Happy Holidays, Benders! If you’re looking for a fun and informative way to spend a day off between Christmas and New Year’s, West Washington Street is one of South Bend’s many gems and, in my opinion, the J.D. Oliver House is the Crown Jewel. The J.D. Oliver mansion, also known as Copshaholm, is part of the South Bend History Museum complex, located at the corner of Washington and Chapin.
As the name suggests, the History Museum focuses on the history of South Bend and includes a variety of photos and galleries that showcase historical artifacts from the city as well as photos of the city’s decline and development. Currently, the museum is hosting a special exhibit of costumes from the BBC series Downton Abbey -“Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” If you have any interest in historical clothing, or are a fan of the show, this exhibit shouldn’t be missed. The costumes are stunning.
Copshaholm is a 38-room Romanesque Queen Anne mansion once owned by J.D. Oliver, the president of Oliver Chilled Plow Works, and his family. The home was built from 1895-1896 by famous New York Architect Alonso Rich. What makes the home unique is that the family donated all the original furnishings and belongings with the home. Even the family’s safe was filled with silver upon donation. The home tour transports visitors back in time to when the Oliver’s lived there. Right now, the mansion is decorated with some original clothing from the time period to complement the Downton Abbey exhibit.
Three tours of Copshaholm are offered Monday-Saturday at 11 am, 1 pm and 2 pm. On Sunday the tours are offered at 1 pm and 2:30 pm. The tours last about two hours, and also include a visit to the Worker’s Home and the Carriage House. Since space on the tours is limited, I would highly recommend calling in advance of your visit to make a reservation for the home tour. The other exhibits don’t require a reservation.
The History Museum is connected to the Studebaker National Museum, so you can choose to visit one or both museums. The History Museum is $14 for adults, and includes the tour of Copshaholm as well as the special exhibit. If you’d like to visit the Studebaker National Museum as well, it’s only $4 more.
Looking for a full day of fun?
For a full day of South Bend history tour fun, grab brunch, lunch or dinner at Tippecanoe Place, located in the former Studebaker mansion, stroll the West Washington Neighborhood, tour the History Museum and the connecting Studebaker National Museum and then head over to the Civil Rights Heritage Center. Currently, Tippecanoe Place is hosting themed Downton Abbey lunches and teas on certain days. Check their website for the schedule and pricing.