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March 1, 2014

Historical Treasure: Book of sketches, articles lost, but not forgotten

TERRE HAUTE — In the Vigo County Historical Society archives is a book of articles and sketches prepared by artist and architect Juliet Peddle for the Tribune-Star. The sketches, published between Jan. 26, 1941 and April 26, 1942, are of houses and buildings from Terre Haute’s pre-Civil War building stock. Many of the names associated with the homes and buildings are familiar to anyone studying the history of our area. From Chauncey Rose, Demas Deming and Herman Hulman; to various churches, hotels and other buildings; these sketches represent some of Terre Haute’s earliest history, both architectural and familial.

Only a few of these buildings still exist, including the Markle House across from Markle Mill Dam; the Chamberlain House, off Old Maple near Chamberlain Road; the Blake House, on Butternut Hill, west of Highland Lawn Cemetery; and the building that houses the Kesler and Kesler law offices. Of the 66 buildings, less than 10 remain. Most of the buildings were gone by the time Peddle drew the sketches, and as she says in the preface to the collection, “Many perfectly sound old houses were removed because they were in the way of the growth of the town, and besides they were considered out-of-style by that time.”

Given our recent loss of building stock in Terre Haute, from the multiple late 19th and early 20th Century homes destroyed by neglect, fire or development, to historically significant commercial structures “in the way of growth”; it is important to remember that once they have been removed, the only evidence of such buildings will be similar to this collection, or their listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The sketches are high quality, and are accompanied by articles detailing the location of each building, with information about the structure and the owners. Although all are informative, a few are particularly note worthy. “Carr House” details a structure that still stands at the northwest corner of 6th and Crawford. The construction date is unknown; however, the building was one of the earliest in this section of town. “Brile House” was located at the southeast corner of 25th and Poplar and was still standing when Peddle sketched the home. She mentions that her sketch is of the house as it stood then and not an attempt to reproduce it from earlier poor quality photographs. An important aspect of this article is mention of both, the Deming farm directly across the road from the Brile home, and the Klattes dairy farm located on the land that became Deming Park. These mentions are interesting in that even when she wrote the article, they were nostalgic references to properties that no longer existed.

All of the entries are interesting for various reasons. While the scope of this article is not long enough to mention all of the properties Peddle sketched, perhaps her own words that reproducing all of the buildings built before the Civil War “would prove cumbersome, even if it were possible,” sums up the scope of the collection.

Unfortunately, this collection and other materials in the archives of the Historical Society are all that remain of most of these properties. If this part of our shared history interests you, or if you want to understand where we are going by researching our past, let this collection be a starting point for your journey into the architecture of Terre Haute and Vigo County.  

Historical Treasure

• The Vigo County Historical Society’s museum is at 1411 S. Sixth St. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through

Sunday.

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