The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 6.


That Stately Brick House On Chestnut Street Was the T. A. Campbell Mansion


The stately brick house, with the square observatory surmounting the main roof, standing on Chestnut street, between Campbell and Weston Avenue, has been the home of a number of interesting people. It was built by T. A. E. Campbell, who visited its site in 1833 and returned a couple of years later to make his home on the south side of the old Sac Trail, which ran diagonally from the intersection of what are now Chicago and Academy streets northwest past his home to the Chicago road. Thomas Campbell desired a real mansion and such this house remains today. In the main building, under the observatory, thus it was spoken of in the early days, were the rooms designed for the family. The ell running to the east from the northeast corner of the house proper was intended to house the servants above and the horses on the ground floor. There were other buildings for cows, pigs, sheep and fowl. From the earliest days the grounds were kept like a park.

The Campbells were a large family and two of the married daughters with their families were often at home, so twenty at the dining room table was not an unusual number. After Mr. Campbell's death, the Woodhull family, Mrs. Woodhull was a daughter of T. A. E. Campbell -- moved to Valparaiso from Chicago and became active in the interests of the town. Mr. Woodhull was mayor for a number of years. He encouraged Powers and Higley to bring their factory here and engineered sale of the lots in Chautauqua Park. These were platted from the Campbell farm. Mr. Powers preferred to build a new home, and for a time the old mansion with its massive doors and windows was deserted.

P. T. Clifford, a railroad contractor, lived a few miles west of the Campbell place. The youngest son, P. W. Clifford, on his way to school at old St. Paul's, must have passed the place almost daily and admired its elegance and retirement. The Woodhulls had moved back to Chicago and regarded the house as a white elephant. Mr. Clifford purchased it, built handsome porches to the east and south and further beautified the grounds. But the house was too large for a family of four and lonely for one woman whose men folks were gone all day. Why sit on a porch if no one went by from sunrise to sundown? The Cliffords built near town and the place was again sold, this time to W. E. Franklin.

Mr. Franklin at the time of the purchase was owner of the Franklin Circus. He had followed the business from boyhood with different troupes and menageries. Often these aggregations pitched their tents on the Campbell lots. He told the writer of this article he dreamed of some day owning and living in that house every time he came to town with a circus. The dream became reality. But the Franklins had no children, servants were hard to keep. The servants were afraid. They were too far from town; the house was too large; the ceilings too high; the place was hard to heat; the modern conveniences were clumsily installed. He ended his lament, "I'd almost give it away if someone would take it."

Lewis E. Myers, president of the Myers Plant, accepted his proposition. He turned the servants' rooms on the upper floor of the ell into a magnificent library, where the board of directors of the Myers corporation often met around the long table before the fireplace. Since Myers' time the house has been on the market, occupied by not lived in.

All four owners of men of affairs, outstanding personalities, highly individualized, and with the exception of Mr. Franklin, interested in the doings of the town. The Campbells and Woodhulls were Presbyterians. Their home was open to many church festivities as well as other social affairs. The Cliffords entertained their church people, the Catholic societies, as well as their friends and neighbors. Both Mr. and Mrs. Myers were civic workers. The League of Women Voters, the men's clubs and other groups for civic betterment met in the library, the stately parlor, the cozy down stairs study, or the long dining room for conferences. While Mr. Franklin held aloof from the townspeople, he was a typical figure of the old southern gentleman, as he made his daily trip to the post office accompanied by his magnificent dog.

The old house would make a splendid historical museum were if not for the cost of upkeep of its grounds and of the building itself, whose very stateliness makes it a problem.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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