Patterson Block has a nearly 150-year history
I was delighted to see Pink Leaf hosting a Patterson Block open house during August’s First Thursday. Pink Leaf, if you’re unfamiliar, is a nonprofit dedicated to breaking poverty cycles with educational programs. The company’s owner and founder, Kimberly Howe Ferguson, purchased the Patterson Building this past spring to house Pink Leaf’s operations and to offer Munsonians a commercial kitchen.
The ground on which her new building now stands was once Myaamiaki (Miami) and Lenape (Delaware) land. It also sits a half block south of the Hackley Reserve. This was land granted to Rebekah (Pemesahquah) Hackley in the Myaamiaki’s treaty with the United States in 1818. Hackley, the granddaughter of Chief Mihšihkinaahkwa (Little Turtle), sold the reserve to the squatter Goldsmith Gilbert in 1826.
The next year, Goldsmith and Mary Gilbert, along with Lemuel and Hannah Jackson, and William and Sally Brown, donated large tracts of land in the middle of Center Township for Delaware County’s seat of government. Our second, third, and fourth courthouses were built at the intersection of these three donations.
The 20-acre Brown Donation extended southeast from the square and was bounded by what is now Elm to the west, Adams to the South, Walnut to the east, and the alley between Washington and Main to the north. The northwest corner of this land, Main and Jackson, became a locus of social, commercial, and governmental activity in the Muncietown village.
For $100 in 1838, Minus Turner, the village brickmaker, purchased part of Brown’s Donation at the southeast corner of Main and Walnut, lot 4 of block 24 to be exact. Turner then built the Central House Hotel, which he finished himself a year later. The boarding house featured a bar (the Turner Tavern), horse stable, and sleeping rooms. Many travelers boarded at the Central House, as a few rockaway stagecoach lines began and ended at the corner. When rail service arrived in 1852, a wagon shuttled guests to and from the Bee Line Depot a few blocks south.
Not long after Central House was built, Turner hired Colonel Benjamin Sayre to manage it. Within a few years, Turner sold the property to Stewart Hoon. Then in the 1840s, the hotel was owned and/or managed by at least three other people including William Russey, S. Griffin, and Levi Hunter. One of these proprietors changed the name of the inn to the Eagle Hotel.
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Sometime in the 1850s, the property was sold to a teamster named Joseph “Jo” Davis. Davis rechristened the hotel again, calling it the Jo Davis House.
Davis sold the hotel in 1859 to Charles Sample and Arthur F. Patterson, a local entrepreneur, smith, and real estate developer. The hotel became a center of social activity in Muncie during the Civil War years. For travelers, it was a place to stable your horse for the night, grab a drink, gossip, debate, and catch a few hours of sleep before departing in the morning.
One of the proprietors, Arthur Patterson, spent his formative years fashioning metal components for steamboats. After some time in Cincinnati, New Orleans, and St. Louis, Patterson relocated to Muncie in pursuit of other ventures; one of which was a marriage to Samantha Collier, the daughter of Delaware County’s first surveyor.
Sadly, the Jo Davis House burned down on May 20, 1876. Thomas Neely recorded the fire in his diary with the usual ho-hum: “About 1 o’clock last night, the fire bell told us there was a fire. It was the old Jo Davis corner building. The upper story was burned. And the lower story inundated with water.” Patterson tore the remnants down and within the year, erected the first part of the Patterson Building. Five years later, he built out the rest of the structure, finishing the form we know today.
I started a master list of all tenants in the Patterson Block since 1876, but I gave up in the mid 1890s. I write enough as it is about arcane Muncie. Suffice it to say, the Patterson Block has had many tenants in a century and a half.
After Arthur and Samantha Patterson died (1901 and 1903 respectively), the building passed to their daughter Cora Patterson McCulloch. Cora’s husband was George McCulloch, the publisher and interurban magnate. When Cora died in 1904, the building remained in the McCulloch estate until George’s death in 1915. The Patterson then passed to the McCullochs’s daughter, Martha McCulloch Estey.
Estey sold the building in 1929 to George A. Ball. George and Frances Ball then owned the Patterson for several years. George gave up the ghost in 1955 and when Frances died three years later, the building was inherited by the couple’s daughter, Elisabeth Woodworth Ball. Then in 1960, the local papers reported that Morton and Tillie Standt, the original proprietors of Standt’s Fine Jewelry, purchased the building from Elisabeth through their holding company, Tilmore Reality. After that, the trail goes cold.
Upon arriving at this research impasse, I did something I hadn’t done since the pandemic began. I closed my laptop, got in my car, and actually drove someplace to find the answer! My destination was the Delaware County recorder’s office, entombed in the belly of our brutalist courthouse.
The very lovely staff in the recorder’s and assessor’s offices found the rest of the information. Oddly, there’s no record of the Standts or Tilmore Realty buying the building. Maybe the deal fell through? There’s surely some info I haven’t found yet that explains the discrepancy. Regardless, the records suggest that Elisabeth owned the Patterson Block at her death in 1982. In her will, she donated the building to the George and Frances Ball Foundation. Three years later, the foundation sold the building to Stephen Reed, a longtime Muncie historic preservationist. Reed owned the building for almost two decades before he sold it to Gale Michael Tschuor in 2004.
Tschuor’s holding company defaulted on the mortgage. The lender then made some renovations and sold the Patterson Block to Christian and Missionary Alliance Tabernacle (Muncie Alliance Church). The church ran a coffee shop for a bit and then leased the building to Ivy Tech, which put its culinary school on the first floor. After Ivy Tech moved into their new George and Frances Ball building, Kimberly Howe Ferguson, owner and founder of Pink Leaf, purchased the Patterson Block through her holding company, Patterson Block Muncie, LLC.
And there you have it.
At a certain point, historic buildings become iconic parts of the community. Their owners, whether they want to or not, become stewards. As such, these caretakers are then tasked with preserving the very fabric of our city, doing so until they pass the buildings on to the next generation. We’ve had good Patterson Block stewards these past 145 years. I have no doubt that similarly minded caretakers will preserve it well over the next century and a half, for what is Muncie without her historical buildings?
Chris Flook is a board member of the Delaware County Historical Society and is the author of “Lost Towns of Delaware County, Indiana” and “Native Americans of East-Central Indiana.” For more information about the Delaware County Historical Society, visit delawarecountyhistory.org.