Monday, July 6, 2009

Unraveling the Past:

History and Ancestry
Joel Roberts Ninde:

Fort Wayne’s First Female Architect

By Corinne Toth

Revised February 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008


This paper is dedicated to the memory of Joel, and all women who have succeeded in the architectural field.

Without the previous research of historians interested in Joel Roberts Ninde, this paper would not have been written. This research paper consists of two parts: 1998 and 2005. I combined both papers for this blog.

Thanks to Professor Ralph Violette, retired who put my first research paper on his history web page at IPFW, which led to the second part of my research in Mobile, Alabama in 2005.

Thanks to Dr. Michael Kaufmann, Liberal Studies who suggested a blog, so a complete history of Joel’s descendents in Mobile and her life in Fort Wayne would be available to the public.

Thanks to Sara Norwood, graphic designer who patiently guided me in creating this blog.

Thanks to my editors Joline Bowers, Roy and Ray Isbell, Mobile, Alabama, and Christine Erickson, History professor IPFW.

Thanks to the descendents of Joel Roberts Ninde whom I interviewed at the reunion of August 2005 in Mobile.

Thanks to Roy, Ray and Debbie Isbell for organizing the Roberts Reunion and transcribing the interviews.

Thanks to Roy and Ray Isbell for sharing their research on the Roberts ancestory and Mobile, Alabama history.

Thanks to Harold Lopshire, ARCH, Angie Quinn, ARCH, Creagor Smith, and Carolyn Devoe, whom I interviewed in 1998 in Fort Wayne.

Thanks to Angie Quinn, who provided the internship with ARCH and the set of questions I took to Mobile in 2005.

Joel Roberts Ninde, Indiana's First Female Architect

I. Introduction
Joel Roberts Ninde, Fort Wayne, Indiana’s first female architect, left an amazing legacy of comfortable, artistic and affordable houses. Soon after her October 1900 marriage in Indianapolis, the couple moved to the Fort Wayne community to make their home. Unable to find a suitable dwelling and unwilling to move into her in-laws house, Joel decided to design her dream house and thus launched a successful architectural career in the Fort Wayne area. Joel believed that her “house of convenience designs” needed to be a blend of economical building materials, construction durability and eye appeal for the homemaker. The cost of the house, with landscaping, should be appropriately priced for both the average and upper income homeowner. Joel had a vision, and she had the drive necessary to succeed in a field dominated by men. Individualism in house design was a requirement; no two houses should look alike. Because of her unique ability to design houses, Joel was able to fill a needed niche in the housing market.[i]

ENDNOTES[i] Nancy Venderely, “Ninde Homes a Vision of Turn-of-Century,” Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, People Section, Southwest, October 21, 1997, n.p.

Questions about Joel's childhood and early adulthood?

Joel’s childhood and early adulthood before age twenty-six have mystified historians. In June of 1900 she was listed in the Mobile, Alabama census and by October 21 of that same year her marriage license was recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana. How and when did she meet her husband and what prompted the transition from Mobile, Alabama to Fort Wayne, Indiana? Who were the people in Joel Ninde’s family and what background influenced a young girl to choose a career in the traditionally male dominated architectural field at a time when women were usually relegated to hearth and home?

Trip to Mobile, Alabama - Search for Answers

Those questions and many more prompted a trip to Alabama for a Roberts’s family reunion, August 2005, at the invitation of Roy and Debbie Isbell.[i] The Isbells’ interest in historical architecture led them in 1994 to purchase and restore the endangered Roberts-Taylor House, a Greek Revival townhouse in Mobile, Alabama. For ten years Roy and his brother Ray have researched the Roberts family tree and uncovered a wealth of material, organizing much of it on a web site which provides a complete genealogy of Joel Roberts Ninde’s relatives. During the family reunion, oral interviews conducted with Joel’s familial descendants Elizabeth ”Beth” Condo Miller, Palmer Clarkston Hamilton, Mary Pillans Van Antwerp, and Mordecai “Mawk” Arnold were recorded and transcribed by Roy Isbell. [ii] [iii] [iv] [v] A question that has puzzled Fort Wayne researchers is the pronunciation of Joel's first name. Beth Condo Miller cleared up this question: Jo-el (long o and short (e) is the pronunciation for females and Joel (one syllable) for males. Most of the information included in this document can be found in files at the Roberts-Taylor-Isbell House, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama, and at the Allen County Library Genealogy Department in Fort Wayne, Indiana. [vi]
[i] Questions were formulated by Angie Quinn, Executive Director ARCH, Architectural Preservation Organization, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.[ii] Descent order - Dr. Willis Roberts, Joel A. Roberts, Virginia “Jennie” (Roberts) Eberlein, Marietta (Eberlein) Paul, Elizabeth Zane (Paul) Condo and Elizabeth “Beth” (Condo) Miller. “The Descendants of Dr. Willis Roberts & Asenath Alexander.”[iii] Descent order - Dr. Willis Roberts, Laura M. (Roberts) Pillans, Harry Pillans, Palmer Pillans, Martha Torrey (Pillans) Hamilton, and Palmer Clarkson Hamilton. Ibid.[iv] Descent order - Dr. Willis Roberts, Laura M. (Roberts) Pillans, Harry Pillans, Harry “Hal” Torrey Pillans Mary (Pillans) Van Antwerp. Ibid. .[v] Descent order - Dr. Willis Roberts, Seth Willis Roberts, Mordecai Roberts, Miss Mordecai Roberts, Mordecai “Mawk” Arnold. Ibid.[vi] Editing by Joline Bowers, Leo, IN. Professor Christine Erickson, IPFW, Fort Wayne, IN, Bob Bulmer, East Lyme, Connecticut and Roy and Ray Isbell, Mobile, Alabama.

Joel Roberts' Life in Mobile????

The myriad of questions surrounding Joel Ninde’s life revolve around her early life and times. As an adult woman, Joel Ninde designed and built over three hundred houses in Fort Wayne dating from 1901 until her death in April 7th, 1916, but information regarding her education and how she first became motivated to become an architect are obscure. Very little information is recorded about any of the schools Joel attended or about any family background in the field of architecture. Did Joel receive a formal education or training in architecture or did she learn her trade from apprenticing with family members? In an age when women traditionally stayed home to take care of their family, what was the impetus that drove Joel to pursue a non-traditional role and what type of education and careers did other women in Joel’s family aspire towards?

Judge Ninde's house/Lutheran Hospital on Fairfield

Why Joel wouldn't live with Judge Lindsey Ninde?

Architectural Styles of Joel Roberts Ninde’s Houses in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Judge Lindsey Ninde

In Fort Wayne during the 1900’s, when Joel first arrived, there were two basic styles of houses being constructed: houses were either built in a box-style, resembling barns, or they were elaborate monstrosities festooned with gingerbread decoration and exuberant bric-a-brac. Judge Lindley Ninde’s twenty-one room-dark and drafty Italian villa was just such a house, and no doubt appeared garish by the modern sensibility at the turn of the century. Not only was the house big and mausoleum-like, but the surrounding estate did not have the amenities of city water, sewers, electricity, or street car lines. Because Joel was so adamantly opposed to living, even for a short while, in Judge Ninde’s massive house, Joel and Lee chose to live in a hotel in downtown Fort Wayne. Joel showed stubborn independence and must have been an extremely strong-willed woman who chose to design and build a state-of-the-art house in Fort Wayne. [i] Genetics and architectural successes in the Roberts family appeared to have played a factor in Joel’s adult life.
i] Harold Lopshire, ARCH, Fort Wayne, Indiana, interview by Corinne Toth, April 17, 1998 and May 1, 1998.

Northeast corner of Wildwood Estate- Dutch Colonial- first homel

Architecture of Joel and Lee’s first home –Dutch Colonial

What Joel wanted was a “house of convenience” in the midst of pleasant surroundings. Joel convinced her husband that she could design and build a suitable dwelling for the two of them. Joel and Lee built their first home in 1901 on the northeast corner of the Wildwood estate on a small plot of land donated by the Judge.[i] This Dutch Colonial Revival house had a main hallway which connected the rest of the first floor. To the left of the hallway was the dining room and to the right the living room. Located at the rear of the house was a kitchen with plenty of cupboards built for efficiency. Upstairs was a centrally located bathroom with four adjoining bedrooms?
Upstairs on the outside of the house were three encased dormer windows. On the lower level were two roof-covered porches, one in front and one in back of the house. The rear porch steps led to a backyard meadow filled with a wide variety of wildflowers The Nindes built this house “in a way that small houses were not often built [so that] living would be enjoyable, and also economical ... [for] work and expense.” [ii]
[i] Ibid Twenty-five houses were built on Judge and Beulah’s property which later became the 600 block of Wildwood Avenue.[ii] Fort Wayne Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, February 8, 1914, n.p. (ARCH files).

Correction -3031 So. Wayne Ave - First House

"About this time Mr. and Mrs. Lee Ninde began what was really a "street to street canvass" for a house that should be the same time small, convenient, comfortable, attractive and inexpensive. Of course, there were "To Rent" signs on the architectural flotsam and jetsam of the city, but since to live in these would be a daily acknowledgement of artistic stupidity, they decided that to "find" anything livable meant to built it. So at the corner of Wildwood and South Wayne Avenues, in a neighborhood that had neither city water nor sewer, no electricity nor car line, they built a small house."

"In this first house they took intelligent advantage of what was possible, combining with the convenience of furnace and bath, a minimum amount of housekeeping and expense."
The Story of Wildwood "A story of Success" Singmaster Printing Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Complete set of "The Wildwood Magazines" can be found at the History Museum - Ft. Wayne, Indiana

Design Plans

Joel incorporated many of her design ideas with house plans found in magazines such as House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies Home Journal. The Craftsman, an architectural magazine, was also a copious source of ideas. In a 1903 edition of the Craftsman were several articles featuring the Craftsman house style used by Joel. Possibly, Joel researched these magazines at the Allen County Library or gleaned ideas from companies such as Sears Roebuck and Aladdin.[i] Drawing on a variety of sources and her vision, artistic talent, and motivation, Joel changed the housing in the Fort Wayne area by introducing a blend of durable and attractive houses.

Joel could customize any architectural style to meet the customer’s needs; however, her specialty was Craftsman houses. Houses built in the Craftsman style featured broad low-pitched gabled roofs with open eaves. Other unique features such as exposed rafters, roof beams, verge boards, and knee braces added to the durability and attractive appearance of the house. Joel recommended stucco; however, the customer could always choose from stone, wood siding or shingles for the exterior of the house. Items such as window boxes, trellises, latticework, and patterned windows were also available on an individual basis. [ii]

Besides Craftsman, customers could choose other house styles, such as Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, Dutch Colonial Revival or any combination thereof. Gothic-looking steep gable roofs were an option. Once the customer’s design needs were agreed on, Grace Crosby drafted the house plans. A page was added to the Wildwood Homes, a book of house plans, whenever a new house was designed.[iii]

[i] Nancy Vendrely, “Ninde Homes a Vision of Turn-of-Century Women.” Fort Wayne Journal Gazette People Section, Southwest, October 21, 1997, n.p.[ii] Connie Haas Zuber, “Ninde’s Homes Inspired Love at First Sight,” Fort Wayne News Sentinel, June 27, 1987.[iii] Wildwood Homes, n.d.n.p. The house plan, a Dutch Colonial-for the Ninde’s first house at 3030 W. Wayne Street-and nineteen additional architectural layouts are included in this book (Allen County Public Library Indiana Collection).

One of House Plans from Wildwood Homes

         A complete book of house plans from Wildwood Homes can be found at the Allen County Library.

Descriptions of Houses Joel built


Common features of the Craftsman style are broad, low-pitched, roof (usually gabled) with wide, open eaves exposed structural elements such as rafters, roof beams, verge boards, and knee braces and square or battered porch piers. Brick, stone, stucco, wood siding, and shingles are all common exterior materials. Houses feature open interiors with prominent hearth built-in furniture and natural woodwork. Craftsman commercial buildings are usually brick, with accents of stone, terra cotta, or decorative brick patterns.

Colonial Revival

Common features of the Colonial Revival style symmetrically balanced facade with a central door and entry porch: classically inspired features such as pilasters, columns, pediments, fanlights, and sidelights: double-hung windows with multiple panes of glass, and prominent cornices decorated with dentils or modillions.

Dutch Colonial Revival

Common features of the Dutch Colonial Revival are front-facing gambrel roofs or cross-gambrels, side gambrels roofs, and often with full shed dormers. The unique gambrel roofs of Dutch Colonial architecture allowed for more headroom in the second story. Shorter lumber could be used for roofing rafters. Decorative details are similar to the Colonial revival style.

American Four-square

Practically, simplicity, and value best described the American Four-square architecture. Interior plans were open and efficient, utilizing all available space. Exteriors are box-like in shape, with two full stories, a hipped roof with a front-facing former and comfortable porch. The simple form of this architecture could be dressed in a variety of popular period styles, Colonial Revival, Colonial Revival and Prairie-influences homes were some of the styles

Descriptions were obtained from the Fort Wayne Interim Report Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory, p. 18, 19 and 20.

1910 Colonial Revival-Joel's last designed house

While designing homes for buyers, Joel was also concentrating on a new house for Lee and herself. This new home would be bigger and more elaborate than her previous houses. In 1910, a Colonial Revival designed house of approximate 3400 to 3600 square feet was built at 902 W. Wildwood. Since Joel no longer had time for domestic work, the new house included a maid’s quarters.[i]

An interview with the previous owner in 1998, who was living in Joel and Lee’s last Colonial Revival home, states that the kitchen design is one of the house’s best features. Joel used speaking tubes to connect the kitchen to other rooms allowing communication between family members and the maid. A pantry connected to the kitchen allows for storage and efficient use of space. The novel feature of this house is a unique china closet hidden in a short passageway between the kitchen and the dining room. Within this cupboard’s recesses is Joel’s personal signature. This passageway is basically a walk-through china closet which allowed the maid to pick up the china and silverware on the way to the dining room [ii]

Steps from the kitchen lead directly to the maid’s upstairs bedroom. At this time the former owner used this room for her office. Also, located upstairs is a den with a connecting enclosed porch. In the master bedroom is a cozy fireplace. The focal point in the bathroom is an over sized bathtub. The original blue tiles still cover the bathroom walls. Although the house is very well designed, the previous owner observed certain construction anomalies. The banister leading upstairs is not one contiguous piece of wood... Also, the front door extends all the way to the ceiling, inhibiting the use of crown molding. [iii]

[i] Connie Haas Zuber, “Ninde’s Homes Inspired Love at First Sight,” Fort Wayne News Sentinel, June 27, 1987, n.p. Connie Zuber interviewed David DeVoe, when he was a widower living with his children at the current residence.[ii] Carolyn DeVoe, interview by Corinne Toth, March 15, 1998.[iii] Ibid.

History of Mobile, Alabama

History of Mobile, Alabama

Founded in 1702, Mobile was the capital of French Louisiana until 1720, when the capital was moved to Biloxi and still later to the new city of New Orleans. From an historical aspect, Mobile in the early 1700’s experienced many of the same kinds of settlement patterns as New Orleans. Like New Orleans, the government of Mobile alternated between various foreign powers until finally being annexed by the United States, New Orleans in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, Mobile in 1813. As a consequence, the early architecture of both reflects the diversity found in port cities.

Around the 1830’s, Mobile became second only to New Orleans in exporting cotton, and new construction began in earnest.[i] Brick and stucco buildings became the norm. A lumber boom of the 1850’s saw a return to the erection of frame houses with many large mansions being built of wood. Elizabeth Barrett Gould, in her book From Builders to Architects, outlines the rise and decline of Mobile in contrast with other southern urban areas.[ii] In 1860, before the Civil War, Mobile was the fourth largest city in the South. By 1880, Mobile had dropped to eighth place. These statistics belie the fact that the city was experiencing rapid urban growth during the post-war years. The changes taking place around her hometown during Joel Ninde’s seminal years probably helped shape the desire within her to seek a career in architecture.

[i] Anne E. Grimmer. The Southern Stucco Tradition, CRM Volume 14: No. 71991, page 10.[ii] Gould, Elizabeth. From Builders to Architects The Hobart-Hutchison on Six Black Belt Press, Montgomery, Alabama.

What schools did Joel attend in Mobile?

Map of Mobile 1919
Educational BackgroundAlthough there is no definitive evidence regarding Joel’s educational background, several possible schools she might have attended were identified. Of the various primary schools found in the Mobile area at that time, the most likely prospects Joel might have attended were Barton Academy, Mrs. Stephens Croom’s School, the Knott School, Madame Paul Robert’s School for Girls and Miss Annie Hunter’s School. Most of these schools were located within a four-block radius of the homes Joel shared with her parents, Willis and Moffitt Roberts, and her half-sisters Kate and Lillie Taylor.

Bartrom Academy

The most probable candidate for Joel Ninde’s primary education is the Barton Academy, originally built as a public school but not used for that purpose until after the 1850’s. Barton Academy offered grades one through eleven and was divided into a boys’ department or school and a girls’ department. There are a number of clues leading to the belief that Barton might have been attended by Joel. [i] First, Joel’s great grandfather, Dr. Willis Roberts, was on the Barton Academy building committee in 1835. Second, according to the 1860 Mobile, Alabama City Census, Ann Quigley, the head mistress of Barton Academy, lived in the household of her sister and brother-in-law Martina Quigley Roberts and Reuben H. Roberts, great aunt and uncle of Joel Ninde. Third, other family members also attended Barton. In her memoirs, Elizabeth Henshaw “Daisy” Torrey Pillans wrote, “I was sent to Miss Quigley’s famous school”. [ii] Daisy was married to Harry Pillans, cousin of Joel Ninde’s father, Willis. [iii] Harry and Daisy lived at 908 Government Street, next door to the Roberts homestead. Fourth, Joel Ninde’s second cousin, Mary Roberts, graduated from Barton Academy in 1895 and Laura Pillans, also a second cousin, graduated in 1903.
[i] List of students graduating between 1890 & 1892 includes the following: Lula Roberts-1881, Della Roberts-1882 or 1883, Mary Roberts-1895, and Laura Pillans, second cousin of Joel Ninde who resided at 906 Government Street, graduated in 1903. This book seems to have a fairly complete list of graduates of Barton Academy but didn’t list students who attended but didn’t graduate. History of Barton Academy- no index- Mobile Public Library, Mobile, Alabama.[ii] Daisy Torrey Pillans’ father Judge Rufus Campbell Torrey went to Harvard. Daisy’s youngest son Hal Torrey Pillans graduated from West Point. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[iii] “Elizabeth Henshaw “Daisy” Torrey Pillans’ Memoirs” p. 13. February 11, 1936 Original in possession of Mary Van Antwerp, Mobile, Alabama. Transcript copies at University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.

Helen Croom's School

Helen Croom’s School
Another possibility for Joel’s education was the Croom’s School , an elementary school for young children. This quaint little schoolhouse, just off Washington Square, was located in the backyard of Major Stephens Croom and wife Mary at 1001 Augusta Street.[i] The Crooms purchased the home in the fall of 1877. Stephens’ sister, novelist Elizabeth Whitfield Croom Bellamy, moved into the home after the death of her husband, Captain Edward Bellamy. Following Stephens’ death in 1884, Elizabeth and her sister-in-law, Mary Marshall Croom, started the school to help make ends meet. [ii]

Traditionally, upper class southern woman from the nineteenth century received very little formal education and were usually sent to a finishing school where they were taught French, music, art, needlework and proper etiquette expected of refined ladies. William and Julia Croom, however, encouraged their daughter Elizabeth Whitfield Croom to acquire a university education. In fact, William and Julia moved their family from Florida to Columbus, Georgia in 1850 so that both Elizabeth and her brother Stephens could receive an advanced education. In Columbus, Elizabeth attended the Reverend Thomas Bog Slade’s school for girls. Receiving one of the best educations available to women living in that era, she finished her education in New York City at the Springler Institute where she graduated in 1856. Three of the children of Harry and Elizabeth Daisy Pillans attended Croom’s School. These children, Harry, Mary Isbell, and Laura Edith Pillans, were second cousins of Joel Ninde. [iii] [iv]

[i]The names of the students attending the Elizabeth Bellamy and Mary Marshall Croom School were Mary Isbell Pillans, Laura Edith Pillans and Harry “Hal” Torrey Pillans, second cousins of Joel Ninde. Other students include Venetia and Mary Danner, Richard V. Taylor, Jr. (Dr. R. V. Taylor), Clara Walkley, Wilhelmina Walkley (Mrs. Steele Partridge) and their brothers, Cecil and Early Walkley, Eunice Semmes, who later moved to Montgomery and married Judge J. Winter Thorington, and the Upham girls. History of Barton Academy -no index -Mobile Public Library, Mobile, Alabama.[ii] George Tatum, Press Register “Little School Taught by Mrs. Croom Remains.” Sunday, July 8, 1963.[iii] Laura Pillans never married. Laura is aunt of Mary Van Antwerp and great aunt of Palmer Hamilton, lawyer/architect in Mobile. [iii] Great Aunt Laura was Laura Edith Pillans, unmarried (b. June 7 1885 d. Nov.30 1973). She taught school. Her siblings were Palmer Pillans, Mary Isbell Pillans, and Harry Torrey Pillans Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[iv] The Velma and Stephens G. Croom Collection South Alabama Archives. “Recollections from Miss Laura Pillans” July 5, 1962.

Madam Roberts' School

The other schools in Mobile that Joel could have gone to were the Knott School, which Mary Isbell and Edith Pillans attended, or Miss Annie Hunter’s, founded in 1881 and advertised that it attracted “pupils from the best families in the city”.[i] Finally, because of the proximity to Joel’s home, another promising prospect was Madame Robert’s (pronounced Ro-bair’s) school for girls at 57 Hamilton Street. Madame Paul Robert (nee Mary Catherine Ayers) owned the home and started the school in 1872. The school, commonly known as Madame Robert’s, was referred to as “The School for the Private Education of the Children of Southern Gentlewomen.”
[i] Elizabeth Henshaw “Daisy” Torrey Pillans’ Memoirs, p. 13. Original in possession of Mary Van Antwerp, Mobile, Alabama, February 11, 1936. Transcript copies at University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.

Higher Education - Roberts Family

It appears that Joel came from a progressive family background that endorsed education for women. Higher education for women was a bit unusual but not unheard of during this period but there’s no telling where girls seeking education might have gone or been sent. The South was in financial ruin in the 1870’s, so if girls were even sent to college, oftentimes those schools were in New England or the Midwest. After the Civil War, Daisy Pillans went to Massachusetts to a co-educational school. Daisy boarded with Mrs. William Ward and Mrs. Hammond Whitney, both widows living together with their children. According to Daisy, “My cousin, Anna Whitney, was head of the girls’ department.”[i]

Palmer Clarkson Hamilton, commenting on the status of higher education for woman, stated, “My great aunt Laura Edith Pillans went to Salem in North Carolina briefly but didn’t like it.” Daisy Pillans’ memoirs corroborate Laura’s attendance in Salem circa the 1890’s and allude to the aspirations of her daughter. “Laura did not care for society and wanted to teach.” As Daisy Pillans noted, “Schooling was too hard for Laura and she soon gave up on academics and took a job at McGowin-Lyons Hardware Company.” The possibility exists that Laura also studied stenography at Salem although no one can corroborate this information for sure. [ii] Laura was a second cousin to Joel Ninde.
[i] Ibid. “p.14.
[ii] Ibid

Did Joel attend a University?

Joel Roberts’ Higher Education

Palmer Hamilton was unaware of the specifics of Joel Ninde’s education and career choice but projected an interesting theory. Hutchinson Architects, a Mobile based business for one hundred fifty years, could hold one of the clues to Joel Ninde’s interest and eventual career in architecture. Speculating on Joel Ninde’s education, Palmer suggested that information might be found in the Hutchinson archives regarding a recommendation for internship or by reviewing the Hutchinson architects’ education.

Extensive research by the author into the archives of Radcliffe, Boston University, Wesley College, Western Massachusetts, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Wheaton, Simmons and Pembroke/Brown, eastern colleges who admitted woman during the late 1800s, revealed no attendance of Joel Roberts.

Artistry in Joel's Family Tree

As an architect and builder, Joel Ninde obviously had an artistic flair, but from whence did this aptitude arise and how did the family influence her decisions? Architecture is an exacting vocation as well as an art form, abet a more formal one. Another pertinent question is whether other family members had any artistic skills, either formal or informal. Although not much evidence is available with reference to Joel Ninde’s immediate family’s artistic abilities, there were a number of relatives who engaged in artistic activities.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Photography and Painting - Interview with Mary Pillans VanAntwerp

Photography & Painting
example of landscape painting                              example of ruined abbey

Some of the descendants of Willis and Asenath Alexander Roberts who were artistically inclined included Mary Pillans Van Antwerp daughter of Joel Ninde’s second cousin. [i] A photographer by avocation, Mary stated, “Well,I dabbled in everything. I became a pretty well known photographer. I’m in four books and a museum in Russia.” Another family member, Elizabeth Sargent Henshaw Torrey, painted. Daisy Pillans referred to her mother’s beautiful paintings in her memoirs, “I have two of my mother’s paintings. One is a large landscape painted at the age of fourteen. The other is a ruined abbey with
stained window.” [ii] Elizabeth Torrey married Harry Pillans, the son of Joel Ninde’s great aunt. The three Roberts and Pillans homes on Government Street in the last quarter of the nineteenth century were remembered as being filled with many lovely paintings[i] In Mary Van Antwerp’s living room is a large oil painting of Laura Malvina (Roberts) Pillans c. 1850. Mary Van Antwerp, Interview by Corinne Toth, August 8, 2005.[ii] “Elizabeth Henshaw “Daisy” Torrey Pillans Memoirs” February 11, 1936 Original in possession of Mary Van Antwerp, Mobile, Alabama. Transcript copies at University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.

Talented family members - embroidery,writing and painting

In addition, listed in the 1899 city directory in Mobile, Alabama are Miss Corinne and Miss Claudine Roberts who ran a business at 209 Conception Street utilizing their artistic talents in embroidery and fancy paintings. [i] [ii] Claudine and Corinne were aunt and niece, and first cousin and first cousin once removed respectfully of Joel Ninde’s father. Also, Claudia M. Roberts, sister of Corinne Roberts, wrote an unpublished novel set during the Civil War. A semi-biographical story, the main characters included her father and older sister. Claudia married Arthur Bombey and worked as a film editor and screenwriter in Hollywood. [iii]
[i] Mordecai Roberts (b. 1850, d. 1894) married Mary Evelyn Johnson, Occupation at age 20: miller Four children (f) Mary Claudine “Claude” (m) Seth, (f) Mordecai born circa 1896, (f) Grace. Mordecai Sr. and Mary Evelyn “Mamie” Johnson (f) Roberts died when their children were small. The children were divided up among aunts and uncles.[ii] Joel Ninde’s great uncle Seth Willis Roberts was a pharmacist. Seth’s daughter Corinne, lived with her niece Claudine or “Claude” Roberts, Joel Ninde’s second cousin. Claudine, niece of Claudia and Corinne Roberts would have been fifteen years old, living with her thirty-six year-old aunt Corinne during 1899. It is not known if all three ladies lived together. Claudia was listed in the 1900 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania census living with widowed cousin Alice Shalleross. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[iii] Claudia M. Roberts (b. July 1872 in Mississippi), married in 1902 to Arthur Bombey and had one son, Thomas D. Bombey (b. 1905); and by 1910 was living in Mobile, Alabama and sharing the home with his older sister Sally Roberts Watkins and nephew and nieces Sydney G. (16), Sarah (16) and Mordicai (14). Ibid.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chinese Porcelain & Italian Medieval/Renaissance Musicology Collection

examples of Chinese porcelain

Joel Roberts Hunter Sr.’s daughter Elizabeth Hunter Morrill, b. 1913 in Georgia, was a gifted soprano. While attending Radcliffe, she met her future husband, F. Gordon Morrill, a student at Harvard. Together they amassed a Chinese porcelain collection which recently sold at auction for record-breaking $12 million dollars. Mrs. Morrill and her husband Gordon established the Gordon and Elizabeth Morrill Music Library at Villa I Tatti which is considered the finest collection of Italian Medieval and Renaissance musicology in Italy. [i] Elizabeth was a first cousin once removed of Joel Ninde.
[i] “Doyle New York Sells Chinese Porcelain Flask for Over $5.8 Million New York” “Auction House Sets World Record for Chinese Porcelain”

Joel's artistic talent: dancing and playing the violin

Several articles from the Pensacola Journal, page 5 col. 2 and the Indianapolis Star. Saturday, November 1914 have recently been found and revealed information regarding Joel Ninde's artistic talent. Information found 1/25/10.
"She (Joel) danced, played the violin and says herself that she was ""just to lazy to even boil water.""

"Mrs. Ninde has many friend in Pensacola as she has been here before. She is a violinist of marked ability, and a very charming woman. During her visit to Miss Taylor, her sister, at the Old Mill Inn, (Lillie owned the boarding home) she (Joel) was the recipient of many social attentions."

Women and Business-Eberlein & Ninde

Jennie Eberlain's house

             Joel Ninde's house

Ahead of their time, many of the women in Joel Ninde’s family seemed to buck the traditional roles of women by starting and succeeding at their own businesses. One such business owner was Jennie Roberts Eberlein, aunt of Joel Ninde. According to the 1890 city directory, Jennie Eberlein owned a lumberyard and coal handling facility in Mobile called “J. Eberlein’s”. Jennie owned her own business separate separate from her husband George, who was a wholesale grocer.

Continuing in a seeming family tradition, Joel Ninde was establishing her many businesses in Fort Wayne, Indiana from 1900 to 1916: Wildwood Builders, Wildwood Lumber Company, Wildwood Magazine and Wildwood Design. Joel was the driving force of Wildwood Builders while her draftsperson, Grace Crosby, did the drafting and design work.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Specialization in Wildwood Builders

Specialization was also necessary. Wildwood Builders divided the business into three separate departments: Sales, Construction, and Architectural Design. Joel and Grace Crosby were in charge of the Architectural Design Department and worked in conjunction with the Construction Department. While Joel presented the ideas, Grace incorporated the designs into a working house plan and turned the blueprints over to the Construction Department.[i]
Customer needs came first at Wildwood Builders. From inception to completion expert advice was given on everything: selecting the building site, landscaping the property, and decorating the interior. Wildwood Builders orchestrated the entire gamut of home construction hiring subcontractors from all specialized fields. The total impact created was a picture-perfect neighborhood. [ii]
[i] The Story of Wildwood, n.d. 1-24, (Allen County –Fort Wayne Historical Museum).[ii] Ibid

Startup of Wildwood Builders

2908 Shawnee Dr. Shawnee Place

Since the death of Judge Ninde, Joel and Lee were now free to sell lots from the Wildwood estate. Property was abundantly available.[i] Nationally the building trade was gaining momentum and the country was in an economic boom. [ii]Because of all these factors, the Ninde’s business skyrocketed Grace Crosby, architect was hired to collaborate and assist Joel in the design of houses.

The Nindes made a substantial profit with the sale of each house; however, their expenses were low because they didn’t have to purchase the land.

Lee Ninde utilized his time promoting and selling Joel and Grace’s house designs. Lee’s brother Dan’s role in the company involved negotiating and buying property. One of these land purchases was eventually developed into a neighborhood called Shawnee Place. These lots sold quickly at approximately $400 each because of Wildwood Builder’s established reputation for excellence.

 Within three years of the first sale, these same lots were selling for around $1,000 due to Wildwood Builder’s prestigious reputation. Upon completion of houses these properties sold for between $4,000 and $5,000 [iii]. Compared nationally, similar houses sold for twice that amount.
[i] Harold Lopshire, ARCH, interview by Corinne Toth, Friday, April 7, 1998. Judge Ninde died in 1902 leaving his estate to his three children, Daniel, Harry and Lee.[ii] Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, February 8, 1914, n.p. (ARCH files).[iii] The Wildwood Magazine, Autumn 1913, 14..

Growth of Fort Wayne

As Joel and Lee’s business began to coalesce and take form. Lee, his brother Daniel, and a few professional friends bought land in the area of South Wayne and Broadway Streets. [i] By this time, dirt streets had been converted to gravel. Improvements such as sewer, extended electrical lines, and street cars lines had been added, making land development more lucrative. Neighborhoods were upgraded as residents strove to improve the unkempt appearance of their property. Lots continued to appreciate in value As more houses were built and sold the business became more lucrative. By the end of 1902, twelve houses had been constructed and sold. With the profit from these houses, the Nindes and their business associates were well on their way to a profitable business.

[i] Harold Lopshire, interview by Corinne Toth, April 17, 1998 and May 1, 1998.[ii] The Story of Wildwood, n.d., 1-24 (Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Museum).

Growth of Wildwood Builders

Growth of Wildwood Builders – Board Members, Stockholders & Employees

Joel’s “little hobby” had become a profitable business with board members, stockholders, and employees. Joel and Grace worked together in Joel’s home office and made an indispensable duo. [i] On the executive board of Wildwood Builders, Lee served as president and Lee’s brother Dan as Vice-president. Other board members included F. K. Safford as Secretary and Fred B. Shoaff as Treasurer.[ii] Wildwood Builders headquarters were located in the Shoaff Building at the corner of East Berry and South Calhoun[iii].

Stock offered to the public provided the money needed for expansion. The Nindes had a wide circle of wealthy and prestigious friends and acquaintances from which to choose their stockholders. Twenty percent of the stock investors were women. Grace Crosby, Joel’s friend, business partner and stockholder, became a driving force in the success of Wildwood Builders [iv]
[i] Harold Lopshire, Interview by Corinne Toth., April 17, 1998 and May 1, 1998.[ii] The Story of Wildwood , n.p. , 1-24, (Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Museum).[iii] Harold Lopshire, interview by Corinne Toth, April 17, 1998 and May 1, 1998.[iv] Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, February 8, 1914, n. p. (ARCH Files).


1. Abe Ackerman
2. Christian H. Albersmeyer
3. Dr. Chas. E. Barnett
4. Henry Beadell
5. Max J. Blitz
6. Mrs. Alice Crane Bond
7. Andrew G. Burry
8. Philip E. Bursley
9. Joseph A. Bursley
10. Jacob A. Calhoun
11. Miss Virginia C. Carnahan
12. Ernest W. Cook
13. Edward L. Craw
14. Grace E. Crosby
15. Dr. Eric. A. Crull
16. Philip F. Dixon
17. Mrs. Addie A. Duemling
18. David S. Eckert
19. John W. Eggeman
20. Dr. William Enslen
21. Mrs. Clark Fairbanks
22. Miss Augusta C. Fischer
23. Fort Wayne Iron Store Company
24. Samuel M. Foster


65. Roy Patterson
66. Dr. Apollos F. Phillips
67. Gustave A. Rabus
68. Alfred L. Randall
69. Al. Riegel
70. Catherine Ritter
71. Mrs. Williw Roberts
72. Willis Roberts
73. Frank K. Safford
74. Salina Sauer
75. Gottlieb M. Sauer
76. John Sauerteig
77. L. N. Scott
78. Walter R. Seavey
79. Wm. H. Shambaugh
80. Jas L. Shields
81. Mrs. Susan R. Shoaff
82. Fred B. Shoaff
83. Joseph Slater
84. Joseph Slater
85. Roderick L. Speer
86. Mrs. Minnetta K. Taylor
87. Judge Robert S. Taylor
88. Frank B. Taylor
89. Charles A. Wilding
90. Clinton R. Willson
91. John W. Wisehard
92. Judge Sol A. Wood

List compiled from The Story of Wildwood page 23-24 - on file at Historical Museum-F.W.Ind


25. Mrs. T. R. Gilbert
26. S. A Grable
27. Mrs. James E. Graham
28. Jesse A. Greene
29. Mrs. Martin C. Gross
30.O. N. Gulldlin
31. E. A. K. Hackett
32. Geo. M. Haffner
33. James B. Harper
34. Herman H. Hartwig
35. Judge Owen N. Heaton
36. Benjamin F. Heaton
37. John C. Heller
38. John C. Hinton
39. Edward G. Hoffman
40. Elwin M. Huise
41. Walton H. Ingham
42. Alfred L. Johns, Jr.
43. Fremont L. Jones
44. William Kaough
45. Kell & Kell
46. Mrs. Amelia Ketchum
47. William Lawson
48. Wm. M. Leedy
49. Miss Mary B. Lincoln
50 Edgar J. Little


51. Thomas J. Logan
52. C. J. Lose
53. Mrs. Adalia L. Lumbard
54. James M. McKay
55. Chas. McKeon
56. Robert Millard
57. Dr. Elmer E. Morgan
58. A. G. Muldary
59. News Publishing Co.
60. Charles M. Miezer
61. Mrs. Lee J. Ninde
62. Lee J. Ninde
63. Daniel B. Ninde
64. Miss Emily Parisoe

Wildwood Park

In 1914 Wildwood Builders purchased the Huffman Farm for $38,000. The farm was located south of present West Jefferson Boulevard between Rockhill Park and Ardmore Avenue This farm was to be used for more upscale clienteles. To plan this new community, Lee hired Arthur A. Shurleff nationally recognized a landscape architect from Boston This architect brought history with him as he planned Fort Wayne’s first designed community.[i]

The dream to built Wildwood Park, an exclusive community built for the affluent, failed. Houses built in this area were to sell for at least $6,500. Rules and regulations proposed to prevent undesirable establishments such as saloons, livestock, farms, or graveyards did not deter potential buyers’ fears. Because of the widespread problem of rural boot-legging and being too far out in the country, homeowners were reluctant to buy land. Because of these reasons Wildwood Park did not succeed during Wildwood Builder’s “glory days” By 1920, with the extension of streetcar lines and a paved highway (Jefferson Boulevard West), building conditions had improved.[ii]

Although several houses in this exclusive community were completed, the sole documented example of a Joel Ninde designed house stands at 3408 Washington Road in Wildwood Park .This Craftsman house located on some tree-lined winding road stands as a tribute to Joel’s vision. After 1920, Wildwood community began to grow through the effort of other builders. Currently, Wildwood Park is a thriving community. Daniel B. Ninde, brother-in-law of Joel Roberts Ninde resided in Wildwood Park at 3401 N. Washington Road in a Colonial Revival c/1928 house and Lee J. and Helen Ninde (second wife) resided at 1702 Hawthorn Road in a Colonial style house in Wildwood Park. This Craftsman house stands as a tribute to Joel’s vision. [iii]
[i] Harold Lopshire, Interview with Corinne Toth. 17, April 1998.[ii] Michael Hawfield, “Suburban Living was New Concept”, Fort Wayne News Sentinel, October, 1994, n.p. Historian Michael Hawfield (Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Museum) wrote the Cityscapes column for the News-Sentinel Summit magazine starting in May 1984. The columns are being republished in conjunction with the city’s 200th birthday October 22, 1994.[iii] Harold Lopshire, interview by Corinne Toth, April 17, 1998 and May 1, 1998.

Wildwood Builders Company History

By 1915, Wildwood Builders Company had grown into eight separate companies, one of which was the Lafayette Place Company.  In an agreement dated June 19, 1915, the Lafayette Place Company sold a tract of land called Lafayette Place Addition to Lee J. Ninde, for development.  This tract of land was bounded on the north by McKinnie Avenue, on the west by Calhoun Street, on the south by Pettit Avenue and on the east by Lafayette Street. 

In 1915, Arthur Shurcliff, prominent landscape architect from Boson, was hired to design Lafayette Place.  It is one of Shurcliff's hallmarks of the early 20th Century.  He designed three Fort Wayne subdivisions for Wildwood Builders: Wildwood Park in the curvilinear style in 1914; Lafayette Place with an Esplanade, modified grid and formal pattern in 1915; and Brookview that was designed around the Spy Run Creek in 1917.  Shurcliff also complete master plans for Swinney Park in 1916 and Franke Park in 1924.

In his design for Lafayette Place, Shurcliff suggested the creation of an area to be called he Esplanade..."the high strip 216 fee wide and 1,700 feet long in the center of the tract."

Another discovery of a Joel Ninde House 2016

Another house was serendipity discovered on Maple Place

2522 Maple Place

South Wayne Historic Neighborhood/Wildwood

The South Wayne Historic District is an example of a historic district which

is currently listed only on the National Register of Historic Places.

Notable as a neighborhood which illustrates the expansion of Fort Wayne in

the early 20th century and for its outstanding collection of early 20th

century domestic architecture, the South Wayne Historic District was listed

on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Most of the area which

comprises the South Wayne Historic District was once part of an 80 acre

tract operated as a county farm between 1848 and 1853. When the farm was

 divided and sold, a few houses were built but the area remained rural in

character. One of the best known of the country estates built in the area was

that of Judge Lindley M. Ninde, who in the 1860′s, built an impressive

house known as “Wildwood” on Fairfield where the present Lutheran

Center for Health Services is located.

Joel's houses-location, year built, style

Houses of Convenience - Fort Wayne, Indiana

444 Arcadia - Built 1915- Colonial Revival
1012 W. Berry Street - Built 1914 - Craftsman
2707 Fairfield Avenue - Built 1913 - Craftsman
2545 Maple Place - Built 1913 - Craftsman Bungalow
2551 Maple Place - Built 1914 - Craftsman
1250 W. Rudisill Blvd. - Built 1914- Colonial Revival
1302 W. Rudisill Blvd. - Built 1914 - Colonial Revival
2903 W. Shawnee Drive - Built 1915 - American Foursquare
2904 W. Shawnee Drive - Built 1914 - Craftsman
2907 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
2908 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1914-Craftsman
2911 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
2912 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Colonial Revival
2915 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
2916 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman/American Foursquare
2919 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
2922 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
2923 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman/Colonial Revival
3004 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman Revival
3007 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman/Foursquare
3011 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman/Colonial Revival
3012 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
3015 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
3018 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
3019 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman/Foursquare
3020 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
3023 E. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Craftsman
3027 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-American/Foursquare
3028 W. Shawnee Drive-Built 1915-Colonial Revival
314-316 W. Suttenfield Street-duplex-Built 1907-Colonial Revival
702 Union Street-Built 1912-Craftsman
1404 Washington Blvd./Swinney Court-Built 1914-Dutch Colonial Revival
3011 W. Washington Boulevard-Built 1915-Colonial Revival
1408 North Washington Road-Built 1915-Craftsman
3031 South Wayne Avenue-demolished - Built 1901-first house built-later 610 W. Wildwood
3131 South Wayne Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman Bungalow
2330 Webster Street-Built 1910-Craftsman,American Foursquare, Colonial Revival
314 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman Colonial
323 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1914-Craftsman
348 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
701 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1914-Craftsman
702 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1913-Craftsman/American Foursquare
705 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-American Foursquare
706 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1912-American Foursquare
710 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman Tudor Revival
721 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Colonial Revival
722 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1912-Dutch Colonial Revival
725 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
726 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1912-Dutch Colonial Revival
729 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-American Foursquare
730 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
805 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
809 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-American Foursquare
810 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
814 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-American Foursquare
815 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-American Foursquare
818 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1914-Craftsman
902 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1910 (last home built) Colonial Revival
912 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1912-Craftsman Homes
922 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman/American Foursquare
926 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
1002 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
1018 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
1025 W. Wildwood Avenue-Built 1915-Craftsman
list compiled in 1998
Additional list
2704 N. Clinton Street - Side gable
3401 North Washington Road - Daniel Ninde House
3424 North Washington Road - Fremont Jones House
3518 North Washington Road Neil McKey House
734 E. State-Daniel Ninde house, one of the founders of Lincoln National Insurance & Philo Farnsworth house (inventor of the television)
Ninde and Crosby houses can be found in other Fort Wayne Historic Districts,
Old West End Historic District (listed 11/15/84)
Williams Woodland Park Historic District (listed 1991)
South Wayne Historic District (1992)
Oakdale Historic District 2000
Illsley Place-West Rudisill Historic District (2006)
Forest Park Boulevard Historic District (March 2007)

Illsley Place/National Historic Register

Frank & Josephine Taft-Adolph & Clara Foellinger House, Joel Ninde architect, c.1914,
Colonial Revival

Two-story, symmetrical, three-bay, Colonial Revival with an asphalt shingle side-gabled roof,
end chimney, clapboard siding, and brick foundation. The central entry porch has an arched roof
supported by paired columns and pilasters. The entry door has an arched fanlight, sidelights over
panels, and a wood surround with a keystone. The porch is flanked by eight-over-eight double-hung windows with shutters. The upper story has a central ribbon of three one-over-one windows with decorative mountings and shutters. It is flanked by eight-over-eight double-hung windows with shutters.

Packard Piano and Organ Company

The establishment of the Packard Piano and Organ Company on

Fairfield Avenue in 1872, led to increased development and population

growth in the area. Eventually a movement was formed to incorporate

South Wayne as a town. After a lengthy court battle with the City of Fort

 Wayne, which wanted to annex the area, the State Supreme Court ruled

 in favor of South Wayne and the town was incorporated in 1889.

Fort Wayne eventually succeeded in annexing South Wayne in 1894,

bringing with it streetcar lines, utilities, and a new school. The

annexation, coupled with growing industrial development, led to

increased residential interest.

Posted by Nancy McCammen Hansen

History of South Wayne

The once unincorporated village of South Wayne comprised the area bounded by Calhoun Avenue on the east and Creighton Avenue on the north. Youngsters of the 1860s and 1870s roamed this paradise and engaged in swimming, nutting, fishing, and in clandestine visitations to orchards and fields of melons. Perhaps it was the knowledge of this enchanted woodland which caused these same persons, later, when mature, to perpetuate their memories by the establishment of the town of South Wayne, now an integral part of Fort Wayne and long forgotten as a separate entity.
South Wayne proper comprised the territory in the farms formerly belonging to the Ewing, Thompson, and Fairfield estates. Asa Fairfield, father of Cyrus, for a long time was the oldest living resident of South Wayne.He then possessed the title of the “Father of South Wayne.” Asa Fairfield, a retired sea captain, while on active duty made his home at Kennebunk Port, Maine; he feared the continuing siren call of a sailor’s life and decided that he could best resist it many miles inland. He migrated west and arrived in Fort Wayne in 1833. In 1834 he acquired land in section II, from Benjamin B. Kerchival and Ann Turner, who had entered the land. The purchase price was $1,800 for 160 acres. Within six months he moved his family to this city. Cyrus Fairfield then was but six months of age.
Asa Fairfield lived the life of a farmer until his death. He was both prosperous and prominent in the community. He made a success of tilling the soil, in spite of the fact that he undertook that occupation rather late in life. His farm with other acquisitions ultimately comprised 240 acres. He also owned the first canal boat on the Wabash-Erie Canal, which he himself built and called the “Indiana.” It made its first trip to Huntington on July 4, 1834. As a coincidence, later, the first car on the interurban line from Huntington to Fort Wayne was likewise called the “Indiana.”

South "Wayne Historical District" - Joel's houses, Residents & other architects

Although examples of her work ranging from modest cottages to large brick homes survive in various parts of the city, the South Wayne Historic District contains the largest concentration of Ninde’s work. The following list comprises known Ninde houses within the district: 701, 702, 706, 710, 722, 726, 810, 814, 818, 902, 912, 922, 926, 1002, 1018, and 1025 Wildwood Avenue and 3131 South Wayne Avenue.

Other notable early residents include: Guy Mahurin, a prominent local architect who resided at 927 W. Wildwood; Charles Worden, a lawyer, banker, and Civic Improvement Association president who lived at 1022 W. Wildwood; Charles Lane, a Fort Wayne newspaper man and Commercial Club director who was active in state and national politics and resided at 917 W. Wildwood; and Senator Homer Capehart who located his phonograph company in Ft. Wayne in 1929, and lived at 709 Packard Avenue.

722 W. Wildwood - Joel Ninde
809 W. Wildwood - Joel Ninde
902 W. Wildwood Joel Ninde
921 W. Wildwood     - Craftsman - Architect Strauss -1925
1025 W. Wildwood - Joel Ninde
1030 W. Wildwood - Craftsman - Theo Frank House
1024 Kinnard Avenue - Neo classical - Miles and Flora Frysinger
1020 Kinnard Avenue - Eclectic John Wing Architect
1010 Kinnard Avenue - Colonial Revival -1925
922 Kinnard Avenue - Colonial Revival-Dr. Kent and Anna Wheelock
909 Kinnard Avenue - American Four-Square/Prairie-1925
803 Kinnard Avenue - Craftsman - Harry & Florene Lydick 1915
717 Kinnard Avenue - Craftsman Square/Swiss 1915
701 Packard Avenue - Carl & Gathern Goebel Electic 1925
714-716 Packard Avenue- Tudor Revival
718-720 Packard Avenue
810 Packard Avenue -Craftsman 1918 - Doehrman/Jackson House

Source https//

1250 and 1302 West Rudisill /National Historic Register

Joel Ninde (1873-1916) designed the Colonial Revivals at 1250 and 1302 West Rudisill. Ninde had no formal
architectural training, but was “recognized as a genius in home design and decorating.” The design of a
house for her husband Lee, as well as subsequent house designs, were a local success for their size and
affordability. In 1910 Lee formed Wildwood Builders, a real estate and construction company, with Joel and
partner Grace Crosby as designers and construction supervisors. Wildwood produced several hundred
houses throughout the city, promoted residential planning, and constructed several subdivisions. They
published articles on house design and decorating in the local newspaper and in their self-published
Wildwood Magazine. The company embraced City Beautiful concepts evident in the layout for Wildwood Park
and Lafayette Place designed by landscape architect Arthur Shurcilff. Ninde’s designs were typically “artistic”
and “moderately priced” Craftsman, Colonial Revival, and Four-square residences. The Rudisill Colonials
21 See Phyllis G. Brockmeyer’s report A. M. Strauss and Strauss Associates, Inc. for Ball State University College of Architecture and
Planning, 1989.
NPS Form 10-900 OMB No. 1024-0018
(Rev. 10-90)
United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Section number

Wildwood Builders-Shurcliff -Brookview

Arthur Shurcliff
"In 1917, one of Fort Wayne's largest suburban developers, Wildwood Builders worked with several investors to create the Brookview Improvement Company, to develop the area just sough of Centlivre Park Addition.  With the leadership of Lee Ninde and Fred Shoaff, they hired Boston landscape architect Arthur A. Shurcliff to design a plan for the area.  Shurlock had worked for Wildwood builders previously on the Wildwood Park and Lafayette Place suburban developments, and had completed some work for the Fort Wayne Parks Department as well.  Shurcliff worked with Ninde and the Wildwood Builders engineer, Francis H. Bulot, as well as a Boston firm that specialized in storm and sanitary sewer engineering - Metcalfe & Eddy- to develop the plat for Brookview .  Shurcliff successfully highlighted the natural beauty of the Spy Run and the rolling topography, while creating two parallel automobile parkways that provided convenient and pleasant automobiles travel to and from the development.  Shurcliff also successfully completed the proposed section of State Boulevard that ha been propose but not completely defined by George Kessler's citywide plan for parks and boulevards.  Lots sold quickly, and many homes were built before 1940, primarily in the period revival styles of the area.

Eastbrook Drive-Brookview-National Register

Architect Arthur Shurcliff expanded on that plan by creating meandering roads that follow the natural contours and developing sites focused on the Spy Run Creek. Oak Knoll reflects a railroad-era suburb rare to Fort Wayne and had several homes designed by architects Joel Roberts Ninde and Grace E. Crosby.
Picture/article by Cathy Rowland-Journal Gazette

Lafayette Place -National History District

Wednesday, February 29, 2012  News Sentinel Fort Wayne South East

"Site of the widest esplanade (park strip) in the city, bound by McKinney Ave, South Calhoun St., East Petitt Street, and Lafayette Street.
Along with Wildwood Park in 1914and Brookview in 1917, Lafayette Place is one of three Fort Wayne neighborhoods designed by Arthur Shurcliff of Boston." 

"Early Lafayette Place contractors included the Wildwood Builders Co. and its design team of Joel Roberts Ninde, wife of President Lee Ninde, and architect Grace Crosby.  Shurcliff's original design showed 444 lots, a playground, parks and a community center that was never build.  The neighborhood hosted the city's first home show in 1926."

Historical notes are from the Lafayette Place Magazine, published in 1923 on the occasion of Open House Week, October 24-31. Thousand of visitors came by streetcar and auto to see the modern homes in Fort Wayne's foremost new Addition

Joel Ninde's houses