Working to preserve historic architecture in La Porte, Indiana, since 1994.
#11 Abram Sommerfield House
1108 Michigan Avenue
Written by Michele Barber
The home at 1108 Michigan Avenue was
built in 1913 by Abram and Fannie Sommerfield.
Abram (pictured here), with his brother Charles,
ran Sommerfield’s Livery & Feed Stable at
518-524 State Street.
The home is in the Colonial Revival style.
The Colonial Revival style was popular from
approximately 1880 to 1955. Prior to 1910,
colonial details were less authentic to the
original colonial styles. Houses built after 1910 more
closely resembled early prototypes. Features of the
Colonial Revival style exhibited in the 1108 Michigan
Avenue house include a symmetrical design, a side-
gabled roof, an accentuated front door with a decorative
crown and sidelights, and double-hung windows in
adjacent pairs. The side-gabled roof style predominated
Abram Sommerfield, son of John Isaac Sommerfield
and Barbara Frankenbacker, was born in La Porte on
March 28, 1866. At the time of his death on August 23,
1946 at age 80, his residence was at 716 Teegarden Street (no longer standing). He was one of nine children. After public schooling in La Porte, Abram began a business as a junk dealer while still a boy. At the age of 24, he took up another line, that of training horses for racing, and, from 1896 to 1921, he owned Sommerfield’s Livery, specializing in fine saddle horses. The original location of the livery was in the building that later was occupied by the Fox Theatre, and later moved to Clay and State Streets.
During these years, Sommerfield became interested in a number of other enterprises. In 1921, he organized the La Porte Discount Corporation, a money brokerage firm located in the La Porte Theatre building at 407 Lincoln Way, of which he was president and manager. He was also president of the La Porte Theater Company, a $500,000 corporation organized in 1922 which controlled the building which housed the theater, the Lincoln Hotel, and numerous stores and apartments. Mr. Sommerfield was also a director in the Moore & Richter Lumber Company; a partner in the Sommerfield-Swanson Farm Implement & Feed Company, established in 1908; on the board of the Chamber of Commerce for over 20 years; and an officer of the Couturier Band Instrument Company, Ltd.
Abram Sommerfield married Fannie H. Higgins, daughter of William Edward (1837-1911) and Harriet June Place (1842-1921) Higgins, in La Porte on October 18, 1896. Fannie Sommerfield, born October 26, 1868, was murdered in her home at 716 Teegarden Street by intruders during the commission of a robbery on January 15, 1961, at the age of 92. The perpetrators were caught but did not serve time. One was acquitted, and the other perpetrator’s confession was thrown out which left no other evidence. Fannie is buried in Pine Lake Cemetery. She was the only woman member of the Civic Auditorium board and was prominent in La Porte civic affairs. Abram and Fannie Sommerfield had no children. They were planning to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at the time of Abram Sommerfield’s death in 1946.
Dentist Frank J. Krejci and his family lived at 716 Teegarden Street through 1927. By 1929, the house at 1108 Michigan Avenue had been sold to Dr. Krejci. Actually, the Krejcis and the Sommerfields exchanged homes.
The Krejcis sold the home in the early 1940s to Alban Smith, a prominent local lawyer. Alban Martin Smith was mayor of La Porte in 1937. He was selected to replace mayor Lemuel Darrow who passed away from a heart attack after suffering injuries to his leg when the July 4th scaffolding on which he was standing collapsed.
Alban Smith was born to Lewis Smith and Clara Zabel on February 16, 1904 in Albion, New York. He married Dorothy M. Stapish, born January 21, 1906, and fathered six children. His six children include Terrance, Thomas Michael, Dennis Francis, John Patrick, and Alban L., and one daughter, Kathleen. Alban’s son, Dennis Smith, was mayor of La Porte for three terms, 1972-1980 and 1984-1988. Alban M. Smith, living at 2208 Woodlawn Drive at the time of his death, died on June 14, 1992, at the age of 88. His wife, Dorothy, preceded him in death on December 13, 1987, at the age of 81. They are buried at St. Joseph Cemetery.
Read more about this historic home, and many others in La Porte, in Preserve Historic La Porte’s book Historic Architecture of La Porte Indiana: The First 20 Years of the Candlelight Tour, available through Preserve Historic La Porte or the La Porte County Historical Society Museum.