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November 18, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Maps preserve developments

TERRE HAUTE — In the military room at the Vigo County Historical Museum is a large map case sitting behind an antique camera. The multiple drawers of the case hold documents ranging from maps to newspaper ads, all preserved from Vigo County’s past. While each drawer has unique and interesting material, the top drawer holds one of the most interesting collections I have come across in the Museum. In this drawer, there are maps and renderings of real estate developments from Terre Haute’s past. The developments, both subdivisions and additions, were located all around Terre Haute. While we think of Terre Haute as one large and mostly continuous community now, a century ago it was still a growing and much smaller city.

The developments were located all over town. From Vandalia Park, Maple Heights, and the Fort Harrison addition to the north; to Warren Place, Rosemont, Preston’s Addition, Krumbhaar Place, and Chestnut place to the south; the city was being developed at an astounding pace. Subdivisions such as Edgewood Grove to the east are also represented, as well as other materials that show how the city was expanding. Many of these describe not only the type of neighborhood being constructed, but also the terms and availability, as well as access to city amenities like the electric commuter train system then in place. Most advertised an on-site agent to help prospective buyers as well.

In the rush to develop these neighborhoods, many areas were left undeveloped. One such location was right in the heart of the city. In the drawer, with all of the maps and renderings, is an advertisement for three homes located in the 1900 block of South Seventh Street. The homes are listed as “Open For Inspection” and each has a fireplace, garage, built-ins and more modern conveniences. The ad is from 1940, after the earlier developments had been established to the south and north of the area. The ad also proudly states that the homes are “For Sale By Contractor and Owner,” letting prospective homebuyers know that the properties would be represented directly by the developers, and not by a third party. Prices and terms, and information pertaining to the lots are also supplied. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the ad is that the houses are still standing, and almost identical to the photos in the advertisement. If you stop by the Museum, you can also hunt down remaining artifacts of Terre Haute history that are still standing in our community.

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