ELKHART — One of the oldest buildings with ties to Elkhart's recreational vehicle legacy may eventually be torn down.
While the move is only preliminary, the city of Elkhart is looking at the possibility of demolishing the old Schult Warehouse at 1830 S. Main St.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, city officials took a first step when the redevelopment commission approved plans to hire a grant administrator to research the issue and apply for federal funding to help cover the cost of demolition.
The massive three-story gray building includes about 120,000 square feet and is still used as a warehouse, according to Barkley Garrett, director of economic development for the city.
Tax records list Dimension Holdings LLC as the owner and indicate the entity is up to date on tax payments, which total about $6,100 per year, according to Elkhart County records.
Even though the building is still being used, it has numerous broken windows and appears to be in disrepair. Much of the building is enclosed by a chain fence that has barbed wire at the top.
Other demolition plans
511 Division St. — Plans by the city to demolish the old Federal Press building at 511 Division St., suffered a setback because of an apparent miscommunication in the grant application for federal funding. Barkley Garrett, director of economic development, declined to say exactly what the problem involved, but said the loss of funding for that project could open the door for funding for another — possibly Schult Warehouse.
Lusher and South Main — Recent plans by the city of Elkhart to demolish two attached buildings on the southwest corner of the intersection have slowed. Officials chose to delay the project after learning the land was available from Elkhart County after nobody sought to acquire the property through a tax sale. The city is currently seeking to acquire the land and — if that happens — intends to use revenues from tax increment financing for demolition instead of a more limited pool of money strictly dedicated for demolitions.
City officials have talked with the owner previously and if funding would become available, discussions about acquiring the land and demolishing the building could ensue, Garrett said.
A $3,000 contract with Mendenhall and Associates, a grant administrator from Arcadia, Ind., calls for the company to research the issue and begin applying for federal grant.
The building’s history dates back more than 115 years.
Al Hesselbart, considered a historian of the local recreation vehicle industry, said he believes the building was constructed in the late 1800s and first became used as a travel trailer manufacturing facility in 1936 when Wilbur Schult and his father, William, transitioned from a retail business on Jackson Boulevard to a manufacturing operation on South Main, where they changed the name to Schult Trailers in 1936.
After World War II, Schult quit making travel trailers and began manufacturing mobile homes, Hesselbart said.
“It was still a trailer factory, but just slightly bigger trailers,” Hesselbart said during a phone interview from his winter home in Florida.
Prior to that era, the building was believed to have been the home of Noyse Carriage Company which made light “vehicles” at the turn of the turn of the century and at one time employed about 150 people, according to an online book called A Standard History of Elkhart County.
Darrin Miller, who owns Schult Warehouse, was snow plowing the driveway behind the building Wednesday afternoon, but declined comment.
The building is north of a vacant lot that is for sale and a new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store, which opened last year.