William Rockhill held title to the land the house resides on from 1824 to 1852, when it was sold to his daughter and son-in-law, Frederick and Mary (Rockhill) Tyler. William Rockhill had been appointed County Commissioner at the creation of Allen County in 1824. He served in several elected positions, including State Senator from 1844-1847 and a term as Congressman from northern Indiana from 1847-1849. Rockhill was also a builder. He received the contract for construction of a “treaty house” for Francis Godfroy in Blackford County in 1828. In 1834 he was contracted to build a portion of the first stretch of the Wabash and Erie Canal to Huntington. By 1838, he had built a home for himself along the canal near the corner of Van Buren and Greeley, and had begun construction of the “Rockhill House.” The “Rockhill House” was built as a luxury hotel, and took almost 20 years to construct. It became the nucleus of today’s St. Joseph Hospital in 1874, though that hospital has been demolished and replaced.

Mary Rockhill married Frederick Tyler on August 19, 1846 at the Second Presbyterian Church. Frederick Tyler came to fort Wayne around 1841-1842 and worked for William Rockhill. By 1850, he owned land, and was a ‘nursery man,’ meaning that he grew and sold fruit trees. He was originally from New York, was widowed, and had one daughter, Susan, born in 1844. Tyler was elected to office of Noble Grand, Fort Wayne Lodge, No. 14, IOOF, September 16, 1844. He also had a factory for making saleratus, known today as baking soda.

The Mary Rockhill Tyler house is constructed in a hall-and-parlor style similar to William Rockhill’s own residence and matches descriptions of the Francis Godfroy Treaty House. All three were made of brick most likely made in the immediate area. It may have originally housed other Rockhill family members, farmhands, or other tenants who came to Fort Wayne during the 1830’s to construct the Wabash and Erie Canal. The Mary Rockhill Tyler house is the oldest standing home in the West Central Historic District.

The house was designed in the Hall and Parlor style. Constructed of brick on a rubble-stone foundation, the house originally had two rooms on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second floor. The roof of the house is made from cedar shake. In 1999, when ARCH obtained the home and started its restoration, the parlor had eight layers of wallpaper on the horse hair plaster walls. The original fireplace mantel and trim, cupboard, and remnants of the staircase and root cellar remained. While the house has a fireplace mantel and surround, no fireplace was ever built; instead residents used a Franklin-type stove in the parlor and a cooking stove in the hall. The home never had plumbing, running water, or electricity, until 2022 when ARCH returned the home, which had been used a garage, to usability as a home for the first time in a century.

The 1850 Federal Census for Allen County lists seven people living in the Mary Rockhill Tyler house: Mary and her husband Frederick, their children Susan, Frederick, and Daniel. They also had two boarders from Germany living with them: Henrietta Pregna and Henry Rasscan. Henry was listed in the census as a laborer and may have worked for Frederick Tyler or William Rockhill. [1]

[1] Overview and introduction document, Mary Rockhill Tyler Restoration Archive File, ARCH, Inc.