McCulloch-Weatherhogg House / First Presbyterian Church
Audio: “McCulloch-Weatherhogg House” featuring Tom Castaldi. Courtesy of WBNI-Fort Wayne.
Audio: “First Presbyterian Church” featuring Tom Castaldi. Courtesy of WBNI-Fort Wayne.
This beautiful home was built in 1881 and designed by architect Thomas J. Tolan. It is of Victorian Gothic Style and stands on the former site of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Wayne that was built in 1837. Charles, son of Hugh McCulloch, lived in the east unit of the house with his wife Sarah Ross McCulloch and their children Clara and John Ross in 1881. Sarah Ross McCulloch passed away in 1882 and Charles remarried soon after, moving his family in 1889. Charles retained the ownership of the house after his move. David N. Foster, a merchant, occupied the west unit in 1887 and his brother Samuel M. Foster, a prominent merchant and industrialist, moved into the east unit of the home three years later. The Foster brothers were significant figures in the development of the Fort Wayne park systems; they remained tenants of the house until 1904. In 1908 Charles McCulloch’s oldest son J. Ross McCulloch lived in the west unit with his friend Charles Weatherhogg; the east unit was then occupied by J. Ross’s half-brother Fred McCulloch. J. Ross remained living in the house until his death in 1957. From 1916-1918 he was part of the commission to erect the statue of General Anthony Wayne that now stands in Freimann Square and he was one of the planners of Fort Wayne’s 1916 celebration of Indiana’s centennial. After the death of J. Ross, the house then passed on to his niece Betty Hiscox. After Betty’s death the house and contents were sold in auction, around 1983.
Architect Charles R. Weatherhogg was responsible for much of the major architecture in Fort Wayne after 1900. Examples of his work are the H. Rockhill House, the Blackstone Building, The Beaux-Arts Fort Wayne Central High School, the Journal Gazette Building, the Masonic Temple, Fairfield Manor, Wolf and Dassauer’s, and Harrison Hill School. Weatherhogg got creative with the parlor walls in his west unit; he commissioned artist Robert Grafton to create a mural to surround it. The mural is a painting of three-lined canals and water front areas of a Dutch city. Fort Wayne’s First National Bank Building was built in 1923, of which J. Ross McCulloch was vice president, and it also contains two murals painted by Grafton. Grafton was commissioned to execute murals for Charles Weatherhogg’s Anthony Hotel Building (which is no longer standing). While completing this project, Robert Grafton resided at the Aveline Hotel. J. Ross made his acquaintance and commissioned a portrait. While completing the painting for the McCulloch’s, he stayed at their home. On May 3, 1908, the Aveline Hotel caught fire and was destroyed in what is still considered the deadliest fire in Fort Wayne’s history. Grafton completed the murals in the west parlor in gratitude for circumstances that may have saved his life. Charles R. Weatherhogg died at 65 from a heart attack in 1937 and is buried in Lindenwood Cemetery.
McCulloch Park was at one time a city cemetery; the land along Broadway near the G.E. Works was given to the city by Hugh McCulloch (who was secretary of the Treasury in Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet). Charles McCulloch was one of the water works trustees and Reservoir Park was a part of the city’s water system. The lake at the “Res” was formed by the excavation for the hill around the water storage tank. Fred McCulloch was treasurer and manager of the Electron Supply and Fixture Company. Fred was born at the McCulloch house on July 22, 1884 to Charles and Ada (Wilson) McCulloch. He was married to Alice Foster, daughter of Samuel M. and Margaret (Harrison) Foster and they had one child, Betty Foster McCulloch.
The First Presbyterian Church was built in 1837 at 334 E. Berry St. In the 40 foot frame building, the Pastor Rev. Alexander T. Rankin served from 1837-1843. Rev. Jesse Hoover,a Lutheran minister from Woodstock, Canada, came in 1837 as the first teacher in the new Presbyterian school. For a number of years the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist church goers worshipped together. When the Courthouse had become unsafe due to bad construction, the authorities were able to secure the privilege of holding court within the Presbyterian Church until a suitable building for the Courthouse could be built on the square. In 1844, a confrontation of sorts occurred when the Presbyterian pulpit became vacant. It introduced into Fort Wayne history a nationally-renowned figure of the pre-civil war days, the famed abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher who was persuaded to win the allegiance of the first church members. The church officers knew of this strategy and persuaded Dr. William C. Anderson, an English professor at Hanover College, to quickly fill the pulpit. Anderson arrived on April 14, 1844 and immediately took charge. The following Saturday Beecher arrived from Indianapolis on horseback and after learning of the situation said to Mrs. Jesse Williams, “I have come to divide your church”.
Failing to gain control of the main church group, Beecher split part of the congregation and formed the Second Presbyterian Church of Fort Wayne; it later became known as the Westminster Church. Later that year, First Church decided to build a larger building at a new site at the southwest corner of Clinton and Berry Streets, but traded the following year for a site at the southeast corner of the same intersection. A colonial structure 80 foot long was erected at the direction of a building committee headed by Samuel Hanna. In October of 1850, the Pastor Rev. H.S. Dickson laid the cornerstone and the church was dedicated in November of 1852. This church was later enlarged and refined and it lasted until December 16, 1882 when it was destroyed by fire. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was sister to Henry Ward Beecher.
Photos courtesy of Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society and Google.com
- Stockman, Dan. “A General Predicament: Wayne statue might move”. The Journal-Gazette. Jan.13, 2013.
- The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Group, ARCH Inc., Essex Group, Inc., On The Heritage Trial, Fort Wayne, Indiana: A Walking Guide Book (1994) pp.5-8.