Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Studebaker Museum and Oliver Mansion in South Bend

At the Shipshewana RV Campground, Shipshewana, Indiana...

(Before we get started, I might mention that the "Best of the Best RV Parks" page has been updated with several new listings. There is a link to it in the right hand column of this blog. Be sure and let me know if you find a park that should be included.)

While we were waiting for our appointment to get the new tow package installed on the new Mae, we spent some time touring the Studebaker museum and the Oliver mansion in South Bend. These were very interesting, and they took us back to our youth (Studebakers were still being built when we were kids; the last one was built in 1966), and our tour of the Oliver mansion gave us a glimpse of the lives of the wealthy around 1900. I've always enjoyed the historical period of the mid 19th century to the mid-20th, so I'm always ready to go on tours like these.

I think Sandy looked good in this 1950 Studebaker convertible; don't you?

We gained an appreciation for the industriousness of the Studebaker family (they changed their name from Studebecher when they immigrated to the U. S. from Germany) and their ability to transform a wagon-making business into an industrial giant that turned out 500,000 cars a year in 1950.

Studebaker built horse-drawn carriages in addition to wagons and one of the more interesting displays was that of carriages that served four presidents: Grant, Harrison, McKinley and Lincoln:

On a sad note, two of the carriages were the very ones in which presidents Lincoln and McKinley took their last ride on the occasions of their assassinations.  Here is Lincoln's carriage:

And here is McKinley's carriage:

Below is another Studebaker that I hadn't heard of--a child's hearse. According to information in the museum, it was not uncommon in the early 1900s for funeral homes to have white hearses for children's funerals. The white color was to symbolize the innocence of the children, and we found this quite sad, having lived through the loss of a child ourselves. Of course, advances in medicine within the rest of the 20th century resulted in a dramatic decline in childhood fatal diseases, and these hearses eventually disappeared:

This was my favorite of all the Studebaker cars--the 1950 Commander Starlight. I still think it was a unique and interesting design for 1950:

The car below was the very last Studebaker car built, having been assembled in Canada on March 17, 1966. The company didn't go out of business, however; they were well diversified by then and did a significant amount of manufacturing for the government. The company's divisions were ultimately absorbed by other firms, however, and the Studebaker name disappeared from the business world in 1969.

One of the historic homes we viewed in South Bend was Tippecanoe, the residence of Clement Studebaker. We didn't have time for a tour, but we did manage to get this photo of the 30,000 square foot house:

We were able to get a tour of the Oliver Mansion next door to the Studebaker Museum. It was a glorious architectural wonder:

J. D. Oliver, who built the house in the late 1800s, was the son of the inventor of a process to manufacture cast iron plows that had the durability and performance of much more expensive steel plows. Plow sales mushroomed in the fast-developing country and the company eventually diversified into manufacturing tractors and other farm implements. With no income tax then in place, the family accumulated great wealth, and J. D. built this house as a place to raise his four children. Building the house took almost three years, and the family moved in on January 1, 1897. 

The home has 38 rooms occupying 12,000 square feet and was the first house in South Bend to be wired for electricity. The only problem was that electricity was very unreliable in 1897, so Oliver built a power plant to serve the house, his factory and other homes of family members; any excess electricity produced he sold to the city. The house was very high-tech for its day, having an intercom, forced-air heat and a central vacuum. 

The Olivers and the Studebakers lived on the same street, and some members of the families intermarried and worked in the others' respective companies. Here are some more photos of the house:

The house style is listed as "Queen Anne Romanesque," because of the turrets and stonework

The house felt very warm  and inviting for such a large residence.

The Olivers dined very formally; a button to summon the butler was imbedded in the floor beneath the dining table.

The piano is a 1930 Steinway concert grand. I would have loved to play it.
One of the reasons I was eager to tour the Oliver house was because of the manner in which it was bequeathed to the historical society. The heirs donated not only the residence but all of the furnishings as well, including the spices in the cupboards and even undergarments in the chests of drawers. The docent giving the tour told us that it took two years for the society to catalog the thousands of artifacts.

With this post, we'll be saying goodbye to northern Indiana for now. It was a very pleasant two-week stay, and there are still things we didn't see, so we will hope to return. That seems the way it is most everywhere we go; there is so much to see and so little time. I think this quotation from Alexander Sattler best describes what motivates us in our current fulltime, nomadic lifestyle: I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it. I like this quotation so much that I'm going begin using it as an additional tag line in every post underneath the short prayer of appreciation that you find there.

We will always remember this as the place where we said goodbye to our original tow car, Mae I. So long, little red car; you have served us well, and we hope you find a good home. We are heading west from here, meeting friends in South Dakota. From there, who knows?

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

I had rather own little and see the world than to own the world and see little of it. --Alexander Sattler


  1. What a couple of fun tours, thanks for all the great pictures. I too love the Studebaker starlight always wanted one but never did happen.

    1. I was always enthralled with the cars of the 50s and 60s. They were so distinctive and easily recognizable, unlike the cars of today that all look alike.

  2. Thanks for taking us along on your tours. Someday we will return to the area and see what we missed.
    Never having been exposed to Philosophies before my retirement I liked that quotation so much that I saved it to my Documents. It very much sums up our feeling towards Fulltiming as well.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. I'm glad you like it; it sort of sums it up for us, too.

  3. Great tour:) Did not know about it. Thanks.

    1. We wouldn't have known about it if our good friend Hank, whom we ran into here, hadn't told us about it. I had more photos, but I'm always a little worried that a post can get too long.

  4. Brings back memories of the Studebaker Power Hawk I owned in the late 50's. Zippy vehicle with one notable eccentricity: the back floor wells became foot baths with each rain. A well- travelled automobile that never let me down

    1. Hi, Sue! When I was a kid in high school, a gentleman in our small town had a Studebaker Golden Hawk. It was the only one in town, so he became a celebrity of sorts. Those were the days!

  5. Thanks for the tour, remember them well. Always liked the bullet nose on them.

    1. I'll bet you could have one, Bill, if you wanted it. But you would probably pay a little more than the sticker price in 1950. Those were cool looking cars, for sure.

    2. My dad had a 1950 Studebaker. When I was a senior in high school in Baton Rouge a guy from a town 10 miles to the east had a 1957 Golden Hawk that he would bring into town on the weekends. If you got into a little drag race with him you were surly going to lose as that thing was FAST. Have been to that area many times but never knew they had a Studebake Museum.

    3. Hi, Michael! Those were my two favorite Studebakers, too. What memories! If you find yourself in South Bend again, the museum is a really good one and a bargain for us seniors for $6.50!


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