ELKHART — There are two houses along Franklin Street that look the same. As rumor has it, they were built by Charles S. Drake at the turn of the century for his two married daughters.
At least, that’s what Jerry Kindig heard after he purchased the two-story house at 627 W. Franklin St. in the late 1990s. Teresa Ferro, a former resident of the house next to it at 623 W. Franklin St., had also heard the same rumors from neighbors.
Except for the lawn ornaments and decorations, the houses look exactly the same. Both are grayish-blue houses with red brick chimneys and wood-paneled windows looking out onto the yard. There’s also a narrow driveway that runs in between both buildings toward a small garage, which is partitioned and shared between the two houses.
Kindig wanted to find out if the stories were true and sought out local historian Paul Thomas for answers. What he learned was that the history of the houses is, at best, vague.
Drake was the owner of the Chas S. Drake department store in Elkhart, according to an obituary published March 27, 1940, in The Elkhart Truth. He reportedly lived at 611 W. Franklin St., as early as 1904 and 619 W. Franklin St., as late as 1912, according to Elkhart city directories. While Drake did have daughters, he only adopted them in 1922 when they were 2 and 4 years old, Thomas said.
Elkhart city directories only began listing 627 W. Franklin St., and 625 W. Franklin St., which Thomas said would later become 623 W. Franklin St., in 1910. Eli Jenning, an engineer at a pumping station, and Edwin Shelt, a cook, reportedly resided at those properties, according to the directories.
But there are some hints about the building’s history. When Kindig first began putting wallpaper up in his house, he found names and the date “1912” etched on some of the walls. He’s not sure if that’s the year in which the house was constructed, but Kindig believes that the house was at least rebuilt sometime at the turn of the century.
As for why they look the same, your guess is as good as Kindig’s.