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Hugh McCulloch House circa 1870

By Randy Harter

Fort Wayne Reader

2017-12-18


Driving by 616 West Superior Street, you will pass one of Fort Wayne’s oldest extant homes, that of “the father of modern banking,” Hugh McCulloch, who became one of the nation’s leading mid-nineteenth century financial figures and statesman.

Born in Kennebuck, Maine, the young Boston-educated attorney moved to Fort Wayne in 1833. At first practicing law here, he later became the manager of the Fort Wayne branch of the Bank of Indiana, and later its president. In 1863 he was called to Washington, D.C. and named the country’s first Comptroller of the Currency, and then later was chosen by President Abraham Lincoln to be his Secretary of the Treasury. A member of Lincoln’s cabinet, McCulloch had met with
the President earlier on the day of his assassination, and was at his bedside the next morning when he died on April 15, 1865. McCulloch subsequently held the office of Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Andrew Johnson and Chester Arthur, and was later made the U. S. Ambassador to Great Brittan.

Hugh and Susan McCulloch had their Greek Revival style home on W. Superior built in 1843. It had been designed by local architect Henry Williams who would go on to design the since razed Hanna Mansion on E. Lewis Street the next year. The McCulloch home was part of the nearly 100 acre property the family owned, and was bounded on the north by the St. Mary’s River, and the south by the Wabash and Erie Canal, the boats of which they could watch glide by from
their front porch.

The beginning of the major changes to the home occurred when it was sold in 1892 to the Fort Wayne College of Medicine who greatly expanded and reconfigured the home to house an amphitheater, three lecture rooms, laboratories, faculty rooms, pharmacy, and other spaces pertinent to the school’s needs. The College of Medicine later moved to
Indianapolis and merged with Purdue University in 1905.

The house was further changed when in 1906 it was purchased by the German athletic and social club Turnverein Verwoerts (now Fort Wayne Turners on Parnell Avenue) who further modified the house by removing much of the internal structure to create a gymnasium, proscenium stage, basement shower rooms, and offices, which they utilized until the mid-1960’s. The house continued through a succession of owners, including for a time Fort Wayne Poster Corp.,
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, ARCH, and Bireley’s Antiques.

Hugh McCulloch was one of the twelve local business leaders who in 1859 had put forth the funds for the acreage and development of Lindenwood Cemetery, and expected to one day be interred there. However, when McCulloch died at 86 in 1895, he and his wife were living in their home in Prince George’s County, MD and he was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

(Image courtesy of Don Orban)

Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author, and the history/architecture guide for FortWayneFoodTours.com

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