Back When… Episode 1

As we begin this project, we want to first start by looking back. I think it was J.Lo. that once said, “… no matter where I go, I know where I came from.” Let’s follow J.Lo.’s lead and remember where this structure came from…
The building located at 151 E Market Street, originally the Bechtel Building, was constructed over the years of 1887 and 1888. Samuel Bechtel began construction in 1887, but was killed in an excavation accident, which stalled the project until the following year. Samuel Bechtel along with his brother Henry also established the Farmers’ and Traders’ Bank of Nappanee. It was said of Samuel, “Mr. Bechtel was a shrewd, far-seeing business man, a banker of the soundest judgment and a public spirited and progressive citizen. He made a good property and at the time of his death left a large estate of land and town property. He was accidentally killed in a gravel bank near Nappanee.”
Bechtel’s widow, Mary, remained passionate about the completion of the project and lived in an upstairs apartment once it was completed. The remaining spaces housed a dry goods store, a barber, a tailor and a Masonic Lodge. It also had a triangular pediment on the roof that read, “Bechtel, 1888”.
The structure was designed in the commercial style of Italiante architecture. This style of architecture was developed in the early 19th century in Britain by John Nash. It took its inspiration and vocabulary from the 16th century Italian Renaissance architecture. It gained in popularity in the U.S. from the 1840s-1890s.
Details still seen on the building today that come from this style of architecture include the flat roof, the projecting eaves supported by corbels, and the pedimented windows. As you can see the top photo of the building during the late 19th century, it originally featured large first floor windows, which suggested a piano nobile (Italian for “noble floor”), often seen in homes of this style.
This year marks the 132nd anniversary of this old building. Think of the things this building has seen? It stood through Women’s Suffrage, the Great Depression, both World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement, September 11th and the War on Terror. It survived the EF3 tornado that went through Nappanee in 2008. We move forward feeling honored to be able to put our mark of this time in history on not only this building, but our community as well.
Glossary of terms:
eavesthe part of a roof that meets or overhangs the walls of a building
corbel – a structural piece of stone, wood or metal jutting from a wall to carry an overlying
weight; a type of bracket
pedimentthe triangular upper part of the front of a building in classical style
“Images of America: Around Nappanee, Homestowns of the Heritage Trail” by Amy (Lant) Wenger, Page 19 (Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.)
“Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, Indiana”, Pages 538-39 (Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers, Publishers, 1893.)

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