Photo: Houses at 819, 821, and 825 East Washington Street, built circa 1910, 1913, and 1900 respectively, South Bend. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Photographed by User:Nyttend (own work), 2013, [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed November, 2022.
The East Washington Street Historic District [†] is a compact neighborhood district in a residential area. Within its four and a half block confines are residential and institutional buildings, including a large church and school complex and a modern psychiatric health care center. The district is essentially linear in shape, running east/ west from the alley west of St. Louis Boulevard to Eddy Street. The central core of the district is East Washington Street, a brick-paved residential artery, with light, local traffic and graceful landscaping, including street trees. East Washington marks the dividing line between north and south streets. The properties included within the district a primarily located on this street, with a few on East Colfax Avenue to the north. Most of those on the cross-streets are one half block south or north of E. Washington.
The land which comprises the district was part of Cottrell's first addition to the town of Lowell, which was platted before the town was annexed to South Bend in 1866, however a birds- eye map of that year shows only two or three buildings may have existed in the area. If any of these have remained, it has not been possible to confirm it at this time. Most of the buildings which are included within the district fall within a period between the 1880s and the 1930s. The largest number are of the Romantic and Eclectic period styles. The Queen Anne style is well represented, as might be expected. A good number of vernacular styles are also found, in particular the Gable Front and Gabled Ell, as well as a few T-plan homes. American Foursquare houses are also prevalent. Like much of the East Bank, this industrially-fed area served the families of workers in various industries in the town. Many who worked in East Bank industries must have found the location convenient. Their presence is recalled today in these modest homes located in pleasant tree-lined neighborhoods like the East Washington Street Historic District.
The East Washington Street Historic District gains significance from its association with the industrial era development of the East Bank area. It represents an area which was platted before the East Bank was incorporated into the town of South Bend, but its development is within the period of peak activity and growth in the area. In addition, it gains significance from the quality of the architecture of its remaining resources.
The City of South Bend, founded in the early part of the nineteenth century in an area explored by eighteenth century French traders, gained fame in the late nineteenth and throughout much of the twentieth century for its industrial development. Probably the best known of its factories was the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, who produced first wagons, and then the well‑known automobile until the 1960s. Other companies with national reputations included the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, Singer Manufacturing and the South Bend Lathe Company. For a city of its size, South Bend's manufactories were notable. The genesis of this industrial development was, naturally, its location on the St. Joseph River and the available water power it promised.
The East Bank paralleled the rest of South Bend's development, but was separate from the central business and industrial sector on the west side of the St. Joseph River. In 1837,the town of Lowell was platted on the East Side of the river, opposite downtown South Bend. However, by the 1860s Lowell had been incorporated into the City of South Bend. The St. Joseph River, which provided an incentive for economic development, also served to divide the two parts of the city. Individuals and businesses thought of themselves in relation to the central city or to Lowell/East Bank; Those who clustered around the East Race, dealt with different entrepreneurs than those located on the west side of the river.
In the early years, inadequate ferry crossings made transportation between the two sides of the river extremely difficult. By the late 1880s this was improved by the construction of sturdy iron bridges at several points, including a railroad crossing, but these too had their limitations. Fully dependable communications and transportation links finally integrated east and west banks in the first part of the twentieth century, when wider, well-built concrete bridges with space for trolleys as well as automobiles, were in place. Nonetheless, political, economic and social differences distinguished the East Bank area — some are still valid today. The East Race itself, for example, continues to be a prominent feature of the landscape, now used for recreational rather than economic purposes while the west race no longer exits. Most of the East Bank, after the town of Lowell was incorporated into the City of South Bend, was a unique political entity, the original Fourth Ward — as such it contained its own subunits and local leaders.
Finally, because of the great western bend of the river which occurs just north of downtown South Bend, initial ties with the developing campus of Notre Dame in the north were much closer on the East Bank (in terms of both direct property ownership and residents). Residents of the East Bank could travel via land to and from the campus, while those on the west bank were required to cross the river, either at one of the southern bridges, or in the north, across Michigan. Street/Leeper Bridge (the present route). Some of the property in the northern section of the East Bank was originally developed by Notre Dame and many residents had strong social and cultural ties to the institution.
Industries located on the East Bank, such as the Singer Manufacturing Company, attracted workers who made their homes in the area. Encouraged by the presence of the priests at Notre Dame as well as by the Catholic churches and schools which they founded, many Irish and other ethnic families sought to live and work in the sector. As the population grew, ancillary commercial services, along with public utilities and amenities followed suit. The East Bank Industrial Era was an important factor in local development until after World War II.
The economic incentive provided by the great industrial activity of South Bend during its peak years stimulated building activity, in particular from the 1880s until the dawn of the depression. This, in turn, provided opportunities for local architects and builders. For a town its size, South Bend has long enjoyed a tradition of excellence in architecture. Perhaps this was engendered through the influence of Notre Dame, where an association with architecture and the building arts dates to its earliest years. The work of many of the better known practitioners in South Bend can be found in the East Bank area and two are known to have resided within its boundaries.
The firm of Freyermuth & Maurer designed many institutional buildings in South Bend, including City Hall and the North Pumping Station. George Freyermuth was born in Philadelphia, but moved to South Bend as a small child. He learned architecture from his father who was a building contractor. In the late 1890s, he joined R. Vernon Maurer in partnership. Maurer was a native of South Bend who attended high school in the local community and art at the Chicago Art Institute, after which he worked as a draftsman in Chicago until 1895. His partnership with Freyermuth continued until 1934, when the latter was elected mayor of South Bend. Maurer's son joined him following his partner's election and the firm continued as Maurer & Maurer. George Freyermuth served as mayor from 1935 to 1938, later relocating to Minnesota where he died in 1958. R.Vernon Maurer died in 1963 at the age of 88. Freyermuth and Maurer were the designers of the St. Joseph School and the home at 1028 E. Colfax Street in the East Washington Street Historic District.
Probably one of the most active and best known of the local architects working in South Bend during the Industrial era was the firm of Austin & Shambleau. N. Roy Shambleau was born in Canada in 1888 and moved with his family to South Bend as a young man. He was briefly in business with other local architects before forming a partnership with Ennis Austin in 1912. Shambleau was known for his Prairie style houses, modeled after those of Frank Lloyd Wright. Two of these can be identified in the East Bank, one of which was his own home for a time (although its integrity has now been seriously compromised). He also designed the home at 103 S. Eddy St. And the 1951 addition to the Sunnyside Presbyterian Church.
Ennis R. Austin was born in Owasco, New York in 1863 and attended Cornell University where he graduated in 1886 with a degree in architecture. His early experience was gained in New York and later with the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company. He was in partnership with W.B.Parker from 1892 to 1900 when he took a job as superintendent of construction for the U.S. Treasury Department, working on projects in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. After 1906 he returned to private practice, until 1909 when the firm of Austin & Shambleau was formed. He was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Buildings in the East Bank designed by Austin include 1003 E. Washington in the East Washington Street Historic District. The firm was also responsible for many period revival as well as commercial buildings and schools. Ennis Austin died in 1951 and N. Roy Shambleau in 1975.
† Adapted from: Camilie R. Fife, President, The Westerly Group Tnc., East Washington Street Historic District, nomination document. 1997, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Colfax Avenue East • Eddy Street North • Eddy Street South • Frances Street North • Frances Street South • Notre Dame Avenue North • Saint Louis Boulevard North • Saint Peter Street North • Washington Street East