Last week I gave a presentation on the Elston family. It was a story of a family and of a town – our town of Crawfordsville. The Elstons had a huge influence on Crawfordsville and on the state of Indiana. The homeplace of the Elstons now serves as the home of the Wabash College president and has become a part of our college’s history. As the first brick house built in Crawfordsville, it was the home of one of the richest men in Indiana. The furnishings, draperies and rugs were imported from back east and New Orleans. It was evidently a sight to see – the young Lew Wallace crept up to the windows to see what a piano was and how it worked.
The house is now a lovely old home on East Pike Street with all of the modern amenities. When one enters the front door they gaze down the hall under the stairway. Here’s the thing though, we now enter the house from what was originally the back door. The photo above, taken in 1880 shows the home as it was originally. Atop a slight rise with a long walk from Main Street to its double doors. When a visitor in the 1800’s entered the Major’s home, the view was of the lovely staircase rising to the second floor. In 1910 two lots north of the homestead were sold and two houses were built on Main Street. Lovely old homes – twins except for their exteriors – one of stone and one of yellow brick – they feel today like they have always been there. When this sale of lots occurred, the entrance to the home was switched from the north side of the home to the south side, or the current orientation.
One thing I have always wondered about the Elston Homestead is the current wrought iron front porch. Was that added later or was it original to the house? With this photo scanned and enlarged, I can see that in 1880 the entry had a wrought iron porch.
Looking at an image of the porch of today, this looks like either the same structure moved to this façade or a very good recreation of the original. We do know that the south side of the house had a different porch at one time as we can see in this photograph of Ike Elston coming out of the door on the south side.
So we can see that this porch was replaced with the one of today – which just might be the one of a hundred and fifty years ago. By having these old photos and using the zoom feature, I can really look very closely at these images. I hope that you enjoyed this little bit of trivia about the Elston Homestead. While it is a small thing really, it is a pretty clear example of what I mean when I say, “Peeking into the past.”
Happy Thanksgiving!Best, Beth Swift Archivist Wabash College