KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — As towns grow and change over time, it can be difficult to imagine what the past was like. Today’s maps of towns are drastically different from maps created 100 years ago, proving nothing is immune to change.
Fortunately, preserved buildings offer a quick glimpse into what once was. Scattered through Kosciusko County are historic buildings and houses individuals have taken on the work of restoring to their original form.
“It’s easier to tear something down than build from scratch. You lose part of the charm,” said Nick Hauck, the managing director at Village at Winona Lake. “Ninety percent of the shops in the village are original, and they’re part of the aesthetic of Winona Lake.”
In the 1990s, Winona Lake converted 100-year-old buildings into shops. The village transformed from a derelict area the public avoided into a hub hosting community events on a regular basis.
The restoration project not only effected the aesthetic — it impacted the economy. Last year, the retail and restaurant businesses in the village had in excess of $8 million in sales.
According to Terry White, a volunteer at the Winona History Center, another obstacle that occurs with restoring and preserving older buildings is finding original photos and drawings to reference as well as uncovering the accurate history of the building. Houses more than 100 years of age didn’t always have addresses, making hunting for their history in court records a difficult task.
With distinctive styles and characteristics, older buildings aren’t just capturing the eye of passersby but the interest of those fascinated by architecture.
“The restoration of historic structures always brings forth research into the architecture. There are magazines interested in the Winona Lake home architecture and the history of it,” explained White. “Winona Lake has a rich history that’s tied to national figures and movements. It’s important to preserve the accurate information of what occurred during that time and the evolution of today.”
Constructing upgrades to older buildings while remaining as authentic as possible is challenging, but not an impossible feat.
Sharon Whetstone, homeowner of a farmhouse built in 1860 and the back of the house built in 1910, has installed features from other time periods, making her home a time capsule. When it was featured on the historical home tour in 2010, the front was 150-years-old and the back was 100-years-old.
“You have to think about how you’re refurbishing,” Whetstone commented. “I was once looking for a new light for the dining room. The light was authentic-looking with brass fixtures, but was from 1960. I wanted something more original, so I spoke with a lady about changing the fixture to something closer to the time, but in 1860, they used gas fixtures. REMC hadn’t come to the country until 1930.”
Even if one of the original boards needs repaired, it’s replaced with the same wood and cut. It takes a little extra time and money, but it is Whetstone’s joy to keep the house as authentic as possible.
“I believe when you preserve something from history — a house and story — then that’s a way it can be retold and passed on,” said Whetstone. “We don’t do enough passing on and sharing history of things today.”