Tippecanoe Place is not only a monument to the fine craftsmanship and outstanding architecture of the late 1800s, but it continues to serve as the perfect setting for lavish parties and intimate dinners. Sit back and relax as you read about the mansion's history below.
~ The Beginning ~
In 1736, The Studabecker - later to become Studebaker - family arrived from Germany and settled in Philadelphia. Two generations later, in 1790, John Clement Studebaker was born. He grew up to become a blacksmith and wagon builder.
The economic panic of 1837 forced many families westward. John Clement Studebaker, accompanied by his wife and their ten children (five boys and five girls), joined the migration. In 1851, the family arrived in South Bend - a village originally named Southhold - and settled into a log cabin south of the city.
The children went to work to help support the family. Son Clem, then 21, worked as a wagon maker for 50 cents a day. This was the same man who would later build Tippecanoe Place.
~ Clement Studebaker ~
In October of 1852, Clement married and moved, with his new bride, into a single room at the corner of Michigan Street and what is now Western Avenue. That same year, Clement and his brother Henry founded their own blacksmithing and wagon-building business - H & C Studebaker. Henry later sold his share of the business to another of the five brothers, John.
~ The Five Studebaker Brothers ~
The business prospered, helped greatly by the Civil War (1861 - 1865). During this time, the Studebakers made literally thousands of wagons for the Union Army. When the war ended, the westward expansion of America began, and the business continued to prosper. Thousands of families trekked to the west in wagons built by the Studebakers. Another brother, Peter, joined the firm, forming the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company - with total capital of $75,000.
~ Studebaker's Big Six Touring Car ~
from a 1920 magazine ad
Clement's first wife had met an early death, and Clem remarried in 1864 at the age of 33. His second wife was Ann Milburn Harper, the widowed daughter of George Milburn. Mr. Milburn was a business associate of Clem's who made wagons in the nearby town of Mishawaka. In 1868, the couple moved into the William Ruckham house, which occupied part of the grounds of what is now Tippecanoe Place.
By the 1870's, the Studebaker brothers were quite rich and enjoyed living well. Clement Studebaker, then president of the company, had many friends who had also struck it rich in the early days of America - Andrew Carnegie, Cyrus McCormick, John Wannamaker, and J.P. Morgan, to name a few. In 1886, Clem decided to build a home suitable to his position in life.
~ The Mansion ~
Tippecanoe Place, with four main levels totaling 40 rooms and 20 fireplaces, is the embodiment of everything great wealth in the late 1800's could suggest. The 26,000 square-foot mansion was designed by Henry Cobb and built by local craftsmen. Work on Tippecanoe Place was completed in 1889 at a total cost of $250,000.
~ Tippecanoe Place ~
The massive walls are made of local granite fieldstone, and the many broad porches are paved with tile and supported by stone pillars. A flight of stone steps at the main entrance leads into the mahogany paneled vestibule. The decorative carvings on the oval doorknobs exemplify the great attention to detail throughout the entire house.
The mansion, however, was to be more than simply a monument to the architecture and craftsmanship of the period. It would serve as the setting for many lavish parties, weddings, and balls.
Guests would arrive by carriage and enter through the west doors. They would board the elevator - one of the first in the country - and be whisked upstairs to freshen up. The formally clad ladies and gentlemen would then descend the Grand Staircase into the Reception Area. Then, as today, Tippecanoe Place was known for its hospitality and as a gracious setting for fine dining.
~ The Name ~
Two theories exist regarding the origination of the name "Tippecanoe Place." The first theory relates to Clement Studebaker's friendship with Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States. Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, victor of the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" fame. This may have inspired the name.
The other theory comes from the fact that the gounds on which the building sits was once a favorite camping site of Tippecanoe, the chief of the Miami Indians.
~ The Present ~
Since the Studebaker days, the mansion has served the South Bend Community as an American Red Cross headquarters, a school for the handicapped, and a historical museum. Today, Tippecanoe Place continues to serve South Bend as one of its finest restaurants - offering guests a glimpse into the life and style of the Studebaker family, along with premiere food and drink.
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