VINCENNES, Ind. — As the walls of an old service station at the intersection of Sixth and Main streets in Vincennes came down last week, local historian Norbert Brown’s spirits went up — way up.
As the dust cleared and the last of the rubble was being hauled away, an advertisement for the old Schultheis and Sons home furnishings store was revealed, its blue and white paint faded by the printing clearly discernible on the wall of an adjoining building.
“I don’t think that sign has been seen since the 1950s,” Brown said excitedly. “It’s pretty fantastic, in my opinion. Several old signs like that are probably still hidden between the buildings downtown.
“So it’s just really neat to see that under the light of the sun after so many years.”
INVin, a not-for-profit looking to bring new businesses to Main Street, recently partnered with the city’s Redevelopment Commission in tearing down an old service station at 528 Main St. — most recently it was Creative Designs — to make way for a historic depot-inspired parking lot designed by local architect Andy Myszak.
The entire project is expected to cost $285,000.
The old sign that was revealed is actually painted directly onto the brick exterior wall of a property owned by Max and Debbie Emmons.
Brown immediately took a photo of the old sign — Schultheis and Son’s sold mainly furniture, flooring and appliances — and posted it to his Vincennes Indiana Remember When Facebook page. Within hours, it had more than 540 likes, Brown said.
“The only other photograph in the history of that group that got more likes faster was a picture of a Bobe’s pizza,” he said with a chuckle. “So that tells you how much Vincennes, both its current and former residents, really like that sign.”
And Ellen Harper, INVin’s executive director, said she likes it, too. They’ve been waiting in anticipation, she said, to see what kind of condition the adjacent brick wall would be in, so to see the old sign was a welcomed surprise.
“I’ve had calls, texts and e-mails all weekend,” she said. “People are like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And of course we had no idea either.
“It’s definitely really cool, a little downtown treasure we had no idea was even there.”
Brown said the building that once housed the old Schultheis and Sons home furnishings store was built sometime in the early 1860s as a Presbyterian church. The demolition of the old service station next door also revealed some bricked-over gothic-style windows, he said.
The Presbyterian church would eventually split during the Civil War, Brown explained, some sympathizing with the south, others with the north.
But its parishioners would come back together at the end of the war, he said. Just after the turn of the century, however, its steeple was removed and it became a retail space.
Where the service station sat, Brown said, was once a home often referred to in old photographs as the Niemann House, home to Dr. and Mrs. C.E. Niemann.
The then century-old home was torn down to make way for the construction of a Gulf Station in the mid-1930s. The front part was added on, Brown said, in 1950 when it was expanded into a Goodrich Tire Store.
But since INVin doesn’t own the building onto which the sign was painted so many years ago, Harper said she can’t be certain of its fate. She’s not yet had discussions with the Emmonses on possibly restoring it as part of the overall parking lot project.
Nor can she be certain that INVin would be able to do it itself.
“That’s just something we’ll have to look into,” she said. “It’s been discussed, but we haven’t moved any farther. Truthfully, we didn’t know what we would find, so it was a pleasant surprise, to be honest.
“But it really could be a cool additional piece to the parking lot.”
Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://bit.ly/2d0XKqd
Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.