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House in Larwill razed for higher purpose

March 11, 2011

Post & Mail photo/ Becky Hand — Demolition crews bring down the century-plus-old house Thursday.

LARWILL — A Victorian Italianate-style brick house, built in 1880 in Larwill was razed Thursday.
Property owner Bob Vandermark of Larwill watched as Jeff Wigent of Wigent Excavating worked the excavator making short work of the job. What was a house at 116 N. Center Street in the morning, was level ground by 5 p.m.
“There was so much black mold, it wasn’t worth fixing,” Vandermark said.
He had purchased the house with an idea of restoration, but the mold issue changed his plans.
He worked to salvage anything that he could, saving the more than 100 corbels decorating the roof; most of the more than 150,000 bricks and a stairway of oak and walnut he termed “in pristine condition.”
What to do with the property was a question which was answered with Vandermark’s faith.
“We’re making it a parking lot for the church next door,” he said.
Vandermark isn’t a member of the Trinity Evangelical Church in Larwill, but noticed the members there had to park along the street Sunday mornings. He inquired as to their beliefs and felt he was to make a parking lot for them.
When he told church member David Gangwer about his plans, Vandermark said Gangwer asked, “What are you doing that for?”
Vandermark replied, “The Lord told me to.”
History
According to records at the Whitley County Historical Museum, the house, referred to as “The Barney House” was built in 1880, the first house built on the property. Vandermark believes the house came with the entire block of land originally.
Fielding and Sarah Alice (Kline) Barney may have been the original owners of the house. They are listed in the History of Whitley County by S.P. Kaler and R.H. Maring in 1907 as residents of Larwill.
The Barneys were the parents of seven children, one son being Levi listed as a lifelong resident of Whitley County born March 9, 1892 — 119 years ago this week.
Looking in the Richland Township plat books, owners from 1919 to the presxent included Lisle and Lewis Halderman, Mary Halderman Clifford, Samuel Marchand, Flossie Marchand Beghtel, John and Jennie McCrea, Ralph and Ada Jackson, Franklin and Barbara Loe, Isaac Overholser, Frances M. Overholser and now the Vandermarks.
Norm Etchoe was present at the demolition and recalled that he had worked on the plumbing of the house in years past and found a coin in the basement. It was a $10 gold piece dated 1880 and he said he was able to “cash it in” for $1,100.
Vandermark bought a metal detector hoping for more booty, but said, “I found only nails.”
The historical marker in front of the town hall in Larwill reads that the town of Larwill, formerly Huntsville, was laid out on Nov. 13, 1854 along the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad at the corners of four farms owned by the McLallen, Perrin, Hammontree and Hunt families. The name was changed to Larwill March 8, 1866 — 145 years ago this week — named for the engineers in charge of construction of the railroad from Columbia City to Warsaw.

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