The Hugh McCulloch house was built in 1843 in the Greek Revival Style by architect Henry Williams, who was known as the “southern architect” of Fort Wayne. The house was sited on the highest point, with a broad front lawn extending down to the canal, and a steep slope to the north, to the river.[1]  Originally the two story house was perfectly balanced, with a porch on the left, a greenhouse on the right, and four stately square columns in front. A cupola graced the center roof. The grounds, which encompassed all the area between the river and the Wabash & Erie Canal, west to Van Buren Street, were surrounded by a tall white picket fence and filled with fruit trees and grape arbors. In 1862, an Italianate style addition was added to the rear of the house. Other additions to the house were made and by the mid -1860s the house was a blend of Classical Revival and Italianate style elements which resulted in a curious combination of masses and embellishments.[2]

By the 1870s, when the estate was the boyhood home of J. Ross McCulloch, the area was popular with children who swam in the shallow, sandy bend in the St. Mary’s River behind the house. After the McCullochs moved, the building housed the Fort Wayne College of Medicine between 1892 and 1905. In 1906, it was purchased by the Fort Wayne Turnverein (“The Turners”), a popular German athletic club. The Turnverein extensively altered the old building to accommodate their needs, raising the roof, removing the cupola, enclosing the wings, replacing he square columns with round ones, and turning the top-floor ballroom into a gymnasium. In later years, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers operated a realty company from the house, and in 1978 the building was given to ARCH, which preserved the old mansion until it was rehabilitated by the owners of Bireley Antiques.

The builder of the home was Hugh McCulloch, one of the nation’s leading financial figures in the mid-nineteenth century. Born in Kennebunk, Maine in 1808, McCulloch attended Bowdoin College, studied law in Boston and came to the pioneer village of Fort Wayne in 1833 with a letter of recommendation from Daniel Webster. He became a Judge of the Probate Court in 1834, and in 1835 he was named cashier and branch manager of the newly formed State Bank of Indiana. He was promoted to bank president in 1856. McCulloch was prominent in finance and participated in Whig party politics, which allowed him to know most of the important families in Fort Wayne at the time. His memoires, Men and Measures of Half a Century, contains character sketches of Fort Wayne’s early men of prominence and constitutes a major source for local, as well as, national history.[3]

McCulloch married Susan Mann in 1838. A native of Plattsburg, New York, Susan Mann was one of the first school teachers in Fort Wayne, having arrived by pirogue in 1836 at age eighteen to conduct a school. Always a community leader, Susan hosted in the McCulloch home the meeting of the great abolitionist pastors of the Beecher family, which included Lyman and sons Henry Ward and Charles, where they planned the future of the second Presbyterian Church, the present day Westminster Presbyterian Church. Lyman’s daughter, Harriett, also an abolitionist and later author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, did not attend.

In 1863, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase called on Hugh McCulloch to accept the new position of Comptroller of the Currency, a position from which he launched the national banking system. Two years later, in 1865, President Lincoln named him to be Secretary of the Treasury, a position he continued to hold in the administrations of Presidents Johnson and Arthur. He was the last person to who President Lincoln wrote before the assassination and was at the President’s bedside when he died.  After Lincoln’s assassination, McCulloch remained in Andrew Johnson’s cabinet and fought Congress to retire the greenbacks issued by the government during the civil war. When he left office in 1869, he became a partner in a London banking house with Jay Cooke. McCulloch served briefly (1884-1885) as President Chester Arthur’s Secretary of the Treasury. McCulloch served as the United States Ambassador to Great Britain before he died in 1895.[4] He retired to “Holly Hill” in Prince George’s county, Maryland, where he died in 1895.[5]

[1] Philip L. Hodge and David R. Hermansen, “Feasibility Study for McCulloch House Fort Wayne, Indiana,” September 11, 1978, James Associates, 3.

[2] Hodge and Hermansen, “Feasibility Study,” 4.

[3] Mark E. Neely and Louis A. Warren, “Hugh McCulloch,” Lincoln Library and Museum, ARCH, Inc. Street Archive.

[4] The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Committee, On the Heritage Trail: A Walking Guidebook to the Fort Wayne Heritage Trail (Fort Wayne: ARCH, Inc., 1994), 105-107.

[5] Mark E. Neely and Louis A. Warren, “Hugh McCulloch,” Lincoln Library and Museum, ARCH, Inc. Street Archive.