Every time I drive down West Washington Street, just west of downtown South Bend, I’m amazed at the stunning architecture. When I saw that Downtown South Bend (DTSB) was hosting a Holiday Historic Walking Tour featuring the Near West Side Historic Neigborhood, also know as the West Washington Neighborhood, on Sunday, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about some of the incredible buildings and homes that call downtown South Bend their home.
The Near West Side Neighborhood has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. According to the Near West Side Historic Neighborhood website, the neighborhood is bordered by West LaSalle, Main, Western, and McPhearson Streets. The unique architecture is what sets the neighborhood apart from other neighborhoods in South Bend. As the website explains, “The rich architectural heritage of the neighborhood includes examples of all the major styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century — Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Stick, Shingle, Prairie (including Frank Lloyd Wright), Tudor, Renaissance Revival — and the housing stock ranges from historic mansions to workers’ cottages.”
People often don’t realize that in addition to grand homes, the Near West Side Neighborhood also houses a variety of museums, businesses, a yoga studio, bed and breakfasts, and Tippecanoe Place Restaurant. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring everything the neighborhood has to offer.
On the Sunday DTSB Historic Holiday Walking Tour, my friends and I had the opportunity to visit several homes and churches. The tour was self-guided, and you could pick up a map at any of the ten locations. Many of the homes on the Holiday Walking Tour are not open to the public on a regular basis since they serve as businesses or private residences.
We started at the Rose Morey Lampert house at 322 West Washington Street. Today, the house has been restored and is used as a vacation rental (this would be an incredible place to stay with a large group of friends – there were at least six bedrooms). The home was built in 1893, is an example of the Queen Anne style, and has a stained glass window that won an award at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The second stop was the Remedy Building at 402 West Washington Street. Built in 1895, it’s also an example of Queen Anne architecture, and originally housed the South Bend Remedy Company, a mail order pharmaceutical company. The building is now home to the Northern Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks as well as the Dhanwantari Yoga Center.
Our third stop was at the Good House at 420 West Washington St., which houses an organization that provides services for individuals with Autism. This building is stunning inside and includes original hand painted wallpaper in the dining room, beautiful tiled fireplaces, and impressive leaded glass built-in bookcases.
After the Good House, we walked another block to Tippecanoe Place. If you haven’t been there for dinner or brunch, it’s definitely worth a visit, especially at this time of year when they have elaborate holiday decorations. Tippecanoe Place was originally the home of Clement Studebaker and has 40 rooms and 20 fireplaces. The mahogany grand staircase and entryway as well as the third floor ballroom are quite the sights.
Once we finished touring the four stories of Tippecanoe Place, we walked next door to the Oliver Inn, a bed and breakfast. The Queen Anne home was originally built as a gift for James Oliver’s daughter in 1896. The bathrooms alone, most with claw foot bath tubs or jacuzzis (obviously a modern upgrade), made me want to stay here. The Inn has nine rooms for guests, all of which were very spacious and beautiful. Guests are served breakfast by candlelight each morning in front of a roaring fireplace in the dining room. I was seriously impressed by this B & B; It would definitely be a treat to spend the weekend at the Oliver Inn.
The last home that we visited was the Baker House at 726 West Washington Street, which is currently for sale if you’re interested in living in the neighborhood. This is the only stop on the tour that is still used as a family home. It does have some unique decor, including crab wallpaper, a hand painted mural in the dining room, and a rather trippy reading room that is painted with what appeared to be an African fabric pattern.
We stopped at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on the way back to the car, but, due to time, we decided to skip the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center and the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture (NDCAC). I’ve had the opportunity to visit both of these buildings in the past, and they’re definitely worth a visit. The Civil Rights Heritage Center is in South Bend’s old Natatorium, which was segregated for many years. A visit to the Civil Rights Heritage Center is a great way to learn about the history of civil rights in South Bend and the surrounding communities. In addition to providing community and Notre Dame programming, the NDCAC also has an art gallery and print making studio.
To make an afternoon out of visiting the Near West Side Neighborhood, have lunch at Tippecanoe Place and then walk to the South Bend History Museum to learn about South Bend’s past. The Oliver Mansion is part of the museum and the two hour guided house tour is worth the time. Connected to the Center for History is the Studebaker National Museum, where you can learn about the company that led to the growth, and subsequent decline, of South Bend. Spend the rest of your afternoon walking around the neighborhood to take in the architecture. If time permits, stop at the NDCAC and Civil Rights Heritage Center. If you need a good stretch after your walk, throw in a yoga class and the Dhanwantari Center.