Historic Estes House faces relocating or being demolished
The Estes House remains in Westfield 153 years after being built, but plans call for one of the city’s oldest buildings to be moved or it faces being knocked down.
For the past year, Westfield Parks Director Melody Jones has worked with Union Bible College to preserve the building.
“It has to be a community project,” Jones said. “We’ve got to get it moved to get it saved, or it will be demolished. This is a way for us to save it.”
Jones said the plan is to raise the funds necessary to move the house six blocks north on Union Street to Hickory Alley, across from the entrance to Asa Bales Park. The move was estimated to cost $130,000 to $180,000.
“There are other historical sites predominate in the immediate area,” Jones said. “The Indiana Landmarks said it would be on the registry once it’s been moved.”
Jones said that historic structures are not common downtown because the area was wooden buildings.
“We only have a few that we can preserve,” she said. “This is one of the oldest structures still intact. It’s so symbolic of who we are and what we stand for.”
Since announcing plans to start a capital campaign, Jones has hit an impasse that puts the project – and house – in jeopardy.
“I am sorry to say that all my efforts to move the community project forward regarding relocating the Estes House has come to an unsurpassable end,” she said.
Jones said the only viable route to move the Estes House to North Union Street requires crossing a portion of the Westfield Friends Church parking lot. Officials said that space was no more than eight feet. Jones stated she was previously told no and suggested to look into another route.
“Unfortunately there is no other route to take,” she said.
Jones said she tried to reconnect with the church, wrote a letter to the church’s board of trustees and followed up with a phone call when she didn’t hear back.
“I never heard back from them,” she said. “So as a result, it is finished.”
Attempts to reach Westfield Friends Church were not returned.
As the American Civil War was beginning in 1861, the first of seven generations of the Estes family began calling the City of Westfield home. One of the most important pieces of that family’s history can still be seen today, on the campus of Union Bible College.
Born into a Quaker family in Maine in 1815, Lewis Alden Estes hailed as a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Alden, Mayflower Pilgrims. After graduating from Bowdoin College, he became the first principal and teacher at the Friends Boarding School, now Earlham College. It was here he met his future wife, Huldah Case Hoag. They were wed on Feb. 4, 1848 at the Whitewater Friends Monthly Meeting, and became parents of sons, Ludovic and Rowland.
In 1861, the Estes family came to Westfield where Lewis had accepted a job as principal of Union High. The family occupied a home built that same year, which would serve as the principal’s house, and later the president’s home of what became Union Bible College.
“The land all around the school campus was their farm and they built the home. From Roosevelt Street to South Street was their farm,” said Judy Shuck, Westfield resident and great-great granddaughter of Lewis and Huldah Estes. “Under their leadership, the school first developed into a boarding institution with students coming not only from Indiana but also from other states.”
The Estes’ left Union High five years later, when Lewis became the first president of Wilmington College in Ohio. In 1874 the family returned to farm life in Westfield after Huldah became ill. Once back in Westfield, Lewis went into business with Abel Doan, becoming the first president of the Westfield Bank.
Shuck said she would like to see Union Bible College preserve the building, repurpose it and keep it as part of the Westfield landscape.
“We need to preserve history and historic buildings. We can look at them and see the stories come to life,” she said. “If you don’t know where you came from, you won’t know where you are going. We all have roots … Let’s look at the whole picture, the landscape of what’s been Westfield for all these years. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
Built in a Greek Revival tradition, the home sits near the intersection of College Avenue and South Union Street. It is one-and-a-half stories, with gabled roofing and wood bargeboard lining the eaves. Two additions to the home have been made during its lifetime. An addition at the northeast corner is now used as a bookstore for the school. Evidence of a porch, long since removed, at the north end of the building exists. Currently, the home is used for storage and has been vacant for several years. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the campus of Union Bible College.
*Zach Burton assisted with gathering historical information for this article.