Monday, July 25, 2016

Indiana: Museums at Washington and Chapin in South Bend

The amazing Studebaker National Museum is located in South Bend, Indiana. While Notre Dame is probably West Bends most famous attraction, this museum should not be far behind.  On our trip out to Rockford, Ill. in 2013 this was our third nights stop. I was totally unprepared for what an amazing museum it really is.   

At first glance, this seems to be a rather standard auto museum with loads of beautiful  cars on display but with a little deeper look, the layers of this museum are revealed. It is part of a complex called The Museums at Washington and Chapin and together with the J.D. Oliver House (Copshaholm), the Historic Oliver Gardens and the Worker’s House; it is The Center for History.

Purchase your ticket at the Studebaker National Museum. You need to register for a guided tour of the J.D. Oliver House. Guided tours are conducted at regular intervals so be sure to check with the website or give the museum a call before you visit to avoid disappointment. Tours are also limited in size, so if it is a busy day keep this in mind. You need to be able to climb stairs to visit here. 

Studebaker National Museum

We started our visit to this complex at the Studebaker Museum. The museum covers two floor and the exhibits are done chronologically. You begin on the first floor learning about the Studebaker family and there journey to the auto industry.  

One of the most fascinating exhibits is on this first floor, it is four presidential carriages. One of the most spectacular is the one the President Abraham Lincoln rode in the night that he went to Ford’s Theatre. It is an amazing piece of history.

The second floor has the later vehicles produced by the company including the Lark and the Avanti. There is an elevator in this building so there is no problem with moving between the floors.

Back on the first floor in the other wing of the building there is an exhibit along one wall entitled “Lincoln Highway: Centennial Reflections”. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of this iconic road that connects New York City with San Francisco and travels for over 3,000 across the country.

Oliver Mansion

A quick walk outside the rear of the building that houses the Studebaker Museum and The Center for History is the J.D. Oliver House. The house was designed by a New York architect Charles Alonzo Rich. Like any other city, there was a certain amount of competition among the wealthy residents to have the nicest home and South Bend was no exception.

Built between 1895 and 1896 the house is a 38 room mansion built of gray stone in the Queen Anne style. The Oliver family had earned their money in the plow business and this house was the way to show off that wealth. The family lived in the house for more than 70 years. Today you can take a peek at what their life was like.

Worker’s House

The contrast between the home of the workers and the Oliver House could not be more vast. Most of us can relate to this since our ancestors would have been the workers.  

Oliver Garden

We did not have time to tour the gardens but they are very much as they would have been in the era of the house 1915.  A tea house, a pergola, a fountain, tennis lawn and formal Italian gardens make up the area you can visit. 

Center for History

Located in the same building as the Studebaker Museum, the Center for History is indeed loaded with history. We had a very short time to tour we were left wanting more. Galleries with a wide variety of displays from items that belong to the Oliver family to the Native American history of the area are offered. One display that stands out is the one about the South Bend Blue Sox of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

I can’t begin to tell you how much we enjoyed our visit to this complex and how wonderful all the parts of it are. I wish we had more time to visit here but certainly allow an entire day. 


  1. This looks fascinating! I'd love to see all this

  2. It really is an amazing museum, one of our favorites.