Plymouth Southside Historic District
The Plymouth Southside Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2014, The Gombach Group.
The Southside Historic District is comprised of some of the most impressive residential architecture in the City of Plymouth and includes two architecturally significant churches. There are equally modest homes and larger former estate homes in the district. The dominant architectural classification is Colonial Revival, but in close second are the Italianate and Queen Anne styles of the Victorian era. These varied architectural styles are brought together by the uniformity of historic street lighting, adherence to a wide one hundred foot Michigan Road right-of-way, and mature sugar maple trees in a deep tree lawn.
Michigan Street is the main street of both the city and the district. It is a wide two-lane arterial road that becomes the main street to the city and has a one hundred foot right-of-way. This allows a comfortable spatial relationship with the residences and provides in general, a fifteen foot tree lawn between the edge of the road and the sidewalk and approximately thirty foot setback between the sidewalk and the residences. In the district Michigan Street is laid mostly north by northwest then adjusts more northerly once it enters the downtown. This provides an impressive view of both the downtown and the Marshall County Courthouse tower from the perspective of a northbound motorist passing through the district.
Mature trees provide ample shade to the district as well as an impressive canopy over Michigan Street. This creates a gateway to the city from the south side. The trees are predominantly sugar maples, many approaching 110-130 years old with few gaps in the tree grid that places them at about 50 foot on-center. In some locations the tree grid on Michigan Street was planned much tighter with alternating trees on each side of the sidewalk, not more than 15 foot apart. This provided an interesting colonnade to .pass through, but did not allow the trees to mature properly, therefore many were removed. This unusual planting grid still exists in areas of the 600 block of South Michigan Street.
Lot sizes vary, but are on average about 60' wide by 120' deep. Larger lots existed historically, but as with many residential areas, larger lots were split along road frontage and developed into smaller lots. Lots on the west side of Michigan Street in the 600 and 700 blocks are especially deep due to an early development of larger estate-style homes in the 1880's. Few open lots exist in the district. A large open lot exists at the northwest corner of Michigan Street and Nursery Street. A parking lot was created for Trinity Methodist Church at the corner of William and Michigan Street where two homes were razed and the Garn House relocated from 505 South Michigan Street to 505 Angel Street, outside of the district. Webster Park and Recreation Hall occupy a large tract on the south side of Webster Avenue. The original 1897 Webster Elementary School by Wing & Mahurin once occupied the site but was razed in the early 1980's.
Carriage houses were constructed in the rear of the lots, accessed by alleys in most cases, or by Douglas Street west of the 300 block of Michigan Street. Many of the original carriage houses gave way to garages with similar architectural styling of the principal residence. Three intact carriage houses exist in a row fronting Douglas Street for residences fronting Michigan Street in the 300 block. All three are very similarly constructed. Due to the scale, historic nature, and the fact that they front Douglas Street, though secondary buildings on the lots, these three carriage houses are considered contributing buildings to the district. One other substantial carriage house was converted to a residence very early at 612 South Michigan Street.
The architectural styles found in the district reflect popular American styles from the period of time the area developed and expanded. These styles include Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Free Classic, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival. The bungalow and American-Four Square are also popular architectural forms in the district.
Working during this later period in Plymouth were three builders or architects who either clearly left their mark in the district or their involvement can be assumed. Jacob Ness was a self-taught designer/masonry builder who spent several years in Chicago during the 1890s. His work in Plymouth seems influenced by the return to classical design popular with the 1893 Chicago Exhibition. Ness designed and constructed more than a quarter of the downtown's buildings in a clear Classical Revival style. He also designed and constructed a handful of residences and public buildings in either the Classical or Colonial Revival style. Ness has be~n credited with the residences at 630 and 500 South Michigan Street, but his construction style is also evident in 634 and 614 South Michigan, and in the United Brethren Church (Trinity Methodist) at 425 South Michigan. Ness worked in Plymouth from about 1898 through his last commission in about 1934.
Plymouth native William Faker, later of Argos, Indiana also left his mark on the south side district. Faker originally was a plasterer and bricklayer but later learned the craft of stone dressing and setting from French stonemasons working in South Bend. His work is distinctive enough by the style and design, but he also left his mark in another way. Faker followed the teachings of the Christian Science Church and because of those beliefs he often incorporated the Star of Hope or Wheel of Life into his stone designs. The residence at 925 South Michigan Street has this mark in the chimney. It is also probable that Faker was responsible for the stone renovation work to the structure at 422 South Michigan Street when the home was converted to the Christian Science Church. Faker also was responsible for the porch at 328 South Michigan Street and the large home of Frank Southworth at 500 South Michigan Street.
William S. Matthews was an architect who came to the city at the request of a Plymouth developer in the late 1870s. Matthews was from Warren, Ohio and relocated to Plymouth with his wife prior to 1880. Matthews had a number of commissions for residential designs and at least one downtown building block, the Packard Block, in 1879. Matthews designed at least two homes in the Southside District. He was responsible for the design of one of the largest homes ever constructed in Plymouth, the Thayer Mansion (no longer extant) in the 600 block of South Michigan Street, and for the Oglesbee-Lauer House which was designed in 1880 at 416 South Michigan Street. Matthews had moved from Plymouth by the end of the 19th century to Missouri.
Plymouth did not offer natural resources from which to glean economic development, nor did the Yellow River offer any navigable means by which to transport goods. Business boomed in Plymouth due to its location on railroad and roadway routes. Therefore it was the manufacturing of smaller goods that dominated Plymouth's business landscape. Many of the early estate homes on the south side resulted from profits made by land speculation and development, but generally the residing families had links to manufacturing and commerce.
A few of the larger early estate homes on the south side include the C. T. Mattingly house at 413 S. Michigan, a c. 1870 gabled-ell residence at 825 S. Michigan, the John Soice house at 704 S. Michigan, a c. 1850 gable front Greek Revival residence at 638 S. Michigan, the carriage house to the Snyder Mansion at 612 S. Michigan, the Wheeler-Gilmore Residence at 424 S. Michigan and the ca. 1855 double-pile Greek Revival Residence at 111 & 115 Pierce Street (which was moved to the back half of its lot fronting Michigan in about 1905). Each of these homes was constructed not later than about 1880 and occupied very large tracts, if not whole blocks on South Michigan Street.
The first subdivision of land that created an addition to the City of Plymouth on the south side occurred in 1853 in what is now the west side of the 300 block of Michigan Street by Amzi Wheeler; the east side of the 300 block and west side of the 400 block were platted soon after. Therefore many of the earliest homes in the district outside of the larger estate homes mentioned above are located in these areas. Notable families constructing or residing in homes in the latter part of the nineteenth century include the Lauers, Kuhns, Wilsons, Corbaleys, Bosworths, Gibsons, and on Webster Avenue by the Swindells and Dr. Brown .
By about the early 1920s the south side was fully platted with the district's homes nearly all constructed. A few smaller homes date to the 1930s through 1940s, with the latest contributing resource constructed in the Colonial Revival style by the Dan Gibson family in 1953 at 728 South Michigan Street.
The later development on Webster Avenue was spurred by the construction of Webster Elementary School in 1897 at 120 Webster Avenue. Indiana architects Wing & Mahurin designed a Romanesque Revival style brick building; it was unfortunately razed in the early 1980s. Webster Park is now located in its place. Another cause for growth on Webster Avenue was the formation of the Plymouth Improvement Company, one of the city's first real estate development corporations that consisted of a consortium of businessmen and industrialists. The corporation developed both sides of Webster Avenue from about Miner Street east to the city limits.
Particularly notable in this later period of development are a handful of homes in this area. While only some evidence can be found of their connection to model homes of the time, it seems the designs give indication that the owners and builders were working from professionally prepared construction documents. Two Tudor Revival style residences at 111 and 219 Webster and a Colonial Revival residence at 225 Webster give the impression of a professionally prepared design either locally or through catalog purchase.
† Kurt West Garner, Plymouth Southside Historic District, Marshall County, IN, nomination document, 2012, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.