#9 Ellsworth E. Weir House
1315 Michigan Avenue
Written by Timothy Stabosz
Architect D.S. Hopkins, Grand Rapids
This whimsical, delightful, Queen Anne style
home was built for Ellsworth E. and Nettie Weir,
and completed in 1894. The architect was D. S.
Hopkins from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the
builder was LaPortean Frank C. Folant. Folant was
a respected general contractor of the time,
responsible for building a number of high profile
residences, commercial structures, as well as
downtown storefronts in La Porte, Michigan City,
and the immediate area.
The Queen Anne style was popular in the
Victorian era from approximately 1880 to 1910.
Characteristics of the Queen Anne style evident
in the Weir House include a steeply pitched roof
with a lower cross gable, an asymmetrical appearance, a corner turret, gable ornamentation, and multiple siding textures incorporating wood shingles.
Ellsworth E. Weir was born in 1861, the son of Morgan H. and Henrietta Weir. Morgan H. Weir, Ellsworth’s father, was a prominent local attorney, who rose to some of the highest levels politically. He served as an Indiana State Senator, as mayor of the City of La Porte from 1878 to 1881, and ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress in 1878.
Ellsworth E. Weir went into the same profession as his father, graduating with a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1882, at a mere 20 years of age. After working for a few years in his father’s practice, he removed himself to Kingman, Kansas, for a time and practiced law there. In his early 30s, he returned to La Porte and rejoined his father. The firm was then known as Weir & Weir. With his father dying in 1902, Ellsworth Weir continued practicing in partnership with other attorneys. Among these, at different times, were Philo Q. Doran, H. W. Worden, and Ben C. Rees. During his prime, he was said to have been connected to the biggest cases in the county. Ellsworth was quick witted and a masterful orator in front of juries, all of which achieved statewide recognition for him. In 1898 and 1901, Weir was appointed County Attorney.
Ellsworth Weir married Nettie K. Rogers in 1884. The couple had one child, a daughter, Harriette. Around 1905, after only ten years of residence, the Weirs moved out of 1315 Michigan Avenue and into a more modest house at 907 Indiana Avenue, which still stands today.
In his later years, Weir was General Counsel for bicycle maker Great Western Manufacturing Company. Ellsworth Elmer Weir died in 1925, at age 63, having suffered a heart attack one week after being involved in an automobile accident. Nettie Weir, who had been active in the affairs of the legendary Bay Tree Inn, died in 1937.
The second owners of 1315 Michigan Avenue were Marcus and Hulda Henoch. Marcus Henoch, along with some of his sons, ran the M. Henoch Company, purveyor of wholesale wines and liquors, which operated at 609 South Main Street (now Lincoln Way) and then 713-715 State Street. Mr. Henoch died in 1929 at the home, age 87, his wife having died five years earlier, also at the home. The Henochs had seven children. Their son Fred took 1315 Michigan Avenue as his family home after the death of his parents, living there with his wife, Katherine. After working for his father in his earlier years, Fred Henoch was later president of the Ove Gnatt Company, a floral supply company, originally located in Hammond. The firm employed roughly 150 to 175 people and was known as the country’s first manufacturer of preserved natural foliage. He was also on the founding board of directors of the Peoples Trust & Savings Bank, 912 Lincoln Way (operating today as Dick’s Bar). Additionally, Fred was Vice President of the Argus-Bulletin newspaper in his earlier years.
The architect of the home, D.S. Hopkins, active from 1867 to 1911, was a prolific designer and pattern book producer, and a very effective user of advertising at the time. With a heavy penchant for towers and turrets, his fanciful, wondrous, and uplifting designs seemed to perfectly capture the whimsy of the late Victorian era. His patterns have been built across many states, mostly in the Midwest, but some as far away as Texas. (The houses at 108 Warwick Street and 807 Michigan Avenue are two other outstanding Hopkins designs in La Porte.)
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.