Photo: Houses at 617, 619, and 623 Park Avenue, located in the Chapin Park Historic District, South Bend. The District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Photographed by User:Nyttend (own work), 2012, [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons, accessed November, 2022.
The Chapin Park Historic District [†] derives its name from Horatio Chapin, a prominent South Bend banker, who purchased this tract of land in the 1850s. First used exclusively by Chapin as his private estate, the property was divided by his son and daughter, Edward and Mary, at the time of his death in 1871.
Edward platted the western half of the estate and laid out Park Avenue in 1890. Mary platted the area east of Park Avenue shortly afterwards. In 1891, Christopher Fassnacht bought and platted the southern portion of Edward's property which contained the Chapin House. Soon the demands of growing South Bend made the area an investor's dream and houses were built until about 1910, by which time it achieved the general appearance we have today.
The St. Joseph River flows along the northern edge of the district with high,bluff's overlooking the river and Leeper Park to the north and east. The land gradually slopes away to the south then levels off at NavarreStreet. Prior to 1905 Lamonte Creek followed the route of what is now Lamonte Terrace.
Most of the structures, with the exception of those along the western, southern and eastern boundaries, are residences. The nonresidential buildings include a medical complex, houses of worship, a small firehouse now used as a theatre, and small private businesses. Each block is intersected by narrow alleys giving access to the rear of each property. Houses are uniformly spaced with small, wooded lawns.
The buildings In the district Exhibit discontiguous evolution in architectural styles from the Gothic Revival of the 1850's to the Second Empire, Shingle, Queen Anne and Neo-Jacobean styles of the last three decades of the nineteenth century. In the first decade of the twentieth century the Prairie Style and the Classic Box were added to complete the district's architectural timeline.
With the exception of a few houses that face a court or alley, the structures face the street of their address. Most of the houses have garages or sheds which open onto their respective alleys. Many of these out-buildings are in deteriorated condition. Rex, Navarre, Forest and Manitou Streets and North Lafayette Boulevard are straight east-west or north-south, but the main arteries of east-west Lamonte Terrace and north-south Park Avenue have conformed to the caprices of the landscape. Respectively, they descend the old stream bed of Lamonte Creek and gently slope with the hills of Park Avenue. These meandering streets play an important part in the appearance of the streetscapes allowing for interesting architectural and graphic vistas. Other features are the brick-paved streets of the 1890s and the original lamp-post lighting along Park Avenue which lends a soft light to the streetscape at night. Trees, some of which remain from Horatio Chapin's time, are in abundance throughout the district.
According to the City of South Bend Historic Sites and Structures Survey conducted by the architectural firm of Crumlish/Sporleder & Associates, Chapin Park Historic District contains the highest concentration of architecturally significant structures to be found in the city. This is not surprising since many of the city's most prominent business, civic and professional leaders resided there at the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th.
With most of its housing stock still intact the district is notable for the integrity of the building styles to be found within its boundaries; for the quality of workmanship and architectural detail; for the integrity of use and scale; and for the quality of its distinctive "street furniture," red-brick streets, Victorian lamp-posts, and lushly wooded lawns, some of which are enclosed with wrought iron fences.
The diversity of architectural styles to be found within the district range from the Gothic Revival of the 1850s to the Second Empire, Shingle, Queen Anne and Neo-Jacobean styles of the last three decades of the 19th century. With the advent of the 20th century, Prairie Style houses and the Classic Box made their appearance. The interaction of these styles gives the Chapin Park Historic District a look and feel today that is not found elsewhere in the city, and accounts for the enormous popularity of the Park Avenue Neighborhood Association's house tours, candlelight walks, and other activities that highlight the distinctive architectural character of the neighborhood.
The person who started it all was Horatio Chapin, who purchased this forty acre tract of land just north of the city limits in 1855 from the State Bank of Indiana. The boundaries of his property establish the general boundaries of the district. Chapin at that time was the manager of the State Bank in addition to being an area religious leader and a real estate investor. Shortly after his land purchase in 1855, Chapin and his wife Martha built a Gothic Revival house on Navarre Street. They surrounded the house with an extensive orchard and called the area ChapinPark. Their Gothic Revival house was the only structure in the area for nearly two decades until Chapin's death in 1871. At that time his daughter, Mrs. MaryAnderson, wife of Judge Andrew Anderson, built a house at what is now 710 Park Avenue. It was built facing Lamont Creek and was later turned to face Park Avenue when the creek was put underground.
It was not until 1890 that Mary and Chapin's son Edward platted the area and laid out Park Avenue. In 1891 Christopher Fassnacht, owner of the South BendL umberCompany, bought the property which contained the Chapin House and moved the house a block south and east. He soon began developing the area into a residential neighborhood appealing to the wealthier citizens of South Bend.
Prominent residents in addition to Fassnacht who were influential in the growth of South Bend were: George and Fannie Hillier Hodson, lumber manufacturer and builder of many houses in the neighborhood including their own at 723 Park Avenue; A.P. Sibley and his wife Ester Stone Sibley, and George and Kate Ware, of Sibley and Ware Foundry, who built houses on Lamonte Terrace; lawyer and accountant George E. Clarke, who lived with his first wife, Mamie Giddings, a musician, and later with his second wife, Mary Vanderhoof, on Lamonte Terrace. Their daughter, Mar yClarke Coquillard, still lives in her Prairie Style house at 708 North Lafayette.
In 1895, land unused by the Waterworks Department bordering the northeast corner of the district was donated for the development of a park. It was named after David Leeper, State Senator, Representative, Mayor, and life-long resident of South Bend.
With the onset of World War II, every effort was made to accommodate the local labor force engaged in wartime production. As a result, many of the large houses were remodeled for multiple-family use. Later,the area was zoned for commercial use. In an effort to reduce maintenance costs, trim and architectural detail were stripped or covered up. Memorial Hospital and the South Bend Medical Foundation expanded along the district's eastern edge. Several houses were destroyed to accommodate the hospital's need for additional parking. Others are being moved to enable the foundation to expand.
In order to preserve the residential and architectural character of the district the Park Avenue Neighborhood Association petitioned to have the district rezoned to single-family, residential use. This effort succeeded in 1976. The neighborhood renaissance that began in the 1960s is prevailing. Houses and grounds are well-maintained Many have been, or are in the process of being restored to their original appearance — not just the architecturally significant ones, but the contributing structures as well. The design amenities one finds in Chapin Park, such as consistency in building setbacks, heights and spacing, a mature landscape, and a variety of building styles, contribute to the district's architectural cohesion and to the neighborhood's sense of identity.
† Park Avenue Neighborhood Historic District,Committee, James D. Conley Chairman, Chapin Park Historic District, nomination document. 1980, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Ashland Avenue • Bartlett Street • Forest Avenue • Lafayette Boulevard North • Lamonte Terrae • Madison Avenue West • Main Street • Manitou Place • Marion Street • Navarre Street West • Park Avenue • Portage Avenue • Riverside Drive • William Street