Last week I was invited to join my parents for a hometown historic walking tour of Nappanee.
Since my parents live in a restored 1888 school house where I grew up, I've grown up with a lot of the stories surrounding my hometown. But I learned a few new things as Patrick, from the Elkhart County Historical Museum, presented history along the way.
I've known that Nappanee was formed in 1874 when the B & O railroad pushed from Ohio to Chicago, crossing northern Indiana to get there. Most of Elkhart County was already well established, but the southwestern part was undeveloped because it was basically a swampland full of cattails. Though the small village of Locke had begun to form two miles north of the tracks prior to the arrival of the railroad, it was the railroad and the ingenuity of three men who decided to plat the land around the Locke station that started the town of Nappanee. It was Daniel Metzler, Henry Stahly, and John Culp, Jr. who had the first big ideas to plat Nappanee. Lots were $30 and up, and soon the new town along the tracks had upstaged Locke.
But our town's claim to fame has always been wood, and the wood products that made Nappanee famous for the production of kitchen cabinets. In fact, the town had at least eight different sawmills through the early years.
The first sawmill was built in 1873 by Mellinger and Myers, who then sold it within a few years to the well known Coppes brothers: Frank, John, and Samuel. By February of 1888 between 18,000 to 20,000 logs lined the Coppes lumber yards. The lumber that rolled through our town's sawmills was used to build great lakes ships as far away as Milwaukee, area buildings, bridges, moldings, brackets, house trimmings, boxes, butter tubs, tables, and finally--furniture, including the kitchen cabinets the town became known for.
For a small town, the amount of capital rolling through the Coppes family pockets left a lasting architectural history in the homes that still line our streets.
This prairie style home was built in 1910 for Harvey Coppes.
This 1887 Queen Anne style home was built for Frank Coppes. Architect: Henry Frazier.
A matching home across the brick-lined street was owned by another Coppes brother.
A few other homes built for the Coppes family...
This one sports stone imported from Cotswold, England.
Though it's not standing in its entirety, the Coppes Hotel was opened in 1892 under the supervision of Mr. S.D. Coppes. I remember my great Aunt Francis Warren retelling of waitressing tables there.
What secret claim to fame does your town hold?
What interesting historic structures and homes have always held your curiosity?
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots.Nurse Practitioner by day.Wife, mother, writer by night.Coffee drinker--any time.