Doors open to the past
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent December 14, 2012 1:18PM
Mary Ann Shaver helps cousins Evie Klepsch, 3, of Crown Point (second from left) and Lily Klepsch, 4, of Valparaiso (foreground right), make Christmas decorations at the Wellington Clark house in Crown Point , Ind. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Eileen Stewart, a member of the Old Homestead Preservation Society, conducts free tours from 1 to 3 p.m. the first Saturday monthly at the Wellington Clark Homestead, 227 S. Court St., Crown Point. For more information, call 663-7678.
Updated: December 17, 2012 8:31AM
Although there’s been new construction this year, as well as new businesses settling in around the downtown area, there’s one building that’s stood the test of time, in the same spot, for 165 years.
The Wellington Clark Homestead, 227 S. Court St., has undergone renovation and was recently opened for tours.
The free Dec. 1 event, sponsored by the Old Homestead Preservation Society, allowed visitors to observe early life in Crown Point.
“This (restoration of the home) was a labor of love,” said Sherry Nagel-Smith, treasurer of the society. “The main part of the project took 10 years, but there are still a few things to be done — it’s ongoing.”
Fellow society member Eileen Stewart came up with the idea of showcasing the homestead.
“My thought was to get the house available to the public,” she said at the recent event. “As one of the first buildings in this area, there’s a wealth of history here.”
Restoration on this first clapboard house built in Crown Point began in 1999, according to restoration architect James Smith, who also is president of the Old Homestead Preservation Society. Although the house isn’t the oldest surviving one in Lake County, it is among the first built.
The remodeling project included work from top to bottom. “The first things were the roof and floors,” Smith said. “The structure beams had rotted, so we had to put in a concrete foundation.”
Then it was on to leveling the wood floor. It had become wavy from the moisture from below and problems from the deteriorating structure.
The home still has its original windows.
Inside work on the two-bedroom home — which includes an upstairs loft, galley kitchen, sitting room, dining area, and family room — covered removing wallpaper, painting ceilings and walls and other tasks.
Items currently found in the home are relevant to family life in the mid- to late-1800s.
“Some of the furnishings are original to the house and some have been donated,” said Crown Point designer Mary Steele, who served on the restoration committee. “We received quite a bit of support from residents in regard to decorating.”
Lee and Joel Ebert, of Crown Point, visited the recent open house and commented on the fine work done by those involved.
“I’m impressed with the looks of this house, everything seems true to form,” Lee said. “It’s very important for kids (and adults) to see how things worked years ago.”
The Eberts chuckled with other visitors as they read the “List of Chores” for children, placed prominently near the kitchen stove: Get water from the well, feed the chickens and ducks, beat the rugs, and others. “They definitely had many responsibilities,” Joel laughed.
Originally from New York, early Crown Point settler Wellington Clark built the home with his wife Mary Hackley in 1847. At this time, population of the city was 150 residents, a school, a hotel, two general stores and two churches.
The lot originally was owned by Crown Point’s founder, Solon Robinson. The Clarks continued ownership of their farm in West Creek Township and alternated residences. Clark died in 1912, after deeding the house to his granddaughter Claribel Clark in 1906.
In turn, she turned over the home to the city of Crown Point as a life estate in 1959. In 1963, she released that and Crown Point became the permanent owner of the house and property. The homestead was listed on the Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures in April 2001, and on the National Register of Historical Places on June 6, 2001.