Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marshall County Architect: Jacob Ness

The Plymouth City Building, former First National Bank

In 1893 the Chicago World's Fair was "the" place to be to see the latest styles, technology, and to sample world cultures. The architecture of the Columbian Exposition, the official name of the fair, was decidedly Neo-Classical though, looking back much more than looking forward. Architects of the Chicago School were outraged feeling as if the buildings constructed were false representations of an emerging world city. In fact many of the buildings were plaster facades, providing some irony to their claim.
Lauer Building, now the Marshall County Museum

So, what does the Chicago World's Fair have to do with architecture in Marshall County? Well, it wouldn't have had anything to do with Marshall County had it not been for Jacob Ness. Ness was an architect who trained in Chicago during the years leading up to the Exposition. While no records have been found indicating who Ness worked for or trained with, the influence of the Exposition undoubtedly shaped his creative mind.

Pennsylvania Depot, Plymouth

Ness came to Plymouth before the turn of the century, and to his good fortune, at the cusp of a major building boom in the city. Ness' obituary made the claim that nearly half of the buildings lining Michigan Street in downtown Plymouth were designed by Jacob Ness. If not half, certainly some of the most austere. The city building, museum, and the building Centier Bank now occupies are all creations by Jacob Ness and are located at three of the four corners of the downtown's main intersection. All three were constructed in the Neo-Classical style with the city building adhering the most to Classical Greek architecture. Ness is responsible for the multitude of limestone building facades in the downtown as well as the brick Rialto Theater, his last commission in 1930. A total of 11 buildings can be attributed to Ness in the downtown. But his work was seen beyond the downtown and included several churches, namely St. Thomas Episcopal, First United Methodist, and Trinity Methodist.

LaPaz School

Ness was also responsible for the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot which was a fairly clean break from his preferred Neo-Classical style. Recently I was reminded of Ness' work when I stumbled upon his name engraved into the cornerstone of the former LaPaz school, constructed in 1908. The cornerstone is part of the memorial in front of the LaPaz fire station where the school once stood. The school also was a break from the Neo-Classical style, being designed rather in the Queen Anne style. It also made me realize that Ness' work stretched well beyond main street in Plymouth, though maintaining a presence along the old Michigan Road.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Argos: the center of an art treasure

The Argos community has an unusually large number of examples of glacial boulder and stone masonry construction. There were a few stone masons working in the Argos community during the 1900s through the 1940s. Lewis Swihart (1858-1945) was known for his use of smaller stone in porch wall construction. His farm residence on East 17th Road, Argos probably best exhibits his work (resource #019, page 81 of Marshall County Interim Report). David Lolmaugh was a local mason who passed on the trade to his seven sons. Their family moved from a farm into Argos around 1897; David died in 1940. His son Lawrence Lolmaugh was a member of the Argos Izaak Walton League and was also described as having been employed in the construction of the building and the interior wall decoration (probably plaster work). Lawrence and his brothers Harmon and Lewis are known to have constructed some of the uncut stone porches in the Argos community. The Warner House (326 West Walnut St., resource #001, pages 88-89 of the Marshall County Interim Report) was constructed in about 1923 with stonework laid by Lawrence and/or Harmon Lolmaugh, but was under the guidance of another mason, William Foker. William Foker was a Waltonian and supervised the stone masonry construction of the Argos Izaak Walton League clubhouse at about 80 years of age.

William Lake Foker was the most accomplished of the stone masons working in the Argos community. Foker was the son of William Foker, Sr., a Civil War veteran, and was born in Plymouth in 1857. He moved to Argos as a child and later married Mary Jane Nipp in 1882. At this time he entered the building trade as a plasterer and bricklayer. Foker was described as a “tall raw-boned Irishman with a sense of humor and an artist’s eye”. Accounts from his adopted daughter state that he read a newspaper article concerning the construction of a mansion in South Bend whose owners had imported stone cutters from France to cut and set fieldstones. Because he considered this a difficult and unaccomplished skill in the United States, Foker went to South Bend and stayed several weeks observing the technique of cutting and the art of assembling color in the walls of the house under construction. Based on the time frame of these events it is speculated that the masonry work observed was on the Oliver mansion on West Washington Street. Stone masons were brought from Europe to construct the Oliver mansion, and, in comparison to Foker’s work, similarities can be seen in the work at the mansion.

Foker’s first work was a stone porch at 107 Smith Street in Argos. This was created to showcase his abilities in order to market himself to potential clients. Foker was already being referred to as a “stone artist” when a local newspaper reported he had returned to Argos in 1912. While Foker’s work is most evident around the community of Argos and in Marshall County, Foker’s skill propelled his career to a number of locations outside his home town. Foker completed stone work in Kewanna in 1914. In 1920 Foker relocated to Mulberry briefly due to the large scale of a project for which he received a contract, and also to construct the stone entrance to the Forest Park subdivision in Kokomo, to which he shipped stone from the Argos area. Foker was contracted to lay the stone work for the Chicago Masonic Cemetery’s archway and chapel in 1922 (now Mt. Emblem). He also worked in Gary, Bass Lake and Rochester.

Foker worked in both cut and uncut stone. In both methods he hand selected stone blending colors and shapes to provide a very aesthetically pleasing form to his creation. No full record of Foker’s work has been compiled; however, several characteristics of his work make it identifiable as “a Foker”, as described locally. One characteristic is the tapered appearance of his porch walls and piers. Another is his skill in blending colors to provide great variety, particularly in his uncut stonework. A third characteristic is his careful selection of sizes of stones to give the construction the appearance of a natural “piling” of stone by the ordering of larger stone at the base and smaller stone at the top of his work. A fourth characteristic is his very minimal use of mortar in laying stones. Again, this characteristic provides the appearance of a natural piling of stones in almost a dry-stack appearance in his uncut creations; in his cut stone creations the skill required to make the naturally shaped stones fit so tightly together is quite remarkable.

But the most character defining feature of Foker masonry, found in nearly all of the chimneys he constructed, are his trademark patterns of the “Wheel of Life” and “Star of Hope”. Although not converting to the Christian Science Church, Foker read their literature and embraced their teachings. The patterns placed into his stonework were drawn from these beliefs. Two locations where these patterns are found are at the Schafer Home (ca. 1913) on South Michigan Street, Argos (resource #20, page 91, Marshall County Interim Report) and on the house Foker constructed for himself at 400 Indiana Avenue, Argos (resource #33, page 91, Marshall County Interim Report). The Foker House, called the crowning achievement of his career, was constructed about 1914 and also has an eagle design in the stone just above the Wheel of Life. He was known to fashion other designs into his stonework as well. In 1942, at 85 years of age, Foker completed his last work that also included a flower design on the chimney of a small house for Judge Harvey Curtis near Tyner (18153 4B Road). Here he cut the stone but allowed another mason to place them at his direction.

Foker died September 3, 1942 and is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery east of Argos. A few years prior Foker hand selected a large boulder, approximately 5’ tall and as wide, to mark the gravesite; “FOKER” is carved onto the face. Another grave marker is constructed of uncut fieldstone near the boulder. It has a bronze plaque on its top face with his name and his wife’s name in relief. Foker’s sister and brother-in-law, William Sissel, who assisted Foker in his work, are buried next to Foker. An article written about his work in 1953 stated that “all over this part of the country may be found monuments to the skill of William Lake Foker, legendary character and expert craftsman of the Argos community.” In a 14 part series printed by the Argos Tribune in 1980-81, much of Foker’s work was detailed. The paper called Argos “the center of an art treasure” by virtue of Foker’s work.

The Argos Izaak Walton League clubhouse has been called a colorful memorial in a quiet setting to the work of Bill Foker. Club records from 1936 describe Foker as a “pioneer in the use of native stone”. Club members turned to not only a fellow Waltonian, but also someone with whom many had their own personal experience with in crafting stonework on their own homes including Kosanke, Schafer, and Warner. Foker was reported as supervising the construction of the clubhouse in 1936 in the Plymouth Pilot News and again affirmed as the supervisor by Dr. Middleton in 1981. Middleton was one of the eight original organizers of the club in 1925.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Argos Izaak Walton League

Part 3 and last of a series on the Argos Izaak Walton League

New Deal Assistance
In 1934 the club deeded the newly obtained 15 acres to the United States Bureau of Fisheries in order to take advantage of federally assisted projects to communities across the nation which provided work for the unemployed. This would enable the construction of a clubhouse and additional fish ponds under President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The agency immediately constructed two new ponds west of the original ponds. The club began planning the clubhouse in 1934 and determined the various types and materials to be used for construction.

The construction of the clubhouse began in 1935 and continued through 1937. Historical records of the club document the excavation of the basement and pouring of concrete foundations and basement walls in 1935 and work being rushed in 1936 but not resulting in the finish of the interior. Regardless, the club began to use the building in 1935 for meetings. The list of requirements for the building included a basement with kitchen, dining room, and toilet room, and main floor for club activities. The building was “to be of timber frame construction veneered with native stone and two fireplaces (one on each level) also of native stone”. Although the building was wired for electricity, members used gas lamps and oil stoves since no lines had been extended to that rural location. The federal project constructed two additional ponds on the property in 1935, one on the north and south sides of the clubhouse. The driveways and stone gateway were also begun “which made possible access to club functions, fish fries, and various social gatherings”. A 1935 article in the Argos Reflector stated that a crew of 60 men was working at the fish hatchery site for the creation of new ponds. The same issue of the paper announced the taking of new enrollment for CCC camps in Marshall County. The age limit for junior enrollees was lowered to 17, making qualifying ages 17-25.

The town of Argos was the recipient of other New Deal work. According to the Argos Reflector, September 5, 1935, eighteen men, 47 laborers and a truck driver from the community began work in the town limits. An additional seven to eight men were expected to be employed after certification from the South Bend office (in May, 1934 Marshall County was placed under the South Bend district for coordination of New Deal projects) . The work performed included raising and leveling sidewalks, new sidewalks, construction of a water main, and relaying four blocks of brick pavement. Unskilled labor was paid $44 per month for 130 hours of work. State Road 10 was improved in 1936 and additional brick pavement was installed in town in 1937. New Deal work in Argos also included improvements to sewers and the enlargement of the town park from 1935-1939, cemetery improvements in 1936, construction of the Boy Scout Cabin in 1934 , school improvements in 1936-1937, construction of a library in 1934, and funding for the sewing and music programs in 1939. The town rescinded funding for the construction of a new town hall in 1937.

The architectural styling of New Deal projects tended to fall into one of two contexts: urban/residential and rural. Post offices, libraries, and municipal buildings tended to follow more refined architectural styles such as Colonial and Classical Revivals because of their placement in the urban or developing residential contexts. However, since much work was carried out in natural park settings under the program, a great number of New Deal work enlisted the use of natural materials, including readily available native stone, for the desired aesthetic of a natural appearance in their setting. Often the public works projects in Northern Indiana used native glacial granite fieldstone for building materials. In other parts of the state other locally quarried or available material was used such as limestone or sandstone. The materials were then adapted and configured into an architectural style often identified as Craftsman, a term that truly embodies the artisans and other workers whose hands are evident in construction.

The Argos Izaak Walton League clubhouse exhibits this desire for a natural aesthetic perfectly. Likely with their own interests in conservation and love for the environment, club members chose native field stone as the primary building material used for the construction of their clubhouse. The building has the appearance of a natural piling of glacial boulders. The use of native stone provides the aesthetic of the building being part of its surroundings as though it grew out of the land it occupies. Its walls and posts are larger at their base than their tops by the use of larger stones at the base and the gradual use of smaller stones as the mason laid the stones upward. Craftsmen were clearly utilized to create the stacked, tapered stone appearance and in the careful execution of doorway and fireplace openings. The building employs the use of a jack arch composed of individual stones over its main entry and a stone covered barrel vaulted shelter over its basement entry. The stone fireplaces inside also have stone arranged in a thoughtful design with individual stone voussoirs forming arches over their openings. Wood shingles are installed in the gabled ends of the building and in the faces of the porch roof’s sides, a continuation of the selection of natural materials. The building also once had exposed roof rafter tails but a new roof installation covered the rafter ends with fascia. This artful assemblage of materials exhibits the Craftsman style well.

The Argos Izaak Walton League clubhouse is constructed similarly to two other Marshall County buildings. The Conservation Clubhouse at Magnetic Park, Plymouth is similar in both plan and use of stone, and the Conservation Clubhouse at the Lake of the Woods, is also similar in its use of stone (both are New Deal projects).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Argos Izaak Walton League

Part 2: Heyday of the Organization

The League's Conservation Activities: ahead of their time
Early records in Harley’s handwriting log conservation and wildlife replenishment activities during the first few years of the club’s existence. Fish were received from the conservation department in 1926, 1927 and 1928 and were “planted” in local waterways including the Tippecanoe River (running through the southeast corner of the county) and at Eddy Lake, a small lake west of Argos in Green Township. Otto Grossman owned a farm bordering the whole north side of Eddy Lake. The club experimented with raising and releasing ring-necked pheasants; between 1927 and 1929 430 pheasant eggs were purchased from the state with local donations, this resulted in the release of 223 chicks. 1928 also was the first year of what would become an annual outdoor fish supper by the organization at Adams Landing on the Tippecanoe River. It was also noted in club records that “Waltonianism” was spreading rapidly nationwide and the Indiana state division began the publication of “Out-door Indiana”, described as a very small pamphlet with six pages in volume 1 published in January, 1927.

Establishment of the club's grounds
1929 is described in the club history as a year of “tremendous moment, and the events, and ultimate achievements, no doubt linger in the memories of the Argos Waltonians most auspicious.” The organization sought to raise awareness and support for their efforts by extending invitations to all sportsmen interested in fishing to the second fish dinner at Adams Landing. In preparation for the event the club constructed three brick ovens at that location, owned by R. R. Engels, a club member. Donations and pledges were received by 65 individuals and organizations at the dinner. This provided sufficient funds for the purchase of two acres at the northwest corner of 16th and Hickory Roads, Walnut Township, then owned by Harry Fleming. Volunteers immediately constructed a fish rearing pond with “teams, scrapers, and man power”. A flowing well was driven and piped into the pond and native stone was used in building retaining embankments. A row of willows was planted along the west bank of the pond. The west boundary was a small stream that flowed northeast into Deep Creek. The organization also continued its placement of fish into local waters in 1929 at Lake Syracuse and donated bass to the Fort Wayne hatchery and the state hatchery at Bass Lake.

The club continued its activities in the early 1930s. They planted trees on the new hatchery grounds on Arbor Day in 1930 and 1931. They fed quail during the winter of 1930. They continued to plant fish in area waters and expanded to Twin Lakes (West Township, Marshall County) and the Yellow River. It was noted in the club history that in February of 1931 “The Indiana Waltonian” began publication from Monticello, Indiana and included former Argos resident, Lawrence Corey on its publishing board. The May, 1931 issue of the Indiana Waltonian announced the arrangement of a large fish fry at Adams Landing on June 3rd under the leadership of the Izaak Walton League’s State Vice-President, Otto Grossman. Visitors to the event were encouraged to first view the new hatchery then follow the highway “well marked with road banners” to Adams Landing. A large tent was erected at Adams Landing for the event that included several speakers and dignitaries and over a thousand in attendance. Dr. Preston Bradley, the Izaak Walton League’s national president, and one of the original 54 founders of the national organization, was the guest speaker. Delegations from 18 communities in Indiana and one from Michigan and two from Ohio were in attendance. Short speeches were made by Grossman, Col. E. L. Gardner-Division President, William Collins-National Director, Rosco Martin-State Senator, Samuel Pittengell-US Congressman, and R. R. Engels-owner of Adams Landing.

In 1932, due to income from a contract with the State Federal Conservation Department, a new concrete holding pond was constructed adjacent to and just north of the rearing pond. In order to perpetuate the memory of Harley the hatchery was renamed from the Tippecanoe Fish Hatchery to the Wilferd Harley Fish Hatchery. In 1933 another contract was made with the conservation department which provided capital to purchase 15 acres directly west of the original hatchery site. The membership grew to nearly 60 that year and additional trees were planted. In 1934 the Argos chapter organized the Junior Walton Club with 64 members. This was the only active junior league in the state. With the junior club’s assistance 5000 trees were planted; weed land shelters and feeding protection for game were constructed. 1934 also saw an increase in membership to 80 individuals.

1934 marked an important achievement by the club that was recognized nationally. The James Lawton Childs Memorial Fund Award, which was given annually to the private hatchery producing the most fish in the nation, was received by the organization. It was the first time the award had been given to an entity east of the Mississippi River. The National Waltonian carried an article on the Argos chapter’s achievement in their June, 1935 issue with text written by O. L. Grossman. Grossman remarked that without conservation measures “we will have Kansas here in Indiana”. A photograph of the original ponds is included with the article. The award was celebrated with a large fish fry attended by over 400 people in 1935.

Argos hosted the 17th annual state convention of the Izaak Walton League in 1939 at their new clubhouse, finished two years prior. Otto Grossman was both host and the president of the Indiana state division. A banquet was held at the Grossman Building in the town of Argos. During the 1940s the Izaak Walton Safety League, a children’s club, met in the basement of the clubhouse. Grossman Funeral Home sponsored the organization and at one time they had 79 members. The building was also used by other organizations and for family gatherings, reunions, parties and special events.