Metal Detectors

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Finding Hidden History with Metal Detectors

By Libby Feil

Many metal detector buffs enjoy searching for hidden historical items such as old coins, farming implements, and interesting machine parts. To do this, it helps to know the history of land in the city. Where were the old businesses and factories? Where were parks once located? Schools?

To help these folks out, here are some locations of old factories, schools, playing fields, and parks from me and County Historian John Kovach. Happy hunting!

Stephensonad.jpg

East Race business district, along both sides of the East Race (from The Pointe at St. Joseph apartments north to Seitz Park). Many factories and businesses needing water power located here starting in the 1840s. Businesses that were situated here at one time or another include Singer Sewing Machine, where wooden sewing machine cases were made; Knoblock & Ginz, flour and feed millers; Kahn Manufacturing Company, shirt makers; Stephenson Underwear Mills, producers of union suits and other woolen underthings; and J. B. Haberle, machinists.

Greenstocking Park, on Napier a block east of St. Stephen's Church. Greenstocking was the first enclosed baseball stadium built in northern Indiana (erected 1878). It later became the site of Laurel School and then Central Catholic High School. The site is currently empty, with old steps still in place but no buildings still existing.

Singer Park, off of Western Avenue near Goodwill Industries. This was another old baseball park, built in 1913 and used until the mid-1950s. The Louvered Door restaurant at 1622 Western Avenue sits on what used to be center field.

Railroad right-of-way and New Deal Works Progress Administration project sites, now the Riverwalk along the eastern side of the St. Joseph River in South Bend. Although this area is now a paved path, the berms on either side of the trail are unpaved and may turn up souvenirs of past activities there.

PlaylandParkEntrance25OCT1927.jpg

Playland Park, bounded by Lincoln Way, Ironwood, the St. Joseph River, and the Twyckenham Bridge. This amusement park drew huge crowds to its rides and attractions. Part of this area is now occupied by the Don Medow car dealership, but part of it is vacant. The empty brushy area on the far side of the Indiana University South Bend Bridge over the St. Joseph River used to be the Playland golf course.

You can use many of the resources we have in Local & Family History Services to search for additional hunting grounds. Even without coming into our room in Main Library, you can find the locations of old businesses and parks by looking at historical maps and photographs of and books about St. Joseph County by looking at some resources online. Try the 1866 Map of South Bend from the Library of Congress (LC), the 1874 Map of South Bend from LC, the 1875 St. Joseph County Atlas from the St. Joseph County Public Library, the 1890 Map of South Bend from LC, the 1936 St. Joseph County Platbook from SJCPL, and the Digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Indiana from 1867-1970. (The Sanborn Maps are an especially useful resource since they show the exact shape, size, and location of all buildings (factories, homes, churches, schools, sheds, barns, outbuildings, and more) in a city. With your valid SJCPL library card, you can view these maps at home; otherwise, they are available at all SJCPL library branches.

The Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library/Hannah Lindahl Children's Museum Photograph Archive is another great place to find clues. Search for the name of a business, a street, a school, or anything else of interest. Most of the photographs here are of Mishawaka locations. Take a look at the South Bend Area Genealogical Society Area Photographs collection as well, to see photos and postcards from Mishawaka, South Bend, and Notre Dame.

Finally, you'll learn a lot by reading through our digitized book collection. Our 1875 St. Joseph County Atlas, 1910 South Bend and Mishawaka Elks Convention Book, and ca. 1910 South Bend YMCA Book should be particularly valuable. The 1875 atlas contains histories of local communities, including many that no longer exist independently (such as Plainfield and West Troy), as well as maps showing land ownership and usage. The 1910 Elks and YMCA books give the locations of many old factories and other businesses, in both South Bend and Mishawaka.


If you have any suggestions of other interesting places to hunt, or if you have questions about how to find out more, please contact Local & Family History Services at 574-282-4621.


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Created by: Libby Feil, February 2008
Last updated June 2, 2011

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