Monday, August 03, 2015

Bureau of Missing Places: Spring Lake & South Park

A certain amount of imagination is  required today because we're going in search of a couple of places in south Chariton that once were but no longer are.

The former presence of one explains why we have a Spring Lake Addition to the city of Chariton --- but no Spring Lake. The other. well .... Had it not been for the Rock Island Line we might still have a South Park. Then again, maybe not.

We'll start at the intersection of South Eighth Street and Grace Avenue, location of the fine Colonial Revival house above. We had some fun with this house last week on Facebook as former kids who grew up in it, or visited there, shared their memories.

When the house was built in 1910 it was the most southerly in the Spring Lake Addition to Chariton, then 10 years old. The house was commissioned during March of that year of Johnson & Best, Chariton's top contractors, by Joel Sherman Miller, who was preparing to marry Grace Louise Penick, daughter of Spring Lake developer William B. Penick and the person after whom Grace Avenue had been named.

I'm guessing the lot had been a pre-wedding gift and it's quite possible W.B. Penick paid part of the construction cost, too. J.S. Miller was a farmer and livestock dealer who prior to his marriage had boarded for some years at the Bates House --- a rising young man, but not equipped financially to build a house of this scale.

Joel S. and Grace married at St. Andrew's Church on June 15, 1910, and upon return from their honeymoon trip to Chicago and points east moved in.

The house as originally built had a big boxy open porch all across the front and as a result looked less "colonial." At some point in its history the porch was removed and the entrance reframed to look as it does now.

The Millers became the parents of two daughters here, Louise (born and died during 1912) and Margaret, who married Boyd F. Stoutner and settled eventually at Keota. J.S. and Grace occupied the house until the mid-1930s, when they moved to Seattle. The Miller Reams bought the house after that, then after his untimely death in a car crash, the large and lively Hixenbaugh family moved in. I remember this as the Hixenbaugh home.

Grace (Penick) Miller's parents, William B. and Kate Penick, had built their home --- among the first in the Spring Lake Addition --- diagonally northwest across the intersection of South Eighth and Grace during 1901. This was a substantial but far from flashy house that by now has lost most of its original detail, inside and out.

Here's how it looked soon after construction --- when there were no trees of any consequence in the Spring Lake Addition because it had been, until a year or two previously, a corn field. Note the circular projection at the east end of the front porch. Several similar porches were constructed in Chariton during the years immediately before and after 1900. Several remain.

William B. Penick was the fourth child of William Calvin and Martha Penick, who arrived in Chariton during 1862 as partners in the Manning & Penick mercantile operation, then founded the Chariton Bank (later Chariton National), both located in the three-story 1869 brick Manning & Penick building that still stands on the west side of the square.

I've written earlier about two of this brothers, attorney James A. Penick, who built another of the large houses in the Spring Lake Addition, and Harry O. Penick, who actually built two houses in Spring Lake (one burned) but is better known for his rustic retreat, Slab Castle, dealt with here (Part 1), here (Part 2), here (Part 3) and here (Part 4).

William B., born at Eddyville on May 22, 1857, was about five when he arrived in Chariton, attended Chariton schools, then clerked in his father's bank before enrolling at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After returning to Chariton, he went to work again in the family bank and on Nov. 16, 1881, married Katherine "Kate" Waddell at her home in Mason County, West Virginia. They had met while she was visiting brothers who had settled in Chariton.

Not long after their marriage, W.B. left his job at the bank, invested in land near Tingley in Ringgold County and by 1887 had moved there with his family and was running some 400 cattle and 400 hogs on 800 fenced acres. Their daughters, Martha, Grace and Margaret, were born in Ringgold County.

During the late 1890s, however, the Penicks decided to return to Lucas County to live, and William B. began, while continuing to live and farm at Tingley, to work on plans for what became the Spring Lake Addition. He was assisted by his brother, Harry, who still lived in Chariton, and by his brother-in-law, Frank Q. Stuart.

He began during 1897 by purchasing the George W. Rodgers farm. The farm included 160 acres in an "L" shape south of town -- 80 acres running parallel to south city limits from what now is Highway 14 east to the Blue Grass Road, 80 more acres running alongside what now is Highway 14 south to the Chariton River.

Chariton in 1896
About 60 acres lay to the north, within city limits, and this became the Spring Lake Addition.

Chariton in 1896; the pink line is South Main Street (Highway 14).
One of the first things W.B. Penick did, ca. 1898, was build a large pond by damming the upper end of the ravine that now dead-ends at Highway 14 across from the south cemetery entrance, just north of Bill and Barbara Shelton's driveway.

This created an expanse of open water some 26 feet deep near the dam that filled the broad swale above it and stretched from just across the road east of the cemetery to the high ground to the east where an extension of South Eighth Street would be built.

Initially known as Penick's Pond, few would call it a lake today. At the time, however, it was the biggest body of water in or near Chariton and, therefore, widely remarked upon. The C.B.&Q. Reservoir, now West Lake, would not be built until 1905.

Because the pond was spring-fed it was rechristened Spring Lake by William B. during 1899 when the Spring Lake Addition was platted.

The addition itself covered all of the land within city limits that Penick had purchased of Rodgers. Stuart Avenue (named for Frank Q. and Ida Penick Stuart) was at the north end of the addition; Penick Avenue, in the middle; and Grace Avenue, named for William B. and Kate's daughter, Grace, paralleled Chariton's south city limits. The addition stretched from South Main Street (Highway 14) on the west to the railroad tracks on the east. South Eighth Street was the addition's principal thoroughfare.

Having built a lake and laid the foundation for a residential neighborhood, William B. now decided that a public park in the neighborhood would be an attractive amenity, too.

William B.'s brothers and brother-in-law came before the Chariton City Council during September of 1899 to make his offer --- 10 acres of mixed woodland and savanna at the end of the South Eighth Street extension, just southeast of Spring Lake, in return for city-built boardwalks to connect existing city sidewalks with the park.

Reactions to the proposal were mixed --- there was only $800 in the city treasury at the time and cost of the sidewalks was estimated at between $800 and $1,000.

The editor of the Patriot, a critic, described the proposed park as "a rough 10-acre lot with four draws or sloughs running through it" in an article headed "An unwise act."

The editor of The Herald was considerably more enthusiastic, describing the property as "undoubtedly the most inviting place for a park anywhere around the city. It is beautiful timber and hill land, well set in blue grass, and has upon it a living spring that will furnish a boundless supply of water."

The council approved the park offer 4-2 after considerable debate, and with lake, South Park and subdivision now aligned, the Spring Lake Addition was ready to launch.

Here are the approximate locations of Spring Lake and South Park on a current aerial photo (thanks Google!). Grace Avenue at the top of the photo was the south limit of the Spring Lake Addition. More on this whole business another time.

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