|51 North First
Written and Researched by Ruth Ann Montgomery
51 North First ca 1910
Many Evansville homes have documentation about the construction or architectural changes made to a building. There is often biographical detail about the
families who have lived in a house, but it is extremely rare to find good information about the original interior of a residence. The house at 51 North First Street
is one of those exceptions.
There are not only pictures of the first floor interior dating from within six years of the construction of the house, but there is also a wonderful written description
of the house by Evelyn Dixon Huggins.
Mrs. Huggins was the adopted daughter of Albert and Lulu Dixon, the original owners of the house. She was just a few months old when her family moved into
the house and lived there until she was six years old. Over the years, she was able to visit the house several times and to pass on information to owners about
the way the house looked at the time she lived there.
In a three-page, typewritten letter to one of the owners, Carolyn Sumner, Evelyn describes the location of rooms, the color of paint and wall paper used in
decoration and furnishings. Evelyn also describes in some detail the activities that took place in the home.
The house was built in 1902 for the Albert Dixon family. Lulu Dixon was the daughter of Edward Devereaux, a well-known cheese maker and buttermaker in the
Albert Dixon was also a buttermaker and had worked for his father-in-law. Lulu and Albert had married in April 1888.
The first four years of their marriage, they lived in Edgerton where Albert operated a creamery. Lulu, a talented artist, designed and painted pottery for the
Pauline Pottery factory in Edgerton.
In 1892, they moved to Evansville and purchased a home on Main Street from Albert Snashall. Dixon went to work for the D. E. Wood Butter Company.
In January 1902, Albert Dixon purchased a lot from Abe Searles. The site of the new home was in one of the finest residential areas of Evansville. The price of
the corner lot on Garfield and First Streets, $800, reflects this premium property. As a comparison, in the same year two residential lots on Madison Street were
selling for $500 and the price included both lots.
After they purchased the building site in January 1902, the Dixon's began the process of constructing the house. In March, the Enterprise local news column
reported "Among the best buildings to be erected in this city in the early spring will be a handsome, large residence for Mr. Albert E. Dixon."
The Dixon's had no children and while the house was under construction, they decided to adopt. In May 1892, Lulu Dixon went to Iowa to visit her brothers and
brought back a two-month-old orphaned baby girl. "It is a fortunate child to find such a home." the local newspaper reported.
There is little information about the actual construction of the house. Usually there were notices about carpenters and other workmen building a house, but the
local newspapers were strangely silent about the Dixon house.
At the end of August 1902, the Evansville Enterprise noted that "A. E. Dixon has his handsome new residence nearly completed and it is one of the finest in the
city." The Dixon's moved into the house in October 1902.
According to Evelyn Dixon Huggins, the house was painted green with white trim. Her mother had told her that the green color had cost $4.00 a can and was
mixed on site by the painter. The gables were shingled in bright red. There was a decorative brick chimney built for the fire place.
Windows in the three-story home were of various sizes, which was typical of the late-Victorian homes. Since the house was on a corner, the designer seemed to
take great care to have decorative details on the street-facing sides of the house. There are bay windows and other large windows on the first and second
stories. A bay window highlights the third story on the east and on the north is a Palladian window.
There was a large, wrap-around porch with entrances on Garfield and First Streets. Above the First Street porch entrance was a second story porch. On
patriotic holidays this second story porch was draped with bunting and a huge American flag flew from the wrap-around porch on the first floor.
For many years the porch has been a favorite place to watch parades passing on North First Street on the way to the park. In the summer there were usually
flower boxes between all the pillars of the porch and hanging baskets of flowers.
The house has also been the scene of many parties. The first was held in January 1903.
When the residence was completed, the Dixon's invited 125 of their friends to an open house. Lulu's sister, and her husband, Arthur and Kittie Snashall
assisted the new home owners in hosting the party.
"Scores of friends thronged to the new home", according to the Badger newspaper and the reporter went on to describe the festivities. The guests were
greeted in the reception hall and led into the double parlor, a large room to the right of the entry hall. A very large "supper" room on the third floor was used for
serving refreshments. "Departing guests were profuse in the congratualtions to the Dixons upon their elegant home."
The interior of the house seemed to have been planned with an artist's eye. An early picture shows a corner fire place in the parlor. A half-wall, with Ionic
columns and an elaborately decorative wood valance, separated the entry hall and the parlor.
There was also a dining room and library on the first floor. The separate rooms were divided by wide doorways so that the house had an open feeling and many
guests could be entertained.
Many years later, Evelyn Dixon Huggins, the little girl who lived in the house until she was six years old, described the furnishing of the home. The reminiscence
tells of an artistically decorated Victorian house.
The library had built in book shelves and was papered in a "mottled paper" with pastel colors mixed with gold. It was a pattern known as "Tiffany".
There were built-in cupboards and a picture rail in the dining room. There were family heirlooms and wedding presents of the Dixon's displayed in the rooms.
The stairwell leading to the second and third floors was to the left of the entry way. On the newel post was a large sword fern. Growing the ferns was a hobby of
Lulu Dixon and there were more large ferns in the parlor and dining room. The home was decorated with palms, ferns, and other house plants popular at the
turn of the century.
The second floor of the house held the family bedrooms. This was called the "Chamber" floor in house plans of the Victorian period. During the time the Dixon's
lived in the house, the bedroom facing First Street was painted pale green and had a large mahogany dresser with brass and china pulls. There was also a
brass bed with pink china insets on the posts. It was covered with a spread of pink satin with satin ribbon bows and bolster pillows. This was a guest bedroom.
Albert and Lulu's bedroom was above the first floor library. The room was furnished with a large oak bed and a dresser with a mirror on one side and a chest on
the other for Lulu's clothing and a chiffonier for Albert. There were ruffled muslin curtains and the walls were papered with a floral print.
The room at the head of the stairs was for the baby, Evelyn, who was less than one year old when her parents moved into the house. The room was also her
play-room and held a large doll house with furniture made by her father.
There was a room at the back for a maid. Like many families at the turn of the century, the Dixon's took in young women, usually high school girls, to act as
live-in baby-sitters and housekeepers. The girls were paid very little, as room and board was considered part of the salary.
The third floor was a large ball room with a stage. It was used for the large dinner parties given by the Dixon's. They also gave card parties, where the favorite
game was Whist.
The Dixon's also invited their guests to take part in theater productions. There was a small organ and a closet filled with costumes that the guest could don
when they played parts in the plays.
When there was a dinner at the home, the local caterer arrived early, with pots and kettles, according to Evelyn Dixon. As a little girl, she was allowed to help
with the arrangements, sampling food and preparing the tables for the guests.
There were also parties for children. The Dixon's niece, Hilva Snashall, had a party in the house in 1906. About forty of her friends were invited. Evelyn also
remembered birthday parties her parents gave for her in the third floor ballroom.
In January 1907, Albert Dixon had put the house up for sale. The Evansville Review announced that he was planning to resign from the D. E. Wood Butter
Company and move from Evansville. However, the house did not sell and the plans were delayed another year.
In April 1908, the home was the scene of the twentieth anniversary of the Dixon's. They invited forty-five of their family and friends to help them celebrate. Lulu
wore some pieces from her original wedding clothing. Albert also dressed in clothing fashionable at the time they were married.
A graphophone provided music and a four-course dinner was served. Following the dinner, Rev. D. Q. Grabill, of the Congregational Church, reunited the
couple using "new and up-to-date obligations and vows".
It was the final party the Dixon's gave in the house. The Evansville Review announced a few weeks later that Albert had resigned his position in the D. E. Wood
Butter Company and planned to relocated to Plainview, Texas. A private sale was held to dispose of some of the furnishings.
The Dixon's rented a railroad car to take the rest of the household goods to Texas. They loaded the car with their furnishings, including the many house plants
that Mrs. Dixon owned.
While they were waiting at the Evansville depot for their train to depart, Presidential candidate, William Howard Taft, made a whistle-stop in Evansville. He
spotted little Evelyn Dixon, dressed in her finest traveling clothes, and asked to hold her while he spoke to the Evansville people gathered at the depot. Albert
and Lulu Dixon, proudly complied.
The house was rented to the B. J. McAttees who lived in the house for little more than a year. In May 1909, Albert Dixon sold the house to his brother-in-law,
Charles C. Devereaux, and Charles continued to rent the house to the McAttees.
In August 1909, Albert E. Dixon died of typhoid fever at the age of 47. His body was brought back to Evansville for burial.
His death was a great shock to Albert's family and Lulu decided not to remain in Texas. She moved to Janesville to be closer to her family. Her brother,
Charles, sold the house a month later, in September 1909, to Jud Calkins.
Charles C. Devereaux sold the beautiful house at 51 North First Street to Judson W. Calkins in September 1909. Calkins and his wife and three children moved
into the house the following month.
Jud Calkins had lived in Evansville since 1882. He had come to Evansville to be near his aunt and uncle, Daniel and Calista Rowley. For most of his life, he was
in the grocery business.
After moving to the city, he purchased William S. Smith's interest in the mercantile firm of Smith & Eager. A few months later, Calkins had a new partner, as
Almeron Eager sold his interest to J. H. West. Under the new ownership, Calkins handled the grocery line for the new firm and West handled the dry goods.
Eager and Calkins continued to have several business dealings over the next few years.
Calkins seemed to be on the look-out for new locations for his grocery and moved several times until 1893 when he built the brick store at 18 East Main Street.
Eleven years later, Calkins became a partner in the Economy Store.
In 1904, when the Economy Store moved to the Eager Block on East Main Street, Calkins purchased an interest in the business. He became the head of the
grocery department and joined Verne Axtell and H. A. Langemak in operating one of the largest department stores in the city.
In 1888, Jud Calkins married Julia Clinch of New Brunswick, Canada. The Clinch family had originally settled in the Philadelphia but during the Revolution they
were British sympathizers. The Clinch's moved to Canada after the American Revolution. Julia was the first of her family to return to the United States to live.
Julia Clinch Calkins was educated at home by a governess until she was 13. Then she went to school at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Her father had
served on the Board of Governors of Acadia University and Julia studied music there.
She came to Evansville to visit her sister, who was the wife of Edward Rufus Curry, a newly ordained Baptist minister. During her visit she met Calkins. They
were married in Canada and returned to Evansville following the wedding in 1888.
The Calkins had four children, three daughters and one son, Charles Delevan. Their youngest daughter, Elizabeth died in 1902 of scarlet fever. She was just
one and a half years old.
All the Calkins children attended the Evansville schools and then went on to the University of Wisconsin. Charles Delevan Calkins became a physician.
Judson Calkins died unexpectedly in 1917. Julia continued to live in the home for two more years. In January 1919 she sold the house to Frank B. Green and
moved to Madison to live with her daughters who were attending the University of Wisconsin. She became a housemother in the Sigma Kappa Sorority house.
The following year, a notice appeared in the Evansville Review that Julia and her daughter Marion were moving to New York City to make their home. Marion
Calkins began writing articles about Wisconsin for a New York magazine.
The new owner, Frank Green, was a farmer and livestock breeder. He had married Lila Jameson in Magnolia in 1895, just a year before graduating from the
Evansville Seminary. Then he had attended the University of Wisconsin and graduated in 1904.
Lila had also graduated from the Seminary and taught there for a few years and also at the Magnolia school. Frank Green had taught school and served as
principal in Brooklyn, Orfordville and Black Earth before turning his attention to farming and livestock breeding.
Just a few years before purchasing the house on North First Street, Frank and his sons, Jameson and Ben, operated a farm for Frank's father-in-law, Smith
Jameson. The farm was called "Alfakorn", and was located south of Evansville on Section 15 of Magnolia township. Their herd was considered top of the line in
Holstein cows. They maintained Holstein breeding stock and their champion bull was "King Pontiac Lilly". They often kept a dozen or more bulls on their farm.
The Greens had been active in the Tri-County Holstein Breeders organization and in 1918 had organized a calf club for youngsters. The club was designed to
help young men become interested in farming and to promote the Holstein breed. Twice each year the Greens held a sale of pure bred Holsteins at their
Right after World War I, the prices dropped on farm goods and the Alfacorn Diary Farm was sold to their neighbor, a Mr. Larson. Frank and his wife, Lila,
decided to move to Evansville.
They purchased the Calkins house, but Green also intended to keep his interest in farming. "It is his intention to secure a farm where he will have more room to
handle his fast increasing Holstein business", the Review reported in the same article that told of the sale of Green's farm.
In October 1920, Frank Green placed the house in his wife's name. The Green's mortgaged the property for $3,400. In December, Lila Green took out another
mortgage on the property for nearly $7,000. In July 1924, Lila J. Green turned the deed to the house over to the Grange Bank with the promise that it released
her husband, Frank, and son, Ben, from any further liability for the property.
In the next few years, the bank probably rented the property, but there are no records of those occupants. In 1925, the Grange Bank changed its name to The
State Bank of Evansville. The bank continued to hold the property until 1928 when it was sold to Fred Luchsinger. The Luchsingers moved into their new home
Fred and his wife, Ida, had five children, Esther, Viola, Wilbur, Marvin, and Shirley who grew up in the house at 51 North First. Luchsinger was a livestock buyer
and operated a farm east of Evansville.
In the fall of the year, Luchsinger would buy young cattle in from the Dakotas to ship in railroad cars back to Evansville to sell. In the early 1930s, Luchsinger
also operated horse auctions on Maple Street and at his farm, five miles east of Evansville.
When his two sons were old enough, they joined their father in the livestock business. This was interrupted during World War II, when Marvin and Wilbur joined
the U. S. Navy. When they returned they continued to work as livestock buyers.
In 1944, with his sons serving in the Navy, Fred Luchsinger took in another partner, and with Charles Maloy owned the firm, Luchsinger & Maloy. They operated
a livestock market for cattle, hogs, sheep & calves that were sold to Oscar Mayer & Co. in Madison.
Fred also served on the Evansville school board. When he was appointed in July 1942 to fill the unexpired term of Salmer Jordahl, the Review noted,
Luchsinger "is active in civic affairs and has always been interested in school activities."
The Luchsingers lived in the house until 1950 when they decided to divide the lot that they owned and build a smaller house on the west side of the existing lot.
The size of the lot for the house at 51 North First was reduced to 70 x 120 feet, with an easement for a driveway off Garfield to be shared by the two houses.
William and Carolyn Sumner purchased the home on North First Street in November 1950. William Sumner had just become the manager of the Evansville
Review in July 1950. His father, William Sumner, Sr., Ralph E. Ammon and William, Jr. had purchased the assets of the Antes Press, the publishers of the
William, Jr. had been the sales manager of WKOW radio station in Madison, before moving to Evansville. He was very familiar with Evansville as he had visited
the city many times. His material grandparents, the Carl Brunsells, had owned a house on West Main Street for many years and he had aunts, uncles and
cousins who also made their home in the Evansville area.
The Sumners and their daughter, Margaret, moved into the house. In scenes reminiscent of the original owners, Carolyn Sumner gave afternoon teas in the
home that had been especially built for entertaining large groups of people.
During the time Sumner operated the Evansville Review and the Antes Press, the Brooklyn Teller was purchased and included in the publication of the Review.
Will Sumner, gained state-wide recognition as a speaker and was frequently asked to talk to educators about publicity and promotion. He also gave talks to
vocational teachers about the training required for those entering printing careers in small shops.
In 1961, Sumner sold the printing company to Frank and Vivian Gildner and took a job as liaison secretary for Wisconsin's First District Representative, Henry C.
Schyadenberg. He handled the Congressman's public relations work.
During the time the Sumner family lived in the house, the porch were redesigned. The north door leading into the library was closed and a bookshelf for music
was built into the former doorway. The main entrance to the wrap-around veranda which had faced First Street was moved to the southeast corner of the
porch. A wrought iron railing replaced the original porch railing.
In a summer tradition that had been going on since the Dixon's owned the house, the house was decorated for the 4th of July parade of the United States
Bicentennial in 1976. The second story porch had red, white, and blue bunting and a large United States flag hung from the wrap-around porch.
The house was sold it to Lois and Richard Waller in November 1976. The Wallers and their three children, Renee, Jon and Nathan, moved to Evansville when
Dick was appointed cashier of the new Merchants and Savings Bank of Evansville. The new bank opened in a temporary office on North Madison Street in the
fall of 1976.
The house was 74 years old when the Wallers moved in. Much of the house needed redecorating and the woodwork and floors needed refinishing. Within
three years, they had completed much of the work.
In September 1979, the home was on the third annual Evansville Historic House Tour. Most of the woodwork in the home had been refinished by Lois. During
the refinishing, she had counted 107 spindles in the balustrade of the oak stairway that led from the first floor to the third. The open stairway, with six right angle
turns, was considered one of the outstanding features of the home.
Lois had also refinished the original cupboards in the kitchen and the built-in cabinets in other rooms of the house. The kitchen floor and the second story
floors had been refinished. New wall paper decorated many of the rooms. Thirty-four rolls of wallpaper was used to cover the stairwell and hall.
The original bookcase with drawers below and a curved bay window were features of the first floor library. In the dining room was the original built-in buffet and
the cupboards in the kitchen had also been maintained. More than 600 people viewed the home during the 1979 tour.
Ten years later, the house was part of the eighth tour of homes held in 1989. The tours were intended to promote Evansville's Historic District and to be a fund
raiser for the Evansville Historic Preservation Commission, the Jaycees and the Grove Society. The advertising for this tour noted that all of the hardwood
maple floors had been redone. New area carpets had been put in the library and living room.
Each Christmas the home is elaborately and artistically decorated with lights, wreaths and treasured ornaments. The large rooms on the first floor have been
used for catered Christmas parties for the Evansville Tourist Club.
This Queen Anne style home was built at the end of the Victorian period in architecture. By 1915, large homes of this style were out of fashion and replaced
with bungalows and Prairie style homes.
The people who have owned the house at 51 North First have taken care to maintain the original beauty of the residence inside and out. This careful attention,
especially to the interior detail, makes the house one of the finest examples of a Victorian style residence to be found in Evansville.
From the memories of Evelyn Dixon Huggins, the little girl who was one of the first to live in the house in 1902, the history of the house and the events that
happened there have been passed down to its most recent owners. Lois and Dick Waller have taken great care to preserve the history of the house, including
the pictures and correspondence of previous occupants.
Evelyn Dixon in the parlor of the
Dixon home at 51 North First
Street, ca 1905
Lulu Devereaux Dixon, Hilva
Snashall, Evelyn Dixon and Albert
Dixon in the sitting room of the
home at 51 North First
Julia Clinch Calkins
The Dining Room of the home at 51
North First Street. Photo taken while
the Dixon family lived in the house.