Houses on the eastern side of the 600 block of South Willow Road in Evansville. Pictured are the Pearl B. Combs House (circa 1931, Tudor Revival style) on the left and the Sarah Vickery House (circa 1923, Dutch Colonial Revival style) on the right. This block is part of the Lincolnshire Historic District, a historic district that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Photographed by User:Nyttend (own work), 2011, [cc-1.0, public domain] via Wikimedia Commons, accessed August, 2022.
The Lincolnshire Historic District [†] is one of Evansville's most impressive architectural zones. It features a concentration of artistic 1920s and 1930s revival architecture which has no local peer. The focal point of the district is the thirty-two-acre "Lincolnshire" subdivision developed primarily between 1923 and 1938 by John Anderson and Henry Veatch (A&V) into a community of quality-built homes based on traditional design. Closely related in time, design quality and cultural associations are two landmark institutional buildings. Bordering the subdivision on the south, facing Washington Avenue from its fifteen acre campus, is the 1923 Collegiate Gothic Benjamin Bosse High School and, nearly one-half mile to the north, on Lincoln Avenue across from the subdivision, is St. Benedict's Catholic Church, modeled in 1927 on Romanesque-basilica lines. The two structures serve not only to demarcate the end points of the district, but they also promote the secluded ambience of the residential enclave. These several, lineally arranged elements—the A&V development, the church and the school—are the major constituents of the district. It is a fully developed area of approximately fifty-five acres and contains 103 primary buildings (nine-nine residences,/ two schools, an athletic stadium and a church). There are 16 garages in the district, 2 of which are non-contributing, making a total of 97 contributing buildings and 22 non-contributing buildings in the district.
Located some two miles east of the downtown commercial center and four miles north of the Ohio River, the Lincolnshire district is in an area of the city (since 1916) where flat rural land of the city's then eastern environs was transformed in the early decades of this century into a middle-class residential preserve. The A&V Lincolnshire development was a part of this eastward suburbanizing drift. In contrast, though, to the dense modest bungalow and prosaic revival housing stock that was put up on surrounding tracts of land, Lincolnshire was fashioned by the designing/building team into a distinct entity of comfortably spaced, picturesque residences patterned on the romantic vocabulary of revival architecture. The collection eventually included several versions of the tasteful French Chateau and formal Georgian, a sprinkling of the quaint Dutch and saltbox colonial vernaculars, numerous examples of the hospitable, gable-roofed New England Colonial and, most prevalent of all, the pictorial English Tudor rendered in a myriad of variations.
Traditional design ruled, but over time—perhaps as a concession by A&V to client taste—a couple of ordinary bungalows and several ultra-modern Prairie School and International Style statements were mixed in. Of the sixty-seven subdivision residences built between 1923 and 1938, there were no duplications. By varying stylistic embellishments, massing configurations and/or roof plans, each house of a particular style was assured its own individuality. With the exception of wood ornamentation—such as entrance porticos, paneling, gable half-timbering, shutters and the like—and a few weatherboarded homes, the favored construction medium was durable brick, invariably accompanied by limestone trimming. One house though, a Tudor, was completely veneered with Bedford (Indiana) limestone; the owner, it happened, was in the stone business.
The Lincolnshire district's overall development was a rapid one, a result of simultaneous events in 1923 which saw the construction on Washington Avenue of the Benjamin Bosse High School and the subdividing into seventy-six lots by A&V of the former twenty-five acre Stiltz farm which was situated across Lincoln Avenue from St. Benedict's eleven year old parish development. By the time that Bosse High was ready for classes in January 1924, A&V with the same developmental earnestness that they had displayed in their Bayard Park building operations (National Register 1985) , had the subdivision's system of underground services in place, had graded and asphalted several of the platted streets and had four residences of their planned homes colony constructed and owner occupied.
Over the next several years, activity in the subdivision was steady, albeit slow paced, but the period 1927 through 1929 was a benchmark one in which thirty homes were put up on the former Stiltz land and on an adjoining seven and one-half acre tract which the partners had acquired and platted in 1927 as "Lincolnshire #2." In the same year, with Bosse in place, along with its compatibly styled athletic stadium (1926) , and streets blossoming with residential stock, the district's second landmark structure—St. Benedict's Catholic Church edifice—began its skyward thrust. When completed a year later, the basilica and its soaring campanile dominated the existing Neo-Classical rectory (1925) and the four-square convent (1913?) as well as the eclectic, stone-trimmed brick building on Harland Avenue which had served since its construction in 1913 as both church and school for the parish.
The Depression years, as expected, restrained the building pace in the subdivision. Nonetheless, A&V were able to put up fifteen more houses and, by 1938, the total building census for the district stood at eighty — nearly seventy-eight percent of its building stock. On the whole, the district had 'finished' appearance. Older buildings were well their individual sites and shrubbery and saplings earlier years were maturing, offering an umbrageous present 103 stock achieved a settled into planted in earlier touch to the district.
The passage of time has been kind to the Lincolnshire district and its resident owners through the years have generally treated its physical fabric with respect. There have been instances where artificial siding has been used; for example, in gables, or where once open porches have been enclosed or dormers emplaced in inconspicuous locations. However, of the many period homes, only one—a 1926 bungalow—has had its original plan grossly altered. In this sole case, walls were clad with aluminum siding and a full length shed dormer added to the front roof plane. Bosse High School, in order to accommodate an increased school population after World War II, was expanded at its sides and rear with functionally designed additions constructed with brick and stone trim to match the materials of the original building. The district has also had its share of intrusions. Although residential in nature, the post-war period saw the introduction of tract and ranch housing. There are fifteen examples, but fortunately, they are scattered about the district or located on 'back' streets. All in all, despite these changes which have transpired, Lincolnshire possesses a remarkable degree of integrity.
Just before the turn of the century, Anderson branched out on his own as a contracting carpenter and Veatch left Mesker several years later to go into the insurance business, opening up in 1904 the Cape Town, Africa, office of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. However, his foreign stint was short-lived. He returned to Evansville and, in February 1906, the two men launched their Anderson & Veatch (A&V) Company, offering clients design and contracting services. This simplistic operational mode was brief. Three months later—possibly with funding from the progressive American Trust & Savings Bank whose backing the partners had in subsequent business dealings, Anderson and Veatch initiated a new approach to local building by becoming "Complete Home Builders." (While the specialty of the company was domestic building, they also undertook light industrial, commercial and institutional construction.) Departmentalized and staffed, their company was capable of not only furnishing construction materials, but doing all the work connected with building a home—from design work and construction, to mechanicals installation, finishing and landscaping. The conversion gave Anderson and Veatch a large measure of control over quality. It also set the stage for the most prolific building spree by any one firm that the city had ever experienced. The main focus of the company was the burgeoning Bayard Park residential district (National register 1985) where, over the next ten years, Anderson and Veatch solidly established their reputation for turning out in volume consistently high-quality, middle-class homes for clients, for their own speculative purposes and for those of the American Trust. (In the Bayard Park district alone, of the total 335 buildings, nearly one-third can be credited to Anderson and Veatch and their company.)
In 1911, Anderson and Veatch wrote another chapter in local construction history when they entered the realm of large-scale development with the purchase of a sixteen acre tract just north of the Bayard Park. At first they sold some of the lots for development by others, but in instances, the house put up did not meet their expectations of sufficient cost and appearance. In order to maintain the standards of the residential environment—and to protect their investment, the partners instituted the policy that the A&V company would be the sole builder. By the advent of World War I, Anderson and Veatch wielded one of the city's largest construction companies. They were well-positioned to carry out the emplacement of a model residential community like Lincolnshire. They had a large work force of craftsman, developmental and real estate experience and financial resources—or financial backing, whichever was the case. In addition, the partners had proved themselves astute businessmen by staying on top of the competitive building profession.
The hiatus in building operations caused by World War I did little to diminish the strength of the company, and with a return to normalcy, Anderson and Veatch resumed their pre-war pace. Still involved in the development of their Bayard Park property—albeit not as intensely as before, the two men came to the conclusion just after the turn of the decade that the time was right for Evansville to have a high-class subdivision. In November 1922, they bought a twenty-five acre farm tract (five years later, they bought seven contiguous acres) and broke ground for the new developmental venture early in the new year. Newspaper articles during 1923 on Lincolnshire offer glimpses of the planning that went into the project. As well as taking into account the usual development concerns—city services, schools, general character of the area and the like, Anderson and Veatch made visits to model subdivisions elsewhere and consulted with Harland Bartholomew, a city plan engineer from St. Louis, who was constructing Evansville's first master plan for Mayor Bosse and the City Plan Commission. Established traditional (revival) mode in a variety of styles was selected as the most appropriate since it would produce an atmosphere of permanence to the community of homes and eliminate monotony. In order to preserve the class tone of Lincolnshire and its residential status, the partners placed the usual restrictions of the period in the recorded plan and, additional, stipulated that a home cost at least $7,500. (Costs generally exceeded this amount though.) By the end of the decade, the one—rude farm land had been transformed into a well-settled residential enclave, featuring houses of beauty, comfort and durability. For Evansville people of sufficient menas, Lincolnshire was "The Place" to live and to raise families. The population in most cases was new generation affluent, community leaders, whose roster of names read like a who's who in local industrial, commercial and professional circles.
Anderson and Veatch's success sixty-odd years ago in creating a distinctive residential environment is still very evident today. Despite Lincolnshire's senescence, its proximity to the urban milieu and the rise after World War II housing developments of similar socio-economic classification, it has remained a choice living enclave, continuously attracting an affluent and appreciative resident ownership. (The current owner/occupancy rate hovers around 100 percent.) St. Benedict's parish facilities, the nearby Reitz Memorial Catholic High School (1924; a National register potential in its own right) and Bosse High school have, without a doubt, contributed strongly through the years to be stability and the popularity of the Lincolnshire community, but it is the architecture of the homes which seems to be the constant primary allurement.
Anchoring the south end of the Lincolnshire district is Bosse High School. It is as much a tribute to architectural excellence as it is a memorial to the man responsible for its existence. The school was named posthumously for Evansville's legendary city administrator, Mayor Benjamin Bosse (1874-1922). Elected to three consecutive terms, Bosse, a Democrat, took office in January 1914, and reigned over nearly every aspect of the community's life for nine years until his untimely death in April 1922. He was a Progressive—and an agressive—personality, completely in tune with the prevailing reform spirit of the early Twentieth Century. While chief executive, he vigorously pursued a course of remodeling the city's social and physical fabric to meet the needs and demands of the age. To help him accomplish the task, he rallied nonpartisan support and participation with the concept "When everybody boosts, everybody wins." Bosse, himself, set an idealistic example of this civic philosophy.
School improvement was a priority of Mayor Bosses'. During his administration, existing school plants were upgraded and two new high schools were built to service growth areas well beyond the downtown location of the city's only secondary school. The first was the Neo-classical Reitz High School which was completed in 1918 in the Forest Hills section of the newly annexed far west side. Planning for Reitz's east side counterpart occurred several years later, and Bosse considered it the apex of the school improvement program. He influenced the school board to purchase a fifteen-acre site on the city's eastern edge and he secured an architect. However, he died before the first spadeful of dirt was excavated. Construction on the facility was begun in fall 1922, and by the end of January 1924, the Benjamin Bosse High School was ready for classes. The architect was Joseph C. Llewellyn (1855-1932) of Chicago. A designer of commercial and industrial structures, Llewellyn was also a competent school architect, noted examples of which are: high schools for LaCrosse and Beloit, Wisconsin, and for Aurora, Illinois; and the Auditorium and Field House at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. The general contractor for the Evansville School was the Bloomington, Illinois, firm of Simmons, Dick Company, but local contractors, materials suppliers and workmen also participated in the project—uch as the Caden Stone Company, plasterer J. T. Herron, the Ohio Valley Roofing concern and Gottman-Weber, heating engineers. The Kleymeyer family-owned Standard Brick Company supplied the textured, variegated brick, and Evansville's Charles Troutman served as the supervising architect.
For Bosse High School, Llewellyn effectively used the traditional Collegiate Gothic style to communicate the academic purpose of the building. The symmetrical plan featured a long, rectangular central section flanked at each end by a pavilion, gabled in the manner of the Elizabethan style. Ornamental accounterments to enhance the collegiate character inlcuded a lavish display of dressed stone accenting major architectural elements, multi-paned windows, tile roofs, copper cupola—another borrowing from the the Elizabeth mode—and a balustraded terrace across the facade. Several years later, on plans prepared by Llewellyn, a sympathetic, two-story wing was added to the east side of the building. Completed in 1927, the wing served for a decade as Bosse Elementary School until the Washington Avenue Grade School several blocks to the east was buit. Although Bosse High has been expanded in recent years with functional additions to its rear and sides, the rich architectural program of the Llewellyn design stands out clearly.
From its prominent position on Lincoln Avenue, St. Benedict's Catholic Church is a preview for the high architectural tenor of the Lincolnshire district. It is a ponderous brick edifice built with Romanesque styling. Rounded arches, side-aisle wings, an arcaded front porch and a five-story campanile all give added dimension to the otherwise oblong basilica massing plan. The completion of the church in 1928 was a long awaited event for the St. Benedict's parish. Established in 1911 by monks from St. Meinrad (Indiana) Archabbey, and named for the patron saint of the order—St. Benedict, the parish's religious affairs had been held since 1914 in a building on the site that had been erected primarily as a school. By 1926, with a student enrollment of 400 and a family membership of 600, it was obvious that a separate church building was sorely needed, one that would not only accommodate the expanding congregation, but be a fitting monument to one of Evansville's strongest congregations. Begun in May 1927, the church was completed ten months later, joining a trio of east side institutional landmarks—the Bosse High School, the Reitz Memorial Catholic High School and the Evansville College Administration building (1922; National Register 1983), a Collegiate Gothic edifice several blocks east of the church.
One of the largest church buildings in Evansville, St. Benedict's sanctuary was the last of any denomination in the city erected combining grand scale and time-honored ecclesiastical design. The architectural commission for the $200,00 building went to the firm of Thole & Legeman, an association formed in 1926 on the dissolution of the Shopbell, Fowler & Thole partnership. Edward J. Thole, Sr. (1890-1956) was the designer and Ralph Legeman (1904-1974) served as the engineer. Thole was a skilled, eighteen-year architectural veteran. He had begun his career in the drafting department of the Anderson & Veatch Company in 1908. In 1912, he became associated as a draftsman with Clifford Shopbell & Company, the leading architectural firm in the city during the early twentieth century. Over the years, Thole rose from draftsman to chief designer and vice president of the firm. His formal training consisted of two summer courses in design at Harvard, supplemented by a special course in architecture while in service in France. His plan for St. Benedict's edifice, a smaller version of a European basilica that he had measured and photographed while overseas, may stem from class work done during this latter training experience. However, the church's campanile was Thole's own touch, meant to give added line to the design. Among his other known works are the Neo-classical frontispiece for the 1917 Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum (National Register 1979) , Sacred Hearth Catholic Church, the Gothic Revival Reitz Memorial High School and the 1924 Boseman-Waters Bank (National Register 1987) , a Prairie School statement located in Poseyville, Indiana. Thole was an accomplished and versatile architect. Ralph E. Legeman's early professional career paralleled that of Thole. After graduation from Central High School, where he took several drafting courses, Legeman went to work for A&V as a draftsman, staying with the firm until 1922 when he joined the fihnnhell nnol of halenh. T.eaeman is nart i cular Iv noted for developing the "hole-in-ground" type of gymnasium (patented in 1956) which was used locally for Roberts Stadium (1955) and North High School as well as for numerous other high school and college gumnasiums and physical plants throughout the Midwest.
For the quality construction of St. Benedict's Church—evident particularly in the precision brick work—credit goes to the M. J. Hoffman Construction Company, the same firm that built the parish school in 1913-1914. Although the roots of the company date back to 1898 when Michael J. Hoffman (1862-1024) set himself up as a contacting carpenter and builder, the formal existence and name of the company was established by incorporation in 1910 with the elder Hoffman serving as president and his son, Albert J. Hoffman (1890-1976), as secretary/treasurer. Under the father, the concern garnered a solid reputation for producing large-scale industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. On his death in 1924, Albert Hoffman took over the company and ran it until his retirement in 1947. During his management, the firm's operations went farther afield to Florida in 1925 where the company participated in the development of booming Coral Gables and to Michigan where it built Dodge and Graham-Paige (1927) plants. Notable Hoffman-constructed buildings put up in Evansville during Albert Hoffman's tenure include: the Mead Johnson River-Rail Truck Terminal and Warehouse (1931) and the Central Union Bank Building (1930; Hulman Building), both National Register listings; and the 1942 Evansville Republic Aviation plant, one of two sites in the country where the famous P-47 Thunderbolt was manufactured during World War II.
Both the Hoffman Construction Company and the contemporary A&V went out of business in the early 1960s, their demise possibly due to such factors as diluted management during the preceeding decade, post-war high labor costs and competition from modern-age, cost-cutting building concerns. The Lincolnshire Historic District remains as a fine example of the quality of planning and construction of these prominent Evansville builders.
† Adapted from: Joan C. Marchand, Historic Preservation Services, City of Evansville, em>Lincolnshire Historic District, nomination document, 1987, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Bayard Park Drive • Chandler Avenue • College Highway • Harlan Avenue South • Lincoln Avenue • Lodge Avenue • Powell Avenue • Willow Road