The Old Bag Factory’s two-story log cabin has reached a milestone, turning 175 years old.
Now a quilt gallery and studio, the cabin was originally erected by George Carte on C.R. 46, southwest of New Paris, after purchasing land from the government in 1837. While serving as a home to Carte, his wife and their 11 children, the cabin was constructed from individually hand-hewn poplar logs. In 1838, a second structure was built, serving as Carte’s blacksmith shop.
Following the death of the family during a smallpox plague in the 1840s, the Mishler family purchased the homestead in the 1850s, and called it home for more than 100 years. It remained unoccupied for several years following the Mishlers, until Wallace Yoder of New Paris and former blacksmith at the Old Bag Factory labeled and dismantled each log. The logs were stored in Yoder’s New Paris barn until 1986, when Yoder contacted Dave and Shirley Shenk of Elkhart with the idea of relocating their home quilt-design business to the Old Bag Factory and rebuilding the old log cabin at the site. The Shenks contacted the Mishler family to request the purchase of their current storage shed, and were given approval as long as the structure remained in Elkhart County.
“I was on-site almost every day as these labeled logs were being assembled log by log,” said Dave Shenk. “I was not there when it was originally built, but I think the changes made have been incredibly artistically done with combining these cabins.”
Construction began in early 1986 and was completed 14 months later in the spring of 1987, the two structures connected to provide an expanded showroom for Quilt Designs. The log cabins are now filled with original-design quilts and wall-hangings designed by Shirley and her daughter-in-law, Kris Shenk. The smaller of the two log cabins serves as a bedroom where quilts can be displayed on an antique iron and brass bed. The upstairs loft of the larger log cabin is the design studio where the Shenks meet with clients. There are usually nearly 100 quilts and wall-hangings on display in the showroom.
“I think the Bag Factory is a destination,” said Shenk. “I think people come from all over the country to see the Bag Factory because we have so many artists here doing something distinctive. There are a lot of things here at the Bag Factory that are quite atypical from the regular shopping experience. We continue to have new original designs, so if people continue to visit, they will see something new each time. It is an ever-changing inventory.”
On the hill beside the log cabin, visitors can see the Old Bag Factory’s Quilt Garden, planted in the shape of a quilt with nearly 4,000 annuals. This year’s design is “Sunrise,” an adaptation of an original-design quilt.
“I think being here at the Old Bag Factory right beside the quilt garden just makes a wonderful kind of setting for this cabin,” said Shenk. “Being near the quilt garden and the Sunrise Trail is also something that people have been able to enjoy when they come to visit.”