History Record View

Title: West Lebanon: Tour of old and new town
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Attachment Type: video

[West Lebanon: Tour of old and new town. Video file in QuickTime 3.0 format. Interview taped January 15, 2001. Text below is a transcript of the audio.]

[John Henry:] My name is John Henry. I live in West Lebanon and I'm an amateur historian and past president of the historical society, and I'm interested in local architecture.

[...transition, driving south on 263 toward intersection near cemetery...]

Old town was platted and flourished for many years until the railroad came through town in 1856 and everything kind of started moving up toward the railroad. There were actual buildings moved from old town up into new town.

[Park Hunter:] This intersection up here is pretty much where old town was.

[John:] Yeah, right, we'll be in downtown old town. There was a school house right there where that evergreeen is [gesturing east at intersection]. That was the second school. There are photographs of that, or postcards of that school house.

The other one was down here [turning west]. This summer they were tearing down this little house and somebody came by my house and said "John, did you know there was a log house that stood right here?"

[Park:] In this yard?

[John:] Yes, right here in this yard. In fact right about where that driveway is. I went home and looked at my 1877 atlas and right there at location was the school. So I think that little log building was probably the original 1877 schoolhouse.

[...transition, driving south on 263 to intersection again...]

[Park:] The houses that are here now are all considerably newer. There's really nothing left of old town, is there?

[John:] There's one up here, I really should have turned on the other road, that's really rather unique.

[...transition, around the block and back north a bit...]

That new porch has really taken some away. There was a transom over that doorway. There's some strong Greek overtones to that, Greek Revival that is. You see the windows, rather than being long and Gothic-like, are more square-ish and wider.

[Park:] Right, I see that.

[John:] The new window on the west there is of course quite modern.

[Park:] That looks like the sort of the sort of very modest little house that would have been built back when the town was being put together.

[John:] That house could easily date from the 1850s, even the 1840s.

[...transition, driving north on 263 from intersection...]

Yeah, this is another of the old houses of old town. This is on the southern edge of old town as you make your way toward new town. [Actually, it is on the northern edge of old town.] You can see that that house is quite old and probably hasn't been lived in for quite some time.

[Park:] It's probably not going to be around too much longer.

[John:] No, no, it'll be knocked down.

[...transition, driving north on 263 toward current town...]

[Park:] Was the town originally called West Lebanon or just Lebanon, or?

[John:] Well, it was Lebanon and there were other Lebanons in Indiana and it became confusing for the postal people so they called it West Lebanon.

[...transition, on 263 at north end of current town...]

[Park:] And of course you've got the railroad track down here which is the main reason the town is here now.

[John:] That's what started it all. Maybe we should go down here. [turning east]

[Park:] That totally changed every town it went near.

[John:] Yes, it did. There wasn't much of a way of getting goods and service into the community.

[Park:] Especially land-locked towns like West Lebanon.

[...transition, turning west off Clinton near south end of town...]

[John:] Now, I want to show you where Walter Salts told me that there was a little house on this corner. Before the trailer was put there that was a house that was moved from old town, according to Walter Salts who is a local historian.

[Park:] He's the guru.

[John:] Yeah, he's our man! There was a little house right on this corner. And he said he thought this little house over here was also moved from old town. You wonder how they could move houses in those days. Well, they had plenty of time and plenty of manpower and they would get this thing up in the air and get it loaded on something with wheels on it.

[Park:] Just drag it bit by bit...

[John:] Yes. And there were very few if any wires they had to lift.

[...transition, turning north on 263 near south end of town...]

[John:] Now there's a house up here we really shouldn't neglect because it's got some Gothic overtones to it. You can see by the windows.

[Park:] Which one are we talking about?

[John:] That blue one there. See those unusual windows, arched? It doesn't have much of the original stuff left, but that's probably an 1860s vintage house.

[Park:] I can't remember, when did the railroad go through town?

[John:] 1856.

[Park:] So by the 1860s town would have been moving up here quite seriously.

[John:] Right. Probably the late '50s, then speculators were beginning to flex their muscle so to speak, and some of these Fleming houses were built in the early 1860s because things were already starting to move this way.

Look at this little window up here in this house on the corner. You can see that has a Gothic effect. It's been somewhat modernized. The long windows that go almost all the way to the ground... some of that glass you see has blue cast to it, those are the original window panes. Some of that crinkly glass...

[...transition, a little further north on 263 going up the hill...]

There's a Gothic up here on the corner.

[Park:] This brown one?

[John:] The brown one with the green roof. There was a huge Queen Anne on this corner. A wood stove fire caused it to burn. There've been several...

[Park:] This is another one of those triangular windows...

[John:] Yeah, another one of those peaked windows above the old doorway up there. You see those posts that are open, that have been carved?

[...transition, past funeral home on 263 at south end of business district...]

[Park:] This Fisher funeral home is actually one of the old, hat shop, or something, isn't it?

[John:] Yeah, I've seen postcards that show hats in that window there. [See database article 1000399 for an original view of building] It's been changed so much that really it's unrecognizable.

[..transition, across 263 to east side and slightly further north...]

That's the old telephone hall. We better get out of the road or we're going to get run over. That was Bill Day's Chop Shop up until the time of his demise. In the early 1900s it was a telephone office. I've heard old timers tell me it was a telephone exchange. It was probably built just before 1920, it's got old configurations.

[...transition, back to west side of 263 and slightly further north...]

Old Roy Goodrick, now deceased, lived here in the early 1900s and he used to be able to tell you down one side of the street and back the different stores and buildings and businesses that were involved at that time. It was amazing how much business there was.

[Park:] West Lebanon was a hopping town!

[John:] West Lebanon is typical of the little towns in Indiana that are drying up, the emphasis now being toward the larger towns. It's a shame. It makes you angst to see these things happen but there's no stopping it because people have to make a living and they have to do what they have to do.

[Park:] Sure. Nobody's going to keep an old building up just...

[John:] Just because. Nope.

[Park:] There are a couple of neat old buildings left, though. That one, what's that turret thing up on top of that? An old fire siren or a part of the architecture or?

[John:] I really don't know. You can see the date on that...

[Park:] 1891.

[John:] ...and then over here 1902. I have to move along, get out of the road so people can get by.

[Park:] The turret on the hardware store has always been a little bit of an oddity.

[John:] The man that owns that, John Wargo, asked me if there was a way to, a book or guide, that he could replace the shingled work on that thing. I don't know; it would probably be quite expensive to do that. There are a few indications of what used to be.

[Park:] Yup. There's the Carnegie Library of course. That is a Carnegie, isn't it?

[John:] Yes it is.

[Park:] And then the bank building over here.

[John:] Yeah, I would say that's a 1920s bank building possibly.

Date: 1/15/2001
Origin: Warren County Historical Society
Author: John Henry & M. Park Hunter
Record ID: 00000895
Type: Video
Source Archive: Online Database
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: M. Park Hunter

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