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Noll Mansion ca. 1925

By Randy Harter

Fort Wayne Reader

2017-11-06


Benedict Noll owned two downtown Fort Wayne drug stores in the late 1880’s where in addition to normal offerings he sold a concentrated cough syrup of his own formulation that the consumer mixed at home with sugar syrup or honey before taking. His son William Henry Noll graduated from the University of Michigan with a pharmaceutical chemistry degree in 1903 and, joining his father, began to market the cough syrup concentrate under the name Pinex in 1905. In addition to alcohol and oil of pine tar, one of the main ingredients in Pinex was chloroform. This substance has since been banned by the FDA for human consumption, as while unknown at the time it is now considered a probable carcinogen.

Pinex distribution and sales flourished, and five years later the product could be found in most drugstores from coast to coast, allowing William in 1914 to open a branch office in Toronto, Ontario and move his former Main Street offices and plant to a larger building at 123 West Columbia. This building on Columbia still stands (was most recently Red Rock BBQ & Saloon) and is notable with a large “P” and small “co” (for Pinex Company) carved in limestone at the top of the building’s façade. Additionally, that same year it was announced in the Journal-Gazette that Noll had paid a record ($25,000.) amount locally for an empty 190 x 240 foot residential lot (which he later expanded) at the southeast corner of Fairfield and Meyer Avenue where he intended to have built “a palatial dwelling.”

Palatial it was! Designed by local architect Charles Weatherhogg in 1915, the 50 x 100 foot, 28 room Italian Renaissance Revival mansion constructed of Indiana Bedford Limestone at 2502 Fairfield began to take shape. The first floor ballroom included ornate fireplaces at both ends, crystal chandeliers, murals on the walls painted in situ by an Italian artist and marble floors. A massive curved marble staircase led to the second floor. The residence also featured a solarium, 10 bathrooms, and was richly embellished with walnut, mahogany and cherry paneling. Outside on the extensively landscaped grounds were a reflecting pool, fountain and swimming pool. Behind the house stood a two story four-bay limestone carriage house and caretaker’s cottage connected to the residence by a tunnel. When completed, the home including imported furnishings reportedly cost over $1 million at a time when the average new home cost just $3,500.

Pinex sales and profits continued to increase and in addition to the residence on Fairfield and a home on Lake Wawasee, the Nolls then shortly built another grand manse on the exclusive “Millionaire’s Row” in Miami Beach, Florida as a winter vacation home. William Noll died in 1941 at age 66 and his wife Laura in 1952, by which time (remarried) she was living primarily in Chicago and Miami Beach. William’s son, John, sold Pinex to Revlon in 1960 (for its Thayer Laboratories division). The same year the family also sold their now in disrepair formerly opulent home to the Nelson Street Church of the Nazarene for $165,000. This then became the Fairfield Avenue Church of the Nazarene, which used the former mansion as their church.

In 1974, in need of extensive repairs the church auctioned off as much as possible of the once magnificent home for salvage and had razed what remained. The late Wells County businessman Donald Davis bought at auction the mansions limestone central frontace piece, along with the window and terrace balustrades. He had it disassembled for potential use on a future home of his own and moved it to outside of Bluffton where it remains stacked in a field to this day. The space this once stately residence occupied on Fairfield Avenue is now the parking lot for the Wings of Deliverance Tabernacle Holiness Church, which also owns the extant two-story carriage house. (Image courtesy ACPL)

Sincere thanks to the following for their assistance in researching this piece: Dr. Geoffrey Raymer, Craig Leonard, Barb Sieminski, Cindy (Siemniski) Kanning and Terry Burns.

Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author, and the history/architectural guide for Fort Wayne Food Tours.


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