2The History Museum provides tours of the Oliver Mansion seven days a week. The main entrance is shared with the Studebaker National Museum at 897 Thomas Street, South Bend, Indiana. Check the web site for tour times and admission rates.

Disclosure: My visit to the Oliver Mansion was hosted by Visit South Bend Mishawaka and the History Museum, but any opinions expressed in this article are my own. Some of the pbotos were taken by Skip Reed and some by Connie Reed.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Studebaker Museum, South Bend: From Carriages to Automobiles

Touring the University of Notre Dame Campus, South Bend, Indiana

Tour the South Bend Chocolate Company Factory

Shop the South Bend Farmers Market Year Round

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

 

Studebaker Museum, South Bend: From Carriages to Automobiles

Studebaker Museum, South Bend: From Carriages to Automobiles

Not many companies transitioned successfully from manufacturing wagons and carriages to automobiles. Studebaker was one of the exceptions, moving in the early 1900s from carriages to battery-powered cars and then to gasoline engines a few years later. At the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, you can trace the history of the company from wagon to the last cars made by Studebaker in the mid-1960s.

In the mid-1800s the Studebaker brothers (there were five of them, all part of the business at one time or another) were making wagons. They became the world’s largest manufacturer of wagons and buggies.

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The museum has four carriages that were used by U.S. presidents, including the Lincoln Barouche, the carriage in which President Lincoln rode to Ford’s Theater on the fateful night on which he was assassinated.

Lincoln BaroucheThe Presidential Carriage Collection is part of the original collection of 37 vehicles once owned by the Studebaker Corporation. The original collection also included the first and last automobiles built in South Bend and the last Studebaker ever made. Today the museum has 120 vehicle in its collection.

In 1909 the U.S. Government commissioned Studebaker to build two transport vehicles to ferry people through an underground tunnel between the Senate Office Building and the U.S. Capitol. The tunnel was too narrow to turn around, so they built a vehicle that could run in either direction. The one on display in in the museum was nicknamed “Peg.”

1909 Peg Backward-Forward_carStudebaker built electric commercial vehicles from 1902 until 1911, including the 1911 Electric Couple model.

1911 Electric CoupeThe entry-level model in 1912 was the Flanders “20,” which sold for $1,000.

1912 Flanders 20Judging by the cars in the museum, the automobiles got fancier as time went on. This 1924 Light Six, with a body constructed completely of aluminum, was customized by a Chinese company. It features a fold-out windshield, and the interior, trimmed in teak, has mohair upholstery.

1924 Light Six“Ab” Jenkins set record time in this 1927 Commander. He drove from New York City to San Francisco in 77 hours and 40 minutes.

1927 CommanderThis 1932 President convertible coupe exudes luxury.

1932 President convertible_coupeApparently using beautiful models to market luxury cars is nothing new.

Photographer and modelIn the 1940s Studebaker introduced a line of Woodies.

WoodyMany of the later model cars are set up in scenes like this Avanti racecar being serviced. Avanti was later sold off.

AvantiBonnie Doon’s drive-in, apparently the place to go in South Bend back in the day. Several Studebaker cars are parked at the drive-in in this exhibit.

Bonnie Doon Drive-InOne of two identical 1951 Commanders used in The Muppet Movie is on display in the museum. The car was modified with trunk-mounted controls to keep the operator hidden while the Muppets “drove” it.

1951_Commander_Muppet_MovieMuppet Movie carSeveral other custom-built or specialized vehicles are also on display in the museum, some of which Studebaker partnered with other companies to manufacture, including an old South Bend police car, a 1928 fire truck and a 1963 Zip Van used by the U.S. Postal Service.

Police car1928 fire truckStudebaker also manufactured vehicles for the armed forces, from wagons for the Union Army in the Civil War to equipment used in World Wars I and II.

1918 Army Escort WagonMilitary equipmentAlthough most cars in the museum are understandably hands-off, there is one convertible that is used for photo ops.

Photo opKids will have fun in the Studebaker Super Service Center, where they can pretend to work on a car.

Studebake Super Service CenterIt’s been almost fifty years since Studebaker stopped manufacturing automobiles. However, the Studebaker National Museum ensures that the company that was such a large part of South Bend’s history and their contribution to the automotive industry are not forgotten.

The Studebaker National Museum, located at 201 South Chapin Street in South Bend, Indiana, is open seven days a week. Check the web site for hours and admission fees.

Disclosure: My visit to the Studebaker National Museum was hosted by Visit South Bend Mishawaka and the Studebaker National Museum, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

Other posts you may enjoy:

Pontiac Oakland Museum, Pontiac Illinois: Auto Nostalgia along Route 66

Tour the South Bend Chocolate Company Factory

Touring the University of Notre Dame Campus, South Bend, Indiana

Shop the South Bend Farmers Market Year Round

Tippecanoe Place: Dine in a Stately Old Mansion

Café Navarre, South Bend IN: Top-Notch Farm-to-Table Dining

 

 

Tour the South Bend Chocolate Company Factory

Tour the South Bend Chocolate Company Factory

Dark chocolate is my downfall. One whiff of the decadent confection, and I sniff and follow the aroma waves like in a cartoon until I find the source. Dark chocolate covered nuts, dark chocolate covered dried cherries, bittersweet chocolate mousse, chocolate fudge cake with fudge frosting—you name it, when I smell it or see it, I cave. Forget the diet right now; I’ll eat salads for the rest of the week. So when I had an opportunity to tour Indiana’s South Bend Chocolate Company factory, of course I didn’t turn it down.

Before taking us into the production area, our tour guide, Chris, nicknamed Captain Crunch, gave us a lesson on where chocolate comes from. It starts with cocoa pods, which are harvested twice a year.

Tour guide Chris with cocoa podYou have to crack the pod to get to the bean inside. There is only one bean per pod. Inside the bean are 20 to 60 cacao nibs, and that’s what’s used to make chocolate.

Chicago’s Blommer Chocolate Company, North America’s largest cocoa processor and ingredient supplier, turns the cacao nibs into giant, thick chocolate bars, which is what South Bend Chocolate Company starts with in making their candy.

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In the factory I was expecting to see the candy speeding past on conveyor belts like on the old I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel get jobs in a candy factory.

Lucy photo opIt turns out that production slows down on Saturdays, but the tradeoff to not seeing production in action is more samples. So although we saw the conveyor belts, they were at a standstill with no candy on them. Captain Crunch assured us that the belts don’t move quite as quickly as it did for Lucy and Ethel anyway.

Conveyor beltWe did see the chocolate enrober that looks like a waterfall, where the candies are coated, as well as the chocolate melter that holds 500 pounds of chocolate.

Chocolate enroberWe also saw two varieties of candy waiting for the next process step: fudge and pecan patties (like Turtles).

FudgePecan PattiesAfter touring the production area, we were allowed to choose two chocolate samples.

That was the end of the free basic tour. However, we were on the Inside Scoop Tour (fee is $4), so we got an added bonus. We dipped a spoon into chocolate that could be used then to stir a hot beverage.

Dipping the spoonWhile we were waiting for our spoons to cool and harden, we watched an educational but humorous film about chocolate making.

FilmFollowing the tour, we wandered through the small chocolate museum that includes information about the history of candy, as well nostalgic displays of candy packaging, including Mounds, one of my favorites.

MoundsI was surprised to see a display of Frango Mints boxes, the candy that at one time was made in Chicago’s flagship Marshall Field’s store. (The store is now Macy’s, and Macy’s carries Frango Mints under the Marshall Field name.)

Frago MintsOne last stop before leaving: the outlet store, where I stocked up my own stash of chocolate, all dark.

Tour are offered at the South Bend Chocolate Company factory, located at 3300 West Sample Street in South Bend, Indiana, Monday through Saturday. The free basic tour runs 20 minutes; the Inside Scoop Tour is 45 minutes. Check the web site for tour and outlet store hours.

Disclosure: My tour of the South Bend Chocolate Company factory was hosted by Visit South Bend and the South Bend Chocolate Company, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie