News From Terre Haute, Indiana


October 12, 2013

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: 1888: New and renovated buildings enhance momentous year

The year 1888 will long be remembered in Vigo County for reasons we have addressed in prior columns:

• The current Vigo County Courthouse opened and was dedicated. The first business was transacted on Saturday, April 28, 1888. The total cost of the building and furnishings was reported to be $427.000.

• The original Indiana State Normal School building was destroyed by fire and “Old Norm,” its replacement, was designed and under construction.

• Ehrmann Manufacturing Co. opened its first manufacturing facility at 124-126 Wabash Ave.

• Legendary Shakespearean actors Edwin Booth and Lawrence Barrett appeared at the Naylor Opera House on April 26 in what was called at the time “the greatest night in Terre Haute theatre history:”

• The Metallic Wheel Co., founded by Alexander Messmer, made the first shipment from its Terre Haute manufacturing facility at Eighth and Cherry streets.

• Terre Haute’s entry in the professional Central Interstate League, featuring African-American star John “Bud” Fowler, attracted sizable crowds.

There were other events which occurred 125 years ago worthy of mentioning:  

On March 22, Myers Bros. clothing store was the first business to reopen in  Warren Block on the southwest corner of Fourth and Wabash. Several retail storefronts closed on Jan. 30, 1888 to permit contractors to make interior improvements. According to the Terre Haute Gazette:

“The work surpasses all sanguine expectations. There isn’t a clothing store in Indiana and few, if any, in the country which presents so fine an appearance. It is perfectly lighted. The show windows are remarkably large – larger than Hobergs or Herz’s. One of them is eighteen feet long. It has been beautifully trimmed for the opening by Prof. B.C. Lewis of Chicago, an artist in that line.

“The Children’s Department is the especial pride of the proprietors — Emil and Mark Myers — and it richly deserves to be. It is beautifully carpeted by Walmsley’s, finely finished and filled with children’s staple goods and novelties.

“Every boy’s suit in the house is provided with a watch chain and monogram charm made for Myers Bros. in Providence. Wallpaper and painting were handsomely done by William Alder & Co. James Miller was in charge of the shelving and fixtures.

“Henry Graham, the florist, provided floral decorations and also furnished the lovely button-hole bouquets which will be given away this evening.”

Since the store was located across the street from the opera house, it was open until at least 7:30 p.m. Besides the button-hole bouquets, Myers Bros. gave away Russian leather purses and Russian leather blotting pads.

Clerks on duty for the grand re-opening included John F. O’Reilly, Edward Keefe, Joseph Kester, Herman and Jacob Bernheimer, Will Eichelberger and Adam Ramsdell. St. Benedict’s School at the northeast corner of Ninth and Walnut streets was a handsome addition to the landscape. Considered one of the finest school buildings in Indiana upon completion, the two-story structure designed by Terre Haute architect Josse A. Vrydagh cost $26,000.

Interestingly, every member of the congregation gave something toward the creation of the new school.  Subscriptions totaled $14,200.

The biggest subscriber was Herman Hulman, who gave $4,000. Theodore Hulman  paid in $2,000. Anton Mayer and Frank Prox each gave $1,000. John Brinkman contributed $800.

Others giving more than $100 were grocer Joseph Frisz, John Bianchy, restaurateur Frederick William Hoffmann, grocer Peter Bolling, carpenter Joseph Lang and saloonkeeper Peter Frisz.

Prox and Lang were major contractors on the job.

There was a large hall on the second floor to be used for entertainment. On each side of the hall was a society room. In addition, there were six sleeping rooms for the teachers, who were sisters.

A kitchen, dining room, office and parlor for the  nuns were located at on the first floor. In the basement was a summer kitchen, bathroom, wash room and a society room that was used as a meeting room for St. Anthony’s Society.

There was an elevator connecting the basement to the cupola and garret at the top.

Dedicated by Bishop Silas Francis Marean Chatard on April 8, 1888, the school opened April 23.

Though new Terre Haute High School at the southwest corner of Seventh and Walnut streets was occupied for the first time on Sept. 20, 1886, the building was not finished. In fact the second floor of the high school was not ready for use until April 30, 1888 and finishing touches were still being made on the first floor.   

On April 18, Castle Hall and Armory of the Uniform Ranks of the Knights of Pythias at 22 S. Sixth St. reopened. It had been closed for remodeling.

Attorney Elmer Williams served as master of ceremonies for a large crowd of members and invited guests. He traced the history of the fraternal order from the time it was a “whom can we get?” group to after it transformed into a “whom do we want?” organization.

During 1888, a group headed by Emory Beauchamp, Frank Prox and distiller Frederick J. Siedenstopf actively sought subscribers to form a bourbon distillery and  creamery in the city.

Other early stockholders were Phillip Schloss, Elijah Gilman, James Nichols, Charles W. Hoff, John Barbazette and James Schee.

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